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Finding The Right Digital Camera Accessories
Faster, convenient and more efficient—that’s what today’s digital camera accessories make possible. Accessories have become an integral part of photography, as they can make shooting easier and your pictures better. Outfitting your gear with the latest technology and design isn’t just form, it’s function.
Digital Camera Filters
Filters are a necessary addition to your pack. If you’re looking to saturate colors and add contrast to your images, then shooting with a filter on your lens will help you create a digital file that’s closer to your desired end result. There are software packages and plug-ins available that can fix or enhance your images, but that could take hours of digital darkroom work. Starting with a quality image in-camera always is the best route.
It’s important to have a good filter, as it will affect the overall quality of your image. Generally, hard-coated filters made from high-grade optical glass, like Heliopan filters, which are made from Zeiss glass, guarantee sharpness and contrast while maintaining color fidelity. Low-grade filters, even when placed on high-end, expensive lenses, can lead to a soft image, unwanted vignetting or distortion. Skimping on a filter only will cancel out your lens excellence.
Polarizers and neutral-density filters are essential. Polarizers can do a lot to enhance your image. They decrease the amount of light that enters your lens, which deepens the color of your sky while removing glare and reflections from shiny, smooth surfaces like glass and water. Polarizers also saturate colors, giving you a more dramatic image.
There are two types of polarizing filters available, linear and circular. There’s an ongoing debate that linear polarizers are more effective, but circular polarizers should be used with any camera that has a through-the-lens metering system, or auto-focus. The reason is that both of these systems use semi-silvered mirrors to filter light. If that light is linearly polarized through your lens, it can render the metering or autofocus mechanisms of your camera ineffective.
Singh-Ray has an interesting variety of polarizing filters that combine the effects of a polarizer with some extra selective color boosters. The Gold-N-Blue polari-zerpunches dramatic blue or golden-yellow tones, while the Red-Ray polarizer accentuates the red areas of your image.
B+W makes a similar filter called the Redhancer, which jazzes up reds as well as ambers, browns and oranges. This filter doesn’t incorporate a polarizer, but you can combine filters to achieve the benefits of both.
Another essential filter for your bag is the neutral-density (ND) filter, which reduces the amount of light that enters the lens. By limiting light, you can shoot with a slow shutter speed to show motion or a wider aperture to blur your background.
NDs are great for bright days when camera settings can’t adhere to your needs. Singh-Ray’s Vari-ND filter is versatile in that it provides you with 2 to 8 stops by simply turning the filter rings as if you were focusing.
Graduated ND filters balance contrast in your scene. If you have a bright sky or background in your image and a dark foreground, a graduated ND filter will bring the extreme contrasts of your image into a balanced exposure.
Other effects like warm or cool tones can be achieved with software, but again, it’s always best to begin with a quality digital image, otherwise, color-correcting and editing will be time-consuming. Tiffen, Hoya, Lee and Cokin Filters all offer an array of colors to completely change or enhance your pictures.
Almost all companies give you a choice of buying circular filters that you attach directly to your lens or a filter adapter. Adapters can be cost-effective because they enable you to use one filter for several different-sized lenses. The only extra cost with adapter sets is buying the correct-sized adapter rings.
Assess the amount of gear you have as well as what sort of bag will be the most comfortable and convenient to carry. Whether you choose a backpack, shoulder bag or rolling case, the latest camera bags are designed for a range of photography needs.
Camera bags should be able to store at least a camera, a couple of lenses, batteries, backup storage and some gadgets or miscellaneous accessories like filters and cleaning tools.
If all of this
too much to carry at once, you may want to limit your equipment and consider purchasing a bag that has modular attachments or possibly a day pack or hip bag. These smaller packs carry just a few items and eliminate excessive weight, which is helpful if you’re walking around all day. Bags and cases with plenty of pockets and padded dividers to separate your equipment help to keep items organized and clean. Some bags incorporate water-resistant covers to protect your gear from the elements.
A soft bag is much lighter to carry and easier to travel with than a hard case, yet a hard case is ideal if you’re putting your equipment in a situation where it will be knocked around, such as in the baggage compartment of an airplane.
Even if you’re stacking other luggage or equipment on top of one another, a hard case will provide the ultimate protection for your gear. Hard case designs now incorporate wheels, so you won’t be lugging around an incredibly heavy weight. Pelican Cases have a line of rolling cases that also are air- and water-tight.
Shooting digitally, a laptop may be on your list of gear. Manufacturers like Tenba, Lowepro and Tamrac make bags that can hold a camera, lenses and gadgets as well as your laptop and media storage. Different designs like backpacks, rolling cases or shoulder bags now are incorporating a laptop compartment, so you can carry your gear in comfort.
When purchasing a tripod, check to see how much weight it can hold. Not only must it hold your digital camera, but if you plan on using an add-on flash or heavy lenses, you should factor that in as well.
A steady tripod is a must when shooting in low-light conditions. Hand-holding your camera when shooting a slow shutter speed will result in a blurry image. Although sturdiness is essential, you don’t have to sacrifice comfort to make that happen.
If you’re traveling and moving about, you’ll benefit from having a lightweight tripod. Having a lighter load will save your back and shoulders from the strain of a heavier piece and, in turn, keep up your energy to take more shots.
Several manufacturers, like Gitzo and Manfrotto, make carbon-fiber tripods that are perfect for travel, but cost more. If weight is an issue, then the benefits outweigh the cost. While aluminum tripods are heavier, they tend to cost less, so you may be able to save a bit of money if you don’t require the lighter load.
If you want to shoot low to the ground, you’ll want a tripod with legs that splay or a specialized tripod like the Kirk Low Pod. Compact and sturdy, the Low Pod allows you to shoot low or on a tabletop.
Most tripods don’t come with a head, so you’ll have to purchase it separately. This can add to the expense, but it also will give you a chance to choose what kind of head works best for you.
Pan-and-tilt heads are less expensive than ballheads, but ballheads afford you quick and smooth angling of your camera into any position. Some ballheads, such as the Slik AF-1100 Trigger-Action Digital Ball Head, have a trigger grip that allows you to change positions by simply squeezing and releasing a handle.
Consider purchasing a head that features a quick-release plate. These are efficient, as they let you take your camera on and off the tripod quickly, and can be another asset when you’re moving about and lining up different shots.
You may want to look into easy-to-use panorama heads and clamps. A cost-effective model made by Nodal Ninja will replace the head on your tripod, while Really Right Stuff’s Panning Clamp is a quick-release that replaces the clamp on your ballhead, allowing you to easily take your camera on and off your tripod.
If you’re shooting outside, it’s usually difficult to see your images on your LCD screen. Instead of moving to a shaded area, utilize an LCD hood. This useful tool blocks out the light, allowing you to see your images more clearly. Additionally, these hoods are inexpensive. Just make sure you purchase the right size for your screen.