UPDATED: March 1, 2019
Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned professional coming from the DSLR world, you will find yourself carefully weighing the pros and cons of Sony camera accessories. Camera bags are almost exclusively designed to hold large cameras, while video tripods are usually designed for enormous cameras. The accessories I’ve listed below are the best “for me”… and on the admittedly dubious assumption that I’m “normal”, they might be the best for you as well.
I’ll update/expand this once a month, or as I find items that I feel supersede or fill the gaps in what is listed below. If you’ve got suggestions, of course, feel free to let me know.
Coming from the tall and fat world of DSLRs, I’ve had a tough time finding the right bags for my mirrorless gear. My Lowepro Fastpack 250 has been to hell and back with me and has held up remarkably well, but it’s designed to hold a camera more than twice as tall as an a6500… even an A7R III swims in it. I tend to prefer bags that offer quick access (I should never have to remove the bag from my body to access the camera), structure and customizable interiors. There are also bags that I greatly appreciate, but go against my philosophical aversion to ludicrous pricing. Of course, everyone is different and there are bags for most tastes, but here’s the best I’ve come across so far:
If you need slim and light, the Lowepro Slingshot Edge 250 AW (Amazon US/CA/UK | Adorama) and the smaller 150 AW are, in my estimation, the best attempts at a mirrorless bag to date. The 250 is strong, comfortable and deceptively roomy, enough width for an A7 series camera with a 70-200, an extra lens or two, as well as a good number of accessories in the top compartment. It has anchor straps for a small tripod and a rain poncho hidden in the bottom. Slings aren’t my favorite, but hopefully Lowepro is starting a trend toward low-profile bags in general – I would definitely buy a full-sized backpack based on the Slingshot Edge profile. Peak Design has a couple slings now, but to my sensibilities, only the Everyday Sling 5L is sized well for the Sony a6xxx bodies. You have enough room for a body with lens, an extra lens and several small accessories. The 10L, on the other hand, is so large in every direction that it doesn’t do a good job securing small gear. Peak slings have a ton of thoughtful features and you’ll rarely hear criticism, but personally, I just don’t like the front flap on these – it works very hard to get in my way at all times.
Currently, I think the Peak Design’s Everyday Messenger 13 (V2) (Amazon US/CA/UK | Adorama) is the best messenger bag you can buy. It’s extremely innovative, and in mostly good ways. There is some real genius at work, but the price is pretty steep. Lowepro had a line of messenger bags called Streetline that I liked quite a bit as well, but they appear to have been discontinued along with the ProTactic shoulder bag, which I thought was promising. That said, as much as I like the Peak Messenger, I just can’t bring myself to pay that much for a messenger style bag. Tenba, I think, has the most practical options in this space. The Tenba DNA 8 and 10 are about the right for the a6xxx series cameras. Not cheap, but not unreasonable, given all the features of these bags.
Funny enough, I tripped over a $5 Amazon closeout deal for a generic shoulder bag with a camera insert from BUBM. They have since disappeared, but I bought several. I use one as an occasional camera bag, my wife uses one for a makeup supplies bag. The key take away is that you can shove a “camera insert” into a just about any messenger bag or backpack and turn it into a perfectly serviceable camera bag. You don’t have to be snooty.
I must admit that I do not have a go-to backpack recommendation for mirrorless cameras yet. Everything good seems to be designed for DSLRs, or are too small to carry any appreciable amount of extra gear. I think the Lowpro ProTactic II (Amazon US/CA/UK | Adorama) line is amazing in every way but the dimensions. We need full-size packs with half or two-thirds the depth. Peak Design, again, gives us all kinds of innovation in their Everyday Backpacks, but doesn’t really take into account mirrorless dimensions and practicalities.
One bright spot: Lowepro has an “M-Trekker” series of bags specifically designed for mirrorless cameras (YAY!). The M-Trekker BP-150 (Amazon) is a low-profile, yet deceptively spacious backpack. It doesn’t look like a camera bag and opens from the back. Unfortunately, it lacks side access, so it’s not quite as handy as it could be as a city daypack. Still, it’s nice to see that Lowepro is starting to think thin. I hope it starts carrying over to their other lines.
