As run-and-gun content creators, we all have different requirements for filmmaking styles, meaning everyone will need slightly different vlogging kit. There is a plethora of gear out there which can be overwhelming to someone starting out, so we wanted to give our recommendations for a few common price points and size classes.
Low Cost Entry Level – iPhone
Starting out on your vlogging career, you most likely want to test the waters and see if regular filmmaking is something you enjoy and wish to continue doing. Therefore keeping one’s budget manageable is key at this stage.
Also, many of us start out pretty self-conscious when it comes to vlogging in public, so you may also want something small and inconspicuous so you can get used to filming yourself in public places without feeling too judged.
For both of these scenarios the iPhone (or any other mid- to high-end mobile phone you may have) is often a good option. After all, most of us already have one on hand, so the cost of entry is essentially zero, so you don’t have to invest before you know if the vlogging lifestyle is for you.
The good news is that filming yourself with an iPhone has been normalised by Snapchat and Instagram stories over the past couple of years – meaning you will garner far less attention from others in public than if you were using a bigger camera setup. The iPhone is also always with you so it isn’t something else you need to worry about charging and remembering to pack.
I’d also recommend a mini tripod with this setup, allowing you to hold the phone a little ways from you while vlogging to give you a wider field of view, but also so you can put the phone down and film yourself or a time lapse. The tripod I love using for this is the Manfroto Pixi tripod which are small, stable but also super sturdy.
- iPhone 11 Pro (~£1,000 – Amazon link)
- Manfroto Pixi Tripod (~£40)
Middle price point (~£700- £800) – Sony ZV-1 (point-and-shoot camera)
Sony has since 2012 made the RX100 series of cameras, their somewhat high-end point-and-shoots that vloggers loved for their small size but also great image quality in both video and photos. They had flip up screens so you could see yourself, optical zoom for when you needed it, and also pretty great microphones considering they were internal to the camera. Having features like 4K30p video recording and picture profiles for colour grading made them pro cameras in a point-and-shoot form factor.
Ultimately, the RX100’s downfall was the fact it didn’t have the hot shoe mount and mic input required for external microphones such as the Deity V-Mic D3. However good they made the internal microphone, it just couldn’t keep up with the sound quality of an external mic due to its size constraints. The internal mic was great in most circumstances but struggled in loud and/or windy environments, and if you wanted to use a better mic there was no way of doing that.
This is where we get to the ZV-1, a new model very recently released by Sony to specifically address the vlogger market, which fixes a lot of the issues vloggers and filmmakers had with the RX100 vii. The ZV-1 has very much the same body as the RX100 had, but moves the flip-up screen to rotate to the side, allowing an external mic to be mounted on the top of the camera. Sony also added a hot-shoe mount and a mic jack for those microphones that need it, allowing you to attach an inexpensive microphone and really improve your audio. This makes the camera far more versatile, and really improves on the main areas where I felt constrained while using the RX100.
The external microphone I would recommend using with this camera is the Rode Video Micro, it’s an inexpensive mic (~£50) that punches way above its class. Producing pretty great audio for very little money, it also doesn’t require it’s own battery and turns on with the camera. So as long as it’s plugged in to the mic jack you never have to worry about it.
I like using a mini tripod when vlogging because it gives you something to grip when filming yourself and also means you can put the camera down and film yourself or a time lapse of something else. As for which one i have 2 at different price points to recommend, the first is the same one as it the iPhone setup. The Manfroto Pixi, for exactly the same reason. It’s a solid mini tripod that is sturdy, stable and gives you a ball head for angle adjustment. It’s relitively inexpensive at ~£40 and is perfect for this vlogging application.
The second option is the Sony Bluetooth shooting grip, released specifically for the ZV-1 (& RX100), it has buttons for taking a photo, starting/stopping video and zoom so you can do all of these whilst filming yourself. This would make framing and starting/stopping shots far easier, rather than having to turn the camera around and change it from the back of the camera. This tripod is more expensive than the Pixi at around £140.
If you want more info about the ZV-1, I wrote a blog post about it here.
- Sony ZV-1 camera (£699 – Amazon link)
- Rode Video Micro (~£50)
- Manfroto Pixi tripod (~£40) or Sony GP-VPT2BT Bluetooth shooting grip (~£170 – Amazon link)
High End Mirrorless (Cropped Sensor) – Sony a6400 & Sony 10-18mm Lens (~£1650):
Next we move into the world of interchangeable lens cameras, we are once again going with Sony for this one because they provide excellent value for money with mirrorless cameras. Sony also target their camera design towards the video shooter, with full sensor 4k, picture profiles and possibly most importantly of all, great video autofocus. As a mirrorless camera, the a6400 is very compact, particularly considering its APS-C sized sensor, making it comparatively small and light which is important when you spend a long time holding it out to film yourself.
Selecting an interchangeable lens camera rather than a point-and-shoot gives the vlogger the flexibility to have multiple specialised lenses and gives you more options for focal lengths. You have flexibility to chose lenses to suit your needs rather than a having a fixed lens that needs to do it all. Along with that comes a bigger sensor, giving you much better low light flexibility and the ability to really blur out the background in shots with specific lenses.
