10 Photography Accessories for Under $250

10 Photography Accessories for Under $250

A lot of photographers are 'gear-heads', obsessed with the hardware, as well as the art, of photography. Sites like dpreview.com couldn't exist without them, and even if you don't think that you fall into this camp, the chances are you know a lot of photographers that do. 

It's a simple fact of life that to most of these photographers, the 'big' hardware - cameras and lenses - is more interesting than the little accessories. Most accessories simply lack the allure of a sophisticated camera or a lens crafted to exacting standards. But there are a huge number of accessories out there that can enrich your photography: everything from extension tubes which you to focus down to tiny distances to remote timers for managing long or interval exposures and reflectors to control light.

This buyers' guide isn't comprehensive and obviously, for each of the accessories that I've selected, alternatives are available. What I hope this roundup will do is point you towards a some accessories that I really like, but which you might not have been aware of, and spark a few ideas for holiday gifts for that special photographer in your life. Products are listed in order of (street) price, and links to the manufacturers' websites go straight to the relevant product page. 

As always, if you think I've missed anything, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of the page to let other readers know what you think they should put on their shopping list.  

Here's our selection:

Oh, and

Giottos AA9100 Rocket Air Blaster

The Giottos Rocket Air Blaster comes in three separate sizes and different colors

If I had to choose one camera accessory to take to a desert island (in addition to a functioning camera of course) I'd probably choose this. The humble air blower. Regardless of whether you're a digital or film user, dust can be a real nuisance. No matter how good your equipment's dust sealing, or how effective your DSLR's inbuilt dust-reduction system is, you will at some point need to intervene manually. 

When the large rubber bulb is squeezed, air is forced out of the 'needle' at the Air Blaster's tip. A valve at the base of the Blaster draws in air when you release pressure on the bulb, preventing expelled air from being ingested again. The needle at the Blaster's tip is long enough to poke into a camera's lens throat while allowing a firm grasp on the bulb, and when not in use, four fin-like 'legs' at the Blaster's base allow it to stand freely on a flat surface.
    
Crucially, since it cleans entirely by manually-pumped air, there is little danger of damaging delicate surfaces as there would be with compressed air (where accelerant can be sprayed out along with the air) or a 'wet' clean using swabs. For this reason if you need to get rid of dust from your camera's sensor we'd always recommend using an air blower first, before resorting to swabs and cleaning fluid. Its applications extend far beyond beyond sensor cleaning, though. The Rocket Air Blaster is very effective, too, at dislodging dust from lens elements and filters as well as computer keyboards and other electronic equipment.

Fotodiox Hand Hold Collapsible Disc, Tri-Fold Reflector + Gray Card/White Balance Digital Target Combo

The dual-purpose Fotodiox  Hand Hold Collapsible Disc, Tri-Fold Reflector + Gray Card/White Balance Digital Target Combo is ideal for portrait photographers, whether they are working in the studio or on location.

White balance calibration targets range from pocket-friendly grey cards to translucent discs which fit over your lens, but whatever the form-factor it's pretty hard to get excited by them. Not so this clever combination target from Fotodiox. 

While one side comprises black, grey and white targets for white balance and exposure measurement, the silver reverse means that it can also be used as a reflector. Should only one of its reflective sides be required it’s possible to fold the target in on itself, or alternatively arrange it so that the light is bounced from a number of directions. Furthermore, in addition to the target providing reference points for black and white, the white panel side may also be used to reflect some light, just as the black side can be employed to minimise reflections for product photography.

Of course, if you only need it for setting white balance then you may as well save some money and opt for a more standard grey card, which will be less of a burden to carry around. Otherwise, for portrait photographers in particular, it may prove to be a perfect combination of two useful accessories. 


Click here to turn to page 2 of our Roundup of sub-$250 Photography Accessories

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions held by dpreview.com or any affiliated companies.

Comments

Total comments: 61
seigell
By seigell (Dec 3, 2011)

I don't see it fair (or applicable) to include an External HDD (any maker) as a "Photography Accessory", as it is rather a PC Accessory. (Admittedly, no form of non-film photography is free from PC involvement - Downloading, PS'ing, Printing, Sharing.) But, unless the External HDD includes an active USB Master or Card Reader in order to perform Camera or Card-based Image Downloads, the HDD is simply an inert block taking up space in a camera bag while awaiting a Laptop to be powered up.

0 upvotes
fairfaxian
By fairfaxian (Nov 27, 2011)

It would be very useful to have a comparison (hands on) review of the top players in Speedlites. (perhaps this has been done, I'm not seeing it). There are too many offerings from each manufacturer to review fully, but perhaps a comparison of the top + mid-range offerings from the major manufacturers?
Thanks DPR.

