13 Photography Gadgets We Didn’t Need


The world of photography is awash with gear and accessories for an eager public. But not every invention is worthy of merit as seen by this glorious collection of “WTF were they thinking?”.

1. 41MP Camera Smart Watch


They say smart watches are the next big thing. They say the smart watch will beam text messages, monitor my health, and tell me the time simultaneously. They say I will undoubtedly need a 41MP camera on said watch. I say only time will tell.

Better choice: Casio Calculator Watch. Retro cred with a real calculator!

2. iPhone External Flash


While it’s true that the iPhone flash isn’t very powerful, what we really didn’t need was a huge, retro-inspired external flash. Fortunately, this Kickstarter project was never funded.

Better choice: Nokia 1020′s Xenon flash. Now that’s a bright idea!

3. Sony Lens Camera


This camera hasn’t even been announced yet, but I’m telling you, the reason why camera phone photography is so popular is because you always have it with you. What I don’t always have is a huge contraption that adds 5x’s the thickness. That’s like saying phone-based payment systems will take off when we add a small block of iron to our phones.

Better choice: Sony RX100B. Same size! Better photos.

4. Hasseblad Lunar and Stellar


Whatever Hasselblad was smoking when they came up with this idea should be banned by NATO and the EU, and turned into an critically acclaimed AMC TV show.

Better choice: Sony Alpha NEX-7. The same camera without the wooden accent.

5. Leica M Monochrom


It must be that the more you spend on luxury items, the more you gain a psychotic attachment to them. Witness the Leica M Monochrom, an $8,000 digital camera that only shoots black and white. Advocates say the tonal range capture is so different than a typical RGB sensor, but if that’s the case, why do they include a copy of Silver Efex in every box?

Better choice: Tri-X.

6. Tiffen Smoothee


There are few things that I hate more than shaky videos uploaded to Facebook of my friends’ kids. But I can’t fathom anyone casually carrying a steadicam rig for their iPhone to fix that. Let’s leave the anti-shake to software unless we’re making a feature film.

Better choice: A steady hand.

7. 8x Telephoto Lens for Your iPhone


Digital zoom sucks. But so does the notion of attaching a lens to your phone to get a little closer to the action. If you really need to get the shot, get a dedicated camera with a zoom.

Better choice: Move your lazy butt closer to the subject.

8. Petzval Lens


Optics is a highly technical business, which is why lens manufacturers are constantly refining their designs and producing sharper lens with less distortion. But I have a better idea, let’s make a bunch of lenses with a 175 year old design, and tell people that it has nice bokeh! Sucka!

Better choice: Zeiss 55mm f/1.4.

9. Necktie Camera Strap


I love cameras. And I love ties. Let’s combine them for two great tastes in one!

Better choice: The strap that came with your camera.

10. Digital Camera Swim Mask


Underwater photography is complicated and your results will probably suck without proper equipment. This $99 combo probably sucks as both a camera and a mask.

Better choice: Leave the camera on the beach and enjoy your snorkeling trip.

11. AC Adapter Hidden Camera


I just knew Skymall wouldn’t let me down. I don’t know about you, but my electrical outlets are about 3 inches off the ground. So even if I needed to spy on someone, I’m not sure this gadget would get me the goods.

Better choice: NSA Prism or the Yeti.

12. Star Filters


It’s unclear how this masterful piece of optical engineering survived the 80s, which is about the time that I owned one. Suffice it to say, unlike 80s fashion, the star filter probably won’t be making a comeback into the world of photography anytime soon. But hey, Cokin Filters, you go with your bad self.

Better choice: The classic sunset/firework/night light shot, without the freaky overdone rays.

13. Nikon/Canon Lens Mugs


Truth be told, we’re a little bitter because we had this idea two years before they were mass produced. We could’ve been contenders! But why confuse your aging brain and giving you even the chance of accidentally pouring hot coffee on your expensive lens?

Better choice: Leica lens mug. Aw come on, these are cool!

About the author: Allen Murabayashi is the Chairman and Co-founder of PhotoShelter. Allen is a graduate of Yale University, and flosses daily. This article originally appeared here.

  • bmassao

    I definitely second #3. And I also can add that I carry my compact almost everywhere, and if this is smaller than my current compact camera, it’s a win for me.

  • Shutter Me Timbers

    Likely the Zeiss lens is a better lens than every lens in existence but for only $300 I’ll take the cool bokeh of the new Petzval….I’m sure the Zeiss will cost many times more than that and I don’t know about you but I can’t afford that kind of hardware.

