Holiday 2012: Photographers' Favorite Accessories
Every photographer has their favorite accessory, the one item that makes their work that much easier or interesting and that offers the simple pleasure of realizing how a little addition to your camera setup can make a big difference in your final product. This article is a kind of a mixed bag, touching on a variety of items, any one of which has the potential to be a photographer’s new, favorite accessory.
The Flex Lens Shade attaches to any lens or lens hood with hook-and-loop touch fastener and blocks unwanted light from entering the lens. The 7 x 11” Flex Lens Shade is bendable into a myriad of positions, even forming a tube to keep out stray light. It firmly holds the position into which it is bent and can also serve to block rain from your lens. It is made from black, waterproof ballistic nylon and will store flat for easy transport.
Few companies think as much about camera straps as Black Rapid and thank goodness, because they created the BlackRapid RS-7 Curve Camera Strap. Made from ballistic nylon for strength and meshed TPE foam padding for comfort, it is designed with a curved pad for right-handed shooters and hangs across the torso, providing quick access but without the sinking feeling that it will slip off your shoulder. The strap’s stainless steel locking "FastenR3" connects to your camera via the ¼”-20 tripod mount, and hangs upside-down in the sweet spot at the small of your back or on your hip, and slides up to eye level in the ready position. The BlackRapid RS-W1 Ballistic Nylon Women’s Strap is designed specifically for women, with a longer swath of padding, coming over the shoulder and down the center of the chest. The camera’s weight is placed on the shoulders, but with comfort in front, too. It attaches to the camera in the same way as the RS-7, and the camera hangs upside down with the lens pointed outward. Also made from ballistic nylon and durable webbing, it is strong and lightweight.
Camera bags, the accessory that holds all your accessories, definitely are necessary, and when you find one that works for you, you never want to give it up. It can be as important to your shooting life as the equipment inside. Of course, for every shooter, or for that matter, every shooting situation, there is a different set of needs from your camera bag.
The Slate Gray Lowepro Pro Messenger Bag 180 AW, for example, is perfect for long days on the streets with a moderate amount of equipment. A bit bigger than the 160 AW, it serves well as an everyday camera bag because it is comfortable with a small camera and little equipment, but can also expand to hold a pro DSLR with grip and 70-200mm lens attached, along with flash and 2 additional lenses. A tough canvas-like exterior and a wide, adjustable, padded shoulder strap are suited for long, tough days and an included All-Weather cover wraps the entire bag if the day turns nasty. Lowepro’s exclusive FlexFlap opens and closes the bag without the need for buckles or snaps. Its hook-and-loop touch fastener closure can open quietly, and with one hand, so you can get to your gear easily and without drawing unwanted attention. The interior has adjustable dividers to organize your equipment in a way that suits your needs, and zippered interior pockets for smaller important items.
The Think Tank Photo Retrospective 7 Shoulder Bag is a handsome bag made of sand-washed cotton canvas in a color called pinestone. It can hold a standard DSLR with a 24-70mm lens attached and a 70-200mm lens on its side with enough room left for a flash unit or third lens and accessories. It also has a dedicated pocket for a small laptop or tablet. The internal dividers can be configured to accommodate the gear you need that day, and under the main flap is another pocket large enough to hold a second DSLR body. While this bag is unobtrusive and looks good enough for any occasion, Think Tank thought about photographers when they made it, and the unique “Sound Silencer” panels under the main flap can be utilized to eliminate the tearing sound of the bag opening when you are shooting in situations that demand sensitivity. A clear interior pocket for press IDs or business cards is provided as are interior organizers for filters, memory cards or maps and an included foul weather cover is there to protect your bag and gear on those kind of days.
The Tamrac 5788 Evolution 8 Photo/Laptop Sling Backpack is a rugged pack made from 600 denier PolyTek with ballistic nylon that can be worn as a backpack or adjusted simply to be a one-strap sling for either shoulder. Its Triple Access System allows you to get at your camera from the front or either side. The side doors are great for fast access—just swing the bag to your front and you’ll have a convenient and safe entry to grab your camera and start shooting. As a sling, the bag can be adjusted to go over either shoulder and as a backpack, not only do you have padded shoulder straps, but a waist belt and chest strap are added to distribute weight evenly. The bag is large enough to hold a DSLR with 8” long lens attached, as well as additional lenses, flash units and accessories. Two distinct compartments allow you to separate accessories from core equipment, and a dedicated padded laptop pocket holds a computer up to 15.6”. Numerous pockets designed for specific items like memory cards, lens caps and cell phones are included, as are multiple see-through mesh pockets, a tripod attachment system and a removable rain cover. The Tamrac 5788 is available in brown/tan or solid black.
