Fun with the B&H catalog

Everything under the sun in one big book

Say what you may, a notebook computer cannot hold a candle to a book when it comes to browsing. Spill your cocktail on the former and you have just had a $2,000 drink; spill it on the latter and you come back to read a slightly crinkled copy tomorrow. Make the cocktail a gin or vodka martini and your carpet will never know the difference.

So when B&H, that estimable New York City business, sent me their big book of photo and related equipment, it was rather fun to browse it in book form rather than searching for something on a computer. Best of all, with a book you come across things you would never think of browsing for at a keyboard, because it would simply never occur to you to look for them.

I suspect B&H sent me the book because I blew all that cash on the Canon EOS 5D a while back, and more power to them. I cannot think of another business with such integrity and client service, and I’m not even Jewish!

So what interesting items are of note browsing these 322 pages? Well first of all, kudos to the team that puts this monster together. With some 15-100 items a page you are talking a lot of work here.

There are sections on everything from Audio/Visual, Computers, Lighting, Photography of course, Podcasting(!), Portable Entertainment (meaning iPod mostly), Satellite radio (where you can get to listen to potty mouthed smut and pay for it), Hard Drive storage, Surveillance Video (honest!) and many more. Here, in no particular order, are some items that caught my eye:

Stupidest, most over-priced item: Easy – page 128. A company named Visible Dust is asking $90 for an ‘Econo Sensor Brush’. No kidding. $90 for a brush. And that’s for the ‘Econo’ model. The Real Thing is $135. Go to the local art store, get a nice camel hair brush, soak it in your vodka supply to clean up any grease, and you have the same thing for $5. A fool and his money…. If things go really badly at the old estate I think I might start selling these. Mine will be the Organic CCD Rendition Improver with French Vodka Enhancement for a mere $75, or a Special on three for $125. The Special would include a bottle of Grey Goose (“A lifetime supply of brush cleaner for you and everyone else in your county”).

The thing no one needs: Page 129. The Zeiss Ikon rangefinder body for film at all of $1,617. True, it makes the Sensor Brush look cheap.

The camera you thought they didn’t make any more: Page 135. A Linhof 6×9 view camera, no lens, for $7,964. Probably made in China, anyway. You can get two EOS 5Ds for that price and have money left for a couple of top notch Canon ‘L’ lenses. Plus your snaps will be sharper.

The truly funky: Page 172. The Sea & Sea marine housing for the EOS 5D, a tad pricey at $2,600. Keeps things dry, I suppose, but what do you do about flash?

The ‘I wish I had one’ item: Page 190. The QT Quick Truss system. No, not for hernia, rather an electric roller system to move your studio backgrounds into place. A bargain at $1,839 for the biggest size, some 11′ square. OK, so maybe it is for hernia after all.

The $300 a fyard tripod: Page 165. $900 gets you the Gitzo Giant which elevates to all of 91.3″. Now that’s tall.

A close runner-up to Visible Dust: Page 267. How about shelling out $290 for a Tecnec LED clock/timer, with 4″ high digits. Let’s see, you can get 20 of those at Target for that amount.

The greatest bargain: Page 286. $22 gets you 50 JVC blank DVD, or 235 gigabytes of storage.

The ‘What were they thinking of?’ award: Piece of cake. Page 305. A gorgeous pair of Leica binoculars, watertight to 16.4 feet (no, not 16.5). $1,795. Ok, not chump change, I grant you, but we are talking Leica glass and my much older Trinovids testify to the sheer pleasure of using such an instrument. But wait. The description goes on to say “Elegant Black Leather”. In a waterproof binocular? Please….

Biggest choice in one category: Well, there are no fewer than some 150 digital cameras listed, from a 3 mp P&S to the mighty Canon 1DS Mark II N with its 17 mp.

“The item I was happiest to sell” winner: Page 143 – the Nikon Super Coolscan 9000 ED film scanner, for $1,900. A horrible use of dollars and desk top space. Hasta la vista, baby.

The “Haven’t you heard of full frame digital, bozo?” award winner: Page 143. The grandly branded Hasselblad Imacon Flextight 848 Drum Scanner, for $14,995. Yes, $14,995. It’s not made by Hasselblad, it’s not a drum scanner, and what the hell is your time worth anyway?

The “No one told me the sixties were over” champ: Page 162. The Cokin #201 Multi-Image filter. Pass the bong.

The gooks only special: Page 213. The Sony Indoor Pendant Mount Housing with Power, the better to hide your spy camera in. $330 for a box and cover. Just don’t ask the CIA for installation instructions. They pay $5,000 for theirs, yet still manage to place them on the wrong continent.

The “What the heck does that do?” gadget: Page 246. The Electrosonics Digital Hybrid Diversity Receiver. Sinister. No price listed. Could this be the answer to getting all those losers off the street in the interests of diversity rather than survival of the fittest? Naah. Probably another CIA budget boondoggle. “Hey, Joe. Check this out. I can get dirty pictures on it even in this lead lined room”.

The “I wish I had one even though I have no earthly use for it” gadget: Page 258. The Sound Devices Portable Digital Recorder with Time Code for $2,375. Shades of John Travolta in ‘Blow Out’.

And I’m just getting started. Anyway, it beats watching some dope read the 6 o’clock teleprompter, laughably masquerading as ‘The News’, while making $15mm a year and being revered by all as an Influential Voice. Reading a Teleprompter….

2 thoughts on “Fun with the B&H catalog

  1. You wrote:
    > The thing no one needs: Page 129. The Zeiss Ikon rangefinder body for film at all of $1,617
    Well, not so fast. Aren’t you forgetting your past (and the shutter noise this page make upon loading)? This is, in essence, a slightly cheapened (where it doesn’t matter), better film-loading Leica M body. Granted, the shutter IS noisier.
    But film rangefinder cameras are still needed, wouldn’t you agree?

  2. Christoph –

    No, I do not agree. Not remotely.

    Film is Dead. The modern replacement for the rangefinder camera with film is a small point-and-shoot digital like the Leica DP, where you get a Leica lens, far less bulk – a throwback to the Barnack Leicas if you like – comparable image quality and negligible shutter lag (finally!). It is smaller, by the way, than any Barnack Leica ever was. And much, much quieter. Plus you don’t have to worry about exposure and focus – just get on with making pictures.

    Take a look back at my columns on the EOS 5D and you will see that it was a replacement for my medium format gear, not for my Leica. The Panasaonic Lumix LX1 (or Leica DP as I think of it) is the replacement for my M2 and M3. Low light photography? Granted, the Lumix has a slowish lens; once Canon sensor qualty comes to cameras this small, you will be able to crank up the ISO to compensate without any fear of grain (just like you already can on the EOS 5D) and use your Noctilux for the expensive paperweight it deserves to become. Great in its time, certainly. But no longer needed. Meanwhile, the noise issue with the Leica DP is well handled by software like Noise Ninja.

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