If you’ve recently bought a camera you’re probably wondering how to go about getting the best from it. While the images you create with it should be your ultimate objective, there’s an abundance of indispensable accessories out there that can not only improve the images you take but also help with the way you take them. To point you in the right direction we’ve collected the most useful and most frequently used accessories together so you know where your money is best spent when expanding your kit.
Get Some Support
With so many ways of supporting your camera to minimise the effects of camera shake and damage, you’ll want to consider the options to make sure you choose the best that suits your needs. A tripod might seem like an obvious choice of support for your camera, but there’s a range of great straps to consider too.
A tripod is a photographer’s three-legged friend and if you want to take your photography seriously, your kit won’t be complete until you own one. The type you choose depends a lot on the type and style of photos you take. If you frequently travel and use a relatively lightweight camera, you’ll want a small travel tripod that stores neatly in a suitcase or travel bag. A good example is the Vanguard Nivelo 214BK (£60). If you demand a stronger set of sticks for venturing off limits and supporting a heavier camera, Manfrotto’s new MK190XPRO 3 makes an excellent choice.
If you don’t want the hassle of erecting a three-legged tripod, a monopod is an excellent alternative support. Popular with wildlife and sports photographers who regularly use heavy telephoto lenses, they can make all the difference in capturing pin-sharp shots by taking some of the shake out of supporting a heavy system handheld. Usually most monopods come with a dual 1/4in-3/8in fixing screw for attaching either a camera or lens directly, or supporting the attachment of a tripod head.
While most of us rely on the strap that’s supplied with the camera to prevent it falling from our grasp, there are substitute straps out there that can offer better comfort and cushioning. One such example is the OpTech Pro Camera strap (£18), which is specially designed to eliminate neck and shoulder fatigue by dispersing the weight over a larger surface area and adding a non-slip grip.
4 Hand Straps
If you don’t like the idea of having your camera slung over your shoulder or neck for long periods, a hand strap can provide the extra protection you need to prevent your camera crashing to the ground. Many hand straps are secured to the camera via an Arca-Swiss style base plate to enable attachment to a tripod mount while the strap is still attached. You’ll need to budget around £30-£45 for a comfortable option such as the Joby UltraFit handgrip with UltraPlate.
It’s Time To Customise Your Camera! – Performance
Just like an engine can be modified to achieve its best performance, a camera’s performance can be improved by spending a bit extra on essential accessories. If you’re unsure of how to get the best out of your camera, here are a few options to consider…
1 Battery Grip
Investing in a battery grip has the potential of turning your camera into one that’s more convenient and practical to use. The main purpose of a battery grip is to allow you to store more than one battery and increase the shooting stamina of your camera. The good news is that battery grips come with other benefits too. Operation in the vertical orientation can be improved with additional buttons, while the design is intended to match the styling of the camera and make it feel larger in the hand. It’s worth bearing in mind that some battery grips are supplied with an additional battery cartridge to allow you to operate the camera with AA batteries should you find yourself without access to mains power to charge up your rechargeable Lithium-ion.
The memory card you choose can play a big part in how your camera performs. The rated speed (e.g. 15MB/s, 30MB/s, etc.) denotes the maximum speed of the card and what you’d expect to approximately see in typical usage of writing or reading files on the card. Essentially, the faster the card, the faster the camera can save the file and be ready to shoot another photo. This can play a big part when shooting with high-megapixel cameras set to their continuous shooting modes. In addition, a fast Speed Class is important for videographers who’d like to record a steady stream of data at a sustained rate with no dropped frames.
3 Spare Battery
Running out of battery power can be extremely frustrating, so to minimise the risk you’ll want to carry a spare in your bag at all times. Most manufacturers’ batteries can be expensive, so it’s worth considering your third-party options. Hähnel produces a wide-range of spare lithium-ion batteries for most camera models at very competitive prices.
