The search for the perfect vlogging camera

In the last few weeks I have spent what seems an inordinate amount of time researching audio/video kit and post production techniques for this news site. I have locked myself away taking courses online; looked at countless video tutorials on Youtube; corresponded with numerous people who use these things on a daily basis in their work. It resulted in a number of insights into how I can improve workflow and quality of filming whether it is out in the field; filming professionally for a client or just simply making Vlogs like the one above.

In a recent interview with John Johnston he let slip that some people around the world do indeed look at this blog for hints and tips on the mechanics of how to make better films and audio. The reason I publish what I use is to encourage schools/ teachers to do the same. I realise that budgets are limited in the UK at present but I think it is important that the information is out there if someone wants to go down that path. I have been putting up film and video on the internet for decades – certainly well before the advent of YouTube and there has never been a better time for producing, filming, editing and distribution of media. The cost of good usable kit has come down and down. What is exceptionally expensive is the time it takes to learn how to make content using the kit.

What people often don’t realise, is that what may look seamless online, is in many cases, just the tip of a carefully honed workflow garnered from years of experience. The best vloggers on YouTube make it look easy – it isn’t. I struggle for months to get even the smallest things right(er) and to second guess how to go about doing things that will produce a quality outcome in terms of mechanics AND content for the cheapest possible price. I’m still working on the latter.

Recently I decided I needed a camera that was of the highest quality but also portable and ultra easy to set up in my “studio” at a moment’s notice. And because I’m a total control freak, one that I could swap out lenses on and modify every aspect of the ISO, Aperture and Shutter speed.

I could have used my iPhone but I prefer to take that out in tandem with my other point and shoot cameras that I use for B Roll on trips outside of the studio. During the winter months it’s very dark in my flat and to do a “vlog” from home I don’t always want the hassle of taking out lights etc to make a 5 minute film – the iPhone is fairly crap in low daylight but the Sony a5100 is pretty perfect to control under these conditions.

Before, if I wanted something of quality, I would end up spending 2 hours setting up and that could have taken minutes with a better, smaller camera. I like filming in natural daylight and so a small camera with manual controls, different lenses and a large sensor was essential. If I could pop it onto a clamp and just set up quickly – all the better. The Sony a5100 is perfect for that. I love its form factor and I like its superb ‘filmic’ quality as well.

The clamp I use is the PEDCO Ultra 360 – it’s an all-in-one clamp and ball head – cheap and very effective! The dual sound audio setup I used was to record into a iRig Pro DUO into my iPhone and then synch the sound with Plural Eyes Software. I then edit extremely quickly in Final Cut Pro and render out to 3 video service providers.

The photo below shows what the setup looks like in situ.


Posted on by leoncych in Adult Learning, advisory, Digital Makers, Educational Change, vblog, video

3 Responses to The search for the perfect vlogging camera

  1. Sandy Brown Jensen

    Good review, thanks! I have an Olympus OMDEM 5 but I hadn’t thought of blogging with it using a clamp like you have. I would have liked to have seen the sound set up as I didn’t understand all your terms.
    I have just ordered up the new OSMO video camera–have gotten a chance to read any reviews on that yet? There’s a good one on Engadget.
    Very interesting post–much appreciated from a rainy morning in Oregon!

  2. leoncych

    Hi Sandy – yes I’ve heard good things about the OSMO but again the sound might let it down. Depends on how fussy you are. Inside, on a stand, it should be fine. My sound set up is a pair of wireless Sennheiser G3 mics (not cheap but old)
    into an irig Pro Duo into an iPhone but a cheaper interface would be the iRig Pre ( I then post the audio onto Dropbox and download to my desktop. Then I use Pluraleyes 3 software ( to automatically switch out the good audio with the camera audio on the film. Again – Pluraleyes is not cheap but it gets the job done in seconds. Hope that helps.

  3. Sandy Brown Jensen

    Thanks for the run down on your kit, Leon, and for the links. It is always fascinating to see how other people have solved the problems as you have. I would love to see it in person, and if I ever get to England again (Last trip 2001 😥) I’ll look you up and ask for a guided tour of your studio.
    I would use the Olympus for studio work–that OSMO is for being a kid again😎Although I thought with the wireless lav as shown on the Engadget review, it sounded fine for field interviews. Thanks again for your obvious hard work on this post!