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Here you'll find a list of things that I use and love, plus some other widely recommended stuff, with descriptions and comments. I'm an amazon.com affiliate, so I've set it up as an online shop (and I get a small percentage every time somebody buys something following my links). I hope you find it useful.








Stuff for video
viewfinders - support - audio - lighting - filters

Before you even start, visit this and this, to get an idea of how much stuff you need to shoot video (about 50% of my gear expenses are neither "camera" or "lenses").


LCD viewfinder


CamerasAccessoriesStuff for video
Lenses for CanonLenses for NikonLenses for others
LCD viewfinder (3:2)
A cheap-but-decent LCD viewfinder. Check whether it fits your camera.
An absolute must for shooting video on a DSLR, as you have to focus manually and the optical viewfinder is blocked by the mirror.
I use a DIY contraption, but I have played with this one too on occasion. It worked fine, my only doubt would be if the attachment to the camera will work fine after a while (not that I think it won't, just that I don't know). In any case, it seems one of the best low-cost options, as seen here, and it's much cheaper than the real thing.


LCD viewfinder (4:3)
A cheap-but-decent LCD viewfinder. Check whether it fits your camera.
An absolute must for shooting video on a DSLR, as you have to focus manually and the optical viewfinder is blocked by the mirror.
I use a DIY contraption, but I have played with this one too on occasion. It worked fine, my only doubt would be if the attachment to the camera will work fine after a while (not that I think it won't, just that I don't know). In any case, it seems one of the best low-cost options, as seen here, and it's much cheaper than the real thing.


Support


Manfrotto 055XPROB tripod legs
High-quality legs, tall and stable, and not too heavy. You have to buy the head separately.
The 190 model is very similar, but shorter. The 755 model comes with a bowl mount for easier leveling of the legs (same as adding the 555 column to the 055 legs).
Manfrotto is the most popular brand for mid-to-high-end tripods, but it's not the one I use. My tripod is an E-Images EI-7060-AA, and I think this brand offers much better alternatives than Manfrotto, at much lower prices. But it's a Chinese brand and it's not as easy to find. If you're looking for something good and simple and you're not too worried about price, Manfrotto is a good choice.


Manfrotto 501HDV fluid head
A very nice tripod head for shooting video.
Photo heads just won't work; cheaper options will look less smooth; more expensive options (Sachtler, Miller, etc) will be smoother and will handle heavier loads. If you're looking here, this is probably more than you need; but in a couple of years you may wish for a better one...
Manfrotto is the most popular brand for mid-to-high-end tripods, but it's not the one I use. My tripod is an E-Images EI-7060-AA, and I think this brand offers much better alternatives than Manfrotto, at much lower prices. But it's a Chinese brand and it's not as easy to find. If you're looking for something good and simple and you're not too worried about price, Manfrotto is a good choice.


Manfrotto 555b leveling center column for 055 tripod legs
Add this to the 055 to make it easier to level the legs, by using the 50mm bowl. Very useful for shooting panoramas and video (as you need the legs to be level if you're going to pan, and playing with the individual legs is tedious).
The end result is just the same as buying the 755 legs, but if the price ends up being the same, with this option you get an extra longer column (without bowl), just in case you need that extra height.
Manfrotto is the most popular brand for mid-to-high-end tripods, but it's not the one I use. My tripod is an E-Images EI-7060-AA, and I think this brand offers much better alternatives than Manfrotto, at much lower prices. But it's a Chinese brand and it's not as easy to find. If you're looking for something good and simple and you're not too worried about price, Manfrotto is a good choice.


