In an era that has witnessed rampant outsourcing of products and services, and innumerable items manufactured in foreign lands, it’s heartening to know that the B&H website offers more than 8,000 product SKUs from close to 250 companies promoting a Made in America status.
Featured below are 18 such companies, and their associated products that caught our attention.
* The golden era of American-made cameras harks back to the 1880 launch of the Kodak Box Camera, which had the slogan “You press the button—we do the rest.” Throughout most of the 20th Century however, domestic camera-making ceded ground to foreign interests, leading to the widespread manufacture of cameras and electronic products overseas.
Yet one niche that stands apart from this trend is the growing area of infrared (thermal) imaging products. Thermal imaging systems detect the infrared energy (heat) emitted by people, objects and materials, allowing the operator to see in total darkness, adverse weather, and through such air pollutants as smoke and haze. Oregon-based FLIR Systems was established in 1978 to pioneer the development of high-performance, low-cost thermal imaging systems, and in the intervening years has become a global leader in the design, manufacture, and marketing of infrared cameras for professional and recreational use.
From personal night vision cameras such as the FLIR Scout Thermal Monocular and the FLIR ONE Pro mobile accessory, to point-and-shoot inspection tools such as FLIR Ex series devices, to dome and bullet surveillance systems and beyond, FLIR products are primarily manufactured in the USA from globally sourced materials. This company’s motto, “The World’s Sixth Sense,” offers further evidence of its mission to improve the way people interact with their environment by expanding perception and awareness, enhancing public safety and well-being, increasing energy efficiency, and enabling healthy and entertained communities.
* Santa Barbara, California-based Seek Thermal offers a line of handheld thermal imaging cameras, as well as mobile units designed to work with iOS and Android devices. These compact yet powerful cameras enable workers in commercial trades and firefighters to spot otherwise invisible threats such as hot spots, overloaded circuits, unbalanced loads, loose connections, and energy leaks, while also enhancing safety and situational awareness for pursuits such as law enforcement. These devices are equally valuable for recreational activities such as hiking, hunting, and other outdoor activities, where users will benefit from heightened awareness when challenged by elements such as darkness, adverse weather, or wilderness conditions. All Seek Thermal products are designed and manufactured in California, using globally sourced components.
* Avid photographer Todd Moore was looking for a better way to nail his shots of lightning strikes, rather than merely getting lucky, so he challenged longtime friend and electrical engineer Dave Koerner to invent a solution.
Koerner tapped into the invisible component of this natural phenomenon, using a high-speed photodiode sensor to pick up the infrared burst that precedes the bright white flash of lightning that is visible to our eyes.
After much research and development, the pair founded the Ohio-based company MK Controls to manufacture the Lightning Bug, a weather-resistant shutter trigger with adjustable sensitivity and timing. Available in different versions that are compatible with specific camera models, this product is manufactured in the United States using a combination of domestic and foreign components.
According to the company website, “The Lightning Bug acts as a lookout for your camera, watching for a change in the infrared light. When a significant change is detected over a very short period of time, the sensor directs the camera shutter to trip and capture the lightning in action.”
As a bonus, the trigger can also be effective when photographing fireworks, or other subjects that produce a spark.
Digital Storage and Media Solutions
* When it comes to digital storage and media mounting solutions, Delkin Devices brings a dedicated, San Diego-based design, manufacturing and support team to its varied line of options—from memory cards, card readers, CDs and DVDs, to its Fat Gecko camera and tablet mounts, and the SensorScope DSLR sensor inspection device.
A photographer himself, Martin Wood founded the business in 1986 with an entrepreneurial drive to be an American memory card manufacturer in a market that relied heavily on imported products. Unlike memory cards that are mass built overseas with components that constantly change due to availability and cost, Delkin uses specific controlled components to ensure reliability over time. Extensive bench testing allows for better engineered products, designed for performance and advanced shooting modes when recording high resolution photography and video.
In addition to its core memory card lines for DSLRs, mirrorless cameras, action cameras, drones, video cameras, and more, Delkin holds several patents for accessories aimed at “Making Photography Better.”
To help you choose the right Delkin memory card for your needs, click here for our engaging infographic, or follow this link to find additional stories about Delkin products.
