Our band recently decided it was time to create our own little video rig for self-produced music videos. For videos where we aren’t hiring a production company, but need high quality results. It took MONTHS of research and gear testing and trial and error, but we’ve finally landed on a very modest setup that gives us a good baseline for our self-produced videos. I thought I’d share what we came up with - maybe save someone else out there some time. Here you go:
CAMERA - Panasonic G6 - $600 (Amazon)
As with every item in this setup, I was surprised by how overwhelming the options were. There are a ton of great cameras. We found that a micro 4/3 camera would be ideal since we could then buy a converter and use any brand of lens we wanted. That narrowed it down quite a bit. Since Panasonic has such a good reputation with their GH2, GH3, and now GH4, we landed there. Our budget for the camera body was only $1000, so we bought the G6. The G6 is very similar to the GH2 which has been used on many great indie films, except it has focus peaking which is a KILLER feature for helping keep things in focus. The G6 was only around $600, and it hangs with the much higher priced cameras for video.
Mitikon Nikon to MFT Speedbooster Adapter - $135 (Ebay)
Fotasy Nikon to MFT “Dumb” Adapter - $25 (Amazon)
I was super confused about this part for a while. Here’s the gist: To use a non micro 4/3 lens with your micro 4/3 camera (which I wanted so we could use older cooler used manual lenses), you need an adapter. There are two types of adapters - “dumb” ones which have no glass but just connect the lens type you want to your micro 4/3 camera, or “speed booster” which actually resizes the image from your lens to the smaller 4/3 sensor on your camera.
When you use a “dumb” adapter with a Nikon lens, you’re putting a lens that is too big for your camera on your camera. The adapter helps by making the connection between the lens and the camera and just crops the amount of picture that the lens captures which is bigger than the camera’s sensor - and throws it away. A speed booster helps by resizing and not wasting all that light. It actually makes the lens 1 f-stop faster because of this but also doesn’t lose nearly as much width. Generally speaking, using a “dumb” adapter you’ll just about double the mm of a lens. So a 35mm is now 70mm. That’s a BIG difference. One option is to buy wider lenses (I want 35mm so I’ll find a 16mm or so). But that option really limits your lens options. Using a speed booster means you lose more like 50% of your width. So a 35mm is about 50mm. That’s a lot better. Plus you get the extra light (mentioned above).
What we did was buy both. With a dumb adapter our 28mm lens is 56mm and with the speed booster it is 39mm. So we basically get two lenses in 1! And the dumb adapter was only $25.
LENS - Nikon 28mm 2.8 AIS - $200 (used on Ebay)
We tried a LOT of lenses, but this is the one we landed on. With the adapter (above), anything more than 28mm was too close - we couldn’t always get the camera person back far enough to capture the entire shot. This is one of Nikons sharpest lenses and is easy to find on eBay for cheap.
When we started looking at lenses I was trying to skip the adapter and buy a MFT lens. What I found was that with video is generally recommended that you only use manual controls. Because of this and the vibe you can get from an older lens, we opted for a fully manual, old used lens.
We opted for a non-zoom lens (called “prime”) because the general rule seems to be that you can get a much nicer, sharper lens for a much lower price by going with primes. Plus, there aren’t a lot of shots I want to see a zoom happening. I’d just assume have the camera op change the lens if a different width is required. This also forces us to be more creative with the way we work, rather than relying on technology to do everything the easy way.
The G6 came with a “kit lens” which is a 14-42mm zoom lens. It’s ok. Much slower (darker in the same amount of light as the Nikon lens). Just doesn’t have much vibe. But we have it in case we need a different size lens for a certain shot.
Tripod - $35 (Amazon)
Monopod - $20 (Amazon)
Kodak Chest Stabilizer - $55 (Amazon)
I’m not sure we’ve totally got the right rig yet. Probably a more heavy-duty tripod and maybe a shoulder rig instead of a chest rig will be in our near future. I will say this: It seems very important to be able to manually stabilize your shot, vs trying to do it in the software afterwards. After a few hours of shooting a camera persons arms can get really tired and you’ll rip your hair out trying to make it not look like an earthquake is happening when you get to editing. Whatever you do, don’t just grab the camera and ignore stabilization. At least use a monopod.
Camera bag - $30 (Amazon)
Cheapest decent bag I could find - because bags don’t impact image quality.
2 extra batteries and extra charger - $30 (Amazon)
This was a lesson learned after our first video about a year ago. Nothing kills the momentum of a video shoot like batteries dying and having to pause everything while we charge a battery.
Six 32GB SD cards - $120 (Amazon)
Same as batteries. You’ve got to have extra cards so nothing makes you stop filming once you get going.
So the total for our rig was $1250. Not bad.
Let me know if you have any questions!