Crop Sensor: The Canon EOS Rebel T2i/550D was my first DSLR purchase when it first came out (now discontinued). I now own the Canon 600D T3i because I like the tilt out screen and the manual audio controls. The Canon 650D T4i (now discontinued) and the Canon 700D T5i are very similar to the T3i in terms of image quality but the main difference is these two offer auto focus in movie mode (doesn’t work that well) and a touch screen interface.
I would recommend the Canon 60D if you want to change the aperture quickly with one finger on the jog wheel and a bit more weather protection.
If you need even more of a weather resistant APS-C camera than the Rebel line and the 60D, then the Canon 7D is the camera for you, it pretty much has the same picture quality for video and stills as the T2i. However the Canon 7D is due for an update any month now.
The T2i, T3i, T4i, 7D and 60D all have pretty much the exact same APS-C crop sensor within the body. Which means they all offer the exact same image quality, however they offer many different features which may or may not be important to you. To find out the differences in features watch my comparison videos below.
Full Frame Sensor: The Canon 5D Mark III is an amazing low light machine, this camera can pretty much see in the dark. I have shot many times at ISO 6400 and was just blown away how good the image looks. Also since I love taking photos as well, the new auto focus system is amazing. I’m finding my success rate of in-focus stills has gone way up with the Mark III.
The Canon 6D is an entry level full frame camera that performs just as well as the 5D Mark III at high ISO’s, however for video the 6D is missing an anti aliasing filter which the Mark III has which means 6D has about the same moire and aliasing issues that the crop sensor cameras have. The 6D is still an amazing camera for video but you need to be aware of vertical lines and patterns that might cause issues in your image.
Canon 50mm f/1.8 II (Full frame or crop) I love this lens and what a great buy for only around $120. Of all my lens this one probably spends the most time attached to my camera body. I was told when I was first starting out to get a 50mm prime because it is a great lens to learn on – and they were right! Out of the box this lens can make you feel like a pro right away with the results you will get for close ups, interview footage or portrait shots. This is fast glass because it can go down to an f-stop of 1.8 which means the low light performance is excellent. If you take care of this lens (because it is made out of plastic) it will treat you well. Some people call this lens “fantastic plastic” because the case is made out of plastic, it is also called the “nifty fifty”.
Canon 50mm 1.4 (Full frame or crop) But if you need something more durable or a better focus ring that you can actually wrap your fingers around, then get the 50mm 1.4, my friend has this one and he loves it and I have used it many times in many of my reviews.
I don’t own this one but I have used it a lot, someday I would like to replace my 1.8 with this 1.4 version.
Tamron 24-70mm 2.8 (Full frame or crop) While the Canon 24-70mm is ever so slightly sharper wide open (f2.8) than the Tamron, you will want the Tamron if you do a bunch of video like I do. This lens is far superior to the Canon or Sigma for video because of the VC (Vibration Compensation). I’m a run and gun shooter and sometimes all I can do is shoot video handheld. If you don’t have any sort of Vibration Compensation, more than half your shoots will be deleted or not used because they will be too shaky.
Once you get up to higher f-stops like f8.0 – f22.0 the Tamron is just as sharp as the Canon and sometimes better.
This lens works great on a full frame camera like the Canon 5D Mark III and a crop sensor as well.
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM (Full frame or crop) Telephoto Zoom Lens. After borrowing this lens many times, I finally picked one up for myself because it is so good! While this lens is not cheap (most expensive one I own) it is truly a joy to shoot with on both my 5D Mark III and the T3i.
Tokina 11-16mm 2.8 zoom (for crop sensor only) When I first got this lens I thought it would stay in my camera bag and not get much use because it is more of a specialty lens because it is soooo wide! But I was wrong I have been using it a lot more than I thought. It works great on slider shots, in small spaces like a bathroom scene and I love it for my HDR pictures too. It is a lot of money compared to the cost of the T3i 600D but you can not touch a similar Canon wide angle lens for less than $2,000. This lens is very sharp, even in the corners where wide angles are the weakest. The construction is great, and the focus speed is on par with the Canon lenses.
My friend who also owns a T2i borrowed this lens and he could get over how well built the lens felt and how wide it got, he kept saying, “I got to get one of these!”.
Canon 24-105mm f/4.0 (Full frame or crop) While I don’t own this lens I have used it many times, the reason I don’t own it is because my Tamron 24-70mm offers a similar zoom range as well as image stabilization, however it has f/2.8 instead of f/4.0 (when it comes to video I will take all the light I can get).
