Vlogging offers a highly engaging means of sharing stories, and it’s simple to get involved, with kit highly affordable and freely available and a ready audience waiting to be reached.
Few can have failed to notice how online content is so much more about moving imagery these days, with videos proliferating and a generation growing up that is far more likely to engage with a video than to read through a written story. There are countless studies that attest to the power of motion, and a new breed of content creator has emerged, who can tap into this trend and supply lively and relevant short-form productions that will have plenty of appeal to commercial clients.
Say hello then to the vlog, the updated version of the time-honoured blog and sibling of the audio-only podcast, which many photographers have traditionally used to attract attention to their website and to boost their Google rankings. Highly democratised, this is an area that anyone can enter since the barriers are low and it’s simple and inexpensive to set yourself up at the entry level, but there is a definite level of technical skill required to put together a successful production, and pro photographers are well placed to get involved.
To be successful even at a basic level there is a certain expectation of quality, so such things as stability, framing and audio are all going to be considerations, and if any of these isn’t managed well then what you’re outputting could well be unwatchable. On top of this there is also the definite requirement for personality, which is something it’s difficult to acquire if you’re not a natural. Vloggers inevitably appear in front of camera, and they need to be engaging and able to talk fluidly about whatever subject they’re covering, and this is simply something that not everyone is capable of carrying off.
The beauty of vlogging is that it can exist at so many levels, while the accessories you need to improve the quality of your output are usually highly affordable and easily sourced through the likes of retailers such as CVP. In its simplest form the vlog can be created using a good quality smartphone, and many of those entering this area will choose to work in that way. However, you would still need accessories, such as a gimbal and a separate microphone, to achieve acceptable results, and you should also have a decent understanding of editing to piece your footage together into a coherent and watchable whole at the end of the day.
“Online content creation has never been more popular than it is today,” agrees CVP’s Technical Marketing Manager Jake Ratcliffe, “especially since around 2020, since when it’s taken off big time. It’s never been easier to self-produce videos and to post them online, so the demand and interest in this whole area has also gone up, and this will continue to rise.”
While a retailer such as CVP might be better known for the support it provides to the likes of high-end cinematographers, it’s just as interested in those entering the world of motion at a lower level, and Jake is keen to stress that there will always be experts on hand to suggest kit that will suit pretty much any filmmaking eventuality, with vlogging being just another area that’s fully catered for.
The great news is that, because this whole area has taken off so spectacularly in recent years, the industry has responded in great style with some amazing products, and these will be finely tuned to do exactly the niche job that’s required.
Choosing Your Gear
As mentioned already, today’s fully featured smartphones are designed to deliver a sensational level of video quality, which would be well up to the web use that most vlogs are designed for. They’re affordable, obviously multi-faceted and really straightforward to use, with sharing facilities naturally built in, and models such as the Sony Xperia Pro1, the Oppo Find X5 Pro with its Hasselblad connections and the iPhone 14 Pro Max are right up there in terms of what they have to offer.
Pair devices such as this with the right accessories and you have a formidable vlogging set-up, and manufacturers have responded by delivering accessories that come tailor made for pairing with a smartphone. The Sennheiser MKE 200 Mobile Kit, for example, (CVP price £87), is specifically aimed at vloggers, and includes a directional on-camera microphone and smartphone clamp, along with a Manfrotto PIXI Mini Tripod, making this a keenly priced piece of kit that will lift audio quality at a stroke. The MKE 200 even comes with a built-in windscreen and shock mount to help reduce handling noise.
Slightly further up the quality scale, though somewhat larger and therefore perhaps a little bulkier to carry around, is the Sennheiser MKE 400 Mobile Kit (CVP price £199), which is still highly affordable, while for those seriously on a tight budget there’s the Joby Wavo Mobile On-Camera microphone to consider (CVP price £38.38), which is ultra-lightweight and really easy to use. You simply connect the supplied TRRS cable to your smartphone and you’re connected and ready to go, and audio quality is instantly improved.
Another option those starting out might consider is the Saramonic SmartMic MTV Vlogging Kit (CVP price £153.53), which comes with a stereo microphone and an adjustable height table top tripod, complete with a lockable ball head that will give you stable shots at any angle.
