Tech: Buyer’s Guide

Check out our recommendations for courses and careers.  Each of these links will take you to our Amazon recommendations.  We approach this  from the perspective of photographers, filmmakers and videographers (categorized by event and studio productions). We also have our accessories recommendations at the bottom (audio, lighting, etc.).

Price Breakdown:

  • $ = Under $500
  • $$ = $500-1,000
  • $$$ = $1,000-2,000
  • $$$$ = $2,000-3,000
  • $$$$$ = Over $3,000

For each of our courses and for each purpose, we have very specific philosophies. These philosophies are very much entwined in the curriculum of the Aloha Film School as well as what we do professionally.

For information on Sensor and Resolution Size, read this article.

Photography

For Photographers:

First, you must decide, if you buying a camera to become a professional or are you looking to become a better photographer with a knowledge of how to really use a camera.

  • 5-starsSony Alpha A6500 (APS-C sensor).  Novice to Professional Users. This really is one of our all-time favorite cameras for both filmmaking and photography.  It is a unique camera and really marks the point in which Sony has taken control, to some degree, of the filmmaking and photography markets.  Yes, we do love many of the Sony products.  This camera has in-body stabiliztion, beautiful 4K video and it takes amazing pictures.  There is also a nice selection of lenses now emerging for the sony E-mounts. Body: $$$. Lenses: $$-$$$$
  • 4-5-starsSony Alpha A6000 (APS-C sensor). Novice to Professional Users. This mirrorless camera has plenty of control options and lens options to where it is an easy enough camera for the budding hobbyest, but at the same time it is a fully capable camera that can be upgraded with lenses to fully function on a professional level as well. At 24.7 megapixels this offers an immensely high quality image. The camera has nice video quality as well but is not recommended for videographers or filmmakers. The 16-50mm lens that comes with this, is a decent starter lens. Since this camera was released two newer version have been released, but this remains a solid and affordable entry for the beginner for both HD video and photography. Body: $. Lenses: $-$$$$
  • 5-starsSony Alpha A9 (Full Frame Sensor).  Professional Users. Believe the hype. This is an amazing camera.  Pricey, yes, but worth the cost in everyway for both the photographer and the filmmaker. This is the first camera to have blckout-free continuous shooting at an amazing 20 frames per second.  This the first in its class for a full-frame camera. Body: $$$$$. Lenses: $$-$$$$
  • 5-starsSony Alpha A7RII or the Sony A7RIII (Full Frame sensor).  Advanced to Professional Users. We love this mirrorless camera. This is a high end camera that will challenge anything Canon or Nikon can throw at it. Image quality is among the best in class and the 4K video quality is superb. It may not be the best camera for heavy duty sports photography but it works for just about everything else. Additionally, it is considerablly lighter than traditional DSLR cameras. Read our full reviewBody: $$$$. Lenses: $$-$$$$
  • 4-starsCanon EOS 80D (APS-C sensor).  Novice to Professional Users.The Canon EOS 80D is one of our favorite traditional DSLR cameras. It has an ease of use factor that makes it just fine for the novice to learn with as well as quality for the pro. And, of course, there is a legacy of incredible Canon lenses available for this camera. Body: $$$. Lenses: $-$$$$
  • 4-starsCanon EOS 7D Mark II (APS-C sensor). Intermediate to Professional. This may come as a surprise as we prefer the 7D Mark II for professional use to the Canon 5D Mark III. While the 7DMII is an APC sensor rather than a Full-Frame sensor its more effective as an event camera, a sports camera, most photo needs, and even HD video and film.  Body: $$$. Lenses: $-$$$$
  • 4-starsPanasonic Lumix DMC-FZ2500 (One-Inch Sensor). Novice to Semi-Professional. This is the only camera in the photography category that does not have a removable lens system. It is a fixed lens (non-removable) that has a 20x super zoom lens. The lens and camera are a very high quality as is the imaging, especially for a smaller, one-inch sensor. It has a variety of functions from more-than-adequate auto control to full-manual control. It has superb 4K image quality for the price and makes for a great, on-the-run camera that doesn't require a bag full of lenses. For pro use, it can satisfy the need for a secondary camera in the worlds of photo, video and film (it does shoot 24p). This is an amazing follow up to its predecessor the FZ1000. Camera: $$$
  • 4-starsNikon D810 (Full Frame Sensor). Intermediate to Professional.  Nikon has never been our system, but nevertheless, this is a great camera for straight photography and HD video. However, if you are looking for high-end and lightweight, we still choose Sony mirrorless over both Canon and Nikon.   Body: $$$. Lenses: $$-$$$$

