Best accessories for your DSLR

3rd Jul 2012 | 10:55

Best accessories for your DSLR

Great camera kit to help you take the best photographs

Essential camera accessories

Once you've got your new camera, you may start to wonder what accessories will help you get the most out of your photography. Camera shops are full of enticing accessories that promise to help with your new hobby, but which do you actually need? Our guide will help you decide what kit to buy.

We've picked some of the most common DSLR accessories - including camera bags, tripods (travel tripods or supports and budget tripods and accessories), flashguns, remote releases, lens filters, diffusers and softboxes, battery packs and grips, SD cards and storage, colour calibration and monitors - to explain why you may need them and how to pick the right one to buy for your needs.

We've scoured our Best... articles and product reviews, and those by our sister magazines Digital Camera, PhotoPlus and NPhoto, to gather together only the best of each category (those that we've rated 4, 4.5 or 5 star camera accessories), with market prices at the time of review in British pounds and US dollars.

Much of the following information is equally applicable to those who have just invested in one of the more recent compact system camera (CSC) alternatives instead, although the pool of great camera accessory options for these is more limited, thanks to the infancy of the formats on which these models are based.

Photographer's bags, straps and clothing

Essential camera accessories

A camera bag is likely to be the most important accessory you buy for your DSLR, and it's worth thinking about which would be the most suitable in the long term.

After all, there may be a point where you wish to supplement your camera body with an additional lens or flashgun, or you may even consider taking out a laptop when you shoot, so it will save you money and effort if you plan ahead.

The most important thing to consider is space, since you want to be sure that the bag you choose can fit all your gear in. Most bags come with a range of internal dividers that allow you to segregate the space inside them to best accommodate your equipment, so try to find to find out whether those provided are sufficient for your needs.

Many backpacks also include lugs and straps on their sides for tripods and monopods. If you envisage regularly using one of these, consider taking your tripod or monopod with you when you look at different bags, since this will give you a better idea of how comfortable the rucksacks will be once attached.

Protection is also worth thinking about, particularly with respect to the security of the various zips and pockets. Many backpacks also incorporate clasp-lock straps around the chest and waist to secure them to the photographer's body, which is ideal when hiking or in similar active situations.

Protection against weather is also important - some bags that aren't waterproof may come with integrated waterproof coverings, so check to see if this is the case.

The other thing to consider is the way you want to access your equipment. Slingshot-style bags, such as Lowepro Slingshot range, enable you to quickly pull a bag down from around your back and take out your camera in seconds. As such, they're ideal for more spontaneous shooting, such as for street photography.

If you prefer something more traditional, look out for bags with padded backs and straps for breathability and comfort. Alternatively, you may decide that a shoulder bag is a more suitable option, in which case you'll be spoilt for choice. Here are some great camera bags and clothes:

Custom SLR Glide Strap - £25/$36

Essential camera accessories

This ergonomic neoprene 'split strap' provides exceptional shoulder comfort, and the camera mount glides up and down the strap for easy shooting.

Kata Grip 12DL - £26/$35

Essential camera accessories

This bag can accommodate a small SLR and lens, and comes equipped with a memory card pouch, side pockets and a weatherproof cover. Well padded and with a strong, thick handle, it comes highly recommended.

Lowepro Nova 160 AW - £29/$35

Best photography bags

This is one of the smallest bags in Lowepro's range, but it's typically well made, with an extra front pocket and memory card holders in the lid, plus a pull-out all-weather cover. There's not quite enough room for a DSLR and lens with additional telephoto zoom and flashgun, but it will easily accommodate two out of three.

Tamrac System 3 - £34/$75

Best photography bags

The System 3 is small on the outside and big on the inside, with space for a DSLR with fitted lens, plus a flashgun and up to three additional lenses. There's also a craftily designed front pocket for accessories. However, the Lens-Bridge system requires the removal of inner dividers to get at one of the underlying lenses.

Hama Defender 140 Pro - £43 (about $67)

Best budget photography bags

Compact yet roomy, the Hama offers excellent protection for a full-size DSLR with lens, plus an additional lens and flashgun in the main compartment. A feast of extras are attached bybungee cords, including a lens cloth and a pouch containing a waterproof slip-on cover.

Lowepro Fastpack 200 - £50/$85

Best photography bags

This Lowepro has plenty of compartments with neat organisers, and the main camera section is fully customisable with movable dividers. You only need to unzip the lower side-entry compartment to grab your DSLR and attached lens and there's room for five additional lenses.

Lowepro Versapack 200 AW - £55/$82

Best photography bags

The lower compartment offers generous space for an DSLR and up to four other lenses, accessible from the top and from both sides. The section divider is removable so you can turn the whole bag into one big compartment. There's also a tripod-carrying attachment and Lowepro's AW (All Weather) slip-over cover.

Crumpler Muffin Top Half Photo - £55 (about $86)

Best photography bags

You can just about squeeze a medium sized DSLR with a couple of lenses into the bottom compartment of this rugged and well-made pack, plus daily essentials into the top section. The central divider unzips if necessary.

Vanguard Skyborne 48 - £150/$230

Best photography bags

The Vanguard is particularly rugged, well-made and comfortable. It comes with tripod fasteners and a rain cover. You can access both main compartments via a single zip and there's also a quick-access side opening for your camera. The camera section's height is extendable to suit big pro cameras or long lenses.

Domke RuggedWear F-2 - £170/$165

Essential camera accessories

With a four-section insert, six pockets and even its own tin of wax to help preserve its cotton exterior, the F-2 is a high-quality bag. Domke claims it can hold two pro camera bodies and up to six lenses, although this is very much at a squeeze.

The bag is comfortable when moderately loaded, and everything from its chunky strap to the soft lining of the insert is constructed to a high standard, although at £170 you are paying an accordingly high price for the privilege of carrying your camera in style.

Billingham f/stop 1.4 Khaki FibreNyte - £185/$275

Essential camera accessories

Exuding classic style and quality, this bag has chunky leather straps and brass knobs, plus a stitched leather trim. Its caramel/khaki colour is complemented with an elegant green inside, which can be customised with two provided dividers. Space behind the main compartment happily fits an iPad. It won't be to everyone's taste (especially at over £150), but there's no denying that this bag's style is matched by top craftsmanship.

Manfrotto Pro Field Jacket - £300/$350

Essential camera accessories

Constructed from waterproof and breathable materials, this jacket also boasts soft-lined pockets. It's not cheap, but it's smart and the quality is great.

Tripods and supports

Essential camera accessories

If you plan to shoot landscapes, or perhaps in low-light conditions or at night, a tripod is an essential purchase. Although traditionally used for exposures longer than can be safely hand-held, their benefits are varied and plentiful.

They allow you, for example, to fine-tune composition and shoot the exact same image as many times as you need, as well as being useful for high dynamic range (HDR) photography, which requires the camera to be static between exposures.

They're also vital when using an intervalometer for the creation of time-lapse videos - a feature gaining popularity among enthusiast users.

More expensive tripods are based around a carbon fibre construction, although sturdy aluminium budget tripods can be bought too.

When choosing a tripod, look out for the way in which legs are locked - either through screw locks or clips - because one may suit your style of shooting and portability needs better than the other. Clips, for example, allow for small adjustments to be made quickly, although these are known to break over extended use, which explains why some photographers opt for screw locks.