From my tests it appears the 24-105mm has better image stabilization than my Tamron 24-70. Also this lens appears to be very sharp, but I was surprised that it does have a fair amount of vignetting at all focal distances at f/4.0.
Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 (Full frame or crop) This lens is a work horse for me on my T3i since it has wide range for the zoom. It has Image Stabilization (called IS for short) which can really help your videos when you are shoot handheld because the IS helps reduce the shake. Also when you are shooting in low light the IS can help you take pictures at a slightly slower shutter speed without blur, for me that can mean instead of 1/70 of a second I can shoot at 1/60 or even sometimes at 1/50 of a second. Canon makes much better glasses than this kit lens but not at this amateur level price for a zoom with IS. This lens preforms great outside during the day, but since it is not fast glass you can’t use it in low light situations, but if you have a prime like the 50mm that issue will not matter too much.
32gig card SDHC class 10 Transcend I have never had one problem with this brand, no lost images, no slow write or read speeds, just consistent use from the 1,000′s of images and videos files I have created. I think 32GB is a good size, something like 4GB is too small and with 32GB it is hard to fill it all the way up. You will run out of batteries before you fill this thing up in most cases. Anything above a class 6 will give you the writing speed that you need so class 10 will have you covered, also if you are using Magic Lantern and you want to increase the bit rate I believe a class 10 will help out with this, but I have not tested this yet.
SanDisk Extreme 45MB/s 32GB you will need a fast card like this one for the All-I codec in the 5D Mark III, my old class 6 card gives out after 30 seconds in the Mark III.
SanDisk Extreme Pro 95MB/s 32GB with the All-I compression on the Canon 5D and 6D you need a fast card, this one is faster than you need for video (the 45MB/s card above works fine) but now with USB3 this card lets you transfer your file on to your computer so much faster.
Pelican 0915 SD Case It is made out of plastic but I bet you could drive a car over this case. After your shoot is done, the most important thing is getting your card or cards back safely to your office and backing them up. SD cards are so small and easy to lose that you will want to protect them the best way possible. This case is small enough to fit nicely in to your pant pockets and big enough to not get lost inside your backpack.
Sennheiser G3 Wireless Microphone System yes it is expensive but I think it is the best system out there for DSLR cameras.
Rode VideoMic Pro The reason I upgrade to this mic from the VideoMic because it is much more sensitive so I can turn down the noise preamp on my camera and it is smaller and fits in to my camera bag much easier. It sounds the same as the VideoMic. I liked the cord on the old VideoMic better but overall the construction is pretty good even though it is mostly plastic.
Zoom H4n mobile 4-track recorder. This is an extremely popular recording device for DSLR shooters, just about all the top people use this or the Zoom H1. What is so nice about is you can connect professional XLR microphones in to it such as a lav or wireless setup and mount this unit right now your rig. I personally don’t use this as much as others because I am lazy and would rather not deal with a second set of files I have to import and then sync later. But when I have used it it has been a great tool. The H4N can be a little complicated to use at first, if you are looking for something much easier to use and you can fit in to your talents pocket, then the Zoom H1 is the way to go.
Zoom H1 mobile recorder sounds great and is so easy to use. I am not a big fan of the mircoSD card you have to fool with, but it is such a handy device. It is so much quieter than using the preamps built-in to the DSLR’s like the 5D Mark III or the Nikon D800.
Instead of buying a very expensive wireless microphone system you can wire up your talent with a lav and the H1 in their pocket and sync it later in post. The downside of course is you can’t monitor what is going in to the H1.
Rode VC1 10′ extension cable to remote the Rode VideoMic. Don’t make the mistake and buying a cheap cable like I did and not expect to get a lot of noise when you record. This cable is great for interviews by getting the microphone close to the person being interview and placing the Rode VideoMic just out of frame and then connecting the other end in to the camera. If you are doing something more than an interview you will need a longer cord or go to a second audio recording setup.
HDMI Cable. Micro HDMI connector (fits into the side of your camera) to a full size HDMI connector to your monitor.
Once you start working on projects with others and you all want to see what the camera is producing, so you will a cable to output the signal from the camera to the monitor. I have a Sony HDMI cable that has been working fine for years. I think you can also get some no brand name cables that should work fine as well.
Large Oval 5-1 Reflector. Small reflectors are great when you are doing photography, but when you are doing video and you need your talent to move a little then this reflector works well not only as a large fill light (using reflected light) but inside it also has a diffusion screen for when you need to soften harsh light. It has a gold, white and silver side, and the black side can be used for a flag.