* Arizona-based Tether Tools was hatched as a practical solution for a studio-type experience on location, after company founder Josh Simons took part in a 2008 commercial shoot that involved hauling an iMac and 600 pounds of tethering gear into the middle of the desert via dune buggy. His flagship Tether Table offered a versatile platform to secure a computer when shooting tethered.
The company’s firm belief in quality craftsmanship means that they design and manufacture the majority of their workstations, mounting options for lighting and accessories, and power solutions for photographers and filmmakers in the U.S.A, using the finest materials. The company’s current Tether Table Aero System embodies the union of function and form, with a sleek design and lightweight construction of T6 Aerospace aluminum. Fully customizable component parts enable photographers and videographers to create a workstation exceptionally tailored to an individual workflow.
For more on tethering, plus a breakdown of select Tether Tool products, click here for Tom Kirkman’s Explora article Tether Tools Solutions for Photographers.
* Designed by filmmakers for filmmakers, Chicago-based Zacuto creates production grade camera accessories that free filmmakers to focus on innovation, inspiration, and creativity. Zacuto gear is made entirely in the USA, and has a singular philosophy on camera rig design—balance.
Zacuto’s signature product, the Z-Finder, now shares the stage with products such as the Gratical HD Micro-OLED EVF and the company's line of Next Generation Recoil® Pro shoulder rigs, with feature-rich accessories like a sliding baseplate and flip-up handgrips.
According to Zacuto co-owner and product designer, Steve Weiss, “In our industry it's all about speed to market; if you are late, you lose. With our machine shops in the Chicago suburbs, we can see prototypes and finished parts the same day. Changes can be made, and then additional parts the next day,” he explains. “In many cases, it's actually less expensive to make products in America,” he adds, “and it's not possible to make an extremely high-end brand abroad.”
To learn more about the full range of Zacuto product offerings, follow this link to our archive of Explora articles featuring this brand—from online videos to hands on reviews.
* Boulder, Colorado-based Chimera Lighting has been designing and manufacturing innovative lightbanks, reflectors and other lighting tools in the U.S.A. since its founding in 1980. Initially inspired by high altitude tents, advertising photographer Gary Regester partnered with noted climber, photographer and engineer/designer Tom Frost to make Chimera’s first collapsible lighting modifier for still photographers. From humble beginnings in a residential garage, Chimera has expanded and adapted its product line to equally serve the lighting needs of film and video industries. As noted on Chimera’s Website, the company sources and produces materials for all but two accessories in the United States. To ensure all components of light banks, speedrings and other products meet company standards, materials are inspected prior to going into production. Fabric is examined on arrival and spot-checked on the cutting table; speedrings are checked for both fit and finishing issues to ensure against peeling or scratching on anodized surfaces. Keeping production local allows the company to quickly and efficiently meet customer needs. Employees take pride in the company and in their work; a winning combination for any business.
* For lighting control on a more intimate scale, photographer and multimedia producer Quest Couch developed a line of simple flash modifiers nearly 30 years ago to serve the lighting requirements of the high-end corporate market. The still photography required for this type of work necessitates fast setups on location, under a variety of circumstances. LumiQuest’s mission to raise the level of flash photography by combining photographers’ needs with the basic laws of physics has resulted in more than 25 devices designed to solve real lighting problems in the field. Each light modifier serves a specific purpose, and all are made in America, carrying an unconditional lifetime guarantee.
Paper and Portfolios
* One welcome development in this digital-centric era is a renewed interest in the photographic print. New York-based Legion Paper has played an important role in the growth of fine art papermaking since the company’s founding in 1994, when veteran art paper salesmen Michael Ginsburg and Len Levine joined forces with a mission to source the finest papers from the best manufacturers. While the company has a decidedly global reach—working with more than 60 paper mills in 16 countries to bring a wide range of specialty papers to market—Legion has a special place in its heart for papers made in the USA. To address this niche directly, the company developed its Moab line of archival, digital imaging papers in Moab, Utah, surrounded by the austere beauty of the Colorado River, Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, and the LaSal Mountains. Most of the papers in the Moab line are made in the USA, and sport names such as Entrada, Juniper, Colorado, and Lasal, with this heritage in mind.
