5 Top Accessories for Lightweight Photography in 2018

Photography is about the experience as much as the end result, so I am all for a lightweight, minimalist approach. Leave at home the big photography backpack with full-frame DSLRs, heavy lenses and bulky tripods, replace them with your casual outfit, a slick camera bag and a digital rangefinder with a 35mm lens (Fujifilm XE3 I have my eyes on you). Before you head out, check out these 4 essential and 1 nice-to-have accessory that are my top picks for lightweight 35mm lens photography in 2018.

1. Spring cord locks

spring cord locks
you will only need one lock

Cost: 5/5 (usually free with product packaging)

Usefulness: 5/5 (essential)

I asked quite a few people around and none of them knows exactly how to call these common plastic things: spring loaded cord locks, shoelace stoppers, cord buckles, toggle cord clasps… you get the idea. They are ultra useful for the wrist strap that came with small rangefinders, mirrorless compact cameras. With one-handed camera operation in mind, you always wish to have the extra lock to provide assurance that your camera is not going to slip off your hand when you reach out for a button or dial. Some cameras, such as the Sony RX100 series, are beautifully crafted with full aluminium bodies but they can be quite slippery. I find these spring cords work better than aftermarket camera grips in giving me absolute peace of mind. Best of all: it doesn’t add to the bulk of the camera and it’s usually free. If you look around your room for product packaging, there are always a few of these lying around. In case you can’t find any, get them here.

2. the good old GorillaPod for mirrorless cameras

the good old GorillaPod goes mirrorless
versatile and flexible , the good old GorillaPod

Before we start, if you didn’t know why you should shoot with a mirrorless camera with a 35mm lens, you can find the reasons here.

Cost: 3/5 (not cheapest but good value and last a long time)

Usefulness: 4/5 (useful for landscapes, group, family photos and selfies)

Unlike many photography accessories in the ‘newest and greatest’ category, the GorillaPods have been around for quite a few years now and have been proven by time to be a long-lasting, useful invention that I am happy to carry with me. For small mirrorless cameras all you need is the ‘mirrorless’ size, although you may wish to go one size bigger if you ever plan to use it with heavier telephoto lenses.

Tripod is essential in landscape photography where you need to use a small aperture (f/8 or above) and long exposure time to cater for low light conditions such as sunrise and sunset. Gorilla pod is probably the smallest and most adaptable in all sorts of situations that allowed me to setup quickly to take the shot.

My wife used to complain that on all our holidays I have lots of amazing photos of the scenery and her but not many photos of me WITH her (sometimes not a single one). You can imagine this has not worked out very well for me, until I nailed it with the Gorilla tripod. Put it on any surface or wrap it around a pole or fence,  set the camera to self-timer and never miss another priceless happy family portrait.

There are lots of imitate GorillaPods on the market which I personally will not touch. You may save a few dollars but it’s not worth the risk of it slipping off and dropping your camera. Gorilla tripods are light and flexible, I put it in the bottom of my small messenger bag and bend it a little so it stays comfortably there.

Check out the price of GorrilaPod for mirrorless cameras

3. Disposable Shower Caps

 showercap is a must
not pretty but it works

Cost: 5/5 (usually free)

Usefulness: 5/5 (essential item ‘for a rainy day’)

Another essential item that’s virtually free is a disposable shower cap. you can pick one up next time you stay in a hotel. Shower caps are very useful when shooting in light rain. Wrap it around your camera and position the lens to the opening when shooting. Use it to cover the entire camera and face the opening downwards when waiting to shoot.  They work well even with larger zoom lenses as a standard disposable shower cap is usually sufficiently big. The thin, transparent plastic material of the disposable shower cap allows you to see the LED screen and operate the camera without water getting in. A good idea when shooting in rain is to put on the lens hood. It will stop the front element of the lens from collecting water drops too quickly.

As a word of warning, taking photos of seascapes is different from taking photos in drizzling rain. It usually requires extra preparation. I do not recommend you take a ‘minimalist’ approach to it. If you are shooting on a beach or rocks next to the sea, bring along weather sealed cameras and lenses together with the disposable shower cap. Make sure you do not re-use the shower cap until it is thoroughly rinsed in fresh water. This is because sea water contains salt and minerals which are corrosive, it eats up electronics inside digital cameras quite quickly. Wipe away water drops from your lens frequently before they dry up into white spots on your lens. The white spots are little mineral crystals that will scratch up the coating on optical glass. Be advised to change the lens cleaning paper or cleaning cloth frequently during the photography session and dispose used ones, as crystals can form inside the paper tissue as well.

In case you need to stock up on 100s of shower caps, you can get them here.

4. A small but good lens cleaning pen

lens me, small and essential

Cost: 4/5 (small ticket item that saves your expensive lenses)

Usefulness: 5/5 (essential)

A small lens pen is something I always carry in my ‘minimalist photography’ bag. You just never know when the camera lens will get dirty either from the dust and water in the environment or grease from your hand.  This is especially so in hot summer says and in crowded pockets of a city. With a small mirrorless camera I find it easy for my index finger and the underside of my palm to accidentally rub the lens (and I don’t consider myself having the biggest hand). This does not have to ruin the rest of the photography session by leaving a haze on all the photos. Apart from being small and light, a good lens pen has a brush with soft bristle to remove dust and an activated carbon pad to wipe away any remaining grease. Generally I believe in not touching the lens coating unless I absolutely have to. When using the carbon pad I do so with precision to just clean the area covered with grease but not wiping all over the front element of a lens.

I will leave it to you to decide whether an air blower is necessary. My opinion is that it is not. Not only does a accessory add to the size of the lens cleaning device, it is also questionable how effective it is. Usually, I find if the dust on a lens can be blown away, it does not impact photo quality. I would not worry about it until it is worth using the dusting brush. It’s always easy to be lured into buying more than you need (I know I do).

check out the price of LensPen

5. A photography bag

photography bag is a good addition to the package

Cost: 1/5 (cost varies by design and material, but go for aesthetic value as well as quality)

Usefulness: 1/5 (not really necessary but who doesn’t want one?)

Let me start by saying a dedicated photography bag is not necessary for minimalist photographers. This is because we don’t plan to carry multiple camera bodies or lenses that require separate, padded compartments.  The camera (with lens) can be put in a padded bag, a camera case or a padded wrapper inside any bag of your choice. Everything else that don’t require protection can just go in any compartment of the bag. Some digital compact cameras, such as the Sony RX100 series and the Ricoh GR series have retractable lenses that are stored away inside the camera body when not used. Arguably you won’t even need a layer of padding for these cameras.

Having said that, as an ‘artistic’ group we all secretly want character beyond utility. Imagine the feeling of holding a Leica M6 in your hand: the brass body and the metal buttons tell its legacy, the viewfinder is the same through which many masters saw the world. It lifts the whole photography experience and makes you want to go out and shoot more. Putting a Leica (or your beloved camera for that matter) into an everyday backpack is an option, but if you can, why not accompany it with something characteristic?

Personally, I would pick leather or canvas bags for intra-day photography in the city, and synthetic bags for multi-day trips where extra wear and tear is not an issue. Remember there is a camera bag at every budget, the below may give you some inspiration:

Think Tank Photo Retrospective 5 Shoulder Bag

ONA – The Union Street – Camera Messenger Bag – Field Tan Waxed Canvas

Peak Design 15″ Everyday Messenger Bag v1

What are your favourite accessories for lightweight photography? Why do you like them?  Let me know in the comment section below.

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