NITSAN SIMANTOV. PHOTOGRAPHER. FILMMAKER.

East Grinstead photographer and filmmaker Nitsan Simantov. Wedding photography and commercial video production in London and West Sussex.

Nitsan's Ultimate Camera Gear Mini-Guide!

An always-updating guide to choosing a kick-ass photography or filmmaking kit

This guide is here to save you time sifting through the internet for information. This is the gear I would choose for my own work and what I would recommend to others. If you're still not sure, join us on the Facebook group here [LINK] and ask for help.

Three-image panorama from the 5D Mark III and Samyang 14mm f2.8.

What you will find in this guide:

 Accessories:

  • Lighting kit (photo + Video)
  • Basic accessories (photo + Video)
  • Photography accessories
  • Audio kit
  • Video tripod and slider kit
  • Video camera stability

Video camera kits:

  • High budget AF+manual kit
  • High budget cinema-camera kit
  • Medium budget kit
  • Low budget kit

Photography camera kits:

  • High budget manual focus kit
  • High budget autofocus kit
  • Medium budget autofocus kit
  • Low budget autofocus kit

You can help support my blog and youtube channel by purchasing gear through the links below. It's the same cost for you, but I get a small commission from those websites. Thank you. :)

5D Mark III and Samyang 85mm f1.4

Canon 5D Mark III and Nikon 50mm f1.2

Why did I choose these items?

These kits are all based on my preferences. I want my camera kit to have:

  • Compactness. My kit must be usable in three configurations:
    1. Full-on video shoot, which means a big backpack and at least one huge case for lighting and camera supports.
    2. Fast-paced photo or video shoot, like a wedding. This would mean a single medium-sized backpack.
    3. Shooting for fun, so just a small camera and a lens or two, usually in a backpack or smaller bag.
  • Bokeh! (blurry backgrounds) - As much of it as I can get while staying within my weight limit and budget. This means I mostly use prime lenses, and usually just have one wide zoom lens in the kit.
  • Budget. Ideally both my photo and video kits will use mostly the same gear. At the moment I have two kits, the A7S kit for video and travel and the 5D kit for wedding photography. I will sell my 5D and move to a smaller camera when I find one that's suitable for professional wedding photography. I am waiting for a small reliable camera with dual card slots and a digital viewfinder as sharp as the 5D's optical viewfinder. Currently no such camera exists.
  • Speed of use. Any gear that wastes my time will not stay in my kit.

Canon 5D Mark III and Samyang 35mm f1.4.


Accessories:

Lighting kit: (Photo + video)

This continuous lighting kit is superb for both video and photography.

  • x3 Pixapro LED100D Mark II lights [Review]  - The king of reasonably priced lighting - £300 each
    [ Link to my review, with links to purchase below the video. ]
    Budget alternative: x3 DOF 50W or 100W LED lights - Super bright but more affordable - From £104 each
    [ eBay UK | eBay USA | Amazon UK | Amazon USA ]
  • x3 Aputure AL-H160 LED lights [review] - Nearly indestructible and bright with high color accuracy. Perfect as an addition to the larger lights, or just on their own as a travel lighting kit.  - £30 each
    [ B&H | Adorama | eBay UK | eBay USA | Amazon UK | Amazon USA ]
  • x3 Easy-open softboxes [Review] - Super soft lighting, but compact and fast to set up - £20 each in umbrella-stick-mount (more compact and provides a lot of protection to the lights from falling, rain, dirt, etc. ) or £50 each in Bowens mount (slightly faster to set up but a bit more bulky). If you have the budget then go for Pixapro's easy-open softboxes, about £100 each. They are superb and give better results due to the even brightness on the diffusion surface.
    [ eBay UK | eBay USA ]
  • x3 light stands - You know, for holding lights. - £15 each
    [ B&H | Adorama | eBay UK | eBay USA | Amazon UK | Amazon USA ]

Pixapros

Aputures

Lets see these lights in action. This video also shows many of the other items that I recommend in this guide, like the Manfrotto 535 tripod, iFootage slider, Gorillapods, Lowepro Pro Runner 450AW bag and the Sony A7S with the FE 55mm f1.8 lens.


