Six Items You Can Skimp On

Six Items You Can Skimp On

Photography can be an expensive game, but there are some bits of kit that you really don’t need to spend big money on. Here are six bits of kit you can skimp on.

It can be really daunting trying to decide where to spend your money, but hopefully, saving on these items will allow you to have a few extra dollars left over for the things that matter. 

Speedlights

Gone are the days of spending a fortune on own brand speed lights, the world wide third party market for speed lights is now amazing. From Godox to Neewer, the brands all have amazingly spec’d speedlights for very cheap. Yeah, they are not as well made or consistent as the main camera brand offerings, but for the price, I would always choose to save those extra dollars and perhaps buy three affordable speedlights rather than one expensive one.  The image below was taken with a sheet of tracing paper and a single Phottix speedlight 

Triggers

When I started out, you would have been laughed out of the room if you were using anything but a Pocket Wizard. My Pocket Wizards are now sat gathering dust, while my cheap, unbranded triggers do a great job both in my studio and on location. They are so affordable that I leave a set in every bag, just in case. 

There are a few quality control issues, but for the price, it is certainly something that I would recommend skimping on in order to save some funds for your lenses, which you really don’t want to cheap out on. 

Reflectors 

Admittedly, I hate a 5-in-1 reflector, any gold reflector and anything that is particularly specular, but that is more personal taste than anything else. However, I have owned both the cheap versions and the expensive brand versions. They both look equally bad (to my taste), but if this is something that you do like, then I can certainly recommend that you save your money and go for the cheapest options. 

Camera Batteries 

I published a video on this a while ago and I got a lot of hate for it, but I am sticking to my guns. Cheap camera batteries are as good as the brand name ones. I have been running third party batteries in my cameras for nearly a decade. They work fine, my cameras haven't spontaneously combusted, and I have saved a lot of money. 

Flash Batteries 

Sanyo Enloop were the go-to battery in the early 00s, but nowadays, the Amazon basics do a great job, and thanks to the Godox battery packs, you probably wont have to recharge them for six months. When I started out, I was a wedding photographer, and the pain of charging AA batteries 24/7 was too much. Nowadays, we can all save time, money, and stress. 

Camera Bodies

I know, half of you are now mad, but hear me out. For a lot of us, the latest and greatest camera really doesn’t offer much more. If you buy a used 2005/2007 full frame camera and you work in food photography, product photography, or certain styles of portrait photography, then you really won't be losing out. However, if you shoot gigs, weddings, or maybe sports or wildlife, then you are going to want those high-ISO capabilities and autofocus improvements that the more modern DSLRs offer. 

What are your go-to items to save money on?

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39 Comments

Deleted Account's picture

Why on Earth woild you get hate over batteries? People are stupid.

Scott Choucino's picture

Can’t argue with that haha

Motti Bembaron's picture

Agree. I have two third party batteries for my D750, D3, and the D500. The one for the D3 I have had for over five years now. The two for the D750 can each easily handle 1800 shutters no problem.

So true for the flashes and of course strobes. No need to spend a fortune and I would say, they are easily as good as the branded ones from Nikon or Canon.

Depends why you are using speedlites. If it is off camera and on manual then it really doesn’t matter much.

But on-camera and relying on ttl for example is a whole different story. Most of them are not reliable enough with proper ttl metering exposure from shot to shot in difficult conditions. Here still the branded one win big time. Talking from years of experience with on camera flash photography on Canon cameras.

For example Yongnuo triggers which are a copy of Canon ST-E3-RT have more or less unusable AF assist beam going either way too high or too low and not emit exactly best focusing pattern.

In general yes they are very useful but cannot just say that they perform totaly the same in every situation as ones from the camera manufacturer.

Motti Bembaron's picture

I used to use TTL every now and then when doing events, however, I almost always shoot manual.

The V960Ii by Godox is bang on when on TTL and from what I heard, the V1 is even more consistent.

When it comes to speedlights, the edge the leading brands had is no longer. What's more, the third parties improve contantly.

My SB910 has not been used in years.

In my experience, I've noticed that the off-brand cheaper batteries don't last quite as long. I shoot FUJI, and their battery life is impressive. I do agree on the amazon versus energizer battery life. Much cheaper and they last just as long.

I’ve had a lot of cheap AA batteries die but my eneloops keep going and going. So, as the saying goes - the poor man pays twice. That said you can get eneloops cheaper by buying things like the ikea batteries which are apparently private labeled eneloops if you want to save some dough. The thing about batteries is - these are some pretty serious chemicals and I would be concerned with the environmental footprint of the manufacturing from the cheaper companies. You can buy cheap but remember that someone is paying the price - probably in labor. Just food for thought.

