For those that have asked about the camera gear that I use to make videos for Stark Insider, or are looking for some ideas about camera models and accessories to buy for video production projects, here’s my list of gear (see below). I hope it helps.
I’ve been shooting for about 10 years now. Mostly on a Canon DSLR camera. But also on RED (Dragon), Blackmagic (Micro Cinema Camera), Sony (a6000, a6500), Panasonic (GH4, GH5) and often whatever smartphone was at hand.
There really is a lot of amazing camera tech out there.
But, but, but…
Ultimately I believe it comes down to our imaginations. How can we dare to creatively push the envelope? Be different? Yes, failure is an option. But not giving it our best shot (literally) is not. If someone asked me how to get started I’d recall what I did: get out there, hit record and see what happens. And, most importantly, enjoy the journey. Practice, practice, practice. Make mistakes. Learn. And never look back.
Happy shooting! From a guy still on that journey,
Canon Cinema EOS C100 Mark II
Buy Canon C100 II: BH Photo Video
Ah, Canon C100. My workhorse. Fantastic image. Files don’t take up too much space. Battery goes for hours. This is a great camera for live events, documentary style shoots, backstage interviews (where it can be dark), and music videos too. Rock solid. A fantastic camera. If Canon ever releases a Mark III or C200 I would buy it in a heartbeat.
Canon EOS 80D
Buy Canon EOS 80D: Amazon
When I want to be discrete I’m usually shooting on a Canon EOS 80D DSLR. I can look like a tourist if I want, and get shots that wouldn’t be possible with a rigged out C100 (or Sony FS5/FS7). Also, I’ve discovered over the years people are often more relaxed in front of a small, friendly DSLR.
Blackmagic Micro Cinema Camera
Buy Blackmagic Micro Cinema Camera: Amazon – don’t forget you’ll need to add an external monitor as the BMMCC has no built-in display
Blackmagic is an interesting company. Based out of Australia, they’re often seen as a poor man’s RED. There’s been some quality control issues with their cameras in the past so I wouldn’t recommend them in production environments. But when I want to get really creative, I love the Super 16 look something like this Blackmagic Micro Cinema Camera (four thirds mount) offers up. It’s small and I’ve rigged it up ever so simply. It doesn’t cost a fortune, and since it uses SD cards, storage is dirt cheap.
Sony Alpha a6000
Buy Sony Alpha a6000: Amazon
A tiny APS-C camera, the Sony Alpha a6000 is ideal for throwing into a bag, or jacket pocket. Perfect for capturing stills and some basic 1080p video, it’s really an impressive mirrorless camera.
I own about a dozen or so lenses. Mostly Canon. Mostly EF mount. I like EF because it’s quite universal. You can use them on REDs (like the superb Raven and Scarlet-W) and on Sonys and others with adapters (I like the ones from a company called Metabones).
I highly recommend trying to buy the best glass you can. Unlike camera bodies, lenses tend to hold their value well over time — at least for the good ones.
- Canon 24-105mm f/4 IS USM: handy all-rounder. Good for run-and-gun. I wish it had slightly wider field of view as 24mm on a crop sensor like the C100 and 80D can be tight at times.
- Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II USM: for interviews and landscape shots. Big and heavy. I don’t use it much, but when I do it’s beautiful. My most expensive lens. I waited to get a 30% coupon from Canon and was able to get it at a nice discount. The absolute gold standard in its class.
- Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM: Nifty fifty. Must own. Inexpensive. Small and light, handy for keeping your rig nimble.
- Canon 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM: A kit lens. But a fairly good one. Absolutely fantastic auto-focus. And quiet. I recently used it to shoot BTS segment at Cirque du Soleil’s Luzia show in San Francisco.
- Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 Art DC HSM: Gorgeous! Believe everything you’ve read about this beauty. It really is like 3 primes in 1 (18/24/35). There’s no stabilization so make sure you have support or if you shoot near wide open at high frame rates you can be okay. Shooting a music video or short film? This is a great choice regardless of budget.
- Tokina 11-20mm f/2.8 Pro DX: Wide angle. It’s okay, I don’t use it much.