If your plans call for you to use your camera in extreme weather situations or to shoot in water or under it, then a DiCAPac Waterproof Case needs to be in your accessory kit. Available in sizes to fit most any camera, from DSLR down to small point-and-shoot and small HD camcorders, the DiCAPac cases are made from PVC vinyl with a polycarbonate lens port and can shoot underwater to a depth of 16.4’ (5.0 m) or 33’ (10 m) for up to 30 minutes, depending on which model you choose. The great thing about these cases is that they can be used as storage for your cameras when you are hiking, or in difficult weather situations without a weatherproof camera bag and they can also be used as housing while you are shooting. Most camera controls are accessible and they can adjust to extended zoom lenses or can be provided with extension rings for longer lenses. They also come with neck straps. DiCAPac cases are just ideal for beach, boat or ski vacations.
If you shoot photo or video, eventually you will need a tripod. Fortunately, there is a very wide variety of tripod options at B&H, from ultra heavy duty pro models to tiny, tabletop models. The Joby Gorillapod SLR-Zoom Flexible Mini Tripod with BH1-01EN Ball Head is a nice combination of small and strong. It features the original Gorillapod flexible leg joints that can bend to any position and hold that position, including wrapped around a tree branch or door knob. For its size—a maximum height of 11.7” (29.7 cm)—this device is strong and grips the surface well. It is capable of holding a 6.6-lb (3.0-kg) load, which is enough to support a pro DSLR with a 70-200mm lens, if balanced properly. The tripod also features a quick release ball head with bubble level and ¼”-20 screw mount. Another tabletop tripod, the Joby Gorillapod Focus/Ball Head X Bundle steps up the load capacity to 11.1 lb (5.3 kg). The tripod is 11.4” (29 cm) tall and weighs 9.25 oz (262 g). It is ideal for travel and its professional features make it great for photo and video. Its Ball Head X is compatible with almost every camera and standard stabilization device, and provides a ¼”-20 screw with a 3/8” screw adapter. It supports full 360-degree panning and up to 90-degree tilts, and its quick-release plate is Arca-Swiss compatible. Like all Gorillapods, its rubberized ring and foot grips provide enhanced stability whether wrapped around a pole or on an uneven rock face, and its incredible bendable legs allow for stabilized shooting from extreme angles and in otherwise unimaginable locations.
The Oben AC-1410 4-Section Aluminum Tripod with BA-0 Ball Head is a more traditional tripod that features four-section legs and can hold up to 11 lb (5 kg). Its lightweight, high-tensile aluminum build will extend to a maximum height of 60.4” (153 cm) and collapses down to 21” (53 cm) for transport. Three flip-locks on each leg allow for easy and secure height adjustments, and leg angles are independently adjustable. Its center column extends and locks in place with a twist of its butterfly knob, is reversible for low-angle shooting and has a hook for counterweight stabilization. The BA-0 ball head has a single-action knob to control all movement direction, and the quick-release plate contains a removable video pin for camcorder stability, and a safety lock to prevent accidental loosening. A standard ¼”-20 screw and 3/8” screw are both provided for universal mounting.
Another accessory that is popular with pro photographers, a Battery Grip screws into the tripod socket of a camera and offers longer shooting times and better camera control. Used mostly on DSLR camera bodies, battery grips are also available for certain compact and mirrorless cameras. They certainly increase the size and weight of your camera, which for some may be a problem, but for others it is this increased “grab-ability” that is the point. Check the model of the grip that's compatible with your camera or speak with a B&H Sales Professional to be sure. Most DSLR battery grips also feature a secondary shutter release button to facilitate shooting in the vertical position, and they often offer numerous control buttons that are ergonomically placed for vertical shooting. The other advantage to a battery grip is that they hold a second battery that is connected to your camera and will provide double the shooting time of just the primary battery. In most cases, it is possible to rotate one battery in and out while charging the other and theoretically never run out of power. The major camera brands market battery grips (OEM) for specific models; however, numerous third-party manufacturers, such as Vello, make grips to fit a wide variety of cameras.
UV filters are certainly useful for protecting your lens and reducing the effects of ultraviolet light in your images. Hoya UV filters are made for most lens diameters, with their thinner “C” design filters and the “O” series filters that offer 12 layers of Super-Multicoating for increased light transmission. Cutting down on UV light reduces the bluish haze often found on photos shot in natural light and, if that is not reason enough to buy one, just remember that a UV filter will “take the hit” from an accidental bump that might otherwise ruin your expensive lens.
