Well, maybe not cheap, but I don’t have a ton of disposable income, which is why I have to browse the bargains for gear to help me achieve what I want out of my photography. Here are three extremely inexpensive things I find indispensible:
1. A notebook
$0.69 at Wal-Mart. I like to use mine to record exposure data and notes about photos I’ve made or possible locations for photos I have yet to make. A flexible, yet durable, plastic cover helps it not get soggy taking it in and out of the camera bag on wet days, and it stays on the notebook (unlike some other composition-type notebooks). Oh, I forgot to mention it’s also narrow-ruled. Cancel your Field Notes subscription, those folks played you like a chump.
2. L-Plate Bracket
The ball head on my also-cheap tripod is fantastic for what I paid for it, but trying to orient it to shoot portraits is an absolute pain-in-the-neck. My penny-pinching solution? This L-plate bracket I bought from Amazon. Made from “aluminum alloy” (whatever that means), it’s lightweight, sturdy enough to support my Mamiya m645, and at $6.41 (no, that is not a typo) you’d be insane to not pick one up. I can buy 10 of these for one “high end” model, and I highly doubt those are worth 10x as much as this baby. For the hobbyist on a budget, this is a no-brainer.
3. Circular Polarizer
I live in Florida and glare is a harsh reality. If you don’t own polarized sunglasses in the Sunshine State, you might as well stare at the sun, it’s that bad. So then, why wouldn’t I have a pair of sunglasses in my kit to help my camera see better during those sunny days? This circular polarizer is another one of those tools that I could break or lose a few times before I’ve spent as much as a brand name polarizer. While I haven’t done the pixel-peeping research to truly compare images, at normal viewing the image quality is on par if not better with a more expensive polarizer I owned and dropped. It’s definitely worth the $12 I paid for it, and then some.
So there you have it! Three budget solutions for pieces of gear we all need. If you’re like me and just love to get out and shoot, you really can’t go wrong with any of these. Now, I know that certain things like filter and tripods, you truly do get a better product when you pay a little bit more, but for someone like myself who is new to shooting film and is still getting a handle on exposure, composition, and the other nuts and bolts of photography, it makes more sense for me to spend less money to make the same rookie mistakes. If you have any comments or suggestions for other cheap, but useful gear, hit me up on Twitter at @AnalogHobbyist!