LWIF X EP23: Video Cameras I Use

Here’s the cameras I use / I have used:

For almost all my gear, I have it listed at https://kit.com/lifewhereimfrom/youtube-filming-gear

FYI, the links are affiliate links, but buy wherever you like!

Additional stuff:
For my talks about neutral density filters, I mentioned that shutter speed control was one of the reasons I use them. But I totally forgot to point out that controlling the f-stop, is another equally important reason I use them, as it allows me to control the depth of field. Depth of field is what’s in focus, and with a low f-stop, less will be in focus. Sometimes you want everything in focus, but often times I will want only a particular part of the image in focus as this allows me to bring attention to a particular part of a scene as well as to get that nice bokeh (blurry background) effect.

For cameras, I only really have my main camera, the Sony A7S II that I regularly shoot with. I sold off the Sony RX100M III and the Sony PXW-X70 (although my brother didn’t want the Sony RX100M III anymore, so that’s why I have it again in my possession).

Rough script:

Before I do my LWIF X talks in front of the camera, I try to roughly write what I want to say. I kind of try to talk out aloud and write so that it flows more naturally on camera. I learned a long time ago that you can’t talk on camera like you write. However, I don’t exactly follow the script, and sometimes it’s more bullet points than full sentences. Anyways, I hope the rough script might be useful to you if you’re looking for info on the gear or concepts I mentioned, or if you’re curious as to how my video making process works. 

Hey everyone!

I’ve been asked this question so many times and I’ve finally got around to making a video about it: The equipment I use to make videos.

I love gear, and could easily make a single video on each piece, but today, it’s going to be mainly about cameras.

I started off with this Sony RX100 Mark 3. In another life I used to run my one-man video production company and I owned LOTS of stuff. But I sold it all off when I moved to Japan. Even though I brought it with me, I just wasn’t using it because it was bulky and I would set it up just to take videos with my family.

So I got this little point and shoot so that I could shoot things on the fly. It’s a great little camera, and in fact, my first few videos on the channel used this. It just goes to show that your gear doesn’t matter that much. Of course, this was about a thousand dollars at the time, so not exactly the cheapest camera, but I could have made that video with a camera half the price.

The problem with this camera was the audio. There are these two little microphones on the top and they just can’t get very good audio. So even from the start, I would carry around this recorder with me, the Zoom H4N. You could use the even smaller Zoom H1 that runs about $100 to do the same thing.

So that’s the lesson, as important as the visuals are, audio is equally as important. If you’re up close to the camera, like vlog style, you can get away with the microphone found on your camera. But if you go more than a couple feet away, it gets bad fast.

The issue I had with this little point and shoot, that there was no way to mount an external audio recorder on it, so I had to carry around the recorder in one hand and the camera in another. Very unwieldy.

So I went for this all in one package, the Sony PXW-X70. I wanted this camera for a few important reasons.

  1. It came with a built in mount for a shotgun mic. I could also attach wireless microphones or anything I wanted.
  2. I could take the whole top off, and make it into a smaller, less noticeable camera and it still had a passable built-in microphone.
  3. It had built-in stabilization, which allowed me to hand hold on the fly.
  4. The lens could go from wide to zoomed in, so I could use it in many different situations.
  5. It had a built in ND filter, which stands for neutral density. What it does is block the light, so things will look good if you’re trying to film on a bright day. Any camera can shoot in bright light, but what will happen is it’ll ramp up the shutter speed very high, which makes things look unnatural.

This camera was just fine, and I honestly planned to stick with it for a while. But the thing is, I used to shoot with interchangeable lenses? These are lenses that you can pop off and onto a camera for different purposes. They’re usually sharper in focus, have better colours, are better in low light, and have different ranges from very wide to very telephoto, or zoomed in. If you have the patience and knowledge to use them, you can up your production quality.

So a video like my Ramen video, that could never have been shot with with my two previous cameras. I mean I could have shot it, but the look wouldn’t have been close to the same. Why?

Well first let me tell you about the camera I got. It’s the Sony A7Sii. It’s crazy good at low light. So anytime you shoot indoors, which I mostly do, it allows you to capture dark scenes better than your eyes can see them. It also has more dynamic range, which means that it’ll capture more of the bright objects, like a light, and dark objects, like the shadows in a corner. Basically it allows you to see more like your eyes do, both bright and dark things at the same time. To me, it allowed me to capture more realism.

So I got this camera just about two years ago and don’t plan on giving it up anytime soon. Another benefit that I didn’t plan on was that it shoots in 4K. I really didn’t plan on using the feature, 1080p seemed totally fine, but once I compared 4K to the 1080p, I just couldn’t go back. 4K has 4 times the resolution of 1080p. YouTube compresses your footage a ton, and the majority of people now watch on mobile devices, so some would say 4K is completely unnecessary.

I have three answers to this:

  1. Once you see 4K footage on a 4K monitor, and then see 1080p, it’s really hard to unsee it. As a funny example, I was showing Angela, Internationally Me, some of my footage, and then we checked out her video, and she said, wow, does my footage really look like that! So, I shoot 4K because little imperfections bug me, and even if it didn’t make a difference to others, it does to me.
  2. Even though most may not view your footage in 4K, the quality will still be better in 1080p or 720p on YouTube, because you’re starting off with better source quality. So people will still notice a difference.
  3. I want my videos to still be relevant in five years. By that time, I firmly believe a good chunk of the population will watch on 4K screens, which will mean my videos will still look decent. Have you tried watching something shot in 480p, or standard definition. Looks really bad nowadays. Screens and expectations get higher as time goes on.

Oops, got sidetracked. So why couldn’t I shoot the ramen video with my small camera? The low light capability wasn’t there, the lens wouldn’t have gotten the crisp shots, and the dynamic range wouldn’t have allowed me to capture as much of the scene.

But you know what, the breakfast video I made has now hit 5 million views, and that was shot on this little camera, so again, equipment is not everything. Maybe the ramen video would have done just as well. I wouldn’t let the lack of a fancy camera stop you from making a video.

So this camera is the Go Pro Hero 5 Black. The only reason I got it was because it was waterproof and I needed a camera that could film in the water sometimes. The thing I like about this over prior versions, is that it has a built-in screen at the back and it’s waterproof without a case. Not using a case allows you to capture much better audio, although the audio really isn’t that great.

The last camera I use is this one, on my Google Pixel Smartphone. One of the big reasons I upgraded to this specific smartphone was for the camera, and I wasn’t disappointed. I previously had the Nexus 6, and wow, what a difference. I actually mostly use it quickly snap photos really quickly of something I find of interest. I use these photos all the time in my videos. I do capture video footage as well, like this one I shot from a plane, in case it’s not obvious!

I’ve never done a side-by-side, but I’m quite confident this is better than my GoPro footage. Honestly, if someone owned absolutely no gear or no phone, and had to get one thing, I’d probably recommend a smartphone like this, as you not only get a great camera, but a great phone as well.

In future videos I can do a video on audio, another one of tripods, gimbals and accessories, another one on lighting, and then maybe one on editing!

As always, thanks for watching, and I’ll catch you on the flipside.