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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Time to click: Top 5 Safety Accessories

Today is all about safety!  I bet you didn't even know there was such a thing as camera safety did you?!

Well, I am here to tell you how to keep your new camera safe! Here are my top 5 things to purchase for EVERY camera.

1. A GOOD Camera strap: I know I told you to use what came in the box, and compared to the alternative of nothing... PLEASE use the one in the box! However, I also know if your wearing it around your neck, over your shoulder or simply around your wrist.. your going to want something comfortable if not fashionable as well! Pick up a good strap, and if needed add a slip cover to it to make it something you will be happy using!

I like the handmade covers like this, esp with a built in storage for lens cap / memory card so I don't have to dig around my bag all the time. Remember its the STRAP that is important, the cover is just "pretty". I wish I could remember where I found this one... its a great handmade store on etsy or storenvy! Be sure to check there before buying a mass produced one!

What makes a "good" Strap?
Well that kinda depends on the person and camera. For most p&s camera's a simple wrist strap which is small and compact is a good fit. A wrist strap should attach securely to your camera and slide over your wrist but not be so lose that it would fall off your wrist (or get in the way of your shooting) I personally like something a little thicker with a band to tighten or loosen... like this one shown. (Also great for bridge cameras or people who don't like to wear something around a neck or shoulder.)

 As an alternative, or for people who like larger cameras' a "hand" style strap that fits over your hand as your shooting (sometimes attached to the bottom of an SLR, sometimes just to one side) You can pick up these in different styles, colors or materials... from leather to neoprene. 

 A neck or shoulder strap should be well padded. Typically the ones in the box are made from a nylon webbing and while durable, they are not very comfortable. Personally I like the neoprene padded straps that curve like this one from Lexar shown...It is harder to find a custom cover for these, but it can be done! The curve is WELL worth it! Also, I find that wearing it around my neck causes strain and gives me headaches so I have a longer one (called a sling strap) where if I will be shooting all day it can be worn across my body from my left shoulder, to right hip. While I don't have an image for this - I just found a manufacture who designed one just for women with the padding going down farther in front. http://joby.com/camera-straps/ultrafit-sling-strap-for-women/

 Be sure to fit the strap to you.  It doesn't do you much good to have a great strap if it isn't put on right! BTW, if you shop in your local photography store the salesmen/women will usually help you with this if you need!

Now, I swap my straps more then the average person, but I find that I don't like a strap when I am using a tripod, and use a smaller hand strap for small portrait sessions for ease... and my sling strap for events where I am walking and talking... so it would be crazy for me to reattach each strap all the time. Instead I have something that looks like this with the quick release snap on the left. It attaches like any other with the slip knot on style image on the right. With this attached I can then leave the strap off it all together with just small attachments hanging down, or attach either the hand or the sling to the same quick release making it fit my needs. Very handy!

2. A Camera bag that fits! Lowepro, Caselogic and Tamrac are simply 3 camera bag companies that offer great bags. They make them in every size, with hard cases, or extra padding... get one that fits your camera, and has room for your accessories! if you have a DSLR give yourself room to grow to add flash, lenses, etc. Also, make sure you have a secure place to keep an extra battery and memory card!
(I will mention I think both are great quality, but Lowepro started in Boulder, CO and has a great Green Product / ECO plan.. so I am partial to them!) I linked those two sites, but there are tons of other manufactures you can check out as well. There is a camera bag for everyone... even this that slides inside of a large purse to make a protective and discreet camera bag. It really needs to fit your lifestyle and gear

3. UV FILTER: If you own a camera that will allow you to add a filter over your lens, get one! Any and every DSLR lens you own should have a UV filter on it. Some bridge cameras will allow for this also, and the new "bridge" style that are slimline with changeable lenses like the new Nikon 1 systems. Here is the deal, on average you will spend from 15 - 25 dollars on a good quality UV filter... depending on brand and quality,  look for something that is "multi-coated" and your typically in good shape. While they have been used in the past to correct things like lens glare and reduce haze, improve contrast by minimizing the amount of UV light reaching film, lenses have gotten better and digital sensors are not as sensitive to UV light... so you no longer need it for its original purpose. Which has many old school photographers pitching them all together. However... now they are primary a PROTECTIVE device. I mean would you rather pay $15 for a new filter if you drop your lens on a rock... or replace your $400 plus lens when you crack or scratch the front glass element?
A protective filter (or UV/Haze Filter) protects your front element from sand, scratches, most impact damage, and even from cleaning and normal wear on the lens coating itself... you just replace the UV filter when you notice the wear or damage and keep your lens in great condition!

