When it comes to photography we’re living through an unparalleled digital renaissance. There is so much amazing technology, and at prices that belie the capability it puts into our hands, that it–for lack of a better expression–boggles the mind.
I’ve been writing about DSLR since I bought a Canon EOS Rebel T2i in 2010–perhaps bested in passion and quantity only by my Moto Droid and Android obsession, and admiration for Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling.
But that T2i: That camera changed everything! I dumped a Vixia camcorder (no slouch) and exclusive rely on Canon DSLRs for photos and most notably HD videos here on Stark Insider. Quick tip. If I had to do it again, and buy a bang-for-the-buck DSLR with gobs of power and features, without breaking the bank, I’d go for the Canon EOS Rebel T3i. It improves on the T2i, including a swing out LCD display that I really like, and still carries characteristic ease-of-use and reliability. I’m Gaga for my EOS 60D, but the T3i and T2i use the same sensor, and can be had for a song. For example, you can get the T3i plus kit lens for only $712. That, my friends, is insanity. Revel while you can.
Over the years I’ve accumulated several add-ons, including microphones, batteries, tripods, lenses, and all sorts of doo-dahs. It can kind of sneak up on you! So I finally took some time to catalog some of my favorite accessories and decided to share them here, lest you are scrambling for last minute gift for a boyfriend, girlfriend, or are looking to treat yourself.
I had one important rule for this list: I must own at least one of every single accessory mentioned (save for one… see if you can spot it), and believe it to be of the highest quality and/or value.
My top 10 list is Canon-centric, but many of these ideas will work for Nikon, Sony, Olympus and other makes. I tried to stay around $100-200, and mostly hit the mark; though I did include a few splurge ideas. After all, ’tis the season.
Clint’s Top 10 DSLR Accessories (plus a splurge or two!)
1. Rode Videomic Pro
If you want to do video right, get this shotgun mic. It’s hands down the best one out there for the price. Sound quality is impressive, it’s small enough not to get in the way, and the battery goes for miles and miles and miles. It’s on my Twi or 60D about 95% of the time, and has never failed me once. See below for Stark Insider video shot with the Rode. Here’s my Rode Videomic Pro review if you’d like to read more.
Clint’s Pick: Rode VideoMic Pro VMP Shotgun Microphone, $229
2. Canon 50mm Lens
Ask any photographer for their favorite lenses, and this 50mm beauty will almost always make the top three. Excellent for portraits, and a superb pick for street photography, there’s a reason why it’s a perennial best seller for Canon. In low light situations I turn to the nifty fifty.
Clint’s Pick: Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens, $104
Note: if you want to see non-stop gushing, check out the user reviews on Amazon for this lens!
3. Targus Tripod
There are far more expensive tripods out there, with advanced features, but for me, this Targus does the trick. I really like the lightweight design, which allows me to easily swing it over the shoulder or pack into a bag without much hassle. The floating head is surprisingly decent.
Clint’s Pick: Black Label TG-P63T Floor Standing Tripod, $58.99
4. Lens Filter
Okay, a slightly boring entry, but a must-have. Repeat after me: the first thing I will do after buying a new lens is protect it (see my potential disaster averted thanks to a cheap Rocketfish filter). The important thing to know is the size of the lens. Typical sizes are 58mm and 72mm, but there are many others too. I prefer filters without effects.
Clint’s Pick: Tiffen 58mm UV Protection Filter, $9.99.
Canon won’t like this, but those cheapo aftermarket batteries work just fine. The T2i and T3i use the same battery, while the 60D uses a slightly larger, and higher capacity MODEL, the sames as those found in the Canon 5D Mark II (everyone’s dream camera). I carry at least three replacement batteries. That will easily give me a day of shooting, and some extra juice in case I want to shoot some video (which can drain batteries quickly).
