They’re the unsung heroes of your photography gear collection. They’re your dependable workhorses, your trusted friends when you head out for a shoot. They hold your precious photography cargo and lend support to your cameras and lenses when they need it most. They’re steady, reliable, always at your side, and ready to stand up for you and your photos.
They’re your loyal tripods, trusty photo bags and indispensable accessories, and, as photographers, we never seem to have enough of them. That’s why every year, manufacturers churn out more and more of these photo products, hoping to entice us to buy “just one more.” But, as we all know, not every camera bag, tripod or photo accessory is created equal. Some we buy and use every day until the threads on the shoulder straps (or tripod mounts) begin to wear out. Others end up at the bottoms of our closets after just a few shoots.
In this guide to the latest tripods, bags and photography accessories, we’ve chosen nearly a dozen new products we think you’ll want to keep with you through thick and thin as a photographer. Whether you’re looking for a portable tripod that’s perfect for travel or a camera pack with enough urban style to blend in with the crowd during street photography, we’ve picked a range of handy gear you’ll surely want to accessorize with.
Supporting Your Gear
3 Legged Thing Bucky
There’s something delightfully oddball about 3 Legged Thing’s tripods. For one, this British company’s unconventional but memorable naming methods for its products is liable to put a smile on your face. And secondly, 3 Legged Thing isn’t shy about adding dashes of color and eye-catching design elements to its tripods, giving these typically all-black products a refreshing dose of style. When it comes to performance, though, 3 Legged Thing’s tripods are all business.
The company’s Bucky tripod is named after legendary skateboarder Bucky Lasek, so it’s appropriately part of 3 Legged Thing’s “Legends” line. Bucky’s got five-section legs and a three-section column with a maximum height of over 6 feet and a load rate of 66 pounds, providing functionality, support and stability. At the same time, it folds down to 16 inches and weighs just over 3 pounds, making it small and light enough to travel with comfortably. Bucky’s made of eight layers of Japanese carbon fiber and aerospace-grade, anodized magnesium alloy.
It also has three detachable legs and a removable and reversible center column, letting it transform quickly into a tabletop tripod. Meanwhile, that detachable center column can be used as a monopod. You’ll want to pair Bucky, which comes in Earth Bronze or Metallic Slate Grey colors, with a matching AirHed Vu ($169) ballhead. The AirHed Vu is not only lightweight, it’s also the first ballhead to feature a window-like vision panel that lets you see the internal mechanism lock into place. List price: $399. Contact: 3leggedthing.com.
Benro Tortoise Tripod Collection
Benro also got into the fun naming game with its tripods, announcing the Bat, Tortoise and Rhino lines this year. Of the three, we like to keep things steady with the small but tough Tortoise tripods, which punch above their light weight.
There are five Tortoise models for photography. All are made with carbon fiber and start at just 1.27 pounds, with the largest in the lineup boasting a weight capacity of 44 pounds. (Benro also offers two Tortoise tripods for video, which have a ball leveling device to mount the head on.) Since it has no center column, a folded Tortoise tripod has a diameter of just 3.1 inches, which is perfect for stuffing in a backpack for location shoots. Tortoise tripods feature spring-loaded 1/4-20 and 3/8-16 attachment threads, making them compatible with a range of tripod heads. There are also three 3- x ¼-inch threads to attach accessories into the main casing. To ensure quick setup, you can adjust the angle of the Tortoise’s legs with one button while three-step self-adaptive feet add ground stability. List price: From $299 to $449. Contact: benrousa.com.
Manfrotto Befree 3-Way Live Advanced Tripod
Videographers should take a serious look at the Manfrotto Befree 3-Way Live Advanced Tripod. Featuring a three-way fluid head that allows you to smoothly pan and tilt your camera when shooting movies, this aluminum alloy tripod can reach a height of over 59 inches with a maximum load capacity of 13 pounds. Despite those serious specs, traveling with the Befree is easy—the legs can also be folded up around the head for storage and transport. When you’re ready to shoot, just pull it from your bag and use the tripod’s QPL Travel level leg locking system for fast and secure setup and adjustment.
Designed primarily for use with the current crop of full-frame mirrorless cameras, Manfrotto Befree 3-Way Live Advanced is also a solid tripod for still photography. It has a plate holder compatible with both photo and video plates and three bubble levels for aligning your camera on three planes. But it’s Manfrotto’s Fluid Drag System in the head that works on both the pan and tilt axes that makes this a great hybrid tripod, whether you’re tracking athletes for still images or sports cars for fast-action video. List price: $279. Contact: manfrotto.com.
Tripod heads haven’t changed much over the years, until now. The Platyball from Platypod offers a dare we say revolutionary design for ball heads. Featuring an inverted configuration that puts the ball portion of the head on top, Platyball gives you an easier and more precise way to control your camera on top of the tripod. The device’s one-touch controls are probably what we like best. For starters, there’s an Arca twist locking collar on top of the Platyball with a 360-degree indicator that allows you to smoothly pan your camera while keeping it level. Meanwhile, a quick-release safety on the collar and a panning lock on the side give you additional control. Two buttons on the front of the Platyball let you unlock or lock it, allowing a wide variety of fast adjustments, with the added security of total lockdown of your camera.