1 upvote
loekids
By loekids (Nov 27, 2011)

LOL, I thought all the 10 items total less than 250

0 upvotes
DaoudaW
By DaoudaW (Nov 23, 2011)

Am I the only one whose Gorillapod loosened up after less than a year of use and is now useless?

2 upvotes
iroberts696
By iroberts696 (Dec 29, 2011)

No

0 upvotes
Darryl_G
By Darryl_G (May 11, 2012)

Same here and after much less time - completely useless bit of kit and it's not as if the thing could hold a 5D + 24-70 steadily. The legs used to splay.

0 upvotes
deletedGregR1
By deletedGregR1 (Nov 23, 2011)

my absolute favourite accessories are the generic ones from eBay's China Inc, like remote controls, cords, hotshoe covers (disable auto-flash), etc. it's amazing how many little bits you can pick up for only a few bucks to do a simple job.

of course, other than those sub-$5 things, i like a nice flash (430EX), a good tripod (055C, old one) with ball head (488RC i think), and some free time to shoot. i'm even quite content to use Cokin-type filters now and again (mostly ND to force longer exposures).

most COUNTERproductive accessory? a bubble level that fits into the hotshoe. GUARANTEED to make dreadfully boring "horizon-always-in-the-middle" compositions. $2 and in the trash it went!

0 upvotes
Tanguero
By Tanguero (Dec 17, 2011)

deletedGregR1, I agree that there are a lot of inexpensive little gadgets that perform one small task. . . but my bubble level is a godsend when I'm shooting architectural photos with my 17mm TS-E. For many other situations, it may not be the right solution for a given problem. For architectural photos, interior or exterior, it's that perfect little tool to solve one problem.

0 upvotes
NancyP
By NancyP (Nov 23, 2011)

I will defend the Manfrotto 055XPROB. For the price, it does a good job. I leave it in the car trunk when not in use - the best tripod is the one you have nearby. I don't use the center column for height adjustment on standard shots - I change the legs. Copy stand shots, macro shots, and the like may use the horizontal option for the center column, but otherwise the column just sits there at zero extension. I have thought about converting it to a no-column tripod, if anyone can tell me what parts are needed.

My favorite cheapo accessory: a Bower wired shutter release, well under $10.00. It doesn't do anything fancy, but it is tiny and always stashed in the kit-of-the-day.

0 upvotes
Autodidact
By Autodidact (Nov 21, 2011)

That Satechi TR-C seems identical to my JJC _TM-C_ purchased for $29.90 from Gadget Infinity. Think I recall seeing it at DealExtreme for a tenner more as well.

0 upvotes
rondhamalam
By rondhamalam (Nov 21, 2011)

It's Santa Limit.

I know.

My children had Santa Limit on their wish list, less than that figure of course.

0 upvotes
tbcass
By tbcass (Nov 21, 2011)

I bought the 3TB USB 3 version of the Western Digital My Book Studio at Best Buy for only $130 just a few days ago. The HDD price explosion hasn't hit the external drives yet. Personally I avoid the Firewire ones for compatibility reasons and because I think it's a dying technology.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
MichaelGGSantaFe
By MichaelGGSantaFe (Nov 24, 2011)

Three days later and the HD is $250.00 !? Wow!

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 7 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
TANK_JONES
By TANK_JONES (Nov 25, 2011)

flooding in WD's labs. Expect prices to be high for the next 3 quarters on all hard drives.

Comment edited 29 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
graybalanced
By graybalanced (Nov 27, 2011)

Yes, many hard drive manufacturers' factories got flooded in Thailand and price hikes are expected or already happening.

0 upvotes
Debankur Mukherjee
By Debankur Mukherjee (Nov 21, 2011)

I wont buy HDD now as the prices are very high due to flood in Thailand.....the prices may come to normal in 3 months time.....

2 upvotes
MPA1
By MPA1 (Nov 21, 2011)

You'd not get many of the more expensive items at those prices here in NZ!

That 32Gb card costs almost $600 if you need a CF card rather than SD. The 128Gb CF card costs a whopping $2,000 here!!

0 upvotes
drwho9437
By drwho9437 (Nov 21, 2011)

Buy one off eBay? Someone will mail it to you first class from the US for a huge sum of 2 dollars I bet... It would be there in under a week.

0 upvotes
Thomas Kachadurian
By Thomas Kachadurian (Nov 21, 2011)

That is truly scary. For something light like and SD or CF card one of us here in the states would be happy to mail one to you. It would be good to have a friend in NZ since that's where I'm moving when everything falls apart here.

