Gear Guide For Videographers Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced

Easily the question Johnny and I get most often is what is our gear set-up, and what do we recommend for those just starting out in videography  so we decided to create a Gear Guide for Videographers: Beginner, Intermediate, & Advanced and we are super excited to share it with you. Most of what I include, I will have already used, or be familiar with the brand enough that I feel that I can endorse it, if I haven’t used the product or don’t know the brand well but feel strongly about the product after research and perspective from fellow filmmakers, I will make sure to indicate that so you’re aware before investing. Whenever possible, we will try to include a cheaper alternative to our suggestion incase you aren’t quite ready for the larger ticket item!

BEGINNER SET UP

If you’re starting out in video, first of all, welcome, fellow videographer!! Filmmaking is something we hold dear to our hearts, and we really think that you’re going to love it (if you don’t already) once you get over the first intimidating hump of learning! Here are a few things we think would serve you well in your journey:

Camera: We recommend starting out with the Sony RX100. It’s small, shoot amazing quality video/photo, it has a lens that zooms super far, AND it has a flip out screen so it is easy to snap a selfie or do a little vlog excerpt! The color and image quality are also super impressive for such a little camera. PRICE: $1200

Money Saver: With the DJI Osmo Mobile you can use your smart phone to do all the filming. This device stabilizes your phone to give you a really professional look at a budget price. Phones these days shoot great quality video, but the problem is the footage is so shaky, it is usually unusable. The Osmo solves that. My only hesitation is that you have to have enough storage on your phone so you can shoot a lot, since there are no external memory cards you can put in. How much do we hate that “storage is full” message?! PRICE $199

Tripod: The JOBY GorillaPod is a great first tripod, it is super compact, lightweight, and it has flexible legs so you can attach it to almost anything to get a steady shot. It works for point and shoots, all the way up to DSLRs, and even works with a cell phone. PRICE: $41.20

Drone: WE LOVE DRONES! You probably already know that though if you’re here. We’re also huge fans of DJI, so we went with the DJI Spark as a starter drone. It is incredibly cheap for a drone that shoots HD footage, and it is super compact, so it’s the perfect option for you to learn the ropes of flying and get pretty good quality footage too! PRICE $381.58

Camera Bag/Backpack: We recommend the same Peak Design Every Day Backpack in all three sections because we love it that much. This backpack is ideal not just for video, but for travel, as a temporary diaper bag, overnight bag, or just for a day touring around. You can get the 20L or 30L. For everyday use, I recommend the smaller pack, however, Johnny uses the larger one in his daily commute to work and brought it with him on all of his Borders trips. PRICE: 20L $259.95 or 30L 289.95.

Strap:  We really love our black rapid strap, so we’re recommending Black Rapid Breathe Cross, it is a cross body strap that is really secure so that you can wear the camera as a side bag. You can just slide it up towards the front of you and snap a shot or some video and then drop it back down to your hip without fear of dropping the camera mid shot or losing it out on the go. It is scary at first but it is SUCH a secure system, and allows you to have your camera out at all times without it banging against your chest to get those shots you just can’t miss. We use this with our DSLR, so as you invest more in your gear, you can keep using the same strap. PRICE: $66.95.

Money Saver: The Altura Photo Rapid Fire strap is just $20 and has similar functionality to the black rapid strap, the mechanisms are just a bit lower quality and not quite as smooth, but this is a great, secure strap for those who need a budget option. PRICE: $19.99.

INTERMEDIATE SET UP

Camera: Perhaps the question we get most often about gear is “what camera should I get if I’m getting serious about video/photo but am not ready to dive into a full pro camera. The answer is Canon’s 70d. This camera gives you a lot of bang for your buck. It takes really great photos and shoots excellent video. This was our first camera when we decided to get serious about video, and we used it for about 3 years before we upgraded to what we have now and could have used it for longer. We love it. It has a flip out screen and really good auto focus for video (great for vlogging). You can purchase the body only, or the body with a kit lens, both are great options. Below you’ll also find our money saver option. PRICE: Body only: $749.99 OR Body with kit lens: $899.00.

