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Old December 4th, 2016, 02:06 PM   #1
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$4000 Challenge: Help Me Assemble a DSLR/GoPro Kit

Hi All:

In January, I'll be starting a new job as marketing/communications director for an environmental nonprofit association. I'll be a 1-man shop (which I'm accustomed to), and will be responsible for video production (among many other things), which this nonprofit has never really done.

As background, I'm an experienced video producer and editor (been doing this for a long time), so I'm not starting out as a noob. :-) In the past few years, I've shot mainly with a Canon 70D.

My budget is $4000. I'd really appreciate getting other opinions on how I should spend it! The key is VERSATILITY. I want a set of gear that can cover almost any situation, including...
• still photography (for both web and print)
• shooting outdoors (e.g. building trails in the mountains)
• shooting indoors (events, meetings, training sessions, trade shows, etc.)
• sit-down interviews with 1 or 2 people (maybe even 3 on occasion)
• stand-up, on-the-fly interviews (for example, at events)
• outdoor interviews (e.g. up in the mountains)
• podcast production
• action videography (e.g. following people on horseback down a mountain trail)
• shooting timelapses

Here's the kicker: I spent several hours putting together an initial gear list, with a Canon 80D at the center. But after I'd "spent" the $4K on this DSLR-based kit, I had a big second thought.

Keeping in mind that much of the video I'll produce for this nonprofit will be shot outdoors—in the wilderness—with a lot of hiking, trail building, cutting trees with big crosscut saws, and the like...I began to wonder if I wouldn't be better off building a production kit around several GoPro Hero 5's?

Now don't get me wrong: I know a DSLR will shoot vastly better still photos. And better video. And I know a DSLR will do vastly better in low light. For these reasons (and many others) I don't want to sacrifice having a DSLR in my kit.

At the same time, GoPros have come a long way. Their still photo capability is improved, as well as video performance. And the idea of being able to have several cameras is VERY appealing (lots more options for editing!) And keep in mind that—for marketing purposes—I'll rarely shoot outdoors in anything but nice, sunny weather. (So I won't be doing much, if any, low-light shooting.)

You might ask, "Why not get an 80D as well as 2 or 3 Hero 5's?" My answer would be, I could do that—but then I wouldn't be able to get all the *other* production equipment such as lighting, audio gear, etc. (See list below)

This has all resulted in a somewhat existential question for me as a video producer: is it possible to produce all the video I'd ever need (including interviews) with GoPro's only? (Keeping in mind that 100% of the video I shoot is for web—no broadcast.) Have GoPro's gotten good enough that they'd work for the web-only video needs of a small nonprofit organization?

Would it make sense to assemble a production kit with a basic DSLR (something like the Canon T6), plus several GoPro's?

Or am I better off going with a full DSLR production kit (around a better DSLR like an 80D or even possibly a 7D MkII)...and just try to set aside $500 of the budget for a single GoPro?

Below is the original list I put together—all of this comes in at just under $4,000 at B&H prices.
For comparison, here's a link to "The Ultimate GoPro 5 Kit" by Richard Harrington (centered around 5 GoPro Hero 5's and a pile of accessories and mounts):
https://photofocus.com/2016/11/25/th...e-gopro-5-kit/


Your opinions/ideas appreciated!
Scott
-----

CAMERA
Canon 80D DSLR w/18-135mm lens
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens
Canon ES-68 Lens Hood
Canon EW-73B Lens Hood
Vello BG-C10 Battery Grip for Canon 80D
Canon LP-E6N Lithium-Ion Battery Pack (3)

TRIPOD
Manfrotto Befree Live Video Tripod Kit

AUDIO
RodeLink Wireless Microphone Kit
Rode VideoMic Pro with Rycote Lyre Shockmount
Auray WSW-VMP Windbuster for Rode VideoMic Pro
Zoom H4n Pro 4-Channel Handy Recorder
Zoom APH-4nSP - Accessory Pack For Zoom H4nSP
Zoom RC4 Remote Control for H4n
Polsen OLM-10 Omnidirectional Lavalier Microphone
Polsen OLM-20 Dual Omnidirectional Lavalier Microphone
Pearstone Accessory Shoe Adapter
On-Stage CM01 Microphone Stand Adapter

