Dan’s Photography Accessory Guide

Before we get started, an important disclosure

Peak Design Anchors

One of the the things that has totally revolutionized my photo gear accessorizing in the last few years is the stuff that has been made by Peak Design, and in particular their quick release anchor system which is the core of the next few products you’ll find in my guide.

I used to use these big neoprene camera straps emblazoned with the word CANON, but I realized one day just how much room they take up in my bags when you travel with 2-3 cameras.  What’s more, my cameras aren’t on my shoulders that often anyway.  I typically only get them out of the bag to take a few shots and then move on, or I’m posted up at one location with the camera on a tripod.  I really didn’t need this big straps so I set about finding a quick release solution that would allow me to remove straps when they aren’t needed.  That’s when I discovered Peak Design.

The Anchors are the core of the Peak Design quick release system.  They’re genius because not only are they super lightweight, they’re also low profile and cheap.  It means that anyone can stoke up on them and put them on everything they own, for a very minimal cost.  I have these things on all my cameras, on my long lenses, on my tripod and on a variety of smaller modular camera bags.  Adding one of their camera straps, I can sling these things over my shoulder in just a few seconds, but I don’t need to carry lots of straps around with me.  Usually I just have one.

The cord on the anchors is abrasion resistant Dyneema which can hold over 200lbs, so you’ve got nothing to worry about when you strap up even your most expensive camera and lens combination.  I love these things so much that I always make sure I have have 3 or 4 spare ones in my wallet or camera bag every day.

Peak Design Leash

I only use a camera strap when I need to, otherwise it’s just wasted space and an annoyance when I’m trying to use a camera on a tripod or gimbal.  The Peak Design Leash is my camera strap of choice because it’s so elegant in its simplicity.  Using the Anchor system (shown in the next item down the list), I can attach this strap so my camera in seconds when I need it, and otherwise it just stays out of he way in my EDC kit.  I can also attach it to my super telephoto lenses, or small camera pouches to turn them into shoulder bags.

As well as being a shoulder strap, the Leash also functions as an emergency tether.  Loop one end of the strap around an object and clip the end into the special Anchor half way along the strap.  Now you have a solid tether, and you can attach the remaining end to a camera or a camera bag to secure it.  I’ve used this to tie cameras to myself while I shoot out of helicopters, and I’ve tied camera bags to trees on the edge of cliffs and waterfalls.  It’s also great for tethering a camera to yourself if you’re leaning off a building or bridge.

All these uses from a $35 shoulder strap that’s small enough to fit in a shirt pocket!  I hope you can see why this quickly earned a permanent spot in my EDC kit.

Peak Design Clutch

The Clutch was a real surprise to me as I wasn’t expecting to find it of much use.  In fact, the thing hasn’t left my camera since I first got it, and I recently purchased another one for my second DSLR.  It doesn’t take up any additional room in a camera bag because it just sites flush with the camera’s hand grip.  I think it works particularly well if you don’t have a shoulder strap on the camera all the time.  I only put a shoulder strap on for decently prolonged carrying sessions, but for the most part I’m just grabbing the camera out of the bag for a few minutes here and there.  The Clutch acts as a handle for me to grab onto when pulling the camera out of the bag, and also something to hold onto when I’m not shooting.  If I’m standing around for a few minutes, I mostly just hold the Clutch, rather than actually having my hand through the strap and around the hand grip.  If you’re standing around in the cold, it can be tricky to hold a DSLR with big chunky gloves on, but you can get your fingers completely around the Clutch and ensure a solid grasp on your gear.

As you can see from the photo below, it’s also handy for woking in places where shoulder straps aren’t practical.  In a helicopter, shoulder straps can easily snag on important controls and switches if you’re not careful!  I just put my hand through the Clutch and tighten it up so I don’t drop the camera.  Of course if the door is off the heli, then I also tether the camera to me using the Leash as mentioned above.

I always get a TON of comments about this thing when other photographers see it in person, or in photos. I should start carrying spares around with me and make a few extra $$s haha!

Peak Design Slide Strap

If I do have a rare day where a camera will be on my shoulder a lot, I use the Slide strap.  It’s much wider, so the camera’s weight is spread out a bit at the contact point on your shoulder.  It’s a very smart looking strap as well, and the lack of a large camera brand name is a bonus if you’re travelling, or just trying to blend in a bit while shooting a wedding or a corporate event.  I just love that I don’t need to make compromises with this Peak Design system,  I can pick the right straps for the right job that day (even though for me it’s 90% the lighter Leash strap).

