What Photography and Video Products I Would Buy Twice?


A bit of panic leads to a fun diversion. Today, we pose a hypothetical question.

There I was, sitting in a movie theater, as I do almost every Friday, waiting for the seemingly endless line of trailers to conclude so we could get to the main feature. As it turns out, the movie itself wasn’t worth the wait, but I’ll leave the review for a different day and instead discuss the thought that popped into my head just before the opening credits ran. Did I leave my stove on?

I won’t leave you in suspense. I had, in fact, remembered to turn off my stove (or more accurately, my George Foreman grill) prior to leaving the house to go to the movies. So, it was only a fleeting terror that ended up being much ado about nothing. But, nevertheless, my mind went to work on contingency plans just in case the worst turned out to be true.

Years ago, my former manager had his house burn down in an accidental fire. And ever since then, I’ve had this gnawing panic that it could happen at any moment. As my house keeps hold of my most valuable assets, living and otherwise, it logically is also home to a great deal of photo gear that I have acquired over the years. Thankfully, I am insured to the hilt. Of course, seeing as though I’ve been a professional photographer for going on two decades, you can imagine that I have acquired quite a lot of gear over the years needing to be insured. So, as my gear closet has grown, so has the coverage in my policy. I need certain gear to stay in business. And, if anything catastrophic should happen, I should be in a fairly decent shape to recover with the help of a potential insurance payout.

All of which was running through my head as I sat in the theater suffering through the sudden panic of wondering whether I’d left the stove on. Like I said, I fairly quickly confirmed that I had not made that particular mistake. But then panic led to curiosity as I began to wonder, if I did in fact suddenly need to re-buy my entire gear closet, what parts of my current gear collection would I buy again immediately? And which pieces of gear might I allow to be confined to memory?

As I sat through yet another trailer, I had succeeded in turning anxiety into a fun little game in my head. So I thought I’d share the results of my game with you. Fair warning, these selections are very particular to my own personal use case. So, your list might be completely different. Also, I limited my list to items that I already own. I couldn’t pick objects of desire I wish I owned. So, I couldn’t make an Arri Alexa 35 magically show up on my policy. And since I don’t own every piece of photo and video equipment ever manufactured, this list only applies to items that are on my current policy. So, with that out of the way, let the games begin.

Nikon Z 9

The most recent purchase to make the list. It’s hard to be a photographer without a camera. And, eight months in, the Z 9 has proven to be the best camera I have ever owned. So much so that I have two of them. I don’t always have identical backup bodies. But, in this case, it’s pretty clear that the camera can do 100% of what I need it to. So, practically, it just makes sense to have two of the same for the sake of efficiency. There’s very little it can’t do, making it a great choice for future proofing myself for client needs.

Profoto B10 Plus

I could put the original B10 on here. In actuality, I’ve used it more. But that is most likely just because I’ve had it longer. I have a whole host of Profoto lights. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t buy anything else for strobes. They have become such an integral part of my still workflow that mixing brands is neither necessary nor practical for me. I have several models, both battery powered and AC powered. And, truthfully, I would probably re-buy all of them. But, for the sake of brevity, and because it’s slightly more powerful than the B10, I’ll pick the B10 Plus as the first one I would re-buy. It’s battery powered and small. So it’s easy to use when running and gunning. But, it also can be plugged in and is powerful enough to use on most interior or studio shoots. While I have larger D2s, which provide a higher output and shorter flash duration, and smaller units like the A10s, the B10 Plus wins this particular thought experiment simply because it’s the tool that most often makes it out of the bag.

Apurture NOVA P300c RGBWW LED Panel

What the B10 Plus is to my still workflow, the Apurture NOVA P300c is to my video workflow. Even more than stills, the lights that get pulled off the truck for film production are very much scene specific. So there is no one such thing as one fixture that is right for every environment. But, like the B10 Plus, the P300c’s get the nod because they are the lights that I most often use.