LIGHTING**
Genaray SpectroLED Essential 360 Bi-Color LED Light
Flexfill Collapsible Reflector 38" Gold/White
Canon Speedlite 430EX III-RT
Vello Bounce Dome Diffuser
** I'm sure some would spend a lot more on lights, but I've found the single LED panel works great for controlled, indoor interviews, and I also have a large softbox I'll contribute to the cause. :-) Plus I'm good at improvising with cheap lights as well.

ACCESSORIES
Lowe Pro SlingShot Camera Bag
Watson 4-Hour Rapid Charger
Panasonic Eneloop Pro Rechargeable AA Batteries
SanDisk 16GB Extreme Pro memory Card
SanDisk 64GB Extreme Pro Memory Card
VF-4 Universal LCD Viewfinder
VF-4 Universal LCD Viewfinder Extension Bracket
Zacuto Eyepiece Chamois
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Old December 5th, 2016, 12:18 AM   #2
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Re: $4000 Challenge: Help Me Assemble a DSLR/GoPro Kit

I didn't go painstakingly through your list, but I have some thoughts.

1-2 GoPros are never a bad thing to add to the kit. I personally would stick with the $130 one and not the $400 one. Don't forget to buy a couple micro SD cards for it and a bag of mounts for them.

Media cards, you're buying one 16GB and one 64GB. Ditch the 16 and buy as many 64's as you can afford - I have a dozen or so, a half dozen is a bare minimum. I like to keep my footage on SD until the project is edited as a tertiary backup. They are $20/ea. Buy some spares. And then buy a tiny pelican case to hold them all.

That 18-135 lens sucks, save the $300.

The 50mm f/1.8 lens is great but rarely used, save the $110.

Buy the Sigma 18-50 f/2.8 instead, $399.

I always thought lenses came with hoods, mine always have.

Don't get a bi-color light, you sacrifice 50% of your power for a little flexibility. Buy 5600k lights and deal with it.

I don't think you bought any light stands, don't buy a cheap one, something in the (I hate to say it) $100 range.

Buy a holder for your flexifill.
Get a sandbag.

Your tripod sucks, but man I gotta say the price is right, being at $200 and all. I would really recommend expansing the tripod budget a lot. A tripod is a forever purchase. That 80D will last a couple years and you'll be wanting the 100D or the 110D or whatever. You spend $600 on a tripod, you'll still be using it in 2030.

Overall, you really focus on brand names here and there is a lot of off-brand stuff that'll save 50% in several categories. Use that money for a 2nd light and a better tripod.
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Old December 5th, 2016, 01:38 AM   #3
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Re: $4000 Challenge: Help Me Assemble a DSLR/GoPro Kit

I'd say definitely stick to a DSLR/mirrorless style camera rather than a bunch of GoPros. With GoPro you just can't avoid the fisheye distortion. You've also got no real control over the exposure.

At this point in the game though, I'd probably avoid Canon in favour of Sony or Panasonic - or even a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera. A used GH4 or a6300 are probably a good buy right now as people look to dump and replace them with the just announced GH5 and a6500. For the Sony, the 18-105 is a good match as a general-purpose lens.

One bold suggestion I'd make is to replace the Zoom H4n with a Blackmagic Video Assist 4K. This will give you access to much higher quality video recording as well as dual XLR inputs - and best of all it means you'll never have to deal with dual audio in post, which can be a nightmare! It also means you'll bypass the overheating issues of certain cameras.. And you've also got a nice monitor that will work with any camera you might upgrade to in the future!

You might want to check out Libec's offerings for tripods - in my experience they're a bit better than the Manfrotto's at the lower end. They just announced a new entry level tripod too, the TH-X.

