I get lots of questions and requests for suggestions and recommendations about the tech gear I use to capture and blog the reports I'm doing out on the road.
(This report was updated December 26, 2016)
I'm always adding various things so here's my latest update on the gear I like to take with me.
You can read the story on how this blog came about here. On this page, let me describe the tech gear I take with me on-the-road. I change and add gear all the time so this is current as of the last update note above.
My main video camera: The JVC-GY-HM650U Pro HD Mobile News Camera. This is a full featured professional grade video camcorder. Fully supporting the needs of news journalists, local and network TV and professional videographers, it offers built-in GPS, Wi-Fi connectivity allowing FTP file uploads and remote control and remote viewing Apps for both iOS and Android. Also, a dual codec recording capacity allows for simultaneous HD + SD or HD + 1/4 HD capture for web delivery.Three 1/3″ 12-bit CMOS sensors are each capable of a max resolution of 1920 x 1080. A 23x Fujinon autofocus zoom lens shoots long and wide angles and is operable by manual functions. The camera offers F11 sensitivity at 2000 lux as well as a built-in 3-position ND filter. Connections include HD-SDI and HDMI. Comprehensive recording options consist of MPEG-2, AVCHD and SD and Proxy H.264. Two SDXC/SDHC slots are available for dual-backup, continuous recording. A viewfinder, LCD display and built-in microphone provide additional flexibility in on-the-go shooting. I've had this unit for the past four years and find myself using it less and less…. keep reading for why.
Go Pro Cameras -I love GoPros. so called “action cameras” that, since their introduction nearly a decade ago now, have turned the photographic world upside down. I own two of them. The one that gets the most use is the new GoPro Hero5 – Black Edition. I use it for both video and stills. It is waterproof, dustproof, shoots in 4K HD and is able to be strapped to anything from a helmet to the side of my Roadtrek motorhome. It uploads my videos and still to both my cellphone and the cloud and it can be contrrolled from as far as 30 feet away with voice commands via a small remote. This camera gets wide angle perspectives that are great for action shots. There are lots of mounts. I have a a small suitcase full of them. I also have a GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition, which I have mounted on a pole on my fishing kayak.
I use two other video cameras – a lot.
The iPhone 7 Plus with the DJI Osmo Mobile. Apple's big iPhone has a greatly improved camera and I find myself shooting more and more videos with it. The Osmo is like a Steadycam, providing smooth shots that eliminates the herky-jerky motion of most handhelds.
A Video Drone – I have the DJI Phantom 4. This is my second and latest drone. I traded the first one in a year or so ago but added this one in November 2016. The drone technology has improved dramatically and this awesome quadcopter comes with its own 4K camera and a built in gimble for steady shots . It's all controlled by an amazing app from my iPad and it practically flies itself and even returns to home with the push of a button or in an emergency when the control signal is compromised.
Truth told, I am shooting much more video these days with the iPhone 7, the Phantom 4 and the Go Pro Hero 5 than I do with my big, stand alone professional video camera. I still use that for full length video work but the improvements in imaging on smaller cameras has been so amazing that using them sacrifices very little, especially when my video work appears primarily in the Web.
Wireless Microphone System – I use the Sennheiser EW 100-ENG G2 Wireless Lavalier Microphone System, with BodyPack Transmitter,Plug-on Transmitter, Camera Receiver on my big JVC camcorder. This system is a workhouse for professional videographers and news crews. It provides audio recording in the most varied recording situations, from as far as 100 feet. The ME 2 clip-on microphone is virtually invisible. The extremely small SK 100 G2 bodypack transmitter and the SKP 100 G2 plug-on transmitter as well as the EK 100 G2 camera receiver feature nine frequency banks with four directly accessible presets each. I have cabling that will let me use it with the GoPros.
My main DSLR Camera – The Canon 5D Mark III with an 24-105 mm lens. Awesome photos, great HD video. I bought this to do still and video but now use just for stills. Since this is a bit tricky to focus for video out in the boonies, I now use dedicated video and still cameras. This camera produces superbly detailed imagery with immense low-light sensitivity Some bigname photographers say it is one of the finest DSLR cameras on the market. It's the most expensive camera I've ever bought, I'll tell you that. This first-class sensor features many of the same new technologies as used by professional Canon cameras to maximize each pixel’s light-gathering efficiency. I am very impressed with the highly detailed, rich images it gives. It produces images with a maximum resolution of 5616 x 3744 pixels. I'm taking several photographic classes and slowly learning how to use manual instead of automatic. But it's a great camera. I use an EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens for wildlife shots, with a Extender EF 1.4X III as needed for distance shots. I also have a Rokinon 14mm Ultra Wide Angle f2.8 lens that I use for astrophotography.
