Big Little Companies
by Paul ButziI mentioned the end of production of Durst enlargers to a friend of mine, and he was unconcerned. He has a pretty extensive wood and metal shop, and he opined that if he needed an enlarger other than the one he currently owns, he’d just build one.
Now, not everyone has access to the machinery needed to manufacture photo equipment. But just last week, I ordered a BH-55 ballhead from Really Right Stuff, and when it arrived, I was stunned. It’s wonderfully designed, exquisitely manufactured, and so nicely finished it’s a joy to behold. Better yet, it’s a joy to use in the field; it’s much nicer than the Arca-Swiss B-1 that I’ve been using for the past 8 years. It’s the best tripod head I’ve ever held in my hands.
The most wonderful thing is this: it comes from a little company. Not long ago, it would have been economically infeasible for such a small company to produce one ballhead design, let alone the three designs that RRS now sells. But the wonders of CAD and CNC machining, access to worldwide markets via the WWW, and fast and easy worldwide distribution via UPS and Fedex have made it possible for companies like Really Right Stuff to produce not just parts like Arca-Swiss style quick-release plates but complicated, sophisticated products like the world’s best ballhead—and do it at prices that are competitive with the big camera manufacturers.
That means that clever, creative people all around the world can be busy designing, building, and selling world class products that fill niche markets that were simply too small to interest major manufacturers. And it means it will be easy for you to buy them, too.
I hear a lot of complaining about the demise of silver based photography products, and the end of major manufacturers producing things like enlargers. Very little is said about the little, niche filling companies like Really Right Stuff, Kirk, Wimberly, et al – little companies producing incredible world-class products to suit every preference and need. As the entire photo industry goes through a big upheaval, the small, agile companies may well be the ones producing the really great, innovative, high quality products you want.
Posted by: PAUL BUTZI