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I recently purchased a Cotton Carrier system which uses a clip to hang the camera vertically from the chest area. I am using this with a D500 and a 200-500 lens, which has a tripod foot. When I am using a tripod, naturally I use the Arca-Swiss mount to attach the tripod foot to the tripod. However with the Cotton Carrier, it would keep the camera closer to my body and more stable if I could attach their clip to the body rather than then lens.

Is this an acceptable way to carry a body+lens? I understand it would not be a good idea if the lens were held out horizontally from the camera, but I don't know the physics of it if the lens is vertical underneath the body. It is a different direction of force, but I am unsure if it is worse/better.

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The D500 has a CFRP (plastic) front panel; only the top and back are metal (magnesium). Generally speaking, if a lens has a foot it is because it is better to support the combination by the foot... hanging and banging a 5+lb lens off of the lens mount of a 1.9lb camera probably isn't the best idea.

Better or worse than horizontal? Probably worse as the weight will be pulling on the lens mount screw threads (vertical weight)... the screws probably have a much greater shear strength (horizontal weight).

That said, I abuse my cameras... if carrying by the body with the lens hanging is the difference of carrying/using it or not, then I would. But I've also bent lens mounts/locking pins before; and that is something best avoided if possible.

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  • Engineered "plastics" used in modern camera light boxes, including such cameras as the Canon 1D series and the Nikon D1/2/3/4/5 series, have higher tensile strength than metal alloy parts that are the same size. They're also subject to less thermal expansion contraction with changes in temperature. Lens mount rings are screwed directly to the camera's light box, not to the front panels. So even with cameras having magnesium alloy bodies, the lens mount rings are attached directly to an "engineered plastic" light box. – Michael C 2 days ago
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The heaviest lens I've used hanging from a strap attached to a camera body is a 60 oz./1700 gram EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II with tripod collar and lens hood. I've had no real problems over years of fairly hard use with this practice.

However, there was a time when I did the same thing with a 2.5 lb/1150 gram monopod/tilt head combo attached to the lens' tripod collar. The combined weight of lens and monopod/head was about 6.25 lbs./2800 grams. The tilt head was turned so that the compacted monopod was pointing straight down in the same direction as the axis of the lens when I was not using it.

After only a dozen or so outings using this method, the connection between the lens and camera, a Canon 50D, started showing excessive play and I ceased using the practice and began attaching the monopod to my belt when not in use. It turned out that most of the wear was to the surfaces on the 50D's mount ring where it contacted the lugs on the lens' mount ring, with a much lesser amount of wear to the lugs on the lens' flange ring. I guess it it possible that the total weight was not as much an issue as the fact that the weight of the monopod was off-center to the center axis of the lens.

With the AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6 E ED VR you're talking about a 5 lb./2300 gram lens!

Personally, I would not risk it.

As to whether there is more stress on the mount connection with the lens hanging vertically or extending out horizontally:

  • There's more shear force applied to the mount when the lens is extended horizontally. The pressure is greater on smaller portions of the connection at the top and bottom of the ring. The force near the bottom of the ring is compressive, the force near the top of the ring is tensile. The farther from the mount the center of the lens' weight is, the more each of these forces increase in an offsetting way. The stretching force (tensile) at the top of the connection increases at the same rate as the compressive force at the bottom of the connection.
  • When the lens is hanging vertically the load is more evenly distributed around the entire ring, with almost all of the force being tensile.

Related: Are there any official specifications regarding the torque for camera mounts?

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All of the images at Cotton Carrier's website that show people using long lenses are carrying them the way you describe. I can't tell if the safety strap is adjustable length. If it is, use it to loop under the foot on the lens, then back up to the other side of the carrier. The safety strap can help share the weight, thus relieving some of the load from the lens mount.

If the strap isn't adjustable length, make or get one that is. I'd suggest something like Op/Tech USA's system connectors as a starting point.

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