Seven tools every dSLR owner should carry in their arsenal
What I always say to friends saving up for a dSLR is this: you'd better be saving for a lot more than just the camera.
Memory cards and camera bags are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the suite of accessories dSLR owners depend on. And that goes for casual, amateur photographers, GWC (guys with cameras), and pros.
Whether you're a new or prospective dSLR owner, these are the accessories you'll want to pick up as you build your photographer's arsenal.
1. Extra batteries
This one's a no-brainer, but newbies often ignore the importance of an extra battery. Thing is, you never want to be on vacation, at a photoshoot, or otherwise shooting photos when your battery bar morphs into a blinking red.
The good news is that you can often find reliable off-brand backup batteries from Web sites like Amazon, Best Buy, or B&H Photo. When you skip the brand names (like official Canon or Nikon batteries), you can save as much as 50 percent. Just grab the battery that came with the camera, Google the model number, and read customer reviews to find out which backup battery is most suitable for your camera.
2. UV filter
Photographer Josh Miller (who shoots for CNET) swears by this accessory. Although they're technically for filtering out ultraviolet light, most photographers use UV filters to simply protect their lenses.
A UV filter is placed on top of your lens to protect it from impact, dust, grime, and scratches. You can find them online, ranging from $5 to $100, depending on the quality. Generally speaking, you should invest in higher-quality filters for more-expensive lenses. As photographer Darren Rowse says, "I'd rather replace a $50 filter than a $1,500 lens." Amen to that.
3. Cleaning kit
Whether you use a UV filter or go commando, you should always have these things in your camera bag:
- Microfiber cloth for wiping away fingerprints and smudges
- A dust-blower for gently shooing away flecks of dirt and dust
- A cleaning pen and brush combo for precise, fingerprint-free lens cleaning
4. Camera case
It seems too obvious to recommend, but even newbies bent on protecting their dSLRs will postpone this necessary purchase. Even if you think your camera will mostly be hanging on your arm or around your neck, you still need a camera case. (And a good one, at that.)
First, think about what needs to travel with you. Extra batteries, memory cards, card readers, filters, extra lenses, and your cleaning kit will each need a cubby in your bag. Once you know what needs to be stored, you'll have a better idea of what kind of bag or backpack you'll need. Go for one that has lots of padding and external protection, so that your equipment is safe from the outside in.
Check out this list of top camera cases.
5. External hard drive
If you're used to the small file sizes point-and-shoot cameras produce, get ready for a big change. dSLRs produce much larger file types, especially when you're taking advantage of shooting in super high-resolution, raw, or HD video formats.
To accommodate the storage needs of these large files, purchase an external hard drive. The exact capacity will depend on how much shooting you plan to do, but I always err on the side of safety, so if you can, go for at least 1TB of storage. Here are some recommendations for the best portable hard drives.
Once you've set up your hard drive, immediately establish a system for organizing your photos and videos so that you'll know exactly where to find any given photo in a pinch. (You'll thank me later.)
6. The 'Nifty Fifty' lens
If you're wondering how to produce those photographs with a supercrisp foreground and dreamy, blurry background, look to the "Nifty Fifty" lens.
So popular that it's earned a nickname, the fixed (no zoom) 50mm f1.8 lens is a tool that many photographers will swear by. It's great for portraits, food photography, low-light settings, still life, and other close-ups. It's fast, lightweight, and (best of all) cheap.
Available online and in stores for around $100, this 50mm lens is beckoning.
7. A tripod
Tripods are key to crisp images, self-portraits, long exposures, and low-light shooting. There are, however, so many types of tripods to choose from. For starters, look for a lightweight, carbon fiber tripod with a tall height and the ability to rotate vertically for portrait shots.
From setting up a photo booth at a party to shooting photos of products or handmade items, a tripod can be a truly versatile tool.