I use the Canon EG200 Backpack as my camera case. It’s a “cheapo” camera case that doesn’t really feel or perform as a cheapo. It’s about $40 at Amazon and it holds all my gear including the 5D Mark III with grip, 400mm lens, 24-105mm lens, nifty fifty, AA battery charger and cord, 1.4x III extender, 580EX flash, flash diffuser, camera battery charger, lens blower, and a whole lot of small items in the mesh pocket. I’ve had it for years and it has shown very few signs of wear. Here’s another place you can save some money to add to your lens fund. I wish they didn’t put the Canon name on the outside but they do–that’s the one thing I have against it. Some people will take a black Sharpie pen and color over the silver letters to hide the name–probably better than nothing!
I own the Storm Jacket camera cover. It’s a water proof nylon cover that slips over the lens and the body and has locking pull tight strings on both ends of the cover. They come in different sizes and you can get them with or without a Velcro slot that makes room for a tripod. I suggest just paying the small amount extra and get the pro model with the tripod slot just in case you end up using a tripod a lot. These sell for somewhere in the $30-$50 range depending on size and whether or not you get the tripod slot. If you’re a fair weather shooter, you can probably put this one off for a while.
Recently, I added a Joby Gorillapod Focus & Ballhead to my accessories. This came about as a result of my shaky videos. I don’t take a lot of video but when I got the Canon 7D, I decided to try it out. I continue to take videos with my 5DM3. I can tell you, it is really hard to handhold the camera still when taking video. To help remedy this I asked for the Joby Gorillapod Focus for a Christmas gift. It’s a mini-tripod about a foot high and can handle 11.5 pounds. It has 3 flexible legs that can wrap around almost anything. So far I’ve just used it for when I take video of wildlife at the refuge. With the ball head, it allows me to point the camera in almost any direction from within my truck. The legs spread down around my bean bag, which gives good support for the tripod. Now I can point almost anywhere from my vehicle window and get a nice steady video that is much easier to watch. The tripod with ball head goes for about $112. You won’t need this for bird photography still shots, I don’t think.
Extra camera battery
I added an extra Canon LP-E6 battery to fill the Canon battery grip I use. Having two batteries powering your camera gives you great confidence that you won’t run out of power. I paid $70 for mine but I see now they can be had for $59.
Once you use a battery grip for your Canon consumer/prosumer/ pro camera, you’ll never go back. I added the Canon BG-E11 battery grip to my arsenal. The grip not only allows me to run two batteries at once, but it makes the camera body larger and easier to hang on to. When shooting in portrait format, the grip makes it easier because it has its own vertical shutter release button and basic back buttons. The grip can be turned on and off with a switch so that you don’t press any of the buttons unintentionally. The grip does add weight but I think it’s worth it. It is also quite expensive at $330 (for the 5DM3), but there are third party brands that make them for a lot less. Personally, I would stick with Canon. I’ve used a third party grip on my XT and it broke after about a year. Another one of those decisions we all have to make! But, don’t buy this before you get that pro-level birding lens I talked about in Part 4! Using just one battery in your camera should get you through as many shots as you’ll want to take on a typical outing.
Batteries for the external flash
If you don’t have an external flash yet, disregard this for now. But I find that high mAh rechargeable NiMh AA batteries work better than the alkaline batteries (my flash takes 4 batteries). I seem to get faster recycle times and I believe they are cheaper in the long run. I use a 15 minute charger before I go out shooting. A set of 4 name brand batteries will last me a lot of months before they become un-chargeable (is that a word?). I like to get the ones that are rated at least 2500 mAh so they have a longer lasting charge. The batteries I’m using right now are called Energizer Recharge and they don’t say what the mAh rating is. I recall having trouble finding a battery that disclosed that information and I took a chance on these. They have been performing well.
There are scads of other accessories that you can spend your money on. The further you get into this hobby, the more this will come apparent. Just try not to get carried away with spending too much, especially in your first years of this hobby. Try to prioritize your needs and wants and get the most important items first. Have I mentioned that your good birding lens should be near the top of your list?