The lens I recommend for use with the Sony a6400 is the Sony 10-18mm F4 zoom APS-C lens, 10mm (16mm in full frame terms) is plenty wide for vlogging and the zoom to 18mm (29mm full frame) gives you a slightly more zoomed in perspective for B-roll and scenic shots if you don’t want it too wide. F4 throughout the zoom too will give you decent low light capabilities. The lens also has optical image stabilisation (OIS) which will be useful for smoothing out hand held shots.
When it comes to a microphone, i would recommend the same mic I did for the ZV-1 kit. The Rode Video Micro, as i said in the ZV-1 section, it’s an incredible mic for the price and it is more than enough for the vlog application.
Sony strangely when designing this camera put the hot shoe mic mount in front of where the screen flips up to, though this does have a fairly easy fix with a SmallRig Cold Shoe Relocation Plate which will move the mount to beside the screen.
As for a tripod i would recommend the Gorillapod Pro Video 3K. It’s bigger than the pixi i mentioned earlier to take the added weight of the bigger camera. It has a video head so you can make smooth pans and tilts, the legs can be bunched up so you can hold the camera at arms length with it, also the legs are flexible so you can wrap them around just about anything giving you far more flexibility when it comes to where you can put the camera. Most importantly the long legs make it stable with the heavier camera. It also has a branching mount to put a light or if you want to you can put the microphone.
- Sony a6400 camera (~£1000 – Amazon link)
- Sony 10-18mm F4 zoom APS-C lens (~£600 – Amazon link)
- Rode Video Micro (~£50)
- SmallRig Cold Shoe Relocation Plate (~£20 – Amazon link)
- Gorillapod Pro Video 3K (£78)
High End Mirrorless (Full Frame) (~£2800) – Sony a7iii & Sony FE GM 24mm F1.4/ Sony FE 16-35 F4 Lens:
For the last and most expensive setup, we move to full-frame mirrorless.
This one is honestly overkill for vlogging. However, there is something to be said for having one camera that can cover both professional filmmaking and daily vlogging duties. The a7iii, thanks to being mirrorless is a fairly small and light camera, especially if you consider it has a big full-frame sensor. So, you can put a small lens on it for vlogging, and add larger or heavier lenses for any commercial shoots.
So, what does the extra size and expense of moving up to the full frame sensor get you? In short, considerably better low light performance, shallower depth of field and a larger range of lenses to pick from. The a7iii also comes with sensor stabilisation which gives steadier video than just optical stabilisation can achieve.
One disadvantage the a7iii does have compared with the a6400 is that it doesn’t have a flip up screen, so you can’t see yourself whilst vlogging.
I chose a couple of lens options for this kit, because which glass you select really depends what aspects of their design you most value. Is flexibility of focal range your main concern, or are you more worried about image quality.
The first of those lenses is the Sony 24mm F1.4 G Master lens, which is a high end wide-angle prime lens with that F1.4 aperture to give you super shallow depth of field. At 24mm it’s just wide enough in my opinion for vlogging, especially if you’re using a tripod to move the camera further from your face. It’s an incredibly high quality and sharp lens which makes it expensive. It’s around £1200
The second is the Sony 16-35mm F4. A super wide-angle zoom lens, giving you the wide angle you need at 16mm, and a little bit of zoom to 35mm giving you some flexibility as to how wide you want your shots. F4 on full frame will give you a little shallow depth of field, also pretty good low light abilities too. It’s a metal lens which makes it a little heavy but also durable. This lens sells for ~£1100 new but it has also been around for a while so i’d recommend hunting down a well-looked after used version.
There also exists a G Master version of this lens which is vastly more expensive but is F2.8.
I would pick the 24mm F1.4 if you are looking for the highest quality video possible and/or really want that shallow depth-of-field. It being a prime lens gives it the ability to be F1.4 and also super sharp but the downside is that this also makes it less flexible than a zoom.
I would pick the 16-35mm F4 if flexibility is your primary concern. Vlogging is often fast paced and very run-and-gun, so the extra flexibility of the zoom will likely come in handy. It means you have to change lenses far less, saving you time. It is however less sharp than the 24mm just by the nature of being a zoom lens, and will give you slightly worse low light and less shallow depth of field from being F4.
As for a mic i would again go for the Rode Video Micro, it’s small, high-quality and also has something higher end mics don’t have in that it doesn’t need it’s own battery. It’s powered through the mic jack on the camera which means it isn’t an extra thing you have to worry about charging. There are higher quality mics on the market but none of them beat the convenience and size of this one.
When it comes to a vlog tripod i’m again picking a Joby Gorllapod, for all the same reasons I did for the a6400. But this time the Gorillapod 5K Video Pro rather than the 3K as this camera and lens combo is bigger that the a6400 one, The 5K can take up to 5KG which means you could use it with just about any lens you want. It’s also only marginally bigger than the 3K.
- Sony a7iii camera (~£1,850 – Amazon link)
- Sony 24mm F1.4 GM lens (~£1,300 – Amazon link) or Sony 16-35mm F4 lens (~£1,100 – Amazon link)
- Rode Video Micro (~£50)
- Gorillapod Pro Video 5K (£120)
So that’s our 2020 compilation of vlogging kit lists at various different price points. We hope you find it useful. If you have any questions about our selections, potential combinations you’re considering, or any of the items we’ve mentioned here, please add a comment below, or contact us. We’d be delighted to assist!
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