Lens adapters allow you to mount a world of interesting glass to your Sony E-mount camera. There once was no complete guide to Sony lens adapters – so I built this one, and regularly update it. If you don’t already own lenses, then I would suggest looking at some vintage M42, Canon FD, and Nikon F lenses, which are easy to find and easy to adapt. One simple suggestion is the Nikon Series E 50mm f1.8 pancake lens – one of the best cheap pieces of glass out there. For a more artistic kind of lens, the Russian made Helios 44-2 58mm F2 is pretty amazing. If you do your research and are careful buying on eBay, you can have a full case of excellent lenses for the price of one modern lens. See The Complete Guide to Sony Lens Adapters.
If you’re trying to use your auto-focus Canon EF lenses, consider the Sigma MC-11 or Metabones IV.
If you would like to give autofocus to some inexpensive manual lenses, think about the Techart Pro Leica M to Sony E-mount adapter. This is a pretty interesting little device. You’ll have to adapt your lenses to Leica M first, but there are cheap options listed in the Guide.
Spend wisely! All Sony a6x00, a7, and a7II series cameras have a write speed limitation of about 30-35 MB/s, which is slow by today’s SD card standards. A faster card does nothing. To record 4k video, Sony does mandate that the card must be “UHS-I class 3”. Don’t know what that really means? Don’t worry, neither does anyone else – just look for these symbols: and … if both of those markings are on the card, it can take 4k video recording.
The SD Association isn’t terribly bright when it comes to labeling, but it is trying. They have now added a “Video Speed Class” rating, like this: . All “V30” cards are UHS-1 class 3 by default so they are capable of recording 4k video.
I do tend to stick with SanDisk for SD cards. That’s not my unequivocal endorsement, that’s just my experience. There are perfectly decent options from Sony and Lexar (and I have some older Lexar cards I still use in my GoPro3), but SanDisk hasn’t given me much reason to look around lately.
For most people:
UHS-I SD card prices have continued to drop such that the price difference between the slowest and fastest cards is minimal. As of the time of this writing, only $8 separates the 128GB SanDisk Extreme Pro card and the regular Extreme (Amazon US/CA/UK). I used to recommend sticking with the Extreme, because both are limited by the camera’s write speed, but since the pro does read a little faster, $8 isn’t much of a sacrifice for the top of the line.
… and then there’s what I do:
Many devices today use microSD cards instead of SD, like action cams and audio recorders. My Surface Pro, cell phone and other tablets sport microSD as well. I switched to microSD entirely and it has simplified my life. I use the microSD version of 128GB Sandisk Extreme (Amazon US/CA/UK), but again, the Pro isn’t much more (Amazon US/CA/UK).
What about UHS-II cards?
The a9, a7III and a7RIII have a UHS-II slot along with a UHS-I slot. The UHS-II standard is over 3x faster than UHS-I. Using a UHS-II card in an a6x00 camera will not change the write speed of the camera, but using a UHS-II card reader, you can transfer your photos to your computer a lot faster. So, if you want to do some future proofing, a UHS-II card is a perfectly reasonable option.
Some addition advice:
Consider buying several smaller, cheaper SD cards and stash them in convenient places other than your camera bag… like a dark, cooler place in the car, at work, wallet (microSD is awesome for things like this), etc. I can’t even tell you how many times that has come in handy.
What about Sony Memory Stick?
NO. Just no.
Sony’s a6000, a6300 and a6500, as well as the A7, RX100, RX10 and RX1 series cameras all use the NP-FW50 battery. It’s small and light, but certain isn’t up for hours of video or even a whole day of photography. You can get Sony branded batteries (Amazon US/CA/UK) and charger (Amazon US/CA/UK), but those are pretty pricey. I use Wasabi Power’s alternative, which are about 1/5 the price, but don’t last quite as long. They are best bought in a two pack (Amazon US/CA/UK) or with a travel charger (Amazon US/CA/UK) or with a USB dual charger (Amazon US/CA/UK). You can, however, get the full run time of a Sony battery for a reasonable price with Watson batteries (Amazon US/CA/UK).
