The Best Gear List

bullseyeIt’s difficult to decide what piece of equipment to buy, because there’s usually¬†more than one good choice. I created this post to make your decision painless. Below you’ll find a list of equipment that I’ve determined are the very best choices in their categories. The only decision you have to make is if you should get the low-budget or high-budget option.

 

I will do my best to update this list any time a better option becomes available. Let’s go:

Photography and Video

The Best Hybrid Video and Still Camerasgh3_smallish
Low budget – Panasonic GH4
High budget – Sony a7R II

The Best Prime Lenses for Micro Four Thirds for Stills + Video (for use on a tripod)
Low budget – Canon FD 50mm f/1.4 S.S.C. (adapter required)
High budget – Voigtlander 25mm f/0.95 Nokton

The Best Lenses for Micro Four Thirds (for use on shoulder-mounts for shooting video)
Low budget – Lumix G X Vario PZ 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 with Power O.I.S.
High budget – Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 with Power O.I.S.

The Best Lenses for Nikon Full Frame DLSRs
Low budget – Nikon 50mm f/1.8D
High budget – Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED

The Best Lenses for Canon DLSRs
Low budget – Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II
High budget – Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L

The Best Action Cameras
gopro_hero3_black_ed
Low budget – GoPro HERO5 Session
High budget –¬†GoPro HERO5 Black

The Best Compact Cameras
Low budget – Canon G7X
High budget – Sony RX100 V

The Best 3.5mm Mini-Plug Shotgun Mics for Camera
Low budget –¬†Sennheiser MKE 400
High budget –¬†Ambient TinyMic

The Best Variable ND Filter
Low budget – Light Craft Workshop Fader ND
High budget РSingh-Ray Vari-ND (read my hands-on review here)

Sound

The Best Portable Digital RecordersTascam DR-70D camera in out jacks
Low budget РTascam DR-70D (read my hands-on review here)
High budget – Sound Devices 633

The Best Wireless Lavalier Mic Systems for Video
“Low” budget –Sennheiser G3 ew 112-p
High budget – Lectrosonics UCR411

The Best XLR Shotgun Mics for Camera and Boompolerode_ntg2_on_5d
Low budget РRode NTG-2 (but I recommend saving up for a Rode NTG-3)
High budget – Sanken CS-3E

The Best Hyper Mics for Booming Interior Dialog
Low budget – Audix SCX1/HC
High budget – Schoeps Colette MK41

audix_scx1hc_small

The Best Computer Audio Interfaces
Low budget – PreSonus AudioBox USB
High budget – Universal Audio Apollo

The Best Over-the-Ear Headphones
Low budget – Sony MDR7506
High budget – Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro

The Best In-Ear Headphones
Low budget – Thinksound
High budget – Shure SE535

Computers & Mobile

The Best Laptops
macbook_air_small
“Low” budget – 13″ MacBook Pro Retina (2015)
High budget – 15″ MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

The Best Hard Drives
Low budget – G-Technology G-Drive
“High” budget – Glyph GPT50

The Best Tablets
Low budget – iPad Mini 4 32GB Wi-FiiPhone 6
High budget – 9.7″ iPad Pro 128GB

The Best Smartphones
Low budget – iPhone SE 64GB
High budget – iPhone 7 256GB¬†…seriously, pay extra for the 256GB. It’s worth it just to avoid the hassle of running out of space, and needing to delete photos, apps, etc.¬†

Home

The Best Coffee Makers
Low budget – AeroPress
“High” budget – Cuisineart EM-100

Okay, so a coffee maker isn’t a piece of creative production gear, but good coffee is vital to the process. Life is far too short to drink crappy coffee.


 NOTE: Last updated on December 4th, 2016.

The Transformative Quality of Shooting Manual

Just as the holiday season was kicking into overdrive, something really great happened: my iPhone ran out of storage space. No longer could I whip out my phone and take impulsive snapshots. Suddenly, when I needed to take a picture, I needed to grab my real camera.

