Gear Acquisition Syndrome, or GAS for short, is a legitimate issue that can plague photographers at any level. If you’re like me, you probably hear your DSLR whisper “buy me things” into your ear every time it makes it anywhere near your head. Fortunately, I’ve made a few smart photography-related purchases over the years and I’ve kept my accessory buying habits at bay since my last GAS attack.
In this post, I’ll link off to some of the best gear I’ve purchased over the years and how long I’ve had it. This is stuff I use just about every time I shoot, and it should apply to most camera brands. While I’ve included some links to Amazon, they’re there for your convenience. Shop local if you can! I’m sure they might even have better deals on some stuff.
Even if you don’t know what lens fungus is, it doesn’t sound good. If you live anywhere that gets a lot of rain or you plan on shooting in a moist environment, you’re bound to share some of that moisture with the inside of your lens. Even if you’re shooting in the cold and moving your gear into a warm environment, you’re prone to introduce a ton of moisture. Unless you keep your stuff in a room with a dehumidifier, you should be scared… Or you can spend $10 on a massive pack of silica gel (yeah, that stuff that comes in the pockets of that new jacket you bought). Best of all, it’s mostly portable and perfect if you’re leaving your camera bag in your damp tent while you’re camping.
Reflections suck sometimes, especially when you’re shooting cars on bright sunny days, or under a bunch of leaves. If you have a favourite lens, go find yourself some CPL filters for its “ø”. ø52, ø67, ø72, for example. They range anywhere between $30-200 depending on quality. You can probably get away with the $30 ones if you’re shooting at F/4 or higher, as you’ll lose a little sharpness at wide-open apertures.
I’m hopelessly irresponsible when it comes to losing small things. Usually I’ll throw my lens cap in my pocket while shooting, but I still somehow manage to set them down somewhere and lose them. Don’t spend your hard-earned money on OEM lens caps. Load up on Ali Express or eBay and have some peace of mind the next time you can’t find your cap.
Owning several terribly unreliable and junky vehicles, a stubborn DIY mentality has been engrained into my brain. After the first time I noticed a few black spots on my sensor, I knew it was probably due for a cleaning. I was in a camera shop without my camera and asked about sensor cleaning, and they told me it would be about $30… Seemed pretty reasonable, no? I caught a glimpse of a small box of sensor cleaning wipes they had, and some of the solution they were using. I pretended to text my buddy and found the exact kit on Amazon for $30 total. This one, however, included enough wipes for about 3 cleanings. Done.
Just be careful not to scratch your sensor. It’s the most expensive part of your camera, and it stinks that it’s the most fragile. If you don’t feel comfortable, pay the $30 to your favourite local camera shop and enjoy your peace of mind.
One of the original reasons I went with Nikon was the plethora of old lenses available for the same mount. There are some problems with adapting M42 lenses thanks to having the deepest mount-sensor length of just about anything out there, but there’s enough around that you probably shouldn’t care. Here are the cheapies that shine:
a) Nikkor-Q 135mm f/2.8 (Ai Converted)
b) Nikon 70-210mm f/4-5.6
c) Helios 81N
d) Helios 44M
Reusable microfibre cloths vs lens paper is a bit of a debatable subject. What won me over with lens paper is how impossible I’ve found it to keep microfibre clean. I have a cat that sheds like crazy and somehow his hair finds it into my camera bag. While I could be responsible and keep microfibre in a sealed plastic bag, that’s just too much work. Plus, lens paper is so fucking cheap. At $13 for 5×50 sheets of paper, this will last you forever if you’re not constantly wiping your lens.
Combine this with some high quality lens cleaner and a lens brush and you should have a lint-free, super-clean lens.
This was my first purchase, and it’s still the thing I absolutely use the most. Being a Nikon guy, I have a couple options — one is cheap, one is not quite as cheap. Nikon has two types of focus mechanisms on their cameras — one that requires an in-body focus motor (AF), and one that doesn’t (AF-S). The AF one is significantly cheaper, and if you don’t mind manual focus on your D3000-5000 series cameras, it’s an excellent bang for your buck. I was aware of this limitation and scored one from someone who thought his was broken for about $50. Little did he know, it was absolutely mint. On my D610, this is a no-brainer. I love it.
Mastering off-camera flash is an excellent photography skill to have. When I purchased this combo, I was able to get the wireless triggers packaged with the flash, but that doesn’t look like it’s the case anymore. Fortunately the price has come down a little on the flash. You’re not going to get any high-speed sync, but for sub-1/200s photos, you’ve got more than enough flash for just about any situation. I’d HIGHLY recommend grabbing 4xAAA and 4xAA Eneloop batteries and a charger because that flash eats through its batteries, and those RF triggers aren’t exactly easy on them either.
If you’re interested in light painting photography and can’t afford to spring for a “Magilight” or a “Pixelstick”, the Yongnuo YN360 is exactly what you want. They make a slightly nicer YN360 II complete with a built-in rechargeable battery, but I’ve found this one to be solid enough for everything and I can swap out the cheap and plentiful Sony NP-style batteries. It lasts roughly 2-3 hours depending on how bright you want it, but it’s always enough to get the job done.
The best part is how useful it is for just about everything else. It makes a killer work light when I’m working on my vehicles, and it is perfect for adding a little touch of colour to dark, moody shoots.
It’s light, it comes with a bag, it has a swivelly ball head, and comes with a quick-release mount. This is seriously the best tripod you can buy for $100. They do make an aluminum one for $70, but the lightness is easily worth the extra coin. It’s obviously a well-engineered clone of something way more expensive, but they absolutely nailed it and the build quality is about as good as you’re gonna get for that price. No regrets.
If you’re wondering about how much weight it can support, it can handle my D610 with a battery grip, attached remote receiver, my heaviest lens, and it doesn’t droop. It seriously takes some muscle to move the camera if the ball is tightened all the way. Okay, that’s way less than the 26 lbs they advertise, but it helps with the confidence. On the windy days you can even adjust the legs extra wide. I seriously love this thing.
I’d love to hear what your best photography-related purchases are! Please drop a comment below!