Mulling over the best multi-tools for photographers may seem at first like an option rather than a necessity, but they sure come in handy when equipment fails. As photographers, our primary focus is usually on standard kit such as cameras, lenses, tripods, camera bags, and a bagful of batteries.
Multi-tools are those handy little devices that are small, lightweight, and should pack all the essentials you need to save you on an all-day shoot. Without listing all the possible scenarios where equipment can fail, a compact set of tools can be a real lifesaver.
Many of the multi-tools listed below can of course be used in a variety of situations, not just on a photo shoot. This is why these remarkable little tools are so handy in general. It’s also not unusual for people to own a few variations of these tools. Mainly because no one multi-tool has absolutely every conceivable piece of equipment for every scenario.
Therefore, the shortlist of multi-tools below aren’t all-encompassing, but rather fit most general applications. For instance, if you own a specialist tripod with an obscure size of hex bolt, you probably need a specialist tool for that single application. For all other general quick fixes on a photo shoot, you can’t go wrong with one of these multi-tools.
1. Leatherman Skeletool CX (Overall Winner)
Leatherman has been long-standing makers of quality multi-tools, with the Leatherman Skeletool CX pocket multi-tool being no different. The Skeletool CX stands out for photography use as it’s lighter weight than the rest of the Leatherman options. It also benefits from a carbon fiber frame, with essentials such as pliers, a blade, wire cutters, bottle opener, and bit driver.
An extra bit can be stored in the handle, and optional hex bits are available. These extra bits are essential for general photography use, but the main takeaway here is the quality construction. These little multi-tools will provide years of use, and while there are cheaper versions on the market, they are rarely made to the same level of quality.
As a one of the best multi-tools for photographers, the Leatherman Skeletool CX is a fine addition to your camera kit bag.
2. Leatherman Sidekick
If a more traditional design of Leatherman is your preference, you can’t go wrong with the Leatherman Sidekick. This multi-tool is a contemporary version of the original Leatherman design, featuring 14 tools in total.
The Sidekick includes a straight and serrated blade, three screwdrivers, pliers/wire cutters, wire strippers, Wood/metal file, saw, 1.5-inch (3.8cm) ruler, bottle and can opener, and can store an optional quarter inch hex bit driver in the handle. The tool is also built to the usual Leatherman standards of quality, with every tool feeling like it can take a good degree of punishment.
The Sidekick features Leatherman’s outstanding build quality, along with the most commonly used tools for most applications.
3. Leofoto LMT-10 Multi-Tool Kit
The Leofoto LMT-10 Multi-Tool Kit represents the section of multi-tools covering screwdrivers and hex bits exclusively. It’s not always convenient to carry around a case full of separate screwdrivers and hex bits, which is where the Leofoto LMT-10 comes into play.
This multi-tool has a screwdriver-like handle where all the bits are stored and feels like it’s built solidly to last a long time. Flathead and Philips-type screwdriver bits are included, along with eight different hex bits made from hardened steel. All of the bits are common sizes for most quality tripods and camera gear.
The other unique part of the the LMT-10 is that it can double as a 4.5-inch desktop tripod by screwing the handles into the main column. This feature is more of a nice added extra, as the tools are the most essential parts here. But if you don’t already own a desktop tripod, this addition could be a nice sweetener to the deal.
The tool is also reasonably priced considering all the included bits and the build quality. This makes the Leofoto LMT-10 Multi-Tool Kit an essential in anybody’s camera bag.
4. Victorinox Tinker
If you want to take the traditional route with multi-tools, then you can’t do better than a Swiss Army Knife. The Victorinox Tinker is one option from the huge variety of Swiss Army Knives available, with all the essential tools you will need for general use. Even within the Tinker range there are five multi-tool options, which means that at the very least, there should be a solution within the range to fit your needs.
The Victorinox Tinker is everything you would expect from a quality made Swiss Army Knife. Included in the package is the standard large and small blade, screwdrivers, scissors, awl, tweezers, toothpick, bottle opener, and multi-purpose hook. The Tinker doesn’t have a set of pliers and may not be as heavy duty as some of the other offerings on this list. But as a general use tool which is extremely lightweight, the Tinker is always there when you need it most.
5. Gerber Multi-Plier 600
As an alternative to the Swiss Army Knives and Leatherman offerings of the world, there is the Gerber MP600 series. I generally think of Gerber stuff as being more for hunting and survival uses, but this tidy little multi-tool has plenty of features which can apply to photography uses.
The build quality of the Gerber is outstanding, with a rock-solid locking mechanism, tungsten carbide insert cutters, one-handed pliers, and included toolkit. There’s also a small blade, small Philips and flathead screwdrivers, bottle opener, file, and mini saw. From sheer ruggedness alone, the Gerber will never let you down in the field. Plus, there are just enough tools included on the Gerber to cover most repair jobs or fixes in the field.
6. Duct Tape (Budget Winner)
Yes, good old duct tape is a multi-tool and if it wasn’t for needing a budget winner, it would also be at the top spot. Duct tape is produced by a variety of manufacturers, in varying price ranges, with more fancy versions like Gorilla Tape. The latter is a good solution if you need extra levels of reinforcement, but for most cases, the standard type of duct tape will cover most applications.
This leads to the question of why a roll of tape is so useful? Duct tape is extremely strong, waterproof to an extent, and can be a temporary fix when no other tools are available. Personally, duct tape has come to the rescue when I’ve needed to fix tripods, tape together a makeshift rain cover, and hold together a broken lens. It’s a general lifesaver when you need to stick things back together.
The Multitude of Uses of Multi-Tools for Photographers
“It’s better to be safe than sorry” should be the mantra on any photo shoot. With that in mind, a good quality multi-tool is small and lightweight enough to be carried anywhere and can be a quick fix for most camera gear. With so many options on the market, the brands and models above are a good starting point. While some tools have specific jobs, the ones with a good selection of screwdrivers, hex bits, pliers, and a knife are usually the most handy.
As per the last listing, if you can’t justify the cost of a multi-tool, then a roll of good old duct tape will never let you down.