16 Camera Accessories Every Beginner Must Own
So, you’ve just bought your first camera and now you’re thinking “what camera accessories do I need to buy?”. The problem is that there are so many out there it is very easy to get lost. To help point you in the right direction I’ve put together a list of 16 must have camera accessories I bought during my first year of photography. For each accessory below I’ve included exactly what I bought and why. If you want to see what I am currently using for my photography, you can visit my gear page here.
A Quality Camera Bag
The first camera accessory I bought was a camera bag. Unfortunately, I did not do my research beforehand. I bought a cheap bag from Amazon which was quickly replaced with something more functional. There is no such thing as a perfect camera bag, but there are things to bear in mind when you are purchasing one. You should think about where you are going to be using it. The type of camera bag you may want for a hike will be different from one that you would want to walk around a city with. The amount of equipment you want to carry at any one time is another. If you are starting photography, you may not have a lot of gear, but it will grow over time. Think about how long you may want to keep this bag for when assessing your options.
I own two camera bags and both suit a different purpose. The first I bought was a LowePro Tahoe 150. LowePro makes great quality camera bags and this is no exception. It is well padded and despite being small has enough room for a camera, several lenses, accessories, and a tablet. If you have a 2016+ 13-inch MacBook Pro you can also squeeze this into the tablet slot. The second is a Tenba BYOD 10. This is a camera insert which fits into a traditional hiking bag (mine is an Osprey Quasar). It is well padded but only has space for camera equipment, fitting a camera and 2-3 lenses.
If you want to see which camera bags are currently the best-selling on Amazon, click here
A Comfortable Camera Strap
If you’ve bought your camera new it likely included a lovely branded camera strap. But, once you’ve carried your camera around your neck for a few hours, you’ll be wishing you had something more comfortable. One of the other camera accessories I bought early on was the Peak Design Slide camera strap. I wanted something more versatile than a neck strap that would allow me to carry it in different ways. The Peak Design Slide strap fit the bill.
It is very well made, can be both a neck or shoulder strap and features Peak Design’s clip system. The clip system is great because it allows you to remove the strap from the camera easily, but also switch to other Peak Design accessories. This can include things such as the wrist strap. Since buying it I’ve become a big fan of Peak Design’s other products and recently purchased their Capture Clip.
If you want to see which camera straps are currently the best-selling on Amazon, click here
A Quality Tripod
If you want to do long exposures, light trails, HDR photography, or night/astrophotography, a quality tripod is a must. A tripod is something that you can use for years over many cameras, so it is an important accessory to invest in. I made the mistake of buying a cheap tripod from Amazon which I replaced within months. While the cheap tripod served a purpose at first, it was not well made or stable. This caused quite a few blurred photos in conditions it shouldn’t have done. I opted to invest in a quality tripod and chose the Manfrotto Element Traveller (Big). I chose this partly because of the price (sub £100) but also because of the quality Manfrotto is known for.
The Manfrotto is better than my original tripod in so many ways. It is far more stable, has a ball-head which is Arca-Swiss compatible, and is not much heavier. It has given me so much more flexibility and has helped me capture some amazing photographs.
When I want to travel a bit lighter, but still want to use a tripod, I also have the option of the Joby GorillaPod 3K. This is something I received as a gift last year and it is incredible for the size. While it isn’t the most stable, it allows you to travel light and put your camera in places a traditional tripod can’t go.
If you want to see which tripods are currently the best-selling on Amazon, click here
If you buy an Arca-Swiss compatible tripod, an L-Bracket is something you should consider. Before I got one it was an absolute pain to shoot anything vertically. I’d have to put the ball head into the little grove and have my camera hanging off the side of the tripod. With an L-Bracket, you turn the camera sideways and attach to the Arca-Swiss head. This makes it so easy to change between vertical and horizontal shooting and saves a bunch of time.
I bought the Pig-Iron L-Bracket for my Nikon D3400 and this has been great and even works with my Fuji X-T3. It is a universal L-bracket, but there are some that are specific to a camera model. When you are looking for an L-Bracket, be sure to see if you can find one specific for your camera or read the reviews on a universal one to see if it will fit your camera.
A 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 camera accessories I purchased. A lens hood does a few important things. It blocks stray light hitting the lens which can cause 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 from my own experience. Buy the manufacturers lens hood for your lens where possible. In some cases, cheaper third-party lens hoods can cause vignetting at wide focal lengths. If you are intent on a third-party option, go to a local camera shop and test for yourself. Here 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 to ensure it fits.
Filters can add a creative element and open up other types of photography. I currently own a set of filters from a company called Gobe. This 7-filter set consists of an ND1000 filter, Circular Polariser (CPL), UV Filter, and 4 coloured graduated filters. The two main filters I use are the ND1000 and CPL. The ND1000 filter is great for creating long exposures in conditions where this wouldn’t be possible (i.e. bright sunlight). I use the CPL filter to remove reflections off water and glass buildings as well as darken skies. I’ve used the coloured graduated filters from time to time, but they aren’t something I use a lot.
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. These are usually cheaper, but you’re limited on the number of lenses you can use them on. Square-based filters are more expensive and require a dedicated holder, but all your filters will work on any lens.
