The accessories every Nikon owner should have
A digital SLR is still the cheapest and most effective way to into serious photography. Compact cameras can deliver great results, but you’re stuck with the lens that comes with the camera, and sooner or later you’re going to discover its limits.
With a DSLR, though, you can simply get a different lens, attach it in seconds and get straight back to shooting but with completely different image capturing powers.
This means you can start out with a relatively low-cost camera like the basic but brilliant Nikon D3300, and build up your lens and accessory system as you go along. We’ll admit it’s not a cheap hobby – even the basic stuff costs more than a little cash, but it’s worth it to get the extra benefits listed below.
So one day you might decide you need a more advanced camera – well that’s the only part you have to change, because all the extra gear you’ve bought along the way should still work fine!
Telephoto zoom: Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G AF-S VR
A telephoto zoom makes a great ‘second’ lens for your growing camera system. It opens up new types of photography, such as sports and wildlife, and can deliver interesting new perspectives – literally – with landscapes and portraits.
For Nikon DSLR owners, one telephoto zoom really stands out – the Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6. It’s not the cheapest out there, but it’s worth paying the extra to get better quality images.
This lens picks up where the standard lens leaves off, and has Nikon’s VR (Vibration Reduction) system to cut camera shake.
Best of all, it also works on Nikon’s full frame cameras, so if you do decide to upgrade later, you can carry on using this lens on your new body. On a regular DX (APS-C) format Nikon DSLR, it gives an effective focal length of 105-450mm, so it offers pretty impressive magnification too
Superwide zoom: Nikon 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 G AF-S DX
Sometimes the problem isn’t that your subject is too far away – quite the opposite. You’ll often find yourself struggling to get the whole scene in the frame even with your Nikon’s kit lens at its widest focal length. You notice this most when you’re photographing interiors or large landmarks, and it’s not always possible to just move further back.
This is where you need a super-wideangle lens. Nikon’s regular kit lenses go no wider than 18mm (that’s equivalent to 28mm on a full-frame camera), and while this is pretty wide it’s often not enough.
So our second recommendation would be the Nikon 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5. At its shortest focal length, this offers an angle of view almost twice as wide as the regular kit lens and delivers some amazing effects.
It’s by no means the cheapest super-wide zoom on the market, though, and if you’re happy to swap to a third-party maker you should take a look at the Sigma 10-22mm f/3.5 or the Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5.
The other thing to keep in mind about super-wide lenses for APS-C DSLRs is that you can’t use them on Nikon’s full-frame models – well you can, but only in a ‘crop’ mode where the camera uses only part of the full sensor area, which kind of defeats the object of having a full-frame camera in the first place.
Macro lens: Nikon 60mm f/2.8G ED Micro
The third lens we’d recommend to every DSLR owner is a macro lens. This will let you get extreme close-up shots for some amazing abstract effects and natural history shots.
Lots of compact cameras and zoom lenses have so-called ‘macro’ modes which are really only glorified close-up settings that won’t get you as close as the real thing, but a true ‘macro’ lens is on that can focus so close that objects are reproduced on the sensor at their actual size.
On a DX-format Nikon the sensor is 24mm wide, so if you photograph an object 24mm long it will completely fill the frame.
The cheapest Nikon macro lens is a 40mm f/2.8, but we’d go for the Nikon 60mm f/2.8 instead, and for two reasons. First, the longer focal length means you can shoot from slightly further away. Second, this lens is designed to work on full-frame Nikon bodies too, so you can still use it even if you upgrade your camera.
Tripod: Manfrotto MT190XPRO3 with X-PRO 3-way head
There are plenty of cheap tripods on the market and you may even be offered one as a cut-price bundle with your camera. Our advice, though, is to pay that little bit extra and go for one of the more prestigious brands – and Manfrotto tends to offer a good compromise between stability, features and cost.
