There are unique tools we need (or want) to use in photography, but often times these tools amount to a larger than expected withdrawal from our credit cards. In the spirit of sharing on the internet, I’m hoping to share some of the products and DIY projects I have found to help me get around some of the more “official” solutions. I am not claiming that any of these are better in manufactured quality, versatility or otherwise, but these are things I use on a regular basis that serve their purposes very well. I am also not going into the more well known categories of lenses or teleconverters, but hopefully will discuss some lesser know solutions.
Macro Flash Bracket
This is one of my most used accessories, but rather than going into detail again here, please follow this link for more information on this custom made bracket.
I regularly use a right-angle viewfinder attachment but instead of the Nikon DR-6 or other Nikon part combinations, I use a third party finder manufactured by Seagull out of China. It’s a universal system with eyepiece adapter plates, but performs quite adequately given its price. The only drawback being a need to re-adjust focus when switching to 2x magnification, something I rarely use myself and is part of it’s optical design. There is also potential for light leaking into the viewfinder from the attachment point, but this has not yet caused me problems and could be easily solved by sealing the area.
Though I don’t currently use any RRS or Kirk products (they are however on the ‘list’), I have found solutions for support by other means. Some of these serve my purpose better than existing commercial products. One of these is my own aluminum L-Bracket to which I attach the appropriate mounting plates. Bent from 1/4″ and 3/8″ aluminum they provide perfectly adequate support for shorter lenses supported from the camera. Longer lenses would be supported by lens collars anyway. The only drawback here being that you cannot access the ports on the left side of the camera (except flash sync), though these are ports I personally never use. This is something most anyone can manufacture themselves to solve a variety of tripod mounting issues.
Center Column Shortening
The extended center column on lighter tripods usually causes an unacceptable instability and is something I have immediately replaced. The substitute is a simply configured wood dowel (shaped in a lathe) through which a bolt is attached to the ballhead. Additionally, the bottom of the bolt (extending below the tripod platform) has a loop to which I often hang camera bags for additional stability.
Third party solutions in this area are often substantially cheaper, and the part I use fulfills its purpose quite well. The only criticisms here are a slightly looser fit due to the lack of “locking notches” and a perhaps stiffer rubber. Though the eyecup can still can fold back and has a protective plastic lens. These have held up quite well in my camera bag despite being lost once or twice (only to have luckily been found on the walk back to the car). And at their available price you might as well get more than one. Bocaphoto seems to carry them at a cheap price, but they can be found at even lower costs on eBay.
Remote Release Cable
Again, this is an area where third party products may not be up to the quality standards of manufacturer parts, but at %10 of the cost, the minor differences are more than bearable. These cabled releases can be found all over the internet at various prices around $15US. They provide the same functionality of a traditional cable release including being half-press capable and having a lock for long exposures. The only differences that I have noticed are the lack of a thread on the plastic connector (which is instead held in place by friction), and the fact that some users report issues with the cable oriented in an inconvenient direction. The latter issue however is not the case on the cable release I use. The manufacturer of part, can be found here.