Best Canon accessories
Keen photographers invariably gravitate towards a DSLR. Mirrorless camera systems are catching up too, of course, but right now the single lens reflex camera still has the edge in popularity and, at the novice end of the market, value for money.
You can’t get a mirrorless camera with a viewfinder for the same price as a Canon 1300D/Rebel T6, for example, and at the top end of the scale the new Canon EOS-1D X II has set new standards for professional high-speed sports and press photography.
But the camera and the lens that comes with it is just the start. Digital SLRs can be used straight from the box, of course, but they’re meant to be at the heart of a much larger photographic system of lenses, filters, tripods and other accessories.
So here’s our list of eight essential buys for Canon DSLR owners, with the maximum amount of versatility, value and photographic potential to make sure you’ll get simply amazing photos every time.
Telephoto zoom: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS M
Telephoto lenses aren’t just for sports and wildlife. They can also be great for longer-range portraits with nicely-defocused backgrounds, scenic landscape photography and pictures of pets and children at play. The Canon 70-300mm offer a classic focal range for a consumer telephoto zoom – if you want a professional lens you have to pay thousands, not hundreds, so this is the best buy as you find your feet with your camera system.
On a regular APS format Canon body, the Canon 70-300mm offers an equivalent focal range of 112-480mm, so it’s a pretty powerful lens that can pull in even distant subjects. Canon’s regular lower-end kit lens offers a range of 18-55mm, so this one picks up where the kit lens leaves off with just a small gap in the range between 55 and 70mm – you’re not going to notice a gap this small in practice.
The lens uses Canon’s IS image stabilisation system, which is essential in any telephoto zoom if your camera doesn’t have in-body stabilisation – Canon DSLRs do not.
This gives roughly a three-stop shutter speed advantage, so in situations where you’d normally need to use a shutter speed of 1/500sec to avoid camera shake, you should now be able to shoot at 1/60sec. It can also be used on Canon’s full-frame cameras if you decide to upgrade later.
Superwide zoom: Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 M
A telephoto lens is a pretty obvious first choice for any Canon DSLR owner, but a super-wideangle zoom can prove every bit as useful. Canon’s usual kit lenses for its APS-C cameras have a wide-angle setting of 18mm, which is equivalent to around 28mm in full-frame/35mm camera terms. It’s wide, but it’s often not quite wide enough.
But this Canon 10-22mm EF-S lens goes almost twice as wide, making it perfect for cramped interiors, big city landmarks, huge, sweeping landscapes and surreal close-ups.
There is one thing to keep in mind. The Canon 70-300mm lens at the top of our list will also work on a full-frame camera if you ever decide to upgrade. The Canon 10-22mm, however, will only work on Canon’s smaller APS-C cameras – that’s what the ‘EF-S’ in the name stands for (as opposed to ‘EF’ for full frame lenses that fit both). With super-wideangle lenses like this, you have to get them to match the sensor size.
Macro lens: Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 M Macro
The first two lenses in our list extend the range of distances you can shoot from and the angles of view you can take on. Our third lens lets you get right up close to tiny subjects for amazing close-up photography – far closer than the ‘close-up’ or ‘macro’ modes on compact digital cameras, for example.
The Canon 100mm f/2.8 is a true ‘macro’ lens, which means it can focus close enough to render subjects at their actual size on the sensor. So a bee 10mm long (ouch) will appear as a 10mm long image on the sensor – and since the sensor in a regular APS-C Canon is around 22.5mm across, that means the insect will fill almost half of the full width of the image frame.
This is an EF lens, which means it can also be used on Canon’s full-frame cameras. The 100mm focal length means you can shoot your subjects from a little further away to reduce the risk of casting a shadow with the camera or frightening your subjects, and this lens can also double as a handy, fast-aperture telephoto.
Tripod: Manfrotto MT190XPRO3 with X-PRO 3-way head
Every photographer needs a tripod. Some never take a picture without one, others use them only when necessary, but tripods massively extend the range of pictures you can take. With a tripod you can capture super-smooth low-ISO night shots, seamless panoramas, HDR (high dynamic range) exposures, shake-free macro shots and more. They can also save you arm-ache when using a heavy camera/telephoto lens combination for long periods.
There are cheaper, smaller tripods around, but the Manfrotto MT190XPRO3 delivers proper weight-bearing capacity, a decent fully-extended height and the flexibility of a horizontal ‘boom’ mechanism.
You normally choose a tripod head separately with this model, and we’d go for the X-PRO 3-way head. A ball head is a cheaper and more compact option if you don’t need the precision of a three-way head.
Camera bag: Vanguard Up-Rise 38
If you’re going to all the trouble and expense of building a great DSLR system, you need some way of carrying it around safely. Camera bags come in all shapes, sizes and types, including backpacks that are ideal for lugging lots of gear over long distances, and shoulder bags for smaller systems where quick access is essential.
But increasingly photographers are looking for bags that can also carry a laptop – rapidly becoming an important bit of camera kit in itself – don’t advertise the fact that they’re full of expensive gear and can also be used for more than just camera gear.
The Vanguard Up-Rise 38 fits the bill perfectly. It can hold a DSLR and extra lenses in a removable camera compartment, it has a sleeve large enough for a 16-inch laptop and enough compartments and pockets to work perfectly as an everyday business bag.
Flash: Canon Speedlite 430EX III-RT
Almost all Canon DSLRs come with a built-in pop-up flash, but the power output is low and because you can’t use it off-camera or ‘bounce’ the light off walls and ceilings, this kind of flash is best kept for emergency use only. To really see what flash can do, you need a powerful external flash like the Canon Speedlite 430EX III-RT.
It’s not the most powerful external flash in Canon’s range, but it strikes a good balance between power, versatility, value and portability. It also integrates with Canon’s whole multi-flash Speedlite system, so you can use it on-camera or fire it remotely via an optical sensor (it goes off when it detects another flash firing) or via radio frequency triggering.
You might not need this kind of flexibility when you’re starting out, but it’s good to know that you can expand your flash system later on if you need to.
Filters: Lee Filters Digital SLR Starter Kit
You might assume that in the digital age Photoshop has completely replaced filters, but that’s not true. There are still some things that optical filters do that Photoshop can’t – or at least not without twice the effort and half the effectiveness.
For maximum effectiveness you need a modular filter system based around a square filter holder that can hold one, two or three filters at a time. There are cheaper kits, but Lee Filters are the ones favoured by professionals, and the Lee Digital SLR Starter Kit is an affordable route into the Lee system.
You get a 100mm filter holder (though you will have to get an adaptor ring for your lens separately), a 2-stop hard grad for darkening skies and a 2-stop neutral density filter for slowing shutter speeds.
Later on you can invest in a circular polariser for deeper blue skies and richer colours and a Lee Big Stopper for blurring skies and water with long exposures – but by that point you’ll have taken so many photos you’ll be giddy with pleasure.
Remote release: Hahnel Captur Remote
Canon does make remote releases for its DSLRs, and many can now be operated remotely via Wi-Fi and a smartphone app, but remote release specialist Hahnel has produced something different – a powerful modular release system that can be expanded to suit your needs.
The basic Captur Remote kit consists of a receiver and a transmitter that can be used for two different jobs. You can fit the transmitter to your camera and fit your flash to the receiver for remote flash operation, or you can fit the receiver to the camera and use the transmitter to fire your camera – from up to 100m away.
You can expand your set-up with extra receivers and more advanced Timer and Pro modules that offer time-lapse functions and even remote triggering modules for automatic wildlife photography. Make sure you get the version designed for your Canon camera – they come in Nikon versions too.