Manfrotto 546BK legs + 501HDV head
A very nice tripod legs and head for shooting video.
This style of legs is more stable than single-rod ones, but also heavier. It doesn't have a central column, so it ends up being shorter (the 547, and the Fancier 717 can be a bit too short for many things; this one is right for most stuff, but won't be enough for high camera angles). But it has a big bowl, which is great for shooting video (you need the legs to be perfectly level for pans, and it is either a bowl or tinkering with the legs for longer than I'd want to suffer).
About the head: photo heads just won't work for video; cheaper options will look less smooth; more expensive options (Sachtler, Miller, etc) will be smoother and will handle heavier loads. If you're looking here, this is probably more than you need; but in a couple of years you may wish for a better one...
Manfrotto is the most popular brand for mid-to-high-end tripods, but it's not the one I use. My tripod is an E-Images EI-7060-AA, and I think this brand offers much better alternatives than Manfrotto, at much lower prices. But it's a Chinese brand and it's not as easy to find. If you're looking for something good and simple and you're not too worried about price, Manfrotto is a good choice.


Fancier WF717 tripod legs and head
This is the little brother of my tripod (mine is an E-Images EI-7060-AA; it's not the same brand, but they're made by the same Chinese manufacturer).
Solid entry-level tripod legs and fluid head for shooting video.
This style of legs is more stable than single-rod ones, but also heavier. It doesn't have a central column, so it ends up being shorter, and in particular this one can be a bit too short for many things. But it has a big bowl, which is great for shooting video (you need the legs to be perfectly level for pans, and it is either a bowl or tinkering with the legs for longer than I'd want to suffer).
About the head: it's very stable, and a good performer... for the price. If you're looking here, you'll probably be very happy with this one; but in a couple of years you may wish for a better one... The 7060 is much, much better, but it's not easy to find (I have no idea where you could find in in the US).


Cowboy shoulder mount
The cheapest stabilization option for recording video with a DSLR.
Obviously not the same quality as alternatives costing 20 times as much, but it helps a lot, and shouldn't break unless you actually abuse it somehow (too much weight and/or too much violence).
The MagicRig is better (particularly, stronger: the Cowboy has a couple of pieces that may break if you stress them too much), smaller and easier to carry around, and it's not much more expensive, but if this is all you can get, it's better than nothing.
The longest lens I can use handheld and still get consistently useable footage is a 35mm on APS-C (50mm on full frame); with this, I can use a 50mm with no problem, and a 90mm with some concentration.


MagicRig shoulder mount
A shoulder rig that's both fairly cheap and relatively well made.
It's obviously not the same quality as alteratives costing 10 times more, but it helps, and it's much better built than the Cowboy (this one is stronger). The difference with the more expensive models is mainly in the little details: if you're used to working with Zacuto or RedRock rigs, the screws and adjustments of this rig will drive you crazy. But it works, and just look at the price....
The longest lens I can use handheld and still get consistently useable footage is a 35mm on APS-C (50mm on full frame); with this, I can use a 50mm with no problem, and a 90mm with some concentration.


Audio kit


I suggest you learn about audio for movies and TV before buying your audio kit.
You can start here

Zoom H4n
A high-quality audio recorder in a small package.
It has two decent in-built mics, two combined XLR/phone inputs (for high-end mics and instruments) with phantom power, a 3.5mm jack input (for low-to-mid-end mics), and a 3.5mm jack output for headphones.
It can record at up to 24-bit/96-kHz linear PCM WAV files, directly to an SDHC card. Sound quality is much better than what my ears can discern.
I find it easy to operate, but it is bulkier than I expected when I ordered it (silly me).


Zoom H1
A very small high-quality audio recorder (not as good as the H4n, but much cheaper and smaller).
It has two decent in-built mics, a 3.5mm jack input (for low-to-mid-end mics), and a 3.5mm jack output for headphones.
It can record at up to 24-bit/96-kHz linear PCM WAV files, directly to a microSDHC card. Sound quality is much better than what my ears can discern (but apparently not as good as with the H4n).
I find it easy to operate. Given its very small size, it's a perfect match for a lavalier microphone (as an alternative to wireless systems that can suffer from interferences), and more than suitable to be mounted on-camera (though you should always try to get your mics as close to your talent as possible, so on-camera is hardly ever the best option; but it can be the only option if you don't have someone to operate your mics).


