When considering a new camera, we often just look at the features and cost of the camera compared to similar cameras. However, there are many 'hidden' costs as well.
It's not really that the other costs are hidden, but just that we don't normally think about them. If you are planning on buying a simple compact camera, there aren't many other extra costs. But for more advanced cameras, especially interchangeable lens cameras, there can be quite a few extra costs.
So, in this article I'll cover these items whose costs can quickly add to the cost of the camera alone. All the items are optional, but you will probably find yourself wanting some of them, so it is a good idea to consider their cost when budgeting for a new camera.
Camera bag or case
Many of us like to have a bag for our camera, especially if we are carrying a few accessories with us. If you already have a camera bag, and the new camera you are considering is very similar to your old camera, then you can probably carry on using your old bag.
Oh dear! I don't think my DSLR will fit into my old compact camera case.
But if you are considering moving from one type of camera to another, for example from a compact camera to a MILC or a DSLR, then you may find you need a new bag. A heavier and larger camera (plus accessories) will likely be better suited to a different bag than a smaller and lighter camera.
Memory cards and card reader
Does the new camera that you're considering use the same type of memory cards as your current camera? If not, then remember to budget for some new memory cards. You may also need a new card reader to read the different type of memory cards, so you can copy the images to your computer.
I don't think a Compact Flash card will work with a camera that uses SD cards
Even if the new camera does use the same type of memory cards you already own, you may need to buy some more. Megapixel counts on cameras always seem to be increasing, which results in larger file sizes. So while a 4GB memory card may have suited you well with your current camera, you might find you need a larger memory card for a new camera.
Another thing that might mean you need to purchase a new memory card, is the speed of your existing card(s). Newer memory cards can write data to the card much faster than older memory cards. Particularly if you plan on shooting video with your new camera, then a faster memory card may be needed.
If you are upgrading to a camera that accepts interchangeable lenses, then you certainly need to consider the costs of any lenses you might want. The cost of even just one lens can easily exceed the cost of the camera body.
So make sure you check the cost of lenses for the camera you are considering before you pull the trigger. If the camera is really cheap but you can't afford the lenses you want for it, then maybe it's not such a good purchase after all.
The size and weight of lenses should also be given consideration when you are looking at different cameras you might be interested in buying.
Remote Shutter release
If you do any landscape or long exposure work, then it is very likely that you'll want a remote shutter release for your camera. This allows you to trip the camera's shutter without having to press the actual shutter button on the camera (which would induce a small bit of camera movement).
You can get wireless shutter releases, both in radio and infrared versions. You can get ones that use a cable that plug into the camera. For some cameras you can buy remote shutter releases that include an intervalometer, so you can take photos for a timelapse video.
If you're upgrading from one camera to another by the same manufacturer, and already have a remote shutter release, check the new camera is compatible. Both Nikon and Canon use different remote shutter release sockets on their more expensive cameras than they do on their less expensive models.
These three shutter release cables are nearly identical apart from the camera connection end
So if you do any photography that could benefit from a remote shutter release cable, then make sure you factor in its cost as part of your camera budget.
Some cameras come with a built-in pop-up flash, while others don't. So if you are considering a camera with no built-in flash, then bear in mind the extra cost of a small flash.
Even if the camera has a pop-up flash, you may still want to consider the costs of an external speedlight flash. This would let you play with off-camera lighting. Most external flashes include a swivel head to allow for bounce lighting even when mounted on the camera's hot shoe as well, another benefit over the pop-up flash. (Flash bounced from a ceiling or wall gives more even and pleasant lighting than direct flash).
It is important to consider a spare battery for the camera. Most camera batteries last quite a long time before they need recharging, but if you will be using the camera for most of a day (e.g. on holiday), then odds are that the battery will run out before you want.
If you already have a camera, check whether the camera you are thinking of upgrading to can use the same battery. If you are upgrading to a better or newer model in the same camera line, then you might find your old camera battery is compatible. If not, then you will probably want to buy a spare battery for the new camera.
Over the years I've had a number of different digital cameras - every single one uses a different battery (even the ones that look the same aren't compatible with each other)
Make sure to consider this as part of your budget for a new camera. Camera batteries, particularly manufacturer branded original batteries, can be quite expensive.
Filters and filter adapter rings
Filters such as polarizers, split graduated neutral density filters, and neutral density filters, can come in handy, particularly for landscape photography. When considering a new camera and / or lens, make sure you factor in the cost of any filters you will want to use with it.
Some lenses require much larger filters than others. The larger the filter size needed, the more expensive the filter will be.
If you already have filters, you will need to check whether they are big enough to be used on the new camera / lens you are considering. If your current filters are oversized for the new camera / lens, then you can purchase step-up rings. These allow you to use the filters on a lens with a smaller filter thread diameter.
Camera, step-up ring, and filter
Or if you are trading down to a smaller and lighter kit, you may decide it is worthwhile purchasing smaller filters. Either way, make sure you consider the cost of filters and / or step up rings when looking at the cost of a new camera.
With the addition of HD video capture to the majority of interchangeable lens cameras released in the past few years, using a stills camera to shoot video has become quite popular. This is mainly thanks to the fact that most MILCs and DSLRs/SLTs have a large sensor, which allows for a shallow depth of field, like that found in big budget films.
However, if you are interested in shooting more than a standard vaction video or videos of your kids playing, then you will likely want some video equipment to go with the camera. If you thought stills photography equipment was expensive, wait until you see the prices of some motion picture photography equipment accessories.
There is a lot of possible video equipment you may want to consider:
- Follow focus devices
- Cage for better handling
- External monitor
- External sound recorder and microphones
- Fluid tripod head for video
- Devices for getting a steadier, smoother shot when moving the camera by hand (instead of on a tripod)
- Portable dolly track / camera slider
If you are thinking of upgrading to a new camera because it can shoot video, then make sure to consider the costs of any extra video equipment you will want as well.
There are many other accessories you might want to consider to go with your potential new camera, e.g.
- Underwater housing
- Portrait / battery grip
- Cleaning kit
- Optional electronic or optical viewfinder
- LCD viewfinder / shade
- A better computer to handle larger images
So, when budgeting for a new camera, make sure you look at the cost of the whole package, and not just the camera itself. This is important so you can budget an appropriate amount for the camera package, instead of just buying the accessories as you need them and then finding out you've spent three times as much in total as you originally budgeted for.
It is also important to consider these costs when trying to make a decision on what camera to buy. If two cameras are broadly the same, but one will require you to buy a new set of large filters to fit its lens, then that can make a big difference to your decision on which camera is best.