Overhyped camera gear you absolutely shouldn’t buy – unless you know why you need it
When I first watched this video, I thought “well, I’ve got like five of those things on his list and I find them quite useful”. And you’ll probably feel the same way. But you have to remember who this video from Raphael Ludwig is aimed towards. Mostly beginners.
Every time a new piece of gear is announced, there’s a lot of hype and people new to photography and filmmaking get sucked in by it. Every new filmmaker thinks they have to have a gimbal, a motorised slider, a drone and a bunch of other stuff simply because they don’t know any better. And, well, the video’s right. Most of the time they don’t need it.
Raphael’s list looks pretty controversial at first. After all, many of these are tools that a lot of filmmakers rely on daily to create footage that pays the bills and keeps a roof over their heads. But, again, it’s targeted towards newbies. And if you have a solid need for any of these (and you know why you need them), then absolutely get them.
- Camera Sliders
- Speciality Lenses
- Camera Bags
- Camera Cages
- Small Gimmick Tripods
- LUTs and Presets
I don’t necessarily agree with everything Raphael says in the video. Sure, things like gimbals aren’t magical devices that will suddenly let your handheld footage look like it was shot on a Hollywood budget, but a lot of the issues he points out specifically about gimbals are mostly down to operator error – a malady to which beginners are prone. But this applies to Raphael’s alternative, IBIS, too. It ain’t perfect.
Drones are definitely becoming a pain in many parts of the world for most people. The regulations surrounding drones now, the “qualifications” and permits you need, where you can and can’t fly, capabilities the drone must have, etc. make it difficult to really make use of them in the long term unless you’re really dedicated and willing to put in all the extra time and expense above and beyond the purchase price.
Camera sliders I completely disagree on. I think they’re probably one of the first tools a filmmaker should get after a tripod. They can be a fantastic way to create b-roll clips with some interest. Raphael recommends huge manual dollies in the video, but for most beginners, they’re not going to have the control to push those smoothly, nor will their camera rigs be heavy enough to offer enough resistance to give steady moves, even with practice.
Speciality lenses I do agree on, though. They’re great, but unless you have a real need for them, why get them? I see it all the time in Facebook groups… “Should I get a 35mm f/1.4 Art or a 100mm f/2.8 Macro?” and the answer is usually that they shouldn’t get either of them because if they’re asking that question then they have no idea what those lenses do, what they’re for or why they might need them. They also don’t mention what they already have so that people can help them discover what void either lens might be filling. Same goes for cameras. Stop jumping on the hype train and learn to use what you have and figure out what you actually need before you “upgrade” to the latest model with new bells and whistles you’ll never use.
Camera bags is a tough one for me, although I agree with Raphael’s point. Every bag is billed as “the last bag you’ll ever need” and it’s all bullshit. I’ve gotten rid of a few of mine recently and I still have about eight. And I need them all for different types of shoot. It’s taken me 20 years to find a set of bags that I actually really like, though.
Cages… Yes and no. I’ve got cages on all but two of the cameras that I use for video. They make it much easier to switch between handheld, tripod and that slider we don’t need. The only ones that don’t have cages are the vlogging camera (we’ll get to that) and for using on the gimbal that we’re also not supposed to waste money on. I’m in the fortunate position that I have several cameras for video, though. So, I can leave a couple of them permanently caged and rigged and ready to go at a moment’s notice with all their various doohickeys (microphone, field monitor, HDMI transmitter, etc) permanently attached. If you’re just shooting with a single camera, then having to set up and reconfigure a cage every time you use it can be an absolute pain.
Small gimmicky tripods. Yeah, there are a lot of small gimmicky tripods out there. I’ve never been a fan of the Joby Gorilla Pod. I’ve tried a bunch of them over the years that friends have owned and they’re just awkward and uncomfortable. I really didn’t see the benefit of the one Peak Design released that Raphael mentions in the video, so I never got one of those. But I do love my Manfrotto PIXI tripods. They’re fantastic for vlogging (told you we’d get back to that) and quickly setting down the camera for a short clip. They also help to make handheld footage stabilisation a little better when not using a gimbal (although you’ll still want a body with IBIS).
LUTs and presets… Just get a ColorChecker Passport Video, learn how to read your scopes and how the colour correction and grading tools in your software work and you’ll never need to spend a penny on LUTs or presets because you’ll know how to make any of them by yourself.
Do you agree with Raphael’s list? What would you add to it?
John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.