My secondary DSLR Camera: As a backup, I sometimes use the new Canon PowerShot SX50 HS 12.1 MP Digital Camera with 50x Optical Zoom. I have been stunned at the capabilities of this camera and especially how clear and crisp that 50X zoom is in getting me up close to wildlife and nature shots. This is much lighter than the 5D and is seriously vying as my always-carry camera. Because I like photographing wildlife – big, dangerous wildlife like wolves, moose, bison and bear – I need a good telephoto. I can't afford $10,000 for a huge telephoto for the 5D so I sometimes rely on this camera for my wildlife close ups.
Tripods – I use the GlobeTrotter Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod Kit (Titanium). It offers a sturdy, compact tripod that extends to 64.2″, supports up to 26.4 lb, and folds down to just over 16″. The GlobeTrotter is actually two camera supports in one: a foam-cushioned, removable leg attaches to the center column to convert to full size monopod. The tripod's legs can be spread independently with two-position leg angle stops. A spring-loaded hook is located in a recess at the bottom of the center column, allowing you to hang a heavy object from it for additional stability. The ball head offers separate head and pan locks, a 360° pan index, and an integral bubble level. An Arca-Swiss style quick release plate with a 1/4″-20 camera screw is included in the kit, along with a durable carry case with a shoulder strap for storage and transport. I carry it in my Roadtrek at all times and use it for my DSLR and video cameras.
I also have the Manfrotto MVH502A,546BK-1 Professional Fluid Video System with Aluminum Legs and Mid Spreader. I use this mostly for studio work. Sometimes I take it in the RV but this is a heavy (15.8 pounds), professional grade tripod that isn't suitable for lots of fast work out in the field. It offers professional features such as high-performance variable fluidity and a counterbalance setting designed to match the weight of the most popular cameras and their accessories as external monitors, lights or microphones. The 502 head has a pre-set counterbalance of 4kg (8.8 lb.), but is able to support equipment of up to 7kg (15.4 lb.).The 502 head has two Easy Link connectors to allow an external monitor or other accessory equipment to be fitted directly on the head.
Field camera bag– After years of searching, I've found the perfect gear bag for my DSLR camera, back up camera, lenses, wireless mics and batteries. It also holds my 15-inch MacBook Pro. It's the Tamrac 5788 Evolution 8 Photo/Laptop sling backpack. This bag can be carried as a backpack and as a sling pack on either shoulder. The pack has a Triple Access System that allows gear to be accessed through the front door and through 2 side doors. It can carry and protect my 5D DSLR camera with up to an 8.0″ lens attached, several additional lenses, a flash and accessories. My SX50 also fits in the bag. The rear, completely foam-padded laptop pocket holds my 15 inch MacBook Pro. For quick access to the camera gear, I slip off 1 shoulder strap, swing the pack around to the front, and open the side door to access my main 5D camera with the lens attached. To get at additional equipment, swing the pack around to the opposite shoulder and open the side door on the other side of the pack. When worn as a backpack, the 2 foam-padded shoulder straps, waist belt, and chest strap distribute the weight. I got the one briwn one. It also comes in black.
Computers – At home, I use the 3.GHz six-core Mac Pro, with 32 GB of RAM. On the road, it's the new Apple MacBook Pro MLH42LL/A 15.4-inch Laptop with Touch Bar (2.7GHz quad-core Intel Core i7, 512GB Retina Display), Space Gray. Quite simply, this new MacBook Pro the finest computer I have ever owned. I use this for podcasts, video editing, blog posts, photo editing…everything. It uses the new USB 3 connectors but I have a bunch of adapters to use my older USB 2 cables.
Video editing software – I use Final Cut Pro X. Fast, powerful, full featured and able to handle 1080p HD video without breaking a sweat.
Photo editing software – Adobe Photoshop CC Plus Lightroom. I am a member of Adobe's Creative Cloud, meaning I get all updates free. It costs me $10 a month. Learning to use this software can take time, fortunately there are options through services like lynda.com, where you can take online Photoshop or Lightroom classes.
Portable hard drives – HD video files are huge. So I carry two Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex 1TB external hard drives when I travel. make files for each shoot, organize them on one FreeAgent and never worry about using up my MacBook Pro storage. I use the other drive for backup.
Portable Memory Card Backup – I shoot a lot of images and video on SD cards. So I have the Nexto DI ND2901 750GB Portable Memory Card Backup Storage. Maybe it is overkill but after driving across the country, staking out a moose in a cold mountain rain all day, I don't want to take any chances of erasing or losing my images.