For 60D: Maximal Power DB CAN LP-E6 Rechargeable Replacement Li-Ion Battery
For T2i/T3i/T3: Canon LP-E8 Compatible Li-ion Battery for EOS Rebel T2i
6. Zoom H1 Field Recorder
Here’s a nifty do-it-all gadget for capturing audio in the field. Zoom has a history of producing quality kit, and the H1 is no exception. I have two of them, and primarily use them as pseudo wireless lavaliers. I place the H1 into a subject’s pocket or on a nearby table/chair, and then run a small lav to it. Later, we sync up audio in post production (Adobe Premiere Pro). There is some extra work here, but the quality is well worth the effort. You can also use the H1 without mics and capture a live concert, for example, with equally satisfying results. If you’re interested to learn more about the H1, you can read about my first impressions and field trials.
Clint’s Pick: Zoom H1 Portable Digital Recorder With Accessories APH1 $119 (includes decent accessory bundle)
7. Transcend 32GB SDHC Memory Card
You can larger, and you can definitely go smaller and cheaper. But the sweet spot is 32GB. Prices are reasonable, and you get enough room to shot a tonne, and/or capture lots of 1080p video. The last thing you want to do is worry about running out of memory, so my suggestion would be not to chintz out. Why Transcend? I’ve bought lots of their cards over the years and never had a single failure. Other brands may return similar results, but for now I’m a loyalist. Be sure to get a “Class 10” card to support your camera’s shooting rates.
Clint’s Pick: Transcend 32 GB Class SDHC 10 Flash Memory Card, $38.99
8. Canon EF-S 18-200mm Zoom Lens
In a word: indespensible.
If I had to take only one lens on a trip (and that’s often the case) this would be the one. It has some wide angle (convenient for landscapes), and plenty of zoom so you can capture subjects at a distance. Note that it’s not the best in very low light situations, so keep that in mind–though, I’ve still find it acceptable and have used it at evening events in Napa and San Francisco with nice results. You can spend a lot (and I mean a lot) more for zooms, but this is a fantastic all-rounder. Like the Rode Videomic, it’s on my DSLRs virtually 7/24.
Clint’s pick: Canon EF-S 18-200mm lens, $549 (amazing)
9. Canon 5D Mark II
Remember I told you about the splurge factor? This would be the one. I know it’s not an accessory, but it is just so hands-down incredible, this highly coveted DSLR, that I just had to include it. The 5D changed not only the market for high-end DSLRs, but also the industry. It’s been used to film movies (parts of 127 Hours), television shows (House), and lots of commercials.
If you’re feeling especially generous this holiday season, or if you just came into some newly found riches, buy this camera, and live a little.
Clint’s pick (along with everyone else): Canon EOS 5D Mark II 21.1MP Full Frame CMOS Digital SLR Camera (Body Only), $2,199.
10. Targus Camera Sling Bag
You could call it a knapsack. But sling bag is cooler. Plus you wear it over one shoulder. Yes, this is only $30, and I use it to sometimes house thousands of dollars of gear. But I love it. It’s far more convenient than the old-school packs that look like med kits. I especially like the adjustable compartments. You can move them around to accommodate lenses, mics and even several cameras too if you like. I’ve had a Rode, spare lens, field recorders and a T2i and 60D in here before, in addition to extra batteries, notes, filters and various cleaning products. It all fits! I’ve taken this on location for interviews with Cirque du Soleil, Disney on Ice, and at film festivals such as the Mill Valley and Napa Valley Film Festivals. So just because something is inexpensive, doesn’t mean it can’t get the job done.
Best of Luck
It’s a wrap!
Hope you enjoyed this round-up. Let me know if I’ve missed any of your favorites. Happy shooting!
Canon EOS Rebel T2i Photos
Two of my favorites shots from a recent trip to Baja California Sur (read more on that here).
Canon EOS 60D Video with Rode Videomic Pro and Zoom H1
Inside Cirque du Soleil’s incredible show Totem. You can watch more of my video work: Stark Insider TV.