Another accessory that many people might not think of too often, but is utterly important, is the Vello White Balance Card Set for Digital Photography. For calibrating color balance in pre- and post production, it is the tried and true way to set your camera to match the color of the light in which you are shooting. Simply take a picture of the appropriate card and use that image and your camera’s custom white balance function to tune in the optimal color temperature. The card set includes a black card, a white card and an 18% gray card—measuring 2 x 3.25” (5.1 x 8.2 cm) each—and a detachable lanyard strap to hold them all together.
Vello also offers the FreeWave Plus Wireless Remote Shutter Release – 2.4 GHz, a remote control shutter release that allows you to fire your camera without creating unwanted vibration and without a cable restricting your camera placement. A wireless remote is ideal in a variety of situations, including shooting macro close-ups, shooting long exposures and even for wildlife photography, where the photographer’s proximity to the camera would be a hindrance. Many photographers use remotes to help them maintain eye contact with their subject while shooting. The FreeWave Remote’s receiver attaches to the camera’s shoe mount and has a built-in internal antenna, which allows the unit to operate from as far as 320’ (100 m) between transmitter and receiver. They offer 16 channels to work with, which means one transmitter can trigger multiple cameras and provide autofocus function for your camera and delayed, multiple and long-exposure control. Vello makes versions of their FreeWave Plus Wireless Remote to be compatible with most major camera brands.
Once your digital images have been shot, they’ll need to be downloaded, corrected and displayed. A whole new set of accessories are needed to create gorgeous prints from your files. Let’s start where we start, by transferring your images to a computer. The Lexar Professional USB 3.0 Dual-Slot Reader (UDMA 7) has a transfer rate of up to 500 MB/second, which is about 5 times faster than standard USB 2.0 speeds, although it is also backward compatible with USB 2.0 devices. It accepts CompactFlash, SD, and SDHC/SDXC UHS-I cards, including UDMA 7 cards, and allows cards of different formats to be read simultaneously. It also supports transfers between memory cards. Its compact size and curved design is portable and takes up little desk space, and its pop-up opening protects the card slots when not in use.
Once your images are transferred to your computer, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Software for Mac and Windows is photo management and editing software with a comprehensive set of tools for organizing, retouching, editing, archiving and sharing them. Fundamental to Lightroom is its “nondestructive” approach; your original image files are stored and all changes made in Lightroom are applied to your images without permanently changing them. This allows for numerous and varied changes to be made, but a path back to the original is always available.
Lightroom divides its major functions into five distinct components: Library, Develop, Slideshow, Print and Web. Briefly, they work as follows: Library imports your photos into the program and allows custom storage and organization of your images with searches based on criteria you develop. The Develop component is where you can perform most of the major editing and retouching of images. A multitude of possibilities awaits you in terms of adjustments to color, size, contrast and tone; all of which can be applied and removed without damaging the original image. Slideshow allows you to create a digital slideshow of your images, and offers ways to enhance the experience, such as music and transitional effects. The Print component controls how you set up your image to be printed on paper and the Web screen does the same but for Web applications, including HTML and Flash galleries. New features for Lightroom 4 include shadow recovery, photo-book creation and extended video support with video publishing and the welcomed ability to import photo libraries from other software. Lightroom 4 is compatible with Mac OS X versions 10.6.8, 10.7 and 10.8 and Windows Vista SP2, Windows 7 SP1 and Windows 8. For a lengthier discussion of the tools available in Lightroom 4 click here.
Finally, when all is said and done in the digital domain, some photographers still like to print out their photos and hold them in their own two hands. And to do that in the comfort of your own home, the Canon Selphy CP900 Compact Photo Printer offers quality dye-sublimation technology printing and can output a 4 x 6” photo in only 47 seconds! Dye-sublimation not only produces amazing colors and nicely contrasted black-and-whites, it adds a protective coating to prints that protects them from water, light and greasy fingerprints and helps to preserve their colors. The printer itself is a compact gem that allows image input from your computer, or not: with ports for memory cards (SD, SDHC/XC and MMC’s) or USB drives, you can check your images on the 2.7” LCD and print directly from memory. The CP900 can also print straight from your camera via PictBridge and now features Wi-Fi capability to print wirelessly from your computer or iOS and Android devices. This Selphy provides built-in photo editing to correct brightness and skin tones, fix red-eye and crop photos before you print, and allows up to 8 photos printed on one page. It prints on both postcard and business card-sized paper, which comes in a self-contained packet with the cartridge ink. At less than two pounds and with an optional battery pack available, the Selphy CP900 is also a portable printer that can be brought to parties and events to print and distribute instant memories.
From improved shooting, to data transfer and printing, there are accessories to improve every stage of image creation. This article touched on a few, but we encourage you to contact a B&H Sales Professional, whether by phone, live chat or in our SuperStore, to see if there is an accessory that can enhance your photography.