The other thing to consider is the right tripod head; these are usually of the pan-and-tilt or ball-and-socket variety. The former allows for very precise adjustments and is ideal for panning, and many of these models are cheaper than ball-and-socket alternatives.

By comparison, ball-and-socket type tripod heads are far more compact since they don't require the rods of pan-and-tilt heads to make their adjustments.

Before you buy, make sure that both the tripod and head will support the combined load of your camera and lens.

It's also worth looking to see whether the tripod/head combination you plan on buying is available as a bundle deal, since these may have a lower asking price than if you were to buy the head and legs separately.

Joby Gorillapod Hybrid - £35/$40

Essential camera accessories

The Hybrid is a flexible support designed for CSCs weighing up to 1kg. It boasts a quick-release plate and bubble level. Sturdy, useful and surprisingly affordable.

Slik Sprint Pro II - £64/$90

Essential camera accessories

The baby Slik has many of the features you'd expect in a fully-grown tripod, such as multi-angle legs, but in a compact package that weighs only 0.95kg and folds down to 47cm. The maximum load rating of 2kg is enough for a beefy DSLR with telephoto zoom.

Giottos MTL9361B - £100 (about $160)

Best tripods under £200

Standing tall at up to 174cm (without a tripod head), the Giottos MTL9361B has a maximum load capacity of 8kg. It also features a pivoting centre column facility, which offers a full range of 180 degrees vertically and 360 degrees horizontally, giving you an extra option for low-level shooting.

The Giottos MTL9361B's chunky legs are stable at all operating heights, with minimal flexing, and they also extend and contract smoothly. Adjustments are intuitive, quick in use and firm when locked off.

This tripod is a star performer with great versatility. It's unbeatable value for money, and a cut-price kit is available, which includes the MH5001 head.

Read the full Giottos MTL9361B review

Benro A297EX - £105/$150

Best tripods under £200

From Benro's FlexPod series of tripods, the aluminium A297EX is impeccably finished and presented in a smart and stylish padded carrying bag, complete with handle and shoulder strap. Thankfully, the FlexPod tag doesn't refer to undue flexing in the Benro A297EX, but hints at flexibility in use. This stems from features that include multi-angle legs and a 180-degree pivoting centre column.

Despite it weighing just 2kg, the tripod's maximum load rating is a generous 10kg, which easily accommodates a hefty DSLR and large lens combination. Little extras include a bubble level on the tripod shoulder for easy levelling on uneven terrain, and a hook fitted to the bottom of the centre column to hang a stabilising weight off.

Read the full Benro FlexPod A297EX review

Manfrotto 055XPROB - £110/$170

Best tripods and camera supports

The Manfrotto 055XPROB feels rugged and substantial, has a maximum load capacity of 7kg and extends to 179cm. Additional features lacking on the more basic 290-series Manfrotto include a pivoting centre column, a bubble level and adjustable leg angles with four positions.

There's no weight hook on the bottom of the centre column, but the one built into the shoulder serves equally well. Sturdiness and stability are very good, equalling the likes of the aluminium and carbon versions of the Benro 297EX, and the Giottos MTL9361B.

The push-button mechanism for selecting different leg angles is very quick and easy to use, as is the pivot system for the centre column. The only drawback with the latter is that you can only use it in vertical or horizontal mode, so it lacks versatility compared with pivoting systems on other tripods, which enable 180-degree rotation in small increments.

Read the full Manfrotto 055XPROB review

Polaroid 65-inch Carbon Fibre Tripod - £140/$150

Essential camera accessories

This tripod may not break new ground, but it's based around a light carbon fibre build and comes with a ball head as standard, which locks firmly into position. The tripod's centre column has a hook you can hang a bag from, for extra stability, while the leg clasps are easily released, despite feeling a touch cheap.

At around £140, this is one of the cheapest carbon fibre tripod/ball head combinations available, making it ideal for both novices and bargain-seeking enthusiasts.

Davis & Sanford Traverse tripod - £192/$145

Essential camera accessories

With today's digital cameras now better than ever at producing clean images at high ISO settings, few photographers want to be burdened with a substandard tripod. The Traverse attempts to secure a place in your kit bag with its compact folded size allied to high- quality components and efficient design.

A side effect of the quest for outright portability can be lighter, but less durable, parts. Thankfully, with the Traverse, Davis & Sanford have avoided this pitfall. Plastic is almost entirely banished in favour of precisely machined aluminium for the five-piece legs, crown and hinges. Chunky rubberised quick-twist leg locks are easy to grip and hold securely, with foam leg pads further enhancing the ergonomics.

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Innovative leg hinges keep things as compact as possible and these are capable of folding through 180-degrees to rest alongside the head, bringing the tripod's total folded length down to just 40cm. Fully extended, the maximum operating height reaches 145cm, making this a comfortable tripod even for users over 6ft, although some rival designs extend significantly higher than this.

The included BHQ11 ball head doesn't let the side down either. It will hold 5kg comfortably, and thanks to precision engineering and fluid-damping, motion is kept silky-smooth in every direction.

There's little to find fault with in this tripod. It may not quite be the smallest or lightest option, and it's not really cut out for heavyweight full-frame set-ups. However, quality components, good design and slick operation make it a great compromise for most users.

Vanguard Alta Pro 263AGH - £195/$260

Best tripods under £200

The Vanguard Alta Pro 263AGH kit is based on the excellent Velbon 263AT's legs but also includes Vanguard's GH-100 'pistol grip' head. The tripod includes all mod cons, such as three-way multi-angle legs and a pivoting centre column that rotates 180 degrees. There's a simple push-button release for switching between leg angles, and the pivot facility works extremely well.

Maximum height is a useful 175cm and, with its three-section legs, the Vanguard folds down to 73cm for carriage. There's a bubble level on the tripod collar and one on the pistol grip head, though it's placed beneath the quick-release plate, so you have to remove the camera to view it.

The pistol grip feels insubstantial compared with the tripod, despite having a 6kg load capacity. We had to tighten the adjustable friction screw as far as possible to avoid heavy cameras slipping when shooting in portrait orientation.

And while the grip offers a full range of movement, this entails removal and replacement of the quick-release plate at any of four alternative orientations, making operation rather fiddly.

Read the full Vanguard Alta Pro 263AGH review

Giottos MTL8271B - £290 (about $450)

Essential camera accessories

At almost £300 (about $450) without a head, the MTL8271B is one of Giottos's priciest tripods. To justify the extra ackers, the company has focused on getting the basics right, and the result is an expensive yet compelling proposition for pro users.

Despite its rigidity the tripod weighs only 1.85kg, which is partly thanks to its carbon fibre build; the tubing is constructed from six layers of carbon fibre, both for strength and to help dampen vibrations that would otherwise translate to camera shake.

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The tripod's maximum weight support of 10kg makes it suitable for the heaviest professional SLR and lens combinations, as well as medium format and other systems. With a folded height of 72cm the model is perhaps a touch too large for everyday use, although its full extension to 177cm compares favourably against the competition. Smaller models in the same line are available for less demanding types of photography.

The length of each leg can be set with the help of two clasps, which open simply and lock the leg firmly in position. The legs themselves move fairly smoothly in and out of each other, and although there is some resistance as this happens, it's useful when opening up each section as the legs don't simply fall out to their maximum length. Each leg is also partially covered with a high-density foam sleeve for extra comfort.

Further clasps at the top of the legs allow the angle of each leg to be extended for low-level shooting, a facility further compounded by the reversible centre column, which allows the camera to be bottom-mounted between the legs. Sadly, the column cannot be positioned horizontally, although other models in Giottos's range offer this.

