The following will give you a sense of how to build up your own kit for a budget from as little as $650 to a premium kit of $5,000 or more.

Here is what you need:

  • A camera that shoots good 1080p or better video and gives you manual controls
  • General zoom lens for good light
  • Primes for low light (under f2)
  • Tripod & Monopod
  • Image stabilization
  • Good audio

Step 1: Decide on a budget. 
Keep this number in mind as we move through the menu of options below.

Step 2: Audio.
Dollar for dollar this is where you will get the most value.  Pick one of the following:


Basic Audio Kit: $115-125

For cheap good audio that fits in your pocket, go with the Sony UX560 and a lapel. ($75)

For better audio (that doesn’t quite fit in your pocket), go with a Zoom H1 and a lapel. ($85)

And pick up a Movo mini shotgun mic to mount on the camera for $40.


Best Audio Kit: $240

For the lapel, go with the Tascam DR-10L.  Super small, fits in a pocket, and outstanding audio quality with a second channel reduced gain backup: $199

Stick with the Movo mini shotgun mic.  It outperforms its price and it really isn’t worth upgrading to a Rode, especially when space and weight are prime considerations.

 


 

Step 3: Image stabilization.
As a fieldworker you will be moving around quite a bit, and you will need some way to stabilize your footage as you walk.


Best Stabilization Option: $400 Zhiyun Crane V2.


Cheaper Option: Use your phone with a Zhiyun Smooth Q for $99


Cheapest Option: S-40 Stabilizer $50


 

Step 4: Tripod / Monopod.

Best for travel:  Zecti tripod/monopod combo $60

 

Cheapest & Lightest:  Amazon basics 60 inch $24


 

Step 5: Let’s review your kit so far.

Cheapest Accessories Kit: $190
Recorder, Lapel, Movo Mic, S40 stabilizer + Amazon Tripod

Premium Accessories Kit: $700
Tascam Recorder, Movo Mic, Zhiyun Crane, Zecti tripod

+ Add at least $50-100 for SD cards, batteries, lens cleaner, and a bag.


 

Step 6: Choose a camera kit.

Cheapest: Canon EOS-M $250

 

 

Setup in the video is $250, but you would probably want to add a kit lens for good light that gives you auto-focus for another $100.

With the cheap kit above, that would put you right at about $650, which is the cheapest full kit possible.  This is really a fantastic kit.  You could make high-quality videos with this and nobody would know that you are working with just $650 of equipment.


Smallest and most Versatile: Sony RX-100 V – $950

With an aperture of f1.8, this could potentially cover all of your needs.  An interchangeable lens camera will give you more artistic options, but this is a great option if you want something that fits in your pocket and can cover just about any shooting situation.  Add the cheap kit and you are good to go for about $1250.  Go premium for about $1750.


Also small and versatile, but a little cheaper: Canon G7mkII – $700

Sony is a bit better in all of the tests, but the Canon is still great, and could get you in under $1000 with the cheaper kit options.


Best Value for Interchangeable Lens Cameras: Canon 70D: $800

Cheap Zoom Lens: 18-55mm Kit lens ($110 – buy with camera)
Better Zoom Lens: 18-135mm – $335

Wide Angle & Portrait Kit (10-18 + 50/1.8) – $350

Low Light Multi-Purpose Lens 22mm f2  – $249

Total Lens Kit Cost (Kit+Wide-Angle+Portrait+Low Light) = $710-925

Total Camera Cost: $1510-$1735

The cheap kit will get you in at under $2,000.  Premium Kit takes you up to $2,500.

 


 

Premium Camera:  Sony a6500 – $1300

If you are spending this much, let’s just go all-in with a good lens kit:

Low Light Wide Angle: Sigma 16mm f1.4  $500
Low Light Portrait: Sony 50mm f1.8 $300
Multi-purpose Zoom: Sony 18-135mm $600

Total Camera Kit Cost: $2700

With Premium Kit: $3500

 


Summary of Options:

Cheapest: Canon EOS-M with Basic Kit: $650
Smallest and Most Versatile: Sony RX100 with Premium Kit: $1750
Small, Versatile, and Great Value: Canon GX7ii with Basic Kit: $1000
Best Value with Interchangeable Lens: Canon 70D with Basic Kit: $1750
Premium Kit: Sony a6500 with Premium Kit: $3500
Super-Premium Kit: Sony a6500 + RX100v + Mavic Drone: $5,500

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