This post is all about the 5 items you need to start building your beginner vlogging starter kit. These days, anyone can be a vlogger! The picture quality on smartphones lately is unreal, and almost everyone has one in their pocket.
We shot our first four YouTube videos using an iPhone 11, and were so impressed with the picture quality when we played the videos back on our TV. (Check out one of our favorite iPhone-filmed videos to see what I mean: Golden Gate Hike – Batteries to Bluffs Trail to Marshall’s Beach!)
That said, we definitely understand the desire to branch out and buy a separate vlogging camera (and maybe some other gear) to take your vlogs to the next level. Last month, we purchased the first few items in our vlogging starter kit.
In this post, whether you’re building your vlogging kit with a new camera or the smartphone you already have, we’ll share the top 5 items every content creator should include in their vlogging starter kit.
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1. A camera & lens combination
Other popular vlogging cameras we considered were the Canon PowerShot G7X Mark II, and the Sony ZV-1. We’ll be publishing a blog post soon detailing the reasons we chose the M50 as our vlogging camera, so stay tuned for that!
[RELATED POST: Canon EOS M50 for Vlogging: First Impressions]
This one is obvious — you need a smartphone! For our first few vlogs we used the iPhone 11, and highly recommend it. The iPhone’s back camera has the ability to shoot wide and ultra-wide, which is great for vlogging or wide landscape shots. The main camera has an f/1.8 aperture and a 26mm equivalent focal length, and the ultra-wide camera has a f/2.4 aperture and 13mm equivalent focal length (which is a 120-degree field of view!).
These days, you can even buy camera lenses that will attach to a special case for your smartphone if you wanted to.
2. An SD card (at least 32 GB)
Next, you’ll need an SD card in your vlogging kit for your camera to store your photos and videos. We’d recommend something in the 32-64 GB range.
We have two 32 GB memory cards, and recently found that one card will get us almost two vlogs’ worth of footage. Right now we’re primarily vlogging a few hours of hiking, and shooting 100-200 photos in RAW.
[RELATED: Our first vlog with the Canon EOS M50.]
If you were heading out to vlog for an entire day, and/or shooting a lot of photos in RAW, we’d recommend having at least 64 GB available to be safe. We like to split our storage capacity up onto two cards instead of keeping one bigger card, since you never know when a card may unexpectedly become corrupted.
Honorable mention: Depending on what computer you plan to edit your photos and videos on, you may need to pick up a USB-C memory card reader. We currently edit on a 2015 Macbook Air that has a built-in SD card reader, but when researching the new Macbook Pros we realized they don’t have a built-in reader, so we’ll have to pick up a USB-C reader when the time comes to upgrade our laptop.
Since iPhones have built-in storage, you can skip picking up a memory card!
For both camera and smartphone vlogging, we do recommend an external hard drive, since video files can take up a lot of storage on your phone. When we shot our vlogs on an iPhone, we would transfer the files from the phone to our external hard drive, and then delete the files from the phone to free up storage space.
We’ve been using an old Toshiba 1TB hard drive that Brit already had lying around for a few years to back up photos. Once it’s full, we’ll most likely pick up the 2 TB Seagate Backup Plus Slim — the Wirecutter listed it as their favorite and noted it’s fast, portable and lightweight.
3. A mini-tripod
The rest of these items are technically “nice to haves” for your vlogging starter kit, but they’re really nice to have. In our experience these make a big difference in ease of filming and vlog quality.
The first is a flexible mini-tripod. These are useful for getting establishing shots or hands-free shots, or getting a wider selfie angle by holding your camera or phone a little further away.
For any of the cameras we mentioned in #1, we’d recommend the JOBY Gorillapod 1K.
This tripod has a weight capacity of 2.2 lbs, so it’s not ideal for some of the larger-bodied DSLRs or mirrorless cameras, or really large, heavy lenses. But our M50 with the kit lens only weighs about 1.25 lbs, so it’s nice and secure on this tripod, whether we’re holding it by the tripod legs or setting it up for a hands-free shot.
This Gorillapod also comes with an iPhone attachment, so you can get two attachment options for the price of one.
If you’re planning to use the tripod for a smartphone only, we’d recommend the smaller Gorillapod: the GripTight ONE GorillaPod Stand. This tripod is ultra lightweight and portable — it weighs just 2.9 oz.
Like the larger 1K version, the tripod legs are flexible, which is really useful for getting a wider selfie shot, or setting your camera up just about anywhere!
4. An external mic
There are a few options for external mics depending on your preferred size and budget. The most popular options seem to be from the brand Rode. We went with the Rode VideoMicro, which for us was the right combination of size and price.
The VideoMicro is really lightweight, weighing in at 1.5 oz (42 grams). Can you tell we have a theme going on here? Since our camera and lens are relatively small and portable, we wanted a mic that was also lightweight for our vlogging kit.
Another key for us was that this mic doesn’t need its own battery. It plugs directly into the camera, which makes the setup incredibly easy (and you can’t forget to turn it on)! It also comes with a sturdy shock mount and windshield. We’re really happy with the purchase so far.
In our experience, an external mic is especially key when vlogging on an iPhone and is likely to significantly improve the overall quality of your video. We never had an external mic for our iPhone, and in a couple of our vlogs you can tell that the background noise really takes over the audio, making it difficult to hear what we’re saying.
The Rode VideoMicro can be used with a smartphone, but from what we’ve read, it requires a 3.5mm TRS to 3.5mm TRRS Patch Adapter Cable, to make the mic work with a phone’s headphone jack. If you’re using an iPhone without a headphone jack, we’ve read you’ll need the Apple Lightning to 3.5 mm Headphone Jack Adapter as well.
For a comprehensive overview of using an external mic on a smartphone, check out this article: How to Record Professional Audio on an iPhone or iPad with an External Microphone.
5. Extra battery life
Your needs for extra battery life will vary depending on which camera you decide to add to your vlogging kit. For our M50, Canon claims that the battery life is good for 130 minutes of continuous shooting (assuming use of auto mode, no zooming, external mic, switching focus, etc.).
The first weekend we took our M50 out to shoot a vlog, we had to switch to the iPhone halfway through because we hadn’t charged the camera fully before we left. Our second time taking it out (fully charged this time!), the battery died about 2.5 hours into our hike.
The M50 uses Canon’s LP-E12, which you can purchase from the Canon site for a whopping $60 each! If you plan to use your camera for longer than 2-3 hours in a day, you’d need to buy at least one or two extra batteries, essentially raising the camera price by $60-$120. We weren’t crazy about that idea.
Instead, we recommend picking up some extra LP-E12 batteries from Amazon for a much more reasonable price. We purchased the highly recommended Wasabi Power LP-E12 Battery (2-Pack), which also comes with a dual charger.
Our experience has been that the iPhone’s battery will last longer for shooting video than the M50, but you’ll still end up mostly draining the battery over the course of a few hours. For smartphones, we’d recommend an external battery pack and a long charging cable.
This is another item that you might already have — but if not, we recommend picking up a power bank from Anker. We’ve purchased a lot of Anker products from Amazon over the years and have yet to be disappointed with any of them.
There are a lot of different sized power banks to choose from. We like the Anker PowerCore 13000 Portable Charger (in black) for travel and day-to-day use, because it will get us 4-5 iPhone charges on one charge. Note that the larger they get, the heavier they get!
With that, we’ve covered the top 5 items that you need to start vlogging!
Have you started building a vlogging starter kit? Let us know what items you love in the comments below!