An ideal choice for printing photographs is Moab’s Juniper Baryta Rag 305 paper, due to its slight glossy finish, and a feel similar to traditional fiber-based darkroom paper. This single-sided paper features a 100% cotton fiber base, a true barium sulfate coating and a 16-mil thickness. For maximum longevity, it does not use any optical brightening agents. To learn more, read Todd Vorenkamp’s hands-on review.
Fans of a matte paper surface will appreciate Moab Entrada Fine Art Rag, a 100% cotton paper designed for archival printing using today's advanced ink sets, such as Epson Ultrachrome, including black-and-white K3 inks. It is acid- and lignin-free and exhibits an expanded color gamut, maximum contrast, and a high ink load. This paper’s natural fiber coloration yields images with warmer tones, making it well suited to portrait photography applications. And, as a two-sided paper, Entrada makes an ideal choice for portfolio purposes, as well.
* Fine art prints and other photographic documents require careful handling and storage to safeguard the condition of such delicate objects. To serve this need, the Rochester, New York-area company Archival Methods was established as a leading supplier of storage and presentation solutions, in 2002. The company’s inventory of archival cases, portfolios, boxes, binders, albums, digital media storage, enclosures and sleeves, frames, boards, paper, and other products are primarily made in America for use by a growing range of customers. Classic items such as the Onyx Portfolio Box and Solander Museum Case have long been staples of museums, cultural institutions, government archives, professional photographers, galleries, and the like. Yet the growing popularity of pastimes such as genealogy and scrapbooking have created new audiences for products, such as the ever-popular Black Proof Boxes and Drop Front Archival Storage Boxes, to preserve important historical documents and precious family photos. In 2015, to further expand its in-house manufacturing capabilities, Archival Methods opened a huge warehouse across from company headquarters, which offers the benefit of maintaining strict quality control, while also reinforcing its commitment to the local community.
* San Francisco-based Pina Zangaro has offered custom presentation and storage solutions for customers in art, media, and business professions since 1989. By using stylish design, the best materials available, and state-of-the-art manufacturing, this supplier redefines the way printed artwork and documents are presented.
The following excerpt from the Pina Zangaro Website aptly summarizes the company’s mission. “Your portfolio is a reflection of who you are as a person, as an artist, and as a professional. Just as you should give careful consideration to the outfit you wear to an important presentation, you should also carefully plan how you want to package your work. A sloppy portfolio will suggest that you can’t be depended on to get the details right. A cheap looking or ugly portfolio will suggest that you don’t have good aesthetic sensibilities.”
The company’s entire product line of books and binders, presentation folders, jackets, and related accessories are all made in the USA with a 100% quality-guarantee, to make it a sure bet that your work will shine and your presentation stands out from the crowd.
Cases, Covers, and Flashlights
* An avid scuba diver, Dave Parker founded Pelican Products out of his Torrance, California garage in 1976. He recognized the need for rugged flashlights and protective cases that wouldn’t leak or fail, and set out to build a better product than anything else on the market.
Now in its 41st year, nearly all of Pelican’s molded products and branded cases are manufactured domestically, in Torrance, CA, and South Deerfield, MA.
Gary Maupas, Pelican’s consumer product sales manager describes several advantages to U.S. manufacturing, from brand equity in the use of an American job force to “quality standards that are better accommodated and monitored through a domestic manufacturing process.” Maupas adds, “For most of its history, Pelican has been primarily a military and government product resource, which requires very strict quality standards to be maintained.”
Now the world’s largest manufacturer of equipment protection cases, Pelican continues its steady growth and the development of new products. Most recently, the company unveiled a software program allowing customers to create an interior foam set for their case as a single unit, uniquely mapped to the contents—regarded as a new generation of pick and pluck foam.
For more on Pelican cases and flashlights, follow this link to our archive of Explora articles that feature these products.
* While professional audio and video technology has changed at a relentlessly fast pace, Porta Brace has hand-built its camera cases and covers in Southern Vermont for more than 40 years, with an unswerving commitment to quality. From the highest quality materials, to the hand-built wooden equipment models, to the reinforced sewing techniques designed to strengthen weight-bearing contact points, the company’s production processes are designed to make the toughest and most reliable products available. Control of production permits frequent product upgrades, improvements, and modifications, to keep pace with rapid innovations and integration in the professional recording industry. Additionally, the company’s pride in craftsmanship is coupled with an eco-friendly concern for the local community, to reduce waste and help preserve nature’s bounty.
