In this guide, I wanted to round up some of my favorite small accessories for photography. I’ve been traveling the last few weeks, and I’ve made use of all these products either in preparation for my trip, or while on the road. Here they are!
Note that Photography Life is not affiliated with any of the companies below, but we are part of the B&H and Amazon affiliate programs – so I’ll do my best to recommend equipment that’s genuinely useful and that will actually interest you :)
Rotating Tripod Plate
Lots of cameras these days have fully articulating LCDs, otherwise known as tilt-flip LCDs. I find them really useful for composing from unusual angles, but they do pose one major problem. If you intend to use your camera on a tripod, a traditional L-bracket will interfere with the tilt-flip LCD.
I’ve always considered an L-bracket a must-have accessory. It’s by far the easiest way to shoot vertical photos from a tripod (something I do constantly). But on plenty of modern cameras, including my Sony a7R V, any L-bracket prevents the LCD from articulating.
Some companies have been making L-brackets with cutouts designed to allow the LCD to rotate, but to me, a more clever solution is a rotatable tripod mount like this one from SmallRig. (If it’s out of stock at B&H, you can check SmallRig’s own website as well.) It’s become my most-used accessory since I use my tripod constantly.
While Smallrig is currently only producing this model for compatibility with the a7 series cameras, I’ve seen them act quickly to capitalize on new market opportunities – it might be worth letting them know if you want this bracket for your camera.
If you’re looking for something off-the-shelf for other cameras, Silence Corner makes the Atoll, which is available for Sony, Canon/Nikon, or DSLR cameras, as designated by models S, C, and D, respectively. These are a bit less seamless because they are not designed for any particular camera model, but the result is the same – very useful for shooting with any camera on the market that has a fully articulating LCD.
Nitecore BB2 Electric Air Duster
Like every other photographer in the world, I have a classic rocket-blower for getting rid of dust from my lenses and camera sensor. However, Nitecore’s BB2 takes the concept to another level, with the addition of a powerful rechargeable motor and various brush attachments. It takes up less space than a typical rocket-blower, while being able to push gusts of 50 MPH! (This can be ramped way down for optical use).
I haven’t had to do 800 cleanings to test the claimed capacity yet, but suffice to say, one charge lasts for a while. Although it’s obviously not as cheap as a traditional rocket-blower, it’s still reasonable and is substantially better in practice.
Nitecore does sell a range of additional brushes, for cleaning crevices or dusting larger areas, but availability is a bit spotty among major vendors. Still, it’s really the air stream and not the brushes that I care about so much. I’ve also found myself using it in the studio while taking product photos, to blow dust off the product.
201-in-1 Screwdriver Kit
Having access to a range of screwdriver bits can be very helpful when troubleshooting gear issues and setting up new equipment. Between Apple’s weird screws, the tiny Torx bits required for some electronics, and the myriad of Allen or Hex bits on tripods and plates, it might feel like you need a whole tool chest.
I recently picked up this Jakemy set to leave in my office, as the 201 in 1 bit set literally covers every bit I’ve heard of and more. It’s been more useful than I expected, so I wanted to add it to this article! An alternative for travel and leaving in your backpack is a photography-specific multi-tool, since the Jakemy kit is too big for most travel.
Fast Card Readers
If you’re like me (at least until a few months ago), you’ve not really given much thought to your card reader. I’ve only ever bought cheap card readers that supported my particular memory cards and never worried about it.
Recently, though, I ran into a weird issue with Lightroom timing out on certain large import operations. I was only able to fix this by switch to a faster reader, and that sure opened my eyes! I had gotten used to the slowness of my previous setup and just sitting around doing nothing while hundreds of photos were loaded. It makes me glad that Lightroom had that time-out error, because my decision to get a better card reader will save me disproportionately more time in the future.
If you’re intending to upgrade yours, I recommend one with the blazing fast USB C 3.2 Gen 2 interface, although USB C 3.1 is good too. There’s no specific card reader I have in mind, so look for that spec among any of these card readers at B&H. (Use the filter tab along the left to sort by your type of card, like CFExpress Type B.)
