So, you’ve spent hundreds…nay, thousands on your gear. Now what?
Do you drag your camera and your awesome glass everywhere you go, or do you stay up at night worrying about what might happen to your precious investment? Fear not, for I bring you the list of essentials that (mostly) won’t break your piggy bank.
The Lenspen is a handy two-sided gadget for cleaning your lenses. One side has a felt-like tip made of a carbon cleaning compound that that clean smudges off the glass on the go without having to use any cleaning liquid. The other side has a retractable brush. Lenspen is small (the size of a pen!) and does not scratch the optic elements. It does a great job!
2. A dust blower
There are several out there. I own a Giottos Rocket-Air Blaster. When you squeeze the air blower, you create a forceful stream of air to blow off those annoying dust particles. I use it to clean my mirror. Make sure you point your camera downward when you use it to make sure that the dust you blow off doesn’t fall back down onto the surface you are cleaning.
3. A good camera strap
Not everyone uses one, but I absolutely love mine. I have two, actually: a very comfortable neck strap and a hand strap. Both are attached to my camera at the same time, and I use both all the time. Some prefer a wrist strap.
My hand strap is a Herringbone Hand Grip Strap. I shoot a lot of macro hand-held, and I find it very helpful to provide extra support for my camera.
There is a large number of neck straps on the market. My biggest gripe with the standard manufacturer straps which are included with the camera – apart from not being particularly comfortable – is that when you wear your camera, it hangs with the lens sticking out away from your body. This will put your lens in harm’s way!
There are several alternatives to that. Be sure to read the reviews on 3rd party straps, as some are known to come undone, and have ruined many camera bodies and lenses. After much research, I’ve settled on Luma Labs Cinch Strap. It is very, very comfortable, and I wear it for hours without noticing any discomfort. This strap comes with a plate that attaches to the bottom of your camera, and you have several different options of attaching your strap to your camera. My strap is attached to the side of my camera on the left, and to the base plate on the right – when I wear my camera, it hangs lens down (rather than lens out), and has a much smaller profile. When I walk, I tighten my strap with the movement of one hand, securing the camera to my body. When I need to shoot, I loosen the strap. Bonus: the base plate is Arca-compatible, so I can mount the camera with the base plate straight onto the tripod without having to remove it.
4. Camera hood
While the hood reduces lens flare in your images, it will also protect the front element from accidental scratches and abrasions. When shooting in rain or snow, it will prevent (or at least reduce) the chance of droplets landing on your glass. There are no real downsides to using a hood, other than remembering to actually bring it (and I always forget!)
5. A safe place to store your gear when not in use.
My lenses and camera live on a high shelf in my office when I don’t use them. Many (smarter) photographers keep their precious glass in a heavy-duty padded case, such as a Pelican case.
6. Lens filters
Many different kinds exist with a variety of purposes (polarizing filters, neutral density filters), but the UV filters are the ones frequently used to protect the lens from scratches. There are many stories out there about a lens that took a fall, but only the filter was damaged, making a compelling case for always keeping a lens filter on your lenses. On the other hand, having an extra piece of glass (and not necessarily good glass) in front of the high-end optic you paid pretty penny for will degrade image quality: it may reduce sharpness and introduce light glare. While very cheap filters are available, a good one will cost you hundreds of dollars. Personally, I do not use lens filters to protect my lenses. Recently, I rented a Canon 200mm 2.8L (hello, bokeh!), which had a filter attached to it. A whole evening of low-light street shooting was ruined by poor focus and glares from car headlights, all of which were corrected when I removed the filter at the end of the night.
Insure your gear. Gear is portable, and it will get damaged – it’s the question of when, not if. You have several options here.
- You can insure each item when you buy it. For example, when I bought my camera body from Amazon, I purchased a 3 year protection plan with it through Square Trade. Boy, was I glad: last summer, my camera sustained damage and needed repairs. My claim was handled quickly, and my camera is perfect again. Before you buy this type of coverage, be sure it covers drops, spills, and equipment failure. This type of policy generally does not cover theft or loss.
- If you are a hobbyist and make no money from your photography, you can consider getting a rider for your photography gear on your homeowner’s insurance policy. The potential problem with this type of coverage is, in case you file a claim, to have your homeowner’s policy rates increased, or worse – to be dropped from your insurance policy. In addition, even if you are not officially in business, if you sell images for stock or other purposes, many insurance companies will consider you a pro – this would void your policy.
- You can get a separate insurance policy for your gear. Interestingly, in the insurance world this type of policy is called an “Inland Marine Policy,” and covers any property that is transportable or movable.