Rob Davis's picture

I had to stop using them because they were giving me inaccurate charge levels. Like them for non-critical use though.

C Fisher's picture

LPT Kirkland AAs are rewrapped Duracells 👉👉

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

I save on the camera batteries. I had 10 (3 Sony) of the previous style Sony (W) batteries. Since 2015, only 2 have died (last year). The Sony's.

I also have the new Sony batteries (Z). 1 Sony, 3 3rd party. Performance wise, I can't tell them apart. On a typical shoot, I take about 800-1600 images. Per fully charged battery, I can do about 3 shoots before I need to replace with a fresh one.

michaeljinphoto's picture

Curious to know if Sony would honor a warranty if something went wrong while using a third party battery. My thing with camera batteries is that it seems like a really odd thing to skimp on after spending thousands of dollars for your other camera equipment.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

It never really crossed my mind about worrying about 3rd party camera batteries. I've never had issues or read about any issues. The only thing I've read years and years ago, was little scare tactics by elitists. These type of folks that had no proof but they swear it's bad just because it's 3rd party.

Dana Goldstein's picture

One of the major third party battery companies has known issues with their Fuji batteries expanding inside the battery compartment and being difficult to remove. It has happened to me and I removed it only with difficulty. Others have had batteries get stuck that required servicing. So now I only do Fuji’s own batteries.

David Boyars's picture

I figure most of the super bargain batteries online are the same crap. Was yours a common aftermarket or bargain type?

Dana Goldstein's picture

One of the aftermarket companies on Amazon. They're all comparatively cheap compared to original-maker batteries, but in my experience, not worth the risk.

Dana Goldstein's picture

I looked it up, they were Wasabi Power. I still have their chargers but I don't have the batteries.

Paul Lindqvist's picture

If you have a battery that is stuck in your camera I doubt Sony would cover it by the warranty, I saw a Nikon D3 with a 3rd party battery that got stuck due to it expanded, it was not covered by warranty.

Personally I do not use anything but original, there really isn't a huge saving to make from a business perspective.

Robert Montgomery's picture

Cheap lighting for me ia a big No. Like anything you get what you pay for. Especially if you have to replace an item prematurely due to poor quality or inconsistent output each time the strobe is tripped.

Michael Comeau's picture

I have a gold umbrella. Anyone want to trade me for a sandwich?

Robert Montgomery's picture

Pastrami on rye with swiss cheese and mustard .

michaeljinphoto's picture

What's wrong with a 5-in-1?

C Fisher's picture

I don't think he hates the reflector itself, just the look it creates.

David Love's picture

I have a drinking straw for sale for 10 cents, wait, it's a drinking straw for photographers, that will be $5. Having backups is probably more important. Don't want something to fail in the middle of a shoot. Every time I've tried to go cheap, I got stung. It either failed or broke from cheap materials.

Sadie Bree's picture

I use relatively cheap Fovitec bi color LED panels. 2 600s and 1 900. Amazon specials and they work great.

David Boyars's picture

The online specials are pretty hit or miss for me. Having a high R value is more important to me than 90 CRI but do you really trust the labels on the suuuuper cheap stuff? I'm curios :)

Dan Marchant's picture

Saving money is especially important when starting out in business. Cashflow is king. You need back up kit more than you need one item that will last three years longer. A canon flash may be better made and last longer than a Chinese knock off but if someone knocks it over and it hits a concrete floor it will be just as broken. I would rather have three cheaper ones so that I always have back up.

used flashes are dirt cheap, they are mostly sell by amateurs and for me it's the best way to do - quality of canon accesories for half of the price.

David Boyars's picture

Reputable third parties have really upped their game as of late. My concern would be getting them serviced after a drop. Many Chinese brands don'y have service facilities.

Kevin Harding's picture

Agree on the triggers, reflectors, soft boxes etc. etc. The Godox batteries are amazing. Also the camera bodies - until about a year ago I was still using the original A7r for my landscape photography because it's DR is still right up there, even very close to the A7r4. AF not in the same league of course but not required for Landscapes.

I use both original and 3rd Party batteries in my cameras. Unlike some other people here I have found a clear difference, even under 50% in some cases. However considering they only cost 20-25% of an original it's worth stocking up on them for occasions where speed isn't critical - use originals for those times.

C Fisher's picture

Specialty filters, I'm going to make a 6 point star filter out of a piece of plastic and a coffee cup sleeve today lol. The lensbaby kits are cool but you can probably diy 3/4 of it at the dollar store.

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