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Beginner's Guide to Photography

Beginner’s Guide: Part 3 (Which SLR Accessories to buy?)

DSLR Camera & Lens Accessories

Now that you have decided to go for a DSLR, the next question that arises is what all accessories are essential to maintain your SLR in good condition and help you take proper care of your camera. We, at MyFirstPic, have tried to list most of the accessories that are available in the market today, but must be bought by you based on your requirements and stage of photography which you are in.

Must-havs

a)      Lens Cleaning Kit:

This is one essential accessory that you must buy along with your SLR. There will be times, when you would be clicking pictures in the rain, desert or dusty area, or accidentally touch the front lens screen and put a fingerprint on it. The lens cleaning kit will help you get rid of marks, dust or stains on your lens screen. Lens cleaning kits are available from camera manufacturers like Nikon & Zeiss as well as lots of Chinese & Korean manufacturers at low prices.

A typical lens cleaning kit comprises

  • Lens cleaning tissue (around 30-50 tissues)
  • Lens cleaning fluid (must be colorless, odorless & should not leave any residue on lens surface
  • Micro-fibre cloth (does not cause any scratches on lens surface while cleaning)
  • Blower
  • Brush

    fig 1: Lens Cleaning Kit

MyFirstPic Viewpoint:

Lens cleaning kits are available from as low as Rs. 300 to Rs. 2000. If you are constrained by budget, you can just buy a blower, micro-fibre cloth and lens cleaning fluid separately. While cleaning the lens, we advise to always use the blower & brush first before using the micro-fiber cloth so as to avoid any scratches caused by rubbing the dust-laden lens surface directly with the cloth. Also never spray the cleaning fluid directly on lens surface; spray it on the micro fiber cloth and then clean the lens.

b)      UV filters:

You can delay purchasing a UV filter, but if you plan to shoot outdoors under bright light, then UV filters become must-haves. They also protect the lens from accidental damage and make it easy to keep the lens front screen clean and dust proof.

There are different types of filters available with different usages. For e.g. to shoot landscapes, you would need a Polarizing filter (for elimination of reflex from water or glass surfaces and enhance sky color), or a Diffusion filter(for portrait photography as it softens skin colors and picture).

fig 2: UV Filter

MyFirstPic Viewpoint:

On such specialized filters you can decide your purchase later on. To start with, you can just buy a simple UV filter that helps cut bright light and protects your lens from any damage. And once you have reached a stage where you need such filters for specialized photography, you can take a decision and go for it.

c)       Memory Cards:

These are actually not an accessory but a necessity. You can’t even think of going shooting without them. Memory Cards are camera specific, and normally you get a 2GB or 4GB memory card FREE with your DSLR camera (esp. in India). There are two important questions basis which you can decide which memory card to buy.

  • How much storage do you need?

It depends on multiple factors – type of camera you have (number of megapixels), format in which you want to click (RAW/JPEG) and the duration of trips that you will be going on. If you have a camera with 12 MP or more, better go for more storage like 8GB, 16 GB or 32 GB. If you plan to click most of your pics in RAW format (best for post-production & processing), the storage required would be more as a normal RAW image can vary anywhere between 18 MB to 30MB. Also if you plan to go on longer trips, 3-4 days or more, and you are not carrying any other external storage to which you can transfer the images and empty the memory card, then better you equip yourself with more storage.

  • What should be the memory card speed?

Memory card speed is required for –

  1. When camera saves the clicked photo to the memory card
  2. When you transfer all photos from memory card to a PC/laptop

Memory cards with fast speed are preferable but they are a bit costly. The speed of a memory card is measured in MB/sec and is clearly printed on the card . SD cards come in six grades depending upon the speed of data writing on the memory card.

fig 3: Memory Cards (writing speeds: 10 MB/sec and 6 MB/sec)

MyFirstPic Viewpoint:

We suggest you buy several cards with lesser storage. That is, instead of buying one 16 GB card, prefer buying two 8 GB cards or four 4 GB cards. In this way you can reduce the risk of losing all your pics in case the 16 GB card breaks down.

Also, always buy genuine, original, branded memory cards as they are one of the most important elements in the entire photography process (they protect and save your creative photos).

Do remember to format (it’s a standard function in almost all SLRs) your memory card after each trip. Once you have transferred all your pics to a PC or laptop, do format your memory card as it will clean the card for next photography trip.

Other Accessories

a)      Tripod

Tripods are mainly required to avoid camera shake while shooting at slow shutter speeds. They also come handy while doing landscape photography. There are a number of variables that go into deciding the perfect tripod – height, weight, stability, price etc. Although DSLR lenses today come with, what is called, a stabilizer feature or vibration reduction feature that reduces bad effects of camera shake while shooting, but still tripods are a very effective and useful tool.

fig 4: Tripod

MyFirstPic Viewpoint:

Don’t buy a tripod immediately with your camera; instead try getting comfortable clicking with your camera first without any tripod. During the initial days, when you want to learn about SLRs and photography, you would need to take quick pictures, capture small momentary events, and analyze them. This becomes somewhat difficult with a tripod, as it requires proper setup and more time. Hence, get comfortable with your SLR, learn a bit about digital photography before moving to a Tripod.

b)      Camera bag

You would normally get a complimentary bag with your DSLR, whichever brand of SLR you may buy. Once you buy more lenses, accessories to cater to different photography requirements, you would probably feel the need for a more spacious camera bag especially designed to keep more camera elements.

For details and reviews on various camera bag types and brands, please check out www.cambags.com

c)       Lens Hood

The primary use of a lens hood is to avoid bright light hitting the lens front screen from the sides. This leads to reduced contrast thus creating bright spots or flares in the picture. Another simple use of a lens hood is to protect the lens from any kind of unintended damage.

fig 5: Lens Hood

Functionally, lens hood can dramatically improve color saturation producing richer colors in the pictures clicked. Lens hoods are way too cheaper than your camera lens, hence using them is pretty advisable, as they not only protect your camera lens buy can also improve your photography output functionally.

There are many other accessories which we can keep writing about here like External Flash, Remote etc., but considering that this is a beginner’s guide, and the accessories not mentioned herein are pretty advanced and mainly used for some specialized/professional photography, we have avoided discussing them here. We would definitely be discussing them in detail in our future blogs.

So keep reading!

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