Video Equipment that won't break the bank. No heavy lifting required.
Here is a look at my personal video equipment recommendations based on years of testing, trial and error.
The links provided here are budget-friendly and available online for easy shipping. It is very important for me to find equipment that is not heavy or bulky. These camera items will fit nicely into the backpack provided below. All tripods and lights come with their own easy carrying cases. If you have any specific questions about equipment picks, feel free to contact me. I provide tutoring and training in all aspects of filmmaking, video production and photography.
Three tripods that I love...
- Magnus VT-3000 Tripod System with Fluid Head
- ZOMEI 65” Camera Tripod Compact Light Weight Travel Aluminum Camera/Phone Tripod
- Amazon Basics 60-Inch Lightweight Tripod with Bag
These three tripods serve me very well as I have different camera combinations that I use. The Magnus is best for the heavier setup, and gives very smooth pans and tilts without shakiness. I use it whenever I am filming outside and need a very sturdy tripod that will not get knocked down easily. It is a bit heavier than the other two tripods though, so I do not use it when I have to run around a lot or move positions frequently without my assistant. It all depends on the shots I need to get. If anything I want from this tripod, it is that the bag would have a shoulder strap. Also, the plate requires a coin or tool to tighten onto the camera- unlike the cheaper options which have a screw you can turn with your hands. This can be annoying when you have to quickly set up and don't have a coin on you.The Amazon Basics is nice and I use it with my younger kid students. Since the price tag is so low, I do not feel so bad if the plate gets lost, or it gets knocked around a lot. It is very light and comes with a nice carrying case. I would not recommend it for heavier cameras or if you are going to leave it unattended, as it is too lightweight to be trusted alone. Also, don't expect to get smooth pans or tilts on this. It is very shaky and best if you are going to just get a steady shot with your hands off. The Zomei is my go-to tripod for most shoots. Sturdier than the Amazon Basics tripod and a bit smoother of a pan/tilt head. Definitely not as smooth as the Magnus, but you get what you pay for. This tripod is so small and lightweight (like the Amazon brand). Overall, if I were traveling this would be the one I take with me. The carrying case is very nice and similar to that of the Amazon Basics tripod. This tripod is a great value, but still I would not recommend it for smooth on-camera moves.Overall the Magnus gets the most usage out of me when shooting high-quality film projects. It is most versatile and trustworthy. If you are going to put expensive equipment on a tripod, you have to trust that tripod is sturdy and smooth. The Magnus does this for me. It is a great quality for the money, and comparable to the expensive Sachtler or Manfrotto tripods, without the heaviness.
If you have a high quality camera on your phone, I would suggest using this tripod adapter (or something similar) for your cell phone. It connects your cell phone to the plate of any of the above tripods. Also, I like how this one rotates for either landscape or vertical shooting. The price is also very good.
Best Monopod I've used...
I have used this monopod on a few shoots (borrowed) and absolutely loved it. A monopod is essentially a tripod with 1 leg- so it's great for getting quick shots and moving around a lot for an event, wedding or getting BROLL. The feet provide stability that takes pressure off your arm so you can get fluid shots without fumbling. Like I have told my students though, do not trust the feet to hold the camera unattended. It is not that strong.Finally, if you can get extra plates for just $5 more- absolutely do it. Anyone can lose a plate or misplace it, and finding replacement plates can be very tough. Sometimes the plate can cost almost as much as the tripod or monopod- so it's a no brainer.
The Canon SL1 is my main camera that I use for professional shoots, and I recently started using a Canon 90D for work projects. With just a few lenses (below), it is very versatile for my photography and video jobs. What I love about the SL1 package is that it is very lightweight. What I wish it had was an articulating LCD screen (which the 90D has). Although I would not trade the weight factor for the LCD.
What I have done to fix that LCD glare issue is purchase a matte screen guard. Honestly, the lens that comes with the SL1 for vacationing and travel, when I don't want to carry the full camera kit with me. Sometimes there is just no time to swap lenses on set. This 50mm lens is the best investment out of this bunch because I use it for almost ALL my interviews. It makes anyone look great and a nice blurry background. It is also very small and lightweight.The telephoto 55-250 lens is also great, and I did a lot of research before purchasing it. I use it most for getting beauty shots of close-up items like products, food or in nature. The shots on this look amazing but I rarely use it for interviews unless we have a great amount of distance to work with.
