When you set off on a shoot, there's nothing worse than arriving only to find that you don't have the right kit. This list of accessories covers some cool photography gadgets, from the essential to the uncommon - but no less useful!
1. Before we start!
I have included prices in three major world currencies. All figures are rounded up or down and, of course, might be cheaper or more expensive where you live. They serve to give a general idea of cost. Also, my advice would generally be to look on eBay and other market places as there are some really good bargains saving you a lot of money.
- USD = United states dollars
- GBP = Great British pounds
- EUR = Euro
2. The Tripod
It had to be on the list and proves to be vital when dealing with long exposure times or when using heavier telephoto lenses that you don't want round your neck for long periods. Night time photography is almost impossible without a tripod, due to the longer exposures needed to allow the small amount of light into the lens. A tripod is much cheaper than an image stablising lens and you're likely to be far more pleased with the resulting image.
Manfrotto 458B Neotec Pro Photo Tripod - 406 USD - 249 GBP- 284 EUR
Designed for professional use, the Neotec is ideal for both 35mm and medium format cameras, and has all the added features that make Manfrotto products leaders in their class.; This tripod is lightweight and perfect for those who need all-round performance. You can also buy new heads rather than buying a brand new pod.
Hama Star 75 - 15 USD - 10 GBP - 10.5 EUR
This is a very cheap and cheerful tripod. If you don't want to invest in an expensive tripod and just want to test one out, this is for you. Although it will naturally not be as stable and good as the Manfrotto it will still allow for longer shutter times.
Heavy Duty Professional Aluminum Tripod with Ball Head for Camera/Video - 77 USD - 47 GBP - 53 EUR
This is not a "named" brand and therefore the price is much cheaper. It is for the serious photographer and will keep your camera very stable. The ball head is a bonus allowing for perfect panoramic images and different positions a normal head wouldn't offer. I own this tripod and the only disadvantage is the weight at around 6-7 kg, and the size (you cannot fit it easily into a camera rucksack).
3. Lensbaby SLR Lenses
Lensbaby camera lenses are a line of camera lenses that combine a simple lens with a bellows or ball and socket mechanism for use in special-effect photography. Results achieved with a Lensbaby mimic that of the Holga camera or other toy cameras, and it can be much cheaper than buying a tilt-shift lens.
There are currently 3 Lensbaby options to choose from, and each have their advantages and disadvantages. You can find out more info at the Lensbaby website.
The Lensbaby is available for several different lens mounts: Canon EF (EOS), Nikon F, Minolta Maxxum/Sony Alpha, Pentax K and the Olympus Four Thirds System.
Prices vary depending on which lens you choose.
4. White Balance Filter
You can easily set your digital camera's white balance using the ExpoDisc Digital White Balance Filter. It's convenient, fast and easy to use. Made out of metal, the ring easily snaps into and out of your lens filter threads. This is useful when snapping landscapes and is very easy to store in your bag.
Prices start at 70 USD for a 52mm mount and range up to 170 USD for a 95mm.
5. SD Card Storage
Although some cameras use Compact Flash memory, the majority have now shifted to using SD cards. SanDisk and Panasonic have both released an 32GB card which can hold an amazing 7000 photos from a 15MP camera. Though they are expensive at the moment, you can only expect prices to gradually lower over the next few years. The downside, of course, is that if your card fails for any reason you stand to lose a significant amount of data. Make sure you back it up when you can!
6. Gold/Silver/White Reflectors
Reflectors are a cheap and great way to change the light on a subject. They can be just as useful as flash guns and expensive lighting gear.
Gold reflectors are designed to add a warming effect to the image, which is best for when people and animals are involved. Silver and white reflectors simply reflect the light onto the subject.
The price ranges depending on what brand and size you go for, though don't expect to pay more than 50 USD, 30 GBP or 35 EUR.
7. Extension Tubes
The cheap way to achieve a macro effect. A tube contains no optical elements; its sole purpose is to move the lens farther from the image plane. They let you focus closer for macro work, though don't offer the same quality as a dedicated macro lens. It's a relative cheap way to get the desired effect.
When buying an extension tube, you have to decide if you need auto-focus or not. The auto-focusing extension tubes are a lot more expensive but worth it when dealing with quick moving objects.
Non-electric extension tubes can be found as cheap as 4 USD, 2.5 GBP or 3 EUR.
8. Remote Shutter Switch
When dealing with longer exposures, we already said that you need to keep your camera still on a tripod. Equally important can be a remote shutter switch. These are designed so you can auto focus and then take the photo without touching the camera - therefore stopping unnecessary shake and blurring on your pictures.
They come in all different sizes but I would recommend looking for a wired switch, particularly if the wireless infrared panel is located on the front of your camera (such as the Canon 450D).
Shutter switches range from around 10 USD, 6 GBP or 7 EUR.
A monopod, also called a unipod, is a single staff or pole used to help support cameras and video cameras. It has the same purpose as a tripod - to keep the camera steady when shooting long exposures. But unlike a tripod, monopods cannot support a camera independently. In the case of still cameras, this limits the shutter speed that can be used.
They are better than holding a camera in your hand, but don't allow you to reach the really high shutter speeds. Why would you want one? They fold up to a very small length, are lightweight, and can be easily transported.
Monopods again come in all shapes and sizes, so here are my 2 of my recommendations:
Manfrotto 682B Self Standing Monopod - 125 USD - 75 GBP - 86 EUR
A heavy-duty three section monopod featuring a handy addition of three retractable legs which allow it to stand upright on its own... especially useful when changing film/flashcard or swapping lenses mid shoot.