To find the right size filter... look at your lens, or each lens to find the mm size you need. You will find this usually on the side or front of your lens. (not to be confused with the focal length that you find in the description of your lens) For instance I have one 50mm 1:1.8 Nikkor lens.. which is the TYPE of lens not the lens size. The FILTER size is 52... which is found next to the serial number. A good cheat, is to look at your lens cap, it is usually printed on the back side!!!! Your filter will screw on to your lens and your lens cap will fit right onto it. If you get into using other filters, those will go in front of your UV - so it can stay on ALL the time!

4. Lens Cap Keeper: Every camera comes with a lens cap... some are even built in! BONUS! These are fantastic for protecting your lens (even with a filter!) really its your first line of defense, if your not actively taking a photo, your lens cap should be on. However for those of you who have lens caps that remove completely... be sure to pick up either a pouch to put it in that would attach to your camera strap, or a lens leash.This will keep it handy and safe, and not sitting on the fence post, rock or otherwise lost when you remember to put it back on!

Lens leashes are only a couple of dollars making them a quick and inexpensive option.

These next ones attach to the strap... and your cap hangs,clips, or gets tucked inside of  it (like the pouch shown hanging from the strap image above)... fun, but depends on the strap you have if it would work for you.... and btw caps don't come with the hang tags so you have to get them attached or buy special caps for the image on the left....

Now this next one I came across while searching for some sample images for you... SUPER awesome it was running a Kickstarter campaign to get funding for production... if you have a DSLR and don't use your tripod this is nice and handy, the groves are designed to hold any lens cap regardless of size, and it's tucked out of the way under your camera body. Here is the kickstarter link as well.

5. Damage Protection.
First, I want to disclose that I am not a salesperson. I don't get kick backs on any of my suggestions in any way. I want you to know that I am a FIRM believer in CERTAIN types of protection plans. Lets clarify why and what is helpful to you.

Manufacturers Warranty: This the the warranty card you get in your box. They can be anywhere from 30 - 90 days (typical of video,  memory cards, and some times extra battery chargers) to 1 year of LIMITED Warranty. Let's face it - it says limited for a reason. It usually lists what it covers as defects in materials or workmanship. Meaning if it works when you take it out of the box, chances are nothing is defective. Sometimes this will even exclude parts or labor cost, repair service from  non authorized personnel (meaning not their repair facility) and of course it specifically will tell you that they are not liable for any punitive damages and such... meaning if you shoot a friends wedding with your camera and it failed - even if the repair is covered they are not going to pay for a new wedding so you can re-shoot it... it's called limited liability, they are only responsible for the camera or lens - not the emotional, perceived, or physical cost of anything effected by your loss.  (NO WARRANTY will cover this... not on memory cards, or equipment... nothing... it's just part of the business and why I always say have extra cards, batteries etc available... just in case)

Be sure to read your warranty card - you almost always have to register your product. I suggest you take the time to do it (yes even on cards, etc) just in case. Especially if this is all the protection you have. 

Extended Warranty: This gets tricky. You have to read very carefully what these cover. This can usually be purchased from your retailer. Sometimes your credit card or insurance agent will offer you these types of plans as well. You just have to read up on them. MOST are simply an extension of the manufacturers warranty.. covering manufacturer defect. If you don't know already, it is very unlikely that a manufacturer will find a real defect in a camera after 1 year. Like I said, if it worked out of the box, typically your issue will be something not covered. 

However. Some Extended plans, or DAMAGE PROTECTION plans offer you full repair or replacement if your item is damaged due to impact, water damage, sand, child... whatever.... it really is rare but I know the retail giant Wolf/ Ritz offered this and I have seen others online as well like one offered by Amazon. It would pay to check into it! Damage protection means if your kid dumps it in the toilet, or pool, or you back over it with your car... it would get fixed as long as it wasn't lost or stolen. 

Lost and stolen can sometimes be covered under your insurance or credit card protection plans so be sure to look into that as well! 

I highly suggest you check into extra coverage, especially if you have something that covers accidents. They DO happen. Really, even if you pay $20 extra for 3 years on a $200 camera - its a fraction of what you would pay to replace it, so it makes good sense. Repairing cameras can be very expensive, and can take a long time! I have seen camera's out for repair that had to wait on a part of over 3 months! CRAZY! But, when a repair can cost 50% to 80% of your camera's price... paying a small amount for the protection plan really does become logical. ( Look into SquareTrade when purchasing digital equipment online, I have it from some amazon purchases and it covers accidents!)

If you don't have the option for a damage protection plan... then get out a jar and start putting $1 - $5 in it every time you take photos.  Then you have a repair or replacement fund when you need it!

There you go my top 5 accessories to keep your camera investment safe!

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