The Slide gets its name from the sliding clamp mechanism that allows you to quickly shorten or lengthen the strap.  It’s handy to cinch it up pretty tight as you navigate the streets, but then be able to quickly lengthen it when it comes time to shoot.  It also makes things easier if you switch it up between wearing the strap on one shoulder, or wearing it diagonally across your body.

Think Tank Pixel Pocket Rocket

The Think Tank Pixel Pocket Rocket is kind of the original in this style of card wallet.  It’s a design that has since been mimicked by most other people for good reason.  It comfortably holds 10 CF cards which is great, but for me the most important thing is the leash. Misplacing my memory cards on a shoot is a recurring nightmare that I have, so I always clip this thing into a bag or onto a belt loop when it’s in my pocket.  Note that if you want a silent version of this, one that doesn’t have hook and loop closure, then check out the next item in the list from Think Tank’s sister company.

Think Tank Little Stuff It

Great little accessory pouch that I use for my point and shoot camera or my Zeiss Terra ED binoculars.

Peak Design Capture Clip

I think this was Peak Design’s first product, so it’s perhaps their best known, alongside the Everyday Messenger Bag that raised just shy of $5million on Kickstarter.  The Capture Camera Clip is a quick release clamp that you can attach to tons of places to hold your camera when it’s not in a bag or over your shoulder.  You can stick it on your belt, on the shoulder strap of your camera bag or on one of the dedicated areas on the side of Peak Designs bags like the aforementioned Messenger bag.  It works particularly well with smaller cameras, so I tend to use it with my smaller Sony cameras, but even the big Canon DSLRs work if you are careful to mount them to something that won’t sag under the weight.  If you’re out on a hike, you’ll often miss shots here and there because you just don’t want put your bag down for just one shot.  With the Camera Clip, you can have the camera right there all the time, and I find when I do that, I definitely take more shots. I was a little worried about how I could use this with my existing tripod plate on the camera, but I discovered a pretty neat solution which is detailed far more in my review of this on Shutter Muse.

Canon RC-6 Remote

Whilst my preference is to work with the cable remote (RS80-N3), the tiny RC-6 IR remote also does the job pretty well, and has the additional virtue of being able to trigger the camera wirelessly from a few feet away either on the button press, or after a 2 second timer. Most of the time I’ll have the cable release with me in my main camera bag, but if I were to forget that, it’s useful to have this tiny backup in my EDC kit. It only costs about $20.

Canon RS-80N3 Remote

I almost always have a cable release on me for optimal sharpness with landscape images. Using a release like this means you don’t have to touch your camera when it’s on the tripod and that means you can’t introduce it to any vibrations while taking a long exposure photo. Also really handy when putting your camera on a monopod for an overhead shot.

Lenscoat BodyBags

These neoprene cases from Lenscoat are awesome when you need to squeeze another camera into the corner of a bag. You can get them to fit the body only, or the body with a lens attached. I’ll often use these in a hiking pack so that I can carry a simple camera setup amongst my other gear. If you’re really trying to maximize how much gear you can fit into a bag, perhaps for carry-on purposes on a plane, you can save space by removing the camera bag padding and simply using wraps like these.

Manfrotto Magic Arm

I usually use this for rigging up a remote camera somewhere. They are sturdy enough hold a pro camera body with a pretty big lens, but you’ll most likely want to pair it with a Manfrotto Super Clamp on the other end from the camera plate.

Canon Extension Tubes

Extension tubes look like small lenses from a distance, but there’s actually no glass in them at all. They’re simply spacers that fit between the camera and a lens, and they adjust the minimum focus distance of a lens, allowing you to focus on things that are closer to the camera. You can use them to get near-macro capability from standard lenses, or you can use them as I do, which is to allow my super telephoto lenses to focus a little closer when I’m shooting small animals. The biggest shortcoming of the Canon 400mm f/4 DO II is the less than stellar MFD, so I always have an extension tube with me. They come in a variety of sizes to suit different purposes or different lenses.

Datacolor SpyderLensCal

These days prosumer and pro cameras all have the ability to make micro adjustments to the autofocus of all your lenses, on an individual basis. This can really help the sharpness of your images so I always perform a calibration with new lenses and new cameras. The process is simple, just shoot some tests of this pop-up calibration chart and adjust until the focus falls directly on the centre line. If you spend hundred or thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars on your gear, you owe it to yourself to go the extra $60 and make sure they are working at their best.

