Important: This list is being modified currently, not all information is complete or up to date.
Disclaimer: This list comes from personal experience, fans, hearsay, research and/or educated guesses. You are responsible for the purchases you make, and this list is only for reference, to be used as a starting point.
This page is huge! Get what you want quickly:
Something you should know: I only recommend 4K cameras for professionals.
For the First-time Student and Beginner
- Extremely Limited Budget – Canon EOS T5i/700D or T6i/800D Body (Amazon, B&H) with the Tamron AF 17-50mm F/2.8 Lens (Amazon, B&H)
- Moderate Budget, need good quality – Panasonic GH4 (Amazon, B&H)
- Higher Budget, need professional quality: Don’t waste your money buying expensive gear without knowing how to use them. If you’re buying a camera, watch this first.
Low-end “Zero Budget” Production Work
- Run-and-gun, bread-and-butter, event or documentary work – Panasonic GH4 (Amazon, B&H)
- For cinema-quality (as much as possible in this budget) – the Panasonic GH5 (Amazon, B&H). Here’s my comprehensive guide that shows you how to get cinematic images.
- And don’t forget to watch how to afford any camera.
- Low End – Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 4.6K (Amazon, B&H).
- High End – Canon C300 Mark II (Amazon, B&H), Sony PMW-F55 (Amazon, B&H), or Panasonic Varicam LT (Amazon, B&H)
- Cinema-quality – Arri Alexa SXT, Red Helium
Corporate Videos and Documentaries
- <$20,000 – Panasonic GH5 (Amazon, B&H)
- <$100,000 – Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 4.6K (Amazon, B&H).
- <$250,000 -Panasonic Varicam LT (Amazon, B&H) or Red Helium
- >$500,000 – Arri Alexa SXT or Red Monstro or Gemini
- 65mm digital – Arri Alexa 65, Panavision DXL (both are rental only)
- No Budget – Panasonic GH5 (Amazon, B&H)
- Extremely Low Budget – Blackmagic Cinema Camera 2.5K or 4K
- Cinema-quality – Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 4.6K (Amazon, B&H).
Professional High-speed Filmmaking in 4K
- Up to 120 fps –
- Up to 940 fps – Phantom Flex4K
Drones with Cameras
- Basic professional grade: DJI Phantom Pro (Amazon, B&H)
- High-end cinema work: None, it is advisable to use a professional camera and a drone built for it.
Any DSLR+Intervalometer will do, but Nikons have built-in intervalometers.
- Best bang for your buck: Nikon D850 (Amazon, B&H)
If you don’t need low light performance, then even APS-C DSLRs are good enough.
Internet Video and VLogs
- Low budget: Sony DSC-RX100 IV (Amazon, B&H)
- Probably the best bang for your buck: Sony DSC-RX100 VI (Amazon, B&H)
- Professional quality – Sony a7S II (Amazon, B&H) with Sony lenses and AF.
Here you’ll find my recommendations on accessories and rigs for cameras:
External Recorders for 4K
- About External Recorders
- Most versatile recorder: Convergent Design Odyssey 7Q+ recorder (Amazon, B&H)
- Cheap and does the job: Atomos Ninja (Amazon, B&H)
- About Production Monitors
- Tough production monitor and best bang for your buck: SmallHD 702 (Amazon, B&H)
- Professional monitors with most accurate color: FSI (D series and better) and Sony (Amazon, B&H).
- Top of the line monitors: Sony OLED series (Amazon, B&H)
- About Base plates
- My favorite baseplate: OConnor Universal Baseplate
Tripods and Heads
- About Tripods
- 11 Fluid Head Options for Every Budget – from $80 to $5000+
- The 6 Best Lightweight Carbon Fiber Camera Tripods for Fluid Heads
- Best Video tripods: Sachtler (Amazon, B&H)
- Best table-top tripod: Pedco Ultrapod II (Amazon, B&H)
Dollies and Sliders
- About Dollies and Sliders
- How is a dolly different from a slider?
- Which is the best Camera Slider? A Comparison of 18 Camera Sliders for Travel and Timelapses
- About Batteries
- My favorite battery manufacturer: Anton Bauer (Amazon, B&H)
- Data Management and Wrangling
- Handy Tools
- And many many many more tools, rigs and devices…Read the Guide.
It’s impossible to recommend lenses, because there’s no such thing as the best lens. Lenses are like paintbrushes and color – you choose the one that you like.