While the pop-up flash on your camera can be useful for picking out subjects at close range, you may find over time it’s not powerful enough to illuminate large subjects or those that are positioned further away. A flashgun that mounts to your camera via the hotshoe on the top-plate can solve this problem. The power of a flashgun is specified by its guide number, with the higher the number indicating a more powerful flash. Guide numbers do not depend on the focal length of the lens, however some flashguns have the option to zoom with the lens to help concentrate the light into a narrower beam. To get creative with the effects of flash, you’ll want to attempt taking the flashgun off-camera and fire it remotely using a remote trigger – the results of which can be spectacular.
While most cameras’ inbuilt microphones are adequate for capturing the ambient sounds around us, a dedicated video microphone can help to provide broadcast quality audio to match the quality of high-definition footage. External stereo microphones come in all shapes and sizes, but to use one you’ll need to check your camera is compatible and features a 3.5mm input port – most commonly found on DSLRs and system cameras. It’s worth looking for one that has a floating support structure to absorb unwanted handling noise and sounds from the cameras’ mechanics.
The cheapest and most effective way of achieving shots with a shallow depth of field is to invest in a fast fixed focal length prime lens. A 50mm prime on a full frame DSLR offers a field of view that’s not dissimilar to what we see with our eyes, but if you own a camera that has a smaller Micro Four Thirds or APS-C sensor you’ll have a crop factor to consider. A 25mm Micro Four Thirds Prime is equivalent to 50mm with the 2x crop factor applied, whereas a 35mm prime on an APS-C camera is equivalent to 52.5mm after the 1.5x crop factor is added.
A photographer’s kit isn’t complete without a 5-in-1 reflector, which comes in handy for bouncing light back on a whole range of subjects you wish to illuminate. If you enjoy shooting portraiture or still-life, it’s the most useful accessory you’ll buy and we guarantee it’ll be up there as one you end up using most.
8 White Balance Lens Cap
A white balance lens cap is a great accessory to own if you’re planning on taking hundreds of shots in the same setting and require accurate and consistent colour throughout. Simply switch your camera into its Custom White Balance mode, take an image with the White Balance Lens cap on and the camera will create the perfect profile for the lighting in front of you – resulting in neutral-looking tones that’ll appear neither too warm nor too cool.
It’s Time To Customise Your Camera! – Protection
Whether you’ve been given a camera as a gift or have treated yourself to one, you’ll want to look after it. Cameras can be pretty hardy pieces of kit, but there are a number of essential accessories out there to offer added protection.
1 Camera Armour
Cameras can get accidentally dropped and knocked when out in the field, so wrapping your camera in a protective silicone shell can prevent unnecessary damage should it hit the deck. These ‘skins’ are designed for specific camera models to take into account button layout and the size and shape of the camera.
2 Protective Filters
Both Skylight 1B and UV filters are transparent, though they do affect your image marginally. A UV cuts out ultraviolet rays and reduces haze, while a Skylight 1B reduces the bluish cast that can occur in outdoor photography. But it’s not what they do to the image that’s so important, but the protection they provide.
Attach either of these to the front of your lens and they offer an extra layer of protection to the front element of the lens – far better to scratch or crack an inexpensive and replaceable filter than potentially write-off a pricey optic. Once on, they can stay on the front for the life of the lens.
Large LCD displays are lovely, but they can get scratched pretty easily, ruining the quality of your display. Luckily though, there are a number of options out there to protect your screen from such hazards, with the choice of self-adhesive ultra-thin glass protectors, self-adhesive film-type protectors, removable glass LCD protectors and flip-up protective hoods that also feature a slide-out magnifier for enhanced viewing.
4 Rainproof Covers
While some cameras feature dust and moisture seals to protect them from the elements, if you’re going to be out in heavy rain or are likely to face conditions where your kit could get drenched, a rain cover is required. Rain covers are available in different sizes to suit different body and lens combinations, with handy sleeves providing access to shooting controls while the lens sleeve can also be adjusted to suit the diameter of the lens.
