A few weeks back I asked the film community ‘what would be the ideal camera kit for £1,000’. I was overwhelmed by amazing tips, ideas and site suggestions. And so I have compiled it here as part of The Guerilla Film Makers Masterclass.
While I did say that this was a camera kit for £1,000, I am not sticking to that completely as some people will need much less kit, where others will need different stuff. I will stick to the £1k idea in spirit though.
Camera Body – Canon 550D (£440)
Suggestions included the DSLR Cannon 550D, Canon 600D, and there was also a lot of chatter about the Panasonic GH2. The 600D has the advantage of the flip out screen too but it’s about £100 more than the 550D right now. On Amazon you can pick up a 550D for £440, £600D for £550 and a GH2 for £650.
Spare Batteries and Power Supply (approx £50 in total)
I would steer clear of cheap eBay style batteries and only go with official Canon ones – more expensive but will last MUCH longer. I would also buy an external power supply. You can get one from Amazon for £25 (power supply suggested by Owen Johnson – link here)
Storage Cards (approx £50)
Philip Bloom advised me to buy smaller cards, say 8GB as that spreads the risk of a catastrophe due to a failing card, as well as reducing the cost of ownership. The super fast cards are not needed either as that is only a benefit when transferring material to a computer, your camera cannot send data that quickly. Check user feedback on Amazon too.
Zoom H1 Audio Recorder (£80)
DSLR cameras were never really built for filming, and sound recording is woefully inadequate, especially for drama. That means you should really hire a sound recordist with their own kit, but if you do want to record sound yourself, this handy, diminutive yet excellent recorder will do a sterling job for you. (suggested by @dd_opco)
Rode VideoMic (£75 on Amazon)
A cheap and cheerful directional condenser battery that has become the audio mainstay for DSLR cinematographers shooting on the hoof. Not suited from drama (as stated you should have a sound recordist) but excellent value for money and a great tool for shooting doc or when working solo.
Magic Lantern Firmware FREE
A free ‘hack’ that gets you even deeper inside the software that drives the 550D, and essential for anyone who wants to pull even more out of their investment. While you may sweat a little when you ‘upgrade’ the firmware, as far as I know, no-one has yet broken their camera doing it. Get it free here… (suggested by @nomoneyforbeer)
LCDVF Viewfinder adaptor (around £85)
While there are cheaper options on the market (£25 on Amazon), the feeling is you get what you pay for, and the LCDVF is a good compromise between cost and quality. The better quality ones also add stability in use. Chris Wickett (among others) recommended this one http://www.kinotehnik.com/
DSLR Rig (£50)
A rig from which to operate your camera is essential and our own Reza-John Vedadi found this gem on Amazon for an insane £50 – while you probably wouldn’t want to take it up Everest, it’s completely fine for low budget movies. I was so impressed by John’s I bought one myself. Link here…
Legs (Tripod) Monfrotto 055xProB (£100 on Amazon)
You camera will change every few years but an investment in a good tripod will serve you much longer, and as such, represents a good investment. You can keep going up and up in price, but from what I can see, the Monfrotto 055xProB is about the cheapest (while still functional) set of tripod legs you can find. Thanks to @KirkGaydon for this one.
Head (Tripod) Manfrotto 701HDV (£100 on Amazon)
Sitting on top of the tripod is the interchangeable fluid head – and in my books, it is the most important pieces of kit outside of the camera and lenses. Another solid investment that should last you years. Once again thank you @KirkGaydon for this one.
Monopod – Manfrotto 560b (£80 on Amazon)
You can’t always use a rig or a tripod and in those instances, a monopod is VERY useful bit of kit to have in your bag (especially when shooting on the street in public and need stability). The Manfrotto 560b was recommended by @endeavouruk as a great piece of kit for under £100.
Reflector £9 on Amazon
Should you need to bounce some light onto the subject, you will need a reflector. And a foldable one meter one for under a tenner is INSANE! Head on down to Amazon now and grab one. Heck, grab two! Thanks Reza-John Vedadi for this tip.
There is a good argument to invest in better quality lenses as they will outlast your camera. But what do you get when you spend more money? You should get improved images, with less chromatic aberration (distortion), better handleability (long throw focus and aperture rings that are more suited to filming). And of course faster speed lenses (meaning you can shoot in less light and also get that much sought after shallow depth of field). So what does that really mean to you right now? In my opinion, if you want to stay on budget, you would be best served by buying a cheap zoom lens that you can use for your corporate work and messing around, then rent or borrow the best lenses you can get your hands on for your film. I will do a follow up blog post on the top ten lenses for DSLR in the coming days, so watch this space.
Good quality ND filters and a professional follow focus would probably be best rented too as the cheaper ones seem to be pretty rubbish and best avoided.
I chose not to include lights in this kit, though it seems there are some really great budget solutions out there, including LED batter lights (check Amazon).
Ideally you would own a matte box too, but I am guessing this is cheaper to hire with lenses.
Given the DP can see the image using the viewfinder, a small monitor isn’t strictly essential, though others would disagree. Personally, I would rent when needed.
Sliders and cranes
Again I chose not to include a slider as these are suited to only a few types of shots, and in my experience, the cheaper ones are pretty much unusable for drama. Better to rent when needed.
I hope this helps. And swing back for the post on lenses in the next week. Maybe that post will be called the second grand…!
And don’t forget tickets for the Guerilla Film Makers Masterclass are still on sale for Feb 18th / 19th – get £50 off with discount code CHRISJONES – get your pass here… http://www.guerillamasterclass.com
Onwards and upwards
Chris Jones, Film Maker and Author