Essential accessories: Batteries, memory cards and bags
ADDED March 26, 2010:
Finally, several replacement batteries have popped up on eBay, all of them significantly cheaper than the original LP-E8. I can tell you out of experience that many of the replacement batteries are comparable with the original regarding their capacity. I just ordered four of those cheap ones because I consider my 550D my “budget setup” and therefore I rather invest in good glass than expensive batteries
But hey, don’t blame me if they aren’t as good as the originals! Haven’t tested them yet … will post an update once I have them. I’m thinking: Even if they’re only half as good as the original, I paid one-fifth of the price!!
Here’s the more expensive original:
I covered the most basic HDSLR “accessories”, lenses, last time. Of course, without a lens you just can’t shoot anything, it’s as simple as that. That’s why I tried to skim the surface of this somewhat infinite subject first. Today I cover the really boring “support gear” of equal or at least similar importance: batteries, memory cards and bags.
Most of you might think this is obvious, but I got a lot of questions from keen amateurs regarding this simple topic: how many batteries should you own?
Shooting video on DSLRs is really draining the batteries extremely fast, that’s simply because these cameras are still only partially thought of as video cameras by the manufacturers, at their heart they are still meant for stills. And in normal stills mode, you don’t need the LiveView monitor – traditional photographers still use the viewfinder, which lets you look right trough the lens through a mirror (therefore, this eats up very little battery).
When shooting video, you have to use the LiveView Mode, because the flipped-up mirror inside the camera is blocking the view through the viewfinder.
(If you are confused now and need even more explanation, check out this Wikipedia article that explains everything much better than I can.)
So the LiveView monitor of course needs a lot of power and the battery drains fast when you have it on all the time. I recommend getting at least 3 batteries for a start – one in the camera, one ready and one in the charger at all times. If you are out and about a lot and don’t have a chance of recharging, I would say 5 batteries are very recommendable.
The Rebel T2i / 550D uses a new type of battery that is not compatible with the 5Dmk2 or the 7D. It is unfortunately so new that you are currently forced to buy the original Canon LP-E8 battery. Considerably cheaper compatible batteries were already announced, but it might take some weeks for those to hit the market. Be sure to check back here when they do, I of course will provide a link. Compatible batteries are typically not as good as the originals, but quite often it still pays off buying them because they are so much cheaper. (And you can buy more for the same amount of money.)
Next up are memory cards. Same as with the batteries, you don’t want to run out of memory in the field. So get enough SD cards for your Rebel T2i / 550D.
As opposed to the 5Dmk2 and the 7D, this camera uses SD cards only. It can digest SD, SDHC and the new SDXC cards which can theoretically hold up to 2 TB (but that is still far, far away). It takes SDHC cards with a maximum of 32 GB.
The cards you get have to be fast in order to be able to save the constant data stream of video right away. So get only cards that have “Class 6” written on them. I can personally recommend the Transcend 16GB SDHC Class 6 cards as I have been using them day in and day out with my Sony EX3 (using a SDHC card adapter). Haven’t had a problem with any of them so far. I wouldn’t use any cards smaller than 16 GB – when shooting video, those cards will fill up really fast! There’s space for about 48 minutes of 1080p video on one 16GB card (4 chunks of the maximum clip length of 12 minutes, 4GB each).
SanDisk Ultra II are also great, both 16GB and 32 GB versions are available. I used a lower capacity card at first that worked fine for me, although they are classified as Class 4, which is supposedly too slow for 1080p – but it wasn’t. I cannot guarantee you they will perform as good as Class 6 cards and I wouldn’t recommend using them continuously in a professional environment, but they worked for me for the brief time I used them when starting to shoot my short “FEBRUARY”.
SanDisk also has higher-performance cards on offer, SanDisk Extreme, which are sure to perform extraordinarily well but cost quite a bit more. Transcend also has Class 10 cards on offer, but they cost only half as much as the SanDisk cards of the same size cost! (See Amazon links right below.)
On a typical shooting day – this really varies extremely due the circumstances or the subject matter – I shoot between 1 and 5 hours of footage. So if you get around three to five 16GB cards for a start, you are on the safe side if you plan on shooting without having to offload your cards several times a day.
I don’t want to talk about camera bags too much, because there are obvious choices. I’ve worked as a photographer’s assistant for years and know lots of these DSLR bags from carrying them around all the time. Which one is the right one for you depends entirely on your needs of course:
This Lowepro Fastback 250 is great if want to have access to your camera fast and you don’t want to carry it around your neck all the time.
So that’s all about these basic but really essential accessories. Next time I will talk about ND filters and after that, audio recording will be on the agenda!
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