Minimum Camera and Computer Suggestions for Backpack Journalists
Below is a list of suggestions, or parameters, regarding equipment one needs to learn and to practice the craft of backpack journalism. These are only suggestions. What’s important here is that the tools one selects work in conjunction with each other, and that the practitioner can make these tools capture what he/she sees and hears. One doesn't need the latest, best camera, or the most expensive computer, or the most comprehensive version of Final Cut Pro. Tools are only part of the craft.
We recommend hand-held digital cameras with manual controls for shutter speed, aperture and focus. We recommend high-definition cameras, as a greater number of outlets are demanding HD material. Also preferred are cameras with two XLR connections for separate channels of sound. Cameras with these features offer the best opportunity for learning and for capturing sound, sometimes described as “the heartbeat” of visual stories. Smaller “palmcorders” most often do not have the appropriate sound capabilities and are therefore not recommended.
For best results, we recommend using a “boom” microphone mounted atop the camera, as well as a wireless microphone that is placed on the character that's being followed or in the immediate vicinity of a conversation that one wants to record. Directional boom microphones mounted atop the camera generally provide better quality sound than the internal microphones that are built into most hand-held cameras.
We use tripods on a limited basis. Get one that is small and lightweight.