High Quality & Expensive: Canon EOS 5D Mark II or III
This is not the only choice as there are lots of good DSLRs with similar capabilities as the 5D. Much depends on what lenses you have. The 7D & 60D are also good but with a 1.5 crop factor due to the smaller sensor. For Nikon users the D800 is a good bet.
Good Quality & Cheaper: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 Digital Camera and canon 650D are also good cameras at the cheaper end. Having one of the smaller form factor cameras is also worth it for professionals as a low profile option as they are lightweight and don’t mark you as a journalist.
Good: SanDisk 32 GB SDHC Memory Card Extreme Pro
Be careful when buying memory cards as some of the cheaper cards may not be fast enough to cope with the speed at which the camera needs to write video data. In just about every workshop I run someone asks me why their camera only records 30 seconds of video then stops, and 99% of the time it’s because the card they have in the camera is not fast enough. It’s also important to note that in some countries, where fakes abound, you need to be careful where you buy the card or you may end up with a card that is slower and has less capacity than is stated on the label. You don’t want your card to fail on you just as you complete a day of shooting so don’t go cheap on this one.
Cheaper: SanDisk 32GB SDHC Memory Card Extreme
Although the San Disk Extreme Pro is faster, these are the cards that I use as they are cheaper and are fast enough and robust enough for my needs. Some professionals prefer to use lots of smaller cards rather than a 32GB card as they worry about loosing too much data if one card corrupts. As cards are cheap now I go for bigger cards just in case I need the extra room but still switch them regularly on important jobs. The 5D MKIII and many other DSLRs have dual slots now so you can record the data to two cards at the same time just to be doubly sure.
Small + economical: Zoom H1 Ultra-Portable Digital Audio Recorder
I can’t say enough good things about this little recorder. I have been using it the last year almost on every assignment. It’s small, great for ambient recordings and can act as a second mic input with a tie clip mic attached if you are doing two people interviews. No XLR.
Good, Expensive & Large: Sachtler Ace Fluid Head with 2-Stage Aluminum Tripod & Mid-Level Spreader
Tripod’s are a crucial bit of kit and choosing the right one is a personal choice that must take into account your size and willingness/ability to carry a heavy weight around with you. The Sachtler Ace is a good option for a DSLR as it is sturdy enough to be able to do professional movements and also has a leveling base that will make getting setup much quicker.
Cheaper & Small: Sirui S-1205-N Carbon Fiber Tripod
I am a little isolated in the professional community for this choice but for much of my work this is my choice. I like to have a lighter option for assignments as I am normally working on my own and on my feet all day. The Sirui is super lightweight with carbon fiber legs, very quick to set up and packs down small to fit on the side of my backpack. It’s versatile too with a leg that unscrews for a monopod. It reaches up to eye level of most tall men and also has a hook underneath that allows me to attach my backpack on windy days for extra stability.
With: Manfrotto 054 Magnesium Ball Head with Q2 Quick Release
Again controversially I like using a ball head for video over a fluid video head as its super quick to set up shots but it does limit camera movement options. This one from Manfrotto has an extra lever to allow you to make pans and adjust the resistance but it’s a real tradeoff from using the Sachtler. If you are just shooting video I would not recommend it but for multimedia journalists who are multitasking or for people having to carry their equipment on foot long distances it can be worth the trade off.
Also Consider: Lollipod
I normally carry at least one of these, sometimes two. They are very lightweight, easy to set up and can hold a go pro camera, a light, a monitor, a microphone etc. They do break easily but are cheap so always good to have a small stock of them.
Off Camera: Sennheiser MKE600 – Super-Cardioid Mic Capsule with K6
According to product manager Kai Lange, “with the MKE 600, we are presenting the ideal microphone for video journalists who want to produce a report or a film in perfect video and audio quality but do not wish to resort to highly professional shotgun microphones or a separate wireless link.”
On Camera: Sennheiser MKE 400 Compact Video Camera Shotgun Microphone / Rode Video Mic
Tie Clip Microphone
Cheap: Audio-Technica ATR3350 Omnidirectional Condenser Lavalier Microphone
A very cheap but remarkably solid option, it comes with a good length cable and extra power too.
Also Consider: I also like the Giant Squid mics which I have a few of as backups. They are robust and good value.
Good: Sennheiser EW112-p G3 Camera Mount Wireless Microphone System
These are compact and very robust making them a favorite for many professional video shooters. The one downside for DSLR users without a headphone jack is they don’t have provide one for you which would give you another place to monitor the sound from if you were plugging them straight into the camera.
Cheaper: Sony UWP-V1 Wireless Lavalier Microphone
These are a little larger than the sennheiser but do come with a headphone socket. As with the mini mixer the headphone out will only let you monitor the signal into the wireless unit and not what the camera is recording but it is better than nothing if you are using a DSLR without a headphone jack.
