If you're shopping for camera accessories or gifts for a photographer, you've come to the right place! I've put together a list of my essential camera accessories I never leave home without. From filters to tripods, batteries to storage, there's something for everyone here, plus some bonus coffee action at the end! And best of all, most of the items are priced in the affordable double-figures.
As always if you find my reviews useful, you can support me when you shop at Amazon or B&H by clicking through to them using the links below when you're shopping. Alternatively why not buy me a coffee at my favourite cafe via paypal? Be sure to tell me what you'd like me to order and feel free ask me any questions! I really do appreciate your support!
|Feisol TT-15 mini tripod
This is my number one accessory, the Ferrari of table-top tripods! If you're like me, you probably don't want to lug a full-sized tripod everywhere, but it's still nice to have the option to shoot a long exposure, film some steady video or simply snap a selfie. Table-top tripods are the answer for portability, but many are too flimsy for serious use.
Not so with the Feisol TT-15 Mark II, which is built like a high-end tripod with carbon fiber legs that angle out to 25, 50 or 75 degrees to adjust the height between 5.3 and 14.4cm. At their widest position, I've successfully filmed loads of video and shot long exposures of several minutes using high-end mirrorless cameras, and once folded back, you'll barely notice its 16cm / 6.3in length and 180g / 6.4oz weight in your bag. I literally take this everywhere!
|Anker PowerCore 10000 portable USB battery
Another fixture in my bag is a portable USB battery pack. I originally bought these to recharge hungry phones when out all day, but now find myself using them equally to top-up the increasing number of cameras which can be charged internally over USB. It's not just compact point-and-shoot cameras either: Fujifilm's XT2 can be charged over USB and Sony's mirrorless cameras can even be powered over USB - it's just so convenient to give the batteries a boost between shoots without seeking out AC power.
My preferred brand is Anker and I've found their PowerCore 10000 strikes a good balance between portability and capacity, although they also offer smaller and lighter, or heftier options if preferred. Look out for the latest version that supports QuickCharge 3 in order to replenish new devices as quickly as possible.
|Western Digital My Passport portable hard drive
Photographers can never have too much storage, and the ability to backup and transport your digital photo and video collection in a convenient manner cannot be under-estimated.
Enter Western Digital's My Passport series of portable hard disks.
They use low-powered laptop hard drives, which means they're not just small and light, but can also be powered by a single USB port, eliminating the need to carry a separate power supply. The Passport drives come in 1, 2, 3 or 4TB capacities, allowing you to pack-in a vast amount of data and they support USB 3 for quick transfers. I personally prefer the smallest 1TB models as they're very affordable and let you spread your data across multiple drives rather than literally putting all your eggs in one basket.
Best of all, it's small size and light weight means you'll happily take it everywhere you go. I know I do: my pair of 1TB portable drives have accompanied me on every trip since I bought them, whether it's flying-off on holiday or simply heading out for a local shoot. After all, a backup is only a true backup if it's kept separate from the original.
Giottos AA1900 Rocket Air Blower
Dust is the bane of every interchangeable lens camera. It gets into your camera body when you change lenses and settles on the filter in front of your sensor, casting shadows onto it. The result? Annoying dark fuzzy patches on your photos. Most interchangeable lens cameras feature anti-dust features but few have proven 100% effective, so the simple fact is at some point you will need to manually intervene.
One of the simplest but most effective ways to get rid of dust is with a few well-placed gushes from a blower, and they don’t come better than Giottos Rocket Air. Shaped like something Tin-Tin might pilot to the Moon, the Rocket Air Blower delivers powerful gushes of air which should dislodge all but the most stubborn particles. They’re also great for getting rid of dust from nooks and crannies of other components - and stood vertically on its tail fins, they look pretty cool too.
Giottos offers produces several versions of the Rocket in different sizes, with the largest AA1903 model delivering the most powerful blast. Not far behind it though is the AA1900 model, featured here, which I’ve found more than capable while remaining portable. I never leave home without it!
Manfrotto 055 tripod review
A decent tripod is an important accessory for any photographer. Along with holding your camera steady and taking the load off your own shoulders, a tripod can often make you think more carefully about your composition. They’re absolutely invaluable, but the key is to buy a good model.
Cheap and flimsy tripods invariably disappoint, and if you can’t stretch to a decent model, I’d recommend checking out a good table-top model like the Feisol TT-15 instead - see above.
Manfrotto (previously known in some regions as Bogen) produces some of the best tripods in the world with a wealth of models to choose from. All but the cheapest models are sold in two parts: the legs and the head, allowing you to find a combination which exactly matches your needs.
If you have a small camera then the 190 series of legs will be more than sufficient, but if you have a larger camera or are thinking of using heavier lenses, then it's well worth going for the stronger 055 series instead. Indeed Manfrotto seems to want you to go for the bigger model too, since the prices between the 055 and 190 series can be very close these days. The 055 series also has the benefit of being tall enough for most photographers without needing to raise the centre column, thereby maximising stability. Those with bigger budgets who like to travel light should also consider the carbon-fiber versions of either the 190 or 055 legs. Remember whether you go for a 190 or an 055, you will need a separate head, and two of the most popular options are right below. Note some deals may include a head as a bundle.