0 upvotes
glam
By glam (Dec 5, 2011)

where is this guy buying?? he must be at the south pole His prices are not normal in Auckland at all.... and he certainly is not saying the NZ$=US .76 at present time was .87 recently... and that the GST tax is 15% ... must be english?

1 upvote
morepix
By morepix (Nov 21, 2011)

What an odd collection of stuff! This site doesn't need this kind of promotional material.

0 upvotes
Jonathan F/2
By Jonathan F/2 (Nov 21, 2011)

Looks like an article made to sell junk through Dpreview's Amazon overlords.

6 upvotes
AshMills
By AshMills (Nov 20, 2011)

Christmas just around the corner - might forward this to the wife.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
1 upvote
Steve oliphant
By Steve oliphant (Nov 20, 2011)

Every thing looks really good but the flash, i would say the mecablitz 44 AF-1 digital would be a better choice for sure.Remember if the tripod is over 23" your not going to take it on a airplane, so the 190 prob mite be the way to go.

0 upvotes
Sdaniella
By Sdaniella (Nov 20, 2011)

interesting tripod prices for Manfrotto's 2.4kg 055PROBX have dropped over the years while the 1.85kg Benro C-297 i got awhile back for (CNY 1680 / CAD 234 / USD 223) in PRC, may suffer price increase due to weakened USD and CAD against CNY... sign of the times :(
i don't know if Benro's quality has caught up to the west or not with their newer models:
http://english.benro.cn/default.aspx
and this spinoff related company:
http://www.mefoto.cn/
are these any good?

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
marike6
By marike6 (Nov 20, 2011)

I have a Benro CF Travel Angel. It's very light, but quite sturdy. Quality is getting close to the much more expensive Gitzo CF sticks.

2 upvotes
wine540
By wine540 (Nov 20, 2011)

This also my experience. The Travel Angel has performed quite well.

0 upvotes
pianopix
By pianopix (Nov 20, 2011)

that's a surprise... mostpeople find wd external drives to be very reliable. i have used them for years, in different sizes/capacities, reliably and successfully. but as we all know, different people, different experiences; and every brand of any product has a problem somewhere along the way.

0 upvotes
BelePhotography
By BelePhotography (Nov 20, 2011)

I second that one. WD has been very reliable in my case.

0 upvotes
Jacques Cornell
By Jacques Cornell (Nov 20, 2011)

A photog colleague of mine bought two WD My Book Firewire 800 drives. They died within weeks. Two replacements were received. One died within weeks, and the other croaked less than a year later. She replaced these with LaCie drives and has not had an issue.

0 upvotes
bobby1781
By bobby1781 (Nov 21, 2011)

LaCie doesn't make harddrives, they made the inclosure and stuck a drive in it. It would be really funny to open it up and find an OEM WD drive in there. Debating HDD brands is about as effective as deciding which auto insurance coverage has the lowest number of accidents. UPS and FedEx will effect the life of a drive more than is understood.

0 upvotes
graybalanced
By graybalanced (Nov 27, 2011)

I don't know why people keep buying WD after all I keep reading about them. Not impressed with LaCie either.

Much prefer G-Tech or OWC drives. They might not be famous, but at least they're rock solid reliable.

0 upvotes
SeeRoy
By SeeRoy (Nov 20, 2011)

£82 Gorillapod... !!!!!
**** off!

Comment edited 42 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
morepix
By morepix (Nov 21, 2011)

Yep. A Gorillapod at any price is too expensive. Why do we need this kind of material here?

0 upvotes
Superka
By Superka (Nov 20, 2011)

Nobody would carry This big and heavy 3.5" 1Tb, when you can buy 2.5" 1Tb USB 3.0

1 upvote
BelePhotography
By BelePhotography (Nov 20, 2011)

it's not meant to be carried. it's supposed to be a storage device for your desktop or a backup drive. but personally i'd prefer a raid enabled device for my backups.

0 upvotes
Superka
By Superka (Nov 20, 2011)

And if not carried, then 2Tb is better. The price is almost the same.

0 upvotes
Karl Gnter Wnsch
By Karl Gnter Wnsch (Nov 20, 2011)

Sorry, but endorsing the Manfrotto metal garbage is making me think about how the Amazon purchase of this site has influenced the contents.
I had this tripod and it's stability wasn't something to write home about, the ability to dampen vibrations from say the mirror slap is virtually non existent. The main culprit (next to the too thin dimensioned legs) is the center column mount - to make this tripod usable this has to be removed completely (which is sort of an emergency measure supported by readily available parts). Even then it's too heavy for the performance it offers...