A Rocket Blower
You’ve 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 least invasive ways of cleaning your sensor is to use a rocket blower. A rocket blower is an inexpensive accessory and can be effective at removing dust spots by blowing them off your sensor. You can also use one to blow the 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.
If a rocket blower isn’t removing stubborn dust spots, there are other ways to clean your camera sensor. Unfortunately, as I found out, there are 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 want to try this for yourself, you can buy specialised camera sensor cleaning kits. The kit I bought was from a company called UES on Amazon who sells kits for both APS-C and full-frame cameras. Each kit comes with several vacuum-packed swabs, cleaning solution, and instructions on how to clean your sensor.
From my own personal experience as long as you take your time and follow the instructions, this is something you can do yourself.
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 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 wipes away stubborn marks and grease. Once you replace the cap on the carbon-charged end, the cap provides more carbon to the tip allowing you to use it again and again.
You can’t use these forever though and it is 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.
Extra Memory Cards
It is always good to carry a few extra 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 a moment. When buying memory cards there are a few things to bear in mind:
Memory Card Type – There are a few different types of memory card which include SD cards, CFexpress, CF, XQD and others. It is important to check what type of memory card your camera users, so you buy the correct one.
Memory Card Speed – Not all memory cards are born equal and some memory cards are much faster than others, even if they are the same type. This can have a knock-on effect on the usability of your camera. Using a slow SD card will cause the buffer on your camera to fill up fast which will stop you from shooting. This is because the camera cannot write to the memory card quick enough resulting in it having to stop. Always buy the fastest memory cards you can.
Memory Card Capacity – The amount of capacity a memory card has relates to the number of images it can store. Cameras have continued to increase their megapixel count which has resulted in larger image and video sizes. Having a higher capacity memory card allows you to capture more. But there is a trade-off. The bigger the memory card, the more potential there is to lose a lot of photos/videos. There is a balance to be had between high capacity cards and having several lower capacity cards. Put some thought into how you will manage this when picking your memory cards.
So far, I’ve only bought SanDisk cards and am currently using five SanDisk Extreme Pro 64gb 170MBs cards. These have been great for me so far and I have had no problems. There are plenty of other brands that make quality cards such as Lexar, PNY and Sony. I wouldn’t recommend buying cheaper/no-brand cards as they are prone to failure. You’ve spent a lot of money on your camera, and you don’t want to lose your images.
A Memory Card Wallet
Once you have gotten many memory cards, you are going to need somewhere to store them. A memory card wallet is a great way of protecting them and should be in your list of camera accessories. You want to find a wallet which offers protection from drops and falls as well as from liquid damage should the wallet get wet. These could be dedicated memory card wallets or part of a larger carry case. Two good examples are this one from Ecofused, and the Beeway Tough memory cardholder.
A Memory Card Reader
While you can plug your camera into your computer to get to your photos, I’ve found this to be very cumbersome. I’ve also tried Bluetooth and Wi-Fi transfer methods but have also found these to be slow. One of the best ways to get to your photos is to use a memory card reader. These are very versatile and are faster than other transfer methods. Be sure to buy one which can support the type of memory card you are using and that has a fast connection to the computer. As I use a MacBook, I am using a Letscom USB-C dongle which features an SD card slot.
Remote Shutter Release
If you are doing any photography using a tripod a remote shutter release should be very high up your camera accessory list. They allow you to keep your hands off the camera when using a tripod, removing the need to press the shutter. You could use a 2-second timer, but you are adding a delay to taking your photograph, meaning you may miss the moment.
Remote shutters come in a few varieties but are usually wired or wireless depending on the model of your camera. My Nikon D3400 did not have a port for a wired shutter release, so I opted for an Amazon Basics IR shutter release. One of the downsides is that you need to point it at the camera. If you can get a wired release such as this one, I would recommend it.
Spare batteries are essential if you are somebody who likes to travel 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 swap them out and carry on. I got caught out in Norway and missed 30 minutes of the brightest Northern Lights we had seen on the trip. The weather was so cold that the battery on my camera died within 2 hours. If I’d had a spare battery, I would have been able to carry on.
Moral of the story, if you do not have spare batteries, consider picking up a few. I’d recommend getting official ones for your camera if you can, but third-party options are available. With third party batteries, don’t expect them to give you the same level of performance as an official battery.
USB Battery Charger
This handy device is what saved me in Norway. With no plug insight, I was able to plug this into my power bank and charge my battery. There aren’t many official USB chargers so you may need to look at a third-party option. The one I purchased was from Duracell but there are a lot of other brands that also make these. I’m fortunate that my Fuji X-T3 can be charged by USB so no longer need this.
A Power Bank
This is one of the first things that go into my camera bag after my camera. It has been useful not only as a way to charge my camera but also my other devices such as my phone. It isn’t really a camera accessory but something that should be in everyone’s camera bag. As with most electronics these days, there are a lot of different brands out there that make Power Banks. Some that I’ve had personal experiences with are from EC Technologies and Anker (they may be different in your location). Both were over 20,000mAh and solid devices capable of charging multiple devices at once. I’d aim for at least 10,000 mAh at least to give you flexibility between recharging.
So that brings me to the end of my 16 “must-have” camera accessories based on my first year of photography. If you think anything is missing from the list, I’d love to hear what you think in the comments. Happy shooting!
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