Chris’s Current Camera Gear List:
Main Camera: Sony A7rii
Amazing camera. Not cheap, but worth it. Picture profile 1 has great video right out of the camera with little color grading required. I mostly use the Super 35 mode for video (sharper, no pixel binning) and full frame mode for stills.
Secondary camera: GoPro hero 5 Black edition
I use this for camp timelapses, underwater, and on the move on a tiny gimbal whenever I need a steady wide shot. The GoPro HERO6 Black just came out, so I’ll be purchasing that soon.
Second shooter camera: Sony AX53
For non-camera savy people, this is a great option. Super easy to use, supports 4K and has a built in stabilizer that’s very effective. Almost like a little gimbal inside. It supports 24fps. Sucks in low light though, so only good for day or dusk use.
Lenses used while on the move:
Well respected lens. Great for wide shots. Yes it’s APS-C but works great on the A7rii in Super 35 mode. Stabilized. Only drawback is the APS-C format prevents you from using the full frame for stills.
Lenses used in camp:
Lightweight lens. I use this lens for interviews, and for whenever I need good depth of field. Super lightweight and affordable. Only bummer is the autofocus is loud. For dialog I use in manual focus mode. Not stabilized, but good enough with the built in camera stabilization.
On the move Audio: Rode Video Micro:
Small, cheap, light. No batteries required. I know people rave about the VideoMicPRO (bigger brother to this) but after trying the VideoMicPRO and VideoMicro back to back I much prefer this one. It’s a hot output mic, so the noise floor is not a problem. It’s also better at hiding my nasaly voice. The VideoMicPRO on the other hand accentuates the 1.2khz nasally range. This one doesn’t.
In camp audio: Rode NTG3
The lowest noise floor shotgun mic I’ve tested. Not amazing, but certainly better than a small on-camera style mic. I may upgrade to the industry standard Sennheiser MKH416 (http://amzn.to/2yqMn3s) at some point.
Indoor dialog: Audix SCX-1
Shotgun mics are great outdoors, but suck indoors. They pick up room reflections. My preferred indoor mic for dialog is the Audix SCX1. This tiny little guy has a clean noise floor, great response, and is bright without being harsh.
Audio Recorder: Zoom H5
I use this for indoors, and for outdoors when on the move. To save weight while backpacking, I plug the Rode NTG3 straight into the XLR socket of the Zoom H5, so there’s no need to carry a cable. I monitor with iphone earbuds. Wind noise sucks outdoors, so make sure to use the fuzzy cover thing. The built in stereo mics are great for picking up ambient outdoor sounds like water, thunder, footsteps, etc.
Gopro stabilization: Evo Wearable Gimbal
Gopro’s are notoriously shaky. Using a tiny gimbal like this adds a TON of production value. I actually attach mine to the top of a trekking pole and use it like a crane or jib. You can even simulate low flying drone shots this way.
Sony A7Rii stabilization: Zhiyun Crane V2
This is my newest toy. It’s 2lbs 5 ounces, and kind of bulky. Not easy for backpacking. However the stability it provides for a largish camera like the A7Rii is exceptional…but…it takes more practice than the gopro gimbal. I managed to screw up some shots with this (I moved too fast), so make sure you get used to it before a critical shoot.
This tiny little triangle thing attaches to 3 trekking poles and creates a usable tripod. It’s no manfrotto, but for a few ounces it’s the only viable option I’ve found. I just can’t get myself to carry a full sized 3lb tripod out there.
I use this when I need a smaller tripod for my camera, and it also works great for my audio setup as well. I screw my H5N onto this mini tripod, and plug my NTG3 mic directly into it (no cable) and sit it on the ground pointing to the subject and it works well. I like these mini tripods much better than Gorillapods because they’re lighter, more stable, and the velcro strap part is useful for attaching cameras/audio gear to trekking poles/tree branches, etc.
Light Limiting Filter:
Like many others, to achieve the “film look” I lock shutter at 1/50 and set the aperture as low as possible. The Sierra in broad daylight then becomes a major challenge as my only way to limit light is low ISO and ND filters. I’ve learned the hard way that paying the extra $$ for the MRC (multi-resistant coating) is necessary. I’ve scratched and ruined the non-MRC versions way too easily. This one is 49mm, but I have lots more for all my lenses.
A trick a friend taught me is to always keep a clear filter on your lens to protect it from the harsh Sierra. I scratched my 28mm on my first trip, and after that was very willing to pay for these clear filters. There are cheaper ones, but they can have imperfections that bug me. Weird little spots and stuff. The B+W ones seem to have the best quality and are near perfect. This one is 49mm, but I have one for every lens. Even on my handicam.
I use these to clean of smudges that will inevitably work their way onto your lens. Make sure to blow off your lens first with a squeeze ball. I once scratched an ND pretty bad when a piece of sand was caught in between my lens and the lens pen while in the Colorado desert.
B-cam: Sony A6500
I LOVE this camera. It’s the little brother to my Sony A7rii. Honestly the video footage is hard to discern from the A7. It’s a pound lighter, smaller, and feels great in the hand. I use it as an interview B-cam, and for all my family photo and day hiking needs. I have no facts to support this, but it feels like the image stabilization works better on the a6500. For a fast and light trip, I’d absolutely consider bringing this for a film project.
Chris’s Other favorite Sony E-mount lenses:
I used this as my primary lens for the film “Alcove”. The stabilization is great, it’s nice and wide at the 16mm end, and very usable at the 35mm range as well. It takes more effort to get depth of field with this, but it’s possible. This lens created some of my favorite stills. So I totally recommend it.
Zeiss Batis 18mm F2.8
Great fast and wide lens. I used it for the milkyway shots in my Rae Lakes documentary. It’s also great for landscapes, and it’s perfect for in-the-tent selfy type shots. It handles low light well, and is wide enough to make a small in the tent space look good. I noticed this lens introduces a lot of nice contrast as well.
I use this lens when I need a good high quality look for an interview. 85mm is notorious for being a great portrait lens as well. Great lens. Sharp. I don’t find it diverse enough to bring on the trail, but I’m certainly glad I have it for interviews.
Sigma 30mm, 1.4
This lens is new for me. It’s APS-C only, but works great on the A7rii in super 35 mode. It’s also great on my a6500. Great for heavy depth of field. The autofocus is a little slow, but not as bad as people say online. It’s still very usable. It’s also incredibly sharp, and cost efficient!
This is a great APS-C lens. I use it almost exclusively for my A6500 as a great general purpose lens. The contrast rendering reminds me of the Sony 28mmF2 and the Batis 18mm F2.8. Has a cool look for sure.
SELP1650 kit lens
This thing is small, light, and has a VERY usable focal range. Autofocus is good. Stabilization is good. It’s fairly sharp. The variable aperture thing bugs me, It’s not a $2000 lens…but for the price, size, weight, and versatility it’s hard to pass up.
Very diverse lens that I use on my a6500. (Technically works on the A7rii in super35 mode too)
Sharp, stabilized, and has a smooth and quiet power zoom for video use. It’s a bit large on the a6500. But other than that it’s great. If you needed a single lens for daytime/dusk use that covers a wide focal range, this is the lens to get.
I love the 16-70mm focal range. APS-C, but works on the A7rii in super 35 mode. Lightweight, not too big. Not super contrasty, doesn’t add a lot of flavor. But it’s sharp and allows me to switch from a mountain to a deer without switching lenses. I REALLY wish they made this in full frame format.