Large Camo Camera Holster
with unique front zipper feature

Large Custom Holster     

     After several equipment upgrades it became evident I had outgrown the Tamrac Zoom 19 holster I had used for several years (this article). So I went looking to see what was available on the market. But as is often the case, I found that I was not completely happy with the current choices for a holster that might handle a Canon 1D mark IV gripped pro body and an EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS II zoom lens..... with the lens hood mounted for shooting - not reversed. And therein lies the issue. For my style of shooting, a holster is not as useful as it should be if I have to fiddle with the lens cap and hood before shooting. That's especially true when the lens hood is a twist-on type, instead of the wonderful built-in pull-out style on the Canon 300mm f/4 and 400mm f/5.6 primes.

The Tamrac Zoom 19
holster hung from my
backpack harness

The new large
holster hung from my
backpack harness

     My research pointed to the Kinesis C750 Holster Case (X-Large) and Think Tank Photo Digital Holster 50 V2.0 as the only two that would handle the 14-inch length of my combo. The Think Tank claims to house 14.25 inches with the "extension" deployed on the pouch. The Kinesis claims to handle 15-inches. Either should do the trick. But I had another concern. Having used a holster for some time, I knew I did not want a waist level mount. Wearing a separate harness or waist belt for a holster was not workable when also wearing a camera backpack like my Bataflae 32L. I had already begun using my original Tamrac Zoom 19 hung from my backpack shoulder harness. This held it higher (up to chest high), avoiding the annoying thigh slapping on the holster, and also making the unit feel almost weightless compared to a cumbersome belt mount.

     If you look at the thumbnail on the far right, the problem with carrying a holster up high will become more evident. Lifting a camera and short lens (wide angle for example) out of a high mounted holster isn't an issue. But think about lifting a long telephoto from the same holster. Trying to vertically lift 14 inches of camera and lens, with hood deployed, out of a holster mounted high puts the camera and lens in your face. Then there is the issue of weight. My 1D4 pro body with the 100-400mm lens together weighs 7 lbs. - almost as heavy as a whole gallon of milk. It's hardly a lightweight combo.

     The awkwardness of lifting it so high to get it out did not appeal to me. I decided there had to be a better way. So, I came up with the idea of a camera holster that would zip down the front. This way, the combo only had to be lifted about 3 to 4 inches to tilt the lens out the front. Of course, the lid zips open as well, just like conventional holsters. I knew none of the commercially available holsters would have this unique front zipper feature, so I made up my mind to construct my own custom holster. Since it was DIY, I could use my favorite camouflage pattern of Cordura so it would match with my other gear.

A padded flap protects the LCD screen
from the camera strap.

The 12-inch zipper opens all the way down the
front, allowing the lens to come out the front.

Shown here are the two side pockets and the large zippered lid pocket.

Imagine accessing this pro camera body and large lens without the front zippered opening.
The zippered front really makes this simple and practical.

     I knew going into it this project would not be so easy to pull off. It was, in fact, so challenging that I am making no attempt to try to describe or explain how I went about it. It's pretty much beyond any text and photo explanation I could provide in this article.

     This is really mostly about sharing a new concept (a front zippered holster) and how it came about. The production of this item took a lot of head scratching, measuring and planning, until I eventually visualized how a pattern might look and work. It took days of fiddling with the thing to get it to do what I wanted, but finally it began to take shape. While at it, I incorporated two velcroed pockets - one on each side - and a zippered pocket on top, the entire size of the lid. This gives me plenty of handy storage for batteries, memory cards, gloves, lens cap, and other items.

      I added a padded flap under the lid which covers the LCD screen. This lets me fold up the camera strap and tuck it inside between the pad and the lid, avoiding any chance the strap clips might scratch the LCD or anything else. There is another padded flap between the lens and front zipper to insure the zipper never contacts the lens or camera. The lid zips shut, and also clips shut with a standard snap buckle. It hinges open to one side so it can hang open and stay there without getting in my way. My other holster lid opened against me and always wanted to flop down.

     The weight of the body and lens is not supported by the end of the lens (and hood). There is web strapping near the top that catches under the grip side of the camaera body. This strapping essentially hangs the body in the air so the entire weight does not press on the lens.

     An inch and a half of padding in the bottom of the holster protects the end of the lens hood when deployed. I made two covered foam discs that I can insert for an additional 3 inches of padding if I have the hood reversed. The pads take up the space where the hood would be, and adds considerable protection. It avoids zooming the lens out and locking it to fill the height of the holster. That might put unnecessary pressure on the zoom mechanism if the lens is resting on the lens cap in that position.

     This holster is not meant so much for quick draw shooting as it is for handy access. With two zippers and a snap buckle, instead of one zipper and snap buckle, it takes a little longer to extract the camera. However, it certainly beats taking off the backpack to get the camera out. With this larger, heavier camera/lens combination, I've been having to carry it in the backpack instead of my old holster. And you know there is always the unexpected opportunity while hiking to your destination. Having quick access to the camera is important, and this solves my problem nicely.