Starting with the RX10 II and the Sony a6300, Sony added USB power, not just charging, to their cameras. The A7R II and A7S II also have it. When powering the camera by USB and recording 4K video to the SD card, you can expect that about 2/3 of the power need will come from USB, 1/3 from the internal battery. Effectively, this extends you battery life about 3x without swapping batteries, or turning the camera off to charge the battery. You can use any USB charger or USB battery pack that provides at least 1A of current. I offered a DIY USB battery solution here.
Dummy Battery/AC power –
A dummy battery (Amazon US/CA/UK) is a device that is inserted into the battery compartment, but has a wire to feed power from an external power supply or other battery pack that can supply approximately 7.6V (specifically 7.4-8.5V, which is the range of voltages a charged NP-FW50 battery will normally provide). Sony makes the AC-PW20 adapter (Amazon US/CA/UK), but I typically use 3rd party options, like the Neewer (Amazon US/CA/UK) or Gonine (Amazon US/CA/UK) alternatives.
You can also use a dummy battery in conjunction with a battery plate to use any NP-F style (Amazon US/CA/UK) batteries you may have laying around.
Sometimes the old ways are the best ways. There are apps for your phone or computer that will remote control your camera, but they are clunky and incomplete. Nothing quite works like a physical, purposeful remote with physical, purposeful buttons for your physical, purposeful hands. Sony makes a few, and they’re good, but I’ve also been satisfied with the cheaper alternatives.
Wireless (Infrared) –
The infrared receiver on a6x00 and A7 series cameras is in the front of the camera, so depending on your purposes, these remotes can be more or less useful. Sony makes the RMT-DSLR2 (Amazon US/CA/UK | Adorama), which can provide a great deal of control over your camera, navigating settings, menus and even controlling powerzoom lenses like the 16-50mm (Amazon US/CA/US) and 18-105mm (Amazon US/CA/UK) or Sony’s all-in-one cameras like the RX100 and RX10 series. The JJC RM-DSLR2 (Amazon US/CA/UK), which I own, does the same job for a lot less. If you don’t want as many buttons, you can get a simple infrared shutter release like this.
Wireless (RF) –
A radio-based shutter release requires a receiver to be connected to the camera, but allows remote control without line of sight. The Sony RMT-VP1K (Amazon US/CA/UK | Adorama) is a simple shutter release, plus video controls (start/stop and zoom rocker). There are a couple more photography-centric remotes that offer more features, the Pixel RW221-S2 (Amazon US/CA/UK) and Viltrox JY120-S2 (Amazon US/CA/UK) both offer some control over shooting mode, while the Pixel TW283-S2 (Amazon US/CA/UK) is a complete remote intervalometer.
The Sony RM-SPR1 (Amazon US/CA/UK | Adorama) is a one-button wired shutter release and the RM-VPR1 (Amazon US/CA/UK | Adorama) is a wired version of the RMT-VP1K mentioned above that offers some video/zoom control. They’re both quite expensive. The Pixel RC201 (Amazon US/CA/UK) is an inexpensive alternative to the SPR1 if you just need a shutter release. For video control, I own the Fotga AE367 (Amazon US/CA/UK), a VPR1 alternative, and it has worked very well for me (I have it mounted to my shoulder rig). There are many wired intervalometers, but most are the same, sold by different brand names. I happen to have one from Hongdak (Amazon US/CA/UK), which is a few dollars cheaper than the same unit from Neewer.
There are no perfect camera straps, but the neckstrap that comes with your camera is less perfect than most. While no one can tell you what will work best for you, I’ll give you some basic concepts. Neckstraps are good when your gear is very light, slings are good when your gear is heavy. Wide, padded neoprene is better than a narrow strip of the finest leather. Never use a strap with those plastic pinch quick releases. Consider a safety tether. For video shooters, think about how you transition from photography to video.