 

Filmmaking

For Filmmakers:

We like to see our film projects look like a traditional film with control over depth of field and a field of view that matches or imulates traditional 35mm film. Here are our suggestions below.

  • 3-5-starsPanasonic Lumix GH5 or the GH5s (micro 4/3 sensor). Intermediate to Professional. If video is all that you do, then we recommend the GH5s as it is more akin to teh Sony AS series of cameras that are video-filmmaker centric. There are so many things to like about this camera, but it's one major drawback is the micro four-thirds system itself. Yes, being an MFT camera, it is compact and lightweight which has its advantages for on-the-move users, but for a truly film-like field of view or for shooting in tight spaces, MFT cameras are challenging. Additionally, at a glance, this camera seems like a deal financially but to add up the necessary accessories to get it where you need to be, it can get pretty expensive. This is a perfect lightweight system for a hobbyist or a documentary filmmaker with some money to spend. Body: $$$. Lenses: $-$$$$
  • 5-starsSony Alpha A7RII (Full Frame sensor).  Advanced to Professional Users. With the overall quality of this camera and lens options, this is an incredible camera for filmmaking too. Just be wary as it does have a reputation for overheating when recording 4K video. Body: $$$$. Lenses: $$-$$$$
  • 4-starsSony Alpha A7SII. (Full Frame sensor). Intermediate to Professional Users. This is a fantastic camera for filmmakers and professional video production. It's pretty complex for event videographers, however.  It has unparalleled low light performance if you are working in situations where lighting isn't option. It is also very capable as a still camera (don't let the 12 megapixels fool you, this is still a great camera all around). If you are planning on primarily HD workflow, then the older Sony Alpha A7S is a consideration, but for 4K, go with the A7SII. Body: $$$$. Lenses: $$-$$$$
  • 4-starsCanon EOS 80D (APS-C sensor).  Novice to Professional UsersThis camera will offer a more traditional DSLR workflow and maxes out with an HD image rather than shooting 4K, but it is a quality and affordable option for indie filmmakers. Body: $$. Lenses: $-$$$$
  • 5-starsSony Alpha A6500 (APS-C sensor).  Novice to Professional Users. This really is one of our all-time favorite cameras for both filmmaking and photography.  It is a unique camera and really marks the point in which Sony has taken control, to some degree, of the filmmaking and photography markets.  Yes, we do love many of the Sony products.  This camera has in-body stabiliztion, beautiful 4K video and it takes amazing pictures.  There is also a nice selection of lenses now emerging for the sony E-mounts. Body: $$$. Lenses: $$-$$$$

 

Videography

For Videographers for Events (weddings, performances, etc.):

We recommend traditional video cameras for  events as they are created with that specific purpose and give the user easy control over settings. Often times a single camera operator can oversee multiple cameras as opposed to having to be dedicated to a single DSLR style camera.

