The Complete Guide to Buying Useless Stuff
I think the first 3 years when I started out in photography I, like many others, had been suckered into buying that latest bit of photography tech, thinking I'll get some great images and loads of use out of [insert gear here]. I've bought no end of 'tech' gadgets from all manner of places, typically eBay if I'm being completely honest.
So I thought I'd try and steer you clear of my own mistakes.
Lowepro SlingShot 100 AW
I think I must have been a woman in my former life, because when it comes to bags for cameras I'm like some sort of fashionista. Who am I kidding? I'm a mug. I've bought those swing bags that 'swing' under your arm from one over the shoulder strap for quick access to your SLR. I had it for about 2 months and used it like... Once... Pure dung. The only reason you would need something like that is if it rains, because a camera in a bag is a camera missing the action. A shopping bag would do just as good a job of keeping the rain off your SLR than these things. I've had the camera bags that keep your laptop in, part camera storage part wet weather, part laptop. I gave it away, which in hindsight I wish I hadn't, cause I'd have probably got more use out of it, but I've lived fine without it.
The one bag that I has stood the test of time would be one of my Lowepro's Nova 5 AW. But not for my SLR, well, initially yes, I did drag it around the odd wedding, but now it's providing safety and security for my 3 JVC HD Camcorders I use for other projects.
I have the canvas traveller, great bag that doesn't look like camera bag, which is what you want if you are in a city that you're not familiar with. No point in advertising the fact that you have some high end photography 'stuff' packed away in your rucksack. Why would you?
In my time as a Staff Photographer for a weekly newspaper I never once used a camera bag. The bags I did use though were Storm Jackets
from the US, I bought them when they were a lot cheaper than they are nowadays. I think I paid about £10 each, I think the last time I looked they were looking £50 each, which is a bit cheeky as they're only a bit of waterproof fabric with some elasticated ends. These Storm Jackets
have protected my gear in some of the wettest of sports games when I really had no choice on being there.
Which bag would I recommend?
That depends on how many cameras you have! I have 3 SLR's and no bag will ever be able to provide the protection I would need for that travelling scenario. I tend not to travel that far, and when I do I wrap my cameras in a standard luggage type case and cushion/protect it with my socks and pants.
I think what I'm getting at is you don't need one! Do you want to know how bad my camera bag obsession got?
I have the Lowepro belt kit and I even bought a little belt attachment case for my iPhone. I mean seriously, who am I, Batman?
I used it for 3 weddings, and it just got in the way. It's worth £200 maybe £300 and it's taking pride of place in the attic with the rest of the tat I've bought, which leads me on too the next bit of 'stuff'.
· Battery Expansion Packs
I have a love / hate relationship with these things! I love them when they work and I hate them when they don't. It's that simple, and it's simple because you need to get one.
Don't bother getting the 'Branded' ones because they're clearly take the piss in terms of costing. However don't buy the cheapest one you see online, go for something mid range and make sure it fits your gear. As the saying goes, "buy cheap buy twice". I never understood that until I started paying for camera gear. I've bought some right tat that I've only had to replace with the one I should have paid more for in the first place.
What I would say is, get one. They'll save you all sorts of hassle because of the ability to increase your time taking pictures, not by hours, but by weeks if not months! Plus they'll increase the size of your camera and get you over the gate in many press areas. If you are in the amateur end of things this will really open doors for you.
I could scaffold the house with the amount of tripods I've bought, and to be honest those more expensive ones don't offer any more features than the cheaper ones. I've taken thousands of product images over the years, and the tripod that holds the camera in position and doesn't slowly start tilting forward under the weight of your camera and heavy lens is the one that works for me.
I have one, I love it and I would suggest you get one. The one caveat being that you only need one if you take sports images at the side of the field, otherwise they're just big sticks and they'll get in your way. Unless your camera has video capabilities then try and get one with the feet. Depending again on the weight, go for the more expensive ones otherwise you'll just be buying again. Don't be tempted in getting the monopod that can convert to a walking stick by covering the end piece, I mean, who are you? Edmund Hilary? No... It's a waste of money, but if you want one, give me a shout, cause I have one in my attic doing sod all.
Ask yourself, how many hands do you have? Two right? Now tell me, how are you going to hold your camera, focus your lens and hold a reflector? Unless you have an assistant save your money as there is no way in hell that you'll ever be able to use it. Don't be fooled by those adverts where they say the reflector is really easy to use with one hand, remember you only have two! I have three sitting next to my awesome belt kit because I thought I'd get some use out of them. I haven't as yet, but I live in hope (or denial).
Oh those things make me laugh. Cheesy pictures of some dudes hand on some video camera style strap! Give over!!! Never have I seen anyone use these, never! That should be a stark warning to you. I'm in the concert pits with some internationally distributed press guys from leading agencies and not once have I seen one of these 'things'. Save your coins for memory cards.
· Memory Cards
The knee jerk is to go big, my advice would be don't. If you cram all of your images on to one card and that thing fails, well... Your screwed. I have 12 memory cards none of which are over 4GB in capacity, as this really does reduce my exposure to failure. Being a wedding photographer is a one time frame deal, you can't go back. So don't put all of your faith in one bit of electronic circuitry. It's the weakest link in your strategy, but it's the most important.
Get rid of your stock grip, the one the camera came with, they'll cut the neck off you. There's no bounce in them and they'll jar the muscles plus advertise your gear's make and model for no purpose than to promote the manufacturer, and unless you're on a retainer, why would you? I have a £10 strap from Calumet that is detachable through release catches, has a rubberised cushioned grip cause I'm precious, and is more or less unbranded, so I don't attract nerds over asking how I find the latest Canon model compares to theirs. I've no interest, I'm too busy being awesome in my own right.
Double camera owners seek out the double camera sling. Don't go with single camera strap per camera, because you'll end up with a kink in your neck trying to keep the camera you're not using on your shoulder.
Although your camera isn't waterproof to the extent of a torrential downpour, it is 'weather' proof for the most part. A camera in a bag is of no use, save your money on getting the best 'branded' lens you can afford for your camera and keep taking pictures. In it's purest form (RAW) your camera will capture some amazing images if you just let it, without having all sorts of tat hanging off it.
I have boiled down my gear to two cameras, loads of 4GB memory cards, double strap sling setup and that's it. Oh, and my storm jackets depending on the situation to go with my Monopod with feet. To keep them dry? A weather proof jacket that you wear your sling under. Now get out there and enjoy taking pictures.