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Five point-and-shoot must-have accessories

So you got a new snapshot camera, eh? Here's a quick list of essentials you should consider getting more sooner than later.

A little pouch can go a long way toward protecting your investment. Kata

Most consumer electronics require at least a couple of extra purchases for improving performance or extending their usefulness. Point-and-shoot cameras are no different, as manufacturers tend to cut out accessories to keep product costs as low as possible. Fortunately, most accessories for compact cameras are reasonably inexpensive, making post-purchase costs pretty small.

That said, here's a quick list of five essential items you'll want to consider picking up to get the most from your new digital camera.

  1. Batteries
    I admit that while I've told several people over the years to be safe and buy the camera manufacturer's rechargeable batteries, I've always bought cheap aftermarket batteries off of eBay for myself. Though I've never had a problem, I can't say you won't. Plus, there is a chance that using a third-party battery will void the camera warranty, so be sure to check the terms for your model.

    Regardless of what you go with, you'll want to get at least one backup battery pack. If you're using a camera running on AA-size batteries, buy good ones designed for power-demanding electronics. Even better, buy some NiMH rechargeables and only use alkaline or lithium ion batteries when you need them.

  2. Case
    Point-and-shoot cameras don't come with cases anymore. That's a real shame considering that the large LCDs and shiny finishes used on current models are particularly scratch-prone. A nice simple slip case such as the M-Rock Milan is enough to keep a camera protected from scuffs while bouncing around in a handbag or backpack. If you want something with more protection and storage though, look for bags like the Kata DF-404 or Lowepro Apex 30 AW
  3. Memory card
    Unless you've got a Sony or Olympus camera, or one of Samsung's DualView cameras, you'll be shopping for SD or SDHC cards. SD cards go up to 2GB in capacity and SDHC cards max out at 32GB. Using several, cheaper small cards instead of buying one large card forces offloading photos more regularly. It also makes it easy to tag cards used for specific dates or events for easy organization.

    Class rating doesn't matter for still shots on compact cameras. What's important is read/write speed (the faster the better) and even then it has more to do with transferring the images from the card to a storage device or computer. If your camera records HD-quality video at 720p or higher resolution, you'll want to get a Class 4 card (though we've tested them with Class 2 cards with no issues). Lastly, go with a recognizable brand with a good warranty on the memory; SanDisk, Lexar, Kingston, Crucial, Transcend, PNY, and OCZ are fine choices.

  4. Tripod
    I'm not talking about a big, expensive full-size model. For most users, a little tabletop model will suffice. One of the most frequent complaints about using point-and-shoot cameras is how blurry the photos come out. In-camera image stabilization can only do so much, especially if you're shooting with your arms extended. Nevertheless, if the camera is in your hands, it's going to shake a bit. There are plenty of options out there, but here are five favorites.
  5. Backup storage
    Backup storage is probably the most overlooked accessory when someone purchases a new camera, but when you're dealing with digital memories you don't want to mess around. My photos reside on a Western Digital ShareSpace network drive, which is nice because it allows for FTP downloads and includes free Web access to my photos through MioNet. This is overkill for most people, though, and a simple external USB, FireWire, or eSATA drive will do the trick.

    Of course, you can always opt to open an online account with any of a number of services. Lastly, if you have easy access to a DVD burner, I recommend saving important photos to archival-quality DVDs and storing them in a safety deposit box or some other safe location.