- For great autofocus performance, use the lenses from the manufacturer itself. There isn’t a case where a third-party lens focuses faster and more accurately than a manufacturer’s lenses.
- For Sony cameras with adapters, I prefer Nikon D lenses (Amazon, B&H)
- For low budget pseudo-cine lenses, the Rokinon DS (Amazon, B&H) line should be fine.
- For cine lenses that are tough and professional enough for regular shoots, I prefer Zeiss CP.3 (non-XD) (Amazon, B&H) and Zeiss CZ.2 zooms (Amazon, B&H)
- For high-end cine lenses within budget, I think both Arri Ultra Primes and Cooke S4s are hard to beat.
- For the best, I don’t think there’s anything better than Arri Master Primes.
- For cine zooms, the best is Angenieux Optimo, and the most popular lens, especially for commercials, is the 24-290mm T2.8 Optimo.
Read the following articles to get the whole list with details:
To know the cheap lighting equipment and DIY hacks I use for my videos, click here. Here are my preferences:
- Single: Arrilite 750 Plus with a Chimera softbox and grid (Amazon, B&H)
- Kit: Arri Softbank II Fresnel Kit (Amazon, B&H)
- For extreme spot lights and precision: ETC Source 4 750W Spotlight (Amazon, B&H)
- Low budget lighting that gets the job done: Lowel DV Creator Kit (Amazon, B&H)
- Low Budget Panel – Yongnuo YN900 (Amazon)
- Low Budget Fresnel – NanGuang CN-60F
- Medium budget but high quality panel – Aputure Tri-8c (Amazon, B&H)
- Spotlight – Dedolight DLED 4.1 (Amazon, B&H)
- Top of the line LED fresnel – Arri L7-C LE2 fresnel (Amazon, B&H)
- Top of the line LED panel – Arri Skypanel (B&H)
- Small high-quality on-camera light: Cineo Matchbox (Amazon, B&H)
- Arri (Amazon, B&H)
- For documentary and smaller work: Joker 400 W and 800W fixtures (B&H)
- For tough exterior work: Bron Kobold (Amazon, B&H)
- For fashion work – Briese HMI lights with parabolic reflectors (These have loud ballasts, so beware)
Color Grading Monitors and Gear
Here’s a list of monitors for every budget and type (HDR in brackets when available):
- $30,000 – Dolby PRM-4200 Reference Monitor
- $20,000 – Sony BVM-E250 Trimaster
- $15,000 – Sony BVM-E170
- $13,000 – Sony BVM-F250 OLED
- $10,000 – Sony BVM-F170
- $9,000 – Sony PVM-L3200
- $7,500 – Sony LMD-4251TD LCD
- $6,500 – JVC Verite DT-3D24G1
- $5,500 – Sony PVM2541 OLED
- $5,000 – Flanders Scientific Inc. (FSI) DM250 OLED
- $4,500 – Panasonic TH-50BT300U
- $3,500 – Sony PVM1741 OLED
- $3,250 – FSI CM-170W LCD
- $3,000 – Panasonic TH-42BT300U
- $2,000 – HP DreamColor LP2480zx
- $2,000 – Client Monitor Panasonic P55VT50 Plasma
- $1,500 – NEC PA271W-BK-SV
- $1,000 – NEC PA241W
- $750 – NEC P232W-BK
- $500 – Dell Ultrasharp U2410
- $300 to $200 – Dell Ultrasharp U2412 series
- <200? – Use a monitor that is closest to what your average end-user is going to watch your finished video on. In many ways this is better than the most expensive option.
Color Grading Panels
- Ultra low-budget: Tangent Ripple (Please check software for compatibility)
- Medium budget for full versatility: Tangent Elements Panel Kit (Please check software for compatibility) or Blackmagic Design Mini Panel
- Top of the line: Each high-end finishing system has their recommended panel, so purchase accordingly. E.g., Blackmagic Design Advanced Panel for Davinci Resolve.
For color grading software see the next section.
Post Production Software
- Basic and free: DaVinci Resolve 14 (This is what I use)
- Professional Grade – Adobe Premiere Pro CC (This is what I used for a long time)
- Layer-based – Adobe After Effects CC
- Node-based – Nuke by The Foundry
- Adobe After Effects CC
Rotoscoping and Tracking
- Mocha, by Imagineer Systems
- Free – Blender
- Industry Standard – Autodesk Maya
Ingest and Logging
- Adobe Premiere Pro CC – Read this for details.
