The Best DSLR Upgrades And Accessories

Most DSLR owners are constantly on the lookout for new ways to improve their photography. The best solution is to upgrade to a newer and more sophisticated camera, but not everybody can afford to do this. (Plus, it means throwing away your existing investment which can be a bitter pill to swallow; especially if your lenses aren't compatible with the new model.) With that in mind, here are some DSLR upgrades and accessories that will allow you to tease better results out of your existing camera.

DSLR picture from Shutterstock

Lenses

Your DSLR probably came bundled with a standard 18-55mm lens. This is a solid jack-of-all-trades that sports a nice wide angle and reasonable focal length. However, any photographer worth their salt needs to bolster their kit with a few additional lenses — otherwise you might as well have stuck with a high-end compact camera. In almost all cases, the type of lens employed will have a bigger effect on image quality than the camera itself.

For most photographers, a telephoto zoom lens makes the most sense for your next purchase. Most DSLR models offer affordable 55-200mm lenses that are great for capturing faraway action, such as animals at the zoo.

An ultra-wide-angle zoom lens is also worth putting on your shopping list: this will allow you to take great panoramas without any tedious stitching and are also great when you need to capture everyone in crowded group photos, making them a staple of wedding photographers. On the other end of the spectrum is the macro lens with a fixed aperture: these let you get up close and personal with the camera's subject and are a great way of documenting nature.

You may also want to consider a prime lens which have a fixed focal length (meaning no zoom). The upshot is that the tend to produce sharper pictures which makes them great for detailed portrait photos and the like.

Naturally, you need to ensure that any lens you buy actually fits your camera — not all lens types are compatible with all DSLRs from the same manufacturer. For instance, Canon produces two major kinds of lens mounts: EF, which boast a focusing motor action built into the lens and EF-S, which are designed for Canon cameras with smaller APS-C sensors.

Firmware Upgrades

One of the simplest ways to improve your DSLR's performance is to install the latest firmware upgrade. These are usually available on the manufacturer's website and may include everything from improved auto-focus tracking to recording RAW video files. Firmware updates are also free, which is good news for photographers on a budget.

In addition to official vendor updates, you can also find custom, third-party firmware for many DSLR models. These are capable of super-charging your camera with a wide range of features that the manufacturer didn't include.

Just be aware that some of these offerings may overwrite your camera's existing firmware and could potentially void your warranty. It's important to ensure that your camera supports the custom firmware before you install it.

That said, some options, such as the popular Magic Lantern, can be installed temporarily onto SD card which minimises the risks.

Tripods

If you're serious about photography, a tripod is one of the most important investments you can make. In other words, it's time to upgrade that flimsy plastic one that the store bundled with your DSLR. It's also a good idea to have a few different options on hand for extra versatility — whether you need something small and portable.

Some models that have impressed us in recent years include the MeFoto Travel Tripod (which are small, collapsible and come in a wide range of colours) the Manfrotto Pixi Mini Tripod (which has widely splayed feet suitable for heavier cameras) the Fishbone Tree-pod (an insane tripod/ladder hybrid constructed from aluminium alloy that can extend to three metres in length) and the Gorillapod Focus (essentially, a DSLR version of the popular smartphone tripod).

3D hardware

No really. Many dismiss 3D as a fading fad, but when it comes to user-created content the technology is more than just a gimmick. It's capable of adding a whole new dimension to your photos (both literally and figuratively). Imagine watching your baby's first steps in a format that you can almost reach out and touch — it might seem vaguely cool now, but what about in twenty years when you kids have flown the coop? Adding 3D functionality to your DSLR will make your recorded memories far more tangible.

One recent example is the Kúla Deeper: a snap-on hardware accessory that allows you to create 3D photos and movies. The accessory adds a pair of mirrors on either side of your DSLR lens for dual image capture. The Kúla Deeper works with most regular DSLRs although viewing the results naturally requires a 3D-compatible display. Charmingly, there's also an Anaglyph mode which lets you watch the movies with a pair of retro red-and-blue 3D glasses. Bless.

Miscellaneous accessories

Camera straps: A good camera strap will allow you to capture photos at avant-garde angles without straining your biceps or putting your camera at risk. The Joby 3-Way Camera Strap is a handy three-in-one DSLR strap allows you to adjust the wearing style to suit any shooting situation. It quickly converts from a wrist strap to a shoulder strap to a neck strap, thus cutting down on camera bag clutter (and making you feel more versatile than McGuyver). That said, if you prize comfort over versatility, the Joby Ultrafit Slingstrap is also worth checking out.

