How Much Should Good Video Gear Cost?

Video equipment is not as cheap as audio equipment.  But you don’t have to break the bank just to create good quality video for your LMS, YouTube or other online space.  I’ve listed below equipment that I recommend.

My video gear recommendations have to answer two questions:

  1. Does this provide the minimum functionality required to make professional looking content for the Web?
  2. Is this the most affordable or at least one of the most affordable models available – without compromising the minimum functionality?

Video Cameras

I recommend two levels of cameras for learning professionals.  Consumer and Prosumer.

Consumer cameras are relatively cheap but not all have the minimum functionality we discuss below.  Most of their functions are accessed via a touch screen.

Prosumer cameras sit at a price point between consumer and professional cams.  Hence the word ‘prosumer’.  These tend to have more functions which are often accessed on the body of the camera and give you more control over your pictures.  They are also likely to have balanced microphone inputs.

To ensure you’re in control of your shots, your camera needs to have the following functionality:

  • Input for an external microphone
  • Manual controls for white balance, exposure, focus and audio

My Consumer Camera Recommendation: Canon Vixia R700

You can’t beat this camera.  The Canon Vixia R700 has all the functionality you need and is as cheap as chips.  I use this camera in my video workshops and we get better results on these little cameras than others get on prosumer cameras.  (It’s the technique that makes good video, more than the camera.)

 

My Prosumer Recommendation is Canon XA Series.

I personally use the XA10.  This was released three or four years ago but I like it so much I bought it in 2017 for just of a grand.  But if you prefer to have the latest, you can opt for the more recent XA 20 and XA 30.  All these cameras are great and their small and easy to carry around.

 

Microphones

You have to get your mic close to the sound source to capture good quality audio.  That’s why you should avoid using the microphone built into a camera.  The camera’s mic is rarely going to be close enough to get audio that sounds natural.  And microphones in many cameras are not much chop anyway.  They’re often omni-directional, so they pick up everything you don’t want to hear as well.

I run through the various microphones you can use for video in my books Rapid Media Development for Trainers and Rapid Video Development for Trainers.  I also look at their pros and cons.  So rather than waste space repeating myself and boring you, here are my recommendations.  Note that I have a consumer camera recommendation and a prosumer recommendation because each uses a different type of microphone.

Mics for Consumer Cameras

 Audio-Technica ATR3350 Omnidirectional Condenser Lavalier Microphone

This microphone is cheap and cheerful and does the trick.  Audio Technica is a quality brand.  You’ll notice that this has a plug for video cameras, not for smart phones.  Smart phones also use a mini plug but have an additional ring on the plug.

 

Azden SMX 10 Shot Gun Microphone

This is is a great mic for under $100.  To get a really focused pickup field from a shotgun, you’ll need to be spending several hundred dollars.  But this works well.  It has a short cable so you’ll need to get an extension cable.  You could buy the Miracle extension cord for this.

Mics for Prosumer Cameras

Shure SM 93

Shure delivers high quality audio and at a hundred and a half bucks or so, this is great value.  What’s especially good about this one is that it is a small profile unlike some of the Sony lav mics (which I like but) that are big bulky and obvious.  This Shure Mic can be easily hidden.  Don’t forget you’ll need an XLR cable to connect this mic to your camara.

 Azden SGM 1X

Good quality microphone that gets good results for a less than $200.  The longer barrel helps focus its pickup pattern to the front and not the side.  A common misconception about shotgun mics is that they can hear sounds long distances away.  This is not true.  They simply cut out noise to the side of the mic.  You still need to get in close.  Anyway, as with the Shure Lav Mic, you’ll need an XLR cable to connect mic to camera.

 

Video Tripods

Video camera tripods are different to standard photographers tripods.  Video tripods have what’s called a fluid head.  This is what sits at the top of your tripod and enables you to pan and tilt the camera.  Of course you can still do this with a photography tripod however the movement will be staggered.  Fluid heads have a kind of hydrolic substance to enable to the head to move smoothly.  This is how you get nice pans and tilts.  When you buy a tripod, make sure it has fluid head and spirit level

The Magnus VT-300 

The Magnus is an affordable entry-level fluid head.  If you’re looking for something even cheaper, a retailer will offer a discount and give away a tripod for $10 to $15 less than this.  But not often.  So if you need one in a hurry this is great.  Take care of it if you’re moving it lots of different locations.

 Fancierstudio Professional Heavy Duty Tripod

This is the tripod I recommend because it’s sold and heavy duty.  It has good support legs and is very sturdy.  It also has a fluid head to ensure those nice smooth pans and a spirit level to set the camera up level.