Home Gear Accessories 10 Accessories To Choose And Use
Friday, May 4, 2007

10 Accessories To Choose And Use

Filters, field storage, tripods, cleaning kits and more—the essential items for a digital photographer

SanDisk 12-In-One-Card ReaderCard Reader
These little devices are the fastest way to import image files into your computer. This must-have item will save you a lot of time and effort. A card reader can import files much faster than your camera. The other benefit is that you don't have to pull your camera out every time you want to do a transfer, and you don't have to worry about battery power in the camera running out while doing the transfer (which can corrupt a memory card).

Rechargeable BatteriesRechargeable Batteries
Extra rechargeable batteries are something you should always bring along—at least one complete set per device. If you don't, too often fate will ensure that your camera or one of your electronic devices will run out of power at exactly the moment you need it most.

On long outings or at locations where there's no access to direct power, a portable power supply that can run all of your electronic devices is advisable. You can get special portable battery units that will power cameras, cell phones, portable hard drives, camcorders, laptops and more.

King Cobra Action HeadTripod Heads
There are two basic types of tripod heads—a pan-and-tilt head and a ballhead. The advantage of a ballhead is that you can quickly move the camera in all manner of directions and angles. If you need to keep your camera level to the horizon, this can be a disadvantage, though. Once you loosen the head and move your camera, it moves in all dimensions and can be hard to keep steady in one dimension.

A pan-and-tilt head doesn't have this problem. Once you're level to the horizon, you can tilt along one axis without losing your line. The disadvantage is that adjustments can take longer. Which is best is really a matter of personal preference. Each one is extremely useful for certain types of working and capturing shots; you need to try them out to see which works better for you.

Additionally, there are specialty heads, such as gimbal heads, fluid heads and panoramic heads. Gimbal heads are specifically made to allow easy panning and other movements when using large, heavy telephoto lenses. Fluid heads are mainly for video, but they're sometimes used by photographers because of their ultrasmooth panning. Then there's the panoramic heads, which allow you to pivot the camera around a fixed axis with preset stops for the number of shots with which you want to capture a scene.

The polarizer, neutral-density (ND) and graduated neutral-density (grad) filters are three key filters you should own. Polarizers deepen the blue of the sky when you're shooting at 90 degrees to the sun, making clouds pop. They also reduce reflections on glass, increase contrast and saturate colors. This is because they reduce the amount of reflected light coming off the elements in a particular scene, whether it's leaves, flowers, water, rocks and so on.

Neutral-density filters are colored with a specific density of neutral black tint, reducing brightness without affecting color. In bright-light conditions, this will give you more options for wider apertures or slower shutter speeds for special effects.

A graduated neutral-density filter has no tint on one half and tint on the other, with a gradual blend across the center (different versions have different amounts of gradation). This can be especially useful when one region of a scene is significantly brighter than the rest. A bright sky with a dark landscape is a typical problem. Line up the shaded half of the grad with the sky, and you can properly expose both simultaneously.

A Heliopan digital filter can also help you. Digital image sensors are highly sensitive to UV radiation from the sun and IR radiation from artificial lights. A Heliopan digital filter blocks both of those while also protecting the front of your lens. The result will be improved sharpness and color separation.


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