6 upvotes
Guidenet
By Guidenet (Nov 20, 2011)

I don't think this is an endorsement of anything by DPReview or Amazon. It's a quick look at 10 popular accessories for under $250. You mention "metal garbage" and garbage is opinion where carbon fiber would certainly be more expensive. Many cannot afford CF tripods of good quality.

I own both CF tripods as well as this 055PROB and I agree that I would not use the center column in any position except down, but that also goes for most any tripod including Gitzo which also has replacement parts to remove the column.

This Manfrotto is easily as good as the legendary Bogan 3021 it replaced and probably as good or better than any aluminum tripod out there. It does a good job of dampening vibrations and providing a sturdy support in all but the most extreme situations. I've had no problems mounting everything from a gripped D700 with 500 f/4 to 4x5 and 5x7 field cameras on it though I usually go heavier in those cases. If you need a lighter weight, it's made in CF for much more money.

5 upvotes
Stollen1234
By Stollen1234 (Nov 20, 2011)

you are right metal is not the best..but carbon fiber is expensive and a lot of people can not afford.

ifluenced by amazon..well i dont think its a bad idea..i like and trust amazon..i have very good experience with amazon and i trust their reviews

0 upvotes
Karl Gnter Wnsch
By Karl Gnter Wnsch (Nov 20, 2011)

@Guidenet, It's not the metal part (although it contributes to the problem), it's the way the center column is mounted - and the only way to get rid of it is 3rd party parts. Then there is the issue of the leg clamps on which I had the choice of tightening them to (well beyond) breaking point to get it to stand sturdily or to have them not hold the tripod. I more than once caught my fingers in them and in the end I dumped it (not sold, garbage collection).
I then bought myself a wood tripod of about the same price and weight, which is much more sturdy, no leg clamps to worry about and I still have that. The basic carbon fibre tripods from for example Feisol would be a much better choice but probably aren't an option for DPreview because of the tie ins with Amazon.
I buy lots of things through Amazon but would never limit my choice to their portfolio.

1 upvote
Simon Joinson
By Simon Joinson (Nov 20, 2011)

We review / write about lots of things not available on amazon. There is no link between the 2 things.

1 upvote
Guidenet
By Guidenet (Nov 20, 2011)

Karl, are you sure you owned the 055PROB or might it have been one of the other 055 models. They have different leg clamps and center columns. A photojounalist friend of mine liked my PROB so well he ordered an 055 by not the PROB and his leg clamps are not nearly as good, nor is his center column the same.

I think I paid around $150 for my Manfrotto 055PROB and I'm not sure there's a good CF or even a wood tripod in that same arena. Moreover, the wood models are heavier and definately take longer to set up, at least the models I'm used to. Berlebach wood tripods start around the $250 range, weight 7 lbs or more and have twist lock type clamps to the legs, all of which aren't the best idea.

1 upvote
Karl Gnter Wnsch
By Karl Gnter Wnsch (Nov 20, 2011)

@Guidenet: I am quite sure. Manfrotto seems to source the clamps wherever they may get the best price. They range from bearable to unusable.
I since have replaced my tripod with Berlebach ones and they are faster to setup (and less painful may I add, getting the fingers caught in the Manfrotto clamps is really really painful and takes some time to heal), more silent, much more robust and less prone to require disassembly cleaning...

0 upvotes
Jeff_Donald
By Jeff_Donald (Nov 20, 2011)

Simon, if there is no link between amazon and DPR, then why when I click on the buy Now "link" I go to Amazon. It seems that there is not only a physical link, but a business link as well.

2 upvotes
marike6
By marike6 (Nov 21, 2011)

@Guidenet I agree re: the Manfrotto 190. The 3021 is a classic tripod, goes very low to the ground, and is one of /the/ best values in photography. All this pedantic "it doesn't dampen vibrations nonsense" is how they sell $1000 tripods. I use a carbon fiber tripod, but I have zero problem with the price/performance of Manfrotto's better photo tripods. And their video pods and heads are rock solid. Whenever I hear someone trashing Manfrotto I think either he hasn't used them, or is a Sachtler or Gitzo snob.

0 upvotes
djec
By djec (Nov 20, 2011)

i would have thought yongnuo was a better choice for 3rd party flashes? lots of different models and cheaper than the nissin for what you get.

otherwise cp or nd filters are useful and a spare camera battery usually comes in handy.

2 upvotes
Guidenet
By Guidenet (Nov 20, 2011)

Great article by Matt. Thank you. Here's some very useful items pulled from a vast array of accessories and I agree, we sometimes are pretty darned gearhead about it. Some of these transcend gearhead though and are almost required tools.