For a cheap LED panel, check out the CN-600 which is sold under a few different brands on eBay. Get the daylight only version, otherwise you're pretty much always throwing away half your power, and use the included filters when you need more warmth.

You've got a tricky job trying to piece together everything for under $4000 - you'll definitely be making some compromises, so it's important to decide what is most important to you and prioritize that.
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Old December 5th, 2016, 04:02 AM   #4
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Re: $4000 Challenge: Help Me Assemble a DSLR/GoPro Kit

Hi John,

An interesting challenges you've set yourself :-)

As a videographer and photographer, I would approach it slightly differently. If you are mainly on location in daylight, do you really need a DSLR with interchangeable lenses for video work? Certainly good for stills, but as a long time Canon DSLR user for photography, I have always found video cameras so much better for video than a stills camera. However, as a Panasonic video user for decades, I was an early adopter of the FZ1000 bridge camera, which takes excellent stills and video. I frequently use the pair that I have for stills as well as video because of the high quality and the 24-400 lens, so no constant lens changing. The camera also records in HD or 4K. As the majority of my work is weddings, I can also instantly change from stills to video for quick shot opportunities. Sony also has some good bridge cameras, but I am not a great lover of Sony video colour, just my personal view.

Panasonic have now added the FZ2000/2500 to the range which adds a number of upgrades to the FZ1000, including unlimited 4K recording., built in ND filters, slightly extended zoom, headphone monitoring and a umber of other changes. With the FZ1000, I have now recorded a few hundred hours of video and thousand of stills with no problems whatsoever and no hint of overheating. The camera is also currently available in the US cheaper than the body only Canon 80D.

So you could save money on the camera and even more by opting for a couple of 4K GoPro session cameras, which don't require waterproof cases, are much smaller than the GoPro 5 and considerably cheaper. Also with a Panasonic and GoPro both taking 4K video, you can lift very acceptable stills from your 4K footage.

Although I have wireless mics, I generally prefer a portable voice recorder for interview work for reliability. In the field it also means that there is absolutely no problem with signal loss or interference no matter what the range. The Zooms are good, but do you really need 4 channel audio for the type of work you envisage? You could save another chunk by using the ubiquitous Zoom H1, or going even smaller with pocket recorders by Tascam, Sony, etc. They can all use external mics in addition to the onboard ones. The choice of a Rode video mic should be fine, I am very happy with the results from mine, although I would get a fluffy rycote wind shield rather than the standard Rode foam one for outside use.

Tripods are down to personal choice, but as has been said, quality will last. Lights I am not an expert on and just use portable on camera LEDs or studio umbrellas and lights on stands when time and space allow.

Roger

Last edited by Roger Gunkel; December 5th, 2016 at 04:04 AM. Reason: spelling
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Old December 5th, 2016, 04:41 AM   #5
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Re: $4000 Challenge: Help Me Assemble a DSLR/GoPro Kit

if your considering a DSLR, ditch the lens and for around $200 or so extra look for a secondhand Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM. I own a Safari R1100 Tripod, lightweight carbon fiber tripod kit, pretty ok travel tripod.
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Old December 5th, 2016, 06:30 AM   #6
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Re: $4000 Challenge: Help Me Assemble a DSLR/GoPro Kit

For your benefit please trash any idea of going only. Major handicap in all areas.

Steve
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Old December 5th, 2016, 06:56 AM   #7
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Re: $4000 Challenge: Help Me Assemble a DSLR/GoPro Kit

Hi Scott,

It occurred to me that maybe you should define the shooting "style" you are after here. Many "nonprofit communications directors" stick to an almost journalistic approach to appeal to the general public. That is because their is almost always fundraising behind the videos.

Your interest in go pros leads me to believe you may be thinking about creating your own special "look and feel" to these videos??? What is your goal?

Those cheap lavs would scare me to death. They will pick up interference from anything with more power than two sticks being rubbed together. Then after recording crappy audio a few times they will break.

