Below is my personal view how starting indie film maker
can save some money and make useful GH1/GF1/G2 based rig.

First note

We are talking about indie film makers who do not make films for a money.
Not wedding shooters, etc. Who just want to start and are not shure if this is their true love.

Second note

Sometimes it is much better to learn than to buy things.

Books and DVDs

I suggest to start from books and DVD courses to understand your real needs and learn from pros.


Digital Cinema Training. It is not bad, but have very slow pace, constant repeats, non systemetic approach. Many DVDs. Costly.
VASST Light it right. Not very good. No system and cheaply made.
Lighting for digital video and television by John Jackman. Quite good book, but I reccomend the next one if you need only one book for start.
Light - Science and Magic An Introduction to Photographic Lighting. I suggest to have this book with you :-)
Plus others cited below about portrait photography.
I don't know why, but photo books are generally much better than video oriented ones. They also have less fixed approach (ala three lights).

Portrait lighting (especially useful for interviews):
Master lighting guide for portrait photographers by Christopher Gray.
Studio lighting techniques for photography by Christopher Gray.
Both books are better used together.

Sound for Film and Television. I really like it. It is slightly too focused on filmic sound and boom microphone placement. And it is funny :-)
VASST Now Hear this ... . Have some good parts considering mikes comparison.


Generally, you need GH1 or GH2. Average price $400-660 for GH1 and from $860 for GH2. You can ask any questions about bodies here -

14-140mm lens.

You can save some money going body only. Problem is that footage will be generally awful if camera is not at tripod or shoulder rig without IS enabled lens. Plus lens is generally good (albeit slow). If you search carefully you could find it for $450-600.


It is best to have two tripods.
One, so called photo tripod with spreader and other - video tripod.
Later has more weight, but is more stable and much more useful to level propertly.

I suggest to look at Weifeng models - .
This is largest tripod producer in the world (sold under many-many brands).
In USA more options exist, especially in budget video tripod niche.
Sometimes you can't get video tripod with you and sometimes you need to mount light, etc. So, good photo tripod is useful.
They have fluid heads (not very good :-( ).
Video variant (with much better head and with bowl) - WF171 tripod (about $170-190)
I find carbon ones without spreader not useful for video.
Video tripod and especially heavy video tripod is generally much better (but you can later mount WF717A head - it is pretty ok for GH1).
Small addition. I also use few very cheap Waifeng tripods just to mount some things.
But professionals say... that you need to buy best possible tripod as it'll be with you for at least 20 years.
Generally, they are right. Main problem here is that sometimes having large video tripod with huge fluid head will mean that it end up to be in your basement for this 20 years :-)
Cheapest suitable solution is... If you need to get good one and cheap tripod look at Ravelli-AVT tripod at Amazon ($80 with fluid head suitable for video)

Shoulder rig

Very handy in many situations. Makes your footage really usable in run and gun situations.
Normally HDSLRs have very small weight and still oriented form factor, so they'll be very shaky in your hands.
Rig is necessary to make proper three point (shoulder, and two hands) support for your camera.

Recommended gear:
UltraCompact Rig - ($300) Intially I had been very cold, seening only few flaws in this rig, but after some work I started to love it.
Note that actual version is significantly upgraded (compared to photos shown on site).

Gini rigs - (from $199 to $1800) do not use BIN, look at auctions and offers. Manufacturing quality is outstanding. But usability has many flaws (shoulder pad, mounting for your items on cage, etc).


 This is most difficult and controversal thing. And most important.

First, forget about using only your camera for sound recording. Buy at least Zoom H1 or something like it. Next. Boom Pole. Buy this first, period. You can adapt fisherman pole btw.


Go with Rode VideoMic for starters or Azden SGM-1X.

But professionals say... that I can't get anything useful below $500. And Azden is a crap, everyone knows it.
Here comes fun part. They are right again, from their standpoint. They need reliable stuff with best possible quality.
They don't want to process or equalize sound in post. It saves money if you are shooting constantly.

