Lots of students ask about me video equipment, especially now that we require Journalism majors to provide their own starter kit for introductory courses in photo and video journalism. So I thought I’d write about my personal video gear and explain how I use it. This goes beyond what’s required for Grady students, but might be useful for students planning to build a bigger kit for use in free-lance work, internships or other professional gigs.

Much of this post deals with accessories for cameras and smartphones, which are essential for any multimedia journalist. My gear is not high-end professional stuff. It’s all consumer (and “prosumer”) equipment that’s pretty affordable. I don’t do enough shooting to warrant the purchase of equipment costing many thousands of dollars. The total cost of my gear is somewhere between $1,000 – $1,500.

Disclaimer: These are not endorsements for any particular brand or model. Just descriptions of what I own and some general recommendations about features you should look for when shopping for gear. I’m primarily interested in video journalism since that’s what I did professionally and what I currently teach, so my kit is designed with that in mind. If you’re serious about photojournalism, visit Professor Mark Johnson’s Visual Journalism site. He teaches Grady’s photojournalism classes and has some excellent information about professional photography equipment. He also has great post about the strengths and limitations of various lenses.

Warning: You have to be careful when buying DSLR and smartphone accessories. There are hundreds, if not thousands of accessories out there for just about any type of camera or smartphone on the market. Always read the specifications before buying anything. Make sure the gear will work with your particular camera or phone.

What’s in my kit:

The Canon is my primary photo/video camera. It’s a consumer model that came out several years ago. You might find a used one for sale somewhere. There’s a newer Rebel T5i on the market now.

I use the Sigma lens with the Canon. It’s not perfect, but enables me to get wide angle and telephoto shots, and it’s affordable. The standard Canon lens that came with the camera is an 18-55mm lens, which is a very short zoom lens, whereas the Sigma is a much longer zoom lens at 18-250mm. A big limitation of the Sigma is its variable aperture. The maximum aperture decreases as you zoom in, allowing less light to pass through to the sensor. If I can save an extra thousand bucks, I’ll buy a zoom lens with fixed aperture!

If I’m shooting an interview with the Canon, I can set up one (or both) of my smartphones to record a wide or medium shot of the interview while I keep the Canon focused on a close-up shot. Both iPhones can record HD video (720p or 1080p) so I can match the resolution of my Canon. And I can also use one of the phones as an audio recorder, bypassing the DSLR.

I can mount my LED light on the shoe of either my Canon or iPhone. Or I can use a small clamp to mount it on a door, cabinet, bookshelf or table. This makes a good key light for short interviews.

ikan 144 iLED mounted on cabinet door

This video demonstrates a simple interview set up using the Canon, an iPhone and two LED lights.

If I really need to be mobile or need to shoot in a small, crowded space, I use one of my phones. That’s where my smartphone accessories, especially the Edelkrone Pocket Shot and ALM mCamlite case, really come in handy. I can insert the phone into the mCamlite case, which is a hard, protective case that has a shoe for accessories and can be mounted on a tripod or the Pocket Shot. For audio, I can attach the Rode VideoMic Go (as in photo below) and use it for nat sound and quick interviews at close range. It comes with a cable for smartphones, and a cable for DSLRs and consumer camcorders. For most interviews, I use one of the lav mics.

Smartphone cameras are wide angle, so they work fine at close range. If the action moves farther away, it’s important to “zoom with your feet” to get close-up shots. Speaking of zooming, the Camlite case came with a telephoto 2.0x converter lens, which increases focal length without degrading the image. ALM has lots of other smartphone accessories. BTW: I kept my iPhone 5 when I upgraded to 5s. It’s nice to have an extra phone to use as a camera or audio recorder while using the other phone to text, take notes, e-mail, make calls, etc.

Demonstrating Edelkrone’s PocketShot at 2015 Editor’s Retreat, Daytona Beach, FL

The goal for me is to have a flexible kit at an affordable price. I wouldn’t shoot a feature length documentary with this stuff, but I can shoot a pretty wide range of video news stories. And it’s perfect for shooting family events, vacation videos, pet photos and other stuff like that.