  • Shutter Me Timbers

    Only $300 if you can get on the kickstarter and only $400 for the brass finish in retail.

  • Shutter Me Timbers

    Filters are so lame….trying to re-create bokeh with filters is even lamer.

  • Olivier Duong

    No. No. No. Every photographer worth their salt NEEDS a lens mug :)


    I had to check to make sure I wasn’t on Fstoppers…
    Reads just like one of there high quality… gems.

  • mikemike9

    Passive-aggressive waffle.

  • Piotrek Ziolkowski

    Scuba mask with a camera – I know a Scuba Diving instructor who uses one of these to shoot his students during OWD courses. Students like it.

  • Lee Young

    Petzval lens mug sounds nice

  • TedCrunch

    I like all of them and I’m going to buy them all and become a pro.

  • bob cooley

    There is a famously apocryphal quote by Bill Gates about no one ever needing more than 640k, but it has been constantly debunked.

    But I agree w/ Davor – this is a silly list.

  • Zos Xavius

    I don’t care what you say. The coffee tastes better in the nikon mug! Simple fact.

  • Snappingsam

    I’m afraid you’ve just shown a total lack of understanding of the subject by your post – almost as much as the orginal writer.

    Many optical effects cannot be easily recreated as a photoshop filter – and if you have used manual focus lenses in the past you’ll adapt easily. As for using a waterhouse stop, I’ve used an Imagon lens on Hasselblads (the reason I added a FC2000 was so I could use that lens easily) and with an adaptor now on my D3. I love the look, but was one of the very early buyers of the Petzval as I understood quickly what it can do… and will add it to the 105DC lens and the slection of fancy soft focus filters I have sourced over the past 35 years.

  • snappingsam

    I was lucky enough to take some shots years back with a Kodak 760m – which was exactly the same idea – a mono version of the Kodak Nikon F5 digital – and the files were amazing – and a couple of stops faster since no filters in the way. Again like in many of the items in this list, proof that the author doesn’t understand the subject in any depth

  • Michael Toye

    Looks like I’m late to the “Author doesn’t know what he’s on abut/Author is a troll” party.

  • Tyler Magee

    Petzval Lens is a pretty cool buy haha I think I need it :p

  • Spongebob Nopants

    Well duh. I wasn’t trying to show off my tek knowledge. I was trying to be funny.
    And that you use a hassleblad shows you do commercial or studio photography, where changing f/stop and focus on the fly isn’t an issue. But this lens is made to be seen in public and be a conversation piece as much as or more than a tool. Otherwise why make it out of shiney shiney brass? Is plastic more expensive than brass?

  • Spongebob Nopants

    Everyone does say the flavor has more range.
    But I just haven’t seen that in the descriptions of the flavor I’ve seen online.

  • Daniel Cely

    pff, just bragging around about your knowledge and what you have… I only meant to be funny. it is not practical to me. if it is for you, well congrats, you already bought it, let’s hope it wont let you down.

  • jerseyguy

    A nice exposure of the author’s own prejudices and there it ends

  • Sheela

    Sony Smart Lenses are in Top Selling Camera List, Kindly Remove it, otherwise it will show your mind status about the innovative products ….

  • Davor Pavlic

    No, back when computers were only making their first steps somebody said that we will never need more than several MB of memory. Or something like that.

  • Garry McElwee

    My fave is the steady phone. At least someone is making some money on this junk.

  • Mark Penrice

    Blimey, I usually enjoy taking apart lists of stupid ideas presented as awesome things, but I think you’ve just taken that slightly trollish hobby, put it on far too many steroids, and turned it into an actual article. Probably 2/3rds of this is dripping with snobbishness…

    1/ Yeah, no argument there. The quality of image you’re going to take from your wrist, with what must be a 1/4″ sensor at very best, will never be anything more than sucky. It’d be a fun gadget to play with, but 41mpx? Please. I’d believe, and probably prefer, 0.41mpx. Maybe 4.1 at the very most.

    2/ Not sure what’s wrong with this to be honest. It’s raised and offset like a lot of pro flashes, it’s got a relatively large and strong bulb in it, and a reflector too, and looks solidly built, possibly with its own battery… and yet it’ll still fit neatly into a pocket or purse when dismounted from the phone. The sensor quality in the newer iPhones is as good as what you might have had in a DSLR of 10-ish years ago, even if the lens isn’t really up to much. For someone who just wants to improve the quality of their iPhone shots when in a dark environment, what’s so wrong with it?

