If you’ve ever popped into a photography store you’ll know that there’s a huge array of camera accessories that are designed to help you capture better images or carry your camera more comfortably. These accessories make great gifts for photographers, but if you’re not a photographer yourself, it’s hard to know what to chose. And if you are, with so many options available, it can be difficult to pick the wheat from the chaff. Thankfully here at Jabber HQ, we get hands-on with a huge range of kit so we can advise. With that in mind, here’s our buyers’ guide to the best camera accessories on the market right now.
Strap: Peak Design Slide Lite
Although a strap is supplied in the box with a camera, they’re not usually the best devices. They’re often a pain to attach and remove, and they can lack grip or are only suitable for hanging over your shoulder. For this reason, many photographers invest in a third party strap. There are lots on the market, but the Peak Design Slide Lite is our current favourite.
Peak Design makes three traditional-style straps, the Slide, the Leash and the Slide Lite. The Slide is the widest of the three while the Leash is the thinnest. Which means the Slide Lite sits in the middle. It’s billed as a strap for mirrorless cameras and small DSLRs, but we’ve found it works with quite a iwde range of cameras.
Helpfully, the Slide Lite’s length can be adjusted quickly and easily between 99cm and 145cm. That makes it useful for use around your neck, on your shoulder or across your body.
Another neat feature is that it attaches to a camera via Peak Design’s Anchors. These thread onto a camera’s strap lugs or they can attach via the supplied low-profile metal Anchor Mount that fixes in the tripod bush.
The Anchors snap quickly onto the strap and can be removed just as easily – which is handy if you want to support the camera on a tripod and you don’t want the strap to waft about in the wind.
Although it’s a very functional strap, the Slide Lite looks good and is available in black or Ash colours.
Sometimes you need to carry two cameras rather than constantly swap between long and short lenses. The BlackRapid Double Breathe is the perfect choise for those occassions. It’s bascially two BlackRapid Sport Breathes joined together so that one camera is on your left and the other on your right. Each camera is attached via their tripod mount.
The Double Breathe has two shoulder pads to spread the weight of the cameras. Chest and back straps keep the 2.5cm wide straps together while the cameras hang at the lowest point of the webbing.
A snap fastening makes the chest strap easy to undo so you can take the Double Breathe off quickly and easily. And at the back, the lower strap is elasticated to add a little more comfort.
The suppled screw mounts fastened to the cameras’ tripod mounts and then lockable carabineers link them to the Double Breathe.
Camera manufacturers may be trying to extend battery life, but digital cameras still chomp their way through battery power at a fair lick. And increasingly, we’re seeing USB charging being featured and now battery charger supplied in the camera box. While this can be convenient for travel, without a battery charger you’re stumped if you want to shoot with one battery while you charge another.
The Hahnel Pro Cube 2 is a great solution.
Firstly, the Hahnel Pro Cube 2 has two battery slots so you can charge two batteries at a time. But if you only need to charge one, that’s fine too. Also, the battery plates are interchangeable you can use one charge a range of batteries. Hahnel supplies the Pro Cube 2 with battery plates/trays for a specific camera brand, plus a 4x AA tray.
The AA battery charge just slots on top of the camera battery tray. If you need to swap to a different camera battery tray, just reach for the supplied pin (or a straightened paper clip), push it in the hole to release the tray and click in the one you need. Easy.
Helpfully, a small display on the front of the charger keeps you informed about the battery status.
We loved the Profoto A1 and now the A1X has come along offering better battery life and a tweaked interface.
Its rechargeable battery lasts for 100 more full-power flashes than the A1, 450 vs 350. The recycling time is also reduced to 1sec, down from 1.2sec with the A1. The number of wireless channels has also been increased from 8 to 20 and the interface display is more similar to that of the Profoto B10 studio light.
The real beauty of the Profoto A1X, as with the A1, is its was of use. The interface is straightforward and the controls simple but effective.
It’s not the cheapest flash around but it comes with a rechargeable battery and charger and a collection of modifiers that have magnets so they snap onto the light.
Profotos’s Air-TTL technology is built in so you can use an A1X to trigger other A1Xs (or A1s), or it can be trigger by a Profoto AirRemote.
While the A1 is available for Canon and Nikon cameras, the A1X is available for Canon, Nikon and Sony.
Flash Modifier: MagMod Starter Kit
The light from most flashguns can be harsh and unattractive so it usually needs some form of diffusion by a modifier. The Profoto A1X is a notable exception and it comes with its own range of modifiers in the box.
Some flash modifiers take a bit of setting up or use troublesome rubber bands or noisy velcro. The MagMod system uses an ingenious grip that slips over the end of your flashgun and houses a couple of magnets. These then allow the MagMod modifiers like the MagSphere or MagGrip to be popped on and off very quickly. You just leave the grip in place ready for the next time you need to use a modifier.
MagMod’s modifiers have proved a huge hit with wedding and social photographers because of their ease of use and the soft light they produce without losing lots of flash power. They get our vote too.
Travel Tripod: 3 Legged Thing Punks Brian
A travel tripod is a great addition to your kit. It can transform your holiday photos so you get super-sharp night-shots, perfect self-portraits and awesome long exposures. And the 3 Legged Thing Punks Brian is an excellent choice. It packs down to 41cm yet has a maximum height of 1.87m and can support a load of up to 14Kg.
There’s also a reversible centre column that enables low-level shooting and a removable leg which transforms into a monopod.