Money Saver: The DJI Osmo Plus is a dream come true for us, and seriously cuts costs if you’re looking to have something you can shoot smooth footage with, vlog with, but don’t need the full quality a DLSR promises. We’ve taken our Osmo with us all around the world, and are constantly impressed by the quality and steadiness of the footage. It is super compact, comes with a hard case, and if you buy the 1/8th inch mic connector you can get really great quality audio. You can also attach your phone to monitor video and see yourself if you’re vlogging or taking a selfie. If you want to be able to set it down and use it like you would a camera on a tripod, this base is super helpful. It also has optical zoom which means you can zoom in without decreasing the quality of your picture. The only drawback with this set up is that it does not do well in low light settings, so for rainy days or late nights, it won’t get you the quality a DSLR can. PRICE: Bundled with all mentioned attachments: $589.00 OR Osmo by itself without attachments:$559.00.

********Lens: If you purchase the body only, then the Canon EF-S 18-135mm ($339.00) is your one-stop shop to get full range and quality image. If you do go ahead with the kit lens you’ll likely want to add the which will give you the Canon EF 75-300mm ($106) ability to zoom. We’re also huge fans of the 50 mm 1.8 ($125.00), also known as the plastic fantastic. We used this for nearly 6 years, and it served us SO well. It takes great portraits and video, is super tiny for travel, and cheap enough that you aren’t too stressed about banging it up.

Tripod: So, when it comes to tripods, it is important to understand that they come in two pieces. You get the legs, and the head. For video, it helps to have a fluid head that you can move around smoothly for optimal motion. We LOVE Manfrotto, and a great intermediate option is the Manfrotto Aluminum Legs with the 502 Video Head. This combo is going to be lightweight, but super sturdy and dependable. We’ve had ours the entire time we’ve been doing video and it has held up beautifully. PRICE: Legs: $199.99 & Head: $149.00.

Another great option is the new Peak Design Travel Tripod! It is so lightweight, low profile, and easy to use. Find their kickstarter here.

Smaller Tripod: Lately we’ve been using this tiny travel tripod from Manfrotto. It’s called the “Be Free,” and we…kind of love it. You lose some of the sturdiness, smoothness and flexibility you get with the bigger Manfrotto but geez is this thing tiny. It fits in our backpack’s water bottle holder! So while we use the bigger carbon fiber tripod still, we’re pretty sold on this little thing. and it’s incredibly cheap. PRICE: $142

Slider: A slider can really add to the quality of your film, we have used this Gear Glide Slider for nearly 7 years and it has served us really well, especially considering the low price point. It is lightweight and pretty compact for travel, and allows for dynamic shots that you wouldn’t be able to get otherwise. IF you do purchase this slider, you will need an extra tripod head, we recommend going with the 502 Video Head we mentioned earlier. PRICE: $89.00.

Audio: This Rode Lightweight Microphone connects through a 1/8 inch input on all DSLRs, it provides protection from wind and a really decent audio signal. What makes it a really great option is that you can take it on and off as needed to make your rig neater, but it is also super portable and minimal which we love since we like our gear set up to be as lean as possible for travel. ***If you are planning on recording professional interviews or wedding ceremonies, look to our advanced audio set-up below for the most reliable option. PRICE: $76.01

Drone: We’re huge fans of the DJI Mavic Pro, it is what we use for all of our drone footage and photos, and has been super reliable and a total game changer for our films. This drone folds into a small compact carrying case so it is super easy to bring with you on the go, it has GREAT image quality, and is relatively easy to learn to use. PRICE:  You can purchase the bundle (we recommend this option) which has extra batteries and replacement propellers as well as a car charger for $974. There are newer, fancier drones that recently came out, but we are going to stick with the Mavic for the time being. It gets the job done.

Under Water: Underwater shots add so much to a film. We used to use the GoPro Hero4  (PRICE: $289.00for all of our underwater video. It comes with an underwater case, but for us the magic of an underwater shot comes when you can get under-water/above-water split shots, like here. We would stick the GoPro in this Telesin Waterproof Dome (PRICE: $49.99) which does just that. But this year we updated to this underwater housing which works with the sony RX100 point and shoot camera . We wanted something that didn’t have the fish eye look of the go pro, and that had a bit higher image quality. Check out this example. We’re sold!