I would consider a handheld mic and transmitter for the Rode kit. Put a mic flag on it and you are an instant authority ;-) ;-) ;-)

Kind Regards,

Steve
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Old December 5th, 2016, 11:10 AM   #8
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Re: $4000 Challenge: Help Me Assemble a DSLR/GoPro Kit

Great ideas everyone—thanks! I appreciate it!

@Mike Watson - good ideas regarding the lower-model GoPro; also good point about getting a half-dozen SD cards. The 16GB card is for the Zoom recorder (if I get one)—16 gigs is more space for audio than I'd ever even come close to using.

Regarding lenses: I've used the Canon 18-135 on a 70D for a couple years and found it to be okay (not great but okay). I'm not familiar with the Sigma 18-50 f/2.8, so thanks for the tip—I'll check that one out! (And amazingly, no—the canon lenses do NOT come with hoods...which is ridiculous.)

And you're right-on about not getting a bi-color LED. The Genaray panel I've used for a couple years has worked great, but you nailed it—I've literally never used the 3600K temp, and for some dumb reason it never occurred to me I was losing half my lighting power. (Doh.)

Regarding the tiny Manfrotto tripod (BeFree): I've used Sachtlers and other high-end tripods for years, so I totally get the benefits of a good one. But in the past 2-3 years, the only time I've ever used a tripod is shooting interviews, when all that's needed is something simple to sit the camera on and lock it down. I'm also thinking in my new job I may be doing a lot of hiking in the mountains and hauling my gear. I don't think I can afford carbon sticks on this budget, so I figured the small Manfrotto would be the way to go?

-----
@John Wiley - Photography will likely be as big a part of my new job as videography, hence my thinking of sticking with a DSLR.

I'm not familiar with the Black Magic Video Assist—it sounds nice, but expensive (my total budget is $4K!). But I'll take a look at it.

Good call on the Libec tripods—I'd forgotten about them, but I've used them and they're really nice.

And thanks for the tip on the LED panel (CN-600)...I'll definitely check that out!

-----
@Roger Gunkel - interesting that you mention the FZ1000 and bridge cameras. I'm a HUGE fan of these! Though they're often considered toys by "serious" producers, I've been consistently blown away by the performance of bridge cameras. And having the mind-blowing range of 18-1200mm in a single lens gives you capabilities you couldn't come close to in the "big camera" world for less than $10,000 (even if at a lower quality, it's still pretty good).

Regarding audio and the Zoom H4...you might be right—I might not need 4 channels of audio. The only reason I opted for that is that it's not that much more money, and there's a possibility I might occasionally need to shoot/record 2-3 people at once. My thinking was that for the few times I'd need to do this, the inexpensive Polsen lav mics routed into the H4 would give me that capability for very little $$. (But the H4 still might be overkill.)

-----
@Steven Digges - Ha, yeah—after posting above, I realized trying to go with only GoPro's was a pretty stupid idea, LOL. (I think I was dreaming of having my entire kit in a small knapsack, LOL.)

The nonprofit I'll be working for is the Pacific Crest Trail Association: they are the primary private entity that protects and maintains a 2,650 miles hiking trail from Mexico to Canada in the U.S.

I don't have any specific style in mind yet...but I'm imagining that I'll be doing a LOT of shooting outdoors, high up in the mountains, on the trail with trail work crews, backpackers, etc.

But I'll also be shooting interviews with people who have hiked the trail; people from federal agencies who help manage the trail; and trail-releated events (fundraisers, etc.) So it's a pretty wide range of possibilities—with the only constant being that it will all be shot for YouTube (which doesn't mean it can suck, but it doesn't need to meet broadcast standards).

I'm also not terribly worried about durability, partly because I'm pretty anal about handling and caring for my gear (I'm not the type to slam my camera into a bag as I'm sprinting out of the room to dive, tuck and roll to get the shot, LOL). That said, I had a Canon Powershot S2 bridge camera that I carried mountain biking and motorcycling with me for 4 years and well over 100,000 shots and it was flawless (so IMO, it's no longer true that the cheaper something is, the shorter its life).

