What is the best budget video gear?

Video gear is a funny thing. Some people will tell you; “the gear doesn’t matter, it’s all about the story”.

But more often than not, those people are shooting videos on their £5,000 rig, in their kitted-out video studio. Then you’ve got the other end of the spectrum where people are showing off their £50,000 RED cameras and ARRI Alexas, trying to convince you why they make the difference.

The truth is, as video people, we love video gear. They are toys that we can play with and get beautiful looking video — it’s really fun. As marketers, you’re probably not as interested in the gear, but more what you can do with it.

I feel that there is a happy medium we can strike. A happy medium where the video gear isn’t too expensive but it certainly helps us get brilliant looking marketing videos. To give a little variety, I am going to break it down into a few categories and budget ranges.

Categories

  • Video
  • Audio
  • Lighting
  • Accessories

Budgets

  • Entry Level
  • Semi-Pro
  • Broadcast Production

Video

Starting out with the centrepiece bit of kit you will be investing in for your video production. There are so many different options out there, so I’ll break it down to some of the options I’ve used myself and think are the best value for money.

This rig is quite expensive — Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Entry Level — Panasonic Lumix G7 — £500

The first camera I started out with when producing videos, shoots 4k and 1080p 60fps, has a swivel out touch screen, EVF (electronic viewfinder), audio input, HDMI out and loads of other features which are very, very useful on a low-budget camera.

The G7 uses the very popular micro four-thirds lens mount which comes with a huge range of lenses. You can get the 14–42mm kit lens that comes with the camera as a good start, but I’d recommend picking up the 25mm f1.7 lens for about £170 which will help you get that lovely bokeh.

Semi-Pro — Panasonic Lumix GH5/Sony A7III — £1,700

Sticking with the Lumix line due to the exceptional value for money and features (and you’ll be able to use the same lenses as the G7), your next option is the GH5. This camera is widely regarded as the best you can get in this price range and when the law of diminishing returns really hits it’s peak. It’s got amazing 4K footage, dual image stabilisation (this is a game changer for handheld shooting), a flip out screen and the micro 4/3 lens ecosystem.

Broadcast Production — Canon C300 II — £10,000

I’ve never used this, so I don’t have too much to say. For all video marketing, I’ve always loved the smaller, more compact DSLRs. But if you want to step up your game into the pro production gear, then grab one of these C300’s. The 4k image is simply beautiful and uses the Canon EF mount, so there are a huge amount of lenses you can pick up. Also when you get to this point, you’ll need to start adding a lot of accessories to make the most of it. If you’re reading this article though and are considering a C300, you probably know why you’d want one.

Audio

Hands down more important than video. It’s like going to the gym and training upper body your whole life and skipping legs. That’s having good video and bad audio — no one wants to see that. Also, please never use on-camera audio, that’s like the guy wearing a vest with t-shirt tan lines. There are a few different mics for a few different use cases, so I am going to go for the most versatile; the shotgun mic.

I took this one! My Shure SM58 podcasting mic (not actually in this article)

Entry Level — Rode Video Micro — £50

I have always been impressed with the audio quality you can get out of this little champ. Coming in this tiny little form factor, with a wicked dead-cat windshield, it pops on your camera and you’re good to go. Dead simple and easy to use, it doesn’t need a power source so no forgetting to turn your microphone on. Try it out, it’s £50.

Semi-Pro — Rode NTG3 — £380

Rode mics are very good, and the NTG3 is no exception. It is broadcast quality for an excellent price. To get this going you’ll need a few accessories, including a recorder (I’d recommend the Zoom H6) and a boom pole/mic stand. But once you’ve got your room nicely sound treated, got your mic placement optimised, this will sound an absolute treat.

Lighting

You can spend £50k on camera and audio gear and it still might look rubbish because you have bad lighting, or at least have a good understanding of how to use and shape light. It’s like being put in an F1 car to race without knowing how to drive it, you’ll look like an idiot. Lighting isn’t too expensive either.

Some lovely lighting from Dose Media on Unplash

Entry Level — Aputure Amaran H198 — £50 x 2

Aputure will pop up on a few times this list. They truly do make the best entry-level to intermediate lighting gear. They also have an awesome YouTube channel. Check it out. These little pocket lights are just £50 a go, have a super high 95+ CRI (for colour reproduction accuracy) and have plenty of output for any small studio. I’d recommend picking up a couple.

Semi-Pro — Aputure 120d w/ Lightdome — £800

I implore you not to look any further than this light. It is my baby and I love it. For just £800 it gives the most beautiful soft light (incredible for interviews and talking heads) and enough power to provide versatility in all situations. I’d recommend looking at Shutterstock, Full-time filmmaker & Aputure’s own channel to see how much this light can be used for.

Broadcast Production — Multiple 120d’s

Once you hit this price point and go past the 120d & 300d, the law of diminishing returns really hits home, especially if you’re looking for gear for a video marketing operation. There are plenty of options from ARRI, Litepanels (such as this £6k set: Litepanels Astra 6X Traveler Bi-Color Trio 3-Light Kit 935–3202), Dracast or Dedolight, but they won’t really get you that much more than the 120d will — unless you are building out a bigger studio. If that’s the case, you’ll probably have done plenty of research over the lighting that you need.

Accessories

All this lovely camera, audio and lighting gear can be taken to the next level with a range of accessories. It also tends to be the more you spend on gear, the more accessories you need to make the most out of that gear. You’ve got tripods, gimbals, light stands, batteries, monitors & more. I won’t break it down by budget this time, just by what I’d recommend on personal experience.

I love the Ronin S

Tripod — Manfrotto BeFree Live
Super versatile, lightweight & is perfect for travelling.

Gimbal — DJI Ronin S
Incredible Gimbal for just £500, you can’t go wrong. Here’s a review:

Light Stand — Avenger C-Stand (All C-Stands are pretty good)
All C-Stands are pretty robust, I get a bunch of them for the studio.

Bendy Tripod — Joby Gorillapod
This thing comes in super handy if I want to attach a camera in a bizarre place.

Monitor — Atomos Ninja 5”
A beautiful bit of kit, excellent for getting your composition and focus just right.

Audio Recorder — Zoom H6
Capture all your audio with this, great for podcasting also. It’s 4 inputs (expandable to 6).

Action Camera — GoPro Hero 7 Black (White Edition)
I love GoPro’s for time lapses & BTS. The worst named product of all time, mind.

SSD — Sandisk Extreme Portable SSD
A must have for any on-the-go editing. Expensive, but worth it for 4k editing.

So there you have it, a whistlestop tour of all my favourite camera gear. I do honestly believe that there needs to be a good combination of excellent content with top quality production value. With the options out there today, you can get wonderful results with not much money.

If you’re interested, my day-to-day video kit for regular shoots is

  • Panasonic GH5 with Sigma 16mm 1.4
  • Aputure 120d
  • Rode NTG3 & Sennheiser G4 Wireless Lav
  • Ronin S Gimbal

You can get some truly wonderful video with the above gear.

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