5-1 Reflector I use this a lot, and I am glad I went with this larger forty inch size. When you see me behind my desk I am using this reflector with natural light. It helps fill in the shadow portion of my face. I use the silver side for inside lighting and gold for outside. I have several amazing photos of my kids using this reflector where my wife is adding light to their faces while I take the shoot. This reflector can change a terrible lighting situation in to one that makes you say wow that is amazing lighting. I use it for almost all my video interviews I do as well because I can eliminate the fill light with this reflector. Also if you are in a situation with no shade and the direct light from the sun is too harsh just use the diffusion panel too even out the light on the person’s face you are interviewing. For the money this is your most powerful inexpensive lighting tool you can own, every amateur can afford this one.
Matthews Road Rags Kit If you shoot outside your studio a small, light, and compact kit for control light this kit from Matthews is a great choice, however it is a bit pricey. As far as I know no one else makes anything like this out there.
18% Gray Card Since you can not correct white balance in post with DSLR video footage like you easily can with a RAW image you need to make sure you have the white balance set correctly, especially under mixed lighting situations where the camera’s automatic white balance has no idea what to use. This 18% gray card that can fold up and fit in your pocket is a great tool to make sure you get the prefect white balance each time. One of the things that confused me for the longest time was the only setting the white balance on the white side of this card, you can actually set it using the gray side which makes it a lot more convenient since that is the side you can use for setting exposure as well.
24″ Digital Target for Exposure and White Balance
This has turned in to a nice learning tool for me, while I don’t use it for every shoot it has been a good tool on learning how to properly set the exposure on my DSLR for both video and pictures. Since you can not pick which type of meter mode on your Canon camera for video (such as spot metering) you can use this tool can help get the perfect exposure in difficult lighting situations. I usually fill the frame with the target and then within the waveform monitor and histogram (using Magic Lantern) I set the exposure and the white balance. When I am shooting pictures I tend to push the exposure to the right slightly just before clipping the highlights, but with video I make sure that the three spikes on the histogram line up evenly on the graph. It is a great technical tool to have for testing and production.
Induro Tripod this is my lightweight tripod that I use for travel and my “B” camera work for like interviews. It is not as tall as my Manfrotto but it does get up there pretty high. It is much lighter than my Manfrotto and sets up and breaks down a few seconds faster.
Mini Tripod I love this little thing! I use it to mount my Rode shotgun on it for my desk and I travel with it when I can’t carry a large tripod. It is really well built and will hold my Canon 5D with a 24-70mm lens no problem. It fits in my pocket in my shorts.
Manfrotto 055XProB I am very tall about 6′-2″ and I like to have the camera at eye level when I am filming myself and this Manfrotto model lets me do just that at a good price. This tripod can easily handle the weight requirement of my fluid head and my camera and other accessories I put on it. It can also handle the weight of a slider too and allows me to get smooth shots at high or different angles. It is not made out of carbon fiber so it is not super lightweight (and super expensive), but it fits me needs as an amateur pretty well. I carried it around over my shoulder for about 4 hours and I never felt like it was slowing me down.
I wanted to get a tripod with a bowl leveling system, so I could level out my tripod quickly and get shoot quickly, but sadly those bowl type tripods were too expensive for my hobby life style.
Manfrotto 561BHDV mono pod. This tool is an amazing tool if you need to be fast on your feet. It is lightweight easy to adjust and creates shots that you just can’t get on my tripod. I use this probably 10 times more than I do with a locked-down tripod shot.
Manfrotto Mini-Ball Head I like this really small ball head on my slider when I don’t need to pan/tilt while sliding. It makes for really fast set up because you can level out your shot quickly. I like to use this better than the Joystick Head shown above because the center of gravity is lower which means less shake in your slider shots.
It might look small but it can but it can support up to 9 pounds, which is way more than my T2i with a big lens.
Manfrotto 701HDV Pro Fluid head Mini I own two fluid heads, the first and most lightweight is my Manfrotto 701HDV. It is great for wide shots and quick or whip pans and tilts. It travels really well.
The other is the Fancier FT-717AH fluid head: this head is very stiff, however it works well for long heavy lenses and give very smooth performance . I am not sure I can recommend the Fancier since I dislike the mounting plate system it comes with so much.
Konova Slider: As far as I know this is the only roller bearing slider that is somewhat affordable to amateurs like myself. The one I own has a length of 80cm with works great for me.
If you want to bring your video projects up to a whole new level, this is the tool to get. Sliders can bring your videos up to a professional level if used correctly.