About the cheap Polsen lavs—you may be right. They do get rave reviews (in the "for $25 this mic is amazing!" category, LOL) I figured those cheap lavs would be used rarely. I've actually used one of the Rode wireless mics for a couple years (mainly shooting interviews at close range) and it has been bombproof—beautiful clear audio and not once have I ever heard even the tiniest bit of noise or interference (again, at close range).

I was thinking of getting 2 of the Rode wireless setups...but my impression is that as soon as you're dealing with multiple receivers, wireless mics become a pain to deal with.

Scott
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Old December 5th, 2016, 07:58 PM   #9
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Re: $4000 Challenge: Help Me Assemble a DSLR/GoPro Kit

No worries, Scott. You've definitely got some good suggestions from everyone here. I'd actually second the idea of a bridge-style camera as a good compromise. The FZ-series are great little performers and punch and punch above their weight.
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Old December 6th, 2016, 10:11 AM   #10
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Re: $4000 Challenge: Help Me Assemble a DSLR/GoPro Kit

Go Pros are too one dimensional. A neat trick camera, but in no way usable as the main camera on a shoot. imho at least.
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Old December 7th, 2016, 12:35 AM   #11
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Re: $4000 Challenge: Help Me Assemble a DSLR/GoPro Kit

Okay—after several hours of pouring over gear online and pondering my choices, I've revamped my list (see below), and decided to go with the Panasonic Lumix FZ2500. This eliminates the need for extra lenses, and I'm certain that this camera will more than meet my quality standards for both stills and video.

I'm also including a GoPro Hero 5 and a variety of mounts and accessories. I thought of going with a cheaper Hero 4 (or even 3), but the 5 is actually a good deal when you consider it has a touchscreen LCD built-in (and you'd have to buy one as an add-on to the older cams).

I went with the daylight-only LED panel—currently just one, but I may add a 2nd one. (I've found I can get excellent results with a single panel when shooting a single-subject interview.)

I'm sticking with the small, light Manfrotto BeFree tripod: it gets great reviews, and with a small bridge camera I don't need a "big gun" of a tripod-that would be overkill (and I like I can strap this one to the side of a Lowe Pro SlingShot case).

For audio, this list includes the Zoom H1. I originally had a Rode Videomic Pro...but frankly, I think the H1's audio beats the Rode (after listening to a half-dozen comparos through my Yamaha NS-10 monitors); so if I need an on-camera mic, the H1 is small and light enough to work well in that role (as well as many other uses).

So here's the list. Still not final—I'll probably tweak it some more tomorrow. :-) But I'm feeling better about this one.

---
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ2500 Camera $1,197.99
Panasonic LUMIX DMW-FL360L External Flash $227.00
Panasonic DMW-BLC12B Rechargeable Lithium-ion Battery $54.95 (qty 3)
SanDisk 16GB Extreme Pro memory Card $11.21
SanDisk 64GB Extreme Pro Memory Card $34.95 (qty 4)
Pelican 0915 Memory Card Case $15.37
Manfrotto Befree Live Video Tripod Kit $239.88
RodeLink Wireless Microphone Kit $395.00
Genaray SpectroLED Essential 360 Daylight LED Light $218.95
Impact 42" 5-in-1 Reflector with Lightstand and Holder Kit $88.00
Lowepro SlingShot 202 AW Camera Bag $69.95
Sony MDR-7506 Headphones $99.99
GoPro Hero 5 Black $399.00
GoPro Rechargeable Battery for HERO5 Black $19.00 (qty 4)
Joby GorillaPod Action Tripod with GoPro Mount $31.49
GoPro Tripod Mounts $9.99
Manfrotto Compact Extreme 2-in-1 Monopod & Pole $44.88
FotodioX GoTough Sharkbite Wrench $9.95
Revo 360° Clip with Three-Prong Mount for GoPro $9.99
Dinkum Systems ActionPod PRO (10") $40.45
GoPro Dual Battery Charger $49.99
SanDisk 64GB Extreme UHS-I microSDXC Memory Card $29.16
Zoom H1 Recorder and Rode SmartLav Condenser Mic Kit $149.00
Rycote Mini Windjammer for Zoom H1 $52.00
Watson 4-Hour Rapid Charger $17.95
Panasonic Eneloop Pro Rechargeable AA Batteries $31.45
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Old December 7th, 2016, 02:33 AM   #12
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Re: $4000 Challenge: Help Me Assemble a DSLR/GoPro Kit

