10 Best Photography Accessories
The Delkin Fat Gecko uses heavy-duty suction cups to grip onto almost any smooth surface.
Want to do more with your camera? Here are 10 accessories to extend your camera’s functionality.
01 ELINCHROM D-LITE 2 “IT” TO GO LIGHTING KIT
It’s never been cheaper to get into studio photography. You can throw up some simple backdrops at home with a bit of rip-stop nylon from Spotlight, and grab a simple, low-power monobloc kit with two or three heads for less than the cost of a decent lens. In fact, it’s cheaper than using set-ups with dedicated flash units and you don’t have to worry about batteries.
Power is rated in “watt seconds”, with a basic 160Ws flash head offering a similar power output to a medium sized on-camera flash (such as a Canon 430EX speedlight).
The cheapest way to get into studio lighting is with a lighting kit that includes a couple of heads as well as stands, softboxes, reflectors, etc.
A good first option is the Elinchrom D-Lite 2 “it” To Go Lighting Kit. The “it” in the title stands for intelligent triggering and the heads can be remotely triggered with the included EL-Skyport Transmitter. The outfit includes two 200Ws D-Lite it 2 monobloc flash heads, two 66 x 66cm softboxes, stands, reflector, carry bags and modelling lamps. Great for portraits and product photography. Kayell sells the kit for $899.
02 ADOBE PHOTOSHOP LIGHTROOM
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom may not be as well known to the public as Adobe Photoshop, but the program has been building a dedicated following among professional and advanced amateur photographers over the past few years.
Designed to help photographers sort, edit, and manage their digital photos, the program is particularly adept when it comes to adjusting “photographic” variables such as exposure, contrast, colour, saturation, sharpness and noise. You can make global or localised changes and the RAW processing features are best in class. Best of all, all changes are non-destructive so they’re entirely reversible and you don’t have to waste space on your hard drives saving several versions of each image you edit.
The image management facilities help you rate, review and organise your photos, schedule automatic backups, and create slideshows and webpages.
If you need to create intricate layered montages go for Photoshop. For pretty much everything else, go for Lightroom. It’s a snap to use and you’ll soon wonder how you ever managed without it. It’s available in Mac and Windows versions and retails for $205 at Adobe’s online store.
03 REDROCK MICRO EYESPY STANDARD BUNDLE DSLR RIG
DSLR cameras are capable of producing stunning, cinema-quality video and we can point to a host of TV shows and short films that prove the point. What DSLRs have going for them are those big CMOS sensors that allow short depth-of-field effects and remarkable low-light performance. There’s just one catch – DSLRs are designed to shoot stills, not video. Holding a DSLR steady for any extended period while shooting movies is near impossible. Even on a tripod, they’re an awkward beast to pan, tilt and zoom. A shoulder rig will allow steady and comfortable shooting for long periods.
The king of video support systems for DSLRs is the Red Rock system. It’s not the cheapest but it’s robust, expandable and stable. The eyeSpy rigs are four shoulder support rail units. The standard bundle includes: Two 18-inch, 15mm carbon fiber rods; two 2 x 9-inch 15mm carbon fiber rods; padded shoulder pad with rod clamp; rod offset kit (for centering the camera for viewfinder use); micro hand grip; DSLR baseplate; MicroFinder loupe accessory for optical viewfinder.
The rig retails for $1030 and is distributed in Australia by Kayell. For an extra $300, the Balance Bundle rig includes a shoulder counterbalance weight. At just under $2000, the DeLuxe rig has a follow focus unit as well.
04 HAHNEL UNIPAL UNIVERSAL BATTERY CHARGER
It’s not sext but it is useful. If you are travelling, charging the batteries for your cameras and other devices is a huge hassle. Everyone has a different camera with a different battery. You can end up with a tangle of chargers that takes up more room than your clothes!
The Unipal will charge almost any Lithium Ion camera battery – 3.6V, 3.7V, 7.2V and 7.4V – you adjust the contacts with thumbwheels to get the right fit. Not only that it will charge AA and AAA NiMH rechargeable batteries and anything with a USB lead such as iPods, iPhones and games consoles. It’s a neat, slide-cover pack the size of a small compact camera.
