by Sean Setters
Has this ever happened to you?
You want to purchase something from B&H, but its value doesn't put it over the free Expedited Shipping threshold? While the item may qualify for free standard shipping, getting my newly purchased gear sooner rather than later is my personal preference (I might be a tad impatient).
With that in mind we've developed a list of relatively inexpensive items that may be less practical when purchased on their own, but instead can help push you over the Expedited Shipping threshold when bundling with other purchases.
This stuff is a no-brainer. Gaffer tape is a photographer's best friend. It's strong, peels away without making a mess and is even reusable (to some degree). It comes in a variety of widths, lengths and colors and having a roll on hand can literally save a shoot. If we listed all the ways we've used gaffer tape over the years, this post would turn into a Potter-like epic.
If you don't have any gaffer tape, add some to your cart. If you already have gaffer tape, adding another roll to your inventory is still probably a good idea.
If it's been a while since you've purchased a new Canon lens, then you're missing out on Canon's new, very convenient center pinch lens caps. The new lens caps are a worthwhile investment especially if you typically have a lens hood mounted to your glass.
Don't want to shell out for the Canon-branded lens caps? Third-party center pinch lens caps are also available at a significantly lower cost.
A lens hood is an excellent accessory to add to your kit if your lens(es) did not come with one. Not only can they prevent lens flare in your images, they can also help protect your lens's front element from impact. Typically speaking, Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) lens hoods are pricey. However, as lens hoods are typically easy to design and relatively inexpensive to manufacture, purchasing a third-party lens hood makes a lot of sense. Third-party lens hoods may not fit quite as well as the OEM ones and they may lack special features (such as interior flocking), but otherwise [typically] work just as well as their more expensive counterparts.
How much can you save by purchasing a third-part lens hood? The amount varies widely, but here's a good example: the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM uses the ET-67 Lens Hood which will set you back $36.00 for the OEM version; the third-party Vello hood is only $14.95.
There are few things I loathe more than a scratched LCD screen; that's why nearly all my electronic devices (including cameras) have a high quality screen protector in place. I specify "high quality" because there are a lot of low quality (less durable, less clear) screen protectors out there.
I've personally used dozens of screen protectors over the years with various levels of satisfaction. My current personal favorites for camera LCD screen protectors are the Vello LCD Screen Protector Ultra series and the slightly cheaper Vello Glass LCD Screen Protectors. The former is a perfectly-sized piece of transparent optical glass while the latter has a small black frame around the edge that shows branding and the protector model number (but the frame isn't distracting in my opinion).
If you've ever experienced stuck filters (especially if one of them is a circular polarizer), then you'll likely already know the true value of these inexpensive tools. Filter wrenches take up very little room in your gear bag and can save you the huge headache of dealing with filters that are stuck together while you're on a shoot. If these angst avoiding tools are not already a part of your kit, you'd be wise to bundle them with your next purchase.
This is another one of those must-have tools that ranks up there with gaffer tape and a microfiber cloth – the Rocket Blower. Regular use of a Rocket Blower can help keep your sensor clean of dust and debris that may impact image quality with the result of time consuming post-processing needed to remove the distracting artifacts.
Need to create high quality product images? The Rocket Blower can help you remove dust from the items so that your images look more professional. Indeed, using a Rocket Blower is Bryan's first step when creating the product images used for this site. If a Rocket Blower is missing from your kit, bundling one with your next purchase may be a smart way to surpass the Expedited Shipping threshold.
Keeping a desiccant (or two) with your camera gear can help prevent the growth of mold and fungus which can [understandably] degrade image quality and significantly reduce the resale value of your equipment. The most well-known and widely available type of consumer desiccant is Silica Gel which usually comes in single-use packs or reusable canisters that are reactivated by heat (usually an oven).
My suggestion - buy both. Keep the reusable desiccant with your gear stored at home and throw a couple of single-use packs in your gear bags (and replace periodically) for the ultimate in moisture protection.
If you're unfamiliar with what a gray card can do for you, Bryan's Gray Card review written several years ago is just as relevant today as it was then. The short version: a gray card can help you set a custom white balance in-camera (reducing post-processing) as well as assist in determining exposure values based on a meter reading off the card.
I'm finding a gray card to be indispensable when shooting Super Color IRs as getting the correct white balance in-camera makes post-processing so much easier. One really nice thing about the 8x10" gray card is that it can easily be stored in your camera bag's laptop compartment (if the bag has one) which helps protect the gray card while also allowing it to be nearby whenever you need it.
A Remote Switch is a simple tool that allows you to trigger your camera's shutter without touching the shutter button. It's not as handy as an intervalometer (an intervalometer can do everything a switch can do and much more), but if you don't need the intervalometer's additional functionality, the remote switch is a good item to have at your disposal.
The remote switch can prove especially beneficial if photographing young children by allowing you to make eye contact with the subject(s) while triggering the camera from a short distance away from the camera. The remote switch can also be helpful in bulb mode because the shutter can be locked for an indefinite period of time and released without ever having to touch the camera.
Full Disclosure: I do not actually own this product... yet. I ran across the Oben Tripod Hammock a few days ago and I thought it was a really interesting, novel piece of gear. The hammock is suspended by the legs of your tripod and can be used hold filters, lenses, microfiber clothes, or anything else you might need while shooting from a fixed location. Even if your tripod features a hook on the center column, you may even prefer to use the hammock for your ballast needs as it will be less susceptible to wind.
For those reasons, I'll be adding this item to my next B&H purchase that, without it, would not qualify for free expedited shipping. ;-)
So that's 10 general purpose add-ons you can use to help qualify for free expedited shipping. What do you think? Any additional suggestions?