If you’re just starting out, you’ll need a camera and a laptop or desktop computer with editing software. An external (minimum 5400rpm) hard drive is also useful so that you don’t use up precious hard disk space on your computer.
Choosing which camera to buy is a big decision, and is as personal of a choice as what car you drive. The main questions to ask yourself as you shop around are:
What will I be shooting with my camera?
Are you shooting home movies of your family, or are you pursuing a more professional path? Today, even very inexpensive cameras and Smartphones shoot great HD-quality video, but the built-in microphone may not be enough if you are creating more professional work.
What is my budget?
How much camera can you afford? Don’t forget to include any additional items that you’ll need such as memory cards, external audio equipment (shotgun microphone, wireless microphone kit). The good news is that cameras are getting progressively better and cheaper every year, and the latest Smartphones shoot broadcast-quality video, including 4K.
Here’s a list of a few cameras that we like, in three different price ranges, but we always encourage anyone who is in the market for a new camera to take advantage of the exhaustive resources and user reviews on the web.
Sony FDR-AX53 4K Ultra Handycam Camcorder – Buy here
- 4K Ultra HD 24/30p & 16.6MP Stills
- Exmor R CMOS Sensor
- 26.8mm Zeiss Vario Sonnar T* Zoom Lens
- 20x Optical Zoom & 40x Clear Image Zoom
- Balanced Optical SteadyShot
- Fast Intelligent AF
- High Speed 120 fps Recording
- 3.0″ LCD Touchscreen / 0.24″ Color EVF
- 24p Native (60i) shooting rate.
- 5.1 Channel Surround Sound Microphone
- SuperRange Optical Image Stabilization
- Wi-Fi / NFC Connectivity
Sony PXW-X70 Professional XDCAM Compact Camcorder – Buy here
- 1″ Exmor R CMOS Sensor
- HD Recording
- Built-In SD Media Card Slots
- Viewfinder & Flip-Out LCD Screen
- XAVC, AVCHD, DV File Based Recording
- Slow & Quick Motion
- 3G-SDI & HDMI Output
- Wireless LAN Control
- Optional Upgrade To UHD 4K
- 12X Optical Zoom
- Two 3-pin XLR inputs for recording audio from XLR microphones
- Great low-light performance
Panasonic AG-UX180 4K Premium Professional Camcorder – Buy here
- 1.0″ Type CMOS Sensor
- 4K 24P, UHD 60p/50p/30p/25p/24p
- FHD Slow Motion Recording at 120 FPS
- UHD/FHD Dual Codec Recording
- 16-Axis Color Correction Function
- 8.8 to 176mm 20x Optical Zoom with OIS
- 3 x Manual Lens Control Rings
- IR Night Shooting
- Relay, Simultaneous, and Background REC
Tapeless: GoPro HD Hero6 Black Edition – Buy here
- Supports 4K60, 2.7K120, 1080p240 Video
- Capture 12MP Photos at 30 fps
- Ultra-Wide-Angle Glass Lens
- Waterproof to 33′
- Voice Control
- Rear Touchscreen
- Wi-Fi for Remote Monitoring and Control
- Interval Capture for Time-Lapse
- Linear Video Mode Corrects Distortion
- Flat and Curved Adhesive Mounts Included
Keeping your image stable is the hallmark of professional-looking video. Much like cameras, tripods very greatly in price, but a reasonably good one with a fluid head and a level can be purchased for less than $200. For heavier cameras and smoother movements, look for higher priced brands like Sachtler and Miller. Tripods make good investments, since you’ll always need one no matter what camera you have in the future.
Monopods can be very useful when you want to travel light, but still want some image stabilization. Decent Monopods can be purchased for less than $100.
Shotgun Microphones – For recording clear sound that is in front of the camera – works much better than in-camera microphones. These can also be put onto a boom pole for even closer mic’ing.
Rode NTG-1 Condensor Shotgun Microphone (3-pin XLR or Stereo Mini Jack) – Buy here
The Rode NTG-2 is a condenser shotgun microphone designed for professional audio capturing in the field or indoors. With a history of manufacturing quality studio microphones, Rode has implemented low noise output electronics and wide bandwidth, both of which attribute to the NTG-2’s broadcast sound quality. This kit features a cable that adapts the XLR to stereo mini-jack, so you can use this microphone with professional, prosumer or consumer camcorders. It also has a shock-mount that attaches to your camera, to reduce any noise from your movements.