Manfrotto 322RC2 ball head
The beauty of a decent tripod system is being able to buy the legs and heads separately. Not only does this allow you to choose the perfect combination for your needs, it also allows you to own multiple heads and swap them for different types of work.
You have to start somewhere though, and one of the most popular all-round Manfrotto heads is the 322RC2 grip ball model which allows you to quickly and easily adjust your camera’s position with just one hand; if you have a bigger camera, you may prefer the stronger 327RC2.
There are of course several other heads I can recommend depending on your requirements. If you prefer a traditional three-axis model, the 460MG is light, flexible, and one of my personal favourites. If you’re into video, you’ll need a fluid head with smooth panning action, such as the 701HDV, or if you need absolute technical precision, a geared head like the 410 is ideal. If money is tight, the basic 056 Junior head is a good, albeit basic choice, although remember you can always upgrade the head later. If you're looking for a ball head, check out the option below!
Manfrotto 496RC2 ball head
Arguably the most popular and versatile type of tripod head is the ball and socket. By mounting the camera on a smooth ball, you can easily point it in any direction before then turning a screw to lock it in place. If the friction is set just right you can also make subtle readjustments without having to unlock and relock again.
Ball and socket heads are available at all price points, but it's important not to skimp or you'll end up with one that doesn't move smoothly or lock securely. It's also critical to buy one which can support the weight of your heaviest gear.
If you're shooting with lighter system cameras or budget DSLRs with kit lenses, then Manfrotto's 496RC2 is a good starter option, but if you're using a heavier camera or some big lenses then I'd recommend spending a bit more on the 498RC2. Not only is it able to accommodate a heavier load, but also offers 360 degree panning with the main ball locked. This is great for shooting panoramas or even for panning during video, although if video is you're priority, a fluid video head remains a better choice like the 701HDV.
|Lee Big Stopper Neutral Density filter
I love long exposure photography as it's so easy to create an ethereal, dreamy effect without any post processing. All you need is a neutral density (ND) filter to soak up enough light to allow you to deploy exposures of several seconds or even several minutes.
If you're serious about long exposure photography, forget about three stop ND filters - what you really want is a ten-stop ND filter, and ideally one that's as high quality as you can afford. I shoot with Lee filters and use their Big Stopper ND filter for most of my long exposures - it's not cheap, but the results are fantastic. It's available in various sizes depending on your lenses, but I find I can exploit the compact and more affordable Seven5 version on most of my mirrorless systems. Be sure to also buy the correct adapter rings for your various lenses.
|Zoom H2n microphone / sound recorder
An increasing number of cameras are being equipped with microphone inputs. These let you connect an external microphone to record better sound quality during movies. If you're looking for a great external microphone which slides onto your camera's hotshoe I can highly recommend Rode's VideoMic Pro for interviews or the Stereo Video Mic for general and ambient stereo recordings.
The most important thing when recording audio though is getting the microphone as close as possible to the subject. You could use a long cable to connect an external microphone to a camera's mic input, but recently I've adopted the Hollywood approach of using a separate sound recorder and simply syncing the audio and video files when editing later.
Zoom offers a choice of three excellent sound recorders. At one end is the budget H1 and at the other is the professional H4n, but for me the perfect balance in price and performance is the H2n. This features no fewer than five microphone capsules for stereo or surround and records audio onto SD memory cards. While primarily designed as a sound recorder, you can also connect it direct to a camera or a computer (via USB) as an external microphone. An invaluable accessory I carry with me at all times.
|Aeropress Coffee maker
Regular readers of cameralabs will know I'm literally powered by coffee - that's what helps me write these huge reviews! Once you really get into coffee though, you quickly realize most cafes don't share the same passion or quality, so when I travel I make my own and by far the best portable coffee machine I've used is the Aeropress.
The coffee is brewed within the chamber, held by the vacuum of the plunger, before you push down through a paper filter into a mug below - it's like a stronger version of a pour-over with much less mess. Indeed I've become so fond of the Aeropress, it's become my main coffee machine at home as well as on the road. An essential device for all coffee lovers, especially combined with a good hand-grinder, see below.
|Porlex Mini Coffee Grinder
If you're into coffee, you simply have to grind it fresh - forget pre-ground or capsules, you really need to grind it immediately before use to get the most from the beans. But grinders vary in quality and ideally you want one with burrs which crush the beans rather than chopping them with a metal blade that heats up in use. Better still, the burrs should be conical in shape and made from ceramic, but if you want all that in an electric unit, you're looking at spending hundreds.
Luckily there's a budget answer: a hand-grinder like the Porlex Mini Grinder features ceramic conical burrs and will grind two shots worth of fine coffee in less than a minute - it's a lot quieter than an electric grunder too. Best of all, it's affordable and designed to slip inside the Aeropress for easy transportation. Perfect for travel, although again I use mine several times daily at home.
PS - I still love visiting good cafes though, so if you'd like to support my work, don't forget you can treat me to a coffee via PayPal!