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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Low-Cost Gear That Makes A Big Difference


Adding some simple and inexpensive accessories to your bag gives you a lot of options in the field

Labels: Gear
This Article Features Photo Zoom

Joby GorillaPod SLR-Zoom


Sony VG-C77AM Grip for SLT-A77
It's always nice to get a new DSLR or lens, but while madly pursuing more megapixels and longer lenses, it's easy to forget that there are lots of far less expensive items that can improve your photos or photo-making experience. You can do a lot on a limited budget to get better images.

Grips
An accessory battery grip (also referred to as a vertical grip) holds an extra battery or two, and many grips incorporate a second set of shooting controls for more comfortable vertical-format shooting. The extra battery means you can shoot more images or video in the field, and some cameras shoot faster with the grip attached. Some grips let you use AA batteries to power the camera, handy if you suddenly find yourself with dead batteries when traveling. The grips also add bulk, which can make shooting more comfortable for large-handed users of smaller cameras and when shooting with large lenses.

Most camera manufacturers offer accessory grips for their mid-level cameras and, in some cases, their entry-level models. A number of third-party manufacturers offer lower-cost battery grips for a variety of cameras. For example, Polaroid offers Performance Grips and Wireless LCD Display Performance Battery Grips for selected Canon and Nikon DSLRs, which also incorporate infrared remote controls, intervalometers and the ability to use AA batteries, as well as the camera's dedicated lithium-ion batteries. These list for $64.99-$89.99.


Wimberley WH-200 with Canon 500mm
Camera Supports
As an OP reader, you're probably well aware of the many benefits of tripods and monopods. Chief among them, a tripod improves your image quality by letting you use lower ISO settings (or slower films). While today's digital cameras produce amazing image quality at higher ISOs, especially when compared to films of the same ISO number, they produce their best image quality at their lower ISO settings. That's because when you use lower ISO, you give the sensor more exposure, and more exposure means a better signal-to-noise ratio. Higher ISO settings produce noisier images mainly because you give less exposure when using them, and less exposure means fewer photons are collected, which makes for a lower signal-to-noise ratio. With a support of some kind, you can use longer exposure times and thus lower ISO settings, assuming you're not shooting rapid action that requires a higher shutter speed, of course. Another advantage is that a camera support holds the camera in position as you wait for a bird or other animal to do something interesting, which is especially welcome when you're using a long, heavy lens.


THE GREEN pod
You also know that it isn't always practical to carry or use a tripod or monopod, so when you want to travel light, there are a number of good lightweight camera supports that take up little space. A beanbag conforms itself to most surfaces and provides surprisingly steady support, and you can use it to position the camera in spots that would be difficult, if not impossible, with a tripod. THE pod is a manufactured, prefilled "beanbag" with a tripod screw that comes in models for cameras and camcorders from compact through pro DSLR with supertele lens. Prices run from $18.99-$54.99; larger models come with a camera-hold-down strap. Joby GorillaPods are clever compact tripods with multiple-jointed legs that can be wrapped around branches, signposts and other handy supports.

For wildlife action, a rifle-stock support like the BushHawk is popular, as it provides more freedom of movement than even a gimbal head, and some find it actually makes tracking birds in flight easier than handholding the camera alone.

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