Coast G20 Inspection Light
Just like the screwdriver set, I’ve found that having a solid flashlight makes a number of tasks easier, both in the field and in the studio. While the Coast G20 inspection light might seem a bit superfluous considering your phone’s built-in light exists, the uniformity and directionality of the beam make it much better for cleaning your lens, checking your sensor, or other precision tasks.
What really makes it unique is the consistent and smooth beam. There’s no hotspot, no falloff, and virtually no color shift. Since it runs off AAA batteries, it’s also a great backup for field use, and it’s water-resistant. I also throw it in my backpack when hiking, even though I always have a different flashlight or headlamp as my main light.
This one’s a bit specific, but if you’re a product photographer, having a convenient background and foreground on-hand is essential. For any type of close-up photography where you’d like a consistent, yet “real world” background, the highest-end option is an imitation surface.
To be clear, these are pretty pricey, especially compared to alternatives like plexiglass and seamless paper. But imitation surfaces are just that: replicas of real-world materials, except with a huge weight and portability advantage. For example, an imitation marble surface is under 2.5 lbs for a 30×40 inch surface, which is far easier to move than a real slab of marble!
It took me a while to bite the bullet on some imitation surfaces, but now that I have, I’ve found it a great asset to my product photography business. It feels more “relatable” than a smooth backdrop, and the results have been really nice so far.
Nitecore UFZ100 Rechargeable Batteries
There’s a huge range of aftermarket batteries available, and if you don’t already have a few spares, I’d highly recommend picking some up. I leave one or two in a small pocket of my camera bag just to avoid running out while in the field. Nitecore’s UFZ100, however, has a special trick: USB-C charging built directly into the battery.
While this feature is only available on their NP-FZ100 model, I hope it’ll come to other battery types in the future. An increasing number of cameras support USB-C PD or some form of USB power/recharging directly in camera, but this can be awkward to use. With a pair of UFZ100 batteries, it’s possible to charge one via a powerbank, while shooting on the other, then recharge both back in the hotel, without having to bring a clunky, proprietary charger.
As a bonus, the charging circuit also supports power level readouts right on the battery, making it easy to check which batteries in your bag are charged. While this doesn’t have great resolution, only showing above or below 50% and 10%, it’s enough to see which batteries are unused.
I hope you’ve found this list of camera accessories to be useful! There are so many different products out there that it can be tricky to even know what’s available in the first place. In fact, I just went to the NAB trade show last month, and I couldn’t believe the sheer volume of products out there. New cameras and lenses get all the headlines, but these smaller companies are innovating just as quickly.
Did I miss something you’ve recently added to your bag that you consider essential? Let me know in the comments!
I don’t understand the problem you’re describing with your articulating screen and head. Perhaps it is because of the height of my heads on my main tripods, one being the Benro GD3WH Geared Head and the other, a cobbled together B3 with the clamp being replaced with a panning clamp.
It’s entirely due to the interface between the vertical part of the L plate and the flip out mechanism for the LCD. On the a7R V, part of the range of motion is impacted by the vertical portion of the plate.
So it’s specific to the a7R V? You stated “plenty of” so I thought it was common. Perhaps a partial list for such problems would be useful in future articles.
By the way, I like learning about products, I may not have heard of before, but didn’t find anything of use in this list. Not a problem … keep ’em coming.
Alex: How do you find the rigidity of the SmallRig rotating mount compared to traditional L brackets?
I’ve not run into any issues, but I also haven’t hit it with the hardest scenarios like super heavy lenses or 2:1 macro work. I really like how secure the bottom mount is, and overall, I’d say it’s the best bet for the a7 bodies in consideration of the tilt screen mechanism.
The silent corner rotating thingy is compatible with Peak Design quick release system.
If you’re a Nikon shooter, I highly recommend the Trebleet Dual XQD/CFexpress Type B card reader. It can take both an XQD and a CFexpress Type B card at once. It’s a side by side dual reader and it’s very well built and fast with the latest USB-C. I’m a photojournalist and although I often use my WT-6A’s to wirelessly transfer most images, I do still usually back these up afterwards. Or sometimes I just want to use Lightroom on my MacBook Pro and that’s when I use this card reader. I’ve had it since it came out about two years ago? Anyways, it looks and operates as it did on day one, wonderfully! Here is a link to their website!