When I first got the¬†Lumix GH2¬†in early 2011, I put a lot of effort into digging into its menus, trying to learn as much about the camera as possible. It was the first advanced shooter I’d ever owned, and I was eager to leverage its power to my advantage.¬†In particular, I¬†focused attention on learning how to shoot in Manual mode. Continue reading The Transformative Quality of Shooting Manual

A Few Days with the Fuji X100

Fujifilm X100I recently had the chance to give the new Fuji X100 a short test drive.¬†This is a modern digital camera that’s designed to look like a classic Leica rangefinder (or a current Leica M9). I have to say that the overall vibe is very nice, and quite a radical change from the Panasonic Lumix GH2 I’m used to using. It feels well made, yet light enough to carry everywhere without a hint of burdon.

The first thing I did was strap the X100 around my neck, and man did I look good! You wear this thing like jewelry. It’s photo-nerd bling. Looking sharp, I walked toward the Hudson River to catch some nice sunset shots, but when I reached 11th Avenue a dark butt was waiting for me above the Jacob Javits Center. Big drops started pounding down, so I ran for shelter under scaffolding. Then the sky really opened up. At first being marooned in that spot was gray and boring looking, and the light was terrible. But a few minutes later it transformed into an awesome place to shoot.

I didn’t know the first thing about the X100, I just turned it on and started shooting. Continue reading A Few Days with the Fuji X100

My First Week with the Panasonic GH2

Panasonic GH2 with 20mm f/1.7 lensAfter a long and truly painful wait to receive my first “HDSLR” camera, my Panasonic Lumix GH2 finally arrived. I had waited for several months to order it from a specific retailer, and once my pre-order was placed, the GH2 was on backorder for six more weeks. But last Friday, like a waking dream, it arrived at my doorstep.

As you can see in the thumbnail photo above, I also bought the Lumix 20mm pancake lens. The two make a powerful combination. With the pancake, the GH2 is almost as small as a corpulent point & shoot camera, but it does a whole lot more than even the finest point & shoot cameras on the market. The GH2 has a monster micro four thirds sensor, the lens mount can be adapted to pretty much any lens on the planet, and its HD video quality is currently considered the best you can get (that’s right, it’s even better than the¬†mammoth 5D mk II).

Continue reading My First Week with the Panasonic GH2

No GH2? Whatev! Make a Sound Slideshow with Images!

I just got back from a short vacation in Paris, and I had a really nice time eating amazing cheeses, breads and cream (with extra cheese). Seriously. I love that country. If there are any French people reading this blog, I’m honored to have you. Anyhow, I was hoping to purchase a Panasonic GH2 to take photographs of Paris, but I was unable to get my hands on one. I decided I was putting too much emphasis on equipment. I liked the idea of shooting HD video in the city of light, but really I just wanted to make something. So I brought my old point and shoot (a Canon SD1000) and my Edirol R-09HR audio recorder. In the end I’m glad I focused on recording sound.

It gets said a lot, but I’ll say it again. Don’t let gear get in the way! In the end, your tools are a distraction. They’re an obstacle. It doesn’t matter if you have a truck load of equipment or no gear at all. Either way, equipment is your biggest obstacle. Continue reading No GH2? Whatev! Make a Sound Slideshow with Images!

Gifts for Photonerds (Photo Dork Edition)

Here’s the situation: you or someone you know is a photography geek, it’s the holiday season, and the person in question needs a gift. What do you do? Do you buy them that full-frame DSLR they’ve been dreaming about all year? Hell no! I decided to make this list of five affordable gifts for photographers to help you out. It’s all stuff you can afford and crap that they will love. Continue reading Gifts for Photonerds (Photo Dork Edition)

The Best Camera is the Phone You Have With You

Recently I was given access to some really nice DSLR cameras at work, so I can take better pictures for business purposes. I had the Nikon D90 last week, and it was really fun to mess around with. I took some product shots for work, and I managed to shoot a short video that I may or may not upload to YouTube after I edit it. 720p with shallow depth-of-field, baby!

A cool building in midtown NYC

But there’s an old saying that I’ve heard a lot over the years: “The best camera is the one that you have with you.” The D90 was awesome, and I recommend it as a good choice for a DSLR, but any camera like that with a real lens on it is large, and you can’t just throw it in you backpack every morning to have it at all times. So even though I had that nice camera last week, the best photo I took during that time came from my trusty old iPhone 3Gs.