I’m a sling guy, and I’ve used the Blackrapid slings for years and years. The current Curve (Amazon) or Sport (Amazon) are very comfy. I had always discounted Peak Design’s Slide (Amazon) as a big gimmicky and, frankly, it does look like it would be comfortable. Turns out that I was wrong… it’s very comfy and the
“gimmicks” are actually well thought out, user-friendly advantages. I’ve gone back and forth, but I’ve settled on the Slide for one important reason – when I am wearing the camera behind my back, I want it to stay put. With the Blackrapid slings, the camera dangles and bounces. I typically have to keep my hand on it. With the Peak, it just stays where you put it. The down side of the Slide is that it is often slower to draw the camera up because the whole strap has to slide around you. On the Blackrapid, the camera is free to slide along the strap, so the motion of raising the camera is more fluid. Also, the peak will tend to creep up your neck unless you flip it over to the grippy side.
All told, I like the Peak a little bit better for pedestrian/travel/hiking, but if I was shooting a wedding or something where the camera is rarely at rest, I’d prefer the Blackrapid. I think the average person will like the Peak better… Pros may have a tougher choice. Note that the Peak can serve as both a sling and a neckstrap, has an interesting quick release system and works even with a tripod plate on the camera. They do make a Slide Lite (Amazon), which they say is scaled for mirrorless cameras, but that has a thinner strap, so I see it this way – if you prefer a neckstrap, go with the Slide Lite because it is less bulky. If you prefer a sling, or if you have heavier lenses, the regular sized Slide will be more comfortable.
AKA: “Sticks”. There are two primary types of tripods, photographic and video. Photo tripods are typically lighter and more compact, usually having an extendable central post upon which a ball head is mounted. Video tripods are typically heavier, often having double posts for legs rather than single tubes. Most notably, a video tripod will usually have a leveling “bowl” at its center, supporting a fluid panning head.
Of course, current tripod sensibilities were formed when there was a clear distinction between photographic and video cameras. Now we have cameras that can competently do both in a tiny, lightweight package. Tripods, and how we use them, tend to evolve slowly to new realities. The bowl allows you to quickly level the head independently from the legs.
For those just staring, here are a few suggestions:
For Photographers: The MeFoto Roadtrip and Globetrotter (Amazon US/CA/UK), are sturdy, reliable travel tripods, the latter being a bit heavier duty. If you really shoot in the muck, then the higher end Benro Travel Angels have additional weather sealing to keep dirt and sand from invading the joints. For a bit less cash, I have used the Zomei Z818 (Amazon US/CA/UK) and found it to be a very credible substitute for the MeFoto Roadtrip. A couple notes: While in-body-stabilization allows you to use lighter-weight tripods with abandon, there are circumstances where you may benefit by heavier-duty, or models with special features. Outdoor timelapses benefit by a well-anchored, heavier tripod. If you have to use a light tripod, consider using it at minimum height, add sandbags, etc. Those who are frequently shooting around the ocean would do well to have a tripod with well sealed legs, and clean and oil any exposed metal as the salt air will deteriorate them.
For Filmmakers/Videographers: This is not where you want to go super cheap, and it usually makes sense to buy the head separate from the legs. A sturdy set of legs and a smooth, fluid head is critical to vibration free, smooth panning. In my opinion, the minimum requirement for a “great” pan head is one that has independent controllable fluid drag for both tilt AND pan (not just a locking screw). The the lowest-end qualifier is the Manfrotto 502AH (Amazon US/CA/UK) head, which is really, really nice – if perhaps conspicuously large for a naked Sony mirrorless camera. There are cheaper options that can be made to work, like the Wiefeng WF-717 (Amazon US/CA/UK) (also sold by Fancier, Cowboy Studio and many others), or the toy-like plastic, yet oddly competent Velbon PH-368 (Amazon US/CA/UK). You can, of course, put these heads on a photo tripod, but for stability, consider some strong two stage video legs. They don’t have to be all the expensive. A cheap way to go is to get the cheapest kit you can, like the Fancier WF717 (Amazon US/CA/UK), which has perfect fine legs and a 75mm bowl, then replace the head with the 502A. The prices jump from there, but so do the benefits. A carbon fiber video tripod can provide all the stability while being light enough to lug around just about anywhere, like the the Manfrotto 535 (Amazon US/CA/UK) I picked up a decade ago and will likely have for life.