Good: Sony MDR-7506 Closed-Back Professional Monitor Headphone
Good headphones are essential for recording sound as well as editing. Closed back headphones like these will help block out other sound without interfering with what you are hearing (which noise canceling headphones do).
Cheap & Discreet: Sennheiser CX 200 Street II In-Ear Stereo Headphones
For many of my assignments I am both the cameraman and the interviewer and in this case I prefer to use in ear headphones while doing the interview. It’s a compromise but I feel allows me to both check my sound does not have any problems (hiss, buzz, batteries running out etc.) while at the same time concentrate on engaging with my subject in a meaningful/human way.
Good: Heliopan 77mm Variable Gray ND Filter
ND faders are a must for DSLR video shooters wanting to get maximum benefit from the large sensors. With the shutter speed fixed in most cases the ND fader gives you another way to bring down the light levels so you can open your aperture up and get shallow depth of field.
Cheap: Polaroid 77mm Neutral Density Fader Filter
This is not something that you want to go cheap on if possible as it’s an add on that will directly effect the quality of your shots. However the Heliopan is expensive and a cheaper option like the polaroid can still make a big difference to the look of your video.
Good: Cineroid L2C-3K5K On-Camera LED Light
These are expensive for their small size but are very small yet powerful with lots of options.
A real favorite in China and for a reason beyond me much cheaper too their than in the west. It’s a simple but adaptable light that has the option to pop on a magnetic diffuser and warm filter. To power them you can choose between a sony camcorder battery or double A’s. Better still you can clip together multiple lights to make a panel.
Also Consider: a mini light that can sit on your camera for following subjects into dark places. I like the Manfrotto ML120 Pocket-12 LED Light
Good: Zacuto Z-Finder Pro 2.5x
I bought one of these soon after they were released and have used it almost daily ever since. It’s expensive but solidly built and makes the task of focussing in bright light so much easier. I prefer to use the clip on rather than attaching a mount to the camera as this way I can quickly flip it off to shoot stills.
Cheap: Perfect Viewfinder
As a fraction of the Zacuto price this still makes a good option though prepare for it not to last too long as the build is a little shaky. The option to flip the eye piece can be useful for interviews as it allows you still to be able to check focus without having to put your eye up to the back.
Good: Canon Timer Remote Controller
Not needed by Nikon users or those with magic lantern installed on their cards, the intervalator allows DSLR filmmakers to shoot timelapses. Great for moving clouds across a landscape or a busy road junction to show time passing. It’s lightweight and cheap so should be in everyone’s bag just in case.
Cheap: Vello ShutterBoss Timer Remote for Canon with 3-Pin Connection
Good: Redrock Micro DSLR Field Cinema Deluxe Bundle
The great thing about rigs is that they are extremely adaptable and you don’t need to have a single unit from one company. My rig is made up of components from four different companies which all bolt together to form one (multicolored) unit. In essence the rig should comprise of a base plate sitting on two metal rods to which you can bolt things. Handles for holding the rig off the tripod. A shoulder pad with a counter balance to allow you to use a DSLR as a shoulder mounted camera. A focus finder, either connected to your lenses or plugged into the USB socket of the camera (Canon only) and a bracket to attach your monitor. You may need extra places to plug additional extras like microphones, mini mixers and radio receivers.
Cheap: Aputure MagicRig
Rigs come in all shapes and sizes and can be built slowly as you develop your video skills and add extra equipment. This is a good starting point as a simple brace that allows you to hold the camera more steady. Add a viewfinder and you have a great light weight run and gun rig.
Good: Pocket Dolly
Slider’s are extra weight and hassle to set up but can really lift your video. Movement sets apart straightforward news assignments to make them look more cinematic and combine this with the short depth of field the large sensors bring and you can elevate a straightforward assignment into a video that looks amazing. The pocket dolly is expensive for its small size but robust.
Cheap: Varavon Slide Cam Lite
This is the slider I use. Small and light enough to fit alongside my tripod in the backpack yet of a good enough build to give me a smooth slide.
Backpack: Lowepro DSLR Video Fastpack 250 AW
Over the past 20 years I have tried a large number of bags and have a cupboard full of rejects to prove it. The lowepro fastpack 250 is without doubt the best I have ever had. It’s spacious enough to fit everything I use on a normal assignment, including my 15 inch laptop and a tripod. It’s pretty secure which is important for a pack on your back in busy places and it’s comfortable to wear. My only grumble is the straps sometimes slip but I have fixed that with an extra chest strap.
Wheels/Backpack: Think Tank Airport TakeOff Rolling Camera Bag
This is expensive for a suitcase but well worth it in my book. This is my standard travel bag or when I am using a car to shoot from. The build is very solid and has backpack straps in case I ever have to carry it long distances. For flights I love the front compartment which fits another thinktank laptop bag which can easily be pulled out for airport security and when sitting in your seat. Can also be used as a small bag for carrying the laptop around in once you reach your destination.
Also check out the Poynter MM kitlist