My Favorite Photography Gear and Gadget Finds of 2020
As 2020 draws to a close, I want to share with you some of my favorite GEAR and GADGET finds from the past year.
Photographers often hear the quote, “it’s not the camera that makes the picture, it is the photographer”. They usually hear it from a person who has tens of thousands of dollars worth of camera gear.
I like to take a slightly more practical approach and that is simply that all the gear in the world won’t make you a great photographer, but the right gear can make your task much easier and help elevate the quality of your work. How’s that for politically correct? But it’s true. At the end of the day if you don’t build a solid foundation of photography knowledge — you know that physics stuff, and if you don’t make a real effort to be creative — well then all that gear will not really matter.
Let’s keep it real — we all like our toys and for me, when I find a toy that makes my job easier or helps me simplify something — that is a big win in my books.
So I thought it would be fun since 2020 is finally coming to an end. I think this is the only year I have lived through that felt like a whole decade. I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite photography gear and gadget finds from the year. I have links to all of these in the show notes. Full disclosure — a few of the links are affiliate links, so I will make a few pennies if you use the links, but I assure you — I am not being paid to show any of this gear and these are pieces that I actively use in my daily work.
I have a few things on my list that are all about color. The first item is an LED light that you saw me work with to create photos like these back in March and April when I was doing the Stuck at Home Challenge at the beginning of the pandemic. These little guys come from SpiffyGear — which is the company who makes the Light Blaster and the Spekular lights — like the ones that you see behind me. This is the Q6 — it’s spelled KYU-6. These are splash-proof, rechargeable, wearable, mountable, and they have a CRI of 95. There are two versions: the KYU-6 RGB which will allow you to cycle through a range of RGB colors and the KYU-6 Bi Color which has a kelvin range of 2700K to 6500K. These things weigh 42 grams and will run for up to 8 hours on a single charge.
Spiffy Gear also sells a triple charger to charge three at once from a USB block, and they have the KYU-6 Panel that will hold three lights — this has a 1/4 twenty tripod socket on the bottom, and they also a vloggers bundle that has a cold shoe mount to hold one KYU-6.
You can pick these up at SpiffyGear.com for $44.99 each, and they are awesome for accent lighting in stills and video. They make great lights for macro work, and they are awesome for light painting. If you join the Spiffy Gear group on Facebook, they have lots of videos and tutorials with creative ideas.
Next on my list I have two items from Datacolor. Both of these have honestly been game changers for me this year. First up is the Datacolor SpyderX Elite. This is not a new product for 2020 — it was released in 2019 — but it is new for me in 2020 and it totally rocked my color calibration world. Previously I had been using the i1Studio from X-Rite to do my screen calibration. The i1Studio was a very capable and actually very advanced tool that would also calibrate scanners and printers. It was also pricey — just north of $500. What attracted me to the SpyderX Elite from Datacolor is the fact that it is super simple to use — very fast, and it comes in at almost half the cost of the X-Rite. I will say that one feature difference that I really appreciate — the X-Rite i1Studio had a detachable cord which eventually got to the point that it wouldn’t keep a solid connection and of course that happened when it was out of warranty. The Datacolor SpyderX Elite has a permanently attached cord. It is also considerably smaller and lighter.
The second item from Datacolor is a gadget that I never knew I needed but boy is it awesome! The Datacolor ColorReader EZ. You know my work is all about bright bold colors, and I am always looking for unique colors and color combinations. With the ColorReader EZ — I can launch an app on my iPhone or Android device and measure the color values of anything. I can measure the color of a wall or a photo, a car, a dress — anything that I can hold this reader up to, it will provide me with accurate RGB and Hex color values. It will even tell me the Pantone colors and the top 3 paint matches from the most popular paint brands if I need the color to paint part of a set.
I always used to snap photos of colors or color combinations that I saw — the problem of course it that those colors were usually being recorded with a phone and of course the ambient light in the room would impact the way the phone recorded the colors — so I couldn’t just take the photo into photoshop and use the eyedropper to get the color — I had to kind of interpret it. Now I can measure the color — get the exact values and save it from the app — so that I can reproduce it later. This unit is small enough and light enough that I can carry it with me anywhere — in my pocket or in a camera bag.
The Datacolor ColorReader EZ sells for $59.00.
One more cool color item — well actually it’s a series of items from Florida based photographer Jason Page — these are Light Painting Brushes. Using a small flashlight these gadgets will allow you to create light patterns, shapes, streaks — honestly just about anything you can imagine. The Light Painting Brushes system allows lights and/or light modifiers to be interchanged quickly and easily during a single exposure making the use of different colors, shapes and textures of light extremely simple.
