DigitalPhotography​.com


Everything you need to know about digital photography

Other Equipment

Tripods     Tripod heads     Lenses     Flash units     Equipment bags

Besides your camera, there is a range of additional equipment that you may or may not need to help you get the photographs you want. DSLRs, being the most expandable system, naturally have a wider range of accessories available - but compact and bridge cameras can also benefit from various add-on items.

The information on this page is intended to help you choose the equipment you need - it suggests features that you may want to look out for, and possible compromises that you may need to make when selecting a product.

Tripods

TripodsA tripod is a valuable, if not essential, addition to any enthusiastic photographer's collection. It allows the camera to be held absolutely steady when taking photographs that would otherwise be blurred by camera-shake, and it also allows hands-free photography where you want to take photos of yourself.

A huge variety of tripods are available, with a corresponding variety of price points. Cheap table-top tripods are suitable for small cameras, and can help when shooting close-up 'still life' photos, self-portraits, etc. They may not take the weight of a DSLR with its heavier lens, particularly an extended zoom lens - check the product description for a weight limit. If you have a DSLR with a separate wireless flash unit then a small tripod can be a handy way to mount the flash and position it where you want it. Some tripods are made with flexible rubberised legs that can grip onto railings, branches, etc - this can also be a very handy way to mount a flash.

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Larger, full-sized tripods come at a range of prices - generally the more robust the tripod the more expensive it will be. They may come with a mounting point for your camera, but many require a separate head to be attached so that you can pan or tilt the camera. Features to check when buying a tripod include:

Tripod heads

Just as with tripods, there is a wide variety of tripod heads available. The head needs to be attached to the top of the tripod, and the camera attached to the head. Usually there will be a separate plate that is screwed to the mounting point at the base of the camera, and the plate then snaps into the head using a proprietary mechanism, allowing for quick mounting and dismounting of the camera. It is important to have a head that is rated for the weight of the camera and lens, otherwise it may not be able to lock the camera in position at certain angles.

Some tripod heads are designed more for video use, allowing tilt (up/down) and pan (left/right) positioning controlled with a single handle that can be twisted to lock or unlock the head. Greater flexibility is achieved with a ball head, which has a ball and socket arrangement that also allows the camera to be rotated between landscape and portrait modes, or anywhere in between. Initially it can seem awkward to use a ball head but the flexibility is often worth having.

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Lenses

Fitting a new lens to a DSLR can open up a new world of creative opportunities, or simply make it easier to get the shots you want. Buying a lens is always exciting, but in order to avoid disappointment it is important to research and understand what to expect from a lens before you make a purchase. The following is a checklist of features you should evaluate before making your decision. If the lens is a zoom lens, then you should try to check as many features as possible at various focal lengths, including both extremes.

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If you are buying a used lens, there are a few additional things you should check for:

Flash units

Most DSLRs and some bridge or compact cameras have a 'hotshoe' on top of the body, enabling you to mount an external flash unit. An external flash has many advantages over using the built-in flash, including:

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Unfortunately different camera manufacturers use different standards for flashgun attachments, so it is important to check compatibility with your camera before making a purchase. Features to check for when choosing a flashgun include:

Bags

 When out taking photographs you need to ensure you have with you all the equipment you require. Of course you can just put everything into a cheap backpack, but there are a range of purpose-made bags for carrying your gear which will provide better protection against knocks, and easier access to your equipment when you need it in a hurry.

Perhaps the first thing to consider is size - how many lenses will you want with you (allowing for future purchases)? Will you be carrying a flashgun? Spare batteries? Filters? Spare camera body? It is always tempting to put everything in the bag when you go out on a shoot, but the weight soon adds up and sometimes taking a smaller bag can force you to think more carefully about what you really need with you.

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There are many styles of equipment bag on the market, including: