Cheap and Cheerful: Testing Out a Budget Cable for Tethered Shooting

Cheap and Cheerful: Testing Out a Budget Cable for Tethered Shooting

I took a chance on purchasing a no-frills £12 tether cable to see how it performs in comparison to other well-known brand cables. If you shoot tethered, you might want to read on.

The pursuit of perfection often leads us down the path of expensive gear and accessories, which can eat into a photographer's profit margins. One such accessory is the tether shooting cable, an indispensable tool for photographers looking to maximize their workflow and shooting process. I don’t know about you, but tether cables and reflectors are high on my danger list of items that I seem to leave behind after a shoot. I am forever replacing them, so if there is a good option at a lower cost, I’m willing to give it a try.

As it stands, a certain orange-colored tether cable dominates the market, commanding premium prices for this useful piece of kit, which, depending on the area of photography you practice in, may or may not be considered an essential tool. In contrast to this, the Valueline tether shooting cable, in a bright shade of blue, caught my attention as a cost-effective alternative to the orange-clad name-brand cables, which cost an average of £50. Skeptical but curious, I decided to give it a shot, and the results left me pleasantly surprised.

You may have noticed this yourself, but when the word photography is added to the description of a product, the price tends to creep up. This Valueline brand cable is not advertised as being a photographic tether cable, but that is exactly what it is, and tethering your camera for instant image review on a monitor is exactly what it does. Of course, different connections are available for different camera and monitor or laptop connections, but throughout all options, the price stays very low. I paid £11.86 for this cable, but it is currently on offer for £9.92, and I will be purchasing a spare as soon as I finish typing this article.

Benefits of Shooting Tethered

Shooting tethered, the practice of connecting your camera to a computer or monitor during a photoshoot, offers numerous advantages that enhance a photographer's workflow. Here are some key benefits:

Real-Time Image Review

Shooting tethered enables instant viewing of images on a larger screen, allowing for a more accurate assessment of composition, exposure, and focus.

Quality Control

The larger screen helps identify and address any issues with images that might go unnoticed on the small LCD on the back of your camera.

Optimal Collaboration

Clients, art directors, or models can view images as they are captured, fostering better communication and collaboration on set.

Data Backup

Images are transferred directly to the computer, reducing the risk of data loss due to memory card failure.

Live Adjustments

Photographers can make real-time adjustments to camera settings from the computer, streamlining the creative process.

After a fortnight of use, this cable has delivered exceptional performance without burning a hole in my pocket. Priced at a fraction of the cost of the orange cables, this budget-friendly option allows photographers to allocate their resources elsewhere.

This article is a rather long way to say “it works.” Granted, I have only used it over the course of a few weeks, but it has already outlasted one of the more costly tether cables I purchased a few years back that kept disconnecting after only a few weeks of use. 

A final point to consider, which may be a minor point, is that other professionals will recognize the color as being out of place with what they are used to seeing. Will this give an impression of inferiority? It shouldn’t, but would you judge a person’s professionalism if they are using an off-brand data transfer cable?

In a world where quality need not always come at a premium, this cable serves as a testament to the value that can occasionally be found in affordable solutions. If you are anything like me, you will need a spare for occasions when you leave your cable behind, or if your cable malfunctions, so at the very least this will be an ideal option in that scenario.

If you're in the market for a reliable and cost-effective tether shooting cable, don't hesitate to give the Valueline brand a try; you might just find yourself as pleasantly surprised as I was.

Kim Simpson's picture

Kim Simpson is a photographer based in the West of Scotland. Her photographic practice is an exploration of the human experience, with a particular emphasis on themes of identity and belonging.

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As a Hobbyist photographer, I have never had a memory card fail on me so having files instantly saved and viewed on a computer is not that important for me. What I use is the HDMI out port on my Z8 that is connected to a 4K 50" TV that works very well. As soon as the image is taken it's on the screen within 2 seconds. I shoot raw. Because I'm in a studio, I only need to see the basic exposure, and then my composition. HDMI cables are super cheap and come in many lengths. It does not take very long to transfer images using the memory card and reader. I prefer post-work rather than trying to spend time Live with a tethered setup. It works for me.

