Companies and makers send me photography products pretty frequently, with the request that we write an article about or review their product on the site. The products usually fall into one of three categories – Good and interesting, we review it; Bad and boring, we don’t review it; Good but there’s not enough substance for a full article, and I don’t know what to do with it.
For the past few years in cases where the product falls into that last category (being a product that’s really useful or nice but not revolutionary or interesting enough to warrant its own in-depth article) I’ve typically sent the products back to their makers with a polite explanation.
But not anymore!
Lately I’ve held onto these types of products until I now have enough to fill a small office, and I’m going to begin rounding them up into a monthly article series unimaginatively called The Product Roundup. You can assume that any of the products in this and other upcoming Product Roundups have already passed the test – the products are useful, well-made, and I can envision some of our readers using and enjoying them.
Today’s roundup showcases a travel tripod, a camera grip, a nice leather strap, and a life-changing (at least for me) LED light. Let’s dive in.
Due North Leather Straps
Mark, from Due North Leather Goods Co., sent me a leather camera strap many months ago. It’s nice looking, supple and smooth, and well-made in Canada. Unfortunately, even that many positive traits isn’t enough to get me excited about writing a big-time review of a strap. But there’s a nice balance struck by Due North’s approach which I think puts their straps comfortably at home in this roundup.
Like many of the best leather camera straps on the market, this strap is made by hand, will age beautifully, and has that lovely leathery smell that we all love (at least, those of us who aren’t vegan). I’ve written about straps from Tap & Dye and Hawkesmille, two luxury strap makers who truly make great products. The problem with those, however, is that they’re expensive. Very expensive. Due North’s strap is as good as any I’ve had from Tap & Dye (it actually feels softer than T&D’s Legacy strap), but the Due North example costs quite a bit less. The savings are even greater when we compare Due North to Hawkesmille.
Short story even shorter – if you want a beautiful, Canada-made leather strap at a fair price, consider those from Due North.
Metro Case Leica M Hand Grip
Super lightweight, strong, and comfortable. That’s what makes Metro Case’s handgrips so appealing. Metro Case sent me their grip for Leica M cameras, and it did what it was supposed to do – made the Leica M (actually) holdable! It also adds an Arca-Swiss style tripod mount, a standard tripod screw mount positioned at the optical axis, comes off along with the baseplate when switching film, and protects the bottom of the camera.
It’s inexpensive, strong and sturdy, and doesn’t detract from the classic good looks of the M series. Metro Case also makes handgrips for plenty of other film and digital cameras, including Barnack Leicas and Fujifilm’s ever-popular X Series mirrorless cameras. Not much to say beyond that – simply a good product.
Magnus TR-13 Travel Tripod
Talk to enough photo nerds (or watch enough YouTube videos made by photo nerds) and you’ll be convinced that you need a five-hundred dollar Gitzo tripod made of platinum and cored with mercury for that good, good weightiness. But that’s all wrong. The tripod that most people need is this one – the Magnus TR-13 travel tripod.
Ever since the makers of this tripod sent me the TR-13, I’ve been using it almost exclusively as my big, beefy Manfrottos languish in the corner of my office. I’ve used it to shoot product shots for my site, I’ve used it to shoot video for a YouTube channel, I’ve used it to hold LED lights and diffusers, and it’s worked great. No wobble, easy to articulate, it holds my stuff. Like the camera strap mentioned above, it’s difficult to find things to talk about when reviewing a tripod. If it holds the camera in the position that you need it to, and if it holds that camera steady during your exposure, the tripod’s done its job. This one does that.
What’s really great about this tripod, however, is that it hits a super low price point without sacrificing features. It’s got a dual-action ball head, a weight hook, an Arca-type quick release with level, quick-release legs, grippy feet, a travel bag, and it’s even got a reversible stock for upside-down mounting of the camera.
Maximum load is a truly respectable 13.2 lbs (this is much better than the similarly priced and specced Manfrotto competition, which can only hold 3 lbs). Maximum height is 62.5 inches (same as the competition) and closed height is 18 inches. The unit’s total weight is 2.9 lbs, which is great for travel! And all of this costs just $69.
It won’t work for the largest medium format cameras, and landscape photographers in wild climates shooting in hardcore conditions will need one of the classic heavyweight tripods. And it doesn’t have a boom to extend the camera out above subjects. But for most of us (and for the unbeatable price) this tripod will be all we need.
Luxli Cello 10 Multicolor RGBAW LED Panel
This product probably could warrant its own complete article, but here we go. The Luxli Cello 10 Multicolor RGBAW LED Panel has completely replaced my big honkin’ softboxes for all of my product photography (on this site and my shop).
Key features that I love :
- Adjustable color temperature from 3,000 to 10,000 K.
- RGB control makes it possible to blast virtually any color imaginable!
- Adjustable brightness control.
- LCD data panel on the back.
- Tripod socket mount, with included adjustable ball head.
- There’s a one-year limited warranty.
- It’s tiny!
- It’s made in Norway, which brings my Norwegian household products count up to 1!
Things I don’t like (or don’t use):
- Diffuser screen is not included (sold together with the light in a kit for $30 more than the light alone, or the diffuser is sold separately for $49).
- DC power adapter not included, and the single battery with which the unit is delivered does not last very long.
- Can be controlled via apps on my phone? Never used.
- There are strobe modes, and lightning modes, and other modes which are made to look like, I suppose, aura effects? Never used.
- It’s expensive.
If you’re buying a lighting setup for product photos or video work, or you want a light to give splashy RGB tones (as in colorful low-key portraiture) I can’t think of a light that I’d prefer over this one. It’s been amazing to use.
That said, it’s a bit pricey. But it’s made my product photography better, added greater versatility than I’ve ever had in a light setup, and cleaned up my office quite a bit. Just get the one that comes with a diffuser.
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