The Manfrotto MT190XPRO3 offers a good maximum height, a handy horizontal ‘boom’ feature for shooting at awkward angles and it’s sturdy enough for any of your DSLR body/lens combinations.
And while tripods are rather tricky to set up, they open up a whole new range of photo opportunities, from super-sharp night shots to panoramas, HDR images, long-exposure landscapes and more. Simply put: every photographer needs a tripod.
At this level, tripods and heads are normally sold separately. We’d recommend the Manfrotto X-PRO 3-way head for its precision and control, but if you need a lighter, more compact option you could choose a Manfrotto ball head instead.
Camera bag: Vanguard Up-Rise 38
There are plenty of camera bag options for carrying around your camera gear. Backpacks are great for long treks and travelling, but not so great for speedy access, so if you like to shoot quickly while you’re on the hoof, a shoulder bag makes more sense.
There are plenty of these, too, but we’d go for something slightly different. The Vanguard Up-Rise 38 is a messenger bag that stows your camera gear safely but also has a padded compartment for a laptop up to 15 inches in size.
A laptop is handy for image transfer, editing and sharing while you’re on the move, but it also makes the Vanguard a perfect everyday work bag that lets you take your camera around with you too.
Flash: Nikon SB-500 Speedlight
All but the top-end pro Nikon DSLRs have a built-in pop-up flash. These are OK for emergency use, but they don’t have much power and the lighting effect you get is typically short-range and a little harsh.
So if you use flash quite a lot, or you want to start experimenting with more adventurous lighting techniques, you need a more powerful add-on flashgun – and the Nikon SB-500 Speedlight is ideal.
For a start, it’s custom-made for Nikon DSLRs, so you get the benefits of full automation and integration with Nikon’s wireless Creative Lighting System (CLS) You can use the SB-500 on its own or with other Speedlights as part of a more complex multi-flash lighting setup.
It’s not the most powerful flash in the Nikon line-up, but today’s with today’s sensors you can afford to increase the ISO a little to boost the flash range without sacrificing image quality.
Besides, the SB-500 has another trick up its sleeve. It offers as fully rotating and tilting flash head for ‘bounce’ effects, as you’d expect from an advanced external flash, but it also has a built-in high-intensity LED panel for shooting video – and that’s rather clever.
Filters: Lee Filters Digital SLR Starter Kit
Do you really still need filters in the digital age? Yes, you do, because they can modify light before it enters the camera in a way that you can’t simulate in Photoshop later.
Landscape photographers love ‘graduated filters’ because they help tone down bright skies to that pictures have a more even exposure, and ‘neutral density’ filters which allow longer exposure times to blur skies and water.
There are cheaper filter systems out there, but Lee Filters are the ones favoured by the pros, and Lee’s Digital SLR Starter Kit is the perfect way to get a foot in the door.
It comes with a 100mm filter holder (you will have to get an adaptor ring to fit your lens), a 2-stop hard grad and a 2-stop neutral density filter. It’s a modular system, so later on you can add things like a polarising filter or a super-powerful Lee Big Stopper for impressionistic blur effects.
Nikon Wireless Remote Controller Set
Some Nikon DSLRs come with Wi-Fi built in, so that you can control the camera wirelessly from your smart device. Others accept a small adaptor to add Wi-Fi capability.
There are other, older cable-operated and wireless remotes you can use too, but Nikon’s latest and most powerful system uses its new radio operated WR-T10 and WR-R10 remotes.
The WR-R10 is a transceiver that plugs into your cameras (the kit includes an adaptor for Nikons with round, 10-pin accessory ports) and the WR-T10 is a handheld transmitter which you can use to trigger the camera from up to 66 feet away.
The beauty of the system is that it can be scaled up to include multiple cameras, so if each one is fitted with a WR-R10 transceiver, you can get several simultaneous shots from different angles using a single WR-T10 controller.
Better still, even though it’s a new system it’s compatible with Nikon DSLRs going back several years – but do check your model against the list before you buy.