As we enter the new year, my thoughts turn to some of the things that have made my photographic life easier, more enjoyable, and more successful.
Here are a few that come to mind.
Geared tripod heads
Once you’ve become accustomed to a geared head like the Arca Swiss C1 or D4, everything else will feel sloppy and imprecise. You’ll hate the fiddly framing that comes with a ball head, and you’ll have to leave more room around your subject so you can crop in post if you’re in a hurry. Yes, they’re bigger. Sure, they cost more. But these things last a long time and won’t become obsolete until the computer driven motorized heads arrive. By that time I expect to be in my dotage.
Integral pull-out lens hoods
They don’t work quite as effectively as petal hoods. They don’t work at all on wide angle lenses. But they’re always there, and they don’t take any time at all to set up. In fact, if you’re not going to use the hood, you can pretty much ignore it, which isn’t the case with reversible hoods. Leica, thanks for keeping this old tradition alive.
They offer more flexibility than the ones that are built into cameras. They’re not flexible enough or easy enough to program, and the haptics can be dodgy. But they don’t reset when the power fails, and, with the right adapters, you can use them on many cameras.
It seems to get a few bugs (and fix most of the old ones) with every release. It can bog down with big catalogs. It could be better at using lots of cores. But, boy, is it a huge improvement over anything that went before, especially when you’re doing multi-thousand image shoots. And there are little bonuses cropping up all the time: dehaze in an adjustment brush – wowee!
Wescott LED panels
These little beauties let you change the color temperature from practically candlelight to 6000K. They are flexible, and you can wrap them around your subject if you’re shooting small stuff. The adjustments of color temp and intensity are reasonably well calibrated. They’re fairly bright. The switching frequency is high enough not to give you trouble with inhomogeneous exposures. Not cheap to buy. They don’t act cheap, either.
Nikon D810, Sony a7RII
These cameras show that patience, listening to your customers, and continued development can really pay off.
Old glass on mirrorless
Leica M and R lenses. Zeiss manual focus SLR lenses. Brought back from the grave, and the eBay prices show that it’s no secret.
IR modded mirrorless cameras
No more black filters. WYSIWYG. No fogging unless you do it in post. Whee!
Paul Buff Einsteins
Short flash duration. Precise dimming without change of color temperature. Small and light. No power supply needed. Prices that are a fraction of what the 80s European studio flashes cost in 80s dollars.