Camera bags: A DSLR needs a good, protective camera bag that is both sturdy and user-friendly. There is a huge array of options on the market, ranging from wheeled behemoths such as the LowePro Pro Roller X200 to lightweight waterproof backpacks such as the Kata’s Revolver 8. Things to look out for are plenty of spacious compartments for all your accessories, shock-proof guarantees to ward against breakages and easy access to your lenses.

Microphones: These days, most DSLRs are also superb video cameras. However, the inbuilt microphone (if there is one) usually leave a lot to be desired; especially if you're trying to interview someone in a crowded indoor venue. Your best bet is to snap up a microphone accessory that's compatible with your camera's hot shoe. We've been using the Australian-based Rode microphone range and have been very impressed with their output.

The DSLR accessory market is huge; this guide has barely scratched the surface. We'd love to hear which DSLR accessories and peripherals that you personally can't live without: let us know in the comments section below.


Comments

    I like my Blackrapid RS-7 strap, it's made carrying a heavy DSLR + lens a lot easier.

      +1 for Blackrapid (I have the sport version, but pretty close to being the same as the RS-7)

    I find a remote shutter release indispensable as I do a lot of long exposure shots in bulb mode. Having fast lenses gives you so much more flexibility too - a 50mm prime is a cheap and worthwhile upgrade.
    I think more valuable than owning gear however, is understanding composition. It's the black magic that makes photos interesting to look at, and no amount of gear can compensate for it. I wish someone had told me this when I bought my first SLR!

    i have an issue with this line from the first paragraph: "The best solution is to upgrade to a newer and more sophisticated camera" For me personally, this is the exact opposite advice that i would give people (depending on how old their camera is). Invest in glass, not bodies. having a f/2.8 lens or at lens with IS will allow you to get faster shutters and/or lower ISOs which will improve the look and quality of your image.

    You mention firmware upgrades, camera straps and random 3D stuff before mentioning an external flash?
    Using a flash off camera or bounced offers a significant improvement over the standard flash or relying entirely on natural light. Even if it's just party snaps, a flash bounced off a whitish ceiling or wall gives a nice diffused light that is flattering and of a consistent colour. The photos are much sharper because you can set the shutter to a very fast shutter speed, even in low light.

    On the topic of tripods, my advice is don't skimp. A good tripod will probably outlast you. My Manfroto is about 7 years old, and looks exactly the same as the day it was purchased. Get it right the first time and you won't need to buy another one for a very long time. Getting a cheap one that breaks after a couple of months and then buying a good one is a waste of money.

      Hi djs, I attempted to strike a balance between the usual suspects and some fun, left-of-field stuff to make the article more interesting. Obviously an external flash has more practical value than a 3D mount, wrist strap or 3-metre tripod, but the latter add a bit of colour to proceedings.

    Does anyone have experience with the small adaptor disks that turn a standard lens into a wide angle or macro? They are much cheaper than a specific macro lens, but are they any good?

      I've played around with the close up ones for my 50mm, it's interesting, razor thin depth of field, and good for a play around.

    I'm going to sound like a real newbie, but I am having a hard time looking for an accessory because I just dont know what its called... but I know what it does!

    I want one of them things (dongles? devices? UFO wizardry?) that transmits the image you've just taken on your camera to a device near by - iPad, phone, PC, laptop etc

    I've seen them around and I've never asked the people who use them what they are called or where I can get it from - I think they are bluetooth? The last time I saw one a guy at a cosplay event was using it to transfer images to his Samsung Note mobile phone to instantly view what the pitcure looked liked

    Can someone help me find this thing?

    I have a Nikon D90, hopefully it works on that camera, and would connect to an iPad. mobile and laptop. Also, does it keep the image on the SD card, or transfers it straight onto the connected device?

    Thanks Giz

      There are SD cards with wifi capabilities... this might suit?

        Hmmm... like this?

        http://lightake.com/detail.do/sku.4GB_Wireless_WiFi_SD_Card_Memory_Card___Red-59464

      you mean this sort of thing: http://www.dpreview.com/news/2013/08/29/battle-of-the-wi-fi-cards-eye-fi-vs-transcend

        Perfect

        Now to find a reasonable price - Teds online was $79 for the 16gb card, Michaels wanted $99 in store!!!

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