I'm glad that the Giottos Rocket blower is listed. I've tried several other similar bulb blowers and none work quite so well as Giottos, at least for me.

Comment edited 9 minutes after posting
1 upvote
Sammy Yousef
By Sammy Yousef (Nov 20, 2011)

There are cheaper alternatives for most of these things. You can get a manual flash, camera card, camera backpack, and tripod combined for less than $250 IF you know what you're looking for and skip the big brands. (If you don't know what is and isn't good and don't take the time to look at reviews you almost certainly will end up with junk though).

Another tip for saving money is to buy last year's model on close out or just before close out. You can pick up decent point and shoots for <$100.

0 upvotes
SiPat
By SiPat (Nov 20, 2011)

One More Thing... copyright/trademark Steve Jobs, and you use an image of an HTC phone.

iPhone is top camera for flickr images
iPhone now recommended for its camera by top photographers

:-)

1 upvote
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Nov 20, 2011)

The reference was somewhat tongue-in-cheek, and we're not talking about particular models here, just broadly, about smartphones in general ;)

Comment edited 57 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
costinul_ala
By costinul_ala (Nov 19, 2011)

good article! it is funny .... i actually have very similar accessories the slingshot bag (200AW), the Nissin (622i), the Sandisk's fast SD, the Giottos blower

0 upvotes
jquagga
By jquagga (Nov 19, 2011)

Hmm, that Nissin is interesting. I've been debating between a SB-400 or SB-700 and that guy costs less than a SB-400 but has more power. I'd be tempted except for the big white "unsupported" dot next to the D5100 in its compatibility chart. Hopefully that's fixed.

0 upvotes
BitFarmer
By BitFarmer (Nov 21, 2011)

Also check if those flash units allow external flash (creative light system, in nikon languaje), it is the most valuable part of a SB unit, immo.

0 upvotes
Earthlight
By Earthlight (Nov 19, 2011)

Thanks Dpreview, what a nice read this was. I'm not into market to buy any of these (I have more than enough gear as it is), but it sure was nice to read your thoughts about them.

What about a microfiber cloth comparison. I'm serious: the quality differences are vast! My best cloths are no-name chinese cheapos plus a cloth that came with my Serengeti sunglasses. Some of the brand name cloths have been a total waste of money.

The hotshoe spirit levels also seem to have loads of quality variation... Some of them are skewed. Plus I lose so many of those that it is not even funny.

Most importantly, why not carry out a filter comparison. You could, of course, test the optical quality, but also be sure to test how easy it is to clean a big fat thumb print from the glass. There are big differences there. It would be great to see that kind of stuff. The daily stuff of active shooters.

What about a comprehensive article about sensor wet cleaning? DIY spatulas and pec pads? Stuff like that.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
10 upvotes
Guidenet
By Guidenet (Nov 20, 2011)

Wow, Earthlight, what an excellent idea. I'd love to see a microfiber comparison. Seriiously, there's a big difference in some of them. Some are close to useless and I think are not really microfiber. Others, like the one I got with the Rodenstock logo is absolutely superb and does the job intended. The problem might be figuring out who makes them and who just sticks their label on them. There might not be stable brands you can count on being available most places. Who knows, but an article might be nice along with some testing.

2 upvotes
jasonasselin
By jasonasselin (Nov 20, 2011)

the cheapest one i sell, also fairly thin, works the best too! but i have 2 cases of a different one at home to use anyway lol. i think that filters are a waste of money unless their square. done the tests seen the smashed front elements. seen the pictures out of them, not nessisary.... unless your lenses cost more than your car.

0 upvotes
TimR32225
By TimR32225 (Nov 20, 2011)

If you want a microfiber cleaning cloth, just go to any fabric store and buy microfiber fabric. You can get a whole yard of it for around $8, and you can cut it into dozens of cleaning cloths for future use. Why pay a premium for a little square of microfiber when you can buy it yourself locally for basically pennies.

1 upvote
Fixx
By Fixx (Nov 21, 2011)

We still do not know how well Nissin or similar third party flashes work with Nikon's commander mode. That is why it is safer to buy SB-series.

0 upvotes
qwertyasdf
By qwertyasdf (Nov 21, 2011)

Earthlight, Please tell me when you can buy the best micro fibre cloth! I want my lens to be spotless!

0 upvotes
W Sanders
By W Sanders (Nov 23, 2011)

Tlltall Tripod! I am pretty sure the ones Calumet sells are knockoffs (http://www.calumetphoto.com/eng/product/tiltall_st01_tripod_black/os1000) but my Leitz Tiltall is still going strong after 35 years.

Comment edited 43 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Total comments: 61