Shopping time for holiday gifts is winding down. If you are still wondering what to give the photography fanatic in your family or circle of friends, consider these three very helpful camera accessories.
Whether the photographer has a compact digital camera or a full-featured digital SLR (a camera with interchangeable lenses), a tripod is the one single accessory that can improve anyone's pictures. Because the tripod holds the camera, it stays completely still during the exposure. This helps produce the sharpest possible photograph of a stationary subject. There is no motion blur that softens details from the person holding the camera. As a result, the quality of the photographs from any digital camera go up, sometimes exponentially!
Tripods for compact digital cameras
There are a variety of camera supports available, everything from professional carbon fiber models from Gitzo to traditional aluminum units from Manfrotto to innovations like the GorillaPod and The Pod beanbag. So you have lots of choices for a tripod to fit any budget. Just be sure the model you buy is sturdy enough to hold the person's camera. An SLR with a long zoom lens needs a stronger tripod than a simple compact digital camera.
Indoor Photo without Tripod
Indoor Photo with Tripod
#2 Polarizing Filter
If your photographer already owns a tripod, the next most useful accessory is a polarizing filter, or polarizer for short. This filter acts like a pair of Polaroid sunglasses for the camera, removing glare and reflections to produce richer colors in skies and foliage. There are two styles of polarizer, round and rectangular. Round filters screw onto the front of the lens. Rectangular filters can be held in front of the lens (if the camera is on a tripod) or slid into a special holder that attaches to the lens.
There are also two kinds of polarizer, linear and circular. All digital cameras require a circular polarizer to ensure that the filter lets enough light through the lens so the autoexposure and autofocus features still work.
To be sure you purchase the right size filter, you need to know the lens diameter. Most SLR lenses publish this information on the lens itself or you can look on the inside of the lens cap for the number. The lens (or filter) diameter is always given in millimeters, such as 58mm.
If your favorite photographer uses a compact digital camera instead of an SLR, the lens on the camera probably does not accept the round, screw-on filter. So the rectangular variety (such as those made by Cokin) would be best.
#3 Memory Card Reader
If your photographer already has a tripod and a polarizer, then the next most useful accessory is a memory card reader. When it is time to download pictures from the camera, instead of attaching the camera directly to the computer, use the memory card reader to transfer pictures to the hard drive. The card reader attaches to the USB outlet on any computer (Mac or PC). Then you remove the memory card from the camera and insert the card in the reader. From there the transfer process works as it does from the camera. But it is often much faster and more reliable than using the camera itself.
Memory card readers come in single or multi-card formats. Single card readers have a slot for just one type of memory card, like compact flash (CF) or secure digital (SD). Multi-card readers have slots for all types of memory cards: memory sticks, xD picture cards as well as CF and SD cards. If the household has numerous cameras all using different kinds of memory cards, then the multi-card reader is a good choice. Otherwise, you can save a few dollars and buy a model dedicated to the memory card your camera uses.
You can leave the card reader permanently attached to your computer, so it's always ready when you are. Some computers even have memory card slots built in!
Multi-Slot Memory Card Reader
So make your photographer friend or family member happy and help them take better photos this holiday season by giving them one or more of these accessories. In no time at all, they will wonder how they ever got along without them!