The Canon G7x was my secondary camera for a long time. My assistant camera person would use it for getting wide shots or side-angles while I get the main shots (on the Magnus tripod).This camera is so light-weight and compact that it is great for vacationing. However, the price tag makes it more money than I trust to just throw in my purse or carry-on bag. You might feel differently. I used this primarily for high quality shoots, and loved the results. Since I do not own a wide angle prime lens for my Canon SL1, it is important that I have this camera with me specifically for that reason. There are only so many prime lenses you want to invest in as a photographer, until it becomes bulky and annoying to keep swapping. The lens on this is amazing and gives great results. I also love that you can rack focus by lightly tapping the touch screen. This camera is amazing. The only down-side about it is that the battery compartment seems very delicate, and has this wire in it that looks like it could break very easily. I was borrowing this Canon G7x camera from a friend until I started researching similar cameras to invest in, for myself. With that research I discovered a very similar camera that shoots 4k! - the Panasonic LX10. This camera has a similarly beautiful lens with great footage. It is also cheaper by $100. I use the Pansonic LX10 as my secondary camera for video interviews, events, and I trust it to get beautiful wide angle shots. The versatility really is great with this camera, and you can't beat the size or weight.The Canon G7x and Panasonic LX10 are great Vlogging cameras, as you can flip the LCD screen up to see yourself while shooting. So if you are looking to start a YouTube channel or build your instagram following, I suggest one of these. Specifically, the Panasonic LX10 because the price is better, and you have an option for 4k.
Don't underestimate the power of lighting. It can take your shoot from amateur to professional, and justify increasing your rates. Here is my budget-friendly and lightweight lighting solution- the Neewer Ring Light. For interviews and beauty-shots, this is my go-to. It does cause a little ring reflection in the person's eyes/glasses or as a reflection, but if you use it off-center and not shooting through the camera in the traditional way, you can get away with this as a regular light. I love the snap-on diffusion and gel options, although newer models have a built in color temperature knob. This light is color temperature balanced for outdoor lighting 5600k. This means if you are shooting in a room with some natural light, you don't have to worry about color balancing the lights to match sunlight. This is the light I use most often because it is very versatile and easy to carry in it's case. As secondary lights for three point lighting, I suggest any LED light panels you can afford that are small enough to carry with you.
You will need lots of SD cards for shooting. Always have an extra one for each camera you are using, just to be safe. SD cards can be dropped, or malfunction unexpectedly at the worst time- be prepared and store them carefully. This hard case below is great for storing your SD cards whether you are traveling or just keeping them in the camera bag. The cameras above will use regular SD cards. Your cell phone or tablet likely takes a Micro SD card- if you are shooting with your cell phone.
Lenses get dirty. Specs of dust/dirt, or a small fingerprint smudge can make your shots look horrible, and you don't find out until after. Always clean your lenses before and after use- especially if you are shooting in a dusty area, the beach or anywhere with dirt. A cleaning kit is small and lightweight to throw in your camera bag, because you never know when you will need it. I also purchased more cleaning wipes because not many of them come with the kit, and you will run out of these fast. So I throw a few of them in my bag as well. Just get both- you won't regret it.
Ladies and Gentlemen will both need to take away shine from their face when using lighting of any kind on camera. This Rimmel Stay matte powder works for most skin tones because it is translucent. I have used it on people with very dark skin and it does give a little bit of a chalky complexion. Surely there might be a better product out there for very dark skin, but if you are looking to just matte-ify the shiny spots, this works great. Ladies can layer it over their foundation on certain shiny spots, and gentlemen can wear this without looking like they have pancake on their face. In fact, when I have put this on men's face for a shoot, they have given little to no complaints as compared to other matte powders and makeup. There simply is no reason to put foundation on someone with great skin, when this exists. Rimmel Stay Matte just takes away the shine from your natural complexion.This Rimmel Stay Matte has worked better than anything else I have used in my many years. I use it even when going to events or anywhere I know there will be a camera flash, or lighting. Don't look shiny, use this.
Don't forget to buy extra batteries for your cameras. No camera battery lasts long enough for a shoot. Having extra batteries, and especially a car charger adapter, is a big help. This will set you apart from the amateurs who sit around waiting for their battery to charge mid-shoot. Be a professional and have extra batteries.