Although the rubber feet are slightly spiked for use on softer surfaces, they lack the extendable metal spikes common to other models, which some may prefer for utmost stability. On harder, flat surfaces, the tripod is as stable as needs be, with the rubber feet providing enough friction.

All of this comes at a price though, and with a head thrown in it's close to around £400 (about $630). This tripod is very much a luxury option, and you get what you pay for – it's hard to see how it could be improved.

Tripod heads and mounts

Giottos MH5001 - £45/$68

Best tripod head: 12 tested

Despite having a modest 6kg maximum load rating, the Giottos three-way head feels every bit as sturdy as the Benro HD2, which has an 8kg rating. The locking arms are rather longer than on the Benro head, but you can remove one and screw it into the other for compact carrying.

Dual bubble levels are incorporated in the base of the head and the camera platform, making it easy to level the tripod legs as well as the camera itself. The scissor-action quick-release mechanism works well, and the surface coating of the plate enables a very firm connection to the camera.

Manfrotto 496RC2 - £55/$72

Best tripod head: 12 tested

The predecessor to this head was the Manfrotto 486RC2, which was a firm favourite with many photographers. The newer 496RC2 adds an adjustable friction damper and a refined safety lock for the quick-release plate, which is spring-loaded so it can't remain in the unlocked position.

Frills like a pan-only locking knob and bubble level are lacking, but the overall stability of the head is simply superb. Unlike the 494RC2, there's practically no sagging post-adjustment, and a dual cut-out in the ball's socket enables quick and easy tilting of the camera in either direction. What it lacks in extras, this head more than makes up for in ease and speed of use, and rock-solid performance.

Read the full Manfrotto 496RC2 review

Manfrotto 804RC2 - £55/$68

Best tripod head: 12 tested

The official maximum load rating of 4kg is meagre compared with similarly priced heads, but the 804RC2 feels as sturdy as the competing Benro and Giottos three-way heads. Like the Benro, there's no facility for screwing one locking arm into the other for streamlined carrying, and the Manfrotto actually features a third locking arm for panning, instead of a more basic thumbscrew.

Handy pan, tilt and swivel scales have five-degree increment markings, and there's a bubble level on the camera plate. Annoyingly, however, adjustments feel very jerky unless you slacken off the locking arms considerably.

Custom SLR M-Plate - £60/$75

Essential camera accessories

This tripod head mount is compatible with Arca-Swiss and Manfrotto RC2 quick-release tripod connections, and can be used with the CUSTOM SLR Glide Strap.

Velbon Super Mag Slider - £65/$130

Essential camera accessories

Described as a macro stage, the Velbon Super Mag Slider allows the exact position of an SLR or similar camera to be finely adjusted. It can move left and right over 30mm, and forwards and backwards over 60mm, while two tripod threads on its base enable it to be mounted on a set of standard tripod legs.

Despite weighing-in at a very lightweight 470g, the device boasts a solid magnesium- alloy construction, with thick rubber knobs for precise movement control. However, these knobs are perhaps the product's weakest link, partly due to their small size, but also because the two can, at times, come into close contact with each other, hampering their performance.

Otherwise, the device is effective and straightforward to use: very fine adjustments are possible, and as the plate stays fixed to the unit the camera can be quickly released simply by unscrewing the cog that holds it in place.

Vanguard SBH-100 - £70/$80

Best tripod head: 12 tested

Like the Giottos ball head, this Vanguard model features a pan-only lock that also comes with an adjustment scale, calibrated in five-degree increments; this enables precision panning while the tilt and swivel adjustments are locked off. A downside of this, however, is that you need to release the pan lock as well as the main locking knob when switching to portrait-orientation shooting.

Other features include two spirit levels on the camera plate and a quick-release plate with its own locking screw. There's no D-ring for fastening the camera to the quick-release plate, however - you have to use a screwdriver or a coin. There's no adjustable friction damper either, and post-adjustment sag can be noticeable.

Giottos MH1311-652 - £75 (about $120)

Best tripod head: 12 tested

A full-featured ball head, the Giottos has three operating knobs. In addition to the main locking screw, there's a separate, adjustable friction damper plus a pan-only lock. Panning also comes with an angular scale, marked in five-degree increments. Instead of a bubble level, the camera plate has two spirit levels, so you can check for precise front-to-back and side-to-side levelling independently.

The quick-release system features a scissor-action safety catch, and the surface coating offers a solid connection to the camera. Considering its hefty 10kg maximum load rating and wide-ranging features, the Giottos is still pleasantly light in weight, partly due to the ball being hollow.

Read the full Giottos MH1311-652 review

Benro HD2 (BRHD2) - £75/$100

Best tripod head: 12 tested

With the same 8kg load rating as Benro's ball head, this three-way model is more than twice as heavy, at 840g. The extra weight is mostly due to the additional tilt and swivel locking arms, and the chunky thumbscrew for the panning lock. There's no facility for screwing one locking arm into the other for carriage.

Precise adjustments are aided by three calibrated scales with five-degree increments for each of the pan, tilt and swivel movements, and there's also a bubble level on the camera platform. The quick-release system and plate are the same as those used in the Benro ball head, which creates the same sponginess issue caused by the narrow camera-cushioning strips.

Manfrotto Modo Steady - £85/$85

Essential camera accessories

This ingeniously designed camcorder support can be stabilised by the shoulder or used with the counterweight, and even folded out into a tabletop tripod.

Manfrotto MVH502AH Pro Video Head - £192/$195

Essential camera accessories

Although many of today's SLRs are equipped with some form of high-definition (HD) video recording as standard, traditional photographic equipment isn't necessarily best suited to video recording. Tripods, for example, are fine when the camera is static, but when the camera is being moved during recording, a tripod head designed specifically for the purpose makes all the difference.

The Manfrotto MVH502AH is one such product, designed to satisfy the requirements of the creative videographer. With a 3/8-inch thread, it's compatible with a range of tripods, although it's more at home on a sturdy set of legs that will fully support it while being moved around. At 1.6kg, the head is weighty, but this is justified by its excellent construction: it's mostly made of solid aluminium, with rubber and plastic used for certain controls where appropriate.

The handle can be secured to either side of the head to suit both left- and right- handed users, and the tactile rubber around its end makes it comfortable to use. The head's resistance for panning and tilting is easily adjusted with the collar, which encircles the head and knob to its side, while the 4kg counter balance ensures that movements are smooth and that the videographer stays in control.

There's little to fault it in terms of operation, although the locking knob to the side of the head feels as though it could benefit from a more ergonomic design. The quick- release plate is long enough to accommodate even the largest of SLRs, although the button for releasing it is a little stiff (which admittedly may be intentional for the purpose of security).

Vanguard BBH-200 - £200/$200

Essential camera accessories

The BBH-200 is one of three new tripod heads from Vanguard, the others being the BBH-100 and BBH-300, all of which include a new rapid level system. This consists of a switch at the base that locks the head in an upright position, making it perfectly level with the base.

Although it lacks friction control, the large securing knob gives enough flexibility over the friction to accurately position the head exactly where you want it.


Essential camera accessories

Most DSLR cameras have small flashes integrated within their bodies, and so you may not feel you need one if you're just starting out. Nevertheless, there are many reasons why you may at some point go for a separate flashgun unit.