Whether I’m shooting a quick interview, filling a room with light, or futzing with the various RGB modes to add color to a scene, there seems to almost always be a use for these things on set. They’ve since come out with a more powerful P600c which I don’t yet own, hence why it can’t make the list, and there are a number of other Apurture fixtures, both on my shelf and my wishlist, that could make this list. But, I’m going to go with the P300c’s as the constant light fixture that I would re-buy first as it is one of the most versatile fixtures in my kit.

Nikon Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S

Recently I had a decision to make. I had two Z 9s. But I only had one Z 24-70mm f/2.8. “So what,” you might say. I have plenty of other Nikon F and Z mount lenses. Surely, one of those can do the trick. And that is true. I didn’t really “need” a second 24-70mm. But, here’s the thing. Of all the shots I have ever taken professionally, at least 95% of them were shot on the 24-70mm. It’s simply the focal range that best suits my workflow and the way I see the world. So, while I have a lot of other focal lengths, the vast majority of them spend their lives taking a nap in my camera case, only to be pulled out in highly specific circumstances.

One of my motivations for getting two identical Z 9s was that I could shoot them side-by-side. One for stills. One for motion. I wrote an article about this a few weeks ago. But, in short, a video rig is much different than a setup for still photography, and I find it more efficient to not have to break down (or build up) my camera every time I switch from one to the other. This includes not having to keep swapping the same lenses back and forth and taking off the various filters, matte boxes, follow focuses, and everything else when I want to go from stills to motion.

But now I had a decision to make. Do I try a different lens for the second camera to add more variety? Or do I buy the exact same lens that I already have, that I know suits my needs, and will get the most work? I opted to double down and get a second copy of the same model. So my two systems are literally identical. It’s not exactly a win for variety. But it’s a massive improvement on my efficiency on the job. All of which means that re-buying the 24-70mm would be pretty much a no-brainer in our little thought experiment.

Softbox

I love softboxes. Some people like to bounce. Some people use other modifiers. Every modifier has a time and place. But, just like very few of my shoots don’t include a 24-70mm, very few of my shoots don’t include the use of a softbox at some point. I’ve got big ones, small ones, round ones, square ones. The most used one is actually not even the biggest one. It’s a 2 ft x 2 ft octabox that fits onto the aforementioned B10 Plus. But the size used is determined by the subject. So, I won’t pick just one model here. Instead, let’s just say that a fair amount of money would go into replenishing my supply of ready made light fixture mounted difffusion.

Okay, sure, this isn’t the lightest stand in the world. But, especially when you shoot with larger motion picture lights, small isn’t always good. What you want is a stand that can carry a major load without worrying about it tipping over or collapsing. This particular stand is solid as a rock. That’s good. It’s got both a receptor for a baby pin or the option of a built-in pop-up ⅝ inch stud for mounting my strobes. And, as most of you close to my age will appreciate, it has wheels!!! Oh, I could write an entire article about how much I love locking wheels on heavy stands. But, suffice to say, it comes in majorly handy when moving around heavy lights with a torn rotator cuff.

I have larger versions of this stand. And I have more C-stands than I can keep track of. But, this particular stand is the one that goes to almost every set with me and gets used for basically every occasion. If I had to do it again, I’d likely buy several of them.

Sennheiser MKE 600 Shotgun Microphone

Sound is the hidden master of all. If your sound isn’t right, your picture doesn’t matter a lot. I carry an entire sound package for all video work. But, my personal favorite is the Sennheiser MKE 600. It may be highly subjective, but I just like the way voices sound with this particular mic. And I find it most useful to my style of filmmaking. Your mileage may vary. But this is one item that travels around in my kit with me at all times.

There is a lot of gear that I’ve acquired in two decades. And there are many more items that would be worth a second investment. I haven’t even talked about whole categories like computers. I figure computers change over so often that the replacement would be whatever is most up-to-date at the time. I haven’t talked about software. It’s all in the cloud anyway, so replacing a downloaded subscription isn’t such a difficult task. But, with what I have mentioned, I’d feel confident that I could shoot 90% of the still or video jobs that come my way. Yes, there would be other accessories needed. ND filters. Flash triggers. Batteries. Lots of batteries. But, as far a core needs go, these items would allow me to get back up and running in no time.

So what would be on your re-buy list? What are the tools you would absolutely have to replace in order to keep creating your art?





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