- Rokinon 85mm Cine t/1.5 with De-Clicked Aperture: Pretty bokeh! All manual. Inexpensive. I use it for special moments. It can give videos a high end and dreamy look. Really fun to use
- Panasonic 12-35mm MFT mount: For my Blackmagic Micro Cinema Camera. Quite good.
- Angenieux 12-120mm: Because. French New Wave. I love the ’60s films that came out of France from directors like Jean-Luc Godard (Breathless), and out of Sweden too from the likes of Ingmar Bergman (Persona). This lens was used by many during that time. So, I had to have one! It works well, looks pretty, and even has a crank — cigarettes optional. Priceless! I can use it on a Blackmagic camera (or anything with a Micro Four Thirds mount) with an adapter, like so:
I’m not a drone or gimbal kind of shooter. I like handheld, tripod or dolly. Drone shots can be great, but is it worth the hassle of all the extra gear, batteries, cost, time and effort? For me, no. Instead of spending $1,500-2,000 to buy a decent entry drone, and then learning it all, I instead allocate some budget each year and license what I need. So easy. I just review all the choices out there, pick my favorite, and license it for $60-80. Done!
I live on the cloud — or is that in the cloud? The Creative Cloud. I spend most of my time in Adobe Premiere Pro. It’s all I’ve ever edited in. If I had started in Final Cut I’d probably be using that today.
- Editing: Adobe Premiere Pro
- Sound: Adobe Audition (though I tend to mostly use the built-in sound tools in Premiere and only need Audition when something needs serious fixing)
- Images: Adobe Illustrator
- Special Effects: Adobe After Effects (rarely, and I’m terrible at it)
- Plugins: Neat (for noise reduction) and FilmConvert (for that pretty grain effect and filmic look)
Recommended Filmmaking and Videography Resources
- Must-read for aspiring filmmakers with no money (i.e. everyone): Rebel without a Crew: Or How a 23-Year-Old Filmmaker With $7,000 Became a Hollywood Player by Robert Rodriguez (my review here on Stark Insider)
- On the art and science of film editing: In The Blink of an Eye by Walter Murch (a classic, so insightful!)
- Low-cost filmmaking course: Masterclass Werner Herzog Teaches Filmmaking (also my review – it’s entertaining and informative, but I’m not suggesting this online course could actually replace a real filmmaking school)
3 Things Aspiring Filmmakers and Videographers Should Know
- Cinematography – composition, camera movement, lenses.
- Editing – timing, structure, types of edits and when to use them.
- What makes people tick – motivation, interest, human element.
Videos by Clinton Stark
Cirque du Soleil Luzia
Shot on Canon EOS Cinema C100 II with Canon 18-135mm
Wrong’s What I Do Best – San Francisco Art Institute
Shot on Canon 70D with Canon 18-135mm and Sigma 18-35mm
Shot on Blackmagic Micro Cinema Camera with Panasonic Lumix 12-35mm
All American Apple Pie
Shot on RED Raven with Sigma 18-35mm, a wig, a willing wife, and fake blood.
Poco a Poco: Don’t Be “That One”!
Final parting thought.
You know when you go to the gym (or maybe to play basketball, football, or to dance, or to golf … or whichever analogy works for you…!) and there’s always that person? The one with shiny new gear. All of it. It’s as if they headed to the store moments earlier, and just bought everything off the rack. I’m sure, at one time or another, we’ve all done it. When it comes to camera gear I’d say less is more. Yes, the above gear is quite a bit. Many pros out there have more, and many have less. It depends on where you are in your career and what types of projects you’re shooting. I started with a Canon EOS Rebel T2i. I couldn’t afford anything else 10 years ago. I used it everyday. Tossed it around. Shot like mad. Loved it. Slowly, very slowly I added new kit. I budgeted year over year … to buy a lens here, a new microphone there. Over time I’d upgrade when I had enough money (never financing). Going slow meant I had time to learn my gear, and get incrementally better at not only operating cameras and accessories, but also at the art of videography and filmmaking.
As someone in the Baja once said to me, “poco a poco” or little by little. Baby steps. So, yes, let’s not try to be that super shiny star on the reformer at the local gym. Go slow, learn as you go. Enjoy the process! At least that’s what I did… err, am doing…
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Clinton Stark: @clintonstark