The Accessories That Matter

Tripods, filters and other handy extras for enhancing your photography

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Epson P-7000

All you really need to take photos is a camera, a lens and some film or a memory card. But there are lots of extras that can help make your photography more efficient, fun and creative.

JOBO GIGA Vu extreme

Portable Storage
Portable hard drives and flash-memory storage devices let you download images from your memory cards and reuse the cards for more shooting. These are available in various capacities of up to 2 TB, and are handy when you’re going to be spending days in the field. Some portable hard drives—multimedia storage viewers—incorporate an LCD screen and allow you to play back the stored images.

Western Digital My Passport Studio


LCD Viewing Aids
Even the newest high-tech LCD monitors can be hard to see in bright light, so a device like the Hoodman HoodLoupe ( can be very useful. The HoodLoupe 3.0 fits over 3-inch or smaller screens, eliminates glare and brightness, and has a +/-3 diopter for easy focusing, composition and histogram-checking outdoors.

LensCoat Small LensPouch

Lens Covers
Wildlife photographers know that their subjects have sharp eyes and can spot a lens moving from far away. Camouflage lens covers help mask lens movements, and also provide a degree of impact protection for the lens. LensCoat ( offers barrel covers, camouflaged lens hoods, camouflaged covers for tripod legs and flash units, and more.

Magellan Triton
Garmin eTrex

Handheld GPS Units
When you’re shooting in the field, a portable GPS unit lets you know just where you’re taking each shot. With a number of newer D-SLRs, you can even connect the GPS to the camera (via an optional GPS connector) and actually record that data with each image. One such connector is the Blue2CAN ( Used with a compatible Bluetooth GPS receiver, it automatically records the geo-location of every image with the EXIF header of each file. Some solid portable GPS device manufacturers include Garmin ( and Magellan (

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Ewa-Marine U-BXP

Rain Protectors
If you plan on or find yourself unexpectedly shooting in inclement weather, there are a number of devices out there to protect your gear from the elements. These range from plastic covers that slip over the camera and lens with an optical surface for the lens to shoot through, to pliant underwater bags and covers like those from Ewa-Marine (, Kata ( and Op/Tech (, to hard-core underwater housings.

Kata E-702

Digital cameras live on battery power, so it’s a great idea to take spare, fully charged batteries with you when you head into the field. Most D-SLRs use the manufacturer’s proprietary rechargeable Li-Ion batteries, and you can’t go wrong with those. Lower-priced third-party batteries are available. While camera manufacturers don’t condone their use, many photographers successfully use them.

For digital cameras and flash units that use AA batteries, rechargeable AAs are economical and more ecologically friendly than single-use batteries. If you go the nonrechargeable route, lithium AAs will provide more shots and better cold-weather performance than other types, and also have a longer shelf life. Companies that offer rechargeable batteries also generally offer chargers for them. You can often get a “deal” on a set of rechargeable batteries and a charger. A charger that runs off a car cigarette lighter will allow you to recharge batteries while on the road.

Maha Imedion
Brunton F-Solaris

If you’re going to spend days backpacking in the field, you might want to invest in a solar power unit that will allow you to operate your battery charger out there. The Brunton Solaris units ( include some easily transportable foldable models.

Battery Tip: When the battery warning comes on with a digital camera, switch to a fresh battery. You always can put the first one back in if you need its last gasps, but you can’t reshoot a decisive moment if the battery dies just as it happens.

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Buck Knives 730 X-Tract

Leatherman Charge ALX

When you’re out in the field, it’s always nice—and sometimes vital—to have just the right tool for a needed task. Buck Knives (, Gerber Tools ( and Leatherman ( provide useful outdoor tools in a single compact unit that’s easy to carry around. Tools include smooth and serrated knife blades, wire cutters, scissors, screwdrivers, saws, files, bottle and can openers, pliers and more.

