Buy a compact camera and that’s what you get – a camera. Buy an SLR body and you’re buying into a complete photographic system that can comprise any number of lenses and other accessories, enabling you to build up an incredibly versatile outfit. Some of these can be quite obscure, such as underwater casings for use when diving, but there are plenty of mainstream gadgets vying for a place on your wishlist, and some are essential if you want to take your photography to the next level. Here, we outline some of the options, and explain what each accessory does, and why it’s so useful.
With image stabilisers in lenses and camera bodies, tripods aren’t quite as essential as they used to be. But if you’re shooting night scenes, working at extreme magnifications, or you just want to frame your shot with more care, you’ll still need one. A good, sturdy budget model will cost around £150. Select one that extends to your eye level without the need to extend the centre column – otherwise you’re essentially turning it into a less stable monopod. Look for multi-angle legs – useful for shooting in rough terrain – and make sure you top it with a good quality, sturdy tripod head.
This enables you to fire the shutter without touching the camera, so you can get sharp results when using slow shutter speeds. Ensure the remote has a lock function, so you can take long exposures at night without having to keep the button pressed. Remotes are camera-specific, so be sure to buy one that’s compatible.
For good flash photography with an SLR, invest in a decent flashgun. Third-party models are available, but to make full use of your camera’s advanced features it’s best to buy a flashgun from the same manufacturer. Look for a head that you can tilt and swivel, as this will enable you to bounce the light off ceilings and walls.
A protective bag keeps your camera and other accessories safe. Backpacks are ideal when you’re travelling long distances, although shoulder bags give you quicker access to your gear. Try to find a bag with more compartments than you’ll need, so that your gear can expand into it as your collection grows.
Vertical grips enable you to fit two batteries into your camera, providing extra shooting capacity. And with an extra shutter-release button and other key camera controls, they can make it easier and more comfortable to use the camera vertically. Some models also increase the camera’s continuous drive rate.
Anyone that’s serious about recording high-quality video using an SLR will have a camera with a microphone input socket. This allows you to get much higher quality audio than relying on the camera’s built-in mic. There are many third-party hotshoe-mounted mics to choose from, although Rode mics are popular.
To protect your lens from scratches, fit a UV or Skylight filter – Hoya specialise in these. There are also three creative filters that you might like to consider:
- A circular polariser, used to minimise reflections on water and glass, and make clouds stand out in blue skies
- ND grads, used to balance exposures in landscapes when the sky is much brighter than the foreground
- NDs (or ‘straight NDs’), used to achieve long exposure times and motion-blur, especially in running water
Memory cards with large storage capacities, such as 32Gb, enable you to capture masses of photos and video clips. However, do consider multiple, medium-capacity cards for important events such as weddings and holidays. That way, if a card develops a fault (rare, but it does happen), you won’t lose everything you’ve shot.
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