The Sony α6000 is a “mirrorless DSLR” camera that supports interchangeable lenses and can shoot 24 megapixel photos and full HD video. I bought it as a bundle with an additional 55-200mm zoom lens (it comes with a 16-50mm lens), a small tripod with posable legs that can grip, a camera bag, two additional batteries with a quick charger and a 128GB memory card. It’s a great camera, although it does have some disadvantages. I’d heard about the overheating problem, but a SmallRig camera rig does work as an additional heat sink. I did not know, however, that the Smart Remote Control app cannot be used for video recording. If I had, I would have bought the α6300 that apparently does not suffer from this limitation.
I also knew that like many “prosumer” cameras, the α6000 had automatic audio gain control (AGC), which boosts low audio so high you can hear a lot of background hiss and that the feature can’t be turned off. To combat that, I bought the Tascam DR-05 audio recorder. It has built-in mics useful for recording background audio, and paired with the dirt-cheap Takstar SGC-598 shotgun mic, I’m covered for most run-and-gun shooting. The Tascam recorder does not have AGC, and it also has features like a limiter to avoid too loud audio.
The DJI Osmo is a camera capable of shooting 4K video mounted on a motorized three-axis gimbal that will keep the camera steady when walking or riding a bike. You attach a smartphone to the camera grip to use as a viewfinder. I bought the sports accessory package, which includes the bike mount, a selfie stick (which acts as a tripod mount), a car mount and a tripod base (attaches to the selfie stick). I bought this instead of using a GoPro because I wanted the stabilization feature and wished to avoid the GoPro’s wide angle look. Unfortunately the Osmo only came with a 16GB memory card, and when recording 4K video, that fills up fast. Although the lens is not a zoom, the 4K video means you can enlarge footage quite a lot if you’re just making YouTube videos.
The bike mount works surprisingly well, considering it’s just a piston with a spring. If you have a smartphone attached to the camera, however, the video will be a lot more jerky. You’ll need to use a stabilizer effect in an editing program to remove shakiness, but since you can record at 4K and the field of view is pretty wide, you won’t lose much.
I’ve had this little point-and-shoot, 10MP camera since 2011 and still like it, although unlike the Sony α6000, it can’t save RAW images. Unfortunately it tends to go through batteries very quickly. I will probably use this camera to capture approach and departure video: me riding on the bike toward a bridge and then away from the bridge.
I had to upgrade from my iPhone 4S under the mistaken belief that the Rode SmartLav+ would not work with it. Also, the DJI Osmo app would not allow me to view recordings on the 4S, although it would still let me control the Osmo and record. The SE can also shoot 4K video and is also long enough to fit securely in the cradle that attaches a smartphone to the Osmo. The 4S was only loosely held in place.
Although it’s no longer a working phone, I can still use the 4S as an extra camera or use it with the SmartLav+ to record my narration, if I fill up the 64GB capacity of the iPhone SE. The 4S, mounted to the same tripod as the DSC-HX5V, can record my approach and departure shots in one take.
iPad Air 2
The iPad Air 2 will hold my itinerary, script notes, contact information and maps, in addition to being an additional camera. It can also connect to the DJI Osmo and the Sony α6000.
The Tascam DR-05 came as another bundle that included a 32GB memory card, rechargeable batteries, a tiny tripod and headphones. The DR-05 has an input for my shotgun mic and an output for headphones.
The Rode SmartLav+ has a TRRS plug compatible with the headphone jack of most smartphones. Coupled with the Rode Rec App, I’ll use it to record most of my narration. In order to be able to monitor whether the mic is actually working, I needed another Rode product, the SC6 adapter, to allow simultaneous use of the lavalier and headphones. Unfortunately I had to return my first SmartLav+ because my iPhone would not recognize it. The replacement seems to work fine, even with my iPhone 4S.
I’m embarrassed to say how incredibly cheap the Takstar SGC-598 shotgun mic was, but the audio quality is decent enough for interviewing people I meet on the canals. I wish the shock isolation rubber bands were not as rigid; the mic picks up sounds like turning the zoom lens.
The Tascam TH-02 headphones came as a pleasant surprise as part of the DR-05 bundle. They’re closed headphones—they block outside noise. They’re not the greatest quality, but they’re decent enough for my purposes.
Camera rigs are often attached to smaller cameras to allow access to features found on more expensive cameras. For instance, you can add focus tracking features on lenses similar to what you’d find on a studio camera. For Sony α6000 users, however, the SmallRig camera rig is often used to get around the overheating issue with the camera. It is a very small camera that shoots professional video with a pretty large battery and so it’s not surprising that heat builds up pretty quickly. The aluminum camera rig acts as a large heat sink. Another advantage of the rig for me is that I can attach additional cold shoe mounts, since I need to attach both the Tascam DR-05 and the Takstar shotgun mic.
I’ve also made some nice pistol grips that attach to the rig. One of the drawbacks to such a small camera is that it’s a little difficult to hold steady and the pistol grips allow for a wider grip.
I already have a nice Bogen tripod, but it’s far too heavy and large to bring on the trip, so I bought the Zomei 668C carbon-fiber tripod. It only weighs 3.4 pounds, folds down to about 19 inches long and one of the legs can be used as a monopod. I will put it, the GorillaPod knockoff, the Osmo selfie stick and the Osmo tripod base in the bag that came with the Zomei tripod. I’ll also stuff a dual flash bracket mount in the bag. The dual mount lets me mount two cameras to the tripod—perfect for a two-camera interview shoot.
Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic panniers
The Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic panniers are saddlebags that will attach to the rear rack of the bike I’ll be renting from On Your Bike in Birmingham. Together they hold 40L, or about 1.4 cubic feet, comparable to a single international carry-on bag. One bag will contain all my clothing and toiletries, the other will contain some clothing and the black camera bag shown at the bottom of the above picture. These are German-made bags and supposedly waterproof. They’re basically dry bags like you might use on a river rafting trip, but with catches that secure to a bike rack.
The bag with the camera equipment will be my carry on luggage.
MountainSmith Lumbar Tour pack
The MountainSmith Lumbar Tour pack will carry the Sony α6000; the DJI Osmo in it’s carrying case; my iPad and iPhone; identification and credit cards; and basic toiletries. Not shown (because I haven’t bought them yet) are the “strapettes” that turn the lumbar pack into a mini-backpack and the raincover. I really love this pack with it’s hideaway waist belt and shoulder strap.
Generic black camera bag
This generic camera bag (actually sold by Focus Camera, which provided my Sony α6000 bundle) will hold my 55-200mm zoom lens, all the extra camera batteries and chargers, extension cords, Tascam DR-05 and shotgun mic. It goes in one of the panniers.