I have to also second the BB2 Air Blower from NiteCore! I had an issue with the original BlowerBaby and absolutely do not buy or use one of those. They are known to explode and pieces of the fan blades can cause damage to your gear or yourself. My original exploded and scratched my camera lens. The company offered to make it right and pay for any and all repairs, plus they gave me the newer model to try out. I was hesitant to say the least, but I was told and now understand they fixed tha issue. With the newer model, even if it fails…no sharp plastic pieces should come out. So definitely get the BB2 NiteCore and definitely DON’T get the BlowerBaby original.
Lastly I highly recommend Zenelli carbon fiber products, Pro Media Gear and Really Right Stuff. I have the Pro Media Gear monopod and matching tripod. At 42mm diameter legs and 81 inches tall, these are basically tree trunks. If you add a Zenelli Carbon Fiber lens foot to your Nikon super-tele lens, it completes the carbon fiber loop and adds stability. The carbon fiber replacement feet from Zenelli help absorb vibrations, so although your tripod or monopod legs are carbon fiber, they still meet metal, usually aircraft grade aluminum. Whether that be metal apex and bowl/head assembly or whatever, but having the carbon fiber foot attached to lens, helps.
At first I just wanted the Zenelli foot because they looked so cool, but it actually surprised me with how well it works. I’m now able to get sharp images at 1/30th of a second with my D6 and 500mm f/4E VR FL on my PMG monopod with RRS MH-01 monopod head and Zenelli Carbon Fiber lens foot. It’s a $900 monopod setup, but it’s amazingly stable. I’m easily able to get another stop or two out of the VR system and my own physical ability to remain steady. As far as tripods are concerned…I rarely if ever use one, but I think most people do, use and need one.
I’m fortunate to have steady hands and amazing gear with great VR! I only use three lenses now, a 28mm f/1.4E, 70-200mm f/2.8E VR FL and the 500mm f/4E VR FL. With two Nikon D6 bodies and my trusty D810 backup or if I need or want more resolution. For the current going rates…every Nikon fan should have a D810! It’s the new D700 for the 2020’s decade lol. For $900 USD or even less for a mint D810…we’re living in camera heaven.
I love the Z9, and other Z-bodies and lenses! They help reduce the price of all this amazing DSLR gear! I’m not happy about losing so much value in my gear, because for me, I’m still more than satisfied with it. I’ve tried the Z9 and I had a Z7, and I really liked it. The Z7 and Z7 II are great cameras, especially after the firmware updates. Originally I returned my Z6 and Z7, but decided to try another Z7 after the 3.2 or 3.0 firmware? It was like a whole new camera from how I remembered originally. Anyways this was a great post and hopefully people will learn even more from all these great comments!
Alex Coleman, good article and thanks for the card reader advice, I ordered a Delkin USB 3.2 for my CF Express Type B cards.
Thanks! Hope you enjoy the new reader. It’s one of those things that doesn’t seem like a big upgrade until you start using it, particularly if you got a reader for a standard that’s been around for a while, like SD cards.
“If you’re looking for something off-the-shelf for other cameras, Silence Corner makes the Atoll, which is available for Sony, Canon/Nikon, or DSLR cameras”
NiSi also have that, and they’re gorgeous :D
Some nice accessories you talk about, gonna delve a bit in them!! Thanks
Happy to hear you liked it! Thought I’d spotlight some stuff I haven’t seen in many gear guides.
I just looked at the NiSi offer as I have the Atoll. On most of my cameras the L-plate stays in place.
* it can be hard to access the lens mount unlock button.
* if the tripod thread of the camera is off-axis of the lens: problem
* sometimes it’s not easy to center the ring properly.
* I believe, SmallRig did a better job by dedicating it to one brand with very similar bodies only. Atoll or NiSi want to serve all and (at least Atoll) stated it would fit to a certain camera, but afterwards it turnt out, they tried it on a Leica SL and claimed to be compatible with Lumix S1R. But after a mail to support the send me a couple of distance plates… Which are bit of a nightmare to adjust.
