10 Essential Gadgets

At the July meeting of the Harford County Photography Club, Leo Heppner talked about the Top 10 Photo Gadgets That You Should Have in Your Camera Bag for 2011.

Here is Leo’s list with links to where you can get the items. Several times I used Amazon because it includes owner feedback. Other popular sources are B&H Photo and Adorama. I’ve also added similar products that I own.

  1. Op/Tech USA Super Classic Strap — Wide, padded replacement strap for your camera. Leo likes the slight bit of stretchiness and the quick release clips.
    Find a Strap — Illustrated Op/Tech listing of all of their straps.
  2. Westcott Illuminator 6-in-1 20″ or 42″ Reflector Kit — Reflectors serve a couple of purposes. They are collapsible, translucent disks that can be used to filter or block light. They come with zippered, reversible sleeves to reflect light onto your subject in a variety of ways. Normal colors for reflectors are white, black, silver, silver/gold, and gold. The 6-in-1 kit has a second disk that is a stronger filter. I have the similar 5-in-1 22″ Flashpoint from Adorama.
  3. Circular Polarizing Filter — Everyone should already have an assortment of filters. A polarizing filter gets darker as you rotate it, and is handy when the sky is very bright. Pick one up where you normally buy your filters.
  4. Ansmann Energy 8 with Ansmann Digital 2850 mAh AA Batteries — Leo likes the Ansmann charger because it is efficient and will not overheat. mAh stands for Milliamp Hour; digital camera batteries with higher mAh values theoretically last longer without requiring a recharge. I use a Sanyo Eneloop Charger with 1900 mAh batteries. I picked up the charger and batteries on sale at Costco and they’re great. Like some other photographers that I know, I use the batteries in my flash. They have a fast recycle time and hold a charge forever.
  5. GGS (JYC) Optical Glass LCD Screen Protector — A pair of glass protectors that cover your rear and top LCD screens. These have saved two of Leo’s LCDs and I plan to get a set.
  6. Lastolite 12″ Ezybalance Card — A gray card can be used in a couple of ways to make sure that you have the proper white balance. Cameras have multiple white balance settings for different types of lighting, but you can get some odd colors when the lighting is mixed, e.g., fluorescent and incandescent at the same time. Professionals will take a picture of a “gray card” at the start of a shoot. When they process their pictures, they use the gray card image to determine the correct white balance. What I prefer to do is put my camera in calibration mode, shoot the gray card, and from then on the camera uses this custom white balance. The Lastolite is all gray, while my Photovision 14″ target is black, gray, and white. Both are silver on the back to serve as small reflectors.
  7. Purosol Optical Cleaning Fluid — Leo’s favorite, ecologically-friendly lens cleaner, to be used with a microfiber cloth. He also suggested using Zeiss Pre-Moistened Lens Cloths Wipes.
  8. Rime Lite Mini Softbox (window or large version) for Flash Unit — This is a new product so the web site does not have many details. As the linked picture shows, it’s a big variation of a diffuser that covers the business end of a flash. It helps prevent harsh shadows when your subject is near a wall.
  9. Custom Brackets CB Digital-T Flash Rotating Bracket — You’ve seen professional rigs with a U-shaped hand grip with the camera mounted on the bottom and the flash on top. From what I’ve read, this is something that you should play with in person.
  10. Op/Tech USA Media Holster — A small pouch that slips on your camera strap to hold your media cards. I have something similar for my wireless remote. I may go old school and tape a film canister to my strap.

Honorable Mention:
Black Cat Exposure Guide — Use this guide to determine your exposure settings manually instead of relying on your camera.

My Favorite Gadget:
Giottos Rocket Air Blaster — This air blaster did a great job when I got some crud on my camera’s sensor.

Footnotes:

  1. I used my Super Classic Strap when I hiked a couple of miles and it was very comfortable, even though it was resting on my bare neck.
  2. I don’t use my external Speedlight (flash) very often. When I used it with regular batteries, I would have to wait for it to cycle (recharge). I recently used it with Eneloop batteries, and it kept up with my shooting.
  3. I bought the GGS screen protectors. They were easy to put on and don’t affect the image in the big LCD display.
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