* Another family owned company, Leupold & Stevens, has been in business for more than a century, manufacturing binoculars, spotting scopes, telescopic sights, riflescopes and other sports optics. Founder Frederick Leupold’s motto that the customer is entitled to a square deal is upheld through pioneering technological efforts such as waterproof scopes, side focus parallax adjustment, compact riflescopes, and the Duplex® reticle. All Leupold Golden Ring® Riflescopes are designed, machined, and assembled in a state of the art manufacturing facility in Beaverton, Oregon, and each must pass a punishing durability test. While some parts, primarily lenses, require foreign sourced components, incoming materials are carefully inspected before being accepted into the assembly process.
Straps, Pouches and Bags
* In 1975, while working as a photojournalist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Jim Domke was tasked with designing a lightweight, yet rugged and practical camera bag for the newspaper’s photography staff. His prototype caught on, and he suddenly found himself besieged with orders, which evolved over time to make him one the best-known camera-bag designers in the world. More than four decades later, the Domke product line remains a favorite of the working photographer, offering shoulder bags and satchels, pouches and inserts, lens cases and protective wraps, straps and belts, and more, all made in the USA.
* Trend-setting shutterbugs will appreciate the vision of longtime friends Lisa Grimm and Erika Koorndyk, who set out to bring stylish camera straps to the photo industry, launching the company Capturing Couture in 2009. Originally working out of Koorndyk’s 2-car garage in Orange County, California, the company’s camera strap line has since grown to encompass straps for a range of industries, from photography to music to pets, and more. A companion line of colorful camera bags, backpacks and protective totes offers trendy photographers a stylish balance of fashion and function. Every product is American made, generally within a few miles of the company’s headquarters, which brings jobs to the local community and allows Koorndyk to stay closely involved in the production process.
* Family-owned and operated since 1982, OP/TECH USA makes neoprene straps, pouches, and accessories for cameras, lenses, tripods and electronics to provide the ultimate in function and comfort. More than 90 percent of the company’s product line is manufactured in its Belgrade, Montana, facility. OP/TECH’s first product, the trademarked Fast Cap lens cover, was designed on a cocktail napkin by founder Bill Henkerman. Shortly thereafter, Henkerman introduced the neoprene Fashion Strap. This product line has grown to encompass a wide variety of camera straps combining the soft, durable features of neoprene with a patented "control-stretch" backing to help reduce pressure, while contouring to the shoulder and neck to effectively distribute weight, combatting fatigue and bounce.
* Wildlife photographer Rob Daugherty spent 16 years in law enforcement and more than four years as a firefighter and EMT before making photography his profession, in 2008. Yet, since 1990, he has applied his expertise as a first responder to the design and manufacture of durable customized photography vests, safety apparel, bean bag camera supports, and more, under THE VEST GUY product line. All of Daugherty’s products are made in the U.S.A, designed to last a lifetime, and come with a limited lifetime warranty on workmanship.
We invite you to discover the many other Made in America products we offer through a simple keyword search on our Website. If this leads you to a favorite item, please let us know in the Comments section, below.
Shouldn't acratech be added to the list too?
Hi Christopher, thanks so much for pointing out yet another notable brand dedicated to manufacturing Made-in-the-USA products! When selecting items to feature in this story I had to pass over a lot of great gear in order to keep the article to a manageable length. However given the two suggestions we've recently received as comments, it's clearly time to start planning for Made-in-the-USA, Part Two! If you have additional suggestions please send them our way, and thanks for reading Explora!
One popular manufacturer missing from this list is Really Right Stuff. Their tripods, ballheads, quick releases and plates are the standard for most professionals and serious amateur photographers. The design and workmanship are unsurpassed - and a source of inspiration for many Asian knock-offs. Really Right Stuff is Utah based and their products are Made in America.
Hi Eric, thanks so much for pointing this out. I love Really Right Stuff products and will keep this in mind if and when we update the story. Go USA, and thanks for reading the Explora blog!