Basic accessories: (Photo + video)

These are my favorite and most used camera accessories.

The huge Samsonite case.

My cat also likes Lowepro.


Photography accessories:


Video accessories - Tripod and slider kit:

  • Manfrotto 535 tripod [review] - Tall, lightweight and strong as hell. - £450
    [ B&H | Adorama | eBay UK | eBay USA | Amazon UK | Amazon USA ]
    Or the Velbon DV7000 - Strong legs that come with a basic fluid head - £80
  • Ifootage Shark slider [review] - The king of smoothness. - £500
    [ eBay UK | eBay USA | Amazon USA | ProAV ]
    Or the Konova K2 with Nitsan Flywheel - £230
  • Varavon 815FH fluid head - The best performance I have seen in any fluid head. - £80 (It needs to be sent to Fancier in China for an oil change, but it's well worth it. Otherwise the Jie Yang JY0506 is a nice alternative for £55.)
    [ B&H | Adorama | eBay UK | eBay USA | Amazon UK | Amazon USA ]
  • Manfrotto 438 leveling base - For leveling the head above your slider - £50
    [ B&H | Adorama | eBay UK | eBay USA | Amazon UK | Amazon USA ]
  • Manfrotto 520BALL bowl mount - Required for mounting the slider to the tripod - £40
    [ B&H | Adorama | eBay UK | eBay USA | Amazon UK | Amazon USA ]
  • x5 Giottos MH-621 quick release systems - The grippiest and strongest QRs I know of - £25 each
    [ B&H | Adorama | eBay UK | eBay USA | Amazon UK | Amazon USA ]

Video accessories: Audio

Budget alternatives:

  • Zoom H1 audio recorder - Great as a backup or main audio device. I prefer this over larger audio recorders. Simple controls, super compact and affordable. You can get multiple units and use them on multiple people with lavaliere microphones. - £60
    [ B&H | Adorama | eBay UK | eBay USA | Amazon UK | Amazon USA ]
  • HTDZ HT-320A microphone - Superb shotgun microphone for a very low cost. - £20
    [ eBay UK | eBay USA | Amazon UK | Amazon USA ]

Video accessories: Stability

  • Giottos Silk Road YTL 8353 tripod:

Video camera kits:

Video: High budget autofocus camera kit

This is what I would choose for my own uses. The option to shoot with autofocus allows you to shoot much faster and get shots that would be otherwise very difficult. It's also especially useful at any time when you can't see the screen easily or when shooting on a Glidecam. Note that for close up shots it's best to switch to manual focus, as the AF on Sony lenses can jitter a little when focused close at larger apertures.


Video: High budget "cinema" camera kit:

This kit is larger and has a full set of fantastic fast primes. Some people would prefer the "Cinema" versions of these lenses which have the exact same glass, but with gears to connect to a follow focus and a step-less aperture for smooth brightness changes, but I actually prefer the photo versions even when I'm shooting video. They allow me to focus by hand a little more comfortably. I don't use a follow focus anymore.

Don't be tempted by the E-mount Samyangs, they are far bulkier and are crippled because they can't use helicoid adapters, filter-holder adapters, focal reducer adapters, etc.


Video: Medium budget camera kit

  • Camera: Sony a6000 if you want the most bokeh with a lens turbo (no audio input so you'll need a Zoom H1). Panasonic G7 if you want 4K and an overall great budget camera. Olympus OM-D E-M5 if you want some crazy in-body image stabilization. - £300 to £600 / $500 to $900
  • Wide lens: Get the kit lens with the camera. They are great as basic wide angle lenses.
  • Portrait lens: The Helios 58mm f2.0 - £25 / $35
  • Helicoid adapter - Adapted lenses can focus much closer with this. - £25 / $38
    [ eBay UK | eBay USA | Amazon UK | Amazon USA ]
  • OR: Lens turbo adapter - Effectively makes your mirrorless camera full frame when adapting suitable lenses. = More bokeh! - £100 / $150
  • [ B&H | eBay UK | eBay USA | Amazon UK | Amazon USA ]
  • See accessories sections to complete this kit.