One note on quick releases – Manfrotto has a quick release plate system which was designed for much much larger, much much heavier cameras. In the mirrorless world, however, I recommend switching to the much smaller Arca-Swiss type clamps/plates, common to the photography world. For the 502AH head, I simply attach a long arca clamp to the Manfrotto plate. I have a square (bi-directional) Arca plate on my camera almost always, and I have adapted almost everything I have so that I never have to remove it – even my my LED lights get a plate and my light stands get a clamp, if not a small ballhead. I’ve seen plates on ebay for $1.89 with free shipping from Hong Kong, so it’s cheap to stock up.and
For most people (On/Off camera) –
It’s pretty clear that Godox has the best bang for the buck where flash is concerned. Even the low end tt350-S (Amazon) has high-speed sync and can as a radio master or slave for on or off camera situations. Running on two AA’s the tt350S doesn’t have the oomph for balancing harsh sunlight or filling large halls at a distance, it does have everything the average shooter needs in close, indoors or out. The size is just perfect for the a6xxx or a7 series cameras. For more power, there’s the 4-AA driven tt685-S (Amazon) and the lithium-ion driven V680II-S (Amazon), which are nearly identical but for the power. As a function of the lithium ion battery, the 680II-S tt recycles a little faster but lasts a lot longer than the 685-S. Either are credible for professional use but come at a consumer price. For fully off-camera solutions, there X1T-S (Amazon) transmitter is nice, but there’s a new XPRO-S (Amazon) transmitter that’s even better (ships in February).
Misc. for Video Shooters/Filmmakers
Handheld Gimbal/Stabilizer –
If you ask me, the “brushless gimbal” is one of the greatest technological advancements for independent filmmakers. This is a motorized stabilizer that keeps your camera steady no matter what. The technology is improving at lightning speed , but the best bang for the buck at the moment is the Zhiyun Crane (Amazon US/CA/UK), partially because it performs well, but also because it is far easier to set up and use than most. The fact that it is also reasonably priced among its peers is gravy.
External Recorder –
External records provide a lot of utility for video shooters: It’s a large LCD that can be placed wherever it is needed, assisting focus, framing, exposure and color tasks, all while recording in higher-quality codecs without a time limit. There are several options, but the Atomos Ninja Flame (Amazon US/CA/UK) is a mature, refined product that just works extremely well. The lower priced Blackmagic Video Assist 4k (Amazon US/CA/UK) is also very good and improves with each firmware upgrade.
The world of audio is deep and this paragraph will not summarize it, except to convey one truth: Audio is important. That said, choosing the right way to capture audio is a black art laced with competing objective and subjective factors that bring out religious ferver. On the upside, everyone agrees that the microphone that comes on your camera is crap and should never, ever, be used. You don’t have to spend a lot to improve your audio 100x, but improving it another 100x is where you have to make tough choices that reflect your budget. My recommendations here are for the lowest of budgets. For an on-camera microphone, the Rode VideoMicro (Amazon US/CA/UK) is a good place to start. It’s tiny, inexpensive, and punches above its weight class. Vloggers may prefer a wired lavalier mic – I use the Boya BY-M1 (Amazon US/CA/UK) in many of my videos, partially because it’s cheap, but also because it hops from my camera to my phone with ease and sounds good, if a little bass-y. For a smaller option (not for smartphones), I like the JK Mic-J 044 (Amazon US/CA/UK). For a wireless lav, the lowest cost system that I like is the Azden Pro XD (Amazon US/CA/UK). There are many cheaper options, but they sacrifice too much for my taste3.