Rode Videomic
A high-quality shotgun microphone with shock-absorbing mount.
This is the one I have, and it is good, but if I had to buy one today it probably be a different one. For a start, the Videomic Pro is smaller and offers better quality (for a slightly higher price). But also, both of these use a 3.5mm jack plug. This is what you need if you're going to record audio directly into a consumer level camera, but this is usually a bad idea: auto gain is a killer, and even if you can use manual gain, e.g. with Magic Lantern on a Canon DSLR, the recorded audio won't be great because the preamps in the camera are not good enough. It is also what you find in cheapish audio recorders, like the H1, which offers great quality but not as good as its bigger brother, the H4n. In my case, as I already own an H4n, I'd rather use a mic with XLR inputs, which is a pro option that delivers better audio (with less noise and interference).
So: if you're using an H1 or similar, without XLR inputs, the Videomic or the Videomic Pro are great options, and you probably will be very happy with the results. But if you have pro audio aspirations, go for a better mic and a H4n (sorry, I still haven't investigated the pro mic market, so I can't give you a recommendation in this sense; I'm happy enough with my Videomic, I just wish I had researched a bit more before buying it, as it looks like, for $100 more, I could have bought a much better mic to work with the H4n I ended up buying just a couple of months later).


Rode Videomic
A high-quality shotgun microphone with shock-absorbing mount.
This is better (smaller and higher quality) than the Videomic that I have, but if I had to buy one today it probably be a different one. Both the Videomic and the Videomic Pro use a 3.5mm jack plug. This is what you need if you're going to record audio directly into a consumer level camera, but this is usually a bad idea: auto gain is a killer, and even if you can use manual gain, e.g. with Magic Lantern on a Canon DSLR, the recorded audio won't be great because the preamps in the camera are not good enough. It is also what you find in cheapish audio recorders, like the H1, which offers great quality but not as good as its bigger brother, the H4n. In my case, as I already own an H4n, I'd rather use a mic with XLR inputs, which is a pro option that delivers better audio (with less noise and interference).
So: if you're using an H1 or similar, without XLR inputs, the Videomic or the Videomic Pro are great options, and you probably will be very happy with the results. But if you have pro audio aspirations, go for a better mic and a H4n (sorry, I still haven't investigated the pro mic market, so I can't give you a recommendation in this sense; I'm happy enough with my Videomic, I just wish I had researched a bit more before buying it, as it looks like, for $100 more, I could have bought a much better mic to work with the H4n I ended up buying just a couple of months later).


Audio Technica AT-897
A cheap shotgun microphone with XLR.
I still haven't researched the market for shotgun mics, but I've seen this one recommended here and I totally trust those guys, so I have no doubts that this is a great option.


Audio Technica ATR-3350
A cheap lavalier microphone.
At this price, you can't expect it to be a top performer. But it is definitely good enough for most people, and a great companion to the Zoom H1.
For those who don't know: a lavalier is that small microphone that newscasters wear. For narrative stuff, you can hide it in the clothes, hair, hat, etc, but be careful and test before recording because cloth friction can create a lot of noise.


Lighting kit


I suggest you learn about lighting for movies and TV before buying your lighting kit.
You can start here

22" (60cm) 5-in-one reflector
A small 5-in-one reflector (translucent, silver, gold, white, black). The easiest way to control light when shooting outside (the other option being huge, expensive lights).
This is not the one I use, and will surely not be as good as others, but it is really, really cheap, and probably good enough for a beginner.


43" (110cm) 5-in-one reflector
A medium-size 5-in-one reflector (translucent, silver, gold, white, black). The easiest way to control light when shooting outside (the other option being huge, expensive lights).
This is not the one I use, and will surely not be as good as others, but it is really, really cheap, and probably good enough for a beginner.


126 LED video light
Cheap and small LED continuous light. Much less power than a traditional main light (plus it also needs diffussion), but useful with modern cameras that can shoot good quality video at ISO 800 or higher.
I also use it as a very powerful torch for night photography.
You'll have to buy the batteries and charger separately.