Input is by 100-240V, to suit any country and also 12V car lighter plug, which is universal. All you’ll need is the correct mains plug adapter for wherever you are. It sells for around $80 and is available at most specialty photo stores.
05 SONY CLMV55 FIELD MONITOR
This 5-inch LCD monitor from Sony is designed to make video shooting easier. The large-format, 800 x 480 pixel LCD screen connects to the hot-shoe and takes its video feed from the camera’s HDMI port (if it has one).
A ball head allows the screen to be tilted 360° horizontally and 90°vertically, while peaking support makes focussing easier in video modes. There’s a headphone jack for audio monitoring and a detachable sun shade keeps glare to a minimum.
It’s compatible with most Sony NEX, SLT and Alpha DSLR models and should work with some other camera brands that have an HDMI port – check before you buy. It retails for $499.
06 MANFROTTO ML 360 MIDI 36 LED PANEL
LED light panels are becoming increasingly popular with video and still photographers. For all of their benefits, perhaps their most appealing quality, particularly for amateur photographers, is their simplicity. Unlike flash, you can see and adjust the light in real time. If you shoot movies and stills, Manfrotto has the perfect light for you. The ML 360 features 36 individual LED lights which can be dimmed for precise exposure control. Colour temperature is 5600°K (daylight) and, importantly, the colour output is consistent across the full range of power settings. The light can be mounted horizontally or vertically (it has dual mounts) and you can stack multiple units. There is also a more powerful 84 LED unit with similar features. The ML 360 has a light output of 420 Lux at 1m and sells for around $180.
07 VELBON GEO N540 CARBON FIBRE TRIPOD
The humble tripod is one of the most important accessories in photography. For landscapes, static work and portraits, nothing improves sharpness like a good tripod.
Velbon's new GEO-series tripods use a carbon fibre and basalt composite material which give the legs added rigidity for weight. They feature spiral-etched surfaces for smooth, fast extension as well as unique lever-locking leg sections. Each leg is fitted with an adjustable tip, allowing rubber or spike options. The two-section centre column can be split for low-angle use in macro photography.?Supplied with a multi-purpose leg pouch, which can be used for comfortable shoulder carrying and as a stone bag for added tripod support in windy conditions.
It weighs 1.67kg, extends to 166cm and costs $499. The head is extra.
08 DELKIN FAT GECKO
Need to mount a camera to a car, motorbike, snowboard or surfboard? The Fat Gecko uses big suction cups to attach to almost any smooth surface. An adjustable mounting arm attached to the suction cups can hold a compact, video camera or DSLR. Accessories and versions are also available to mount iPads and GPS screens/antennae. The single cup mini mount sells for $99 while the double cup mount (recommended for DSLRs) sells for $109.
09 SANDISK MEMORY VAULT
Hard disk failure is the nightmare of most digital photographers. If you worry that your digital photos might not be around in 20 or 30 years time, take a look at the SanDisk Memory Vault. One of the safest options when it comes to storing digital images, the robust solid-state drive is free of moving parts and is therefore just about indestructible. SanDisk claims a working life of 100 years. It’s available in 8GB ($79.99) and 16GB ($99.99) capacities and comes with a lifetime limited warranty.
10 EPSON STYLUS PHOTO R3000
Epson’s Stylus Photo R3000 is one of the best A3+ printers we’ve seen. Aimed at digital photographers who want to produce professional-quality prints it uses nine individual UltraChome K3 ink cartridges to produce rich colour and black-and-white prints.
You can choose from three connection options – wireless (802.11n Wi-Fi), ethernet (100 Mbit) or USB (2.0) – and there is a built-in 2.5-inch LCD screen to help with setup and direct printing.
Unlike some larger printers the R3000 can detect which paper media is being used and automatically switch between photo and matte black inks accordingly. It can print on paper sizes from 10 x 15cm (4 x 6”) to 33 x 48cm (13 x 19”), roll paper, CD and DVDs, and art board up to 1.3mm thick. The built-in roll paper path lets you print panoramas up to 112cm long on matte, satin, glossy, canvas and photographic papers.
The Epson Stylus Photo R3000 is priced at $1499 RRP and is available at selected photo specialty resellers.