    3/ You do realise that – unlike with the Samsung Galaxy Zoom phone – the lens isn’t permanently attached to the handset, right? It’s a clip-on thing. You can tuck the collapsed lens into one pocket (or a small bag, or whatever) and your phone in the other, and only bring the two together when you want to take a good quality photo. They’ve basically isolated the optical path of a “proper” camera into a selfcontained unit and offloaded all the other parts to the phone. Overall, it’s still far smaller than an equivalent bridge camera. I think it’s a pretty great idea, personally, and would have bought one if only a) I wasn’t poor, b) my phone wasn’t the wrong brand.

    4/ OK, that’s pretty distasteful, style-wise, but hey… some people are fashion victims and actually do like that kinda thing. Other than the grotesque 1970s style veneer on the case, what is it about the device you particularly dislike?

    5/ Uh… actually, I can kinda see where Leica’s coming from on this one. I can’t really see how they justify the PRICE – as it’s unlikely they’ve done anything more than remove the Bayer filter off the front of the CCD before installing it in the camera – but if what you want to do is take nice, trad style monochrome images, you really don’t want that thing in the way, as it introduces a pattered, coloured filter you can’t remove, and even if it has white pixels they’ll likely be no more than 25% of the total (50% in some advanced and relatively unpopular designs) and the image will suffer terrible aliasing effects if you reduce it to just those.

    I can see pro photogs having one camera for colour, one for monochrome, if the idea gains any traction (or maybe cameras coming with hot-swappable sensor modules, even ones that are permanently installed and move into the light path on a motorised track?). Much greater total light capture and a true resolution actually equal to what’s written on the body. Probably quite good for IR work too, if it has a switchable IR-cut filter.

    As for why they bundle some image editing software with it? Well, um… maybe you want to edit your B&W photos for some reason after you’ve taken them? I fail to see how getting a freebie, even a relatively naff one you might not actually use in the end, somehow qualifies as a bad thing. You’re really scratching, here.

    6/ Software based anti-shake is surprisingly effective, but can be nauseating and end up randomly cropping out bits of the picture, plus it has that telltale “digital pan” quality to it… plus it can’t help in the worst cases, where the shake is bad enough to leave motion blur trails. Trust me, I’ve been putting it through its paces recently with some microDV footage.

    But, for some people, their smartphone is the only video camera they actually own any more, and with the advent of HD recording there’s some who are actually making Proper Films – or at least, graduate art student grade shorts – using them. When 4K becomes an established norm for phone camera video, this’ll happen even more. And I can see other professional uses for this besides, like site surveys and such, where a steady image is a definite requirement.

    And anyway, this this is merely an evolution of the extension poles used for ages now with GoPros and the like, and when folded will fit quite nicely into a small backpack (whilst the phone goes in your pocket, possibly whilst uploading the video to your favourite cloud service as you walk back to the car). Versus a full-size video camera and steadycam rig, that’s a heck of a size, weight – and cost – saving.

    tl;dr just because you can’t find a personal use for it, and fear that all it’ll be used for is upgrading the quality of awful round-robin videos, doesn’t necessarily make it so.

    7/ God, the entitlement just friggin’ DRIPS off this one, to the point it’s ACTUALLY making me kind of angry and I’m going to need a moment to calm myself. It’s in the “why don’t poor people just buy more money?” area.

    Those lenses cost, what, $10? They clip on and off in less than a second using a magnetic ring system. And are the size of the coins required to buy a hamburger meal stacked on top of each other.
    You’re almost certainly already going to have the smartphone – devices not known for their optical zoom capabilities or high quality sensors that allow you to successfully crop and zoom later on – but not necessarily be in a position to actually “get closer to the action”, or where you’d particularly want to (or be allowed to) take a full-size superzoom or system/SLR camera, if you even own one.

    Besides, the most popular and useful version in the whole range are the wide-angle and fisheye lens options, rather than the telephoto. A phonecam (or mini spycam, or helmetcam, etc) doesn’t really have the stability or light-gathering ability to make the best use of such things – although I’ve had reasonable success before, holding my phone’s lens upto the eyepiece of some 8x binocs on a sunny day. They also have quite narrow FOVs by default, which the wider angle clip-ons help to ameliorate… a definite boon when you’re using it for the typical close-quarters use that define the reasons why people like to have a camera on their pocketable communications device.