Quote:
but the 5 is actually a good deal when you consider it has a touchscreen LCD built-in (and you'd have to buy one as an add-on to the older cams).
Not strictly true, the Hero 4 Silver has a touch screen, but if you want to shoot 4K at full frame rate it's not for you.
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Old December 7th, 2016, 07:24 AM   #13
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Re: $4000 Challenge: Help Me Assemble a DSLR/GoPro Kit

Scott,

Your going to laugh at me but I saw one egregious error on your list and it is not the "camera" type gear. It is the Lowe 202 slingshot bag.

That is an urban camera bag, it is not at all good for what you have described your assignments to be. First, it is just plain too small, it will only hold the gear list. What about your trail food, water, and clothing layers?

Why a slingshot bag? I think you need a full on backpack, Yes I know your not going to whip it around to yank the camera out but your headed for the back country. I have done a lot of shooting in pretty extreme conditions. Your personal safety and endurance is key here. Your backpack is not the place to save space or weight. It will help you manage all the weight you will be carrying. For over ten years I have used the largest Lowe Photo Trecker AW they make. It has Lowes true backpack soft frame and harness system with the cargo area being a well designed camera bag. Expensive, yes, big, yes, too big, never!

I have so many miles on it one of the shoulder straps is coming unstitched. That is hard to do because Lowe makes such bomb proof stuff. I contacted their warranty guy and after looking at pictures he told me to take it to a luggage repair place, bummer. But still worth doing it. That how good their stuff is and how much I have used it.

Camera bags and backpacks are like hard drives.....they seem so BIG when you buy it and before you know it your pissed because it is too small for the job.

I suggest you protect your gear and yourself by getting a reasonable back pack instead of an urban sling designed for a street shooter.

Kind Regards,

Steve
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Old December 7th, 2016, 03:11 PM   #14
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Re: $4000 Challenge: Help Me Assemble a DSLR/GoPro Kit

I understand that you have a very tight budget to do everything with, but have you given any thought to having a dedicated video camera and a separate, dedicated still camera? I know you can get a lot of video functionality out of a still camera now, and some impressive quality, but for quick, run-and-gun work, it seems like an actual video camera is better video camera than a still camera.

It might be worth considering something like the JVC GY-HM170 as a camcorder, which has XLR inputs, ND filter, and audio controls for a video camera and you can get for around $1300. Then you could get an inexpensive DSLR like a Canon T5 which comes with a kit lens for only about $400. Now you have your cameras and have only spent $1700, giving you $2300 left for lights, memory cards, batteries, and mic system.
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Old December 7th, 2016, 03:46 PM   #15
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Re: $4000 Challenge: Help Me Assemble a DSLR/GoPro Kit

Regarding the pack, I have the previous version of the Lowepro Fastpack BP 250 AW II. It's more suited to a larger DSLR with a small kit of lenses, but it has a lot of versatility, is reasonably rugged, and it fits under an airline seat. That let's you wheel a rollaway with clothes and extras while keeping your gear at your feet. It's a tight fit though!

The pack includes a belly strap and padded arm straps, so it's comfortable on long walks.

That said, your best choice depends on the kit that you want in the field. In any case, I agree that it would best be a backpack, rather than messenger bag.
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