These are far more powerful than the ones included in DSLRs, and those with tilt and swivel functionality are more flexible in relation to how their light is output. They can also be used off-camera for a more flattering illumination, as well as in combination with other flashguns for multiple-flash setups.

The cheapest flashguns may be limited in terms of how their heads may be positioned, although they will still provide more power than a built-in alternative.

More expensive models come equipped with all sorts of niceties, from backlit LCD screens (useful in low light), to more expansive focal range coverage than cheaper models, as well as more precise control over their output.

These will also typically recycle faster and with less noise, and some may even have an integrated USB port for future firmware updates.

Of course, all of this comes at a cost, and some command asking prices similar to that of a new lens.

Fortunately, there are a range of third-party flashguns from the likes of Metz, Sigma and Nissin, which compare favourably with more mainstream alternatives in terms of both specification and performance.

If you do decide to go for a third-party option, however, make sure that it supports your cameras TTL system. You should be able to find this information on the flash manufacturer's website.

Jessops 360 AFD - £79 (about $124)

Best camera flashguns

A dedicated alternative for Canon, Nikon and Sony DSLRs, this flashgun has a fairly limited feature set, although the basics are pretty well covered. The motorised zoom is quite slow, as is recycling speed, but the flashgun works effectively as a light-sensitive slave unit.

Polaroid PL-144AZ Power Zoom Flashgun - £99/$120

Essential camera accessories

Polaroid isn't known for its flashguns, but this sub-£100 model does much to impress. It offers a capable guide range of 45m at ISO100, and a head that zooms between 24-85mm, together with 90-degree tilt and 270-degree swivel functionality. Unusually at this price, it also finds space for a backlit LCD display. In use, it recharges quickly and responds promptly to changes in camera settings, and its illumination is good. Sadly, it's fairly noisy both when recharging and zooming.

Sunpak PZ42X - £99/$145

Best camera flashguns

Built in Canon, Nikon and Sony options, this dedicated flashgun builds motorised zoom, bounce and swivel, autofocus assist and TTL metering into a neat and compact package. There aren't any wireless master/slave functions, but the Sunpak is a solid performer that's very easy to use. It's a bargain at the price.

Nissin Speedlite Di866 Pro - £181/$289

Best camera flashguns

Made in Canon or Nikon dedicated options, this is one of the best flashguns on the market, with a nice LCD display, plenty of power and a huge range of upmarket features, including full master/slave wireless operation. A secondary sub-flash is good for fill-in lighting and there's an optional quick-change battery cradle.

Canon Speedlite 430EX II - £188/$279

Best camera flashguns

This Speedlite is easy to use, with direct access to advanced modes such as high-speed sync and rear-curtain flash, along with super-fast, silent recycling circuitry. It also works well as a wireless slave in multi-flashgun setups, but maximum flash power is a little on the low side.

Remote releases

Essential camera accessories

There are many reasons why you might want to trigger your camera's shutter remotely, and a range of wired and wireless remotes enable you to do this.

Wireless remotes are particularly useful when taking group shots with yourself in the frame, or when it isn't practical to stand directly behind your camera at the time of capture, such as with some nature photography.

Cheaper wired remotes, meanwhile, are just as suitable as wireless types when you want to trigger the camera without touching the shutter release button, such as for macro photography where camera stability is vital to achieving a sharp image.

When choosing a remote, you should think about all the situations in which you may want to use one. Although cheaper than wireless options, wired remotes are limited by the length of their cables, for example.

Wireless remotes have far longer working ranges, but when choosing one you should pay attention to the principle on which they operate, which will be either via radio frequency (RF) or infrared (IR).

The reason for this is that the IR type generally require line of sight with the receiver on the camera; since these are often located on the front of a camera, you will have trouble triggering these from behind. The solution to this is an alternative that works on radio frequencies - which will even work through walls and floors - although, naturally, these are more expensive.

Before buying a remote release system for your camera, it's worth investigating whether your camera already is already equipped with the kind of functionality you may require.

Practically all cameras now offer self-timer options, which enable you to delay the exposure by a few seconds.

Some more expensive models also feature a mirror lock option, which lifts the mirror up in a separate stage to the sensor actually being exposed to light. This is useful because the vibration from the mirror swinging up can often introduce some image blurring. Of course, neither of these options allow you to trigger a camera remotely, so they won't be practical in every situation.

Hama RS60-E3 - £13 (around $20)

Best camera remote shutter releases

This is Hama's direct equivalent of the Canon RS60-E3 wired remote - it's pretty much the same size and it operates in exactly the same way. A two-stage switch enables autofocus and metering with a light press, and shutter release with a full press. The switch also slides forward once it's fully pressed, enabling you to lock it in place for bulb exposures or prolonged shooting in continuous drive mode.

The cable length is a bit more generous than on the Canon RS60-E3 equivalent, at 80cm rather than 60cm, but the two-stage button feels a little imprecise by comparison. Even so, it represents pretty good value.

Canon RC-6 - £15/$22

Best camera remote shutter releases

Bypassing the usual need for one of two types of terminal connectors, the infrared Canon RC-6 works with all current Canon cameras apart from the1100D and variants of the 1D. Since Canon DSLRs only tend to have an IR receiver at the front of the camera, built into the hand grip, you can't operate the camera from behind.

But the RC-6 is particularly useful for self-portraits, with a range of five metres and a two-second self-timer delay, and unlike the older RC-5, the addition of a switch on the back panel also offers immediate shutter release. The main button is only a one-stage switch, so you can't activate autofocus and light metering in advance.

Canon RS-60E3 - £15/$22

Best camera remote shutter releases

Small and simple to use, Canon's RS-60E3 suits all cameras with a mini-jack remote control terminal, to which it connects via a 60cm cable. For tidy stowage, the cable wraps around the body of the controller and there's a dummy socket for the plug to fit into. The unit requires no batteries, and the only moving part is the remote shutter button assembly.

This has a good solid feel to it, with a precise two-stage mechanism for autofocus and metering with a light press, and shooting with a full press. Once fully pressed the button can slide forward to lock in place for bulb exposures or continuous shooting, without the need to keep the button manually pressed in.

Hahnel HRC 280 Remote Release - £15/$30

Essential camera accessories

Ideal for photographers who have multiple cameras with both types of remote controller terminal, the Hahnel HRC280 fits both. The controller itself has a socket in which a cable can be fitted and locked in place, making it work with Canon, Pentax or Samsung DSLRs. Both types are supplied with 80cm cables, and you also get a two-metre extension cable; the controller therefore acts as a direct replacement for both the Canon RS-60E3 and RS-80N3 controllers.

The two-stage shutter button doesn't quite have the same level of precision as the Canon remotes, but it's still very good, and it also features a slide-forward locking mechanism for bulb exposures or continuous shooting.

Hama CA-1 - £20 (around $31)

Best camera remote shutter releases

A neat little unit, the CA-1 is a wireless RF remote for cameras that have a mini-jack remote controller terminal. It's cheap compared with most RF controllers, although it has a relatively limited maximum range of 30m, despite having an extending aerial built in to the transmitter (see the Hama CA-2 review for more).

As with other wireless remote controllers, you can switch between radio channels to avoid interference with other people's kit, using easily accessible switches on both units.

