Summertime is picture-taking season—when outdoor activities like hiking, boating, bicycling and baseball are at their peak, and vacationers, day-trippers and travelers hit the road, usually with cameras in hand or in compact travel cases slung over their shoulders.
It’s also a great time for dealers to suggest a wide variety of portable accessories to take along that will elevate their customers’ picture-taking experience while helping to build customer relationships. Asking your customers where they’re headed and what they’re doing this summer is a friendly proactive way to get it all started, and it will give you an excellent insight into which accessories will best complement their photo mission or style.
The opportunity to sell high-margin accessories that hardly ever go out of style while setting the stage for the next big-ticket purchase is priceless. Here is our editors’ selection of cool and useful items for 2012. While we’ve illustrated each with a specific proven product, you can think of them as product categories or as a starting point for making your own choices. In any case, we wish you all a fulfilling and profitable summer sales season!
Mirror, Mirror on the Camera. Yes, it’s a small circular mirror from Samigon that affixes to the front of a camera or cell phone so shooters can see themselves (and friends) and compose self-portraits without cutting off heads. Just peel off the paper backing, position the mirror as close to the lens as possible, press it in place; then center everyone in the mirror when taking the shot. $5.99. argraph.com
DeluxGear Lens Guard. This ingenious impact-absorbing lens cap works like the bumper of a car to protect expensive lenses from mishaps, and it’s a lot more effective than a conventional lens cap. It has a tough, waterproof Santoprene outer cover, a thick cushiony neoprene interior lined with smooth Spandex to prevent scratches, and it comes with a built-in tether (larger sizes have straps). It comes in seven sizes from small (6-7 cm) to giant (190.5-20.5 cm). Starting at $24.99. omegabrandess.com
Sunpak PF20XD Flash. This powerful, compact flash unit can be used as a conventional shoe-mount flash or can be triggered via its built-in slave with cameras lacking a hot shoe. It’s a lot more powerful than built-in flash units with a guide number of 66 (in feet) and provides enough illumination for taking pictures in large rooms, open spaces or of large groups. A built-in wide-angle diffuser is claimed to cover wide-angle lenses down to 24mm. Other features: auto mode with three f/stops; manual mode with five settings; a 2.3-23 foot effective range; and it comes with a flash bracket and is powered by two AA alkaline, NiMH or NiCd batteries. $44.44. sunpak.com or tocad.com
Davis & Sanford Vista Voyager TG Tripod. This sturdy, lightweight four-section travel tripod is ideal for people on the go. It has a two-section quick-lift center post, folds to 21 inches in length with head attached for compact portability, extends to a nearly eye-level 62 inches, weighs in at only 3.8 pounds, and comes with a convenient TriggerGrip ball head for quick, easy adjustments on the fly. With a load capacity of seven pounds, it will accommodate a DSLR with long tele-zoom. $80 with padded carrying bag. tiffen.com
Giotto’s Lens Cleaning Kit CL 1001. A great travel accessory for those “Oh no!” moments, it comes complete with multi optical cleaning solution for all glass and plastic surfaces, a microfiber cloth, a retractable brush, 10 100% cotton swabs with paper shafts and a small Giotto’s Rocket Blaster blower made from natural rubber that has a unique inlet valve design to make it suitable for cleaning dust off of sensors. $12.95. giottos.com
Tiffen Four-Filter Kit. Virtually anyone’s filter needs are covered at once with these high-performance, screw-in optical filter kits. The kit includes: a digital ultra clear filter to protect expensive lenses; a circular polarizer to eliminate reflections on water and glass or bring out clouds and enhance color saturation; an enhancing filter to make reds, s oranges and earth-tone colors “pop” in scenic shots; and Tiffen’s exclusive 812 warming filter that adds a pleasant touch of warmth to portraits and mitigates the blue cast encountered in flash shots. $139.95 to $215.95 depending on filter diameter. tiffen.com
