What To Buy – Our Filmmaking Gear Wishlist
On this page, we feature an ever revolving list of video equipment we're interested in trying out, but haven't gotten our hands on yet.
How would this stuff fit into our everyday kit? Here is the Gear Dads mission statement:
the gear dads Mission Statement
- We write about video production gear that we use everyday on real world documentary and corporate or promotional video shoots.
- We buy things, we sell things, and we are always after the best and simplest kit we can achieve. What you see here is simply us documenting the process we already go through.
- Over time we hope to share other reader's kits as well, so we can all benefit from seeing what other documentary and promo video producers are using right now.
So we're always on the lookout for gear to potentially replace pieces of our current kit, if they're superior or more portable, and to add to our tool belt for more specialty types of shoots. But until we can try any of this filmmaking gear out ourselves, we don't know if any of these tools will land a spot in our documentary or corporate video production kit.
Have you used any of this gear on a real-world production? Email us and tell us what you think!
APUTURE DEITY super cardioid condenser shotgun mic
The "law of diminishing returns" that we talk about in our documentary kit article is especially true in the world of shotgun microphones.
Essentially, there are quality shotguns out there that cost under $200, and the difference in quality between those mics and mics costing over $2000 are not nearly as significant as the difference in cost.
Plus, most video shooters are not using shotgun microphones the way they're intended to be used (read: by a hired audio guy holding a boom pole), so the differences between mics are even less obvious when often we use our microphones in less than ideal conditions.
All that being said, the Aputure Deity aims to do the same to the audio industry as it has to the LED lighting world. Namely, they believe they can manufacture a shotgun microphone at world class quality but at a price the rest of us can afford.
We're looking forward to getting our hands on one of these!
FOTODIOX FLAPJACK LED Light
Many videographers are out to get the brightest LED light for the money, which makes sense, but you also need to consider diffusion such as a softbox, scrim, reflector, umbrella, etc.
Alternatively, Fotodiox has come out with a series of lights called "Flapjacks," which are very thin of course. But more importantly, they're designed to be used without any kind of diffusion, which makes them perfect for small spaces and quick setups.
In the Flapjack lights, the LEDs are positioned on the outer rim of the casing, facing inward rather than out, which diffuses the light into a large source.
The trick with these lights is they're not as bright as other LEDs out there, but when you add any kind of diffuser to a bright LED panel, you're cutting the light by at least half (1 stop of light), or more.
The Flapjacks come in a variety of sizes, but we're particularly interested in the Studio XL, which is their largest at 32", to use as our main key light on interviews and shoots where we can throw it in the back of a car, rather than shoots where we have to fly.
Update: We now have a Studio XL in hand, and are giving it lots of use before we write a review about it. Stay tuned!
Canon CN-E 18-80mm T4.4 COMPACT-SERVO Cinema Zoom Lens
The Canon 18-80mm is the most affordable professional servo lens today. But it's still 10x the cost of a Canon 18-135mm Nano lens, which also has a servo accessory unit.
So how much better is this lens than the 18-135mm kit lens? And how does it compare to other professional servo lenses such as the Canon 17-120mm, which is a whopping 50x the cost of the 18-135mm.
And do we even want servo zoom, after becoming accustomed to shooting with photo lenses?
The real test will be to use this with the Canon C300 Mark II, which allows you to control the 18-80mm zoom with the hand grip. So essentially all of the camera controls will be accessible with your right hand.
Fun fact, we did actually try the 18-80mm as part of a Newsshooter review of the lens at NAB 2016, but we haven't tried it in a real world scenario.
Wooden camera shoulder rig
Along with our desire to test out the Canon 18-80mm on a Canon C300 mark II, we also want to try it on a shoulder rig. And Wooden Camera makes the parts to put together a C300 shoulder rig, including their Unified Accessory Kit Pro for the C300mkII.
The C300 mark II and 18-80mm Servo is really the first time that we're excited about shooting from a shoulder rig. And that's because with the right-hand grip handle alone, you can control all the camera exposure settings, toggle AF on and off, and push the toggle forward or backward to zoom.