Camera Bag/Backpack: We recommend the same Peak Design Every Day Backpack in all three sections because we love it that much. This backpack is ideal not just for video, but for travel, as a temporary diaper bag, overnight bag, or just for a day touring around. You can get the 20L or 30L. For everyday use, I recommend the smaller pack, however, Johnny uses the larger one in his daily commute to work and brought it with him on all of his Borders trips. PRICE: 20L $259.95 or 30L 289.95.

Strap: We really love our black rapid strap, so we’re recommending the Black Rapid Breathe Cross, it is a cross body strap that is really secure so that you can wear the camera as a side bag. You can just slide it up towards the front of you and snap a shot or some video and then drop it back down to your hip without fear of dropping the camera mid shot or losing it out on the go. It is scary at first but it is SUCH a secure system, and allows you to have your camera out at all times without it banging against your chest to get those shots you just can’t miss. We use this with our DSLR, so as you invest more in your gear, you can keep using the same strap. PRICE: $66.95.

ADVANCED SET UP

Camera: The camera have been using is the Sony A7sii. But we’ve recently made a small shift to the Sony A7iii which is very similar but has better auto focus and a longer battery life (but it’s not as good in low light as the a7sii) We switched from Canon to Sony at the beginning of 2016 when we decided to take our filmmaking to the next level. Sony is getting better quicker than Canon so we made the jump. These cameras are small and yet so powerful. They takes great photos and video and the low light capabilities are INCREDIBLE. They have good auto focus which helps for vlogging. With that said, Canon got us to where we are, and we used it professionally for nearly 7 years, so if you do go with Canon, we strongly recommend the Canon 5D Mark iv.  SONY PRICE: $2,000.OR CANON PRICE: $2,800.

Lenses: We use three lenses on our Sony;

  • Sony 85mm F/1.8 This lens is a beautiful portrait lens. The depth of field is wonderful and blur is BEAUTIFUL, allll the boca. Sony makes an 85mm F 1.4  for three times the price. We don’t think its worth it as all of the comparison reviews we watched said they could hardly tell the difference. If you have unlimited money then of course go with the 1.4 but for us the 1.8 gets the job done. PRICE: $548.00.

Tripod: So, when it comes to tripods, it is important to understand that they come in two pieces. You get the legs, and the head. For video, it helps to have a fluid head that you can move around smoothly for optimal motion. We LOVE Manfrotto, and a great intermediate option is the Manfrotto Aluminum Legs with the 502 Video Head. This combo is going to be lightweight, but super sturdy and dependable. We’ve had ours the entire time we’ve been doing video and it has held up beautifully. PRICE: Legs: $199.99 & Head: $149.00.

Smaller Tripod: Lately we’ve been using this tiny travel tripod from Manfrotto. It’s called the “Be Free,” and we…kind of love it. You lose some of the sturdiness, smoothness and flexibility you get with the bigger manfrotto but geez is this thing tiny. It’s fits in our backpack’s water bottle holder! So while we use the bigger carbon fiber tripod still, we’re pretty sold on this little thing. and it’s incredibly cheap. PRICE: $142

Slider: A slider can really add to the quality of your film, we have used this Gear Glide Slider for nearly 7 years and it has served us really well, especially considering the low price point. It is lightweight and pretty compact for travel, and allows for dynamic shots that you wouldn’t be able to get otherwise. IF you do purchase this slider, you will need an extra tripod head, we recommend going with the 502 Video Head we mentioned earlier. PRICE: $89.00.

Audio: For professional audio we have used the Zoom H4n.  It’s served us well for 8 years. We recently upgraded to the H6 which is a bit easier to operate, with a longer battery life and overall more versatility.H4n PRICE: 199.99. // H6 PRICE: 399.00

Drone: We’re huge fans of the DJI Mavic Pro, it is what we use for all of our drone footage and photos, and has been super reliable and a total game changer for our films. This drone folds into a small compact carrying case so it is super easy to bring with you on the go, it has GREAT image quality, and is relatively easy to learn to use. PRICE:  You can purchase the bundle (we recommend this option) which has extra batteries and replacement propellers as well as a car charger for $974. There are newer, fancier drones that recently came out, but we are going to stick with the Mavic for the time being. It gets the job done.

