You’ve got a great camera, so you’re ready to get great photos – or are you?
There’s a whole rabbit hole of camera accessories out there, and it’s easy to get lost in it – but what do you really need to help you get the shot? That depends on what you’re shooting, but some camera accessories will always come in handy.
It doesn’t matter what kind of camera you use – whether it’s a $6000 pro D-SLR to a drone to your phone camera, at some point you’re going to have to clean your lens, and a LensPen is the most convenient and effective way to do it.
Available in a range of sizes and bundles, LensPens are double-ended pen-like devices with a retractable brush on one side and a cleaning tip on the other, so you can gently brush away dirt and debris and remove smudges and fingerprints from your beloved glass.
Legitimate LensPens use a specialised carbon compound called CarbonKlean in their cleaning tips, which absorbs oil and contaminants from any lens, filter, LCD screen or other glass surface – and they never dry out, because they aren’t liquid based.
You can get a pack of three LensPens – Original Elite, FilterKlear Elite and MicroPro Elite – at $34.95 on Amazon here.
A Great Camera Bag
It goes without saying – you need to keep your equipment safe but accessible when you’re out and about, whether you’re travelling or shooting on location.
A camera bag is such a personal choice, with so many factors to consider – like how much gear you want to carry in it, if you need it to also store other items like a laptop or tablet, and how you want to carry it – whether it’s a backpack, roller bag or cross-body bag. As a general rule, it’s best to take a look at a bag in real life before you spend any money on it so you can make sure it fits your needs.
For a day-to-day bag that’s light, comfortable and holds your favourite D-SLR with a lens attached and one to spare, you can’t go past the Crumpler Flying Duck Sling Bag. It’s durable, customisable and secure – and goes for a very reasonable $75 on Amazon here.
For adventurers, LowePro’s Classic BP300 AW Backpack is ready for any adventure you are with its all-weather cover, padding and waist-belt for comfort and space for a D-SLR along with three to four extra lenses and other accessories. It also has a 10” tablet sleeve, and costs $162 on Amazon here.
For those who need to fly with their gear, or just have a lot of it, the Vanguard Alta Fly 48T was made with you in mind. Rugged, anti-scratch and moisture-resistant materials protect all your gear – it has room for two pro D-SLRs, multiple lenses, flashes and accessories, as well as a padded compartment for tablets or laptops up to 15 inches.
You can strap your tripod to it, whip out the rain cover in bad weather, and its wheeled cabin-bag design with retractable trolley handle mean you don’t have to carry all that weight on your back. It goes for $302 on Amazon.
A Killer Tripod
There are so many uses for tripods, from holding your camera steady for a long exposure to ensuring it doesn’t move around between time lapse shots, setting up a DIY talking head video for YouTube and more. Different tripods and tripod heads suit different needs, so research is key here. You’ll also need to know what your camera and lens combo weighs before you hand over your credit card info.
Vloggers, adventurers and users of smaller cameras might find a Gorillapod suits their needs – they can be wrapped around whatever’s nearby to mount your camera almost anywhere, and depending on the model can hold cameras of different weights.
The Joby GorillaPod 1K holds smaller cameras up to 1 kilogram and costs $49 on Amazon here.
More advanced tripods often come in two parts – the legs section that keeps the camera stable is separate to the head, which controls how the camera can be moved and positioned when on the tripod. Ball heads allow for a very flexible range of motion for the camera, but aren’t as strong as 3 way heads, which have separate handles for horizontal, vertical or tilting actions.
The Manfrotto 190 XPro4 is a sturdy aluminium tripod that can hold up to 6kg of gear. Its centre column can be extended both vertically and horizontally, making it perfect for both regular tripod use and flatlay photography or how-to style videos.
It comes bundled with the XPro ball head, and the set will cost you $517.95 on Amazon here.
Neutral Density (ND) Filter
If you like to shoot landscapes, you NEED an ND filter.
Neutral density filters cut the amount of light that passes through your lens, allowing you to use a wider aperture or slower shutter speed than you would ordinarily be able to in a brightly lit situation, without affecting the colours in your image.
Have you ever seen those stunning shots of waterfalls or ocean views with the water blurred into a milky wash of motion? An ND filter is what made that possible.
There are a range of ND filters out there – some will cut more light than others, some are variable so you can rotate them to darken as much as you need, and some are graduated so that the intensity varies across the frame – handy for situations where part of your image is much brighter than the rest, like sunrises and sunsets. If you shoot with multiple lenses with different lens diameters, investing in ND filters to fit all of them can be costly – but it is worth paying more for a quality filter.
Cheaper glass will affect your image quality, and variable ND filters are also known to make your image quality take a hit.
Gobe offer an “ND Family” filter kit for a range of lens diameters. Sold as a set of four, they allow you to stack the filters to further reduce the amount of light reaching the sensor. They start at $99 for the 37mm set and you can find them on Amazon here.
Camera Dehumidifying Dry Cabinet
If you’re a super serious shooter you might want to invest in a dehumidifying dry cabinet to store your camera equipment – especially if you live in a humid climate.
Lenses can grow mould and fungus, metals can turn rusty and start to corrode, and that corrosion can cause electronics to malfunction, not to mention what havoc dust can wreak – basically, the stuff of nightmares. Dry cabinets come in a range of sizes, from portable briefcase sized boxes to cabinets the size of a bar fridge to keep permanently in your home or office, and some even have fancy features like password access, USB charging ports and LED lighting and display panels.
At the heavy-duty end of that scale, Autens offer a 88L Dry Cabinet to hold all your gear, plus anything else you might want to keep very dry. It goes for $439 on Amazon here.
For something a bit more affordable and portable, the Eirmai 10L Dry Box costs $139. It’s available on Amazon here.
Fast Memory Cards
Sorry my dude, but your old 1GB card that came with your point and shoot camera in 2012 isn’t going to cut it in the age of 40 megapixel raw files and 4K video.
Write speed is everything when you’re dealing with large files, so it’s time to start using UHS Speed Class 3 SD cards – they’ll have the number 3 in what looks like a beaker printed on them somewhere.
SanDisk’s Extreme and Extreme Pro range offer a range of card sizes from 16GB to 128GB, with write speeds from 90MB/S to 300MB/S. If you’re shooting bursts of raw files or 4K video on the regular, you’ll want to stick to the higher end of both of those ranges, but if you’re more of a casual shooter the lower end will be fine.
If you wanted to go ham, the SanDisk Extreme Pro 128GB SDXC 300MB/S card goes for $82.38 on Amazon here.
Or for something a little more conservative, you can grab a SanDisk Extreme 32 GB SDHC 90MB/S card for $17.36 here.
Do I really need all this stuff?
That depends entirely on what you like to photograph, and how serious you are about it.
Think about your photographic style – if you exclusively shoot portraits at golden hour, then you probably won’t need a neutral density filter anytime soon. If you live in the tropics or near the equator, a dehumidifying dry cabinet might be a solid investment. You might find a lens cloth does a good enough cleaning job for you, or that you only shoot single shots in JPEG and don’t need a faster memory card.
But if you find yourself struggling with storing your gear, or your camera stops shooting video after 30 seconds because the card can’t keep up with its video sizes, or if you’re spending hours editing your half-over-exposed, half-under-exposed landscape shots to get them back to somewhere in between, then the items on this list might be exactly what you didn’t know you needed.