Cloud backup – I back up all my files from the Mac Pro and the MacBook Pro in the cloud as well, using the iDrive service for $59 a year. I am very paranoid while traveling about losing my photos or videos while on a shoot. iDrive backs up all my photos, movies, music and documents automatically. All I need is an Internet connection. Total peace of mind.
Backup Power – There are so many things that depend on battery power. Cameras, smartphones, tablets, laptops. I bring the Mophie Powerstation XL with me on all trips. It charges anything that I have that has a USB connector.
Smartphone – I use the iPhone 7Plus with 128 GB. I've had every iPhone since they came out and just keep coming back to them. Nothing is better. I've used many of the Android phones, of which I most like the Galaxy S7 and the Google Pixel
Tablet – The 12-inch iPad Air 2. The 4g Verizon model. Great for apps on the road. Check my PC Mike NBC-TV reports for my favorite apps.
My Mobile Network – Verizon Wireless. Verizon, I've found, offers the best and reliable nationwide coverage. I've had AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile. None came close to Verizon in terms of coverage while on-the-road, offering 3 and 4g coverage and reliability. If no WiFi is available, I use the Verizon MiFi wireless modem to set up a 4g hotspot on the Verizon network. That lets me use my MacBook Pro for web updates, uploading photos and videos.
Cell Phone Booster – I am often camping in the boondocks, off-the-grid in a state or national forest, many times at the far edges of cellular coverage. To make a better connection, I use the Professional Grade weBoost Drive 4G-X + RV Trucker Essentials Kit – 470510-RV. It comes with a big external antenna. It is most powerful in-vehicle booster certified in the US and Canada and enhances 4G LTE, as well as 3G and 2G network signals, up to 32x.
Security System – We have recently added the Canary System to our RV. It's a camera that transmits live video, audio, temperature, humidity and air quality readings from our RV to our smartphone. Here's a blog post and video I did that shows it in action.
Ham radio – I'm a long-time licensed amateur radio operator (K8ZRH) and I always have a rig with me. I travel with the ICOM IC-V85 two meter FM hand held transceiver and, permanently mounted, the Kenwood 144/440 MHz TM-V71A transceiver. I use amateur radio for emergency communications, weather monitoring and just plain chit-chatting with locals on their repeaters. I did a blog post on installing ham radio in an RV. For HF use, I have the Elecraft KX3 transceiver. For antennas, I carry along with me the Buddipole Deluxe package. I did a video of me trudging into a remote area to set up the Elecraft and a Buddipole. I also use a 40-foot telescoping mast and affix a from Spiderbeam. Here's a video of the Spiderbeam in action with my RV.. It has often had me go from no bars to three bars. To help pull in the maximum signal, I substituted the small little stubby antenna that comes with the Sleek with the Wilson Dual Band – 800-1900 MHz Magnet Mount Antenna. I have it mounted at the top of the vehicle and I snaked in the coax cable around the drivers door.
My Dash Cam – I have really enjoyed using a Dashboard Camera. Here's a blog post I did on dash cams. The unit I use is the Windshield Witness. I bought mine for around $200 and chose a 32 GB memory card, good for about 11 hours of recording. A big feature for me in choosing the one I got is that it has a flip down video screen that can show me what the camera is seeing. The mount also can swivel the camera around, to capture video of the inside of my RV. And it also picks up and records audio.
Portable Podcast Gear – We have a full podcast studio at our sticks and bricks house in Michigan. But I also have a portable studio that we carry with us and set up in our RV as we travel. For an on-the-road mixer, I use the Mackie 802VLZ4, 8-channel Ultra Compact Mixer. I carry and use the Roland portable digital recorder for field interviews and to record a final mix of the show. And for microphones, we use two of the Audio-Technica BPHS1 Broadcast Stereo Headset with Dynamic Boom Mic. I do the podcast final edit in Adobe Audition.
Clothing – I wear coats, shorts, jackets, vests, pants and shirts made by ScottEVest, an American maker of tech-enabled very high quality casual clothing that is known for having an abundance of pockets for all the tech gear one would want to carry around. The company started with a great photographer's vest and for well over a decade, I proudly wore mine all over the world. Now, Scott Jordan, the guy behind the company, makes a whole line of mens and womens clothing. They are stylish and comfortable and perfect for all my gadgets and gizmos.
Weather Station – On my sticks and bricks home, I have the Davis Vantage Pro 2 weather station. It is accessible via a webpage so I can see the conditions at my home from anywhere. It is mounted on the roof of my house and measures wind, rain, barometer, temperature. Connects wirelessly to a console inside and trhe rooftoop gear is partially solar powered.