Cleaning Gear
Photo gear gets dusty and dirty in the field, so you need some means of cleaning it. A good start is an air blower such as the Giottos Rocket-Air ( or VisibleDust Zeeion blower (

Copper Hill Sensor Sweep


Giottos Rocket-Air

A microfiber cloth is good for cleaning lenses, LCD monitors and viewfinder eyepieces. Be sure to blow dust off the surface before using the cloth. If there’s more than just dust on the lens, use lens-cleaning fluid to remove it. Don’t rub it around with the dry cloth.

Many newer D-SLRs have self-cleaning image sensor units, very practical for interchangeable-lens cameras used outdoors. But even these cameras can acquire sensor dust when you change lenses frequently in the field. Should dust get on the sensor, there are sensor-cleaning kits like those from Copper Hill Images (, Dust-Aid ( and VisibleDust ( Follow the instructions carefully if you choose to clean your own sensor. If you scratch it, the repair is expensive. It’s best to have the camera manufacturer’s official repair station, or other qualified pro, clean your sensor if possible.

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Tripod Heads
Outdoor photographers tend to use three types of tripod heads. Most popular are ballheads because they allow you to quickly position the camera as desired by loosening a single knob and then locking it there by tightening that knob. Three-way pan-tilt heads let you adjust each axis separately. Below we show three-way heads from Manfrotto ( and Slik ( Tripod makers like Flashpoint (, Giottos (, Gitzo (, Manfrotto ( and Novoflex ( all make top-quality ballheads. Other manufacturers like Acratech (, Arca-Swiss (, Kirk Enterprises ( and Really Right Stuff ( also offer some outstanding ballhead models.

Kirk Enterprises BH-1
Arca-Swiss Z1
Flashpoint F-3
Novoflex Ball 40
Gitzo GH2780 QR
Giottos MH 7002

Manfrotto 804 RC-2

Really Right Stuff BH-55
Slik SH-806E
Acratech Ultimate

Bird photographers who use gimbal heads often choose those from Custom Brackets (, Jobu (, Kirk ( and Wimberley ( Gimbal heads make it possible to pan a long lens in any direction to track a moving subject while providing the support of a solid tripod.

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Ansmann C-400 Powergrip

All D-SLR manufacturers and some acces-sory manufacturers such as Ansmann ( and Flashpoint ( offer battery grips for midline models and some entry-level models. The grips offer two benefits: additional battery power (more shots in the field and sometimes a quicker shooting rate) and more comfortable shooting, particularly for vertical-format images and long-lens shooting. Pro D-SLRs don’t offer such grips because they’re built into those cameras.

Marmot Mica

If you’re going to shoot (or just scout subjects and locations) in harsh weather, you’ll want a good jacket that can handle the elements. Gore-Tex® Paclite Shell outerwear ( “breathes” well, yet is wind- and waterproof with minimal weight and pack volume. Unlike many technical fabrics, Gore-Tex® fabrics don’t lose effectiveness with frequent washing. The secret? Each Gore-Tex® pore is 20,000 times smaller than a drop of water, so water can’t get in, yet each pore is also 700 times bigger than a water vapor molecule, so perspiration can get out.

BushHawk Talon-Grip

It’s a fact that a tripod can hold a camera steadier than a photographer can. Besides preventing blur because of camera movement, a sturdy tripod will lock in your composition so you can examine it carefully and won’t accidentally change it as you squeeze off the shot. Thus, it will help you produce sharper and better-composed images.

Wooden tripods provide excellent vibration damping and are comfortable to handle in either hot or cold weather, but they’re fairly heavy. Aluminum tripods are relatively inexpensive and sturdy. Tripods made of carbon fiber and other exotic materials cost more, but are light as well as strong. Popular tripod makers include Benbo (, Berlebach (, Cullmann (, Davis & Sanford (, Flashpoint (, Giottos (, Gitzo (, Induro (, Manfrotto (, Novoflex (, Really Right Stuff (, Slik ( and Vanguard (

Berlebach BE8043
Davis & Sanford ATPX10
Benbo Trekker MK3
Table Top Tripod
Joby Gorillapod SLR
Giottos MT 9370

