A priced out gear kit for a newbie to filmmaking, using the Panasonic GH2.

Was talking to friend online about what first camera he should get, he is looking at a Panasonic GH2 so I thought I’d go and cost up what the total cost would be for a small starter’s kit (obviously, you don’t have to get everything all at once! You could just start with a camera and one lens, thus I’m listing this in rough order from most important to least important of the items to get first. Although, this ordering can be debatable depending on a person’s needs):

  1. Panasonic GH2 (US$418, but if you look at past sales on eBay you can see a common sale price for the GH2 can be closer to mid US$300-ish and less, so won’t be hard to find it cheaper than US$418 with a little patience and bidding in auctions)
  2. SanDisk Extreme 32GB (US$23)
  3. Nikon F to Micro Four Thirds Adapter (US$14)
  4. Nikon 50mm f/1.8 (US$92)
  5. RJ Lens Turbo (US$129)
  6. Couple of spare batteries (2x US$12.50)
  7. Yunteng Y288 (US$57)
  8. Vivitar 28-90mm f/2.8-3.5 in Nikon F mount (US$90)
  9. Zoom H1 (US$100)
  10. UltraDisk 4016 (US$21)
  11. EM-320E shotgun mic (US$21)
  12. Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 (US$200)
  13. Feelworld FW759 (US$126)
  14. Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 (US$390)
  15. Vivitar 135mm f/2.8 ($65)

Even though both him and I are New Zealanders, I’ve priced it up in US dollars to make it easier to read for an international audience.

To get the first 7 items on this list to get yourself out the door and start making a movie, it would just cost US$758 (418+23+14+92+129+2*12.50+57)

To get the first 11 items on this list (so you’ve then got a few more choices in focal length, and you’ve got capturing sound covered in the most basic way) the total would be US$990 (418+23+14+92+129+2*12.5+57+90+100+21+21)

To get everything on this list would cost US$1771 (418+23+14+92+129+2*12.5+57+90+100+21+21+200+126+390+65)

You can see a large chunk of this cost is in the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8, which is phenomenal lens but also a bit of a niche item as an ultra wide angle lens and thus why I put it right near the end of the list to get. Another large chunk of the cost is obviously in getting the GH2, so if you’re really looking to save costs I’d suggest the Panasonic GH1 instead at only US$150-ish on eBay. As in many ways it is nearly as good as the GH2 except for the big one of lacking live HDMI (but this can be viewed as a good thing when saving money! As now you’re not getting the monitor either…. because you can’t use it at all! Bingo, saved another US$126).

These are just the prices I could find from just a few seconds of searching for each item, I’m 100% sure a patient person could with only a little bit of luck get this kit for much cheaper.

Not at all coincidentally, I own all these items on the list (with the exception of the GH2, I started with the GH1. And the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8, I went with the better but much more expensive Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 instead), thus I’m recommending them on the basis of my own hours and hours of research in deciding to buy them for myself!

Obviously this is just a starting out kit, and much much much more can be spent on many areas. Such as in particular audio is a weakness in this list (it is after all mainly aimed to be a starting camera kit, for an aspiring future DoP to start out making their first short films). And you can always get more lenses! Haven’t even listing a single piece of lighting equipment at all! Another huge hole, of many.

But as a completely entry level introduction to filmmaking on a very small budget, I think this would be a brilliant collection of kit to begin with!

I’ll finish this off, with a few other camera body options to consider (but the rest of this list basically remains the same, no matter what camera body you choose out of these. With the exception of if you get the monitor or not, you need a camera with live HDMI out to use that):

  • a) Panasonic GH1 (if you’re not planning on getting a monitor then I’d recommend the GH1 over the GH2, as it is a lot cheaper and will be for your needs 95% as good)
  • b) Panasonic G6 (another one to consider if you aren’t not getting a monitor, as like the GH1 it lacks live HDMI out, but in just about every other way it is better than the GH2)
  • c) Sony NEX-5N (the only camera that can rival the GH1 in terms of bang for buck! It too is available for US$150ish on eBay)
  • d) Sony A5100 (this is actually my preferred choice, and the best camera currently on the market that is underneath the NX1/GH4/A7s price point)
  • e) Sony A6000 (basically the same as the A5100, but is more expensive and lacks XAVCs or a touch screen. But has an EVF, and doesn’t have the minor overheating issue that the A5100 sometimes has)

7 thoughts on “A priced out gear kit for a newbie to filmmaking, using the Panasonic GH2.