  1. 4-starsPanasonic HC-X1000. (1/2.3" Sensor) Advanced to Professional. This is a high end camera for event and studio production. It is capable of delivery high quality 4K appropriate for almost all pro needs. Camera: $$$$
  2. 4-starsSony AX1. (1/2.3" Sensor) Advanced to Professional. This camera is basically the same as the Panasonic HC-X1000. For user friendliness, we prefer the Sony, but it is more costly and they are both solid choices. This is a high end camera for event and studio production. It is capable of delivery high quality 4K appropriate for almost all pro needs. Camera: $$$$$
  3. 4-5-starsSony AX100. or the updated version the Sony AX700 (1" Sensor) Intermediate to Professional.  The video quality in perfect lighting conditions is similar, but if you have a few hundred extra, the upgrade is well worth it. This is a more affordable choice than the first two cameras and it is an extremely high quality that would challenge either of those. Really, only the most discerning eye could tell the difference. Billed more as a prosumer camera, the functionality of this camera will mostly go unused by most consumers. Delivers a high-end, broadcast quality product. Camera: $$$
  4. 4-starsSony AX53. (1/2.3" Sensor) Novice to Professional. This is the most affordable, very high end choice. While it is definitely geared more toward the consumer market, it can work quite well for event videographers for capturing weddings and live events. While it delivers a beautiful image, there is a noticeable quality difference when compared to the previously mentioned cameras. Camera: $$
  5. 3-starsCanon Vixia HF R80. (1/4.58" Sensor) Novice to Professional. This is definitely a consumer oriented camera, but an event videographer can purchase three of these for the price of one AX53 add a few things like a pro microphone, UV filter and sunshade, and you can still create a very high quality product for events such as wedding, performances and web-based commercials.  We like that it has an audio input and a filter ring, items missing from most consumer cameras. The R80 is recommended over the less expensive R800 because of the WI-FI functionality not found in the latter. This may not be our first choice, but it is a quality and affordable alternative for someone just getting started. Camera: $$

For Videographers for Studio/Controlled Video Production:

We have tested all of these cameras in a studio setting with an HDMI switching workflow.

With the exception of the Canon Vixia HF R60, all of the others in the "event" breakdown also work effectively in a controlled, studio, HDMI workflow.  The Sony AX1  or the Panasonic HC-X1000 are ideal in the studio scenario as well.

  1. 3-5-starsPanasonic Lumix GH4 (micro 4/3 sensor). Intermediate to Professional. This camera excels in a studio or more controlled setting. Again, the four-thirds sensor size can be problematic in tighter scenarios, but image quality is excellent.  Body: $$$. Lenses: $-$$$$
  2. 5-starsSony Alpha A7RII (Full Frame sensor).  Advanced to Professional Users. Considering the price and the quality of the 4K, there aren't many competitors. Body: $$$$. Lenses: $$-$$$$
  3. 4-starsSony Alpha A7SII. (Full Frame sensor). Intermediate to Professional Users. If photography is a key element and low-light scenarios are not an issue, we recommend the A7RII in front of this camera; however, if the focus if film and video and low-light will be a concern, this is the best option. Body: $$$$. Lenses: $$-$$$$

 

Accessories

We recommend a variety of accessories for our various workflows.

Microphones

For wireless mics, we try to use Bluetooth whenever possible as they are more reliable then comparably priced radio frequency systems.

  • Sony ECMAW4 wireless mic that will work with any camera with an audio input, also Bluetooth, and slightly less expensive. Just keep in mind Bluetooth connectiviy has limitations on the distance. Great wireless within 100 feet. Price: $
  • Sony ECM-W1M wireless mic. These are only compatible with specific Sony products (including all of those in our buying guide).  Quality-wise, they are Bluetooth and basically the same as the previous two mics. These do offer an additional mic input so you can attach a lavaliere mic as well. Price: $
  • Azden SGM-250 shotgun mic. A very nice, quality, moderately priced mic for video and filmmaking. Price: $

 

Audio Recording

  • Zoom H6 Digital Six Track Recorder. This is an inexpensive super-powered beast. It takes multiple inputs including two XLR and 1/4" inputs, along with two on-board mics. It runs on 2x AA batteries that have pretty decent battery life too. This is a solid unit for independent filmmakers as well as event and studio video producers. Price: $

 

Lighting

  • 2 Piece Dimmable LED Lighting Kit with stands and more. This is a pretty functional lighting kit that will work in a majority  of situations. By two kits (four lights) and you are covered for most scenarios. Price: $