Need advice on choosing a camera accessory? We take a look at some of the more common accessories that are available to help you take better photos or just make your photographic life easier.
Batteries are the most vital digital camera accessory, but are often overlooked when you buy a camera. The battery life of traditional 35mm cameras would sometimes last for several weeks, however, digital cameras are a completely different situation.
Typically, digital cameras often have their own matching Lithium-ion (Li-ion) rechargeable batteries, and come with a charger. However, some cameras use regular AA batteries, which can prove to be costly over time as they tend to run out of power quicker than Li-ion batteries.
Spare lithium-ion batteries are available for most camera brands, although the original manufacturer’s branded batteries may prove expensive, averaging around £30. Cheaper compatible batteries can often be found for around £10.
If your digital camera doesn't come with rechargeables, it's definitely worth buying a set of rechargeable nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) AA batteries. They're not too expensive, at around £15 including the charger, and they'll provide hundreds of charges before they need replacing.
In the long run, it's far cheaper, and more environmentally friendly, than buying disposables all the time. Aim for NiMH batteries with a capacity of at least 2000mAh for maximum life.
Conversion lenses, also called lens converters, are available for some compact digital cameras. Attach one to your camera's built-in lens and it changes its optical zoom range. There are telephoto converters that allow you to zoom further in, and wide-angle converters, that allow you to zoom further out.
Each DSLR camera brand has its own lens mount, and brands aren't interchangeable or compatible with other brands. Lens mounts can be categorised as Canon, Four-Thirds, Nikon, Pentax, Sigma, and Sony Alpha. However, lenses from brands such as Sigma and Tamron will fit other brands of camera using the right mount. DSLR lenses fall into the following categories:
Although the camera might be perfectly focused, sometimes when there's not much light or if you've zoomed right in, your photos might turn out blurry.
This is the curse of camera shake – sometimes even the smallest hand movements can affect the picture. To minimise camera shake electronically, find cameras with optical image stabilisation (OIS).
Putting the camera on a portable stand, such as a tripod, is one good solution, and will ensure your photos are as sharp as possible, especially if you're shooting at night or when shooting with slow-speed exposures. Here, we highlight three options:
A memory card reader, attached to your computer, is a better way of transferring photos from camera to computer than linking the two with a USB cable. It's quicker and saves camera battery life. Most memory card readers are pretty cheap, costing around £5.
Multi-card readers are also available. These can read many different types of card – useful if you have several cameras or electronic devices that use different types of memory cards. Most can read standard Secure Digital (SD) and high capacity (SDHC), Compact Flash (CF), Memory Stick (MS) and xD cards.
Sometimes, the flash on your camera might not be powerful enough for your needs – a typical digital camera flash will illuminate your subject within a range of a few metres of the camera only (this is why most pictures from the stands at night-time football matches come out looking foggy and unclear).
Some higher-end cameras come with a hotshoe on the top onto which you can fit an external flash and other accessories. An external flash will give you a bigger flash range and illuminate subjects that are a bit further away. Also, you can usually change the direction of the flash. External flashes also have the advantage that they have more stamina (or recycling time), so you can take more consecutive flash photos without waiting for the flash to recharge.
Flashguns use their own batteries, usually AA, saving your digital camera's batteries. Plus, as the flash is further from the lens, the incidence of red-eye is reduced.
For DSLR cameras, each manufacturer has its own range of external flashguns, and these aren't usually interchangeable between brands.
The major branded flashgun product ranges are:
Flashguns can attach via various methods:
Hotshoe – the most common type, a small mounting point in the shape of a 'U' that provides electrical contact for a flash attachment.
Ring flash – provides an even light source around the lens, eliminating shadows and ideal for macro or fashion photos.
Twin flash – similar to a ring flash, but with two flash units.
Hammerhead – often high-powered, these sit on brackets to the side of the camera body, giving off-centred lighting.
A good camera case or bag will protect your camera from scratches, knocks, bumps and some drops. Some are also waterproof – good for that unexpected shower or extreme weather conditions.
They fall into the following categories: