Once you've bought your first DSLR camera and lenses, you'll find a bewildering array of choices in the department of DSLR accessories. As with all aspects of photography, it would be easy to spend enormous amounts of money on DSLR accessories. However, with a little know-how (and this list), you can pick the best DSLR accessories that you, and your camera, will find it hard to live without. (If you're looking for accessories aimed more at point and shoot cameras, click the link.)
- Camera Bag. It never fails to amaze me how many people buy beautiful and pricey cameras ... and then throw them in the bottom of a rucksack to carry around. Digital cameras, and lenses in particular, are fragile creatures and need a sufficient amount of padding and protection to prevent dents and scuffs.
This is precisely what a decent camera bag will provide.
All decent camera bags have separate pockets of padding, which can be adjusted to form a snug cushion to keep your gear safe. What can be daunting to a first-time DSLR buyer is knowing which bag to buy. There are two brands that I highly recommend: Lowepro and Tamrac. I've had great success with both brands, finding them sturdy and long lasting. Lowepro bags (Compare Prices) tend to be slightly more expensive, but they are undoubtedly the tougher and better made of the two makes. The advantage of the Tamrac bags (Compare Prices) is that, apart from the cheaper price, they offer a much better range of rolling cases. These are essential if you start to collect a lot of gear, as being able to wheel your gear around will save your back a lot of grief. (Trust me on this; I've tested it extensively!)
For smaller kits, both manufacturers produce wonderfully clever hybrid rucksacks, which have a camera bag at the bottom of a normal rucksack. The bag will hold a camera body, two lenses, and various accessories. On top of this is room for wallets, phones, lunch, and other items. Some bags also have a pocket for a laptop and straps for a tripod. These bags are particularly useful for those photographers who want to shoot landscapes and cityscapes.
Small bags can start from as little as $20, but expect to pay a minimum of $80 for larger combined bags.
- Speedlight Flash. Many of the DSLRs have a small pop-up flash built into them. These are great to use as fill-in flash, and can light very small areas, but they won't allow you to be overly creative with them. If you're serious about your photography, then you'll eventually want to invest in a speedlight flash, sometimes called a flashgun. At the very least, you'll mourn the lack of a speedlight flash if you want to take any photographs in low light or at night.
All separate speedlight flashes give you the option to bounce the flash, essentially meaning that you can angle the flash away from your subject so as to soften the harsh shadows often associated with flash. They come with TTL (through the lens) technology, allowing even the most basic of speedlight flashes to produce accurate flash exposures. More advanced speedlight flashes also have flash exposure bracketing, allowing the user to adjust the flash in thirds of a stop, and will assess color temperature data so as to set the white balance accordingly for a flash shot.
A basic speedlight flash costs around $150 and more advanced units range from around $250-$450.
- Sto-fen. This little gadget deserves a category of its own, and yet it is probably one of the cheapest accessories you'll ever buy. If you've invested in a decent speedlight flash, then one of these is absolutely essential. Costing around $10-$20 (Compare Prices), the Sto-fen slots over the front of your flash to dramatically soften and diffuse the light. Combined with bouncing the flash, you can virtually eliminate shadows. More than anything though, it makes flash light look almost natural. A very flattering light for a minimal price -- that's really all there is to say about this little wonder!
- UV Filter. If you're into shooting landscapes, then one of these is essential to cut out the bluish haze that UV sunlight radiation can cast over your photographs. More importantly, though, a UV filter can be left on all your lenses permanently as a protective layer. Not only will this prevent dust and dirt getting onto the front element of your lens but, should the worst happen and your camera falls to the floor, then replacing the filter is a lot cheaper than replacing the lens. UV filters start from $22 (Compare Prices). If you are using a wide-angle lens however, you should try and invest in a superslim filter, which will help prevent the lens from vignetting at its edges. These start from around $50, depending on your filter thread size (which is printed on the inside edge of your lens).
- Memory Card Reader. All cameras come with a USB cable that allows you to transfer the images on your memory card to your computer. These tend to be slow, though. Additionally, if your computer has a virus or other problem, connecting via USB could cause damage to your camera. If you have more than one camera, then you'll end up with an awful lot of USB cables.
The answer is to buy a memory card reader. These small devices plug into a USB connection and allow for the transfer of multiple formats of memory cards, such as Compact Flash, SD, or Memory Stick. They can transfer images at a much faster rate than a USB cable and are compact and small enough to carry easily. Expect to pay between $10 and $30 for one (Compare Prices), depending on how many card formats you want it to be able to read.
- The Pod. You don't want to scrimp on a tripod -- the last thing you want is for it to collapse under the weight of your camera. But, at least when you start out in photography, you can get away without using a tripod if you invest in The Pod. Costing around $14, this is essentially just a small beanbag with a tripod screw sticking out of it. You can use the pod to rest your camera on harsh surfaces, such as walls, or balance it over the edge of a car window for example. The pod will enable you to take long-exposure shots without having to worry about camera shake. Obviously, it's limited in terms of capability, but it's a wonderfully clever tool. (See manufacturer's Web site)