A little panic leads to a fun diversion. Today we are asking a hypothetical question.
There I was, sitting in a movie theater, as I do almost every Friday, waiting for the seemingly endless line of trailers to end so we could move on to the main feature. Turns out the movie itself wasn’t worth the wait, but I’ll leave the review for another day and instead discuss the thought that came to mind just before the credits roll. opening. Did I leave my stove on?
I won’t leave you hanging. In fact, I had remembered to turn off my stove (or more accurately my George Foreman grill) before I left the house to go to the movies. So, it was just a passing terror that ended up making a lot of noise for nothing. But, nevertheless, my mind went to work on contingency plans just in case the worst turned out to be true.
Years ago, my former manager had his house burnt down in an accidental fire. And ever since then, I’ve had this nagging panic that it could happen at any time. As my house holds my most prized possessions, living and otherwise, it logically also houses a lot of photo equipment that I have acquired over the years. Fortunately, I am insured until the end. Of course, given that I’ve been a professional photographer for two decades, you can imagine that I’ve acquired quite a bit of gear over the years that needs to be insured. So as my gear closet grew, so did my policy coverage. I need certain equipment to stay in business. And, if something catastrophic were to happen, I should be in good enough shape to recover with the help of any insurance payout.
All of this was running through my head as I sat in the hall, suffering from the sudden panic of wondering if I had left the stove on. Like I said, I pretty quickly confirmed that I didn’t make that particular mistake. But then panic sparked curiosity when I started to wonder if I actually needed to repurchase my entire closet, what parts of my current collection would I repurchase immediately? And what pieces of equipment could I allow to be confined to memory?
As I watched another trailer, I managed to turn the anxiety into a fun little game in my head. So I thought I’d share the results of my game with you. Fair warning, these selections are very particular to my personal use case. So your list could be completely different. Also, I’ve limited my list to items I already own. I couldn’t choose objects of desire that I would like to own. So I couldn’t make an Arri Alexa 35 magically appear on my font. And since I don’t own every photo and video equipment ever made, this list only applies to items covered by my current policy. So, with that out of the way, let the games begin.
The most recent purchase to do list. It’s hard to be a photographer without a camera. And, eight months later, the Z 9 turned out to be the best camera I’ve ever owned. So much so that I have two. I don’t always have identical backup bodies. But, in this case, it’s pretty clear that the camera can do 100% of what I need. So practically, it makes sense to have two identical ones for efficiency. There’s very little it can’t do, which makes it a great choice to prepare myself for future client needs.
Profoto B10 Plus
I could put the original B10 here. In fact, I haven’t used it anymore. But that’s probably because I’ve had it longer. I have a whole series of Profoto lights. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t buy anything else for strobes anymore. They have become such an integral part of my still production workflow that mixing brands is neither necessary nor practical for me. I have several models, both battery powered and AC powered. And, honestly, I would probably buy them all again. But, for the sake of brevity, and because it’s slightly more powerful than the B10, I’ll choose the B10 Plus as the first one I’d repurchase. It is battery powered and small. So it is easy to use when running and shooting. But, it can also be plugged in and is powerful enough to use on most indoor or studio shoots. While I have larger D2s, which provide higher output and shorter flash duration, and smaller units like the A10s, the B10 Plus wins this particular thought experiment simply because it’s the tool that most often comes out of the bag.
Apurture NOVA P300c RGBWW LED Panel
What the B10 Plus is to my stills workflow, the Apurture NOVA P300c is to my video workflow. Even more than the stills, the lights that are pulled from the truck for film production are very scene-specific. So there’s no such thing as a fixture that’s right for every environment. But, like the B10 Plus, the P300cs are welcome because they’re the lights I use most often.
Whether I’m shooting a quick interview, filling a room with light, or playing around with the different RGB modes to add color to a scene, there almost always seems to be a use for these things on set. They’ve since released a more powerful P600c which I don’t yet own, hence why it can’t be listed, and there are a number of other Apurture devices, both on my shelf and on my wishlist, who could make this list. But, I’m going to go with the P300c as my constant light fixture that I would repurchase first as it’s one of the most versatile fixtures in my kit.