Steadicam Smoothee. This ingenious gimbaled video stabilization device is patterned on the renowned $60K Steadicam rigs used by Hollywood cinematographers, but this one is a lot more affordable and portable. It’s designed for the ubiquitous Apple iPhone 4, 4S and 3Gs, as well as the Flip Mini HD pocket video camera, and it lets almost anyone shoot super-smooth professional-looking handheld video right out of the box. It can be mounted on any standard tripod and folds for easy storage. Dimensions in operating configuration are 8×14.5×2.5. $149.99-$179.99. steadicam.com
Novoflex Microstativ Tabletop Tripod. This clever little German-made miniature tripod stores its legs on the bottom of the top plate for easy packing, and it’s surprisingly sturdy and stable for its size. It will easily support a medium-format DSLR and most system DSLRs on its removable Ball 19 mini ball head. With the legs locked in shooting position it’s 2.8 inches high and weighs 1.8 ounces (less head). The Ball 19 head itself is two inches high with a 1-1/8-inch base diameter and weighs in at 3.4 ounces, so the total weight is a mere 5.2 ounces. $65.99. novoflex.com/en
Lensbaby Muse Special Effects Lens. This ingenious creative effects accessory, a hybrid between a bellows and a tilt-shift device, allows photographers to bring one selected area of the image into sharp focus while gradually blurring out the rest, to create striking effects. It comes with an interchangeable multicoated double glass optic installed. Its bellows-like tube can be compressed or extended to provide focusing distances between about a foot and infinity, and users can change apertures by inserting aperture discs. $149.95.
Lensbaby also offers a full line of alternative lens units that fit the Muse’s Optic Swap system, including the multicoated four-element, three-group Sweet 35 optic ($179.95) with an adjustable iris diaphragm that allows focusing down to 7.5 inches from the front of the lens and as close as 3 inches with the Muse. lensbaby.com
Sirui P-326 Carbon Fiber Monopod. When a tripod is not practical because there isn’t enough room or a reasonably flat surface to set one up, this nicely made, six-section monopod is a great way to add stability to your rig. It extends to a near-eye-level 60.6 inches, folds to 15 inches, weighs less than a pound, and has a load capacity of 22 pounds. Other features: Retractable stainless steel spike for outdoor use; foam grip; wrist strap; a mounting plate with reversible screw that accommodates 1/4-inch and 3/8-inch tripod sockets; and a built-in compass. $139.95. argraph.com
Trekking Swing Up Strap. This ingeniously simple, well-crafted strap features highly polished nickel-plated buckles that allow the camera to slide effortlessly along the strap. The unique base plate attachment can be attached in several ways according to preference and there are two 1/4×20-inch threaded sockets so the strap can be attached to the camera or a lens tripod collar. It can also be positioned on the side or front and even provides a platform to support the camera for tabletop shooting situations. The comfortably padded shoulder strap is similar to those on other well-established Trekking products. $44.95. omegabrandess.com
Domke F-8 Compact RuggedWear Bag. This pro-quality, made in the USA multipurpose bag is perfect for carrying a consumer DSLR with short zoom lens, or virtually any point-and-shoot or compact system camera with accessories. Its main compartment measures 6.5×3.5×6.5 inches and has two movable/removable hook-and-loop partitions plus five individual accessory pockets. The Domke F-8 measures 9×5.25×7 on the outside and weighs less than two pounds. It comes with a nonslip gripper strap in fashionably distressed, environment-friendly, weather-resistant, virtually indestructible RuggedWear construction. $79.99. tiffen.com
Samigon Bottle-Top Pod. Just the thing for those spur of the moment shots when you don’t have a tripod handy, this cute little gizmo turns almost any water bottle into an impromptu stabilization platform. Simply screw the adapter onto any convenient water, soda or beer bottle (it fits those with 28.5 to 30.5mm diameters) and screw the other end into your camera’s 1/4×20 tripod socket. The unit’s ball head lets you angle your camera to compose the shot, and it’s also great for self-portraits. $9.95. argraph.com