With the advent of online video platforms, there’s a ready audience for anyone interested in making video content. That means, everyone who knows how to work a camera and use movie editing software can be as much a filmmaker as the guy who helmed this year’s biggest summer blockbuster. Yes, your goofy nephews who make short skits on YouTube just make way less money, but they’re still quite legitimate.
If you’re buying gifts for some budding filmmakers in your life, here’s a list of some of the things you might want to peep at. Yes, buying video equipment takes a little loosening of the wallet (it’s an expensive endeavor), but if you’ve got the means and you want to give them something they can appreciate, good filmmaking equipment can prove to be long-lasting investments that can serve them well throughout their, hopefully, fruitful career.
GoPro Hero7 Black
No, not all filmmakers need a powerful DSLR. For relative novices still learning their craft, in fact, even a humble device like a smartphone with a good camera or the GoPro Hero7 Black could prove a smarter fit. This season’s version of the action cam is as rugged and waterproof as ever, all while boasting 4K recording at 60 fps, complete with a software-based image stabilization that, the outfit claims, can replicate the same results as a hardware gimbal by predicting your movements and correcting for camera shake to make the transitions from each frame to the next extremely smooth. Yes, those will require some sophisticated algorithms, but given the company’s track record in the space, we imagine they’re doing it right. Other features include 249 fps slo-mo at 1080p resolution, voice command support, and livestreaming to Facebook Live.
While the GoPro is good, it suffers one glaring flaw: electronic stabilization, no matter how good, just doesn’t compare to doing it with an actual gimbal. And that’s the selling point for the DJI Osmo Pocket, a really tiny camera with a built-in three-axis gimbal. Seriously, if most videos your recipient shoots will require them to hold the camera by hand, as opposed to mounting it somewhere (something the GoPro excels at), this might be an even better option. It records 4K video at 60 fps, takes 12 megapixel pictures, captures audio using two onboard mics, and even lets you plug in an external mic using a 3.5mm adapter.
All modern filmmakers need a drone. Well, if they like incorporating bird’s eye view shots into their videos, anyway. The second-generation Mavic retains the same portable folding design and three-axis gimbal as its predecessor, all while gaining a Hasselblad L1D-20c camera, giving it a 20-megapixel 1-inch CMOS sensor, adjustable aperture (f/2.8 to f/11), and 10-bit HDR video, so you can capture even more professional-looking aerial shots. If that improved video performance isn’t enough, it can also stay in the air for up to 31 minutes between charges, fly at speeds of up to 72kph, and perform a variety of autonomous flight modes, all while sensing and avoiding obstacles all on its own. Sure, it’s pricier than most of its competitors, but if you’re looking for the best consumer drone of the moment, it’s hard to find something that will outperform DJI’s collapsible quad in almost every metric that matters.
If you’re buying a camera for someone who’s both into videography and still photography, the Panasonic Lumix G9 offers one of the most robust feature combinations for both applications. For photographers, it has a full-resolution 20.3 megapixel sensor that can capture JPEG and RAW images with excellent clarity, as well as a multi-shot high-resolution mode that can create genuinely stunning composite 80-megapixel in-camera images. For filmmakers, you get some of the good stuff from Panasonic’s video-focused mirrorless lineup, including shooting 4K at 60 fps, Cinelike-D and Cinelike-V color profiles, microphone and headphone jacks, and unlimited recording time. It also five-axis in-body image stabilization, so you can take blur-free photos and videos without doing much extra work, apart from sporting one of the best control layouts of the current crop of compact cameras we’ve seen.
Blackmagic’s entry-level camera for videographers, this mirrorless-sized unit brings the Australian outfit’s digital movie expertise into a much more compact and affordable format, making it an attractive equipment for young emerging filmmakers still in the process of evolving their own craft. Armed with a full-size micro four-thirds image sensor, the camera can record 4K footage at 60 fps with 13 stops of Dynamic range and 1080p at 120 fps, complete with support for 10-bit ProRes and 12-bit RAW recording, so you can capture in uncompressed format for maximum flexibility during post-production. It has four onboard mics for recording audio along with your footage, although there’s also a mini-XLR and 3.5mm input for those who prefer audio from their own microphones, with a large five-inch touchscreen in the rear for easily framing every shot.
Canon’s first full-frame mirrorless camera, the shooter can capture footage in 4K UHD at 30fps and record in 10-bit 4:2:2, ensuring more defined colors for those performing color grading and chroma key during post-production. If you want faster frame rates, you can also shoot 1080p in 50fps and 720p in 120fps. Other features relevant to video enthusiasts include dual-pixel autofocus (5,655 selectable points) that’s available even in 4K, separate exposure and button customization settings for video, an adjustable rear LCD, and a multi-function touch bar for quickly adjusting settings on the fly. It’s a good camera for beginners, too, with just enough features to keep from overwhelming novice users.
If the EOS R is a bit out of the budget, you can also opt for Canon’s entry-level mirrorless camera, which combines a 24.1 megapixel APS-C sensor and DIGIC-8 image processor, allowing you to shoot 4K footage at up to 24 fps, 1080p at 60 fps, and 720p at 120 fps. It’s not the best offering in the category and omits some features users might want, such as the lack of in-body image stabilization, but for novices looking for a camera they can use to easily learn the ropes, this really will do, especially with its built-in EOS Utility support over Wi-Fi, which enables live viewing, precise focusing, and settings adjustment remotely from a computer.