Nikon Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S
Recently I had a decision to make. I had two Z 9s. But I only had one Z 24-70mm f/2.8. “So what,” you might say. I have plenty of other Nikon F-mount and Z-mount lenses. Surely one of these might do the trick. And that’s true. I didn’t really “need” a second 24-70mm. But, here’s the thing. Of all the shots I’ve taken professionally, at least 95% of them were shot on 24-70mm. It’s simply the focal range that best suits my workflow and the way I see the world. So while I have plenty of other focal lengths, the vast majority of them spend their lives napping in my camera case, only to be removed in very specific circumstances.
One of my motivations for getting two identical Z 9s was so I could shoot them side by side. One for the pictures. One for movement. I wrote an article about this a few weeks ago. But, in short, a video rig is very different from a setup for still photography, and I find it more efficient not having to disassemble (or mount) my camera every time I switch from one to the other. This includes not having to swap the same lenses back and forth and removing the various filters, matte boxes, tracking focus and everything else when I want to go from still to motion.
But now I had a decision to make. Should I try a different lens for the second camera to add more variety? Or do I buy the exact same lens that I already have that I know meets my needs and will get the most work? I chose to double up and get a second copy of the same model. So my two systems are literally identical. It’s not exactly a win for variety. But it’s a huge improvement in my work efficiency. All of which means redeeming the 24-70mm would pretty much be a no-brainer in our little thought experiment.
I love softboxes. Some people like to bounce. Some people use other modifiers. Each modifier has a time and place. But, just as very few of my shoots don’t include a 24-70mm, very few of my shoots don’t include the use of a softbox at some point. I have big ones, small ones, round ones, square ones. The most used is actually not even the biggest. This is a 2ft x 2ft octabox that fits the aforementioned B10 Plus. But the size used is determined by the subject. So, I won’t choose just one model here. Instead, let’s just say a fair amount of money would go into restocking my ready-to-use fixture-mounted broadcast supply.
Okay, of course, it’s not the lightest stand in the world. But, especially when shooting with larger cinematic lights, small isn’t always good. What you want is a stand that can hold a heavy load without worrying about it tipping over or collapsing. This particular stand is rock solid. Its good. It has both a receiver for a baby pin or the option of a built-in ⅝ inch pop-up stud to mount my strobes. And, as most of you close to my age will appreciate, it has wheels!!! Oh, I could write an entire post about how much I love locking wheels on heavy racks. But, suffice to say, it comes in very handy when moving around heavy lights with a torn rotator cuff.
I have larger versions of this stand. And I have more C-stands than I can keep up with. But, this particular stand is one that goes to almost every set with me and is used for virtually every occasion. If I had to do it again, I would probably buy several.
Sennheiser MKE 600 shotgun microphone
Sound is the hidden master of everything. If your sound isn’t good, your image doesn’t matter that much. I carry a complete sound package for all video work. But, my favorite is the Sennheiser MKE 600. It might be very subjective, but I just like the way vocals sound with this particular mic. And I find that very useful to my style of cinema. Your mileage may vary. But it’s an item that travels in my kit with me at all times.
There is a lot of material that I have acquired over two decades. And there are many more items that would deserve a second investment. I haven’t even talked about whole categories like computers. I think computers change so often that the replacement would be the most up-to-date at that time. I did not mention software. It’s all in the cloud anyway, so replacing a downloaded subscription isn’t that difficult of a task. But, with what I’ve mentioned, I’d be confident that I could shoot 90% of the stills or video work that comes my way. Yes, there would be other necessary accessories. ND filters. Flash triggers. Battery. Lots of batteries. But, when it comes to basic needs, these items would get me back up and running in no time.
So, what would be on your repurchase list? What tools should you absolutely replace to keep creating your art?