getting_seedAre you looking for portable and versatile equipment for shooting HD video?  Consider using a small DSLR or four thirds camera, two broad range zoom lenses, and a small external mic.

I use the fairly small Nikon D5100 and two relatively inexpensive zooms, the 18-55mm kit lens, and the 70-300 telephoto.  This gives me all the range I need for group shots and close-ups.

In many situations the on-board mic of the D5100 will not give good results, but I have found that the Sennheiser MKE 400, a small external mic which mounts in the D5100’s hot shoe, works great!

I took the video above with this rig, without using a tripod.  If you concentrate on keeping the camera steady when you’re using the 18-55 lens, you can get very steady shots.  If you want to video with the 70-300 zoom you will definitely need a tripod, though.  I prefer to travel light, so I leave my tripod at home and reserve the broad angle lens for video and the telephoto for close-up stills.  Within seconds I can change my lens to shift from one shooting range to the other. A mixture of broad angle video scenes spiced with candid close-up stills gives me plenty of story-telling material.  I recommend this lightweight HD video kit for the amateur photojournalist.

Here are a couple of video shooting tips for the D5100:

  1. Set exposure with the AE-lock button.

    If you set the camera for automatic exposure you will find that it doesn’t adjust quickly enough to changing light conditions.  Your video will fluctuate too noticeably between lighter and darker, which is unacceptable.  If you press the automatic exposure lock button (AE), which lies pretty close to your thumb for right-handers, you can stop this fluctuation.  Of course, you will need to avoid panning into a much darker or lighter area; otherwise the locked AE setting will cause either over or under exposure.

  2. How to begin a video clip with the D5100:

  • Choose your exposure mode and lock it with the AE button (see step above).
  • Pull the monitor view lever toward you.  This shifts the viewfinder from the eyepiece to the monitor on the back of the camera.
  • Press the red video button, which lies near the shutter button, but slightly closer to the front of the camera.  Press it again to stop filming.

Below is a slideshow of my stills from the Family Gardening Experience.  Click on the little square with four arrows at the bottom right of the video frame to see the photos full screen.

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