Hama CA-2 - £30 (around $47)

Best camera remote shutter releases

The Hama CA-2 controller looks and feels identical to the CA-1, but has an additional three-pin connector to suit cameras such as the Canon EOS 5Dand Canon EOS 7D. Unlike most wireless remotes, the receiver unit doesn't have the facility to clip in to the camera's hot shoe, so it merely dangles from its connection terminal, putting a bit of a strain on the plug and socket.

The extendable aerial on the transmitter is a bit flimsy, but you can shoot from a few metres away, even through walls, without the need to extend it. As with the Hama CA-1, there's compatibility for single, continuous, self-timer and bulb shooting, but drive modes have to be selected on the camera itself.

Hama Wireless Remote DCCS - £40 (around $62)

Best camera remote shutter releases

Costing just a little more than Hama's CA-1 and CA-2 wireless RF remotes, its DCCS model is a much better option. There's no extending aerial on the transmitter but the range is much greater nevertheless, at 150m as opposed to 30m.

The transmitter features a drive mode switch with single, continuous, self-timer and bulb options, while the receiver also goes one better with its own two-stage shutter button, which can be used to trigger the camera in wired remote mode, even with no batteries fitted. An additional connection cable makes it compatible with Canon, Kodak, Olympus, Samsung, Fuji, Leica, Panasonic, Sony, Konica-Minolta, Nikon or Pentax DSLRs.

Hahnel Combi TF - £40/$90

Best camera remote shutter releases

A versatile remote with a wireless RF range of 100m, the Combi TF comes with both three-pin and mini-jack cables to ensure compatibility with all Canon, Nikon, Olympus and Panasonic DSLRs. Switches on the transmitter module provide options for immediate or four-second delayed firing, and there's compatibility for continuous drive and bulb exposures.

Unusually among other units, the transmitter can also be mounted in the camera's hot shoe to enable firing of a remote flashgun, the only frustration being that the flash will only work in manual mode and not with TTL flash metering. Extras include a dual-colour LED that indicates a light press or full press of the two-stage shutter button.

Hama Timer Remote DCCS - £40 (around $62)

Best camera remote shutter releases

Unlike the Hahnel Giga T Pro II, this timer remote is wired rather than wireless, but boasts a similar range of shooting options. These include single, continuous and time-delay modes that can be selected using the controller, and bulb exposures using a timer that's displayed on the LCD panel.

A four-way pad makes for easy adjustment of settings for time-lapse shooting, including the number of shots in the sequence and the delay between each shot. However, it lacks the Hahnel's option to set dual parameters for short bursts of shots at intervals throughout a longer overall time-lapse sequence. Separate cables make it compatible with Canon, Kodak, Olympus, Samsung, Fuji, Leica, Panasonic, Sony, Konica-Minolta, Nikon or Pentax cameras.

Phottix TR-90 - £50/$61

Best camera remote shutter releases

The TR-90 is a timer remote that connects via an 80cm cable, without any wireless aspirations. As such it's similar to the Hama Timer Remote, but lacks the option of alternative cables for mini-jack or three-pin terminals; so while you don't need to spend extra money on connection cables, you do need make sure you buy the correct version to suit your camera.

There are no onboard controls to select different drive modes, so this has to be done on the camera itself. Its time-lapse option is simple to use, and long exposures can be captured using either the self-timer and locking shutter button mechanism, or by pre-programming the required exposure time. Cables are available to link it with Canon, Nikon, Fuji, Kodak, Sony or Olympus DSLRs.

Nissin Universal Shoe Cord SC-01 - £55/$65

Essential camera accessories

This coiled cord, for firing flash off-camera, is pricier than other third-party options, but has an additional hotshoe for dual flash use, and works flawlessly.

Secureline Twin 1-R3 TRC/TRN/TRS - £60/$50

Best camera remote shutter releases

Available for upmarket Canon, Nikon and Sony DSLRs, this remote includes a receiver for wired and wireless shutter release, the latter with a 100m range and selectable communication channels. A half-price, wireless 'UT' version is available for DSLRs with infrared receivers.

Hahnel Giga T Pro II - £60/$100

Essential camera accessories

The Giga T Pro II's 100m range is sufficient for most shooting situations, and the backlight on the remote's LCD screen allows it to be easily used at night. It works brilliantly at distances and through walls and floors, and for its price it's very well specified, although a sturdy metal foot on the receiver would be preferable.

Like other Hahnel remotes, this one is available for Canon, Nikon, Olympus and Sony bodies. Along with a 100m wireless RF range, there's a full feast of features including adjustable self-timer delay, single, continuous and bulb modes, and interval settings for time-lapse shooting.

Better still, there are two independent interval options, so you can shoot a programmed burst of exposures at set intervals throughout a longer overall period. Everything's controlled via a neat interface based around a four-way pad and LCD display. Build quality is excellent, and overall the Giga T Pro II puts the Canon TC-80N3 to shame, while costing only half the price.

Phottix Aion - £80/$90

Best camera remote shutter releases

A significant step up from the TR-90, the Phottix Aion boasts wireless connectivity with a range of 60m, and comes with cables to fit both types of camera connection. The transmitter unit is packed with all the features you need for selecting different drive modes, programmable self-timer delays, adjustable long exposure (bulb) shooting and time-lapse photography.

There's even an adjustable exposure bracketing option for long exposures, and everything's wrapped up behind a neat control panel with LCD display. You can also use the controller in wired rather than wireless mode, connecting the transmitter direct to the camera using one of the supplied cables. It works with Canon, Nikon, Sony and Olympus DSLRs.

Phottix Strato II - £100/$90

Essential camera accessories

The Strato II is an affordable wireless flash/camera trigger that works well, even at long distances. Switches and buttons for channel and group selection are comfortable to operate, and all relevant cables are provided.

Canon TC-80N3 - £120/$136

Best camera remote shutter releases

Despite being a wired rather than wireless controller, the TC-80N3 still requires a single CR2032 battery to power its LCD display and all-round cleverness. Connecting to compatible cameras such as the Canon EOS 5Dand Canon EOS 7D via a three-pin plug, the unit's features include a self-timer, long-exposure timer, interval timer and the option to set the number of shots in a sequence.

It also works as a straightforward remote control, with the same basic functions as the RS-80N3, even with no battery fitted. It's simple to use, with a switch that cycles between the four main operating modes, a start/stop button, LCD display illumination switch and jog control for altering the settings.

Canon LC-5 - £335/$430

Best camera remote shutter releases

In addition to being a consummately professional piece of kit the LC-5 is real beast of a controller, with the receiver module and transmitter taking eight AA batteries between them. The unit is compatible with three-pin terminals on DSLRs such as the Canon EOS 5D and Canon EOS 7D, and there are three infrared channels to reduce the risk of your camera being fired by someone else's controller.

You can switch the camera to continuous drive mode and then select between single or continuous drive, or a 3.5-second delay, on the controller from up to 100m away. It works for bulb shooting but the two-stage shutter button has no lock, so you have to keep the button pressed for the whole exposure.

Camera lens filters

Essential camera accessories

Lens filters come in a range of styles, from inexpensive UV protectors to multicoated pro-grade options with three-figure asking prices.

Their cost is reflected by a number of factors: the optical materials used, as well as the type and number of coatings, for example, all of which determine how well they can transmit light and reduce reflections.

Their external construction also varies with price; more expensive filters boast matt finishes to reduce reflections, and shallow profiles to minimise vignetting, where the edges of the frame darken due to the edges of the filter creating an obstruction. There are many varieties available, but here's our selection of our six favourite camera lens filter kits.