Under Water: Underwater shots add so much to a film. We used to use the GoPro Hero4  (PRICE: $289.00for all of our underwater video. It comes with an underwater case, but for us the magic of an underwater shot comes when you can get under-water/above-water split shots, like here. We would stick the GoPro in this Telesin Waterproof Dome (PRICE: $49.99) which does just that. This is the most affordable set up. However, this year we updated to this underwater housing which works with the sony RX100 point and shoot camera . We wanted something that didn’t have the fish eye view of the gopro, and had a higher quality image. Check out this example. We’re sold!

Camera Bag/Backpack: We recommend the same Peak Design Every Day Backpack in all three sections because we love it that much. This backpack is ideal not just for video, but for travel, as a temporary diaper bag, overnight bag, or just for a day touring around. You can get the 20L or 30L. For everyday use, I recommend the smaller pack, however, Johnny uses the larger one in his daily commute to work and brought it with him on all of his Borders trips. PRICE: 20L $259.95 or 30L 289.95.

Strap: We really love our black rapid strap, so we’re recommending the Black Rapid Breathe Cross, it is a cross body strap that is really secure so that you can wear the camera as a side bag. You can just slide it up towards the front of you and snap a shot or some video and then drop it back down to your hip without fear of dropping the camera mid shot or losing it out on the go. It is scary at first but it is SUCH a secure system, and allows you to have your camera out at all times without it banging against your chest to get those shots you just can’t miss. We use this with our DSLR, so as you invest more in your gear, you can keep using the same strap. PRICE: $66.95.

ADDITONAL ACCESSORIES WE LOVE

Lens covers: We really love these neoprene lens covers. They are SO useful, and you can get them in varying sizes to go with whatever lens you have. They just slide on and off, and protect your lens from scratches or bumps. I have one for each lens we own. PRICE: $7-8.00.

Lens Cleaning Kit: When you’re investing heavily in gear, it is smart to have a set-up to take good care of it, I love this lens cleaning kit that comes with a cleaning solution, brushes, wipes, air-blower, etc. PRICE: $9.99.

ND Filters: We’re crazy about these variable ND filters, they’re basically like polarized sunglasses for your camera, so they make it possible to shoot in harsh light and still get good footage, so so awesome. I wish I had known about these earlier. PRICE: $99.00-145.00.

SD Cards: Having fast SD cards matters. Most of the time we use these SanDisk Extreme Pro 64GB cards (95 mb/s) (PRICE: 35.00 each). However, If you are shooting 4k footage you will need a really fast card to write all data, like these Lexar SDHC UHS-II cards that shoot 300 mb/s (PRICE: $84.99 for two).

Hard drives: We’ve used a wide range of hard drives over the years. While we still haven’t found the perfect drives we have a few that we like:

  • We love this 1TB Samsung solid state drive. It’s so fast and tiny. But it’s spendy ($227)
  • WesternDigital My Passport (USB 3.0) is solid and has worked great for us while we travel. PRICE: $60.00.
  • For Borders Johnny used the Lacie Rugged hard drives. They come in both USB C and USB 3.0. Johnny did drop one of his drives onto asphalt and it stopped working a few days later. So we’re not totally sold on the “rugged” promise of these drives. But besides that they’ve been super reliable. Always backup footage on two hard drives to be safe. PRICE: $119.92.

Card Case: A card case is an essential part of staying organized with video. I love this Pelican Card Case because it has a hard shell so it protects the cards, and it has spots for both normal and micro sd cards. PRICE: $21.27.

Card Reader: We’ve tried a lot of card readers. Especially since we got a new Mac Pro with no card readers (curse you apple!) The best reader by far is this one from Cable Matters. It’s for USB-c port. PRICE: $11.99.

Reflector: I went years without using a reflector for photos and stop-motion but it really does make a difference. I love this Neewer Reflector for in-home shoots because it allows me to diffuse harsh light OR reflect light to create more in a lower light spot. PRICE: $16.99.