by James DeRuvo
The holidays are here and with it, comes our annual holiday wish list/gift guide, to give you some ideas of what to get your favorite independent filmmaker! We’ve already done the wish list for editing and motion capture artists here. Today, it’s hardware. Specifically, rigs.
Cameras: Nikon Z7 Full Frame Mirrorless Camera
I gave this a lot of thought, right out the gate, and with mirrorless all the rage, it really came down to Canon, Nikon and Panasonic. But I have to tell you, I’m really digging the Nikon Z Series. I just like how well it’s designed, from the button placement to the full frame FX sensor, to that larger Z mount lens. You can also shoot Internal Log thanks to EOSHD. And the test footage I’ve seen is remarkable.
Top Specs (Nikon Z7):
- 45.7MP FX-Format BSI CMOS Sensor
- EXPEED 6 Image Processing Engine
- UHD 4K30 Video; N-Log & 10-Bit HDMI Out
- 493-Point Phase-Detect AF System
- Built-In 5-Axis Vibration Reduction
- 0.80x 3.6m-Dot EVF with NIKKOR Optics
- 3.2″ 2.1m-Dot Tilting Touchscreen LCD
- 9 fps Continuous Shooting; ISO 64-25600
- NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S Lens
Honarable mention: Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K
The long awaited 4K version of Blackmagic’s popular Pocket Cinema Camera has it all. Large 5″ touch screen, dual native ISO to 25,600, 13 stops of dynamic range, HDR, and 4K at 60fps. But what may be the best feature of this camera is the ability to write to CFast 2 and UHS-II SDHC cards, as well as to an external SSD drive. Love that. And the price is so low at $1295 (B&H), it’s practically a feature all on its own. You can also get it in a kit with an Olympus 40-150mm M.zuiko zoom for $1349 at Amazon.
But you’ll need to pick up a few extra batteries for it, because it sucks up the juice. But there’s no denying how amazing the footage is, especially when writing to Blackmagic Raw.
Action Camera: The GoPro Hero 7 is still a must have in your filmmaker’s camera quiver, simply because it’s so small to put anywhere. With 4K 60 video, built in hyper motion image stabilization, and direct live streaming with your smartphone, it’s a great mobile option for those looking to vlog, live stream, or get B roll from a second camera. And then there’s that whole action camera thing.
- 4K60/50, 2.7K120/100 & 1080p240/200
- 12MP Still Photos with Selectable HDR
- HyperSmooth Video Stabilization
- Direct Live Streaming to Facebook Live
- TimeWarp Stabilized Time-Lapse Video
- Waterproof to 33′ without a Housing
- Vertical Portrait Mode for Social Media
- Intuitive, Smartphone-Like Touchscreen
- Face, Smile & Scene Detection
- 16-Command Voice Control
If your favorite filmmaker needs a killer lens to turn his images up to eleven, you need look no further than the Sigma 24-35mm F2.0 ART lens. Fast. 9 blade diaphragm, and rock solid, the ART line one of Sigma’s best ever.
- EF Mount Lens/Full Frame Format
- Aperture Range: f/2 to 16
- FLD & Special Low Dispersion Elements
- Two Aspherical Elements
- Super Multi-Layer Coating
- Hyper Sonic AF Motor
- Internal Focus; Manual Focus Override
- Rounded 9-Blade Diaphragm
- Thermally Stable Composite Material
- Compatible with Sigma USB Dock
RØDE VideoMic Pro+. This mic is the goto for sloggers shooting on DSLRs, camcorders, and even your iPhone if you have a TRRS cable. Moreover, ever since RØDE redesigned with a rechargeable battery bay that’s much better than trying to access and replace the 9v battery, it’s become far easier to use and still sounds great. And you can’t beat that Rycote Lyre Shockmount.
- For DSLRs, Camcorders & More
- Improved RF-Immunity Over Previous Model
- 20 Hz to 20 kHz Frequency Response
- Rycote Lyre Shockmount
- 3.5mm Mini-Jack Output, Dual Mono Output
- Right Channel Can Act as Safety Channel
- Selectable HPF and High-Frequency Boost
- Includes Rechargeable Li-Ion Battery
- Battery Lasts Over 100 Hours
- Includes Micro-USB & TRS Cables
Now you’re probably wondering … James, what’s about drones? To be honest, what’s the point? First off, DJI owns this category now, and if you want to get your filmmaker a drone, then you can’t beat the DJI Mavic Pro 2. I’d go with the zoom version because it gives you more options, even though it only has a 1/2.3″ CMOS sensor. But if $1700 is a bit out of your price range, the DJI Spark is still a great buy at around $400.
But odds are, with the anti drone attitude out there reflected in Federal, state and local regulations, I think you’re better spent giving that loved one a gift certificate for Shutterstock so they can download any drone footage they need. You avoid having to learn to fly one, having to deal with the headaches that come with one, and you are inserting your footage with a simple click of the mouse from Premiere.
It pains me to say it, but I think drones, while a great asset for filmmakers, are largely going to be the domain of those who fly it for a living. If you want to do that, then by all means, take the plunge.
Lastly, all our previous recommendations from 2017 still ring true, and you could probably get great deals on last year’s models! You can find them here.