Hama Star 8 Monopod - 17 USD - 10 GBP - 12 EUR
Hama does it again! Its another cheap but amazing piece of kit. Although personally if you have spent thousands on a Canon 5D or Nikon D3 you are best off going for the more expensive Manfrotto as it will be a lot more stable. Cheaper smaller SLR's fit perfectly and it's a must buy.
10. Opteka Fisheye Lens
This fisheye adapter is a good buy for those of you who just want to play around without having to pay hundreds for a fisheye lens. Depending on what attachment you buy, some can be used on an HD camcorder as well for cool fisheye footage.
11. Hama Micro-fibre Cloth
This cloth was one of the cheapest but single most important items I bought when I went away on my last holiday. Dust kept coming onto my lens, spoiling my photos. This micro-fibre cloth picked up all the dirt.
Costing around 6 USD, 4 GBP or 5 EUR it's certainly worth getting one. They're far easier than carrying around a large duster or using your t-shirt (which is a terrible idea)
12. A Magazine Subscription
It all depends upon where you live, and which magazines are available in your country. I find it interesting to see how other people view a particular scene differently, and you can learn things you never even thought of before. Magazines are generally up-to-date and written and edited to a very high standard (unlike many photography websites - PhotoTuts excluded!)
Buying a new lens will not turn you into a pro overnight, but simply reading up on taking good photos and looking at tutorials can be a great step forward.
13. A Digital Photo Frame
This is a great way to show off your photos. Family and friends can easily comment on different photos, allowing you to see which type of images are received best.
Obviously these frames vary dramatically in quality. Some will make your photos look great - others will display a dull, unappealing image.
14. iPhone Zoom Lens
I don't own a iPhone or iPod touch, but I had to put this invention in here. The iPhone Camera telescope allows your cell phone camera to zoom in across long distances with the power of a digital camera. It's a touch on the gimmicky side (particularly when considering the fairly poor iPhone camera quality), but worth considering if you use your mobile for candid shots,
Costing around 32 USD, 20 GBP or 23 EUR, it won't break the bank.
15. The Big Red One
Although this video camera is for those in the film industry, I felt like it deserved a mention due to the technological leap forward it represents.
Typical high-end HD camcorders have 2.1M pixel sensors and record with 3:1:1 color sub-sampled video at up to 30fps. RED offers a far more advanced sensor, which provides 4K (up to 30 fps), 3K (up to 60 fps) and 2K (up to 120 fps) capture - all this with wide dynamic range and color space in 12 bit native RAW.
This represents more than 5 times the amount of information available every second over a standard HD camera, and a vastly superior recording quality. In addition, you get the same breathtaking depth of field and selective focus as found in film cameras using equivalent 35mm P/L mount lenses.
Having been able to use the Red One and see it's amazing results, I am able to understand why it is the number one video camera at the current time. It's not cheap, and isn't by any means a "must have" gadget for photographers.
Costing around 17,000 USD for the body alone, then 20,000 USD for the basic prime lenses, I wouldn't expect to see it on your Christmas list!
16. Insect Repellent
If you are in the great outdoors - regardless of the country you're in - insect repellent is a must! I have been bitten countless times when out on a shoot, and strongly recommend you have a small spray handy. It's incredibly easy to overlook.
17. A Camera Bag
No doubt you had to buy a proper camera bag when you purchased an SLR, but you most likely you grabbed the first one the sales assistant recommended. Camera bags come in all different shapes and sizes. You can get an easy traveling, lightweight bag which only just fit your SLR, or you can get a fully packed backpack with room for 4-5 lenses as well as your camera.
Here are my recommendations:
Lowerpro DryZone Rover - 230 USD - 142 GBP - 160 EUR
Water and camera equipment in the same bag used to spell disaster. The DryZone Rover is the world's first backpack designed to safely carry both a hydration system and camera gear all inside the same bag. The unique design of the DryZone Rover allows you to comfortably store camera equipment or other water sensitive items in the waterproof lower compartment while providing quick access to personal storage space above.
Remove the padded camera insert from the lower drypod and you instantly have a multi-purpose waterproof pack. Perfect for the adventure photographer in remote and extreme conditions, the DryZone Rover keeps you hiking, hydrated and shooting longer.
Lowerpro super trekker AW II - 565 USD - 346 GBP - 395 EUR
Serious photographers look to the Super Trekker AW II. Hi-tech materials and a fully adjustable harness system - the most technically advanced of any camera pack – ensure perfect weight distribution and extraordinary comfort.
Tamrac 5513 ADVENTURE ZOOM 3 DSLR Camera Case - 30 USD - 20 GBP - 23 EUR
The Tamrac Adventure Zoom 3 will hold a DSLR camera with a zoom lens up to 3" long attached plus an assortment of small accessories such as batteries and memory cards.
18. Optech Rainsleeve
If it starts raining but you cannot afford to miss the action, the Optech rainsleeve is a great buy. It offers protection for camera, lens and flash unit in all types of wet-weather conditions. Featuring an eyepiece opening that allows viewing through the actual viewfinder, rather than the plastic, and a drawstring enclosure that accommodates any lens up to seven inches in diameter.
Costing around 12 USD, 8 GBP or 9 EUR, they are invaluable if the pictures you shoot are important.
Cheaper rainsleeves are out there if you don't need to cover a flashgun and zoom lens - just have a look around!
Thanks for Reading
I hope this list has interested you. I'd like to note that I didn't include any filters in this list as I am going make a featured article on them at a later date.
Photography gadgets and gizmos are a very personal thing, and different people swear by different models and brands of accessory. It would be great to see some lively discussion in the comments, so I'd like to pose the question "What's your absolute favorite camera accessory"?
Feel free to have your two cents!