If you ask, everyone answer that $15 chinese shotguns are crap. They are, generally. They are not very reliable, sound quality is not top notch.
But placed on boom pole in right position this chinese mike can be much better than top Sanken mounted on camera in much larger distance.
So.. Placement is first thing, microphone is second. problems with cheap mikes are noise and frequency response. So, avoid very cheap mikes.
And Azden is still a crap... From professional standpoint, may be. Not very releable, may be. But about 98% of sound guys never made any measurements.
And most conclusions are about specific models. Using brand to tell about quality of specific item is plain wrong today.
So, if you see someone telling you that Brand X is complete crap just ignore this completely.

So... Better get boompole or mount lavalier of your actors rather than spend hundreds on top mike and mount it on camera.
Cheapest suitable solution is... Rode VideoMic ($150) + pair of cheap wired lavaliers ($20)
(you can replace electret element to Panasonic WM60A if you want really good sound).
Or good chinese pen type supercardioid or hypercardioid microphone with XLR (look at ebay) + boom pole (two monopods combined are also ok).
Plus Zoom H1, of course (XLR mike requires minimum H4n or DR-100).


On GH1 you can mount almost every lens ever made if converter exists.
Most undervalued lenses came in Minolta MC, Olympus OM and Canon FD mounts (as they are not actual anymore).
Pentax is top in the price, generally, as you can mount very old lenses even on latest bodies, including low end.
So... I suggest to select two mounts and buy converter for each of your lenses.
Two mounts just allow you to save money and widen lens selection.
Small problem. It is very hard to find all necessary manual wide lenses for GH1 (2x crop). Most of manual lenses start at 28mm, 24 price is bigger and 20mm is even more pricey (and it is just 40mm normal lens on GH1).

So... If you want to go primes my current personal suggestion is:

  • 14mm F2.5 Panasonic Pancake

[ 14mm Samyang F2.8 Pentax ($380) moved to reserve to fact that it is very good and very sharp, but generally require video processing due some distortion present. ]

  • 28mm Vivitar F2.0 28x FD ($100),
  • 50mm SMC-M 1.7 Pentax ($60) or 50mm Canon F1.4 ($70),
  • 85mm Samyang F1.4 Pentax ($270).


Due to 2x crop, primes only solution is not optimal, as you have gaps.

Most populat zooms are:

  • Tokina 11-16mm F2.8 in Nikon mount ($600) and
  • Tamron 17-50mm F2.8 in Pentax or Nikon mounts ($400). Note that you need adapters with ability to control aperture for zooms!

Added - other option is 14-54mm Mk II Olympus zoom + Panasonic 43 to m43 converter (total about $450). But beware of wired focus control in this case. Old zooms. Vivitar Series 28-90mm F2.8-3.5 is also very good beast. Despite its varifocal nature. FD, OM or MC version can go as low as $20-40. You can go with this zoom and 14mm for starters and shoot amazing footage.

I want to add here two-touch old, long zoom Kiron/Vivitar 70-150mm F3.8 + matched 2x converter (in FD mount). But professionals say... that you need at least Zeiss, Leica or Canon L glass to shoot proper footage. Generally here they are wrong. This lenses are very good, but not necessary to shoot amazing footage. Cheapest suitable solution is... Vivitar Series 28-90mm F2.8-3.5 + 14mm pancake (total at about $420 with converters). But this is little extreme.


I suggest to start from Cokin holder with stackable hoods. It is cheap, and very handy.
Next, you could buy proper Matte Box. Always buy one with both French flag and side flags. Again, use Cokin filters (I know only one seller who sells Matte Boxes with Cokin filters from $110 to $150). Not only such MB cheaper, it is also much lighter, aspeciall with two ND filters.

But professionals say... 4x4 filters and big brands matte boxes is a must. I do not agree here. It is better to have mattebox and filters that you use rather than cool pricey thing with no filters for it.

4x4 filters are not very common thing on ebay, price is high. Most Cokin ND filters are made from optical plastic and I do not see any big problem with this. You can find glass ones, as well as good glass CPL filters.
Cheapest suitable solution is... Coking holder with 4x stackable hoods + set of ND filters and two CPL polirisers (about $100-140 total, price of one 4x4 ND filter)

SD cards.

You need at least two SD cards.
No less than 8Gb and no less than Class 10, Sandisk or Transcend. Never ever save money on your SD Cards.

P.S. Will be updated later.
P.P.S. Remember that this is purely personal suggestions.

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Page last modified on June 15, 2011, at 02:59 PM