  1. Do you use the RJ Lens Turbo with the Nikon F Mount to M43 adapter? or are these pieces used separately?
    I’m very new to the adapter/speedbooster world but trying to understand better.
    Also, why do you get the M43 adapter and use Nikon lenses? Is it just because you prefer the lenses available for that size mount, over native M43 lenses? Is it because they are cheaper?
    Would your recommendations change since it is now 2 years after you posted this? 🙂

    • > “Do you use the RJ Lens Turbo with the Nikon F Mount to M43 adapter? or are these pieces used separately?”

      The whole purpose of an adapter is to position the lens the correct distance away from the sensor.

      As all lenses are designed to work a certain particular distance away from the sensor (which is whatever depth the the flange mount is, which various for each mount. Micro Four Thirds has one of the shallowest mounts in existence, thus why so many lenses can be adapted to it).

      Thus the physics of using two of them together at once makes no sense at all!! Also, you couldn’t attach the MFT mount at the back of one adapter to the Nikon F mount on the front of the other adapter. Impossible.

      The reason I recommend getting both of them (even though you’d never use them both at once, unless you’ve got more than one camera! Such as I often do), is that you have the flexibility of choice when it comes to using one or the other depending on the shot.

      > Also, why do you get the M43 adapter and use Nikon lenses? Is it just because you prefer the lenses available for that size mount, over native M43 lenses? Is it because they are cheaper?

      For a number of reasons, of which I think I went into a few reasons here:

      And yes, cost is one reason, future flexibility of use on any other camera I might get is another reason.

      However I do own a few native Micro Four Thirds lenses as well, which I got for their unique strengths:

      Panasonic 14-140mm, because of its massive zoom range in a very small package! Handy for fast paced run and gun work. Or just to keep in the bag to keep me covered with any missing focal lengths I might need in a pinch.

      Panasonic 14mm & 20mm, because I love my tiny pancake lenses!

      Panasonic 25mm f1.7 & Sigma 60mm f2.8, because I picked these up for a total bargain!

      The twin kit lenses, because I got them for practically “for free” when I purchased cameras secondhand.

      It might seem like I have a lot? But this is nothing compared to how many Nikon F mount lenses I have!

      > “Would your recommendations change since it is now 2 years after you posted this? 🙂 ”

      I should one day do a new update blog post on this same topic, because like you said, two years has passed. However, I feel this blog post still holds up fairly strong over the passage of time.

      Items like a Nikon 50mm f/1.8D is timeless, and won’t go out of date. Ditto getting a monopod, not much changes over the years. And so on.

      The two key changes I’d consider suggesting now is:

      1) Camera body

      Thanks to the rapid depreciation of camera bodies (a good reason to not spend too much on them!) you can now buy a secondhand Panasonic G7 (which does better internal 4K than a GH4! The GH4 stills hold an edge in other areas however) for a similar price as to what a GH2 did two years ago.

