Digital Camera Accessories Tips

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Does my camera need extra memory?

Don't Forget the Extra Memory

One of the handiest accessories you can have is extra memory. A couple of extra memory cards can assure that you won't be stuck at a critical moment. Imagine needing - and not having - a spare memory card during your daughter's first dance recital, or at your sister's wedding.

Additional memory is affordable and necessary, and if you shoot a lot pictures, don't bother with anything less than 256 MB. Smaller cards will feel like 12-exposure rolls of film: used up before you barely get started.

And don't forget to take your camera's resolution into consideration. An 8 MP camera will chew through memory fast.


Spare Batteries Are an Inexpensive Insurance Policy

Imagine if your camera's battery failed just when your child walked up to receive their diploma… or at the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. If you do a lot of shooting – especially if you travel – one of the best investments you can make is a spare digital camera battery.

The lithium ion batteries used in many digital cameras typically cost $35.00 - $50.00. But if you're an avid photographer, that's a fairly small price to pay for an insurance policy.

For those who shoot with a camera that uses AA cells, consider a spare set of rechargable NiMH batteries. If you don't use your camera a lot, have a spare set of alkaline batteries handy for your camera case.


Use a Tripod to Make the Best of Scene Modes

The most useful digital camera accessory that most photographers don't own is a tripod. The picture that many people have of tripods involves landscape photographers with their bulky 8” x 10” view cameras. But even owners of today's compact digital cameras have good reason to own one.

Most digital cameras – even entry-level d-SLR's – now come with various pre-set “scene modes.” And some of these modes are tailor-made for tripods. For example, if you want to make good use of the panoramic stitch assist mode offered by many cameras, a tripod will make it much easier. With a tripod, you can be sure that the camera remains at the same level as you make the three or four (or more!) shots necessary to take in the whole scene before you.

Night scene and fireworks modes will also produce better shots more consistently when you use a tripod. If you use your camera's macro feature, you'll find a tripod makes it easier to keep the camera steady for close-focus shots of small objects. And imagine how much easier a tripod would make being in the picture yourself, using your camera's self-timer.


Selecting the Right Camera Case for You

For most people, finding the right camera case isn't a problem. There are many good options for compact digital cameras. But if you've just purchased a digital SLR, getting the right camera case is a tougher decision.

There are many styles of camera case to choose from. For example, there are fanny packs, messenger bags and backpacks – as well as traditional shoulder bags. Some manufacturers offer “modular” systems that allow you to customize your bag with pouches, dividers and other accessories. There are even holster-style bags that keep your d-SLR handy right on your hip.

When choosing a camera bag, first consider how you shoot. For example, if you plan to carry your camera and a few lenses when you're hiking, a backpack may be right for you. But you'll probably find a backpack is inconvenient if you do most of your shooting at family gatherings and trips to the amusement park.

The amount of equipment you plan to carry is also an important consideration. If you've just bought your first SLR, keep in mind that you're probably going to add a couple of lenses to your collection. Buying a new bag every time you buy a new lens can get expensive.

Comfort is important. Be sure any belts and straps are sufficiently padded. If it's an over-the-shoulder bag, you may want a little padding for your hip, too.


A Quick-Release Head Takes the Hassle Out of Tripod Use

Owners of digital SLR's (Single Lens Reflex) and advanced super-zoom cameras will especially appreciate one little-known camera accessory: the tripod quick release.

One reason many photographers don't use a tripod when they know they probably should (such as with macro shots) is that it's such a bother to screw the camera on and off the tripod. A quick release solves this problem easily.

A quick-release tripod head comes with a special camera mount that snaps into and out of the head with the flip of a lever. You can even leave the mount screwed into the base of your camera all the time; it's small and light.

More expensive tripods sometimes come with one, but you can buy a decent quick-release head for under $20.00. In most cases, you can simply replace the existing head on your tripod. For a few dollars more, some manufacturers offer spare camera mounts – so you can buy one for every camera in the family.


Transfer Files More Easily

Transferring files from your digital camera to your computer can be annoying. But there's a digital photo accessory that can make it a lot easier.

A memory card reader frees you from having to plug your digital camera into your computer to transfer pictures. There's no messing with cables, because you can leave the card reader plugged into a USB port full-time. Just pop in your memory card and download. There are even PCMCIA versions for laptop users.

Readers that accept multiple types of memory cards start at about $20.00.


Expand Your Camera's Capabilities

Depending on the model, there may be accessory close up/macro, telephoto and/or wide-angle lenses available. These add-on lenses can significantly expand your camera's capabilities.

These accessory lenses typically cost from about $50.00 to $150.00 or more. However, a few companies – like Kenko – manufacture accessory lenses for a number of different makes and models of camera, and these often sell for much less than the camera brand lenses.

If you're interested in taking advantage of the added capabilities of accessory lenses, check before you buy. Only some digital camera models are designed to take advantage of them.


Digital Camera – Digital Frame

Displaying your digital photos can be just as high-tech as taking them when you use a digital picture frame. As LCD prices have declined, frames that can display a series of your digital photos have become very affordable. You can buy some desktop digital picture frames for under $100.00.

But there's a tremendous variety of digital picture frames. There are even keychain styles with 1” screens – and enough memory to store more than 50 digital photos. And wall-mount frames with 19” (diagonal) screens are available and can run $1,200 or more.

Some digital picture frames have internal memory that you fill by connecting the frame to your computer. Others can download from memory cards. Most play continuous slideshows. Many have manual scrolling, so you can select a picture to view. Some even offer sound options, so you can even download music files to accompany your slide show.


All-purpose Camera Support

One very handy photo accessory – and one of the least expensive – is a small beanbag. As a support, it has almost unlimited uses.

When you're grabbing quick shots out of your car's window – think wildlife at Yellowstone National Park - a small beanbag helps steady your camera, and protects both camera and car window.

Want to be in the picture, but not carry a tripod? A beanbag both levels your camera and keeps it safe and steady while you're using the self-timer.

How about close-up shots of nature? Using a beanbag allows you to angle your camera and get in close. A beanbag comes in handy almost anytime you need to steady your camera. And they're small, light and cheap.

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Guru Spotlight
Mary White