My Tech Gear
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 April 12, 2014)
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 below.
My main video camera: I use the Canon XA20 Professional Video Camera. I love this camera. I got this in the fall of 2013 and have found it to be the perfect ”run-and-gun” camcorder, suitable for HD ENG work (Electronic News Gathering), event coverage, interviews, scenic shots, how-to-videos and documentary filmmaking. The camera features a 1/2.84″, 1920 x 1080 CMOS sensor that captures video at various frame rates up to 59.94p, including a 24p mode for a more cinematic feel. The integrated Canon 20x HD Optical zoom lens has a 35mm equivalent zoom range of 26.8 to 576mm and features an 8-bladed iris to render highlights in a more natural manner. It uses professional XLR audio inputs for two channel recording. I use an attached shotgun mic and a wireless mic on the two inputs.
Back-up Video Cameras -Two GoPro Her03 + Black Edition video cameras . Waterproof, dustproof, HD and able to be strapped to anything from a helmet to the side of my Roadtrek, these cameras ges great wide angle perspectives great for action shots. There are lots of mounts. I have a helmet mount for biking and a suction cup mount for slapping on my motorhome or any flat surface. One of tjese cameras is dedicated to my drone, see below.
Wireless Microphone System – Good sound is essential. I use the Sennheiser EW 100-ENG G2 Wireless Lavalier Microphone System, with BodyPack Transmitter,Plug-on Transmitter, Camera Receiver. This system is a workhouse for professional videographers and news crews. It provides video 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.
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. Bt it’s a great camera.
My secondary DSLR Camera: Lately, I’ve also added 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 geting 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 rely on this camera for my wildlife close ups.
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 banckpack. 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.
Computer – The MacBook Pro with Retina display. Quite simply, this is the finest computer I have ever owned. Mine is the 15-inch version, with the 2.7 GHz Intel Core i7 processor. I have 16 GB of RAM and 750 GB of flash storage. Because there are no moving parts, the the solid state flash drive boots up remarkably fast. About 20 seconds does it.
Video editing software – I use Final Cut Pro X. Fast, powerful, full featured and able to handle 1080p HD video without breaking a sweat.
Portable hard drive – HD video files are huge. So I carry the Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex 1TB external hard drive. I make files for each shoot, organize them on the FreeAgent and never worry about using up my MacBook Pro storage.
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 5S with 65 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 S 4 and the Note 3.
My 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.
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. I’m hoping to add an HF model some day soon.
GPS gear – For my Roadtrek, I use the Rand McNally TripMaker RVND 7710. This has a seven inch screen and can be synced to a central site to reflect the latest in construction issues and detours. Made specifically for RVs with lots of RV-specifica data and Points of Interest (POI), it is the most accruate and easy-to-follow vehicle navigation system I’ve yet to use. For my long bicycle rides and off road exploring, I use the Garmin Edge 705. Though made specifically for cycling, it slips off the handlebars mount easily and can be carried in my pocket for hiking.
My Drone – Lately, I’ve also been having a lot of fun with my own personal drone. It’s really not a drone in the sense of the military drones we keep hearing about but is a radio controlled quadricopter, the Phantom 2 with a Zenmuse H3-2D Gimbal that acts as a steadycam for the GoPro Hero 3 camera it carries. I use this for aerial shots to show scenic views and overhead perspectives of the places I blog about. I have an FPV (First Person Video) monitor attached to the flight controller that transmits back the image the camera is recording. The camera has a built in compass and GPS navigation control.
Google Glass – I am one of the Google Glass Explorers, those Google invited in to experiment with its new wearable computer and am indeed experimenting with it in my Roadtreking reporting. The device is expected to go on sale in last spring 2014 but right now, it is used by me primarily to record video and shoot still pictures. I did a review on Google Glass for my PC Mike blog and already have done a couple of videos with it for the blog and will do many more as the 2014 travel season gets underway. Ot has lots of apps that work with it, projecting information on a little screen right in front of your right eye. It’s connected to the Internet and uses your voice to open and close apps, share messages on social media, record messages and to answer questions you verbally ask it just as you would type them with a keyboard on the Google search engine.
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.