The best camera gadgets
Maybe you're a bit disappointed with the pictures you're getting? Maybe you're getting a little bored and you're looking for some inspiration? Maybe you've seen some of the results captured by pro photographers and you're wondering just how they did it?
Well, we've gathered together 10 brilliant accessories to bring the fun back into picture-taking and take your hobby in whole new directions – whether you shoot with a DSLR or a smartphone, and whether you're into stills, video or even aerial photography.
ONA Union Street Camera and Laptop Bag
Camera bags can be cool, smart, practical everyday bags too. This ONA Union Street camera and laptop back is made from waxed canvas and its padded interior has room for a DSLR or CSC, a couple of lenses and a flash, plus a 15-inch laptop computer.
There's also a zippered front pocket with pouches for pens, external drives, memory cards and smartphones. It's the perfect shoulder bag for folk who like to take pictures but actually have a regular life too.
Best of all, it doesn't advertise the fact that it's packed with extremely expensive kit.
Gitzo G1177M Series 1 Centre Ball Head
Gitzo has a reputation for making some of the most beautifully engineered tripods you can buy, but with a price tag to match. But here's a way to get a taste of that Gitzo quality without spending a fortune.
The little Gitzo G1177M ball head fits on to any regular tripod mount and has a simple locking lever for adjusting the camera position. It's small, light and ultra-simple to use.
There's no quick release plate, but who needs one – with a simple ball head like this it only takes a moment to 'spin' the mount into the base of your camera.
Petzval 58 Bokeh Control Art Lens
Inspired by the hefty brass lenses of yesteryear, the Petzval 58 Bokeh Control Art lens looks a million dollars but demands real patience and skill.
Forget auto-exposure and auto-focus – this lens uses a rack focusing system and has no aperture ring. Instead, you drop in different-sized aperture plates to change the diaphragm setting.
The 'bokeh control' is applied via an adjustment ring which changes the look of the swirly bokeh (the appearance of out of focus areas) created by the unique Petzval optical design.
Peak Design Clutch Hand Strap
What do you do if you don't like regular neck straps? Chances are you tote your camera round in a shoulder bag, and when it's not in the back you're just gripping it with one hand.
But what happens one day if you drop it (we speak from bitter, bitter experience)? This simple hand strap could save you from an expensive accident and also steadies up your camera grip.
It screws into the camera's tripod bush and the top eyelet and can be adjusted to provide a tight fit around your hand.
Digital cameras and smartphones can capture terrific video footage but the audio quality lets them down. The tiny microphones built into the body capture extraneous noise from here, there and everywhere and are particularly susceptible to wind.
That's where external mics like the Rode VideoMicro comes in. It clips into your camera's hotshoe via a vibration-reducing 'Lyre' mount and plugs into the microphone port (you'll need an adaptor cable for smartphone use).
It's a directional mic that's designed to reduce peripheral sounds and pick up what the camera is pointing at - and it even comes with a furry wind shield for outdoor use.
Adobe Photography Plan
There was a time when Photoshop was a fabulously expensive professional tool outside the reach of most amateurs, but Adobe's subscription-based Photography Plan has changed all that.
It was controversial when it was announced, but the passage of time (and some hefty price reductions) has made people realise what a good deal it is.
For less than the price of a monthly premium music subscription you get both Photoshop CC for editing and Lightroom CC for organising your photos – together with free automatic updates and Adobe's clever Creative Cloud mobile app synchronisation.
Lee Big Stopper
It's not much to look at, but this near-black square of high-quality optical glass can transform the appearance of landscape photographs.
It reduces the light entering the lens by a massive 10 stops, allowing long exposures even in bright daylight. Water morphs into a smoky blur, clouds turn into impressionistic streaks across the sky.
You'll need a Lee filter holder, sold separately, to hold it, and a good-quality tripod to keep the camera rock steady during exposures lasting many seconds.
The Big Stopper is so dark you have to compose and focus your shots before you attach it – but the payback is a new kind of amazing, impressionistic landscape photography.
Phantom 4 drone
It's a lot of money, but this is a lot of drone. The Phantom 4 is equipped with a top-quality 4K camera and the Phantom 4 uses DJI's LightBridge technology to deliver a smooth, live, uninterrupted feed to your smart device.
The Phantom 4 is quick and easy to set up and even easier to fly, thanks to some really smart flight control features such as FollowMe mode, ActiveTrack and object avoidance.
Cost-conscious photographers might want to start out with a cheaper drone, but this one is the bee's knees. Actually, it's so precise it could likely get a close up of the pollen-fiend's joints.
Smartphones can now capture excellent stills and video, but they're slippery little devils to hold while you're trying to take pictures.
There are lots of different grips and clamps out there to make this easier, but the ShoulderPod is something special.
First, it has a grippy, rigid clamp that will hold your phone tight. Second, it has a decent-sized grip that leaves your thumb poised perfectly over your on-screen shutter/record button.
Third, it has a removable cap in the base that reveals a tripod socket so that you can do long exposures or static video clips.
Manfrotto Lumimuse Series 8
Flash is soooo old-school. The trouble with a burst of light is that you don't know what your shot is going to look like (terrible, usually) until you take it.
The other trouble with flash is that it's no good for video. What you need is 'continuous lighting', and a portable, energy-efficient LED panel like this Manfrotto Lumimuse 8 (it has 8 LED lamps).
It doesn't put out a whole heap of light, but it's perfect for indoor and close-range photography and you can use it off-camera for a range of different lighting angles and effects. Power comes from a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and it offers a dimmer control and colour temperature and diffusion filters.