Building the Best Starter Filmmaker Kit (for Under $2,500)

Many beginners come into the gear conversation with a budget to get a camera. What often gets forgotten is that the camera is only one part of a bigger kit and sometimes it isn’t even the most important one. Lighting, audio, and more can help your footage look better than a just having an expensive camera can get you.

If you are looking for a “complete” shooting kit with camera and all the necessary accessories to take control over your imaging you’ll want to look at this setup from filmmaker Jeremy Pope-Levison. He figured out a setup that’ll run less than $2,500 total.


One way to save money on the camera is to not worry about having the latest and greatest. Oftentimes last-gen tech is still quite excellent and they often can be found for a steal, especially if you are able to find them used.

Panasonic Lumix GH5 Mirrorless Camera

Image Credit: Panasonic

The recommendation today is the Panasonic GH5. This was a killer camera when it came out thanks to some impressive specs and video quality. That hasn’t changed. The GH5 is more than enough camera for many shooters. Just look at these specs:

  • 4K 60p in 10-bit 4:2:2 All-I
  • Unlimited record times without overheating
  • Dual SD card slows
  • Assist tools
  • Versatile lens mount

You might not have the latest and greatest autofocus, but for around $1,400 new it is a great deal.


Lenses are an area where you will definitely be able to find some used deals and with adapters you have an insane amount to choose from. You also don’t need a whole set. One good zoom lens will be totally fine.

Adapters are an area to examine and if you check out speedboosters you can make the most of some optics.

Combining the Viltrox Speedbooster for Canon EF lenses to Micro Four Thirds cameras with a Canon 24-105mm f/4 lens can get you an extremely versatile kit for under $400.

Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art Lens for Canon EF

Image Credit: Sigma

The speedbooster is a huge help since it’ll improve the effective aperture to f/2.8. Nothing to complain about with that focal length and aperture combo.

You can also just find a simpler 17-55mm zoom. There are a lot of great lenses out there. Some of his favorite picks are these:

Don’t be afraid to look used for glass!


Without taking control of your lighting your footage will often just look amateurish. That’s what makes adding a few lights super important even as a beginner.

Ideally, you’ll have enough for a three-point lighting kit – that’s a key, fill, and hair/accent light.

amaran 100d Daylight LED Monolight

Image Credit: amaran

There are plenty of good LED lights on the market that won’t break the bank:

Getting a couple lights will help a ton in actually creating a look. Also, you’ll likely want some modifiers and a decent softbox is an easy choice for your key.

For your fill, you can use the included reflector, diffusion, gels, or whatever else it takes to get the right look.


All newcomers should be spending more time and energy into getting good audio. In many cases it can be more important than the image.

People will forgive a clip that is slightly off, but they will immediately turn off a video with bad audio.

With shooting scenarios where you can get set up and take your time, say an interview, you should look into a full second system with a separate audio recorder. This will give you the best quality.

Sennheiser MKE 600 Shotgun Microphone

Image Credit: Sennheiser

Pick up a shotgun mic, something like the Sennheiser MKE 600 will do, and hook it up to a dedicated recorder like the Zoom H6 or F3.

I would go for the F3 personally, but if you are thinking you’ll need more inputs for multi-person shoots then the H6 might be a better bet.

For more run-and-gun shoots you’ll want something a bit more flexible and portable. In that case an on-camera shotgun microphone and body pack audio recorder will work well.

Image Credit: Zoom

You need to monitor your audio to make sure it sounds good. You wouldn’t record video without a preview display would you? Get a nice set of headphones.


You need a good tripod for video. And, this is an area where you should absolutely consider investing in something good up front. Tripods could easily last for decades if you get the right one.

SmallRig AD-01 Heavy-Duty Tripod with Fluid Head

Image Credit: SmallRig

Starting with a tight budget you can find some good options. One being the SmallRig AD-01 Heavy-Duty Tripod.

It may not have the load capacity of the bigger and better tripods, but it’ll easily handle a mirrorless rig.

I would not recommend going ultra budget on this one as you will quickly become annoyed and likely just end up not using it.


This is where over time you’ll end up spending a surprising amount of money. It usually isn’t the camera or lens or other big-ticket items that will make your life easier it is the combination of a bunch of smaller accessories.

Here’s a sampling of things you need:

SanDisk 512GB Extreme PRO SD Card

Image Credit: SanDisk

A note on the computer front. You likely already have something that’ll work even if it isn’t the most powerful.

Creating proxies and working with smaller resolutions at first can be a huge help. Plus, good computers are getting affordable. An M2 Mac mini is around $600-700 and will actually perform very well.

If you are hoping to stay under that $2,500 figure we mentioned earlier you will want to look used. You can find a lot of this gear for cheap that way.

Also, build up your kit slowly. Start with the key pieces and add over time. It’ll help you budget. You don’t need to spend all this money up front to start making good videos.

[source: Jeremy Pope-Levison]

Order Links:

  • Panasonic Lumix GH5 Mirrorless Camera (B&H, Amazon)
  • Viltrox EF-M2 II Canon EF Lens to Micro Four Thirds Speedbooster (B&H, Amazon)
  • Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art Lens for Canon EF (B&H, Amazon)
  • Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens for Canon EF (B&H, Amazon)
  • Godox VL150II Series LED Video Light (B&H, Amazon)
  • SmallRig RC 120D Daylight LED Light (B&H, Amazon)
  • amaran 100d Daylight LED Light (B&H, Amazon)
  • SmallRig RA-D55 Parabolic Softbox (B&H, Amazon)
  • Sennheiser MKE 600 Shotgun Microphone (B&H, Amazon)
  • Zoom H6 Handy Recorder (B&H, Amazon)
  • Zoom F3 Portable Field Recorder (B&H, Amazon)
  • Deity V-Mic D4 Mini On-Camera Shotgun Microphone (B&H, Amazon)
  • Tascam DR-10L Micro Portable Audio Recorder (B&H, Amazon)
  • Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Headphones (B&H, Amazon)
  • SmallRig AD-01 Heavy-Duty Tripod (B&H, Amazon)
  • Impact Heavy-Duty Air-Cushioned Light Stands (2-Pack) (B&H)
  • Kopul Premium Performance 3000 Series XLR Cable (B&H)
  • SanDisk 128GB Extreme Pro UHS-I SDXC Memory Card (B&H, Amazon)

Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate partner and participant in B&H and Adorama Affiliate programmes, we earn a small comission from each purchase made through the affiliate links listed above at no additional cost to you.

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