Battery for 126 LED video light
The ones I use are not exactly these, but they are clones too. They lasts about an hour. You'll have to buy the light and the charger separately.


Filters


Tiffen ND filter 0.6
A cheap ND filter that takes away two stops of light.
A Fader ND or a set of Cokin P resin filters would be a lot more confortable to use than these screw-in filters, but image quality is way, way better with these Tiffen screw-ins: check my tests here.
It basically has no effect on sharpness. But it's not top-notch quality: it has IR filtering issues, so there is a greenish color tint when shooting outside with 3 or more stops of filtering (either through a strong filter, or through a stacking of weaker filters), which in any case is manageable if you use manual white balance.
For shooting in sunlight on a bright day at ISO 100, f/2.8 and 1/50s, I usually need a total of 6 stops of ND filtering.
As with all other screw-in filters: get the ones that will fit on your biggest present or future lens (usually 67mm or 77mm), and buy cheap step-up rings to adapt the filters to all your lenses (I actually glued a step-up ring to 67mm on all of my lenses, and bought a 67mm cap for each of them; it makes a world of difference when changing screw-in filters). This setup won't probably be compatible with using the original lens shade, so consider buying also a screw-in rubber hood.


Tiffen ND filter 0.9
A cheap ND filter that takes away three stops of light.
A Fader ND or a set of Cokin P resin filters would be a lot more confortable to use than these screw-in filters, but image quality is way, way better with these Tiffen screw-ins: check my tests here.
It basically has no effect on sharpness. But it's not top-notch quality: it has IR filtering issues, so there is a greenish color tint when shooting outside with 3 or more stops of filtering (either through a strong filter, or through a stacking of weaker filters), which in any case is manageable if you use manual white balance.
For shooting in sunlight on a bright day at ISO 100, f/2.8 and 1/50s, I usually need a total of 6 stops of ND filtering.
As with all other screw-in filters: get the ones that will fit on your biggest present or future lens (usually 67mm or 77mm), and buy cheap step-up rings to adapt the filters to all your lenses (I actually glued a step-up ring to 67mm on all of my lenses, and bought a 67mm cap for each of them; it makes a world of difference when changing screw-in filters). This setup won't probably be compatible with using the original lens shade, so consider buying also a screw-in rubber hood.


Tiffen ND filter kit
A set of cheap ND filters. There's not a lot of info on the Amazon web about this kit right now, but it seems to be a 0.6+0.9+1.2 kit, which would be absolutely perfect (strong enough for shooting ISO 100, f/1.4, 1/50s on a very, very bright day). The alternative is that it could be 0.3+0.6+0.9, which is enough for shooting f/2.8 on a bright day; but I think the 0.3 filter is not very useful (changing from ISO 100 to 200 makes nearly no difference on image quality), whereas the 1.2 allows you to use only 2 filters in front of the lens most of the time, instead of 3.
A Fader ND or a set of Cokin P resin filters would be a lot more confortable to use than these screw-in filters, but image quality is way, way better with these Tiffen screw-ins: check my tests here.
It basically has no effect on sharpness. But it's not top-notch quality: it has IR filtering issues, so there is a greenish color tint when shooting outside with 3 or more stops of filtering (either through a strong filter, or through a stacking of weaker filters), which in any case is manageable if you use manual white balance.
For shooting in sunlight on a bright day at ISO 100, f/2.8 and 1/50s, I usually need a total of 6 stops of ND filtering.
As with all other screw-in filters: get the ones that will fit on your biggest present or future lens (usually 67mm or 77mm), and buy cheap step-up rings to adapt the filters to all your lenses (I actually glued a step-up ring to 67mm on all of my lenses, and bought a 67mm cap for each of them; it makes a world of difference when changing screw-in filters). This setup won't probably be compatible with using the original lens shade, so consider buying also a screw-in rubber hood.






Copyright Similaar 2011 -- similaar.feedback@gmail.com -- @Similaar
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