- Battery or Phantom Powered
- Supercardioid Polar Pattern
- Excellent Off-Axis Signal Rejection
- Selectable HPF: 80Hz
Rode VideoMic Pro with Rycote Lyre Shockmount (Stereo Mini Jack) – Buy here
This shotgun microphone’s lightweight, unobtrusive design is ideal for long usage and comes with a custom shock mount. PLEASE NOTE – this is for cameras with a stereo mini jack (looks like a headphone jack). a smartphone).
- Ultra Compact and Lightweight
- Broadcast-Quality Condenser Mic
- Supercardioid Polar Pattern
- Integrated Shock Mount and Windscreen
- 3-Position Level Control
- 2-Step High Pass Filter
- Camera Shoe Mount with 3/8″ Thread
- 3.5mm Output Plug
- 9V Alkaline Battery
Sennheiser EW112-p G3 Camera Mount Wireless and Water-Resistant Omnidirectional Lavalier Microphone Kit – B (626-668 MHz) Buy here
Perfect for portable wireless operation – like interviews or documentaries. Includes a UHF diversity receiver, bodypack transmitter and ME2 lavalier microphone.
- EK 100 G3 Camera Mountable Receiver
- SK 100 G3 Bodypack Transmitter
- ME2 Clip-On Lavalier Mic
- 1680 Tunable Frequencies Across 42 MHz
- Auto Frequency Scan Finds Open Bands
- 3 Level Squelch To Block Interference
- 20 Banks With 12 Channel Presets Each
- Compander For Clearer Sound
- Auto-Lock Prevents Accidental Adjustment
iMovie (Mac Only) – Buy here This is the “lite” version of Final Cut Pro, but they really didn’t take too much out. Anyone using HDV, DV, or consumer/prosumer tapeless cameras will find iMovie to meet your specific needs, for a significantly cheaper price than the Final Cut Pro. It comes for free on most Macs!
Premiere Elements (PC & Mac) – Buy here – Premiere Elements is an incredibly easy to use video editing program that allows you to create great looking videos very easily. With lots of great templates for text and graphics, you can spice up your videos and easily send them out to YouTube, the web, or burn to a DVD.
Final Cut Pro X (Mac Only) – Buy here – The ideal NLE for creative video editors, Final Cut Pro X introduces a new Magnetic Timeline, dynamic media organization, and blazing performance. Incredibly intuitive for anyone starting out and at an affordable price.
Premiere Pro CC (PC and Mac) – Subscribe to Adobe Creative Cloud – Adobe Premiere Pro CC is an excellent, professional editing program that works for both PCs and Macs. It is full of advanced editing tools, and can handle just about any video format you throw at it. It has advanced color correction tools and is available as part of the Adobe Creative Cloud subscription at a monthly rate.
MacBook Pro 15″ Retina with Touch Bar on Space Gray- Buy here
This is the king of laptops. Super thin, super fast and with the most gorgeous screen available on a laptop. We recommend Final Cut Pro X with this.
- 2.9GHz quad-core Intel Core i7
- 512GB PCIe-based onboard SSD Configurable to 1TB or 2TB SSD
- 16GB of 2133MHz LPDDR3 onboard memory
- Radeon Pro 560 with 4GB of GDDR5 memory and automatic graphics switching
- 15.4″ Widescreen LED-Backlit IPS Display
- 2880 x 1800 Native Resolution
- Touch Bar with integrated Touch ID sensor
- Four Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports
- 802.11ac Wi-Fi wireless networking; IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n compatible
- Bluetooth 4.2 wireless technology
- Mac OS High Sierra
ASUS Republic of Gamers Zephyrus GX501VI Notebook Computer – Buy here
A monster computer with some serious heavy-lifting capabilities with video (or just about anything!). Great with Adobe Premiere.
- 2.8 GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ Quad-Core
- 16GB DDR4 RAM | 512GB M.2 NVMe SSD
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (8GB GDDR5X)
- 15.6″ 1920 x 1080 120 Hz G-Sync Display
- 1920 x 1080 Native Resolution
- 802.11ac Dual-Band Wi-Fi | Bluetooth 4.1
- Integrated Webcam, Microphone & Speakers
- Windows 10 Pro (64-Bit)