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