Every production strives for gorgeous lighting, crisp audio, and high-quality video, but getting these results often depends on what video production equipment was used. The choices you face when building out your equipment kit can be overwhelming, so we put together this list to help you sort everything out and get started building a kit of your own. By Chuck Crosswhite.
If you are a video production student or professional, knowing how to build a quality kit is a core skill in itself. Below we have included recommendations for cameras, lenses, lighting, audio, and all of the accessories that come with these gear essentials. Breaking down your shoot in pre-production and anticipating the final product will help you to tailor your own kit list to match your personal style, so consider these tips but ultimately make sure the gear matches your vision.
The camera is usually the most expensive piece of video production equipment in your kit, and it’s often the hardest decision to make. Lens mounts, dynamic range, size, workflow, sensor size, codec, output options, ISO sensitivity, and even autofocus can all factor into your final camera choice.
Since we’re talking about putting together your first production kit, I’ve selected cameras that came in under £2,000. Keep in mind that this is just for the camera body — accessories will greatly increase the cost of your camera in the end. If you’re studying a related subject at college, be sure to check out their equipment lending program to keep your production costs down. They will prove to be an extraordinary resource for cameras and for a multitude of accessories, batteries, cables, media storage, or anything you might need to ensure a high-quality product.
Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K — Best All Around
Image via Blackmagic Design
I find it very hard to beat this cinema-style camera, which you can currently get for about £1,295. It’s user friendly, it produces an excellent RAW image at rates up to 75 fps, it offers dual-native ISO, it has thirteen stops of dynamic range, and it includes customisable media storage options. And when you buy it new, it even includes a key to Davinci Resolve Studio (£239 value) so you can colour grade and edit all of your footage. This camera does use a micro four-thirds lens mount, so purchasing a lens adapter might be necessary to utilise specific lenses.
I use this camera myself, and I highly recommend it for your first video production kit. There is a 6K version of this camera, which just recently saw a price drop to £2,000, which might be a better option if you need higher resolution — and it has an EF lens mount option. Just remember that to record RAW footage, you will have to shoot in 6K, which will increase your file sizes and require more processing power from your editing system.
Sony A7 III — The Solo Shooter
This full-frame mirrorless 4K digital camera features a smaller, more traditional camera body style, it has an articulating screen (although it’s rather tiny), and it functions well at high ISOs. It features built-in five-axis stabilisation and continuous auto focus, and it comes in at about £1,800. This camera is the real deal for solo shooting; it works very well with gimbal systems (especially when you’re using the auto-focus).
The full-frame sensor might be the deciding factor for some, but I find the menu system and settings to be quite clunky. It can’t shoot 4K footage in slow motion, and it can’t compete with the BMPCC4K when it comes to colour science and grading.
Sony Alpha a6500 — Best Budget Pick
At £1400, this camera is a great option that is kinder to your wallet than the other cameras on this list. This camera is stabilised, shoots in 4K, can handle 1080p footage at 120fps, and is overall extremely solid for a mirrorless camera. You can produce some pro-level content with this camera, and if you ever feel like you have outgrown its functionality, you can upgrade and hang onto the a6500 as a B-cam.
Go Pro Hero 8 — Just in Case
I like to have one of these cameras in my kit for unforeseen circumstances. For £300, it’s a stabilised, wide, 4K camera that you can attach to almost anything. It’s great for action scenes, it creates a fantastic time-lapse, and it takes up minimal space. It won’t function as your main camera, but it could definitely come in handy for some really creative B-roll.
While many people will want to know which camera you used on your project, your production peers will be asking about the lenses. The camera is only as good as the lens you use, and that choice can really change the look and feel of your end product.
Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM
For me, this is a must-have. It’s the first lens I recommend you buy — honestly, I don’t see it leaving my kit for a long time. It’s an incredibly fast, versatile zoom lens that is usually wide enough at 18mm, and it can go all the way to the coveted 35mm focal distance. It’s sharp, features a wide range of depth, captures beautiful bokeh, and at f/1.8, it is fast enough for low-light scenarios. It retails brand new for £600.
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens
The “nifty-fifty,” which retails for only £100, is a wonderful option at a price that’s consumer friendly. It has an aperture range of f/1.8 to f/22, and it’s a great complement to the Sigma lens if you need a 50mm option. I find this lens to be durable, and it’s rather small, so it won’t take up too much space in your kit.
