It's now officially twelve (shopping) weeks to Christmas and so in the spirit of the 12 Days of Christmas, we start our countdown — not with 12 drummers drumming — with the top 12 ways to pimp your camera.
You buy a steering wheel cover, alloy wheels, lower the suspension, add a supercharger, or just generally pimp your ride. At the low-cost end of the market you might only extend to a Red Nose, eyebrows for the headlights, or, as my brother was fond of suggesting, some go-faster stripes! We all like to stamp our own personal touches on the things we own. Who doesn't like to add their own little flourishes (or big ones!) to emphasize that it's theirs, so not surprisingly we also personalize our cameras with a burgeoning array of customizations and after-market modifications. There's no denying it, camera gear is expensive and where you have a high value, high price, commodity then there will be a wealth of companies trying to sell you add-ons. So here are my top twelve suggestions for modification, the only rules for inclusion being that they have to affix or change the camera directly and cannot include lenses.
1. Colored Body (and Rear Lens) Cap
Your interchangeable bodies and lenses arrive capped. It's one of the simplest protections that we don't bother ourselves about it subsequently, however Fotodiox thinks you need a different color! It doesn't offer anything more, but there's no denying it's striking. These most definitely fall under the "go-faster stripes" category.
2. Screw-in Shutter Button
Wired remotes allow you to actuate the shutter without risk of moving the camera. Where this is purely mechanical (principally on film cameras), the release cable screws in to a threaded shutter button and it's this thread that allows you to screw in a new button such as this Leica or Match Technical (whilst Fotodiox manufacture adhesive ones for DSLRs). Artisan Obscura produce handmade wooden buttons and hotshoe covers — the ultimate luxury. These buttons add a touch of class to a classic camera and, more importantly, make for a more tactile shooting experience.
Straps have increasingly become a new frontier of high quality accessories. Black Rapid have been highly visible with a range of comfortable and durable straps, such as the Breathe and, for those wedding togs that like to double bubble, the Double Breathe. At the more svelte and sophisticated end of the market, 1901 Fotgrafi produce a range of leather straps which would do justice to an traditionally styled camera. What's your favorite strap and why?
4. Debayer Your Sensor
As we saw in the A2Z on the X-Trans sensor, cameras are monochromatic. To produce a color image, the color filter array (CFA) allows the sensor to record RGB and then the raw processor demosaics to a full color image. However anything you place in front of the sensor attenuates the signal, so if you want improved performance, and don't mind black and white, then remove the CFA. Leica has already done this for you with the Monochrom, however you might not have $8,000 to hand to purchase one. The alternative is to either debayer the sensor yourself (which comes with a healthy "risk of damage" warning) or pay a repair shop to do it.
5. Remove the Infra-Red Blocking Filter
Going hand-in-hand with debayering your sensor is removing the infra-red (IR) blocking filter. Sensors broadly record visible light, but sensitivity extends in to both the ultra-violet (at shorter wavelengths) and infra-red (at longer wavelengths). At the IR end this can lead to unwanted purple color casts so manufacturers place a blocking filter to remove IR light. However if you want to get in to IR photography, then pay a repair shop to remove the blocking filter, then use an IR filter (such as the Hoya R72) to block visible light letting you record just the IR.
6. Pinhole Bodycap
If you hadn't heard, pinhole photography is back in fashion with World Pinhole Day the last Sunday in April. Offering infinite depth of field and a soft focus look, they are as simple as photography gets — with a bit of DIY you can produce images off the bat. Rising also make a pinhole body cap which eases the GAS urge and also works pretty well!
7. Right-Angle Viewfinder
With most new cameras now shipping with vari-angle screens, the days of grovelling on ground trying to get a low-angle shot may well be over. However if you have a film camera or shoot a DSLR with a fixed viewfinder, then a right-angle version such as the Ziv may well be just what you are looking for.
8. Lens Hood
I'm as guilty as the next person of going out on a shoot with minimal gear, to then find I've suffered from lens flare washing out images. Most of this is easily corrected by using a lens hood which works by blocking light rays from entering the lens that are outside the field of view (FoV). Use either the manufacturers model that ships with (and is designed for) the lens or buy an after market model. Petal designs account for the difference in the rectangular shape of the sensor, either way you want to block as much light as possible without obscuring the FoV. For after-market products, such as Vello or unbranded from your favorite auction site, that means finding a dedicated hood or trying a number of different models to see which works best. I have a preference for metal screw-in types as they are durable and don't fall off, but there is nothing wrong with the clip-on plastic variety.
9. STC Clip Filter
With debayering you are trying to remove a filter over the sensor, however you may very well want to do the opposite which is the case with neutral density (ND) filters. ND filters are usually placed in front of the lens (using a filter holder) however there is no reason why they can't sit directly in front of the sensor itself. In fact there are advantages to doing this as you don't need a filter holder, it will work with any focal length lens (great for the ultra-wide angle variety), and is cheaper overall. STC offer a range of clip on filters, however it goes without saying that you should take care putting them on!
10. Add-On Filter Ring
If you have a compact camera for those moments when you can't take a DSLR, and a smartphone just doesn't cut the mustard, then you may find yourself wanting to accessorize. Compacts typically don't have screw threads on their zoom lens which means they won't take filter holders. Mogopod fills this niche with the MagFilter which uses adhesive to stick a magnet to the lens barrel and then a magnetic threaded mount allowing you to attach filters. A clever solution which is similar to the (non-magnetic) Lensmate which I've also used.
11. Screen Protector
Screen protectors are de rigeur for smartphone users, but there seems to be less awareness by camera users. Maybe it's because cameras are stored in a protective case or that cheap clip on protectors are supplied with the cameras. Either way, third party manufactures produce high quality plastic and glass stick-on screen protectors, such as this Brotect screen protector made of “AirGlass.” Extra-light and (supposedly) extra-hard, it has glass-like clearness.
The final pimp comes from left-field and isn't for the faint-of-heart. How about (reversibly) converting your film camera to digital? Well, the Frankencamera project started out with the successful conversion of a Konica Auto S3. Why would you do this? Well there probably isn't much need or reason for a digital Konica conversion, however it demonstrated the potential for a Leica conversion and Frankencamera II targeted the M3. This became a Kickstarter project which, 5 years later, hasn't delivered a working product which leaves it very much a DIY conversion. Proceed with care on your beloved M3!
Lead image a composite courtesy of Xavier Romero-Frias via Wikipedia used under Creative Commons.