by Sean Setters
Let's face it – photo gear is expensive. Most gear purchases require a significant amount of planning, saving and consideration before pressing the "Add to Cart" button. However, there are a few pieces of gear that are, in my opinion, worth much more than you pay for them.
Here are five inexpensive (less than $20.00) tools that no photographer should be without:
- Giottos Rocket Blaster Dust-Removal Tool ($8.95 - $11.95) – If you own a DSLR and ever change your lens (that includes most of us), this tool is indespensible in keeping your sensor clean. For stubborn stuck-on dust and debris, you'll need to peform a more expensive wet cleaning, but the Rocket Blaster is the best (and cheapest) first line of defense against dust spots showing up in your images. It's also a great tool for cleaning the exterior of cameras and lenses which can lessen the time involved in post-processing product shots (and why Bryan uses this tool substantially more than I do).
- Filter Wrench ($4.95 - $8.95) – Have you ever stacked filters on your lens? If so, you may already know how valuable this cheap tool can be. I often stack filters – ND + ND, CPOL + ND – and inevitably, they become stuck together. The problem is especailly bad when using a circular polarizer becaues the area you have to grip is significantly smaller than with other filters. In this case, a filter wrench can save you from the time consuming and frustrating headache induced by trying to separate stuck filters.
- Super Clamp ($19.95) – The possible list of uses for this handy little tool would likely equal the text found in a small novel. While this particular tool isn't terribly useful on its own, it expands what's capable when used with other tools (many of which you may may already own). For example, I've used them to put shoe-mount flashes in hard to reach places (using an umbrella swivel). I've used them to help secure a battery pack to a lightstand (using a hook adapter accessory). I've even used them as a camera platform when shooting in urban environments or as an easy way to mount a remote camera as seen in the image above (using a quick release clamp attached to the top). For what it's worth, I like version with the T-handle best (it's easier to pack as it takes up less room). And by the way, don't carelessly throw away the wedge insert (like I did with my first super clamp); it's used to allow the clamp to be easily and safely mounted to flat surfaces.
- Microfiber Cloth ($1.59 - $8.95) – I have approximately a dozen of these stuffed into various camera bags and drawers but I'd never complain about having more of them. They are the best tool for keeping your front element/front filter clean. As such, they should never be out of arm's reach.
- Gaffer Tape (starting at $1.95) – The beauty of this tape is how well it holds in place and how easily it can be removed without leaving a sticky residue. If the list of uses for a super clamp could fill a small novel, the list of uses for gaffer tape could likely fill the pages of War and Peace. I could not begin to describe all the ways I've used gaffer tape. If you don't currently have a roll in your gear bag, get one now; you won't regret it.