Pocket the difference, now that’s wizard!

By , June 29, 2012 11:40 am

Nothing upsets me quite like the blatant profiteering that exists within the photographic equipment industry.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that specialist equipment has to be developed and that has a price. For example I can fully understand why the Nikon D4 costs over £5000, and I think that the price is completely justified. Similarly, I think that Pocket Wizards (build quality questions not withstanding) are worth the money. What gets my goat is the small items that photographers often require which are not specialist equipment as such, but for which we are expected to pay ludicrous amounts of money because they are sold by photographic equipment manufacturers to a seemingly-captive audience which tends to behave like lemmings.

Take, for instance, the sync cable required to connect a Pocket Wizard (henceforth, PW) to a studio flash unit. Frankly, this ought to be supplied with the Pocket Wizard itself, but it isn’t; it’s an optional extra. Now there are also PW cables to connect to all sorts of proprietary flash systems and clearly these have to be developed and they should cost more than might be palatable as well as being optional extras. But the cable for studio flash is a little different in my view. It has a mono 3.5mm jack on one end, and a mono 6.3mm jack on the other. PW sell two different versions of this: a 1m cable and a 3m cable. The former sells for £14.99 and the latter for £11.99 (yeah, go figure!?)

I don’t know about you, but given that these are very standard jacks I think the price is exorbitant, bordering on profiteering.

My response? I’m a photographer; I’m supposed to be creative; I’ll look for alternatives.

The first thing I found was a manufacturer called KARLite which offers an alternative for £7.98. This company also offered a more realistic delivery charge of only £2.50 compared to the £4.99 charged by most of the photographic retailers. So far I was looking at a potential saving of £9.50. No small saving, and a significant improvement for sure, but I couldn’t help noticing that it was still aimed at photographers, and I could small the rip-off. So I searched some more but this time with a little creative, lateral, thinking. Who uses jacks like these? The music and entertainment industry.

Enter Stagebeat with their 2 metre (half way between the two PW options) patch lead for only £2.99 plus delivery at £2.95. Total price: £5.94. Total saving: £14.04. In my book, that’s wizard!

If Pocket Wizard made an MP2 this would be it, but not at this price!

Would you pay £15 for this? No neither would I. Thanks Stagebeat, I hope this drums up some business for you.

It’s the people, stupid!

By , June 11, 2012 4:14 pm

It’s curious that phrases can take on a life of their own. “It’s the economy, stupid” was never actually uttered by Bill Clinton in that form, but it is a phrase that immediately conjures him, and references the economic recession of the early 1990s. More interesting still is the idea that those four words are so perfectly conceived that they can be changed and the reference is still beautifully clear. Sometimes photos can do that too, but that is not what this (very overdue) post is about.

primary school children play the classic payground game hopscotch

Primary school children play the classic payground game hopscotch. © Michael Cockerham

I have always been of the opinion that the the measure of any institution is the people in it. The word “church” for instance, refers not to buildings (although it is usually meant that way now) but to the people who form it. The best institutions have the best people, and I would rather deal with great people who lack the latest equipment, than with mediocre people with the latest of everything.

Primary school teacher plays with the children

Primary school teacher plays with the children. © Michael Cockerham

Under the last government a huge amount of money was pumped into updating all sorts of things, in particular, schools. But then came the crunch, the crash and the recession. Schools now are lucky to see investment in their often dilapidated buildings. But in the new market they have to compete for  students with neighbouring institutions which may have had tens of millions of investment only two or three years ago. Some heads might take the view that competition was impossible, but the enlightened realise that it doesn’t matter how new the infrastructure is if you don’t have thehighest calibre of people within it. I have been approached by a number of such schools in recent months to shoot imagery for websites, brochures and prospectuses. The brief is simple: show that the children are happy, well-balanced and thriving, and that the staff enjoy their work. The physical school can melt into the background.

Primary school children play outside at break

Primary school children play outside at break. © Michael Cockerham

As a father of three young children myself, I say, “amen to that!”

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