Must-Have Camcorder Accessories

You’ve spent a small fortune on that camcorder, so why not spend just a bit more to get the most out of it? The right camcorder accessories can go a long way in improving your shooting experience. Here are eight camcorder accessories that should be worth your money.

Camcorders don’t come cheap, so it’s only right that you invest in quality accessories to get the most out of your purchase. Most people find it impractical to splurge on accessories when they’ve just spent hundreds (or even thousands) on the camcorder itself. But while a camcorder will work decently on its own, a few well-chosen add-ons can greatly improve your work and give you more creative leverage.

Of course, the opposite holds true as well: choosing the wrong accessories can take the fun out of using your camcorder. You don’t need all the extras on the shelf; you just need to choose the right ones. Here are some basic camcorder accessories worth investing in.

Head cleaners. Little specks of videotape coating get left on the magnetic head every time you play or record. Over time, these specks can completely coat the head, and that’s where you start getting problems like tape jams and missing frames. Giving it a quick wipe with a head cleaned (around $10) helps you maintain video quality both for recording and playback. A cleaning disc does the same for disc-based camcorders.

Tripod. Every videographer needs at least a basic tripod. Holding a camcorder in your hands can get tiring, and even so, your pictures can (and often will) still turn out shaky. Invest in a good adjustable tripod and save yourself the effort. Be sure to keep an eye on quality; a few extra dollars can get you a sturdy, reliable tripod that won’t rust, loosen, or buckle under your camcorder’s weight.

Camcorder bag. Unless you never take your camcorder out of the house, you need a good camcorder bag or carrying case to protect it from the elements. A little scratch here and there won’t affect performance, but bumps and falls can do some serious damage. Get a bag that’s rugged on the outside and well padded on the inside. Some bags have room for other accessories, including a tripod—this can be useful if you’re planning to stock up.

Filters. Filters do for your camcorder what lens kits do for cameras—they help you improve your video quality, experiment with effects, and broaden your creative options. Not all filters will be helpful, but a few essentials can be useful in most shooting conditions. Get a polarizing filter to reduce glare and improve color, and a warming filter for more natural skin tones. Some companies sell filter kits, which is great if you like to experiment. Just make sure you get them in the right size—camcorder filters don’t have one standard size as photo filters do.

Spare batteries. Camcorders don’t just run on batteries; they EAT battery power. With the LCD screen on, the average battery lasts only two to three hours of straight recording. That’s why you need at least one spare to keep the tape rolling when you run out. Also consider getting a separate charger, so that you can use your camcorder as your battery recharges.

Lens cleaning kit. Besides the magnetic head, the lens is the most high-maintenance part of your camcorder. A dirty lens produces spotty pictures and may spread damage to other parts of your camera. A lens cleaning kit will keep your lens in top form. A typical kit will include a cleaning fluid, flannel wipes, and anti-static dust brush. You can get one bundled with a head cleaning tape for around $20.

Lights. When shooting indoors or in low-light conditions, your camcorder’s built-in lights are seldom enough. A set of external lights will help you produce top-quality videos in any situation. They’ll be particularly useful during evening shoots, where even the best built-in lights can get blurred and grainy. Lights can add considerable bulk, though, so make sure your bag has room for them.

Extra storage. There are few things worse than running out of storage halfway through a shoot, and leaving everything hanging as you transfer files to your computer. Camcorders consume memory faster than digital cams. At the highest quality setting, a three-minute video can go well over 100MB, which means you can easily fill a 1GB card from retakes alone. Get at least one high-capacity spare tape or memory card, making sure to match the format required by your camcorder.