Aquatech Soft Hood

I mainly use this with my 400mm f/4 DO II, but it also fits on my Canon 200-400. It’s a flexible lens hood which can be a real space saver when packing a super telephoto lens. When packing the 400mm f/4 DO II, it makes a huge difference because the lens is actually pretty skinny compared to the standard Canon hood. I can stuff the soft hood in any pocket of my bag, and then without the Canon hood on the lens, the little 400mm takes up about half as much volume in a bag. It’s a really solid accessory, and it’s stiff enough in one direction that you can still stand your lens up vertically on the hood.

Aquatech Soft Cap

If you’re using the Aquatech Soft Hood mentioned above, you’ll need to use a different lens cap as well because the one that comes with the lens is designed to fit over the standard hoods. The Soft Cap is a rubber cap that simply presses into the lens. It never touches the actual front glass element, though. You can also use this even if you aren’t using the Soft Hood, it’s pretty awesome and certainly faster to use than the one that comes with the lens.

Aquatech Tripod Leg Wraps

Padded wraps for your tripod legs that offer comfort when carrying the tripod over your shoulder. Really only necessary if you are using a pretty beefy tripod setup, and particularly if you’re carrying a super telephoto lens on it. The inside of the wrap is rubberized so that they don’t slip, and they also offer some protection to the tripod when putting it on the ground – a potential consideration if you value the nice look of a carbon fiber ‘pod!

Vortex Rain Cover

Sometimes simple is best, and that’s the case with the Vortex Storm Jackets. A lot of camera rain covers are heavy and bulky, and there’s just not something you want to carry around “just in case”. The beauty of the Vortex ones is that they are ultra lightweight so you can keep one in your bag at all times, and you’ll forget it’s even there. It lacks fancy features like arm holes and plastic windows, but in an emergency, it does a fine job.

Think Tank Hydrophobia 300-600 V2

I use the previously mentioned vortex covers for unexpected emergencies, but if I know it’s going to rain for an event, where I have to continue shooting, I’ll use this Think Tank cover. The arm holes mean I can keep my hands warm and dry, and the clear windows on the back allow me to check my shots are coming out as planned, whilst maintaining total protection from driving rain. They are quite bulky to carry around, but if you absolutely have to be out in the rain shooting something like a sporting event, this is the way to go.

Eneloop Rechargeable Batteries

I always carry at least 8xAA Eneloop batteries with me in a Think Tank AA battery holder. The great thing about Eneloops is that they don’t discharge over time, so I can keep them in my travel bag and they’re always ready to go. I have more of them in general rotation through my gear and in my office, but keeping a set permanently in my travel bag means I don’t have to remember to pack the others when I leave for a trip.

Manfrotto Nano Clamp

This little clamp comes in handy for all kinds of things. It has threaded 1/4″ 20 and 3/8″ 16 holes on it so you can screw in all kinds of spigots for attaching flashes or cameras of all shapes and sizes. It’s remarkably strong, yet it fits easily in a pocket. One of those things were I can’t tell you exactly what you’ll use it for, just that you will find a use for it at some point.

MindShift Gear House of Cards

Of course you’ve got to have memory cards in your kit!  I like the House Of Cards from MindShift gear because it has a selection of CF and SD card slots.  My Canon cameras use CF, but my Sony cameras use SD.  I also keep MicroSD cards in there for my DJI Phantom drone.  The elastic loop means the wallet is silent when you open it, which could be beneficial when lying in wait for wildlife and trying not to make a sound.  Wedding photographers also find that a useful feature (so I’ve heard!).

Rocket Blower

At less than $10, this is an absolute must-have item for all photographers I think. I used to have the larger size, but in my continual quest to downsize, I recently switched to the small one. As far as I can tell, it makes no difference to its performance, but it takes up less room in my travel duffel bag. I don’t carry it on a daily basis, but I do make sure it’s with me when I’m on longer trips. Sometimes you just get a pesky little piece of dirt on the sensor and this does an amazing job. I haven’t needed to wet clean a camera sensor in the last 8 years!

LensCoat 3 Axis Bubble Level

The bubble level is a great addition to any landscape photo kit if you often find yourself shooting from a tripod. Wonky horizons in your landscapes are just lazy, and ultimately it’ll ruin your framing when you have to rotate the image on the computer when you get home. This little bubble level weighs next to nothing and easily disappears into a pocket of your bag.

Got a gear question?

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