- Hollywood standard: On Set Dailies
- Free – Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve
- Better – Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve Studio
- Top of the line: Baselight, Nucoda
Finishing and Mastering
- Cheap: Adobe After Effects CC
- For cinema work: Quantel Rio and SGO Mistika
Encoding and Transcoding
- Adobe Media Encoder
- DaVinci Resolve
Image Creation and Editing
- Adobe Photoshop CC
Digital Asset Management
- TACTIC, by Southpaw
Desktop Screen Capture
- For Mac – Camtasia, but I use Quicktime
- For Windows and Linux – VLC, by VideoLAN
Video Player for Desktop
Mobile/Online Video Platform
- For free stuff – Youtube
- For private embeds – Vimeo Pro
- For streaming to a small group – Google Hangouts
- For small streaming to a large group – Livestream
- The best streaming service for a startup or corporation – Amazon EC2 (Must be custom designed, it’s not an out-of-the-box solution)
Hard Drives, Memory Cards and Storage
I own all kinds of drives (minimum recommended connection is USB 3.0):
- Low budget cheap 1 TB 7,200 rpm drive with USB 3.0: HGST Touro S 1 TB (Amazon, B&H) (Unfortunately the 2TB and 3TB models don’t support 7,200 rpm)
- Faster single SSDs – Internal (SATA III): Samsung 850 EVO (Amazon, B&H)
- External SSD: Samsung T5 (Amazon, B&H)
- RAID Array DAS: Areca 4 or 8-bay in RAID 0 or 10 (Amazon, B&H)
- NAS: Synology 1817+ (Amazon, B&H), what I use – with Seagate and WD 10TB Enterprise drives
- Broadcast standard: Avid Nexis (Amazon, B&H) (When you’re a huge facility you use a mixture of brands, and custom hardware too)
Photography Cameras and Gear
For the First-time Student
- Low budget: Canon EOS T5i/700D or T6i/800D Body (Amazon, B&H) with the Tamron AF 17-50mm F/2.8 Lens (Amazon, B&H)
- Serious about photography: Sony a7III with kit lens (Amazon, B&H)
35mm Full Frame Cameras
- DSLR –Nikon D850 (Amazon, B&H)
- Rangefinder – Leica M (Amazon, B&H)
- Mirrorless – Sony a7R III (Amazon, B&H)
Medium Format Cameras
- General purpose low budget – Fuji GFX 50S (Amazon, B&H)
- My preferred system for 100 MP: Hasselblad H6D-100c (Amazon, B&H)
- My preferred system for 50 MP: Hasselblad H6D-50c (Amazon, B&H)
- For High-end Fashion and Portrait Photography: Hasselblad H6D-50c (Amazon, B&H)
- Architecture/Technical Photography – Linhof (Amazon, B&H) with Phase One Digital Backs
- Landscape – Alpa cameras with Phase One Backs
- Art Reproduction – Phase One System
Best Compact Cameras for Travel (To be updated)
- Fixed Prime Lens – Fuji X100F (Amazon, B&H)
- Interchangeable Lens – Olympus EM-1 Mark II (Amazon, B&H)
- Super Compact – Sony DSC-RX100 VI (Amazon, B&H)
Strobes and Kits
- Camera Flash – Nikon Strobes
- Beginner level strobes – Elinchrom
- Travel and fashion/portrait strobes: Profoto (Amazon, B&H)
- Freeze motion strobes: Broncolor (Amazon, B&H)
Bags and Cases
Long Shotgun Microphones
Further Reference: Five budget boom microphones that won’t let you down.
Compact Shotgun Microphones
I prefer wired over wireless. Always reliable and legal.
- Free: Audacity
- General all-purpose – Adobe Audition CC
- Industry standard – Avid Pro Tools
- Only for basic editing stations – Mackie 1402-VLZ3. If the Mackie isn’t available, then the Yamaha MG166CX
Studio Reference Monitors
- Cash-starved – Yamaha MSP3
- Basic for small spaces – Yamaha MSP5
- Top of the line – Genelec 8xxx series
Sound Cards and Interfaces: M-Audio
Office and Miscellaneous Equipment
Books and Magazines
- Books for Scriptwriting
- Books for Directing
- Books for Cinematography and Lighting
- Books for Photography
If you subscribe to only one magazine, let it be American Cinematographer.
Courses and Guides
For the best and most comprehensive camera and cinematography guides, check out videoproduction.training.