      The flip side of this however, is you can now buy a GH2 for even cheaper than before! So it still wouldn’t be a bad idea to buy a GH2 (or G6) secondhand as your first camera to start out with. You could also buy a secondhand Nikon D5200 body for a similar low cost on eBay, also a solid 1st camera choice (especially if a person is doing as much photography as filming:




      Going in the opposite price direction, you might even be able to sneak in a Panasonic G80 into the budget! (key advantages over the G7: HDMI out while recording, IBIS, weather sealed body)

      Although spending half your budget on a camera body would be a bit silly! (but if a person in the future is reading this in 2018 or 2019, then a secondhand Panasonic G80 would be making a lot more sense to buy)

      2) Sound gear

      I’d totally replace my #9, #10, & #11 suggestions. As over the last couple of years my standards and expectations for sound has greatly increased, as has my knowledge of it. And well, sound in now my primary professional focus (http://ironfilm.co.nz/sound/)

      Instead I’d suggest at a minimum: Tascam DR60D + secondhand Audio Technica AT897 (or an Aputure Deity shotgun) + Rode WS6 + 2x Aputure A.Lav + Samson C02 (or an iSK Little Gem) + Rycote INV-7 shockmount + Miliboo carbonfibre boompole.

      Make sure to get a USB powerbank for the Tascam DR60D:


      Note this is just a *minimum* for sound gear, you can easily get a lot lot *lot* better than this. My latest blog post covers a few other entry level recorders:


      When I get time in the future, I’ll write up a similar blog post covering microphone options, and wireless options too.

      Anyway, in closing I would say that if you can’t get anyone on your crew to do sound (but really you should! That is the absolute minimum for any crew: cameraman + soundie) then there is no point following my suggestion above. Don’t bother at all, perhaps just get a couple of Aputure A.Lav microphones and cross your fingers. (or if you have a little bit more budget, but still no crew, then consider the Tascam DR10L which goes for US$200 each)

  2. Also, you don’t include any ND filters here, but I read that they are nearly ‘required’ for shooting solid video. Thoughts? why do you prioritize getting certain lenses over getting an ND filter right off the bat?


    • Problem is cheap ones introduce color shift issues and flare, while expensive ones are…. expensive! Then you need multiple filters for each lens size (or step up rings for all of them).

      When you start getting too picky about what is “essential” for a shooter then you can end up with a very lengthy list! (just see how long this blog post’s list is already….. )

      And as a newbie no budget filmmaker (& probably solo shooter too!), which is exactly who this blog post is meant to help educate, you don’t want to overwhelm them with too many things in once (is good to start off with a relatively small gear kit, then gradually add more to it. Than use “everything” all at once! You’ll learn in a better manner that way, and make less mistakes along the way).

      Plus by juggling ISO a little, plus shutter speed a little, plus F stop a little, you can get away with not having ND filters at first (at least at the level this blog post is targeting its advice for).

      However yes, I agree, in the long run it is worthwhile investing in a set of ND filters. (or getting a camera with them built in already! Such as my Sony PMW-F3)

  3. Awesome (and timely) response to both comments. Thanks a ton!
    I just owned a G6 for about a year, and then it fell off of me and I lost it in a river. (It was later found by my friend, but the waterproof case it was in had failed by that point and it was soaked).
    I liked it and learned a ton about what I wanted to do with photography/video going forward, but at the same time I am welcoming the opportunity to maybe try something else. On the budget side, I am looking at going ‘backwards’ to the GH2, especially considering the hacks + high bitrate stuff… Then I could consider also getting a pretty fast prime lens (like the 20mm 1.7, or something vintage + adapter, or a rokinon, as you seem to suggest). I’ve heard now though that the downsampled 4k footage from bodies like the G7 or G80 is going to be better (clarity or resolution-wise) than the high bitrate hacked video out of a GH2? What are your thoughts on that?

    Ultimately I guess I don’t care that much about super clarity/resolution though..I like the idea of the wide “filmic” look coming out of the camera that people seem to find with the GH2 sensor. Of course you can try to accomplish the same in post processing though I guess.

    • David Peterson - IronFilm

      Not sure about that idea of getting a GH2, why not another G6? As it is mostly a better camera at a similar price.

      GH2 makes sense if you *MUST* have live HDMI out while recording, and/or if you find a super cracking amazing secondhand deal for it that you don’t spot for a G6.

      Have a read of this:

      Might help you make your decision between getting another G6 or a GH2 instead.

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