There are a few essential accessories the photographer needs to add to his or her camera bag, but there are many things that not essential; they just add interest to the process of taking pictures. Although I call them toys, most of these devices will extend the photographer’s capabilities & improve the resulting photographs. Although most of these devices are designed for the DSLR user, Point & Shoot photographers will find some of them useful as well.
First, you might take the time to read my articles on two of the essential devices I feel all photographers should have, the tripod & filters.

Click “Read the Rest of this Entry” to see some of my suggestions.

  1. Microfiber Cleaning Cloth
    Sooner or later you are going to need to clean a lens or filter. Although many photographers will use a tissue, their tee shirt or anything they think is soft enough, a Microfiber Cleaning Cloth is designed to clean lenses. The extremely fine weave of the fabric makes it difficult to hold grit that would scratch your lens. Unfortunately, most other types of cloth will pick up dust that gets stuck within the weave. If the dust is abrasive, to can scratch your lens or filter. Microfiber cleaning cloths can be used wet or dry, and provide a safe way to clean a lens in the field. By the way, it is a good idea to wash them every once in awhile. I use dish washing detergent with a through rinse.
  2. Wireless Shutter Release
    If you plan to use a tripod, a shutter release is almost a requirement to avoid shaking the camera when you push the shutter release. Although you can use your camera’s self timer, you no longer have control over “when” the exposure is made. If you are lucky, your camera will have an infrared remote & you won’t need any additional equipment. If not, a remote shutter release is a practical purchase. Some are mechanical, however most DSLRs use an electronic connection since it is difficult to feel a “half press” using a mechanical release. The better electronic remotes have the “half press” feel built into the switch. If you are going to purchase a shutter release, you might consider a wireless version. Although quite expensive when purchased from the manufacturer, Phottix sells a wireless version for my Nikon D200 on ebay that is one third the price of Nikon’s wired version. Here is a review of the remote.The Phottix remote can be used wired or wireless, and is very useful for photos of shy animals when you know where they are going to appear, getting the photographer into the picture, or other cases where you can’t be at the camera location.
  3. Record GPS data to EXIF
    I’ve mentioned using a GPS to identify camera locations in a couple of other posts, but as a “Toy for Photographers” it is high on the list. Although you may be good at remembering where you took an image within a few days of making the photograph, trying to identify where you were a couple of years later can often be difficult. If you have the coordinates of the camera location attached to the image file, you can bring up Google Maps or similar mapping programs and show exactly where the camera was when you took the picture. The easiest way to do this is to take the photograph with a camera that has a GPS receiver built in. Some cell phones currently have this capability – Point & Shoot cameras with built in GPS receivers are expected to appear on the market at the end of 2008. Other manufacturers have added bluetooth to cameras so that bluetooth enabled GPS receivers can “talk” to the camera. Some DSLRs can be “attached” to a GPS to record location information. In the case of the Nikon line of pro & semi pro cameras (the D3, D200, 300) adding a MC-35 adapter & a GPS receiver that has a serial (not USB) output lets you add the location to the EXIF data at the time you take the picture. If you have a bluetooth GPS, you can use this adapter from Red Hen Systems to connect it wirelessly to your Nikon.

    If you don’t already have a GPS, there are a couple of companies that make receivers specifically for Nikon & Canon cameras. The advantage is they are usually smaller, don’t have long cables between the GPS & the camera, and are often designed to ride in the “hot shoe”. The disadvantage – most are powered by the camera’s battery, shortening battery life. Check the di-GPS, GeoPIC II (Available in the US from B&H) for a couple of examples. There are also a number of “do it yourself” adapters & GPS receivers available on the internet. Do a Google search for GPS & your camera.

    Even if your camera can’t be connected directly to a GPS, there is software available that lets you combine data from a GPS with the EXIF data a digital camera records with each image. By saving a track of the day’s adventures with the GPS, downloading it to your computer & using the software, the location is added to the EXIF data of each image. For the software to work it is critical that the camera time is the same as the GPS time, your GPS is capable of saving tracks, and, of course, you remember to turn it on at the beginning of the day!

Enough for now – I’ll add a couple of more “Toys” in a future post.

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