With a forged and machined aluminum unibody construction featuring internal steel components and polymer brake pads, the Playball is solidly built but small and smooth with no protruding parts that might get snagged in your bag. Platyball comes in two varieties, the standard Ergo grey version, and the Elite red version that features a very cool LED-based electronic leveler on back. We say spring for the Elite—the digital leveler is worth it. List prices: $325 (Elite); $249 (Ergo). Contact: platypod.com.
Carrying Your Gear
Wandrd Duo Daypack
If you’re looking for a do-everything photo backpack that doesn’t scream camera bag, the Wandrd Duo Daypack features a smart design and a sleek, professional look. Wandrd made a name for itself a few years ago with its award-winning PRVKE pack, which has a distinctive, expandable roll top. The Duo Daypack borrows some of the PRVKE’s snazzy urban style but trades the roll top for a more classic, rounded zip top. Made to move easily between work and play functionality—hence the Duo name—the all-black pack will look great on a street photography shoot or at a meeting with clients.
While the exterior of the bag is clean and minimal, the inside features a well-conceived organizational system of padded, stretch and zip pockets and a collapsible “pop cube” to stash and grab your camera. The Duo Daypack’s InfiniteZip system makes it easy to get to your gear from a variety of sections on the bag, including convenient dual side access. There’s also a fleece-lined tablet sleeve, a padded laptop sleeve and a hidden passport pocket. Along with its weather-resistant zipper system, the Duo is made of coated, waterproof nylon, so you don’t have to worry about your photo gear if you get caught in a sudden downpour. List price: $219. Contact: wandrd.com.
Think Tank Photo Retrospective Backpack 15
Going on a bushwhacking photo adventure through the Australian outback or just want to look like you are? The Think Tank Photo Retrospective Backpack 15 is what you’ll want to wear to haul your gear. A classic-style rucksack that looks like it fell off the back of the jeep of a National Geographic photographer, the Retrospective Backpack 15 is made of rugged yet soft, form-fitting cotton canvass treated with a durable water-repellant coating made to withstand the elements.
Available in natural-hued pine stone or black colors, the Retrospective Backpack 15 offers top and rear access to your camera gear with 20 liters of capacity. That’s enough room to fit a standard DSLR body or mirrorless camera system with a 70-200mm ƒ/2.8 lens attached. You can also slide in a 15-inch laptop in a dedicated padded sleeve and still add a collection of additional lenses and accessories ranging from a 24-70mm ƒ/2.8 to 50mm ƒ/1.4 and a flash. With a variety of additional pockets—some of them zippered—for your phone, batteries, passport, cords and other essentials, you’ll be able to bring everything you need on your next backroads shoot in rugged style. List price: $249. Contact: thinktankphoto.com.
Spider Holster Hand Strap V2
We’ve spent a lifetime searching for the perfect hand strap for our camera, and with the Spider Holster Hand Strap V2 we just might have found it. Made of proprietary nylon core material that “remembers” your hand shape and conforms to it with repeated usage, Spider Holster Hand Strap V2 fits like a glove while providing a secure grip on your camera.
This latest version of the Spider Holster Hand Strap is designed to fit both DSLRs (even larger models with vertical grips) and mirrorless camera bodies and adds a wider memory foam interior for improved hand support all day long. A new three-snap attachment feature lets you quickly install the main hand strap to your camera while an extra wrist strap adds another layer of comfort and security. Before you buy, you’ll want to visit the Spider Holster website to make sure the strap is compatible with your particular camera. Once you’ve confirmed that, pick from seven color options, including a new carbon fiber-like graphite option. List price: $70. Contact: spiderholster.com.
Simplifying Your Workflow
Datacolor SpyderX Photo Kit
One of the most intimidating things about color management for many photographers is where to begin. The folks at Datacolor have the tools to get you started on the right path with their SpyderX Photo Kit. The kit includes three key devices, the SpyderX Elite, SpyderCHECKR 24 and the Spyder Cube, all bundled together in an attractive metal carrying case.
The SpyderX Elite is an easy-to-use device that lets you color calibrate your computer monitor in under two minutes. The Elite works seamlessly with a variety of monitors (just dangle it across your screen like a, um, spider), can handle different resolutions and color gamuts, and is 64-bit ready. The SpyderCHECKR 24 is a 24-color patch and grayscale target that lets you color correct your camera and adjust for different visual combinations to give you accurate color across your post-production workflow. And lastly, the Spyder Cube is a portable, cube-like device that assists you in setting your white balance, exposure, black level and brightness to help you capture crisper detail and beautiful depth in your images. This kit has everything you need to take control of your color management. List price: $399. Contact: spyderx.datacolor.com.
If you’ve ever wanted more hands-on control over your editing adjustments when working on a photo or video in post-production, Loupedeck CT is for you. Loupedeck CT is a powerful and adaptable custom console device that lets you quickly adjust your editing software via physical buttons and knobs on the console rather than by clicking virtual tools on your screen.
Out of the box, the device offers native integration with a variety of programs, but photographers and videographers will be most interested in its seamless and deep control over Photoshop, Lightroom, Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro. There’s a bit of a learning curve with the Loupedeck CT, but that’s mostly because it offers you so much finetuning via its assortment of knobs, buttons, dials and touchscreen options, allowing you to precisely and quickly make your photo and video edits with your fingertips. After a few days of exploring and customizing Loupedeck CT to meet your workflow, you may never go back to making edits with your mouse and keyboard again. List price: $549. Contact: loupedeck.com.