Every photographer has different needs, and so every camera bag will have different stuff to suit those needs. Here are twelve useful and innovative items that you will probably be taking out of your bag and using. Prices are accurate as of Nov. 15, 2011
Besides the obvious stuff—camera, lenses, flash, batteries and memory cards and, for some shooters, laptops—there are many gadgets, doo-dads and thingies that often clutter up a photographer's camera bag. Which of these items do you really need to make your life as a photographer easier and more convenient? Take a look through your bag. If you see something in there that you never use, take it out. It's adding weight and taking up room that might be better taken up by something more useful...like the following twelve items, all of which are available at Adorama!
About the bag: If you don't have enough room for all of this stuff, it may be time to consider buying a bigger bag. Remember that just because you have a DSLR and 2 lenses doesn't mean you should get a bag for a DSLR and 2 lenses. Buy a bag that's one step larger to accommodate all the other supporting material—and a tablet computer or laptop.
(Available at Adorama; Price Varies)
With all the Apps now available for free or just a few dollars, the iPad has become a flexible, powerful tool that helps photographers calculate the position of the sun any moment on any day of the year anywhere in the world, edit images in mobile versions of Photoshop and other innovative image editing programs, share image files on social networks, and much more; depending on your data plan, you may be able to upload images from almost anywhere. Similarly, the apps available for Android-based tablets are growing as this operating system increases in popularity and the hardware gets less expensive. (Keep in mind you may need a new camera bag that has a pocket that will accomodate a tablet.)
Adorama price: $22.95 for 60 yards x 2 Inches
Gaffer tape is so versatile and useful, Haikus have been written about it. It provides a strong grip to hold stuff together, and yet it peels off without leaving residue. Available in silver, black or brown in from 25 to 60 yard rolls, and in thicker Professional grade or more economical but not quite as sturdy formats. If space in your camera bag is at a premium and a big roll of Gaffer tape takes up too much room, consider rewinding some tape around a narrower object, such as a water bottle or even a pencil. Or, you can buy a pack of 8-yard rolls of Adorama MicroGAFFER tape for $19.95.
Leatherman Kick-Black Multi-Tool
Adorama price: $34.95
OK, so we don’t know exactly when or why you’ll need this jack-of-all-trades screwdriver/knife/ruler/plier/wire cutter/wire stripper/scissors tool, but we’re pretty sure it’ll come in handy on many an occasion when you need to some McGuyver-style improvisation. It’s a fine companion to that roll of gaffer tape.
Photographic Solutions Sensor cleaner
Set of swabs: Adorama price: $34.99
Cleaning solution: Adorama price: $8.95
Many photographers are afraid of cleaning their DSLR imaging sensors, and with good reason: done the wrong way, the sensor can be damaged. So, learn how to do it right, and use good cleaning tools. I've been using Photographic Solutions' Swabs and cleaning solution for several years on my APS-sensored DSLR, following Bob Atkins' techniques, I'm able to keep my sensor is as clean as it was the day it was born.
Adorama price: $49
The Vertex can steer and shape light, creating multi-flash effects from a single flash. Two panels swivel in several directions and can be individually changed from white reflector to translucent material to highly-reflective mirror surfaces. While one bounces light, for example, another can point the light towards the ceiling for bounce, creating a bounce/fill light ratio that can be controlled via a simple thumb shift mechanism. The reflective surface actually intensifies the light that's bounced against a wall or ceiling, so you don't lose as much light by bouncing.
Available at Adorama; Price varies, depending on ring size
Apart from the front-element-protecting UV or Sky filter, the most important glass filter is the Polarizer. Polarizers cut glare, taking the shine off leaves in nature photos to reveal richer color, and can eliminate reflections in windows. Polarizers can create dramatic, deep blue skies and build a nice contrast between sky and puffy clouds. But Polarizers are relatively pricy, and I recommend buying a single Polarizer filter to fit the largest filter ring of all the lenses in your bag, then get step-down rings so it can work on any other lens.
Photo © iStockphoto/Nils Kahle
Polaroid PoGo Instant Printer
Adorama price: $49.95
One of the best ways to get a stranger to pose for you was to shoot a Polaroid but with those cameras gone the way of the DoDo, the new digital alternative is the PoGo. This will print from any BlueTooth-enabled camera phone. So, take a quick simple shot with your cell phone, then pull out your PoGo and hand 'em a 2x3-inch print (they'll probably be oohing and aahing over the PoGo). Then, having broken the ice, you can take out your big rig and start shooting for real. A 10 sheet pack of paper costs $3.95 so the ongoing costs are minimal.
Spudz Microcloth Lens Cleaner
Adorama price: $3.99
Hook this self-contained fabric to an outside attachment on your bag and use it to (gently!) wipe your lens surface clean. Hopefully, the surface you clean will actually be the filter, as recommended above.
Protective Skylight or UV filter
(Adorama price varies depending on lens and ring size)
To protect the delicate front elements of your lenses, I also highly recommend a high-quality Skylight filter for each lens you own, and keep it screwed on at all times. Look for a multicoated lens; the coatings reduce flare and can improve image contrast. It's better to get your fingerprints on the filter, which is more inexpensive to replace, than on the surface of the lens, which will cost you much, much more.
Tamrac ZipShot Tripod
Adorama price: $49.95
Looking for a small, lightweight camera support that will comfortably fit in most camera bags? Collapsed down, the Tamrac ZipShot will easily fit in carry-on luggage, and can even be thrown into larger camera bags or attached to the side or bottom of the bag without adding much weight or bulk. It weighs just 11 ounces, and folded up it's 15 inches long. But if folds out to 44 inches and can carry a payload of up to 3 pounds, which would include a starter DSLR with a kit lens.
Vortex Media Storm Jacket Cover
Adorama price: $28.50
Raindrops and sensitive digital camera electronics are not exactly thee best of friends. In fact, water can seriously damage your DSLR, so protection against rain and snow is a very good investment. The Vortex Media Storm Jacket Cover comes in sizes for small, medium and large lenses and will keep the rain out when there's a downpour. When the weather clears, simply shake the drops off, and zip it back into its carry case and stuff it in your bag. (Consider also bringing a poncho to protect yourself!)
X-Rite Mini Color Checker
Adorama price: $99.00
Color management starts when you capture the image. That’s why this is one of the most useful tools you can carry if you need to shoot mission-critical color. The ColorChecker includes a classic standard 24-color patch color reference target for DNG profiles, a white balance target, and camera calibration software which you can apply back home when working on your images. The software can even locate the target in the picture so you can put it outside of the area to be used and it can be cropped out later. It’s as small as a passport, and takes up very little space in the bag.