Buying a camera is like buying a car. First, your personal preferences come into play. And once you’ve plonked down the big bucks, you aren’t about to admit you made a mistake – so you swear by what you have. Trust me on this.
I spent quite a bit of time initially asking camerafolk friends what camcorder they liked – and a lot of the time there was, as there is with cars, a brand preference. While it is true that certain brands have a reputation for quality, there are some good buys in the lesser known brands. I eventually came up with a list of “must have” and “nice to have” features. If you’ve read prior posts on cameras, you know this list includes manual aperature/iris contol, manual focus, manual white balance, a mike input, headset jack, and a decent optical zoom.
My first purchase was a Canon ZR10 – and I wore it out in two years. I’m brutal with cameras, constantly shooting. I also use the low-end cameras for playback/capture to computer. I’ve since learned my lesson – now I go on eBay and specifically look for broken cameras that will play back tape fine but might have viewfinder/LCD problems. All I want is a reliable tape carriage – not the optics or ability to record or even see what I’ve got.
So – what is in my camera bag? I actually have four camera bags.
1. Sony Hi-8 analog camcorder with charger. This belonged to my dad and I still use it just for fun or if I need to be out in weather and don’t want to risk my other gear. No LCD but a good zoom – great for shooting night sports.
2. ZR60 bag – camera has charger, long-life battery, telephoto and wide angle adapters, lav and stick mikes with mini-jack plugs, headset. This is my workhorse/everyday camera.
3. JVC GY-DV300u – my first “good” personal camcorder. I’d just left news and had a project and I wanted something nice – a three chipper. Plus this camera had XLR professional audio ports – dual channel. I could shoot ambiant/shotgun sound on one channel and have a mike plugged into the other. The zoom is only 10x – a disappointment still – but there is a focus ring in front, so no fiddling with a tiny dial and easy access to iris and audio controls. The camera can also be set up to operate in two modes (A & B). This bag has two long life batteries, Lectrosonic wireless mike, Electrovoice stick mike with 10′ cable and headset. Used for special/important projects.
4. Audio bag. My “terminator” bag. I had a wide variety of audio adapters, video adapters, cables, tape, tool kit, whatever might be needed in an emergency. Mike batteries. RCA cables. Usually this bag is stored and not used – but when I need something, I can find it quickly.
Re tripods – I have a collection. Some are garage sale cheapies and some I went to the trouble to buy. My mainstays are a Velbon 607 – little plastic tripod which I use a lot – and a Bogan/Manfratto with fluid head/cost around $350 five years ago.
I still don’t have a good light kit, but hope to have one soon. I’m getting by with a couple of inexpensive on-camera lights and some OSH/Orchard Supply Hardware shop lights. I did purchase a good reflector set, with gold, silver, and white sides.
Computers are a desktop – iMac with 21″ screen – and laptop – MacBook with 15″ screen. I use the MacBook daily and the iMac for special projects.
Couple of tips:
Freezer ziplock bags (the heavy duty ones) in quart size are ideal for storing little bits of gear – audio adapters, tapes, etc. I just label the bag with a Sharpie and plop into the appropriate camera bag.
Those elastic bands that little girls use to tie their hair up in ponytails – the ones with the hard plastic balls – are ideal for cord wraps. You just wrap and use the ball to hold the band secure.
Keep a couple of clean face towels in your bag in ziplock bags. Great for wiping down damp gear.
Painter’s tape (comes in blue and other colors) is a good substitute for gaffer’s tape. It doesn’t stick and destroy surfaces, although it doesn’t hold as well as gaffer’s tape either.