GoPro Hero 4-Series Cameras
$ varies : gopro.com
The newest breed of GoPro cameras have every feature ever asked of them, minus the one that always made them special.
Every camera is a compromise. Anyone who wants to capture the world around them wants a camera that is easy to use, produces stunning images, and is light on the pocketbook. GoPro launched their cameras several years ago to fill the unique niche of go-anywhere cameras that were cheap to buy, easy to use, and offered a great image. Their Achilles’ heel was that their image quality wasn’t quite good enough to meet the expectations of high-end users.
While last year’s Hero 3+ brought those discussions down to a murmur, the Hero 4 Silver and Black cameras finally silence the argument. Shooting up to 4k video at 30 fps (Black edition only), the new cameras offer professional-level quality, and finally give users some control over exposure and color balance. The new nighttime photography setting provide incredible long-exposure and time-lapse options.
But where these cameras compromise is their cost. It would be a stretch to call the previous cameras disposable, but they were at least expendable. At $400 and $500 for the Hero 4 Silver and Black editions respectively, you’re likely to do a lot of hemming and hawing before you hang your Hero 4 out in the wind — even though that’s where GoPro cameras do their best work. And while the new base model GoPro Hero camera still hits that expendable price point, it’s missing so many of the other features that make the more expensive cameras so excellent.
Shaviv Deburring Tool Set
$20 : vargus.com/shaviv
Don’t worry if you have never heard of deburring tools before, as they tend to be industrial-type tools that you won’t find at the local big-box, home-improvement store. That said, the first time you use a deburring tool, you will curse yourself for all those times you removed sharp edges and burs with a file — or worse, with sandpaper.
This Shaviv Mango II assortment gives you all you need to get started: a swivel handle, a couple of general-purpose blades that cover most common shapes and materials, and an extending blade holder for reaching into tighter spaces.
Howard Leight by Honeywell Sync Stereo Earmuffs
$36 : howardleight.com/ear-muffs/sync
As a busy dad with a short commute, I seldom get to just rock out anymore — really escape into “the metal.” The only exception is when I’m doing chores with obnoxiously loud power tools. I’ve used Bluetooth headphones and loved the convenience, but their volume couldn’t compete with the noise of a weed whacker or other loud tools. My ears were doubly blasted, my enjoyment of Van Halen halved.
Now I’m loving the Sync earmuff — an industrial-grade hearing protector styled like over-ear DJ headphones, with high-quality audio built in (and a removable audio cord for when you just want earmuffs). They automatically cap the audio volume at a safe 82dB, but that’s all you’ll need, as the 25dB noise reduction rating means you’ll be blissfully untroubled by the racket of your angle grinder, rototiller, or toddler’s tantrums while attempting to get things done around the house or workshop.
Bondhus Ball Hex Allen Wrenches
$26 : bondhus.com
Ball hex drivers are the way to go for robotics projects and anywhere else you might need to access hex fasteners. This Bondhus set comes with separate inch and metric sets with GoldGuard and BriteGuard finishes that make the L-wrenches easy to clean and identify.
The straight hex on the short end is best for higher torque applications, and the ball hex tip allows for quicker spinning and easier access. Instead of having to enter a hex-head screw straight on, ball hex tips can fit screws at a slight angle.
These Bondhus drivers are strong, durable, and very inexpensive for USA-made tools.
$28+ : blackfire-usa.com
The Blackfire Clamplight is a handy hands-free LED flashlight that’s built around a powerful 1-watt Cree LED that outputs up to 100 lumens for 26 hours on a single set of 3 AAA batteries. It has decent performance stats, but where the Blackfire really excels is in the packaging. The flashlight’s body is a spring-loaded clamp that allows it to grab onto a range of objects, such as a pipe or the edge of a table. The head pivots around on two axes to provide illumination right where you need it. If there is nothing for the flashlight to clamp onto, flip the clamp pads down, and the mini stand allows the light to sit unsupported on a floor or tabletop.
$30 : vampiretools.com
Like the other Vampire Tools I’ve used, the Vampliers Mini are rugged, made from high-quality materials, and simply a joy to use. Although smaller and slightly less flexible in their use than the “original” Vampliers, the Minis are made of equally high-quality, ESD-safe handle materials and fabricated flawlessly, with vertical serrations for gripping screws. Unlike the original, there’s a key-ring hole on the handles for transport, and the lack of a spring makes them easier to store in their closed state.
I’d probably still recommend the standard Vampliers to anyone who doesn’t spend their whole day working on smaller electronic projects, but these pliers are fantastic for general plying tasks and screw extraction, making them a great addition to anyone’s toolbox.
MaxxPacks Custom Battery Packs
$ varies : maxxpacks.com
For some projects, a AA or AAA battery holder and a few alkaline or rechargeable batteries will do. But for projects that involve motors or high-drain components, finding a suitable battery pack isn’t always easy.
I needed two rectangular block-shaped 9.6V NiMH battery packs for a recent robotics project, and could not find any off-the-shelf products that were perfectly fitting. I ultimately learned about MaxxPacks and found a suitable pack in their online store. Not only that, they were able to build it with the connector I needed too.
Buying the battery packs from MaxxPacks was a great experience, and I’m satisfied with the quality and quick service. The control freak in me loves that I knew everything about the chosen battery packs before I ordered, including discharge rate, capacity, and even the brand of cells the packs were built with.
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