A dedicated camera bag or case will offer your camera and other accessories much-needed protection when in transit, out on a shoot or simply stored away at home. With padded compartments to protect items from rubbing together, they can also offer protection from the elements, with many offering built-in all-weather covers. They’re available in a range of shapes and sizes, so you’ll want to ensure your bag is tailored to suit the amount of kit you’ve got and the way you like to shoot.
6 Underwater Housing
For underwater photography, you can place your DSLR, CSC or compact camera in a purpose-built underwater housing designed specifically for the model of camera you have. With the most expensive models offering a hard anodized aluminium alloy construction, controls for all camera functions and a depth rating of 100m, they can cost as much as the camera.
It’s Time To Customise Your Camera! – Cleanliness
Keep It Clean
You’ll need to clean your kit from time to time in order to make sure it’s in the best working order and to help there’s a range of accessories available to keep your camera spotless.
1 Cleaning Cloth
A microfibre cloth is an essential part of any photographer’s kit bag, allowing you to easily and quickly wipe away grubby finger marks that have found their way onto the front of your lens. If the smear on your lens is more stubborn, you may need some optical cleaning fluid, but look out for those that are alcohol, ammonia and detergent-free to prevent streaks being left behind.
2 Blower Brush
Air blowers are a great accessory to have at your disposal and allow you to blow any dust particles off your lenses, sensor, or other delicate equipment. It’s a dual-purpose item too and can be used for everything from blowing dirt out of your kit bag to removing crumbs from your keyboard! The more blast you want from your blower brush, the bigger you’ll need, but most can be picked up relatively cheaply for under £10.
3 Sensor Cleaning Kit
There’s a vast range of sensor cleaning products available and one of the most effective and commonly used are sensor swabs. These are specially tailored for cleaning your delicate sensor without leaving streaks, pooling or abrasions and come in various sizes for full-frame and APS-C. Whereas swabs are disposable, Visible Dust’s Arctic bufferfly can be used time and time again to remove dust that accumulates. It’s suitable for use on ITO (Indium Tin Oxide) coated sensors and DSLRs with built-in sensor cleaning systems.
4 Compressed Air
Compressed air is an alternative method to using a blower brush to remove dust. A pressurized canister can help shift the most stubborn grime from a camera to make it spotless again, and if you purchase a Dust Vac attachment it’s possible to covert the compressed air to vacuum mode for picking up smaller particles. Ken Air is the leading specialist in compressed air for camera equipment and its Dust Vac kit with a 360ml cartridge will cost around £25.
It’s Time To Customise Your Camera! – Connection
Conectivity plays a huge role in the way we control our camera
The CamRanger is a standalone device that connects to select Canon or Nikon DSLRs to create an ad-hoc Wi-fi network, which mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets can then be connected to. The CamRanger app (available as a free download) offers full wireless control of the camera, with advanced functionality such as toggling between Live View, adjusting key imaging variables and viewing full resolution images. If you’re looking for a wireless tethering solution offering great control of your DSLR, the CamRanger is well worth a look, but not cheap at £269.
Cable releases or smart triggers are very useful for triggering your shutter when you don’t want to come into physical contact with the camera. While cable releases can be great for long exposure photography when working close to the camera, they’re more restrictive if you’d like to work from greater distances. This is where Smart Triggers come in and accessories like the WeyeFeye enables wireless and remote access to the camera shutter and settings via an app.
3 GPS Unit
If you’d like to embed co-ordinate data to your image files, such as the latitude, longitude and altitude of your location you’ll want your camera to support GPS. Whereas some cameras feature GPS built-in as standard, others require a small GPS unit that attaches to the camera via the hotshoe, with power supplied directly from the camera.
4 PC Sync Adaptor
If your camera doesn’t feature a built-in PC sync terminal and you’d like to trigger flash via a sync cable you’ll require a PC Sync adaptor that’s designed to attach to your camera via the hotshoe.