Using the Wooden Camera C300 handgrip relocator, we'll be able to control everything with our right hand, while keeping the camera stable.
So for the first time in years, you'll be able to take your left hand off the lens, and do whatever you want with it. For us, we'd like to keep the camera more stable by actually using the left handle on the Wooden Camera Shoulder Rig V2.
Teredek and Paralinx make really solid wireless monitoring solutions. Ever since both of them have come under the Vitec Group umbrella, they've been able to serve even more customers at more affordable prices.
Although we've never really embraced wireless monitoring on documentary shoots, on small crew commercial shoots it's often necessary for the client to see what you're shooting.
The Paralinx Dart is intended for long-range wireless monitoring in a tiny package, for situations like monitoring a GoPro shot, maybe even a helmet-mounted GoPro.
But we're interested in using the Paralinx Dart on everyday documentary and news shoots, where the producer/director can monitor the shoot in a very tiny monitoring package, so they don't have to hover over the camera operator as he or she is shooting.
We used to shoot everything on two cameras, with both of us running around trying to capture as much footage as possible, which is still a good plan in some ways. But we're working on shooting more deliberately, with one of us operating the camera and the other serving as the director. The Dart will make that setup even better!
Update: We got our hands on a unit and wrote up a Paralinx Dart review for videographers.
Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art Lens
Another lens that we've been eyeing is the Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 Art lens.
The Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 - which we do own - is essentially like having a few f/1.8 prime lenses in one zoom package. It's really sharp, and it is a great lens for corporate video production where you're mostly shooting from a tripod.
Neither the 18-35mm nor the 50-100mm have optical image stabilization, so we wouldn't replace any of our documentary kit lenses with either of these two.
But for more slowed down promo video shoots, you can achieve some amazing imagery with the 18-35, with shallow depth of field even while shooting wide, and on a crop sensor camera. Usually that kind of DOF on a wider field of view is reserved for full frame cameras.
Now you can have that same kind of sharpness and depth of field, but at the long end. The question is, do you need f/1.8 at 100mm? Usually the telephoto field of view compresses the image and creates enough depth to blur out any background, even at f/4. I guess we'll have to try it out!
And now that Sigma is releasing these lenses in cinema housing at 10x the cost of these photography lenses - with absolutely no change in optics - it makes us wonder how good the 50-100mm really is.
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM Lens
We've never brought along a macro lens with us on a paid shoot, but lately we've had an itch to try the Canon 100mm f/2.8 Macro IS lens.
Why are we interested? Because sometimes we get equipment that doesn't just conform to our shooting style, but actually transforms it.
We can imagine a few projects where shooting macro details of objects related to the subject, could really make for interesting B-roll. Imagine seeing the detailed texture of a vintage dress and suit that means the world to couple who are celebrating their 50th anniversary.
The question for us is whether this lens would replace one of our lenses that we already have in our kit, that could do a similar job. For example, our Canon 70-200mm f/4 IS, or our Canon 35mm f/2 IS, both of which can capture intricate detail. Though maybe not as well as a dedicated macro lens.
Quick note: Although similar in price, this lens is not the same as the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens - which doesn't have IS.
Maybe it doesn't matter as much when you're shooting macro photos at 1/500th a second, but for any video, image stabilization is a big deal. And when you're shooting at 100mm, jitters and shakes on even a stable tripod can be visible without IS.
UPDATE: we borrowed this lens for a shoot, loved it, and bought it! Read the review of the Canon 100mm Macro lens here.
Canon EOS M5 Mirrorless Digital Camera
The Canon M5 is the first of their mirrorless cameras that finally checks off enough boxes that we may get one for our everyday kit.
On any video shoot, sometimes you need high quality photos. Whether it's for your own promotional behind-the-scenes shots, or for your client, you already have the photography lenses, so why not have a quality camera around?