Filmmakers who specialize in shooting nature scenes can probably appreciate a camera with powerful zoom. After all, using one will let you capture footage of erstwhile dangerous animals from relatively safe distances, apart from letting you get shots of various scenes without having to put yourself in dangerous positions. Well, if you’re buying a camera for one of these people (and anyone else who works with a high zoom lens regularly), this year’s Nikon Coolpix P1000 is definitely worthy of a glance. A veritable cross between a telescope and a camera, this bridge shooter comes with an integrated 125x optical zoom lens, allowing you to take close up shots of different subjects at great distances, all while coming with a macro mode that lets you shoot as close as 0.4 inches from the front of the lens at a wide-angle position. It can take those footage at resolutions of up to 4K at 30 fps and 1080p at 60 fps, all while shooting 16-megapixel stills.
A handheld gimbal for smartphones, the device allows you to use that versatile gadget in your pocket to record videos without the shake and jitter that traditionally accompany mobile phone footage. Throw this in a bag and be ready to capture special moments without having to worry about shaky hands and sudden movements, allowing the motorized gimbal to handle all the stabilization your footage needs, whether you’re standing still, running, or riding a skateboard. Even better, it comes with an auto-follow feature that lets you simply choose a subject and have the gimbal autonomously adjust the phone’s angle to ensure that subject remains in frame the entire time. It comes with 15 hours of battery life, so you can shoot for most of the day without having to scurry to find a wall outlet, allowing you to just plug back in as soon as you get home.
Truth be told, there’s no shortage of camera bags out there, so it’s really tough to pinpoint any one as being better than the other. As such, the best one for every single individual will really depend on their specific needs, the equipment they frequently carry, and the kind of filming work they usually do. If you’re giving one as a gift, though, it’s usually best to pick up something that’s general enough in function, so that it should work for a variety of individuals. Manfrotto’s Street Backpack definitely fits that bill, with its reasonably portable size, heavily-padded walls, and interchangeable dividers allowing you to organize your gear in any way you see fit. And yes, it can be configured to fit a large DSLR camera with a big lens attached, so you can have your main equipment all set up, ready to pick up and capture footage at a moment’s notice. Features include external straps for tripods and similar accessories, quick-and-easy top access, and an ergonomic back panel to keep things comfortable when it’s strapped on your shoulders.
DJI’s handheld gimbal for DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, the device is designed for holding with one hand, so you can put your other hand to work fiddling with the camera, adjusting the lens, or framing the shot better using the integrated the Focus Wheel. It uses powerful, high-torque motors to actively stabilize shots, with the ability to pan a full 360 degrees, tilt between 185 and 90 degrees, and roll a full 360 degrees to ensure each shot is correctly framed no matter how much you’re moving. In fact, the outfit claims, the gimbal can do all that even while mounted on a wheeled platform that’s speeding at up to 75 kph, all while supporting rigs of up to 22 pounds, so it should handle almost any DSLR and lens combination. Suffice to say, if you’ve got a serious emerging filmmaker in your shopping list, this may very well be the gift to make them look at you with puppy dog eyes.
The newest iteration of Aputure’s popular LED light, the 120D Mark 2 now boasts a hopping 30,000 lux of brightness at half meter distances and a whopping 135,000 lux at the same distance when combined with the outfit’s Fresnel mount. Yes, it also draws a lot of power at 120W, but it’s nonetheless impressive, considering the amount of light it produces can make it look like you’re shooting in broad daylight, no matter the time of day. It supports DMX lighting function, allowing the light to replicate various types of effects, including lightning, fireworks, and more, complete with the ability to input your own effects, so you can tailor its function exactly to your production needs. Other features include a silent 18db fan that keeps the rig cool throughout extended shooting sequences, a granular dimmer (lets you make small adjustments on the fly), and a wireless remote that can work at distances of up to 100 meters.
Manfrotto’s entry-level fluid head, the accessory is designed to work with DLSRs, mirrorless cameras, and compact camcorders, allowing you to execute cinematic moves while keeping your camera mounted on the tripod. It has independent locks for pan and tilt, so you can keep pan controls available while removing any chance of accidental tilting and vice versa, with continuously adjustable drag, so you can change the smoothness of the movements on the fly. A weight capacity of 15.4 pounds should support most camera and lens setups, while the spring-loaded counterbalance can handle weights of up to 8.8 pounds. At the price, it’s also one of the most affordable fluid heads you can find, especially with the capabilities it brings to the table.
When your recipient already has their favorite camera, a good lens they don’t yet have in their stable can prove to be a really valuable gift. Obviously, you’ll have to know find camera they use and what lenses they’re keeping a close eye on, then make your purchase based on the answer to those questions. We’re Canon SLR users out here and, if it was us doing the shopping, we’re likely picking up either a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens or a Canon EF 24–105mm f/4L is II USM Lens. The former gets you one of the most versatile focal lengths available, with a continuously moving stepping motor enabling precise and smooth control over the focus plane, while the latter is a versatile everyday lens that provides a broad angle view, allowing you to use it in everything from 24mm wide angle shots to 105 mid-telephoto to every shot in between.