My 4 Favorite Multifunctional Accessories Under $30
Although it’s always fun to window shop Lenses at $14,000, the best value for money can be had from a few simple accessories of $30 or less. Over the past year, I’ve found 4 pieces of gear that have earned a permanent place in my bag – here are my favorite inexpensive and functional accessories, all of which can fill a variety of roles.
In the past, I’ve carried a Leatherman-style multi-tool while hiking and shooting landscapes, and it’s come in handy on a number of occasions. Whether I’m using the pliers to pull a cactus out of my boots or using the screwdriver to tighten a mounting bracket, it’s a great tool to have around. If you’re just shooting around town, however, it’s probably overkill from a budget and size perspective. Not to mention that a number of tools are irrelevant for most photographic uses.
Instead, check out one of the photography-centric multi-tools. Smallrig, the makers of my favorite L-bracket, also make a variety of these multi-tools. They feature a variety of tools geared towards photographers and videographers – think Phillips screwdrivers, flathead screwdrivers, Torx and Allen keys, and a threaded storage hole to store spare screws. Individual models feature slightly different tool loadouts, but all would be far more relevant to photographers than an outdoor-focused multi-tool.
What’s especially nice about this style of tool is that it’s much easier to stick it in your bag and forget about it. Since it doesn’t have any type of blade, taking it on trips should be less of a problem (of course, make sure to follow the location rules and err on the side of caution). It’s also smaller, lighter, and doesn’t require any other attachments to be useful.
mini led light
I was also pleasantly surprised by the functionality of the mini LED lights. One of my favorites is the inexpensive W64RGB, a small RGB LED light about the size of an Altoid box. With its small size and built-in USB-C rechargeable battery, I started leaving this light in a small pocket of my bag. So far I’ve used it for a B-roll light for product shots instead of a separate light with gels, a small area light when setting up a drone night flight and as the “main” video light when recording a vlog. If you’re into light painting, this can be a great option too, thanks to the bright RGB modes and interesting square form factor – it’s a nice contrast to the rounder, more intense light pattern of a flashlight.
Even at the brightest setting it can get around 2 hours of light, which can be extended up to 15 hours at dimmer settings. Light control is easy, with a dedicated toggle switch controlling brightness and another controlling tint or function in other modes. Speaking of other modes, it also has a variety of special effect modes, simulating lightning, fire trucks, candle light, or other modes.
While it doesn’t rival a full-sized light panel, it can put out a perfectly reasonable amount of soft light for the size and price, while still being easy to use. It comes with a threaded mount, cold shoe, and even a magnetic backplate, making it a simple, self-contained set.
the Giottos Rocket Air Pistol is a bit less multifunctional than the other entries on this list, but does one thing very well: produce a powerful stream of clean air that’s still delicate enough to use inside a camera. I’ve had one for years, and at this point it may be the oldest piece of equipment I still use. Throughout this time it has held up well, unlike some similar products where the rubber degrades quickly.
The Rocket Blower is perfect for dusting equipment, cleaning off-camera sensors, dusting your laptop screen before using a rag, and any of the hundreds of other cleaning tasks you can think of. I recently flew my drone from a number of dusty places, and the rocket blower was helpful in dusting off both the gimbal and the camera, so much so that I took one other just for my drone bag.
It’s also a great replacement for canned air when cleaning around the desk. Since there’s no propellant, it won’t leave any residue on monitors, or leave that weird chemical smell in the air. If you’re looking for even more power, consider the DataVac Electric Duster. It’s more expensive and not as portable as the Rocket Blower, but it’s still more powerful than “canned air”.
Whether you’re packing cables to put in your bag, attaching your tether to a tripod, or even just managing cables around the office, BongoTies are my new favorites. I’ve used these little Velcro straps and zip ties in the past, but the BongoTie strikes the perfect balance between ease of use and strength. The closing mechanism, where you thread a small bamboo button through the rubber loop, is super easy to do, even with one hand. It’s fairly safe to use while still being easy to “untie” at the end. Plus, they come in a variety of colors, so even cable group colors can be coordinated with a little preparation.
Compared to zip ties, they are gentler on your cables and reusable. Unlike Velcro straps, they won’t snag on fabric, camera bags or anything else. They’re also completely adhesive-free – some cable jackets reacted badly with tape, leaving a sticky mess behind. As a result, they’re my new favorite way to bundle all the cables together, and at just a few bucks for a bag, they’re great value. While not a complete tape roll replacement, I would use these first whenever I need to manage my cables.
I’m a big fan of cheap and versatile accessories, and I think some modest tools can be overlooked in camera gear coverage. Are there any inexpensive tools that you find essential when shooting?
Main image courtesy of Jp Valery