Now, after all those downsides I like to mention some upsides.
* for the Sigma fp-L, the “Lego-camera” with mounts on both sides for additional accessories (like EVF, flash bracket, extra grip) there’s simply no L-plate. Yet. I’ve an idea for another solution but until I design it and make it work, the Atoll isn’t hindering the work.
* if I inverse the center column of a tripod, the head is upside down. With Atoll’s 180° turn, the camera remains upside (and the menus readable)
* for macro work it’s really cool that the lens center-axis remains in place, basically like the rotatable film back of a Mamiya RZ 67. Most L-plates try to remain compact and after turning the lens center-axis is shifted.
Really Right Stuff has the MTX Multi-tool that screws into the plate on your tripod. Comes with about 20 bits. Takes up no space, and as long as you have your tripod, you have your tools. Nothing to accidently leave behind or in your other bag.
That’s a cool design!
Ok so he moved to Sony. Last time I ever clicked to his article.
Anyway who cares.. best buck for camera is now Nikon Z8.
You’re in the wrong article, my friend. Obviously you didn’t read this one. It has nothing to do with the Z8 or Sony.
In his previous article he was all praise for Sony and saying all kind of negative things about Nikon. In this article he said “my Sony A7R V”.
We have all internet and Youtube so he doesn’t need to drive the point 1000 times. We know each system’s virtues already.
I used to like PL a lot but he made me sour on this. Publicizing one’s move to the other system on the eve of Z8 doesn’t make any sense.
The point is that this was all covered in a previous article, not this one. :)
If you have to open a “he vs. we” front it says a lot about your attitude. And since I’d be part of the “we” I politely demand you to speak for yourself. So far I remember, nobody made you the speaker for us.
This website is mostly visited by the Nikon users hence the we. There are gazillion websites about Sony so there is no point visiting here.
Also, changing systems is a personal decision but making it public looks a whole lot more like paid marketing.
And now you’re also the gatekeeper letting persons in or not into a website you don’t own at all? How stupid can a single man be? Any politeness would be wasted on you. Two braincells and one is curing a fanatism syndrome.
….and you are apologist for paid marketing.
What better marketing SONY would get at the eve of Z8 than a long time Nikon user is going ga ga over their lesser camera?
I don’t know how many times I have said this before, but no camera company pays us for our reviews or choice of equipment. Not to mention that any sponsored posts like that would need to be disclosed, or we as a site (and them as a camera company) would be in significant legal trouble.
Then its even worse. Sony didn’t pay and got best possible marketing for free. No marketing can beat when a long time Nikon user make a very public switch.
Whenever Nikon releases a new camera Sony trolls post gazillion of negative messages in comments section.
I used to love PL in the world full of toxic youtubers but sad to see the shift in the direction.
A significant part of the visitors to this resource are adherents of the Nikon brand. Switching them to the Sony brand harms your resource.
It’s elementary if I go crazy and switch to Sony, then I will stop visiting this resource because there are too few analytical materials of enlightened Sony brand products.
Naturally, slipping into fanaticism and abandoning objectivity is also dangerous and can have a devastating effect on the part that is not so devoted to the Nikon brand. And in principle, fanaticism is harmful.
But the specific article that is being discussed is toxic and harms the resource. You allowed the author to solve his problem of the brand change error and to assert himself that he did not spend all this money and effort in vain. At the same time, he casually created a negative background. If he published this article a few months ago, the negative impact was weaker.
But this is your resource and it’s up to you to decide what to do with it. I gave feedback.
I’m with you Gudda, you could tell from the previous article he had already decided and spent his money…..;). No big revelations in this article either. It’s full on advertising or self gratification. I’ve had a small torch in my bag for hundred years, been using PRO batteries for at least 15. The rest of the crew here produce excellent OBJECTIVE articles – take a look at the one from Marcel, not blatant advertising, just excellent information and top images. Elaine, Gudda was referencing the previous article because Alex was conspicuous for not replying to any of the relevant comments.. Anyway, the interyweb, all a bit of fun and games! I am not going wax lyrical about my next purchase and justify it because, basically I just want the Z8 but in all seriousness I don’t need it…..
Great ideas, and thanks!