    Again, just because you’re looking at this from a professional SLR-lusting photog’s perspective and would never touch it in a million years for that kind of use, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have a place in the world. Again, for most people, that phone is their only camera, and this is only going to become a more prevalent fact as the base price of any kind of half-decent dedicated unit gradually creeps up and up, as the market continues to contract and the overheads get ever more difficult to cover (I’m finding it harder and harder to justify finding the ever-increasing pile of money needed to replace my beaten-up old PS A720IS with something at least as good as it was when new; it’s possible that I’ve already bought my last “real” digital camera (a cheap waterproof Nikon for beach use), and almost certain that if I do replace the 720, THAT camera will be my last).

    So why crap on their attempts to improve the default lens, in ways that were never an option for the teeming “long tail” of cheapie 135 and 110 point-and-shoot (or slightly aspirational 135 bridge) users that were their equivalents just 15 years ago? Heck, there’s a similar teleconverter and 0.67x wide-angle lens available as add-ons for my already relatively expensive (by most people’s standards) 720… I contemplated buying at least the WA one, but it just cost so much I could never justify it… and it uses a non-standard ring size, so using a regular add-on lens without a (similarly expensive) adaptor was also out of the question.

    But, I’m contemplating buying some of those little magnetic lenses. They look like they’d be just the ticket. Keep them in the drawer with the mini-pod and its velcro strap phone adaptor for occasional use… and not worry too much about the massive amount I didn’t blow on buying them when they sit there unused for at least 330 days out of every year.

    8/ I have literally no idea what’s going on here, so I’ll take your word for it.

    (But… is it not possible that people buying those lenses would be doing so FOR the characteristic olde-timey distortions they produce, rather than because they somehow think they’re going to be better quality? After all, this HAS been posted on a site where one of the other current articles is telling us how to get soft-focus effects on the cheap without ruining a lens with vaseline… by tearing a hole in a sandwich bag and wrapping it loosely around the camera body. Not everything in photography is all about ultimate pin-sharp quality … the “feel” counts for a lot)

    9/ Yeah, that’s kinda dumb. It’s probably just fine as a strap, but it’s pretty rubbish as a tie. Unless the idea is that you can use it to look smart whilst on vacation … use it as a strap whilst wandering around taking pictures in the day, and then unhook the camera and tie it into a windsor knot as night falls and you hit the town? (Which is still pretty dumb, but it at least means you’ve one less thing to carry if travelling light)

    10/ Bloody hell, man, have you seen how much “proper” underwater cameras, or even waterproof enclosures for out-of-water ones cost? And consider the difficulty of carrying one around with you securely – especially if you want to shoot video rather than stills – whilst also swimming about below the waves.

    This, again, clearly isn’t meant to be a super high end HD-broadcast-standard billboard-sized-print quality camera… it is instead all about lowering the barrier of entry to being able to shoot SOME kind of underwater footage. It’s probably just a microDV or webcam sensor, in a waterproofed housing, bodged onto an otherwise ordinary pair of snorkel/scuba goggles (pro-tip, there’s no great magic to THOSE … the ones I bought as SCUBA beginners’ spec for £20 at a trade show 10+ years ago still work quite nicely – and no differently to those which came in a £5 snorkel set I bought from a beach stall last year). Quite why you think the combination of the two would cause either, let alone both, to malfunction.

    Basically, it’s an underwater helmetcam, and no-one cries too much about the terrible plastic lenses, 480-line sensors and not-quite-fast-enough encoder chips that cheap above-water ones have… for $99, no-one’s going to be too bothered about them below water either, so long as the seal doesn’t leak. If you’re that put out by it, feel free to buy a $20 keyfob camera, $1 packet of tic-tacs, a $5 pack of assorted O-rings and some waterproof superglue – plus an existing pair of half-decent goggles – and make your own. Bearing in mind that you won’t be able to operate any of the controls once it’s in there.

    Again, grasp a hold of that silver spoon handle sticking out of your mouth and give it a good old yank until it breaks free of your mouth.

    11/ OK, so you live in a building where whoever wired it up couldn’t envisage the utility of outlets mounted halfway up the wall rather than at skirting board level. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have some installed, or just use a power strip (you see those little pear-shaped cut-outs most of them have on the back? That’s so you can wall-mount them, using a single pair of selftapping screws… or you could just leave it on a countertop), and certainly doesn’t mean no-one else hasn’t the facility. I’ve got six in my kitchen alone, and they make life so much easier. As well as being a prime place for putting a sound-activated spy camera if, say, I thought someone kept coming and raiding my fridge, or I thought my partner was cheating, etc.