Be sure to check out Jason’s YouTube channel — he has lots of awesome tutorials about how to create with the various tools. On my channel, you can also see me using them on stage at PhotoPlus Expo. I have links in the show notes. You can get a starter kit with a high-powered flashlight for $99.00
Next up — I have to mention the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III. Released early in 2020 this is sincerely my dream camera. Perfect form factor — for me. It builds on many of the newest features in the Olympus camera system with 60 frames per second of continuous shooting, 7 stops of image stabilization, 80mp hi-res shot mode, a brand-new processor and the ability to charge via USB-C.
I am also excited to announce that the new name has been announced — the company beginning early in 2021 will be named OM Digital Solutions Corporation or OMDS for short. It will continue to be based out of Japan and will continue to have business centers throughout the world including the US and Europe. Important note — that is the new company name — not brand name. For the foreseeable future the Olympus name will stay on the gear. There will be a new brand name in the future — but has not been announced yet.
Olympus also had some awesome lens announcements this year with the 100-400mm variable aperture zoom and of course the 150-400 F4.5 zoom with the built-in teleconverter — but I have to tell you the 12-45mm F4 PRO zoom has become my favorite carry around lens. Super small and lightweight and of course weatherproof — this lens has an incredibly close minimum focusing distance of 4.7 to 9.1 inches (ca. 23 cm) depending on which focal length you use — which allows it to do macro type shots. Add the focus stacking features and the possibilities are incredible.
Next up, high-end lighting gear. Three big winners for me in 2020. The real game changers are the StellaPro lights from California based Light and Motion. These StellaPro lights are amazing. They are small, lightweight — super powerful LED lights that have built-in rechargeable batteries. In other words — no more cords — no more transmitters, and they are smaller and lighter than most strobes.
The two that I am using — the CXL-10 which has an output range from 500 to 10,000 lumens with a CRI of 94. These are daylight balanced at 5600k, and they weigh just 2.7lbs and you can see here they are just barely bigger than a Godox AD200. In addition to the built-in battery, they can be powered via a D-Tap battery for longer shoots, and they are weatherproofed. Yes — they work in the rain if you are shooting on location. You can mount them in traditional softboxes and of course use umbrellas, just like any strobe. The CLX10 sells for $1,299.00 and in my opinion is worth every penny.
In addition to the CXL10 I also use the smaller Stella CL2000. With a maximum output of 2,000 lumens, these little guys make a great rim, hair or background light. Also weatherproof, and only 1.1lbs. The CL2000’s sell for $499.99.
I get it — not everyone can afford high-end lighting so with that in mind — I want to share the lights that I am using for my video production from GVM. GVM stands for Great Video Maker and these GVM G100W Bi-Color LED Video Light are awesome. At less than $300.00 They feature a 3200K-5600K color temperature range, and they are super quiet. I am using two of them in my video studio here — my key light is less than two feet from my microphone and that is also one that you see behind me.
They accept Bowens mount modifiers and have a CRI of 97. For a photographer on a lower budget — these would be ideal for shooting portraits with umbrellas or softboxes. For another 24 hours — GVM has a buy one, get one deal on these — 2 for $299.00.
If you are watching or listening after December 3rd. I am sorry. The deal is over.
The last item on my list for 2020 is the Godox AD300 Pro. If you follow me you have probably heard me say many times that 400 and 600 watts seconds is much more power than most photographers need. Prior to switching to Godox and using the AD200’s I had been using the Interfit Honey Badgers in my studio. They are 300 watt second strobes. The AD300’s give me that same power output that I had been used to for years, and they are crazy small and lightweight.
These sell for $499.00 and in addition to working with all the existing Godox triggers, they feature a 12watt bi-color led modeling lamp which is still not super bright — but much more functional than the modeling lamps in the AD200’s. They also feature TTL and HSS capabilities.
I have links to all of these in the show notes. Full disclosure — a few of the links are affiliate links, so I will make a few pennies if you use the links, but I assure you — I am not being paid to show any of this gear and these are pieces that I actively use in my daily work.
Olympus Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/getolympus/videos/136366801341494
I hope to see you at 1:00PM ET on 12/3 for my exclusive livestream.
Spiffy Gear KYU-6 — https://tog.chat/kyu6
Spiffy Gear Facebook Group — https://www.facebook.com/groups/412643845788123
Datacolor SpyderX Elite — https://tog.chat/spyderxelite
Datacolor ColorReader EZ — https://tog.chat/colorreaderez
Light Painting Brushes — https://tog.chat/lightpainting
LightPaintingPhoto YouTube Channel — https://tog.chat/jasonpage
My video using the Light Painting Brushes at PhotoPlus Expo — https://video.joeedelman.com/photoplus2019
GVM G100W Bi-Color LED Video Light — https://tog.chat/gvm100
Stella Pro CLX10 and Stella CL2000 — https://tog.chat/stellapro Enter the discount code: edelman20 at checkout.
Godox AD300Pro — https://tog.chat/ad300
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