A wireless remote helps you capture perfectly sharp, shake-free images. However, a wireless remote like the Hahnel Captur Timer Kit can do a bit more besides. There’s a built-in interval timer, for example, that enables you to shoot timelapses. It means you’ll be able to create stunning short videos of events that normally take place over a long period of time – sunsets can be compressed into seconds, for example.
It can also help with timing long exposures for streaked clouds or smooth water.
Hahnel offers the Captur Timer Kit for Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, Olympus and Sony cameras.
Variable ND Filter: B+W XS-Pro Digital ND Vario MRC Nano
If you’re getting into video you’ve probably discovered that it can be hard to maintain a constant shutter speed and aperture when you’re shooting outside. The variation in the light means the exposure keeps changing and that has an impact upon the look of your footage. A variable ND filter allows you to even out those changes so you can maintain the same shutter speed and aperture throughout.
Schneider Optics’ B+W XS-Pro Digital ND Vario MRC Nano is a great variable ND filter. Its Multi-Resistant Coating that repels rain and sea spray and reduce ghosting and reflections to ensure high-quality results.
It’s also available in thread sizes from 52-82mm and provides between 1 and 5EV of light reduction.
Photographers are always in search of the perfect bag and often have a few to cover all eventualities. The Vanguard Alta Sky 45D, however, is a versatile bag that could be the answer you’ve been looking for.
It’s got plenty of well-padded space to carry your camera gear, plus lots of pockets to stash accessories and essentials like your passport. There’s also a convenient point to mount a tripod. Crucially, the straps are wide and extremely well-padded so they’re comfortable even when the bag is fully-laden.
Billingham’s Hadley One is aimed at photographers with a mirrorless camera or a small to medium size DSLR. It has an unrivalled finish with fabulous attention to detail, while the durable brass locks and leather straps mean this is a bag that will last you a long time. In fact, Ali has been using a Hadley for 20 years.
There’s more than enough room to carry a DSLR with a 24-70mm lens attached and a long lens like a 100-400mm. Plus there are two front pockets to hold a few accessories.
The Rotolight Neo 2 is a LED light, as well as being a constant light, it can be used as a flash. And not just any old flash, it can be used in high-speed sync (HSS) mode to sync with shutter speeds of up to 1/8000 sec with no recycling time.
If you want the HSS functionality, you’ll need a wireless trigger like the Rotolight HSS Transmitter by Elinchrom. This is available for Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus/Panasonic and Fujifilm cameras. The transmitter links to the Skyport receiver that’s built-in the Neo 2. Some third-party transmitters are also compatible, but they don’t enable some of the remote control that the Rotolight unit does.
Helpfully, the Neo 2 also has a 3.5mm sync port. This means you can also use a cable connection to your camera, however, the shutter speed is limited to the camera’s standard sync speed. Typically, that’s up to a maximum of 1/250sec.
Of course, many people are more interested in the Rotolight Neo 2’s constant light capability. This is especially useful with mirrorless cameras because their live-view-enabled electronic viewfinder lets you see the image as it will be captured. Also, the Neo 2 is small and light enough to be mounted in the camera’s hotshoe, which is ideal for video.
Conveniently, the Neo 2 is a bicolour light so you can adjust the colour range between 3150K and 6300K to suit the conditions.
The Rotolight Neo 2 is convenient and easy to use. What’s more, its colour accuracy is good and you don’t find it drifting during a shoot. It’s the same with the brightness, it stays at the set value and there’s no flickering evident in video.
If you’re getting into video you’ll know that the mics built into most cameras are fine for recording a bit of ambient sound, but they’re not much cop with dialogue. The simplest way to improve the audio is to plug a mic directly into your camera. A clip/lavalier or handheld mic is usually the best option for capturing a voiceover or piece to camera. However, that means you’ve got trailing cables which have a knack of getting in the way. If you’re not tripping over them, they’re too short or tangled. It doesn’t take long before you’re investigating wireless mic systems.
Our recommendation is that you cut straight to the Rode Wireless Go. It gets our thumbs up as the best mic right now.
If the thought of going for a wireless mic as your first camera microphone is a bit worrying, let us calm your fears. The Rode Wireless Go couldn’t be easier to use. Once you’ve charged the batteries in the receiver and transmitter, you just need to slip the transmitter in your camera’s hotshoe, connect it to the camera via the supplied cable, and power up both units. As soon as they’re turned on, the transmitter and receiver connect and you’re ready to roll.
Helpfully, Rode has included an omnidirectional mic in the transmitters. This means you can clip it on your clothes to record your voice. However, if you prefer, you can clip it on your belt/pocket and plug in a lavalier mic. We found it works very well whichever mic you opt for.
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Stabilising Gimbal: DJI Ronin-S
There was a lot of excitement about the arrival of DJI’s three-axis gimbal and it doesn’t disappoint. It delivers on its main aim of stabilising your camera to create, smooth, footage but it has lots more to offer. For instance, the handle has a joystick that enables you to change the camera position and there are buttons to allow you to select the SmoothTrack profiles and start and stop recording.
In addition, there’s a Focus Wheel that can mount on either side of the handle and the Push Mode lets you adjust the pan, tilt and roll axis by hand.
It can take a while to balance your camera in a gimbal and get everything set-up, but the Ronin-S is one of the easier models. Helpfully, it has an Auto-Tune function that monitors the motors and adjusts the strength and speed as required.
DJI also offers a companion smartphone app that extends the Ronin-S’s features with options such as Panorama, Motion lapsed, Timelapse and Track.
Further good news is that the battery lasts for 12 hours on a single charge.