Here's an example of a video shot with a kit like this. This was done with the NEX-6, which is just a slightly older a6000.


Video: Low budget kit

  • Camera: Sony NEX-5n / Panasonic GH1 / Canon EOS-M - £150 body only or £220 with a lens
    The 5n has the largest sensor, superb color gradation and lovely 60p slow motion. The GH1 has a viewfinder and microphone input, and the Canon is just here because it's cheap and not bad.
  • Wide lens: Sony 16-50mm / Panasonic 14-42mm / Canon EF-M 18-55mm - If you didn't get this included with the camera then it's roughly £80 / $120
  • Medium portrait lens: The C-mount Fujian 35mm f1.7 (Buy together with an adapter!) - £25
  • Portrait lens: C-mount 50mm "f1.4" In reality it's only f2.5, but it's still a fun little lens. - £25
  • See accessories sections to complete this kit.

The Fujian on the NEX-6

Sony NEX-6 and the C-mount 50mm "f1.4"


Photography camera kits:

Photography: High budget manual focus kit

This is what I use. If I'm shooting something important, I'm shooting it with my manual focus lenses. After lots of practice, I can focus quickly and accurately. I definitely prefer manual focus if I have a very clear focusing system to look at. Without a precision focusing screen, no way.


 Shot on the 5D Mark III and Nikon 50mm f1.2. Click to view larger.

5D Mark III and Samyang 35mm f1.4. Click to view larger.

5D Mark III and Helios 85mm f1.5. Click to view larger.

5D Mark III and Samyang 85mm f1.4. Click to view larger.

5D Mark III and Samyang 85mm f1.4. Click to view larger.

Here is the kit I took with me to a wedding in Denmark and some of the images that I shot with it there.


Photography: Very high budget autofocus kit

Many people prefer autofocus for photography. This kit is superb, but it's also very expensive. See below for a more budget friendly autofocus kit.

  • Nikon D810 - More dynamic range and resolution than the 5D, but limited to Nikon-mount lenses. £2300
    [ B&H | Adorama | eBay UK | eBay USA | Amazon UK | Amazon USA ]
  • Nikon AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G ED - A high performance super wide angle - £1160
    [ B&H | Adorama | eBay UK | eBay USA | Amazon UK | Amazon USA ]
  • Sigma Art 35mm F1.4 DG HSM - A great performer - £700
    [ B&H | Adorama | eBay UK | eBay USA | Amazon UK | Amazon USA ]
  • Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.4G - Fantastic portrait lens - £1170
    [ B&H | Adorama | eBay UK | eBay USA | Amazon UK | Amazon USA ]
  • Nikon 300mm f2.8 - Insanely beautiful bokeh. Also the most expensive item on this list. - £4000
    [ B&H | Adorama | eBay UK | eBay USA | Amazon UK | Amazon USA ]
  • Nikon SB-910 AF - A top of the line flash. - £280
    [ B&H | Adorama | eBay UK | eBay USA | Amazon UK | Amazon USA ]
  • See accessories sections above to complete this kit.

Photography: Medium budget autofocus kit


Photography: Low budget autofocus kit

If this is not cheap enough, check out the low budget video kit above. Those cameras will shoot nice photos for about £150 plus a £25 lens.


You can help support my blog and youtube channel by purchasing gear through the links in this guide. It's the same cost for you, but I get a small commission from those websites. Thank you.

I'm still working on my "Ultimate Filmmaking" e-book guide, which will be 100% FREE and is going to be released as soon as I can finish it. Subscribe to receive the download link when it is released. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Left: 5D Mark III and Samyang 35mm. Right: 5D Mark III and Helios 85mm f1.5.


Ethics statement [LINK]
In short: I am an affiliate with eBay, Amazon, B&H and Adorama, which means I get a small commission when you buy through my links. This helps me create more great videos for you guys. I still always review items honestly, and I never accept any payments to shoot reviews. Thank you for your support.

Disclaimer:
I provide this information in the hope that it will be helpful, but all information given is just my honest opinion. I make no guarantees whatsoever. You are responsible for your own safety and how you use that information. All prices on this page are approximate.