If you have just bought your first DSLR or Mirrorless camera you might now be thinking “What accessories should I be buying for my new camera?”. The problem is that there are some many that if you aren’t sure what you need, you could end up spending a fortune on things you don’t. What I’d like to do is share 16 of what I consider “must have” accessories that I bought in my first year of photography. This list will hopefully give you a good starting point when figuring out what camera accessories you might need.
So, let’s get into it!
1. A Quality Camera Bag
One of the first things you will want to pick up after you have bought your camera is something to keep it in. A camera bag is one of those accessories that you can keep for a long time so it is important to think carefully about not only the gear you have now, but what you might have in the future. You will also want to think about how much gear you will want to carry at any one time as this will factor into the type of bag you should purchase. I didn’t factor these things in and have already bought two bags in the space of 12 months. My advice would be to give this some consideration and think about how much gear you might want to carry and whether you need space for things like a laptop/tablet. This should help you narrow down your search.
I am currently using the LowePro Tahoe BP 150 rucksack which is quite small as far as camera bags go. Despite this it gives me enough space for my camera, 3 lenses, as well as my accessories and a 10.5” iPad Pro if I want to carry it. It also has space on both sides for either a water bottle or tripod.
2. Camera Strap
It’s likely that if you bought your camera new it came with a nice branded neck strap. These are great for carrying your camera around, but if you are using a DSLR or have a large lens, you’ll find these straps will eventually begin to hurt your neck. One way around this is to use a shoulder-based camera strap such as this one. These are much more comfortable when compared to neck straps and allow you to carry your camera by your side rather than out in front. Now I’ve changed to using one, I can’t see myself going back to a neck-based strap.
This isn’t a necessary purchase but if you want to do long exposures, light trails, HDR photography, and night/astrophotography, a quality tripod is a must. Like a camera bag, a tripod is something that you can use for a long time over multiple cameras. So it is important to buy something quality that fits your needs. I made the mistake of buying a cheap tripod from Amazon which was replaced within months by my Manfrotto Element Traveller tripod. While the cheap tripod served a purpose initially, it was far from stable and its pan-head was cheap and difficult to use. In comparison, my Monfrotto is solidly built, has a ball head, is Arca-Swiss compatible, and can support much heavier cameras and lenses giving me flexibility I didn’t have before. This is one accessory not to cheap out on.
If you do decide to get a tripod, and it is Arca-Swiss compatible, an L-Bracket is something you should consider. Until I got this thing, I hated taking vertical images using my tripod. I had to reset the ball head every time and have my camera hanging off the side of the tripod. With an L-bracket it is incredibly easy to switch between horizontal and vertical shooting. You can quickly attach the camera to the tripod using either the bottom or side of the L-Bracket meaning you do not have to adjust the head of your tripod.
There are many different brands of L-Bracket you can buy, some of which will be specific to your model of camera. Despite that, I went for one of the universal L-Brackets from a company called Pig Iron but there are a lot of others on places like Amazon that will do a good job for you.
5. Lens Hood
While most lenses come with one as standard, chances are if you bought your camera with a kit lens you won’t have one. You might not think you need a lens hood, but it was one of the first accessories I purchased. A lens hood does a few important things such as blocking stray light hitting the lens causing flare and protects the lens element should you drop your camera. It can also result in your photos having richer colours and deeper saturation.
A word of warning however from my own experience. Buy the manufacturers lens hood for your lens where possible (for me it was the Nikon HB-N106). In some cases, cheaper third-party lens hoods can cause vignetting at wide focal lengths. So, if you are intent on a third-party option, go to a local camera shop where you can make sure you get one that fits your lens and doesn’t cause vignetting. If you are purchasing a 3rd party lens hood, check the filter thread size of your lens and ensure it fits this.
Filters can add a creative element and open -up other types of photography for you. I bought a set of filters from Gobe but the two that I use the most are the 10 stop neutral density filter (ND Filter) and the circular polariser filter (CPL Filter). The 10 stop ND filter is great for creating long exposures in conditions where this wouldn’t typically be possible (i.e. bright sun light), while the CPL filter is used to mainly remove glare/reflections off water and glass buildings. You can also use it to remove reflections if you are shooting through glass, provided you are not shooting through it straight on. The Gobe set also includes a UV filter which I don’t use, and a set of coloured graduated filters which I have used sparingly but sometimes to good effect.
One thing to bear in mind when buying filters is the different types. You can buy both screw in filters as well as square filters. If you buy screw in filters like the Gobe ones I own, you need to buy ones for the filter thread of your lens. For my Sigma 17-50 f2.8 this was 77mm. One of the downsides of this, is that these filters can only be used on other lenses with a 77mm thread (unless you buy stepper adapters, but that is a whole other thing to get into). Square filters on the other hand can be used across multiple lenses because it is the filter holder that needs to be adapted for each lens you use. These systems are typically more expensive but can give you more flexibility.
7. Rocket Blower
You’ve just been out and got some amazing shots, but while editing you’ve found a series of spots on your photos!! These are likely dust spots and mean you need to clean your camera’s sensor. One of the easiest and lease invasive ways of cleaning your sensor is to use a rocket blower. A rocket blower is a relatively inexpensive accessory but can be very effective at removing dust spots by blowing them off your sensor. You can also use one to blow dust off your lenses and other camera gear if need be. A lot of companies make these, but the one I purchased was from Giottos.
