5 Photo Accessories Under $50 You Can’t (and Shouldn’t) Live Without
Photo gear doesn’t have to be expensive to be useful. Whether an accessory saves you time or is simply a more convenient alternative to what you’re using now, it’s worth spending a few extra bucks. Here are five of our favorites.
Acratech Double Axis Spirit Level
Keeping horizons and straight edges aligned can be tricky with panoramas, with landscapes and architectural photos posing the biggest challenges. While the built-in virtual levels and/or grid lines offered on some DSLRs are helpful, it’s the old-fashioned bubble levels that are often the most precise. With the Acratech Double Axis Spirit Level, you can align both vertical and horizontal axes at the same time whether your camera is mounted to a tripod or handheld. Unlike the inexpensive home improvement store devices, this clear plastic spirit level attaches to most standard hotshoe mounts.
For more information: visit acratech.com.
Lastolite EzyBalance 18% Grey/White Card
Although digital cameras are equipped with great technology, they can use some help with exposure and white balance accuracy, especially under dicey lighting conditions. Unlike a standard coated 18% grey/white board that’s easily damaged, the Lastolite EzyBalance Grey/White Card provides a more rugged but equally effective and portable solution. As its name implies, one side is 18% grey and the other side is white. The material can be wiped clean with a damp cloth, and the EzyBalance collapses for portability (the 12-inch model collapses down to a mere 5 inches in diameter). Place the EzyBalance in your shot to determine exposure and white balance or to create reference shots for quick, accurate adjustments in post-processing. Larger sizes are available, but the 12-inch model should be sufficient for most shoots. And, for $11 more, you can get one that’s waterproof and ideal for underwater photographers!
For more information: visit lastolite.com.
Manfrotto 035RL Super Clamp with Standard Stud
Almost as versatile as a roll of Gaffer’s tape, but often more useful, the Manfrotto 035RL Super Clamp is a handy tool for mounting lights, cameras, umbrellas, and a multitude of other hardware—weighing up to 33 pounds—to a wide range of surfaces. Thanks to the rubber pads that line the inside of its “jaws,” the clamp holds tight to 0.5-2.1" tubes (there’s a back-up lock system for double security). Need to mount a light to a shelf or other flat surface? Just insert the bundled wedge and you’re all set. A hexagonal socket accepts more than two dozen adapters for various attachments. The 035RL comes with a standard ¼"-20 threaded stud; the 035 does not.
For more information: visit manfrotto.us.
Think Tank Pixel Pocket Rocket
Perhaps my all-time favorite accessory, the Think Tank Pixel Pocket Rocket is a lifesaver when you need to quickly locate and change cards. Available for SD, Compact Flash/XQD, and a combo CF/SD version, these compact foldable card wallets have see-through pockets to store your cards—9 pockets for SD, 10 for CF/XQD, and 4 CF/3 SD for the combo model. It’s easy to distinguish full and ready-to-go cards by facing them in opposite directions in the pockets. (I place the empty cards face front and the full ones backwards.) The Pixel Pocket Rocket folds neatly into a pocketable size but also comes with a lanyard so you can clip it to a loop on your belt or inside your camera bag. If you buy only one accessory, this should be it.
Price: SD model: $17; CF/XQD: $20; Pee Wee combo: $17
For more information: visit thinktankphoto.com.
Westcott 30" 5-in-1 Sunlight Reflector
Whether you’re shooting outdoors or in the studio, this 30-inch reflector features every surface you need, including silver for a cooler tone and adding specular highlights, a “sunlight” surface to combat shadows and enhance skin tones, and white for when you need to cast some neutral light. When there’s a little too much light, the black panel absorbs light and the 1-stop diffuser is perfect for cutting back and softening light. The 30-inch version is small enough to be hand-held but large enough to use to modify light on up to two people. The reflector collapses to about 1/3 of its full size and comes with a carry bag for easy transport. Westcott has less expensive reflectors, but they’re not nearly as versatile as this 5-in-1 model.
For more information: visit fjwestcott.com.