I find that using a wide angle lens like the Tokina 11-16mm on a crop sensor body is a great choice for slider movements, also try to get something up close in the foreground so you can get a sense of movement.
You can easily put this on your tripod and get a much of different angles or you can use it with apple boxes.
Glidecam HD2000 Sometimes you need to travel from point A to point B, and walking with a DSLR while shooting video doesn’t work that well (too jerky). This unit makes walking or running with your DSLR much smoother. The HD2000 would work well for the Canon 5D or 7D.
The Glidecam HD1000 is better suited for really lightweight cameras like the T4i even with a heavy lens like the Tokina 11-16.
I don’t own this one but I have used it many times with good results. I even got a short private lesson from Devin Graham who really knows how to get the most out of this device.
I do own a Blackbird. [Disclosure that Camera Motion Research is a current sponsor of this site AFTER I did the review.]
I would say I am not an expert at using either the Blackbird or the Glidecam, I just need a lot more practice.
Tiffen 82mm Variable ND Filter I tested the Tiffen against 5 other well known filters brands and the Tiffen was the sharpest of the bunch. It did well with Vignetting on my Tamron 24-70mm and had just about the same out amount of color cast as the $500 ND filters I tested against. Good solid filter for the money that won’t dull your very expensive sharp lens you purchased.
The more common size is the 77mm Variable ND Filter from Tiffen I purchased the larger version for my Tamron lens.
B+W Circular Polarizer This type of filter is not to be confused with an ND filter (I was confused at first). Both ND filters and circular polarizers control exposure to some degree, but an ND filter all it does is to control exposure but with a circular polarizer has a much different use. Circular polarizer for the most part will cut the glare out of your shot and add some saturation and contrast. They are only intended for outdoor use (unless you have some glass you have to shoot through inside). They can help get more dynamic range into your camera. The downside is it only works 90 degrees from the sun when you are trying to darken the sky.
DIY View Finder I made some modifications to the popular KnopTop YouTube version. I gotta say it works so well, I just might not upgrade to a real one. Cost was about $8.
The Zacuto Z-FinderPro that I have review is too expensive for what it does.
Carry Speed ViewFinder, I will add a review of this soon, I am still reviewing it.
LP-E8 Lithium-Ion Battery Pack [Rebel line of battery] I was very tempted to buy the cheap knock-off batteries that are much cheaper than the Canon batteries but I am glad I didn’t because they hold their charge so well. You really need to have a minimum of two batteries so you can have one fully charged will the other is in use.
Another big reason not to buy cheap knock-offs of this battery is because they will not include a chip inside them to talk to the camera to let it know when it is about to die. It is no fun living on the edge not knowing when your battery is about to die.
LP-E6 Lithium-Ion Battery [5D MarkIII, 7D, 60D, 6D] I like this battery better than the Lp-E8. It lasts longer and you can use it in other devices besides your camera.
Canon LC-E8E Battery Charger [T2i, T3i, T4i, T5i]. This comes with your Rebel camera but it is easy to lose like my friend did so I thought I would include it here.
Dual Battery Charger (5D, 60D) if you have lost the charger that came with your 5D or 60D camera, instead of replacing it for just $20 you can get a dual charger that can charge 2 batteries at once, test batteries without being plugged into an outlet, charge other type of batteries and has a USB power port. My friend Caleb Pike made me aware of this unit.
DIY Dolly. My brother-in-law who owns a machine shop built this one in a few hours with some wheels I had from an old inline skate and metal he had in the shop.
Great for product shots. You can spin around the product up close to create some very interesting looks for the product. With these type of wheels you really need a super smooth surface like glass, Formica counter-top, or smooth hardware floors. If you are looking to get shots up high where you do not have a smooth surface you should really look at getting a slider.
Small camera bag. After asking my followers on Google+, Twitter, and Facebook, I tried 3 small camera bags and ended up buying the Case Logic bag because it is light weight and I really liked the features it had like the yellow interior and suspension system.
Color Chart I had this idea that this card could help me color correct my videos in a better way, well it didn’t help that much. However, since it was so cheap I still found that it was worth it because it taught me a lot about the waveform monitor.
It is a great tool for learning more about how your picture styles work as well. I use it in a lot of my tests. It is also helping me with my color grading.
Remote Timer/intervalometer for the Canon Rebel line of cameras. This unit is so inexpensive compared to the Canon model and works just as good. I use it mostly for time lapses, however now that I have Magic Lantern instead I don’t really need it anymore. I took the link down to this timer because someone complained that it didn’t work for them. Mine unit 2 years later still works great (even on the original battery and it is always left on).