We all need storage for your files. Video can take up a lot of space. Even if you don't plan on shooting much, it is a good idea to have an external hard drive to back up your computer files. After all, your computer could fail at any time and you would lose ALL your progress. Don't let this happen to you.I have about seven external hard drives. This Seagate version, and the newer one that came out, are the nicest that I have seen. They are small, lightweight and don't take up much space. I suggest having each hard drive in it's own case to prevent damage. This carrying case is the nicest of all that I have had.
Carrying and Storage...
This backpack is what I use for most shoots. The straps are cushioned and very comfortable. There are many pockets and that helps me keep things separated and safe. When you have a lot of small microphones and items floating around, it is nice to have all these pockets. The bright interior is also nice because all equipment is usually black, so it's easy to see everything in here.The price tag is great and it is very sturdy for the camera package I use (Mics, Canon SL1 w Lenses & Panasonic/Canon mirrorless camera). I store this backpack flat in my closet and it doesn't take up much space.
Sound is the absolute most important aspect of your video production. The only time I would say you do not need a microphone is for a music video. Otherwise, get a mic, or expect your video to suck. Audio equipment will depend heavily on your needs and photo/video assignments. If you are shooting an interview, this audiotechnica quick and easy lavalier mic clips easily to your subject's shirt. The little foam piece on top of the mic does a decent job as a wind-screen if you are shooting outside. However, be aware that plugging this mic directly into your DSLR (like the Canon SL1, for example), is risky since you can't listen to the audio as you are recording it. I suggest recording audio separately. You could download an app on your phone that records audio and shows you the levels on the screen as you are recording, and plug this lavalier mic into that. Just make sure you have a large amount of storage on your phone if you are going to do this technique. If you are in a professional environment getting an audio feed from a TV station, PA system or auditorium, you likely will be using XLR inputs, and NOT the audiotechnica microphone with the headphone jack 1/4 inch connector. In that case, the Zoom H4N audio recorder is your best bet. It is versatile to allow for 2 XLR inputs, and you can place it on top of your camera using the hot shoe mount, so that everything is in one place. Just make sure you have a lot of gaffers tape, and XLR cables that are long enough to get you from the input, to your recorder. You want to make sure the recorder is with you so you can keep an eye on it and make sure the battery doesn't die, card doesn't run out of space, or anything else that could cause the recording to stop. Please note that you will need XLR microphones if you are using the Zoom recorder. The audiotechnica 1/4" mic does not connect directly into this recorder. Either way, having a separate audio recording is most safe because you always have the camera feed audio as a backup. This isn't ideal, especially if YOU are talking behind the camera, as it picks up whatever is closest to the mic loudest. In a pinch though, you can make the camera audio work if it's all you have.Don't forget to have extra batteries with you for your audio devices. I like the Duracell Procell packs because they come in 4 packs that you can easily throw into your camera bag. No more fishing around for single batteries.
Sound equipment is more flexible based on your needs. For example, if you are doing a video podcast or panel discussion where you want to see table mics, or a Skype interview- I would suggest using the equipment recommendations from my Podcasting Tutorial. It contains all the equipment you will need to produce your very own podcast, panel discussion or interview for less than $100. Simply add a vlogging camera (above) or use your computer's built in camera, and you have a high quality video interview.
Higher-end Camera Picks... (AKA Living the Dream)
These items are ones that I have used in the past and I absolutely LOVE. They are not recommended if you want to keep your kit small and lightweight, as this can get heavy.
I used the Sony FS7 with metabones speedbooster and these two canon lenses to shoot my Emmy Award Winning Video. The speedbooster gives one extra F-stop to whatever lens you are using. So you can imagine that if you are using these beautiful lenses below that are F2 or F1.8, the results are incredible. The Sony FS7 was the most user-friendly professional camera I ever used. It reminds me of the Sony EX3, but just updated and newer with 4k capability. I love the way Sony cameras capture bright bold colors- especially the reds and greens. Canon lenses give that amazing depth of field that look film-like. It's a great combination.
I hope you found everything you need from this blog. If you have any other picks to add, suggestions or questions about anything here, please feel free to contact me. I provide tutoring and training in all aspects of filmmaking, video production and photography.
Happy shooting! -Laura