I have been a B&H customer since I was 8 years old. In fact, when I moved to New York City years ago, being able to head up to B&H whenever I needed was high on the list of things I was most excited about in my new home. I can't say I'm thrilled about the well publicized reports that B&H treats their employees like shit, but in New York City, B&H is often your only last minute option for semi-obscure pieces of kit that you needed yesterday for your shoot tomorrow.
Let's face it. All of us have probably spent thousands upon thousands of dollars at our preferred camera superstores. But whether you're loyal to B&H, Adorama, or any of the dozens of others of electronics emporiums, all of them tend to carry more or less the same items. Often, these megastores fail to fully cater to niche sub-industries like digital techs and we are forced to seek our wares elsewhere. So without further ado, he are some essential pieces of kit that you won't find at your favorite local or online camera superstore (and where to find them).
People ask me all the time about my favorite monitor stand mounts, and until recently that was a really tough decision. I've used pretty much everything out there, and I could never really find one that ticked all of the boxes until a friend recommended the Filmtools version, which also happens to be the cheapest one you can buy by a fair margin. At first glance I was concerned about just how simple the design is, but as soon as I tried it for the first time it became an instant favorite. Trust me, this thing is rock solid. It also gives you the ability to rotate the monitor 360º, and the fact that it uses a C-stand gobo head, one of the most common pieces of studio equipment in the world, means that the mounting options are endless.
If you've ever looked for a studio grade extension cord (aka Stinger) at B&H or Adorama, you've probably come up empty handed. Personally I was shocked to discover that this isn't something that's commonly stocked at camera stores. With a little research, I discovered th at my local Home Depot actually stocks the same exact wire that Filmtools uses to make their stingers, and they are extremely easy to put together yourself even with only basic electrical knowledge. But unless you need more than two or three, they're actually more economical to just buy pre-made from Filmtools!
Unfortunately, FilmTools only has one Los Angeles location and charges an ARM AND A LEG for shipping, so if you live anywhere outside of Southern California, you'll have to pay the "out of towner" tax to get many of their products that can't be found anywhere else. Wouldn't it be great if Filmtools could strike a distribution deal with B&H? Or better yet, open an NYC location???
Techflex F6 Split Cable Sleeve
There is nothing that I love more than clean cable management! When you have a device that always requires multiple cables, bundling them into a loom is a great way to clean up cable mess and make setup and breakdown a breeze. This is especially true with monitors. Like most techs and rental houses, I combine all of my monitor cables, short or long, into a loom containing power, USB, and DVI, HDMI, or DisplayPort. Many people use gaff tape or zip ties to accomplish this, but both of those are messy solutions. I've tried a few different cable loom products, but TechFlex's F6 split sleeve is by far my favorite (I usually buy mine from Amazon). I see a lot of people using the non-split version of this, but usually it means that they need to use a much larger size to accommodate bulky plugs and the resulting loom ends up being loose, messy, and more difficult to coil and store. The split loom is much easier to install and allows you to bundle cables with large end connectors like DVI while still keeping your loom tight and neat. There are a few different options, so check out the whole product lineup here to see which is right for you. I usually use the 1/2" size for shorter, thinner cables and 3/4" for longer runs. There are also versions with hook and loop closures (1, 2) for easier disassembly or modification. For a professional finish, consider picking up some heat shrink tubing to tidy up the ends of the sleeve.
What can I say about the Robocup? It's a cup holder, it holds cups, cups hold drinks. Drinks break computers, computers live on carts, drinks don't go on carts. Robocup clips on carts, drinks go in Robocup.
Seriously, if you own a digital cart, or a tripod, or a light stand, or anything vertical that is less than 2 inches thick, you should get a Robocup. Best $19 I've ever spent. I never ever thought that I would be a vegan buying something that doubles as a fishing rod holder, but here we are.
Pro Tip: Your Robocup will very quickly become your Art Director's robocup. Buy 2 and be the drink keeper for the whole crew!
New York's Hottest Club is ROBOCUP. Are you listening B&H??
Capture Management USB 3.0 Micro Tether Cables
One of my recent favorite additions to my kit, these USB 3.0 A to B Micro cables from Capture Management are sure to solve all of your USB 3.0 DSLR tethering woes (more about that in a post to come). Built to the highest USB specs, these cables are much better quality than most of the other options out there, you can really feel it in your hands. On top of that, they're about half the price of the name brand orange tether cables you can buy at B&H. After 3 months of use, I haven't had a single dropped connection with no need for an active booster. As of right now, these are only available direct through CaptureManagement.net. I highly recommend that you head over an pick up two of them (one for backup of course) right now!
When it comes to external USB power banks, B&H has a selection that is literally sixteen pages long. However, of all of the battery packs out there, none that I have found come anywhere close to the combination of price, performance, durability, and design that Anker's PowerCore series offers. I have about half a dozen of these in various capacities and I use them for everything from charging my Capture Pilot iPad and the crews' phones to powering TetherBoosts and wireless accessories. These batteries are just as good or better than others charging 3x the price and are an indispensable piece of kit for any photographer, assistant, tech, or anyone who works on location. I also choose Anker for USB AC adapters and iPhone cables.
The iPad has become an incredibly powerful location monitoring system in conjunction with Capture One and Capture Pilot. But often, the iPad's reflective screen makes it difficult to view images in bright locations. You could spend upwards of $60 on a name brand iPad hood (there are only a few available), but at about half the price, this shade really gets the job done! Plus, while most other hoods use a 4 sided design, the Surf to Summit's 3 sided design makes using the touchscreen a breeze. It is fully adjustable and can fit just about any 9-10" tablet thanks to its elastic mount. I've found that it works great in conjunction with the TetherTools S4 tablet mount (which IS available at B&H). The only downside: it only works properly in landscape orientation.
If you've worked in the photo industry in the past decade, you've probably heard about Paul C. Buff Lighting. Their Alienbees strobes have fostered an entire generation of brilliant lighting directors, and their high quality products at affordable prices are a fantastic way to break into professional lighting. For years, these fantastic products have mostly only been available through Paul C. Buff's website, but with their increasingly popularity, it would be wise for major retailers to seek a relationship with Buff.
One product that really stands out for me is their Vagabond line of lithium ion batteries and pure sine wave inverters. Originally intended for powering AC powered monolights on location, they're also fantastic for powering most AC powered devices up to 120W for the Vagabond Minis (my personal choice) and 400W for the Vagabond Lithium Extreme. I use them to power Eizo monitors on location, and as of writing this, they are still one of the only solutions for fully powering the 15" MacBook Pro with Touchbar. They're also far more affordable and portable than some of the similar offerings from Goal Zero and others. And since they're designed for photographers, they include the option to mount to other industry standard equipment, like Super Clamps.