If you want to mount the camera low, get a tripod that allows it because not all do. Or you can get a mini-tripod such as the Adorama Table Top ripod (, Joby Gorillapods (, Really Right Stuff Ground-Level Tripod ( or Sunpak FlexPod Pro (

Monostat Monostat Carbon ART Bushhawk Bushhawk 3200

Manfrotto 190CXPRO4
Flashpoint 1128

A monopod is a great alternative to a tripod, providing more steadiness than handholding the camera (especially when combined with in-lens or in-camera image stabilization), and they’re much easier to cart around. Many tripod manufacturers offer monopods. Monostat ( offers a particularly effective one with a unique foot stabilizer that allows it to be tilted up to 60 degrees to the horizontal.

Cullmann 4405
Sunpak FlexPod
Gitzo GK2580TQR
Induro Adventure Series
Vanguard Alta Pro 283CT

A shoulder pod such as the BushHawk ( is great for steadying a long lens when photographing wildlife. You basically hold the unit like a rifle, with two-handed (plus shoulder) support. The unit is useful for close-up work, too. Also pictured from BushHawk is the Talon-Grip, which can be used to clamp a head to an object like a tree branch. Other manufacturers make similar clamping systems as well.

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Cotton Carrier
Cotton Carrier

Adorama Slinger Lens Case
Hold HoldSLR

If you have more than just a camera and lens, you’ll need some way of carrying it all into the field with you. The traditional method is the time-tested camera bag. For field use, you’ll want a rugged bag, either weatherproof or with a weatherproof cover. Bags come in various sizes, so consider getting two—one to hold the stuff you usually take and the other for the rest.

Pelican 1730
Hardigg Hardigg Storm Case iM3075

Photo vests provide lots of pockets in which to carry your stuff, yet leave your hands free, and they can’t slip off your shoulder. The main limitation is space. Photo backpacks provide the space along with the hands-free, no-slip advantages, but can get you off-balance if you overload them. Waist packs also are great for outdoor photographers, but be sure to “spread the load” around evenly to avoid a sore back or hip. Hard cases provide more protection during transport in vehicles.

To hold your camera securely while you’re climbing rough terrain, holsters such as the Camera Holster (, Cotton Carrier ( and HoldSLR ( are very handy. Individual lens pouches such as the Slingers from Adorama ( are practical for carrying and protecting lenses.

Tenba Convertible Photo Sling
Lowepro Flipside 400 AW

Tamrac Tamrac Aero Speed 85 Kata Kata 3N1 Sling

Clik Clik Elite

Popular camera bag and case manufacturers include Billingham (, Clik Elite (, Crumpler (, Domke (, Hardigg (, Kata (, Lowepro (, M-Rock (, Mountainsmith (, Pelican (, Porter Case (, Rimowa (, Tamrac (, Tenba ( and Think Tank Photo (

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Memory Cards
Today’s high-megapixel digital cameras produce huge image files, so you need lots of memory if you wish to record lots of images. You also need fast memory to keep you shooting instead of waiting for the camera buffer to write images to the card. (You’ll want a fast card reader to download the images to your computer, too.) The fastest cards cost more than slower cards, but they’re worth it if you shoot rapid sequences or large RAW files (and your camera is compatible with the card’s capacity and speed).

ATP ProMax

Memory cards come in various capacities, and bigger isn’t always better here. If you use a 32 GB card and lose it (or encounter that rare card failure), you’ve lost all your images. If you use four 8 GB or eight 4 GB cards, you’ll have to change cards more often, but you won’t lose all your images should disaster strike a card.

Hoodman Hoodman RAW Dekin
Optima PNY

Leading memory card manufacturers include ATP (, Delkin (, Hoodman (, Kingston (, Lexar (, PNY ( and SanDisk (

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Tiffen Tiffen Heliopan

For landscape photography, the most useful filters are polarizers and grad NDs. Polarizers can darken a blue sky so clouds stand out dramatically, eliminate reflections from nonmetallic surfaces like water and richen colors by eliminating the polarized reflections that dilute them.