Although the effects created by many filters can be successfully replicated in image editing software, polarisers and neutral density filters are the two that are useful to have on as you shoot, because some of their more useful effects can't be recreated easily (or at all) with software.

Essential camera accessories

Neutral density filters reduce exposure. As such, they're useful when you may not, for whatever reason, want to decrease the aperture of your lens.

It's possible to buy these in different strengths, and you can combine multiple filters for extreme effects, although multiple filter use can introduce reflections and cause vignetting, particularly with cheaper varieties that may not be manufactured to exacting standards.

Graduated neutral density filters are ideal for balancing bright skies with darker foreground details, which explains why they're traditionally employed for landscape use. Here, you will need to buy square filters because circular grad filters are impractical (and so, rarely made).

Unless you already have one, you may need to buy a holder of some kind for mounting a square filter, as these do not simply screw onto a lens in the same way as a circular type. Fortunately, these are generally inexpensive (although you can pay a lot for some) and may enable you to mounts a range of other square filters designed for different systems.

Polarisers come in linear or circular varieties, although for a DSLR you should always go for the latter type as the former can confuse both metering and autofocus systems.

The use of a UV filter to protect the front of your lens is a point of contention among photographers. Proponents argue that their use makes sense when the cost of a broken filter is weighed up against the cost of a damaged lens, while others argue that adding any further optical elements to a lens stands to degrade image quality.

A sensible compromise between the two would be a high-quality filter with multicoatings and a shallow profile, although these come at a cost.

Kood Light Yellow Gradient Filter - £12 (about $18)

Essential camera accessories

These individual Kood filters slot into a Cokin P-series holder. They cost a little more than half the price of similar Cokin filters. However, Kood only make ND grads in ND2 and ND4 options (soft or hard transition).

This yellow grad filter is ideal for emphasising clouds against blue skies, and its subtle effect is useful when other filters are inappropriate. However, a sturdy case would be welcome.

Cokin H200A Portrait 1 Filter Kit - £40/$57

Best lens filter kits

This kit's P027 81B warm-up filter will give you warm skin tones. The P840 Diffuser 2 gives a soft-focus look and a flattering finish. Finally, a P071 Centre Spot Warm Incolour 2 filter keeps the central area of the frame sharp while throwing everything else out of focus.

SRB P-size ND Grad Kit - £46 (about $72)

Best lens filter kits

Unusually, this high-quality resin-based filter set includes not three but four P-sized ND grads, adding a four-stop ND16 to the usual mix of ND2, ND4 and ND8 filters. This means that up to four stops of light can be cut from the brightest part of an image using a single filter. This should be more than enough for most situations, but if not, the filters can be used together.

The filter holder costs an additional £5 and is identical to the Cokin P-series holder. Thanks in part to their chamfered corners, the filters slip in to the holder easily.

SRB filters come in a choice of soft or hard transitions; hard is best for clean horizons, while soft works better for trees or mountains. At this price you can afford to buy both. We found the filters are neutral and didn't impart any colour cast, making them ideal for retaining detail in white clouds.

Cokin H250A ND Graduated Filter Kit - £50/$79

Best lens filter kits

Graduated Neutral Density filters even out exposure differences in landscapes and these square filters are particularly useful. The kit comes with P121L (one-stop), P121M (two-stop) and P121S (three-stop) filters of darkening, plus a standard filter holder, so the only extra you need is an adaptor ring, which costs about £13.

We identified a little vignetting on ultra-wide lenses, but a wide-angle filter holder is also available for around £13.

Cokin H117 Creative Filter Kit - £60/$108

Best lens filter kits

Cokin's P-Series kits typically include a filter holder that can accommodate up to three square filters and three filters. You get the P056 Star 8 filter for turning lights into stars, a P123 Gradual Blue to turn grey skies blue and a P830 Diffuser 1 for a soft-focus effect.

Hoya Pro1 77mm Digital Filter ND8 - £70/$88

Essential camera accessories

This filter cuts exposure by three stops, and boasts multi-coatings for improved light transmission. Its slim profile makes it less susceptible to causing vignetting, and image quality is high.

Hitech 100mm ND Grad Kit - £71/$158

Best lens filter kits

This collection of three filters is available with either soft-edge or hard-edge transitions. Excellent quality is matched by a superbly engineered aluminium filter holder, although this costs an extra £56. The holder includes a front-mounting adaptor ring to enable you to fit extra 105mm screw-in filters or a lens hood.

Hoya Pro1 Digital Twin Filter Kit (58mm) - £75/$152

Best lens filter kits

These filters are super-slim to cut the risk of vignetting and have advanced multi-coated surfaces to reduce ghosting and flare. This kit combines a clear lens protection filter and a circular polariser to add drama to landscapes.

Tiffen Digital HT Ultra Clear 77mm - £75/$80

Essential camera accessories

This scratch-resistant protective filter has anti-reflective coatings, which are durable enough for repeated cleaning. It's well made, and light transmission is high, although you pay for the privilege.

ExpoDisc Pro White Balance Neutral Filter - £79/$100

Essential camera accessories

A pocket-sized custom white balance tool that thrives when auto white balance falters.

Hoya Pro1 Digital ND4 and ND8 (58mm) - £90 (about $140)

Best lens filter kits

On sunny days, ND filters enable you to use large apertures to minimise depth of field. These screw-in, non-graduated filters offer a two- or three-stop reduction respectively, or you can use both for a five-stop reduction.

B+W XS-Pro Digital MRC Nano KSM Circular Polariser - £195/$210

Essential camera accessories

Nearly 200 quid/over 200 bucks is a lot to pay for any kind of filter, although most can't claim to be constructed to the same standard as this polariser from B+W. It features seven layers of anti-reflective coatings, in addition to an eight layer Multi resistant nano Coating (MrC) to better repel water droplets for easier cleaning. B+W even claims that with this coating being harder than glass, the filter is protected against scratches.

The brass filter ring is painted a matte black to minimise any reflections, and has a shallow profile of just under 7mm. Because of its size, however, it can be awkward to remove from the lens. still, it doesn't appear to introduce any vignetting (even at wide apertures), and image quality remains high overall. another premium- priced product that justifies the outlay.

Flash accessories, diffusers and softboxes

STO-FEN Omni-Bounce - £18/$16

Essential camera accessories

This diffuser enables diffused light from your flashgun to be bounced off a surface for a softer feel. It's simple to use and there's a range of models to suit your flashgun.

Lastolite Strobo Barn Door Set - £40/$58

Essential camera accessories

Designed for use with Lastolite's Strobo Kit, this barn door set has a sturdy metal frame and non-metal panels, which makes the entire unit lightweight, enabling you direct light.

Bessel Popup 60 x 60cm (24 x 24-inch) diffuser - £35 (about $55)

Essential camera accessories

When it comes to softbox performance, bigger tends to be better. This 60 x 60cm/24 x 24-inch pop-up softbox by Bessel is big enough to provide excellent light softening, yet still compresses into a portable carry case.

The supplied adjustable metal coldshoe clamp fixes a standard speedlite flash to the softbox, which in turn screws into a standard tripod head. The only other required extra is an off-camera flash syncing cable or trigger. It's quick and easy to assemble, and quite a bargain.

Lastolite All-in-One Umbrella - £48/$60

Essential camera accessories

This multi-purpose umbrella can either be a reflector with its silver inner, a shoot-through device with the additional translucent white fabric, or even both.

