Whether you just picked up Panasonic’s amazing Lumix DMC-LX3 or dropped some more coin for a starter DSLR like Sony’s excellent DSC-HX1, your investment is far from over. Now that you’ve got the camera, it’s time to get the gear for it. From flash cards to cases, we’ve compiled a list of all the most useful accessories to deck out your new digital shooter.
Now that you’ve got all your accessories are you feeling up for a new camera? Then check out our best digital cameras list as picked by our reviewers.
Cases and Bags
A pocket may make a handy place to hide your camera in a pinch – especially if you shelled out for a super-slim model – but after making friends with keys, coins and all the other junk that calls your Levis home, even the toughest camera casings will emerge scuffed and battered. Which is why picking a quality camera case is one of the wisest investments you can make in the longevity of your gear. (And if you own a DSLR, pockets aren’t an option anyway.) If you’re still looking to go lightweight, look for a thin sleeve, like this Olympus model, or a hard case with a belt loop to wear it on your waist. For larger digicams and DSLRs, you may want to consider a larger case with room for lenses, batteries, chargers, cables and other accessories, like Sony’s LCS-AMSC30, tailored specifically for its Alpha DSLRs. Buying from the company that makes your camera may cost a little more, but the fit and finish will often be better than buying a generic model.
You don’t need to be a professional capturing football players from 100 yards away to need or appreciate a good tripod. Even amateurs will benefit from the ability to compose a scene from a fixed position, and the steadiness will help eliminate the blur from scenes you could never quite capture right by hand. For those spontaneous snaps that just need a steady vantage point, or if you’re using the timer and just need the camera held still so you can get in the picture, consider a mini tripod like Canon’s inexpensive Mini Tripod 7. Moving up to something taller, you’ll want to pay attention to the weight of the tripod, the weight of the camera it can hold, and the piece the camera pivots on, which is called the head. Inexpensive tripods may have this piece permanently attached, while pro equipment will allow you to swap different heads. That might mean anything from spending $145 for an aluminum Cullman 3430 with a head, to dropping $600 or more on a Gitzo carbon fiber model that you’ll drop a few hundred more to outfit with a head.
The lens that comes on a point-and-shoot cam is the lens you’re stuck with. But many people don’t realize that you can still find aftermarket lenses to modify these cameras for a wider angle, more zoom, and other optical tricks. For instance, Canon makes an array of adapters to fit wide/tele converters onto even some of its cheapest cameras, like the PowerShot A650 IS. Some aftermarket manufacturers have even compensated for the non-threaded lenses on point-and-shoot cams with special magnetic lenses that pop on and off the camera using a magnetic ring, rather than threads.
If, on the other hand, you own a DSLR, your choice of lenses and adapters are almost limitless. Since the complexity of selecting a lens for a DSLR is well beyond the scope of this article – and prices soar into the thousands – we recommend checking out a more comprehensive guide, like the Digital Camera Resource Page’s lens buyer’s guide.
Batterys & Chargers
The typical digital camera may stay charged just fine for a day of shooting on the town or two hours of non-stop shooting at a soccer game, but for vacations and extended periods away from home, you may need to rethink your power situation. Unfortunately, since most cameras won’t recharge via a standard USB cable, the only options are usually spare batteries or lugging the proprietary charger around. If you invest in a spare battery, you can sometimes save money by going with an aftermarket model, like one from eBay, rather than one from the original camera manufacturer. If you have a budget camera that uses AA batteries, your spare options are even cheaper, and you can find chargers to top the batteries off in the sun, in the car, and even from a laptop’s powered USB port.
Here’s an accessory so unique it deserves its own category. Eye-Fi’s Home card essentially makes any SD-capable digital camera wireless, allowing it upload photos directly to sites like Kodak Gallery automatically, as soon as it detects a Wi-Fi network in range. No more swapping SD cards or plugging in USB cables. All your photos make it online with zero effort.
Next time your vacation slideshow viewers ask exactly where in Costa Rica the waterfall in your photo is, you’ll be able to tell them. Down to the exact latitude and longitude. By logging GPS coordinates as you shoot, geotagging devices are able to automatically attach location data to individual pictures by syncing up the time code on the GPS log with the time code on the picture. Afterward, you can upload them to the likes of Flickr, or Picasa, and view them on a map. Plugging an SD card into ATP’s Photo Finder after turning it on while shooting will automatically tag the pictures on the card. Pros can also use a device like Jobo’s photoGPS to record coordinates via a hot shoe while shooting.
Digital Photo Frames
Can you really consider a frame a digital camera accessory? Absolutely. Because unless you’re sending all 1,492 shots from your trip to Italy off to a developer for printing, a frame is the next best way to show them off. Inexpensive models like Samsung’s SPF-71E will get the job done, but high-end frames like Kodak’s W1020 really bring things to the next level with built-in Wi-Fi. In the case of the W1020, this allows it to pull photos directly from online galleries like Kodak Gallery, keeping your photos constantly refreshed.
Your camera already came with a USB cable to transfer files, so why bother with a card reader? Besides being an almost negligible expense, they’ll accept up to 20 different types of cards (depending on the model you buy), prevent you from having to fire up the camera to transfer files, and in many cases, work faster. Kingston’s brick-like 19-in-1 model makes a good option if you need overall compatibility, but a smaller SD-only reader like this model from Transcend will fit into a much smaller package.
Buying a larger memory card probably has a better cost to return than any other accessory in this round up. Gigabytes are your ammo as a photographer, and they’re cheap to stock up on. An enormous 4GB SD card that will easily store hundreds of high-resolution photos can be had for as little as $10. Just keep in mind that storage capacity isn’t the only spec to pay attention to. Speed classes determine how quickly each card can write data. A Class 2 SD card, for instance, can move 2MB per second, while a Class 6 handles 6MB per second. Point-and-shoot cameras recording compressed JPEGs usually won’t run into barriers, even slow cards, but high-end DSLRs writing RAW image files in quick succession will need pricier cards to handle the output.
You need a spot to store your camera when you’re not out shooting anyway, so it might as well charge and connect to your PC while it’s there, right? Much like the aforementioned Eye-Fi card, a good dock eases the process of dumping photos from camera to computer. Just plop the camera down in it, press a button, and the photos are transferring to your PC while the battery automatically fills back up. Though HP formerly manufactured a handful of docks, it has since discontinued them, leaving Kodak as the only company continuing to produce and support both cameras and the EasyShare docks that go with them.
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