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The 3 camera accessories I didn’t realize I couldn’t live without – Part 2

The last two things that I have found I can’t live without in my camera bag are shown below.

Battery Grips

Basically, point and shoot cameras don’t have this accessory, it’s more of a DSLR thing. But if you have a DSLR, and you’ve ever run out of battery power on a long, power-taxing, day of shooting then you might want to check out what your camera’s brand has to offer in the way of battery grips.

At first it seems like a big, heavy extra brick to stick on the bottom of an already heavy brick that you lug around your neck (but see the previous accessory to partially help with this problem). And it is, BUT this heavy brick doubles your power (twice as many shots are available) and it adds a second shutter button for portrait orientation. If the “double-the -shots” part doesn’t grab you as much, frankly the second shutter button should. I find myself shooting in portrait mode 80% of the time with my camera, and you know what kind of weird contortions you have to get into for that kind of shooting. Hand over the head, elbow crooked, wrist bent out of whack. But, if you have a battery grip you get a second shutter button right where you would normally have it if you were holding the camera for landscape orientation. It makes the whole “shooting vertical” thing a lot more natural, and frankly gives you a better hold of the camera for focusing and shooting.

Nikon, Canon, and Sony all have grips for their DSLR lines, so check out today and see if you have any options here. Oh, and if you’re thrifty and want to start trolling Ebay for a knock-off brand, frankly I’d beware. I tried a few of the Chinese versions of these things, and yeah, there’s a reason they’re $9.95+free shipping. The battery contacts were all bent, and didn’t always line up, so when I flipped the camera vertically, the batteries slide just far enough from the contacts that the camera turned off (in the middle of a pretty little couple’s engagement shoot, no less). Consider yourself warned.

RadioPopper JrX Studio triggers

Now, for all your strobists out there (and if you don’t know what I mean by strobist, it’s people who really love to use flashes off-camera) these little babies are the best thing since sliced bread. Obviously, if you’re going to take your flash off camera you need a way for the camera and the flash to communicate. There’s always PC cords (wires that run from the hotshoe on top of your camera to the flash) but wires are limiting, and annoying, and they trip people (which breaks off the top of your hotshoe, don’t ask how I know).

The better way to trigger your flash off-camera is to have a set of radio triggers (there are infrared ones out there, but they can be tricked by too much sunlight, and are only line-of-sight). The gold standard of radio flash triggers are Pocket Wizards, but frankly they cost an arm and a leg, even though they work like a champ and never misfire. The next (and better) option I found is the RadioPopper JrX trigger system. Not only do they do the basic job of triggering your flash, the Studio version of the JrX actually lets you control the power output from the camera.

If you’ve done anything with remote flash you realize this is HUGE. You can make one light brighter, the other darker (or even just turn it off) just by adjusting the little nobs on top of the trigger which sits in your hotshoe. No kidding, it’s pure indulgent, convenience. I mean, you can just worry about taking pictures, not “Oh no, is my subject getting ticked off cause I have to keep running back and forth between my camera and the flash every 5 seconds to adjust them?” And in the case of shooting kids/pets, man this makes or breaks it, cause they don’t sit long anyway and if you’ve corralled them against a sheet hung on the couch for a quick shoot you don’t want to waste time running around changing flash settings.

So, that’s my three accessories that really make me a little less rich, but serve up better shots and a non-sore neck every time.

January 29, 2011

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