This list comes from personal experience, 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.
Not all information is complete, correct or up to date.
Links maybe to affiliates where I earn a commission for any purchases (you don’t get charged extra).
This page is huge! Get what you want quickly:
For the First-time Student and Beginner
- Extremely Limited Budget: Canon EOS T8i/850D Body (Amazon, B&H) with the Tamron AF 17-50mm F/2.8 Lens (Amazon, B&H)
- Low Budget, need good quality: Panasonic GH5 (Amazon, B&H).
Low-end “Zero Budget” Production Work
- For cinema-quality (as much as possible in this budget), run-and-gun work – the Panasonic GH5
(Amazon, B&H). Here’s my comprehensive guide that shows you how to get cinematic images.
Corporate Videos and Documentaries
- Low End – Sony FS7 Mark II (Amazon, B&H) or the FX9 (Amazon, B&H)
- Mid Range – Canon C500 Mark II (Amazon, B&H)
- Super High-End – Arri Amira
- <$20,000 – Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K (Amazon, B&H)
- <$100,000 – Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 4.6K G2 (Amazon, B&H)
- <$250,000 – Canon C500 Mark II (Amazon, B&H) or Red Dragon-X
- >$500,000 – Arri Alexa LF or SXT or Red Monstro, Red Ranger or Red Gemini
- 65mm digital – Arri Alexa 65, Panavision DXL2 (both are rental only)
How do you decide whether to pick an Arri Alexa or a Red camera? Here’s a guide I made for you:
- Low Budget – Panasonic GH5 (Amazon, B&H)
- Cinema-quality – Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 4.6K G2 (Amazon, B&H) or the Canon C200 (Amazon, B&H) if you want great autofocus.
Check out my short film, Fight Night, made on the Panasonic GH5:
High-speed Filmmaking in 4K
- Up to 120 fps – Pick a Red camera. Check out my short film below shot at 100 fps on a Red Dragon.
- Low budget: Red Dragon-X
- Up to 940 fps – Phantom Flex 4K
Check out my short film below shot at 100 fps on a Red Dragon.
Drones with Cameras
- Basic professional grade: DJI Mavic 2 Pro (Amazon, B&H)
- High-end cinema work: None, it is advisable to use a professional camera and a drone built for it. Hire a professional.
Internet Video and VLogs
- Low budget: Sony DSC-RX100 IV (Amazon, B&H)
- Probably the best bang for your buck: Sony a6400 (Amazon, B&H)
- Professional quality – Sony a6600 (Amazon, B&H)
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 full frame cinema lenses, check out my comparison and specific recommendations for the Alexa LF and Red Monstro.
- For cine zooms, the best is Angenieux Optimo, and the most popular lens, especially for commercials, is the 24-290mm T2.8 Optimo.
Long Shotgun Microphones
- Low budget – Sennheiser ME66/K6 (Amazon, B&H) or Rode NTG4 (Amazon, B&H)
- Industry standard – Sennheiser MKH-416/418
Further Reference: Five budget boom microphones that won’t let you down.
Compact Shotgun Microphones
I prefer wired over wireless. Always reliable and legal.
- Low Budget – Tascam DR-60D II (Amazon, B&H)
- Professional Grade:
- Good enough – Sennheiser HD 380 Pro (Amazon, B&H) or the industry standard, the Sony MDR-7506 (Amazon, B&H)
- “Overkill” Grade – Sennheiser HD800
- Free: Audacity
- General all-purpose – Adobe Audition CC or Fairlight in Resolve.
- Industry standard – Avid Pro Tools
Studio Reference Monitors
Sound Cards and Interfaces: M-Audio
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 M-series (Amazon, B&H)
- For documentary and smaller work: Joker 400 W and 800W fixtures (B&H)
- For fashion work – Briese HMI lights with parabolic reflectors (These have loud ballasts, so beware)
- Most versatile recorder: Atomos Shogun 7 (Amazon, B&H)
- Cheap and does the job: Atomos Ninja V (Amazon, B&H)
- Tough production monitor and best bang for your buck: SmallHD 702 (Amazon, B&H)
- Professional monitors with most accurate color: FSI (C and D series) and Sony (Amazon, B&H).
- Top of the line monitors: Sony OLED series (Amazon, B&H)
- Best studio monitor in the world: Dolby Reference PRM-4220 monitor
Support and Camera Movement
Tripods and Heads
- 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
- How is a dolly different from a slider?
- Which is the best Camera Slider? A Comparison of 18 Camera Sliders for Travel and Timelapses