With each passing year, it seems that camera gear and accessories get progressively cheaper. Third-party brands now offer everything from lenses and flashes to batteries and tripods. This gear is typically priced at a fraction of the price of name brand manufacturers and the quality is often on par. Photographers have often said that “you get what you pay for” when it comes to camera gear, implying that cheaper goods offer less quality. But is that still true today?
In this article, I’ll highlight 5 camera accessories you shouldn’t buy cheap and should consider paying full price for. This isn’t to say that there aren’t cheap, third-party brands offering solid quality for less. But these are items that you’ll want to research extra hard to make sure you’re buying the best product for your camera.
All cameras come with a stock camera strap that you can use to secure your camera on your shoulder. However, the quality and long-term durability of these camera straps are often questionable. Thus, it’s becoming more commonplace for photographers to purchase their own camera straps. Peak Design and Black Rapid are two popular brands offering sturdy and stylish camera straps. These straps are on the pricey side with the Peak Design Slide coming in at $64.95 and the Black Rapid Breathe at $68.99. Each strap also attaches to your camera differently, but their main benefit is being able to detach on demand if you need to remove the strap (ie. for use on a tripod or gimbal).
Are there cheaper camera strap alternatives? Certainly. But consider the fact that you are trusting the camera strap to hold hundreds or thousands of dollars of equipment and be sure to buy a camera strap that you can trust.
Along the lines of keeping your valuable camera gear safe, it’s also wise to invest a little extra into a high-quality tripod. I’ve spent years buying cheap, compact tripods for travel only to have them fail on me sooner than expected. As a result, I’ve amassed a pile of broken tripods. Last year, I finally took the plunge and bought a more expensive Manfrotto tripod. Solid and reliable, I now wonder why I didn’t just buy this tripod in the first place.
When purchasing a tripod, it’s also important to buy a quality tripod head. Ball heads are popular and are often the default tripod head that you’ll receive. However, they tend to loosen over time. Luckily, there are many other tripod heads out there that offer more stability and precise control over your camera movement. My personal favorite tripod head is the Manfrotto MH804-3W, which I now use for all of my architecture and real estate photo shoots.
When buying a new camera, it’s always important to budget for a few extra camera batteries. You’ll always want spares just in case, and authentic spare camera batteries are generally not cheap. For example, a spare Sony Z-battery for the A7III costs $78. Similarly, a spare Fujifilm battery is $65. Third-party brands such as Wasabi Power offer cheaper battery knock-offs, but there’s a risk in using these.
Battery knock-offs may or may not offer the same amount of power as the original batteries. I’ve used third-party batteries for certain cameras such as my Canon DSLRs and not seen any difference in their power. However, camera brands are getting smarter and will sometimes detect knock-off batteries. For instance, my Fujifilm X-T3 flashes a warning sign if Wasabi Power battery is inserted, and it definitely does not last as long as an authentic Fuji battery.
It’s also said that using third-party batteries can void your camera’s warranty. I’m not sure how the camera brand would know if you were using a knock-off battery, but it’s still something to look into.
All of your photos and videos are recorded onto memory cards, so it is very important to select quality memory cards. SanDisk is one of the biggest and most reputable memory card makers. There are other brands such as Lexar and PNY that also make quality memory cards. But I’d be wary of buying memory cards made by any other brands. With that said, even the most reputable memory card brands tend to fail and malfunction, so also be sure to use multiple memory cards if your recording device offers multiple card slots.
Related to memory cards, hard drives are also important for storing and backing upyour photos and videos. If you’ve ever had a hard drive fail, you know the importance of choosing a quality hard drive and making sure you have a backup for your backup.
Similar to memory cards, even the most high-quality hard drives can fail, so the best brand names are up for debate. Western Digital and Seagate are generally good hard drive brands, even though I’ve experienced hard drive failures from them both.
Lately, I’ve had the best luck with Samsung SSD hard drives. I use a 1TB Samsung T5 as my main working hard drive and a 4TB LaCie Rugged Mini as my secondary backup. This combo is great for working on the road, as well as in the office.
There you have it – 5 camera accessories that you’ll want to consider splurging for because in some cases, you still get what you pay for. Are there cheaper, high-quality alternatives for these items? Certainly. But when it comes to these 5 items, take the extra time to read customer reviews and make sure you’re buying the best gear for your camera.