8. Sensor Cleaners
If a rocket blower isn’t removing those stubborn dust spots, their are other ways to clean your camera sensor. Unfortunately, as I found out, there’s only a few right ways, and a lot of wrong ways to do this. If you are not comfortable cleaning your sensor, take your camera to a camera shop and pay for them to clean it. If you are and want to save yourself some money, you can buy specialised camera sensor cleaning kits for both APS-C and full frame sensors. The kit I bought was from a company called UES and was relatively inexpensive on Amazon. It comes with a series of vacuum-packed swabs, cleaning solution as well as instructions on to clean your sensor.
Another important cleaning accessory is a Lenspen. Sometimes you get marks on your lenses that you can’t blow off with a rocket blower and that is where a LensPen comes in. It is a double ended cleaner with one end being a soft bristled brush and the other a carbon-charged felt tip. The bristled end is great for wiping away loose dust while the carbon-charged end can be used for wiping away stubborn marks and grease from the lens. Once you replace the cap on the carbon-charged end, the cap provides more carbon ton the tip allowing you to use it again and again.
You can’t use these forever though and it is generally recommended that you change them every 100 cleanings. In terms of brand, I have only used the official Lenspen, so can’t recommend any cheaper alternatives.
10. Additional Memory Cards
It is always good to carry a few additional memory cards with you when you are travelling. Firstly, you don’t want to run out of space in the middle of your travels, especially if you don’t have a means of back-up. Secondly, memory cards do fail from time to time and by having spares you can keep on shooting and not miss the moment. I’ve only ever bought branded cards, opting typically for SanDisk and am currently using a few SanDisk Extreme Pro 170MBs cards.
11. Memory Card Wallet
Once you have gotten multiple memory cards, you are going to need somewhere to store them. A memory card wallet is as great way of protecting your memory cards and should be in your list of accessories.
Ideally, you want to find a memory card wallet which offers protection from drops and falls as well as from liquid damage should the wallet get wet. These could be stand alone dedicated memory card wallets, or part of a larger carry case which can house more than just memory cards. Two good examples are the this one from Ecofused and the Beeway Tough memory card holder, however you can find lots of others on Amazon.
12. Memory Card Reader
While you can plug your camera directly into a computer to download your photos, using a memory card reader is a much faster way of doing it. There are card readers for all different types of card formats, so it is best to check the type of cards your camera supports. I have a few card readers depending on the device I am downloading my photographs to. The first is my Apple Lightning to SD (USB3 Version) card reader. I do a lot of mobile editing using Lightroom CC on my iPad Pro so this comes in hand. To get photographs onto my desktop, I use an inexpensive USB3 Anker card reader which works great and allows me to use it on a number of devices.
13. Remote Shutter Release
If you are doing any photography using a tripod a remote shutter should be very high up your accessory list. They allow you to keep your hands off the camera when using a tripod, removing the need to physically press the shutter. Sure, you could use a 2 second timer, but you are then adding a delay to taking your photograph, meaning you may miss the moment.
Remote shutters come in a few varieties but are typically wired or wireless depending on the model of your camera. As my Nikon D3400 does not have a port for a wired shutter release, I opted for an Amazon Basics IR shutter release. One of the downsides is that you need to point this at the camera, so if you are able to get a wired release such as this one, I would recommend it.
14. Spare Batteries
Spare batteries are an essential accessory if you are somebody who likes to do a lot of travelling with your camera. While having the ability to charge a battery on the move can be useful, it also means that you must stop shooting. With spare batteries you can simply swap it out and carry on. One thing to also bear in mind is how the temperature affects battery performance. When I was photographing the Northern Lights in Norway the temperature was so cold that the battery on my camera died within 2 hours. I unfortunately didn’t have a spare battery and missed around 30 mins of what was one of the brightest Northern Lights displays we’d seen on our trip. Once I’d managed to get some more charge I carried on, but by that time I’d missed the best of it.
Moral of the story, if you do not have spare batteries, consider picking up a few. Generally, I recommend getting the official ones for your camera, but third-party options are also available. With third party batteries, however, do not expect them to give you the same level of performance as an official battery.
15. USB Battery Charger
If your camera doesn’t allow you to charge its battery by USB, having a USB camera battery charger gives you another way to charge when you are away from a plug socket. This can become handy in lots of scenarios, especially if you couple it with a power bank as it gives you the ability to charge anywhere. Unfortunately, you may struggle to find any official camera battery chargers that allow USB charging, so you may need to go for a third-party option. The one I purchased was from Duracell but there are a lot of other brands that also make these.
16. Power Bank
My power bank is always in my camera bag and I’ve always found it incredibly useful wherever I go. As well as being able to charge my phone and tablet, I’m also able to use it with my Duracell (Nikon) battery charger which allows me to charge me camera battery without being tied to a wall socket. This has got me out of a few jams, such as when my camera battery ran out of juice photographing the Northern Lights in Norway. I was able to quickly get this connected and back shooting within 20-30 mins. If you had a spare battery, you could also use a power bank to charge your original while you shoot on your spare.
As with most electronics these days, there are a lot of different brands out there that make Power Banks. Some of the ones with the best reviews come from companies such as Anker and EC Technology. Aim for one with more than 10,000 mAH to give you more flexibility between charges.
So that brings me to the end of my 16 “must have” camera accessories based on my first year of photography. If you think there is anything missing from the list I’d love to hear what you think in the comments.
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