There are two types of polarizers: linear and circular. The TTL autofocusing and metering systems in many D-SLRs won’t work properly with a linear polarizer, so you have to use a circular polarizer, which is more expensive.

Grad ND filters are half clear and half dark. They can be very useful with landscape scenes that include a bright sky area and a dark ground area. Position the filter so the dark portion covers the sky area, and you can reduce the contrast to something the film or digital camera can handle. Grad ND filters come in various densities and with hard and soft transitions between clear and dark portions. Landscape pros have full sets, but a 2- or 3-stop filter with a soft edge is a good “starter” filter. Graduated filters also come in colors, helpful for enhancing a blue sky or an orange sunset.

Neutral-density filters reduce the amount of light coming through the lens without otherwise altering it. If you’d like to blur a waterfall into cotton-candy ribbons by using a slow shutter speed, but it’s bright and sunny out, you can use an ND filter to cut the light enough to let you shoot at a slow shutter speed. ND filters come in a variety of strengths; especially useful are the variable ones like the Singh-Ray Vari-ND, which lets you apply two to eight stops of ND just by rotating the filter.

Hoya Hoya

The simplest filters to use are those that screw into the threads on the front of your lens. The major drawbacks of screw-in filters are that you need different ones for each different-diameter lens you have, or you can buy one that fits your largest-diameter lens and use step-down rings to attach it to smaller-diameter lenses. Another downside is that you can’t move the dividing line up or down with graduated filters.

With system filters, you buy one filter holder and use it with all your lenses via adapter rings. The rectangular filters all fit that holder, and can be slid up, down and sideways to position a graduated filter’s dividing line anywhere in the frame.

Top filter brands include B+W (, Heliopan (, Hoya (, Kenko (, Kokonor (, Singh-Ray ( and Tiffen ( The Cokin ( high-tech plastic filter system is a versatile choice for the budget-minded.

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OP/TECH Classic Straps

If all you have is a camera and lens, all you really need is a good camera strap. The straps that come with cameras are generally adequate, but you can do better. Third-party camera straps can make for more comfortable carrying, which is important when you’re working in the field for hours on end. Neoprene straps from Lowepro (, OP/TECH (, Tamrac ( and others make the camera seem lighter—great for long excursions with the camera around your neck. UPstraps ( are rugged nonslip shoulder (not neck) straps that allow you to wear the camera over your shoulder for easy access.

Lowepro Speedster

White-Balance Devices
Digital cameras automatically adjust white balance, with most allowing you to use white-balance presets or custom white balance to get the color right in each shot. If accurate colors are important, you’ll get the best white balance using a white-balance device. Some good ones are the BRNO baLens (, ExpoDisc Neutral ( and Lally Cap (, which all fit over the lens and turn the camera into an incident-light color meter. The WhiBal G6 ( is a truly neutral-gray card that you include in a scene and then use its gray surface in the resulting image to neutralize the color with your image-editing software.

ExpoDisk Neutral
BRNO baLens
WhiBal Pocket Cards On Stand


    I think it’s interesting this article lists Kokonor filters right up there with B+W, Heliopan, Hoya, and Kenko. That’s very odd, considering that nobody in the known universe seems to have ordered one yet. Kokonor is filterhouse’s in-house brand. They claim the filter is Japanese, but Kokonor is the name of an area of China. Filterhouse was willing to GIVE me a sample but not to LEND me one for side-by-side, objective testing with other major makes. Very strange! All things considered, I wouldn’t touch a Kokonor with a 10 ft extension tube.

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    All of the recommended items are great, but I find three, practically free accessories that I wouldn’t be without. (1) A shower cap, the type you get in many motels – it weighs nothing and is a GREAT emergency camera cover in the rain. (2) A shiny “Space Blanket”. It’s light weight, can be used as a rain cover or ground blanket and it’s reflective surface can serve as a reflector. (3) Large black garbage bags – again they weigh nothing, can serve as an emergency rain cover for you and your camera gear or to kneel on wet ground. Not everything that’s useful needs to cost alot.

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