Phottix Photo Light Tent Cube Softbox (80cm/32-inch) - £60/$50

Essential camera accessories

One of the larger products of its kind, the Phottix Photo Light Tent Cube Softbox Photographic Lighting Diffuser springs out of its carry vase to provide a generous space for shadow-free product photography. The cube maintains its shape with a thin but sturdy steel frame, while the provided cloths can be fixed to the cube's Velcro pads and used as backgrounds. It's not the cheapest of its kind, but is useful for photographing products of various sizes.

Lastolite Direct to Flash Strobo Kit - £115/$170

Essential camera accessories

The Direct to Flash Strobo Kit enables flashgun users to mount and dismount a range of lighting accessories. The pack includes a selection of cooling and warming colour gels, along with standard coloured options, together with neutral density and heavy frost varieties. These are joined by 1/4-inch and 3/8-inch honeycomb grids, plus four metal creative masks.

The gels and masks fit into holders, which fit onto the main adapter; this clips onto a flash head and is secured with a Velcro strap. Both the holders and the adapter make use of concealed magnets, so the accessories can be fitted and removed easily.

The honeycomb grids are encased in their own holders, so these are just placed against the adapter in the same way. The strength of the magnets means that the various accessories are in no danger of coming away from the adapter. The gels fit inside the holders easily, and can be removed with ease, but the masks take a little more persuasion.

While the set may appear expensive, you do get a good selection of accessories, and each item is constructed to a high standard. Furthermore, Lastolite has been thoughtful enough to include a Velcro-closed carry case, with separate pockets to help keep all the items secure and free from damage while not in use.

Graslon Insight Dome 4300D - $70/$63

Essential camera accessories

The Insight does a good job of softening flashgun light considering its compact size. The attachment system is also simple and secure, but the light is still harsher than through larger diffusers or bounced flash.

Camera battery packs, grips and storage

Godox Propac PB-820 Power Pack - £160 (about $250)

Essential camera accessories

Available in a sober all-black and a more brazen lime green, the Propac PB-820 is a lightweight, waist-mounted power pack that can be used with Canon, Nikon, Sony and Godox flashguns. It attaches to your waist using a strong metal clip, while the ring of bright LEDs on the top plate makes it easy to quickly check status and charge. It works well and the cord is just long enough for standard use, although sadly the cord itself needs to be purchased separately for an additional £20.

Hahnel HN-D7000 Battery Grip - £100/$130

Essential camera accessories

Cheaper than Nikon's MB-D11, this rubberised grip is finished to match the D7000. The joystick and AE-L/AF-L buttons are well positioned, but the shutter-release button feels a bit loose.

Hahnel HGB-EL15a Battery Pack - £75 (about $115)

Essential camera accessories

An alternative to the AA tray that ships with the HN-D7000 grip, this battery pack can be charged through the mains and used in its place. It's powerful and priced well for its capacity.

Samsung 32GB Essential SDHC card - £39/$40

Essential camera accessories

This card is said to be water, shock and magnet proof. Testing verifies the card's max 24Mb/s read speed, although the maximum write speed of 13MB/s couldn't be achieved in testing.

Western Digital My Book Essential 1TB - £89.99/$119.99

Best external hard drive for photographers: 6 tested

Like the Passport, Western Digital's My Book offerings have developed a wide following. This 1TB version features a vertical design with plenty of air vents and the ultra-fast USB 3.0 interface.

Performance, however, was somewhat disappointing using USB 2.0, since it managed to write at an average of only 18.1 MB/s, although this was partly redeemed by its read performance of 30.1 MB/s. Western Digital's proprietary backup software is included on the drive and works well, as does the no-nonsense plug-and-play installation. A reasonable, budget-friendly choice.

Western Digital My Book Live 1TB - £119/$122

Essential camera accessories

This network-attached storage (NAS) drive connects wirelessly with multiple devices. On the inside, software preloaded onto the drive allows for wireless data back-up, while its smart external design is treated in a charcoal-grey finish. the drive is near silent in operation (and lets off any heat through its slatted sides), while transfer rates compare well with standard UsB 2.0 devices. It's not the cheapest 1TB drive available, but for its NAS functionality it's worth the premium.

Read our full Western Digital My Book Live review

Western Digital My Passport 1TB - £129.90/$139.99

Best external hard drive for photographers: 6 tested

This latest revision of the highly popular Western Digital Passport range is a diminutive portable hard drive and can be distinguished from its predecessors by its fresh pattern design on the facia. The enclosure is available in a range of colours and is an all-plastic affair, but one that still feels like a quality product and keeps the Passport's weight below 200 grams.

Connectivity is through a single USB 3.0 port, which gave lighting-quick read and write speeds close to 100MB/s. It is also backward-compatible with USB 2.0, through which it read at a more sedate 30.1MB/s and wrote at a slightly underwhelming 18.4MB/s. The included backup software is simple and effective.

Seagate GoFlex Satellite 500GB - £130/$199.99

Best external hard drive for photographers: 6 tested

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While the Seagate GoFlex Satellite drive offers 500GB of portable storage space, its party piece is the ability to wirelessly stream images, music and video to most wireless devices, such as laptops, tablets and smartphones. In practice this worked very well. Just turn on the drive and in under a minute it automatically broadcasts its own wireless network signal, which was easily connected to by our Windows 7 notebook and Android smartphone.

The addition of a rechargeable lithium-ion battery makes the drive entirely wire-free and further adds to its ease of use. USB 2.0 read and write performance trailed the other drives, but not significantly. A great buy, if cable-free storage is your priority.

Read our full Seagate GoFlex Satellite review

G-Drive Professional External Hard Drive 2TB - £180/$229.99

Best external hard drive for photographers: 6 tested

Designed (and pre-formatted) for Mac computers, the G-Drive design is faithful to Apple's aesthetic. Plastic is banished in favour of a beautifully crafted, all-aluminium casing that bears a striking resemblance to Apple's own products. An abundance of ventilation holes, combined with an integrated heat sink, should also keep this drive as cool as it looks.

USB 2.0, FireWire 800 and eSATA are present for optimum compatibility. Over FireWire 800, read speeds averaged 46.1MB/s, while writing performance was even quicker, at 52.2MB/s. Switching to USB 2.0 provided decent read and write rates of 32.4MB/s and 26.8MB/s, respectively.

Seagate GoFlex Desk 4TB - £230/$240

Best external hard drive for photographers: 6 tested

The huge 4TB storage capacity makes the Seagate GoFlex Desk a fantastic value hard drive in terms of price-per-gigabyte. Set up couldn't be simpler, with full drive capacity accessible straight after plugging in. Included is a basic backup software package that is easy to use but lacking in features. An upgrade is available, but only at extra expense.

Read and write performance was about average when connected to our USB 2.0 PC, achieving 29.4 MB/s to read from and 19.5 MB/s to write to the drive. The smart casing and quiet operation further serve to make this hard drive a great choice.

Read our full Seagate GoFlex Desk 4TB review

Colour calibration and monitors

Datacolor SpyderLensCal - £52/$63

Essential camera accessories

A fast, reliable method of measuring the focus performance on your camera and lens combinations. It's very useful, but probably only cost-effective if you have lots of glass.

Spyder4 Elite - £170/$250

Essential camera accessories

The Spyder4 Elite provides a high level of user control over display calibration, be it a standard LCD or wide-gamut display, or even a projector. It can even be used with iPhones and iPads to get colour spot on.