    Once more, this isn’t “photography gadgets we didn’t need”… this is “photography gadgets YOU can’t see a use for in your own life because your idea of ‘photography’ is centred around a very narrow, niche definition of such, and for some reason think your own lifestyle is a universal case”.

    12/ Um, some people actually like them, I guess? It’s not like you have to leave them in place all the time. You see a scene that you, for reasons best known to yourself, want to apply a star effect to, screw the filter in place, compose it, take the shot, and remove the filter again. It’s just a bit of plastic with a particularly patterned diffraction grating moulded into its surface, and its purchase and use is entirely optional. As is the purchase and use of any other filter, whether tint, neutral density, tiltshift, vignette, split-frame, all kinds of other starburst/shaped bokeh things, and indeed the use of bokeh in the first place.

    It’s not the end of the world, man. Photogs who make their living selling to holiday brochures still exist, and the graphic designers who thrown those things (and their associated websites) together simply lap that stuff up (…for better or worse. I can see how some might dislike it, and personally I’m not fussed either way, but labelling it as “a gadget we didn’t need”? Your list could have been 12 entries long, yknow. Or 10. Or 5…)

    13/ OK, it’s a bit daft… but, dude, it’s just a novelty mug. It’s not even a gadget. It’s a bit of kitsch tat. Something the world in general didn’t really need … but all the same, if you think there’s a risk you’re going to be too bleary to tell the difference and will end up pouring coffee into your lens, either stop keeping your lenses in the kitchen, or relegate it to being a holster for ballpoint pens and the like (which is what I do with any old favourite mug which has since become unsuitable for beverage use for whatever reason…)

    aaaaaaaaaand deep breaths …. and relax.

  • Mark Penrice

    Just because some people can’t follow the rule of “don’t leave anything that even LOOKS valuable in plain sight” doesn’t make it the valuable-looking-item’s fault that it gets stolen. I didn’t blame my backpack for being an enticing target the one and only time I left it visible in the back of my car, and someone smashed the window and lifted it…

  • Mark Penrice

    Great, so the one thing I thought was a genuinely rotten idea out of the whole list isn’t even real.

    Yay for due diligence as well as having a well-balanced world view.

  • Mark Penrice

    Hi. Reporting in from UK. I have some sockets that are at about waist to chest height, a couple that are in the range you state, and a much greater majority that are 12″ off the floor at best (some are themselves barely 3″).

    I live on the top floor of an apartment block, and, moreover, in an area that doesn’t tend to see much flooding… given that it’s on top of a ridge between two small river valleys. Having low-down sockets is more convenient – and indeed, safer, as you don’t have suspended trailing wires – for many uses, and a hassle for a small number of others.

    And in other places, I’ve seen and used plenty enough that are in the floor itself (either in a false-floor inset patress box, or directly inset to the surface with a flush-mounted springloaded cover flap), or high up on the wall, or even on the ceiling. I’m not aware of any “code” that requires them to be within a certain height range off the floor for any particular reason.

    The only one I know of relating to the location of power outlets is in regard to their use within bathrooms and other wet environments, where there are certain zones where no exposable conductors or switches that have directly-moved contacts are allowed, or only low voltage devices / high voltage with very limited current (again with remote switching only), or high voltage with suitable protection in place, before the outer zone which is treated the same as a dry one. There’s probably a certain height requirement with those also, but I’ve not yet had to ever install a bathroom socket myself (I’m not an electrician, I only even read that bit of “the regs” because I was having to take my power shower off the wall to clear a blockage), so I kinda skimmed it.

  • Mark Penrice

    It’s also typically more than 24″.

  • Mark Penrice


  • Mark Penrice

    “pain in two bums”

    stealing that :D

  • Mark Penrice

    Yeah – for that money, you could take a regular camera, remove the filter and still not worry about having voided the warranty because you could afford to do it at least two more times…

  • Mark Penrice

    You and one other anonymous coward, it seems.

  • Mark Penrice

    You seem to be badly underestimating how many rich, stupid people there are in the world. You don’t need brains to be born into money or win the lotto.

  • Mark Penrice

    Mmm, those delicious, satisfying ad revenues. First when someone clicks thru to the page for what they think is going to be an interesting list, and then back to see any replies they have.