Likewise, there are some excellent and highly affordable dedicated stabilisers available, which will make a huge difference to the quality of the footage you can achieve with your smartphone. The Zhiyun Smooth 5S Smartphone Gimbal, (CVP price £164.99), for example, offers three-axis stabilisation, while the magnetic steel motors employed enable the growing number of smartphones with larger LCD sizes to be employed. Just for good measure this smart little unit also comes with a powerful built-in 300 lumens fill-in light, which could prove invaluable for lifting the shadows on a face.
So far we’ve checked out entry level solutions, which will work really well for those who are particularly looking at mobile filmmaking, which definitely has a place in the vlogging chain. However, for many professionals the aim is to create productions that have a higher quality level altogether, and if you’re working for a commercial client this could potentially be a requirement in any case.
“Using a camera as opposed to a smartphone is always going to give you better quality and a lot more filmmaking options,” says Jake. “If you take this step then you have a whole range of choices, from cameras that are designed specifically to tailor for the requirements of vloggers through to others, such as the latest Sony Alpha ZV-E1 mirrorless vlog camera (CVP price £2349 body only), which comes with full frame functionality, and is a highly capable filmmaking camera in its own right. It comes with features on board such as the new AI shooting modes, solid autofocus and a unique microphone set-up, that are clearly aimed at those looking to create content while working as a single person operator.”
This remarkable new Sony model offers a 4K 60p recording capability, along with a direct to streaming solution in 4K, unique cinematic vlog settings and professional picture profile S-Cinetone. Built to resemble the Sony Venice’s celebrated cinema look, this can optimise skin tones and provide a film-like colour to your videos. You can check out CVP’s in-depth video review of the Alpha ZV-E1 by scanning through the QR Code you can find on the opposite page.
If you can’t stretch to the Alpha ZV-E1 then Sony offers a keener priced option in the form of the TIPA Award winning ZV-E10 (CVP price body-only £686.81), which still comes with a useful vari-angle screen, 4K video quality and Full HD 120p slow motion, along with an included directional microphone so that you can record your voice while filming. Other options would include the Sony ZV1 (CVP price £667), also a camera aimed squarely at vloggers, though with a built-in Zeiss 24-70mm lens, and the Panasonic Lumix G100 (CVP price £604.99, body only). Along with an interchangeable lens facility, this vlogger-friendly model offers 4K or Full HD video in a variety of frame rates, and at its heart it has a highly-capable 20.3MP sensor without a low pass filter to enable image quality that’s vastly superior to that produced by a smartphone.
You still need to be considering stability, and for smaller cameras a gimbal will be the best and most versatile option. There are several to choose from these days, as this handy accessory becomes ever simpler to set up and inexpensive to buy. Something like the DJI RS3 Mini (CVP price £339) would be an excellent choice, being small and lightweight and coming with the reassurance of the Ronin name. Although just half the size of the original RS3, it still has the potential to offer a powerful payload capacity. Also worth checking out on the stability front are models offered by Zhiyun, including the WeeBill 3 (CVP price £298.99) and Crane M2S (CVP price £199.99).
“The features you need to look out for when choosing a camera for vlogging are the ones that make it easier for you to film yourself,” says Jake. “Alongside this you also need to be looking for an effective audio solution and a good support system, and what you should go for will vary from camera to camera. You might consider a good quality top mic for example, such as the RODE VideoMic Pro + (CVP price £352.30), or maybe a wireless audio solution for more flexibility, and it could also be beneficial to be working with an external recorder and then synching the audio at the editing stage.
“The right solution will vary from person to person depending on what you’re looking to get out of vlogging, and our care team is always happy to offer some tailored advice to ensure you end up with exactly the right kit for your requirements.”
The Sennheiser MKE 200 Mobile kit is designed for smartphones, and includes a mini tripod.
Sony ZV-E1 camera is a fully featured full frame model, but is aimed squarely at those involved in high-end vlogging productions.
Joby Wavo Mobile On-Camera Microphone
Zhiyun’s Smooth 5S Smartphone Gimbal comes in at under £165 and offers three-axis stabilisation.
Saramonic’s Smartmic MTV Vlogging kit is a keenly priced outfit that features a stereo mic.
The TIPA Award-winning Sony ZV-E10 costs under £700 body only and can still output 4K video footage and Full HD 120p slow motion.