5 min read

Ask Jaron: What’s the best freelance video kit under $6,000?

Ask Jaron: What’s the best freelance video kit under $6,000?

Hey, I’m Jaron, the founder and CEO of Storyhunter. What you may not know is that before I got this awesome office job (my first), I worked for more than a decade as a freelance documentary filmmaker and video journalist, roaming the planet making video stories. I worked mainly for Current TV, TIME, and The New York Times, and specialized in producing videos in repressive regions like North Korea, Pakistan, Gaza, and Iraq. I really love solving big creative challenges, especially involving video production, and so we created this column for you to throw me any question related to the art or business of video production.

This week’s question is from an anonymous Storyhunter:

If you could put together a gear kit for $6,000 what would it include?

It really depends on so many factors: your shooting style, where your content will ultimately be distributed, who you’re doing the majority of your work for, and even physical things like the size of your hands. What matters most is finding gear that is really comfortable to use, can work for a variety of different productions, and produces great results for you. In other words, you’re looking for comfort, versatility and quality.

Two caveats before you check out where I would spend my $6000. First, almost as soon as I publish this, it will be outdated. Technology moves fast! Second, there is no such thing as a universal gear kit. Every filmmaker’s preferences are different. My advice is not to buy anything until you’ve tried it in the field first. You should borrow or rent the gear first, test it, and only after you fall in love with it should you buy it.

This gear kit can work for filmmakers interested in solo video journalism, mini docs, branded video content, explainer films and just about any basic video gig that might come your way. You can use this kit to step in and do sound, be an assistant cameraperson, or do an entire video production on your own.

So here goes:


  • Canon XF-300 ($3499)
    Cameras are tough to choose from, especially because every year or so, new ones are coming out, making previous models obsolete. So on this budget you want something that won’t break the bank, and is good value. There are good Sony and Panasonic cameras in this price range, but if I had my choice I’d have to go with the Canon XF-300. I like it mainly because I’ve spent a lot of time shooting with Canon cameras, I’m just used to them. The picture quality and lens on this camera is really outstanding. I like it because it has 60p, 30p, and 24p frame rates, is good in low light and it just shoots beautiful HD footage. It also has two XLR inputs for your Sennheiser mics so you don’t have to buy any extra components. At less than 6 pounds, it is not too heavy, but is heavy enough for good, stable handheld shooting. In any case,you’re going to be selling the camera in 2–3 years, so just get something that you like using, and I promise this cam will make you very happy.
  • 2x CF SanDisk 256GB Extreme Pro ($300)
    You will need some extra memory for the high res video files. This should cover you.
  • 2x Canon BP-975 Battery ($44)
    Always have 2 extra charged batteries for those long days in the field.


  • Sennheiser ME66 Shotgun Microphone ($452)
    I’m starting here because a great shotgun mic is probably the most important item in your kit. Audio is what separates the amateurs from the pros. I love this mic — it is so amazing and so versatile. It’s great for run and gun video journalism, sit down interviews, and attached to a boom pole. I’ve owned mine for nearly a decade and it still works like the day I bought it. I will never go on a shoot without it. There’s a reason it’s still a top seller. This mic is a workhorse that will never let you down. The only issue is that it can sometimes be too hot. If you aim in the wrong direction, or if an airplane is flying a hundred miles behind your subject, you will pick up everything, so remember to adjust the levels according to the environment.
  • Sennheiser Lavalier Microphone ($629)
    As you can see, I’m a bit of an audiophile and I guess a bit of a Sennheiser-phile too. This lav mic kit is great, sturdy, and will never let you down. It comes with a military standard waterproof case. Use this with your shotgun and your audio will be first class. If you’re shooting run and gun style, I typically would put this mic on myself and leave it on over my shirt to capture more 360 degree audio that the unidirectional shotgun mic will not pick up. Then, if I find an interview subject, or someone to follow around for verite scenes, I’d transfer it to them.


  • Manfrotto MVH502A Head with/546 Tripod ($489)
    I have a confession to make. I hate shooting on tripods, but sometimes they are necessary. This is a great one. Just heavy enough, but not back breaking in case you have to schlep it around.
  • LaCie 2TB Rugged Drive ($140)
    I have a love/hate relationship with my Lacie hard drives. They somehow survive high speed car accidents in Iraq, but not leaving them in a storage facility. This one is my favorite mainly because it is sturdy and relatively lightweight. Lacie claims you can drop them from 47 inches high. Don’t try 48 inches!
  • Headlamp ($40)
    If you’re shooting solo you can attach this to the cam and of course to your head, for low light filming situations. I like this lamp because it has a dimmer so if you need to film a an interview at night you can adjust the light so it doesn’t blind your subjects.
  • Electrical tape ($4)
    You could invest in gaffer tape but i find just a small roll of electrical tape does the job every time. It’s very useful for fixing things but also for getting creative! Use your tape to put GoPros and mics on tree branches, stop signs, and slow moving vehicles. Get some gorilla tape if you can. Otherwise any electrical tape from your local hardware store will do.
  • Basic Leatherman tool ($77)
    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used my Leatherman on productions. Everything from screwing on base plates for tripods, cutting through wires, to helping fix things for other people. It’s one of those things that the one time you don’t bring it, you’ll need it.
  • Earplugs ($3)
    Sometimes the best video shots require you to expose yourself to deafening audio. Get these made by Mack’s or any foam ones will work.
  • Sony Production Headphones ($100)
    These are really good bang for your buck, and will help you monitor sound so that it’s always crisp and clean.

If you can afford it…

  • GoPro and waterproof case ($400 + $50)
    This is an extra item that you probably won’t need for every production, but I think having one in your tool kit will allow you to think outside the box and take more creative risks. It’s better to put a GoPro in harm’s way than your $3500 Canon.
  • iPhone ($800)
    I use the iPhone to help me frame shots before I take out the big cam. It can be also be used as a second cam in emergencies.
  • Kata Backpack ($200)
    I always like using a backpack so that I can move fast in crowds and tight spaces, and to evenly distribute the weight when I’m not shooting. I’ve had my Kata bag for 10 years. These are military grade packs, with tons of functional pockets, adjustable compartments, and other bells and whistles. Plus, they offer a legitimate lifetime warranty which you probably won’t need to use since these bags will outlast most of us.

What do you think? What equipment can’t you live without?

Check out what some other members of the community have in their bags, and stay tuned for a comprehensive equipment list from our very own video strategist.

Have a question you’d like to ask Jaron, or something to add to his answer this week? Tweet at us (@storyhunter) or send us an e-mail.