As many of us are shopping for our newest gadgets for storm season, we start getting a flurry of questions from now to March on “What should I buy for chasing this year” camera and gear type of questions. Instead of answering those individually, we’re compiling our recommendations for 2016 in one place.
These recommendations are cameras and accessories we personally recommend for filming storms. We are brand atheists, and don’t ascribe to fanboyism — we simply like tools that work well.
With that said, we don’t believe you’ll go wrong with any of these. So let’s dive in.
The Budget Option(s)
GoPro Hero 4 Silver – ~$350In terms of ease of use, you aren’t going to beat a GoPro. You have the ultra wide, wide, and narrow video fields of view which will allow you some flexibility and the video quality is perfectly fine for a more budget oriented option.
A Newer Smartphone
No seriously. If you own an iPhone 5S or higher, or a newer Android Device the video capabilities on those phones is more than good enough. You seriously shouldn’t complicate things beyond that if you own either — as your video quality won’t see a marked increase with anything up to almost $1000. You’ll need to splurge on some accessories to get the most out of your kit though (see later).
Canon T5i – $695
Canon’s camera video options are pretty limited as you go up in price, but the good thing is their video capabilities tend to be roughly equivalent (without a hack) up the lineup in the non-cinema cameras. So if you want a camera with good stills/video performance but dont’ want to break the bank, you should start here.
Sony RX100 IV – ~$1000
This little powerhouse is a point and shoot with serious capabilities. Incredible stills image quality plus just great video quality all packed into a little package. The fixed lens may be an issue for some, but it also simplifies your purchase since you won’t need to ever worry about buying any new gear.
Panasonic LX100 – $700
This little 4K powerhouse shoots some incredible quality 4K video — not far remved from its older brother the GH4. On top of that, good stills performance and a small package make this a big buy. The fixed lens, like the RX100, may be an issue for some…but its a good idea.
Panasonic GH4 – $1200
I have shot on the Panasonic GH system for 5 years now, and when it comes to video performance and features, along with sheer quality, this 4K shooter still outranks most everything out there under $5000. With the price having fallen $500 in the last year, the GH4 is now an absolute steal. (Lens Recommendation: Panasonic 12-35)
Blackmagic Pocket Cinema – $1000
If 4K isn’t your thing, and if photos aren’t a concern, the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema camera delivers incredible 1080 video quality at a great price. You’ll need to buy some lenses for this beast, but you won’t be let down with its performance — you’ll get some incredible images out of this thing, but beware the crop factor. (Lens Recommendation: Panasonic 12-35)
Sony FDR-AX33 – $1000
If you still want traditional camcorders, the Sony FDR-AX33 is a good option for 4K capabilities. There are still some advantages to camcorders in terms of ease of use and the ‘automatic’ modes, so if you aren’t quite ready to go full manual this is a good option.
I Just Want To Impress My Friends Shooter
Sony A7SII – $3000
The A7SII is a great camera with a lot of options. It boasts slightly superior video quality to the GH4 below, and packs many useful video features into its body. You are paying a bit of a premium for low light performance with the A7SII’s full frame sensor, which is really the big draw of its pricetag. If you have the money, the extra dough isn’t the worst investment to get that extra bit of high powered video performance as the sunlight fades. (Lens Recommendation: Sony 24-70)
The Essential Accessories
AmazonBasics Tripod – $75
Surprisingly good quality for the price. A nice low cost option.
Manfrotto Video Tripod – $200
Another good sturdy option.
Rode VideoMic Go – $75
A good lower cost option that will improve your video’s audio quality quite dramatically.
Rode VideoMic Pro – $195
The next level up, outside of paying several hundred bucks this is the best blend of price and quality you can find.
Rode VideoMic Me – $60
Want to boost your Smartphone’s audio gathering capabilities? This is your best bet.
OlloClip Active – $100
If you are using an iPhone 6/6S (plus too), the Olloclip active gives your iPhone a GoPro-esque wide angle and a 2x telephoto. Both lenses are high quality and the build is superior.
Some Notes on Building a Video Kit
The first tendency you are going to have is to spend your entire budget on the camera and leave no room for a good tripod and microphone. Don’t do this!
Whatever camera you buy, make sure you have enough in the budget to buy a microphone and a good tripod as well. In the case of the interchangeable lens cameras, you are going to need to buy a lens as well that’s going to work for you.