After careful consideration (or perhaps on a whim!), you made the decision to buy a
camcorder. Congratulations–you now hold in your hands the power to capture memories on
video forever. No more birthdays or anniversaries will be left untold, no more of your
daughter’s ballet recitals will be held prisoner by your fading memory.
Keeping camcorder in tow is the first step in making sure your favorite events are recorded,
but that isn’t enough. Take a look in your camcorder bag. Do you have any lens tissue handy?
What about a clear or polarizing filter? Now, where’s that gaffer’s tape (like duct tape,
usually black, used by television people for just about everything)? Sure, you can still
take the point-and-shoot approach to videography, but there are some small, yet essential
accessories every videographer should have in his camcorder bag–accessories that will ease
the process of making video. In this article, we’ll cover these essential accessories, and
tell you why you shouldn’t leave home without them.
First Things First With Camcorder Accessories
It’s one of your proudest moments: your son has reached the finals in the state spelling bee
championship, and you’re getting it all on video. As Johnny stands to spell his final word,
it happens: the battery goes dead right in the middle of “I-R-R-E-V-O-C-A-B-L-E.”
Johnny finishes the word and the crowd goes wild while you frantically rummage through your
camcorder bag for an extra battery. Your heart sinks. No extra battery, no memories on tape.
An extra camcorder battery is one of the most basic accessories you can pack in your
camcorder bag, and most can be had relatively inexpensively. Markertek Video Supply sells
Lenmar’s NoMem Gold camcorder batteries ranging in price from $39.99 to $52.99 for their
6-volt models with 2.5 hours of typical running time. Radio Shack sells their 8mm camcorder
battery (model 23-215) for $29.99, and their 12-volt VHS camcorder battery (model 23-183)
can be had for $39.99.
Since one of the principal causes of poor video images is inadequate lighting, a simple
on-camera light is another must-have for every videographer. Sunpak’s Readylight 20 weighs
in at just 7 ounces, including battery, and can be used on any camcorder. The Readylight 20
offers up to 17 minutes of running time, and can be found for $34.95. Also available are
Bescor’s cam-series lights which are capable of 12-volt DC battery power or 120-volt AC
operation, and range in price from $39.95 for the 50-watt, 12-volt DC version (model VS-50),
to $49.95 for their 100-watt, 120-volt AC version (model VS-65).
Camcorder Accessories That Let You See Clearly
Probably the easiest–and one of the least expensive–ways for videographers to improve the
look of their videos is through the use of lens filters. Filters come in a variety of
colors, types and sizes and are designed to alter the focus, color, brightness or actual
appearance of the image you record. Two basic types to have handy in your accessory bag are
clear and polarizing filters.
Clear filters don’t alter the image in any way. Instead, they offer protection from
scratches, grime, debris, fingerprints and dust. They can remain permanently attached to
your lens to absorb any potential damage that could harm your lens’ outer surface. Some come
with built-in UV protection, which reduces unwanted UV light. Tiffen sells a UV
(ultra-violet) Protector filter starting at just $12.99 for filters ranging in size from
49-55mm, and $19.99 for sizes ranging from 62-67mm. Tiffen also sells a handy Twin Pak, a UV
filter and an ND (neutral density, to reduce the amount of light through the lens) filter
Polarizing filters allow you to darken blue skies for deep, rich colors in scenery shots and
vacation videos, and control bright reflections off of water and windows. When you want to
adjust the effect your polarizer gives you, you simply rotate it. Tiffen’s circular,
rotating mount polarizers start at $39.99 for lenses ranging in size from 37-55mm.
Keeping your lens free of unwanted elements, like fingerprints and grime, is essential if
you want to get a clear shot of your subject. Videographers of all levels should keep some
type of lens cleaning supply handy in their camcorder bag at all times. Comprehensive Video
Group sells the Micro-Fiber Cleaning Cloths in two sizes: 7 7/8″ x 7 7/8″ ($6.39)
and 13 3/4″ x 15″ ($14.50). These cloths clean oil, dirt and water from glass and
plastic lenses alike, and are made from a completely washable fabric containing no
chemicals. Disposable Cellular Lintless Microwipes measuring approximately 5″ x 8″
are also available, and come in boxes of 260 for just $3.95. Tiffen has a Lens Optical Care
Kit for just $6.99; it includes a chamois lens wipe, cleaning fluid, tissues, and a blow
brush to remove dust.
Other “essentials” to have on hand include gaffer’s tape (for sticking cables to
the floor), cables (for microphone, headphone, or TV monitor), connectors (to connect the
cables), adapters and extra videotape. Sixty-yard rolls of gaffer’s tape sell for about $12
and are available in a variety of colors besides the standard black, white or gray.
Depending on your camcorder type, and whether you’re using a microphone or headset, the
types of jacks and adapters you’ll need will vary. Radio Shack sells their model 274-016
adapter/transformer for $11.99. This audio connector accepts 3-pin XLR plugs from balanced
microphones, and fits 1/4″ jacks on many consumer-level products. Markertek sells
Belden’s video cables in a variety of lengths. Their 10-foot video cable carries a price tag
of $25.49 (model DS82-10); their 25-foot cable runs $38.19 (model DS82-25).
Camcorder Accessories On The Go
The fact is, whether you’re just starting out in your video endeavors, or are a
well-seasoned video veteran, there are certain items you should always have in your camera
By taking the time to pack an extra battery or on-camera light, a few lens filters and even
some gaffer’s tape, you can save yourself a bundle of headaches. Combine those with an
external microphone, a set of headphones, some lens tissue and a handful of extra connectors
and cables, and you’ll find yourself prepared for almost any shooting situation.