Is basically exactly a year since I wrote my newbie guide to filmmaking gear based around the GH2, so now is a timely time to write a short update?
It is a tribute to the GH2 and Panasonic’s range of cameras as a whole, that they still line up as a very competitive choice even today in early 2016!
Lots more interesting cameras have since come along, such as Sony A6300/RX10mk2, Nikon D5500/D500, & Panasonic G7. But if you want to keep costs down and the max bang for buck then my guide from a year ago still holds relevant the bonus that a year later you can find these secondhand even cheaper than before!
Here is a post I wrote in response to a request about gear for Highschool for their young filmmaking students. Naturally with a limited school budget, and the need to buy multiple gear kits for several student groups to be able to use at once (and not to mention the risk of youth breaking gear!), costs need to be kept under tight control, so my GH2 gear guide still holds very relevant:
A few secondhand Panasonic GH2 is my vote. Dirt dirt cheap, and you get top notch quality from it! Waaaaay better than any Canon APS-C DSLR (heck, people rated a hacked GH2 above a 5Dmk3 even!).
Another thought is several GH1 bodies (nearly as good as GH2, but lacks live HDMI), plus one or two GH2 bodies for when they want to use it with an external monitor (Aputure FineHD VS-2, a quality 1920×1080 screen for dirt cheap!! 😮 Amazing), plus one G6 (or even G7, which some people even prefer over a Gh4! It is better than a GH4 at low light) for when they want 60fps FHD slow motion on a production (or 4K).
Get a few RJ Lens Turbos, and Nikon F mount lenses.
Nikon D5200 is also a solid choice! I own one myself (plus lots of Micro Four Thirds cameras). Again, maybe if you go with Nikon instead consider a mix with several D5200 plus one D5300 for when you want 60fps FHD slow motion on a project.
For audio I’d avoid a Zoom H4n like the plague. (Ditto Canon for a camera body) An H4n or a Canon both “kinda” (but not really) made sense in the very very early days of the HDSLR Revolution (years ago), when there were very few other options. But it makes no sense to buy either today at all.
I’d go instead with a Tascam DR-60D mk2, paired with a cheap Xiaomi USB battery bank (Xiaomi is like the Apple of China!) which I Velcro to the back plus a camera strap around the handles of the Tascam. No need then for a mixing bag! And you’ll be able to run for a looooong time with that set up! (vs the internal AA batteries which get eaten up if you run only on them, but with a USB battery pack you never need to worry about that)
That there is my set up before I upgraded to a Sound Devices 552 (waaaaaaaaay more expensive! But worth it, for me as a semi pro soundie). A Tascam DR-60D mk1 is also worth getting if you find a very cheap deal on it, but improvements in the DR-60D mk2 I feel is worth it. (Tascam DR-70D is also worth a look, but for your school needs is not really worth it the extra XLR inputs)
For microphone, get perhaps one Sennheiser MKE 600? (I have a NTG2 at the moment, which is a solid microphone and I got a good deal on it! But I might suggest going with a MKE600 or perhaps a NTG3 instead) And the rest be HTDZ HT-81 microphones (which is what I started out with years ago, recording into a Zoom H1). Again following my suggestion of having the bulk of the gear being cheap while still decent (HTDZ HT-81) but get one or two nicer pieces (which are still frugal) for use on more important projects which deserve it (or/and for when they’re under closer supervision by you, so they’ll be looking after the equipment). This means they’ll also learn to appreciate the quality difference which can be output from lower end equipment vs better equipment (and also how it can *not* matter… how a HTDZ HT-81 in skilled hands will sound better than somebody clueless on a project using a MKE600).
So that is for outdoor recordings, for indoor you’ll want something else (due to reflective surfaces which will bounce the sound back, not ideal for using a shotgun in). I’m using a Takstar CM-60 at the moment, until I can afford an Oktava MK012. So I suggest you get a few CM-60 for indoor audio dialogue.
But I mainly got this because of the FREE SHIPPING, as I live in the middle of nowhere in a small island nation called New Zealand. Sometimes shipping of big bulky items from the USA can be painfully expensive! But if you’re in the USA then there are well priced boom poles with free shipping for you to choose from at B&H / Adorama or Amazon.com