27lbs. Sandbags For a long time I made many crude attempts to counter balance or weigh things down so they don’t fall over, so I finally picked up two of these and I now find I am using them all the time! Pick up a couple, they are well made and should last a life time.
C-Stand from Impact. Pound for pound a great value. Use this stand for flagging or scrim, silk, cookies, gobos, jells, or just a light.
It is a professional stand, but not at a professional price. This thing is a tank and will last you a life time.
Reflector and Boom Stand The coolest thing about this stand, is the boom arm can actually retract inside the straight part of the stand! Very cool idea and it works well for holding reflectors.
These Impact Light Stands very rugged and very affordable light stands that get really tall when fully extended. They are air cushioned so it won’t hurt your fingers on the way down. I really like them. They are also very light and easy to travel with in the car.
Microphone stand If you do as many video interviews as I do that are the sit down type and you don’t want to mess around with running a lav up the shirt of a person you just met, get a microphone stand and mount your Rode VideoMic or whatever mic you have on a stand and put it down low just out of the frame and you will have some great audio. I got an adapter that allows the mic stand to connect with the Robe VideoMic. For the mic stand, this 5/8 inch to 3/8 inch adapter.
Black Rapid RS-4 Camera Strap I really love this strap compared to the stock strap that comes with your camera. It places the camera in a much better spot on your body to travel around with, plus it somewhat hides your camera from view compared to a normal strap.
Plus I love the little pocket that allows you to carry extra batteries or memory cards. Yes it is a bit pricey for what it does however would you trust a cheap strap to carry your expensive camera upside down?
ikan iLED 144 light. One of the best built small LED lights I have tested. I really like how you can change the color from daylight to tungsten just by rotating a knob and not having to deal with gels. It is not cheap compared to others but it comes with a nice rechargeable battery and charger and has one of the best hot shoe/light stand adapters I have tried.
Friction or “Magic” Arm These are extremely useful, not only for mounting LED lights or external small monitors on them, you can use them as a rig (example of this is coming and it is very cool).
They are not that expensive and everyone should have at least one of these in their kit.
The one I use is 8.3″. It mounts on 1/4″-20 female receptor or show plate. Single knob locks all of the arm at once.
Manfrotto 577 Rapid Connect Adapter with Sliding Mounting Plate (501PL) I am so tired of switching out plates all the time, getting a few of these helps speed everything up when switch between my monopod, slider and tripod.
If you are looking to save just a little bit of money, you can get the Calumet version of the plate (CK 9007) and it works with all the Manfrotto plates, I have a few of them and they work fine, but they don’t fit perfectly and you might have to readjust some times.
Green Screen if you ever wanted to do compositing with your videos you will need either a blue or green chroma screen, I like to use green myself.
It takes a bit of practice but using a green screen can be a lot of fun and give you some professional looking results.
Step up rings Don’t buy multiple ND or polarizer filters for all your lenses, just buy the one for your largest lens and then use step up rings on your smaller lenses.
Having a set of these will save you a ton of money.
Rubber Lens Hoods I use this on my 50mm 1.8 lens. This lens hood lives on that lens and I never comes off, even for ND filters or step up rings. It is cool because it protects the lens against bumps and it retracts so you never have to take it off. The size I got for my 50mm 1.8 was 52mm, just look at the inside of your lens cap, it will have a number there that will tell you the size to buy.
Replacement lens caps So where do you put your lens cap when you take it off the lens? In your pocket, on the table, who knows because you just lost one didn’t you? Don’t you hate that when you lose one? Time to get a new one.
Rocket Air Blower this is one of the most popular tools for getting dust off you lenses before you clean them with a cleaner.
Watch me use the blower in “How to Clean your DSLR Camera Lenses” video.
Watch me use the cleaning cloths in “How to Clean your DSLR Camera Lenses” video.
Watch me use the liguid in “How to Clean your DSLR Camera Lenses” video.
Software I Use
- Premiere Pro CS6 & After Effects. I don’t use Sony Vegas anymore. The main reason I switched from Sony Vegas to Premiere Pro CS6 was because of the playback of native DSLR .mov files in Premiere with the right graphics card.
- Lightroom 4 I can’t say enough what this software package has done for my 5D3 pictures! Truly amazing what you can do with this program so easily and quickly, it is not like super complicated like Photoshop is.
- Fireworks CS6 and Photoshop CS6
Computer Equipment I Use
- Custom PC build, watch me build it here with the parts list
- Samsung SyncMaster 24″ monitor running at 1920 x 1200 (I need a new one)