However, I may look into wireless if it's not a big hassle with a lot of connection issues. Overall, I Hate Cables of any kind! I went with wireless strobes, absolutely love them!

Its good to hear that your set up works for you Leon, be mindful of the importance of colour management and continuity in your workflow - you'll need to calibrate your screen in order to closely replicate what the camera has captured.

I agree on wireless working! As someone who started out using a sync cable in the studio to wireless triggers, I am very grateful of that ability.

Screen Calibration is only important to me in Post on the computer, I shoot in Raw and I set the color and tones in Post to what I know the printing services that I use will match my screen.

Too Light or Too dark is the main issue for me sometimes with printers, so my Gama setting is important. But I have pretty much dialed it in with the printing services that I use.

In regards to Social-Media, it's a crap-shoot, Everyone has different Monitors, Smartphones, TV's and you can bet that 99% of viewers don't have a calibrated viewing device. I don't replicate what the camera has captured exactly, I always adjust to my liking, hence the reason I shoot raw.

Now in a Professional client, you no longer are creating to your likes, that would be different for sure.

It's a must have for product shooting workflow; you can adjust object lighting and position, among other things, immediately, rather than chimping a small camera screen.

Yes, its also useful for minimising error margins too

The wireless tethering solutions coming out now are getting close to reasonable speeds. It will be great to retire the cable. Tethering is also highly valuable anytime you have more than one party interested in the reviewing the photos during the shoot. This includes customers looking at their headshots and client art directors/marketing people monitoring the photos as they are shot.
Tethering software, such as Capture One, have valuable features such as the ability to overlay a template (such as an advertising cover), over a live shot. This allows you to properly position the product or model as you shoot and see the final result in real time.

Tethering (whether wired or wireless) holds such value for reasons you have noted. I used an Eyefi SD card years ago to send images to an iPad for review when I was shooting for a client and they thought I was showing them research images "Yes, we would like something like that" they said, before realising that they were looking at images that had just come straight out of camera. The transfer was too slow and the connection kept dropping which I imagine is a huge part of why the product is no longer manufactured. I look forward to suitable wireless tethering, but in all honesty, that cable acts as a barrier which gives me a bit of personal space when shooting which I quite enjoy.

Was the transfer speed any better on the "orange" one when compared to the budget one?

I doubt there is any noticeable difference. I have been shooting tethered 20+ years and never bought a "dedicated" cable. I use cheap cables from other products. The only thing that "might" be worth having is a cable lock that could save the internal connector on the camera and on the computer end. Best is to use a very short extension at both end of your long cable. They will work as quick disconnect if someone steps or get caught with the cable. Emergency disconnect is not about if it ever happens but when. Extensions haven't slowed down my tethering that I can tell.

No notable difference at all in terms of transfer speed.

Of course it works, it’s just a USB cable. Those orange guys are just massively overcharging for theirs. And who cares what other professionals think? It’s the customer and end result that counts.

Yes you are right, the end result is what matters.

For tethered shooting I use the "mighty" 2m long, white USB-C cable delivered with my MacBook Pro charger. A cable is just a cable, no magic inside. Don't let fool you by those marketing magicians convincing you the orange is the only choice for pros. Unless you believe, photos transferred with the orange one will be better...

About six months ago. My orange cable crapped out on me. I purchased an inexpensive, generic cable online to replace it. Expecting it to be a short term solution.
To my surprise. This inexpensive, mesh wrapped cable is beating all expectations. I use it constantly; with no issues so far. Even if it doesn't last very long (which it has at six months now). I can easily purchase five of them for the cost of a single orange one. I doubt I'll be buying the orange one again.