Meike 12mm T2.2 Manual Focus Wide Angle Cinema Lens
To round out the lenses, I feel that going wider will actually get you more use. Meike is a brand I’ve been really impressed with recently for their quality and affordability. This is a true cine prime lens that I like to use when in tight quarters. If cine-lenses are your preference, you can get each lens in the Meike series for about £399 apiece. (Also, if you decide to purchase the BMPCC4K, the lens mount is micro four-thirds, and these lenses have MFT options, so you can attach the lens directly to the Blackmagic without an adapter.)
Metabones Speed Booster
They make a multitude of adapters to convert different lenses to whatever lens mount your camera has, and they will increase your aperture range, making you more capable in low-light situations.
Lighting is a critical part of any production, and it is one of the most challenging aspects to master. I find that for most scenarios, a nice, diffused setup works wonders, and less can definitely mean more.
Neewer 5-in1 Collapsible Multi-Disc
This is an affordable, must-have when you’re first starting out. It’s multifaceted, so it can act as a bounce, a flag, and a diffuser. It’s great for manipulating sunlight, or in a studio setting where you can set it up out of frame opposite your light source to act as a fill.
Yongnuo YN360 II LED Light Wand
For shooting on the go, tight spaces, or during a time crunch, it’s very helpful to have a light wand handy. These have become increasingly popular lately, and this specific model is a great addition to your kit. It offers both daylight and tungsten options as well as custom colour sets — and you can even control it remotely via its app.
GVM 2 Pack LED Video Lighting Kit
Brand new at £230, this lighting kit is killer for a beginner on a budget. Both lights are Bi-colour LEDs with a range of 2300k-6800k. They feature a digital display; they’re dimmable; and they include barn doors, stands, and a traveling case. You can power them with AC or batteries.
Audio often doesn’t get the attention it deserves, but it can make or break your project. If you ever hear “we can just add it in post” as an audio solution, you might be in for a world of post-production headaches.
Zoom H6 Handy Recorder
Sometimes, you’ll be able to run your audio straight into your camera, but capturing high-quality audio to a secondary source will usually be part of your production process. This recorder can capture six separate audio tracks (four of which can be XLR), which you can easily mix on the fly. If you’re using an external recorder, use your camera for scratch audio to simplify syncing in post-production.
This shotgun mic might be tiny (coming in at just seven inches), but for something that costs less than £200, this mic delivers low noise with high sensitivity. Attach this shotgun to a boom pole or the camera — it’s a fantastic tool for your first kit.
Lavalier Mic — Audio-Technica Pro 70
If interviews are your specialty, this is a great option for you. It’s perfect for documentaries, live production, anything wireless, or any talking head your production might feature. Always be careful when using wireless audio devices, as digital interference is becoming more and more of an issue these days.
K-TEK KE79CCR — This pole collapses to a manageable travel size, it has an internal XLR to reduce audio interference and cable wrangling, and it features a side exit at the base of the pole so you can safely rest it on the ground.
Auray Boom Pole Holder
Clamp your boom pole onto a C-stand out of frame with this piece of hardware, and it’s ready to go for any interview.
Sony MDR7506 Headphones
These are the headphones I’m using right now. In fact, I have used them for years. They’re comfortable on long days, and the quality is exceptional.
Finally, pick up a hard shell case or a travel backpack like this one from Neewer to safely store and transport all of your gear, I highly suggest seeking out something with protection against rain or dust.
So that’s everything. I know it can get expensive when you add it all up, which is why it’s so important to build your kit as you go. Remember to take a look at your university’s equipment lending programme to try and cut costs. Colleges these days often have well-presented catalogues of equipment for loan, organised into categories similar to the ones featured in this article. They will typically list things like brand, resolutions for cameras, mounts for lenses, and kelvin temperatures for the lights so you know exactly what you are getting. Once you have done that, simply use this guide as a framework for building out your video production equipment kit list.
Chuck Crosswhite is a graduate of The University of North Texas’s Radio, Television, and Film Program. A camera-operator at heart with over twelve years of freelance experience behind the lens, Chuck has now set his sights on covering industry issues and providing production equipment reviews. He has love for his family, well-constructed fluid head tripods, quick render times, set life, and the cinematic stylings of Roger Deakins.
About Lorensbergs and Connect2: Equipment booking software Connect2 from Lorensbergs supports equipment lending programs in colleges and universities worldwide. Over 100 institutions use Connect2 to showcase, schedule and track their resources. It helps students to make the most of the video production equipment available to them, build their kit lists, and achieve superior results in their productions.
Find our more about Connect2 here.