Wondering how to become a content creator on a budget? Take advantage of the season as Black Friday deals are upon us, creating an excellent opportunity for budding filmmakers and content creators to get the best values on the gear they need to get started or level up their game.
After twenty years of professional content creation in every genre imaginable, I know two things. One, gear is expensive, and two, thanks to the advancement of technology, it's more affordable than ever before for young would-be filmmakers to get started.
Many content creators begin using their smartphones, which are great tools for Instagram, Tik Tok, and other social media platforms. However, as time goes on, creatives want more granular control over what they're filming and recording. They want to color grade, add special effects, and possibly build better storylines to further entice their followers, fans, friends, or future film school professors.
This is where I come in. I'm going to help you save some time and money. So let's jump in, and I'll share with you some gear choices that beginners can get relatively cheap, especially during Black Friday deals time.
Looking at cameras under $1.500, I know many want great autofocus, autofocus tracking, color science, etc., and you can find a few, but it depends on what kind of content you're looking to create. You can buy a Canon EOS R7 for $1,499 (body only) or $1,899 (with the kit lens), and you will be able to shoot great photos and videos. You also get access to the extensive Canon RF lens lineup, but they get expensive quickly. However, it's a solid choice, as is the Canon EOS RP, which you can get with a kit lens for only $1,199. The RP is the more affordable option and not a bad place to start your filmmaking journey while enjoying Canon's color science and autofocus.
However, suppose you're really looking to film cinema-quality footage. In that case, your best bet is to start off with the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K, which will run you $1,295 body only. It uses Micro Four-thirds lenses, so you can go on Amazon or eBay and find some amazing lenses at reasonable prices. I will suggest a couple in a moment.
The thing that separates the BMPCC 4K from the others, besides the price, is the ability to shoot Raw footage that you can color grade to a professional level using the free and included DaVinci Resolve Studio editing suite software. Also, many pros will tell you, you're going to learn more about being a filmmaker and cinematographer with the BMPCC 4K than most other cameras. It truly films cinema-quality footage for a ridiculously low price point. You can read all about our experience with it in our BMPCC 4K review.
As far as lenses I currently use, my go-to, which is super affordable, is the Meike 35mm F1.4 Large Aperture Manual Focus Prime MFT Lens for just $89. Yes, it's manual focus, which takes a little more work, but the end results are fantastic and you can't go wrong at this price point.
The second lens is a considerably more expensive autofocus lens, but when you're ready, you will thank me. For around $800 the Panasonic LUMIX Professional 12-60mm Camera Lens, Leica DG Vario-ELMARIT, F2.8 lens produces some of the best footage I have seen for a lens at this price and is worth saving up for once you've mastered the Meike lens. Also, the Lumix lens is made in a collaboration with Leica, which is known for its quality.
When filming or creating content, one aspect that new creators often overlook is audio. The quality of your audio can make or break a project. Your videos can't be compelling or informational if your intended audience can't hear what you're saying.
In this case, a good boom mic can be helpful in the right conditions, but you really want a pair of wireless mics. There are many now on the market from DJI, Rode, Movo, and others, but based on my experience and price, you can't go wrong with the Movo WMX - 2 Duo ($149) or the Rode Wireless Go II ($199).
Both will provide you with pro or near-pro-quality audio recordings, a solid range, and the kind of features and tools you need to record crisp, clear audio for a sub-$200 price.
Okay, you've got your camera and audio, but now you need some good SD cards or portable SSDs to store and handle all the content you're creating. Over the past three years, we have used every kind of storage card and device to handle our footage, and as far as SSDs go, our Samsung T5 and T7 have been our most consistent go-to's. With honorable mentions to OWC Elekton 1TB for $149, PNY 1TB Pro Elite for $170, Lacie 1TB for $87, and Seagate 1TB One Touch Portable for $109, all of which have part of our rotation of dependable SSDs when filming.
The Samsung T5 ($157) and T7 Shield ($150), though, have been our workhorse SSDs and, at the moment, are currently on sale, so now is a great time to buy either of the two. Also, if you're purchasing any SSD, make sure to grab a mount to connect to your camera as it makes everything easier. MagicRig makes an affordable SSD mount for just $25 that more than does the job.
We also recommend several fine SD cards available on the market, from Sandisk 256GB Extreme Pro SDXC card ($51) and Sandisk Extreme Pro Cfast 2.0 128GB ($140) to Lexar's 128GB SDXC ($37) we use for photos and 4K video. We also recommend the PNY 256GB Elite X-Pro60 ($62), which has been a great find for us.
We would be remiss not to mention AngelBird's AV Pro1TB CF Express card ($449), which has also become a mainstay but is cost prohibitive.
Always remember to secure and back up your footage.
Kit odds and ends
To round out your content creator starter kit, you should always remember we live in a battery-powered world. You can head to Amazon and find great deals on after-market batteries, battery grips, mounts, and cages.
You will find that Amazon, B&H Photo, and Adorama are great resources for gear. Adorama and B&H also have fantastic used cameras, lenses, and gear that is in excellent working condition and can save you a good amount of money.
Based on our suggestions, you should be able to build your first content creator kit for under $2,500, which will help you create pro-level content in no time. If you're really frugal, you can get your kit together for just under $2,000, but sadly, camera gear becomes addictive, so be mindful of your budget.
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Mark has spent 20 years headlining comedy shows around the country and made appearances on ABC, MTV, Comedy Central, Howard Stern, Food Network, and Sirius XM Radio. He has written about every topic imaginable, from dating, family, politics, social issues, and tech. He wrote his first tech articles for the now-defunct Dads On Tech 10 years ago, and his passion for combining humor and tech has grown under the tutelage of the Laptop Mag team. His penchant for tearing things down and rebuilding them did not make Mark popular at home, however, when he got his hands on the legendary Commodore 64, his passion for all things tech deepened. These days, when he is not filming, editing footage, tinkering with cameras and laptops, or on stage, he can be found at his desk snacking, writing about everything tech, new jokes, or scripts he dreams of filming.