The Canon C100 and C300 are amazing video cameras and we love using them for both documentary and promotional video production, but neither are designed to take photos (you can do screen grabs though).
In addition to having a camera around, we can also imagine using the Canon M5 as a lightweight gimbal camera. Something we can leave on the gimbal, ready to shoot whenever we want a steady moving shot. But it has to be able to match our other cameras.
Until now, we've used the Canon XC10 as our lightweight gimbal camera. But the fixed lens means we could only shoot at 24mm, which isn't quite wide enough. Our favorite gimbal lens is the Canon 10-18mm, which we can use with the M5 on an official Canon adapter.
Apart from the lens compatibility, the Canon M5 also has the Dual Pixel Auto Focus which is absolutely perfect for use on a gimbal. The only thing we're not sure is whether the picture styles can match the C-Log coming out of the C100 and C300.
And finally, we're very interested in the low light ability of the M5. We use an old Canon 60D and a Fuji X100S for our gear review product photos, neither of which can shoot at particularly high ISOs. So maybe the M5 will become the de-facto camera of Gear Dads gear pics?
Really Right Stuff fh-350 fluid video head
It's no secret that Really Right Stuff makes some of the best tripods and photography accessories out there. But a few years ago they introduced a video fluid head that has been on our wish list for quite some time.
The Really Right Stuff FH-350 is attractive to us because it's one of the only professional flat head fluid heads out there.
We often prefer to use photography tripods with flat heads, rather than video tripods with bowl mounts, because they are more portable. They also have extendable columns for easy height adjustment.
But most video producers use video tripods, so the fluid head manufacturers produce ball mount fluid heads. It's a simple case of supply and demand. So we use prosumer Manfrotto heads, but sometimes we wish we could get something more powerful for our bigger rigs, yet still portable.
That's why we want to try the FH-350 out, because it's really hard to tell from pictures how heavy or bulky it really is. But we haven't seen any of them out in the wild, so until that day, we'll continue to wish!
UPDATE: We haven't used the FH-350 yet, but we did fall in love with the Miller Air carbon tripod system with bowl head. Read the full review here.
Miller air carbon fiber tripod
As mentioned above, we have settled on using photo tripods for our fast paced, portable documentary work. Our favorite is the Gitzo GT2531LVL.
But finding a good flat based fluid head is impossible, and we've spent a lot of money buying them throughout the years.
So we're interested in trying a dedicated video tripod and fluid head (with a bowl mount), but until the Miller Air came out, most of the options were still either way too much tripod for what we're using.
The Miller Air Carbon Fiber System, however, looks to be a great choice for DSLR, Cinema, and mirrorless shooters like us. It's lightweight, small and portable, but has the build quality of Miller Solo legs and the fluid head as well.
Plus it's a little over $1000 for the whole package, so it looks like a winner.
UPDATE: We recently got our hands on a Miller Air and fell in love with it. Read the full review of the Miller Air Carbon Fiber tripod here.
gini rigs ultra core support system & 2 axis spring arm
Until we can afford an Easy Rig Vario and a Flowcine Serene with a Puppeteer - we'll just have to carry our Canon C300 mark II on a Letus Helix Standard by itself. And try not to get too sweaty. And maybe work out once in a while.
But seriously, most heavy gimbal rigs require an Easy Rig support of some kind. But the Easy Rig by itself cannot dampen up and down movement from walking, and so you need additional gear to make it all work together.
Before long, the gimbal and accessories end up making the whole thing quite complicated. Maybe worth it for commercial and narrative shoots, but most likely overkill for corporate videos, and definitely too much for documentary.
But this Gini Rigs bundle has us interested in giving the gimbal support a shot. It has the right features, and it's pretty cheap. Actually really cheap, which makes us curious if it even works?
But if it does work, maybe not with the same dependability as a $10k support rig, but enough that we can trust our cameras on it, then it could be worth keeping in our promo video production kit.
Update: Letus recently introduced an alternative to the Easy Rig gimbal support system. Read our review of the preproduction Letus Helix Exo 17 here.