The smart black colorimeter sits in its own cradle when not in use, and takes around six minutes to calibrate a display from start to finish. In our tests, results appear reasonably accurate, although colours are a touch colder than those from the junior Spyder4 Express model, which some photographers may prefer.

ColorMunki Color Confidence Studio Photo - £186 (about $290)

Essential camera accessories

Comprising the ColorMunki Display colorimeter, Color Confidence Total Balance tool and Kodak Color Management Check-Up Kit, this all-in-one colour management solution is ideal for novice and intermediate users alike. Calibration takes around 10 minutes, while the Total Balance tool folds away neatly and provides a handy reference for white balance and exposure. There's also a CD and prints of test targets, as well as documentation on colour management.

Asus PA246 - £395/$470

Essential camera accessories

The PA246 from Asus is a 24-inch widescreen LCD display that combines 98% Adobe RGB coverage with full high-definition (HD) resolution. The display is said to have a 178-degree horizontal and vertical viewing angle, and can be adjusted to a portrait orientation – great for photo-viewing. There's also a height and tilt control.

As claimed, the display can still be viewed even at obtuse angles, but while colour and responsiveness are good, unfortunately some irritating flickering is noticeable.

Read our Asus PA246 announcement article

Phottix Hector 9HD - £450/$630

Essential camera accessories

The Hector 9 HD is perfect for video and stills. Hook it up to your SLR via the HDMI cable supplied, switch to Live View and see what the camera sees on the nine-inch screen. The 1024 x 600-pixel display delivers crisp detail and good colours, and you can see what's going on from a few feet away.

You can fix the device to a lighting stand or tripod, or use it handheld – if you're using it as a remote release. For this, you'll need to attach a second (supplied) cable from the screen to the camera's remote socket. You can now activate autofocus and fire the camera's shutter using buttons on the front of the display. You can't start and stop video in the same way, though.

Power comes from a hefty lithium-ion battery, and you should get 4 hours' use from a full charge. Alternatively, connect the Hector to the mains using the supplied power adaptor.

The Hector is great for shooting stills in a controlled environment, or for low-level macro shots and shooting in tricky positions, but all the extra cables could prove awkward.

X-Rite i1 Publish Pro 2 - £1,700/$1,999

Essential camera accessories

Colour calibration is essential for colour consistency between on-screen and printed images. The new i1 Publish Pro 2 is X-Rite's flagship calibration package, capable of calibrating monitors, projectors, RGB and CMYK printers, as well as spot colour matching and the measuring of ambient light.

It's expensive, but the well-designed hardware and intuitive software makes monitor and printer calibration a breeze. If you need the most accurate and flexible calibration solution, this makes a fine – if hefty – investment.

Electronic photography accessories

Graphics tablets

Wacom Intuos4 Medium Wireless - £280/$260

Essential camera accessories

This graphics tablet has the dual convenience of connecting wirelessly to a computer and charging through a USB port. In addition to its pen it comes equipped with eight customisable expressKeys and a scroll wheel, which enables it to access much of a computer's functionality. Bluetooth set-up is quick and the scroll wheel is useful. although the expressKeys can be a bit stiff, this is still a very user-friendly device.

Read our full Wacom Intuos4 Wireless review

Film scanners

Plustek OpticFilm 7600i SE - £255/$270

Essential camera accessories

The OpticFilm 7600i SE scans both film negatives and slides, at a maximum resolution of 7,200dpi. It's bundled with a holder for each format, as well as silverFast se plus scanning software, and it's small enough to be kept on a desk at all times. the holders are functional, if a little flimsy, and scanning at maximum resolution can take many minutes. nevertheless, the scanner picks up a lot of detail, so it's handy for enlargements.

Audio recorders

Tascam DR-40 - £189/$170

Essential camera accessories

Despite the high-quality video footage captured by the latest DSLRs, the depth and richness of audio is often lacking. Tascam's latest audio recorder, the DR-40, is a simple portable four-track recorder that captures crystal clear sound through its two-directional built-in mics. It also has two XLR ports, which can be connected to either high-quality external microphones or – via a VXLR adapter – a standard 3.5mm jack.

It's easy to use, well made and will make a huge difference to a movie's audio.

Other camera accessories

Lenses and adaptors

Digital King Ultra Wide Conversion Lens 0.25x - £100 (about $156)

Essential camera accessories

This bargain ultra-wide angle 0.25x fisheye lens is designed to screw into the filter ring of a standard kit lens, creating a field of view nearing 180-degrees.

Don't expect flawless image quality though – sharpness is fairly good at the centre, but degrades to very soft-focused edges, which can also exhibit serious chromatic aberration. However, if you accept these characteristics (and ignore the colour fringing) this lens inspires creativity and is great fun to use.

Panasonic DMW-MA1 - £125/$110

Essential camera accessories

The Panasonic DMW-MA1 enables Micro Four Thirds cameras to accept Four Thirds lenses, and maintains support for both autofocus and metering. The various possible body and lens combinations mean, however, that there's a wide range of caveats and exceptions, all of which are detailed in full on Panasonic's website.

Both its build and design score highly, with two clearly defined lens attachment marks making it simple to set up on your camera. There's also a lens-release button on top of its own platform, as well as a metal mount at either end. There's a little play between the adaptor and the camera body on which it's mounted, but no more than when a regular lens is attached conventionally.

Once it's connected, it gently clicks to confirm its locked position, and it's easily dismounted when no longer required. Overall, this adaptor fulfills its purpose well, and its build should ensure that it lasts through years of use.

Peleng 17mm f/3.5 fisheye lens - £247 (about $385)

Essential camera accessories

Almost half the price of other big-name alternatives, this full-frame fisheye lens is basic, but its overall sharpness and control over chromatic aberrations do compensate.

Camera cases

Zing Neoprene Pro SLR Camera Cover - £35/$32

Essential camera accessories

It's all too easy to scratch and damage your camera's body. The neoprene Zing stretches to fit a variety of SLR bodies and lenses, offering good protection.

Accessory mount

Frio Universal Coldshoe Tripod Adapter - £15/$13

Essential camera accessories

The Frio enables accessories with a mounting foot – flashguns, LED panels and mics – to be secured onto stands or tripods, making it very useful for location work.

Sensor cleaning kit

Eyelead 5x Magnifying Glass - £22 (about $35)

Essential camera accessories

Eight bright LEDs surround a 5x magnification loupe, making this perfect for sensor cleaning, bringing even the smallest dust speck into view. It's also handy for checking print detail and so on.

Eyelead Sensor Cleaning Kit SCK-1 - £30 (about $47)

Essential camera accessories

This sticky pad on a wand removes dust from your sensor and deposits it on stickier capture strips. The process is easy to perform and leaves no adhesive residue behind.

VisibleDust Arctic Butterfly 788 - £75/$80

Essential camera accessories

The Arctic Butterfly offers a safe way to remove pesky particles from your camera's sensor. This new model also has a light that makes it easier to see what you're doing. The battery powers a small motor that spins the brush, creating a static charge that removes dirt without causing damage. Its safety features make it suitable for cleaning ITO (Indium Tin Oxide) coated sensors and SLRs with built-in sensor-cleaning systems.

Boom arms

Velbon V4 Boom Arm - £69 (around $108)

Essential camera accessories

This tripod-mountable boom arm can tilt, swivel and extend itself twofold. Quality is excellent – even the plastic parts feel solid.

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