I’ve travelled to almost fifty different countries (click here to see where I’ve been). I used to take lots of photos and blog about my experiences. What I should have been doing is making videos! Now that we’re slowly easing out of the pandemic lockdown, I’ve decided to start making travel Vlogs.
However, to do that properly, you will need the right equipment. I set out to build the perfect travel vlogging rig and do it for under £300 UK / $400 US. In this video I show you how I did it and how much it cost. I also give an explanation for why I chose to use a DJI Osmo Action instead of a GoPro or Akaso, and what accessories I needed to complete the Vlogging rig. Hopefully, this will inspire some of you to take the plunge too and start making your own videos.
Whatup nerds? I’m Jay Shareef.
I love technology and I love to travel.
That’s why I’m building the perfect vlogging rig.
So the lockdown is over.
The pandemic is a thing of the past.
And I’m keen to start traveling the world again.
As you might already know, I’m a marketing consultant.
Which has given me the
opportunity to travel far and wide.
I’ve visited about 50 different countries so far.
And you can read all about that on my website,
where I’ve posted lots of photos
and some useful travel advice too.
What I’ve realized, however, is the missed opportunity.
Instead of taking photographs,
I should have been making videos.
And, from now on, that’s exactly what I intend to do.
However, to create brilliant travel
vlogs you need the right equipment.
So I set myself the following challenge:
Build the perfect vlogging rig!
And do it for less than £300 GBP.
(That’s less than $400 US).
Today I’m going to show you how I did it,
and how much it actually cost me.
That way you can do exactly the same for yourself.
By the way, I’ll do the numbers in British Pounds,
but I’ll keep a tally on the screen in US Dollars as well.
Now, if you’ve seen my videos before you
already know I love to do my research.
And I’ve done a hell of a lot of
research on this particular topic.
And I’ve come to the conclusion
that what I need is the following:
A high quality camera,
a mini-tripod or monopod,
a decent microphone,
a portable light, and
some way to connect all of that together.
Another important consideration for me was practicality.
I don’t want to carry multiple cameras and multiple accessories with me,
in order to cope with different scenarios.
I want to have just one compact setup to cover as many eventualities as possible.
So let’s start with the most important feature of all.
At the heart of any vlogging rig is the camera.
If you get that right then you’re 90% there.
I started with a list of features
that I wanted in my new camera,
and then tried to work out if there
was any device that met my needs.
I don’t think these requirements will surprise any of you.
Firstly, I wanted it to be small,
because even medium-sized
cameras attract unwanted attention.
I’ve taken my Canon M6 out for filming
or photography quite a few times now.
It’s not a big camera. But every time I
go out with it people come up to me,
either to see what I’m doing or ask me what I’m up to.
However, I have never had that
problem with my smaller cameras.
Secondly, I need my camera to be lightweight,
because if I’m taking it on my travels then
big cameras can start to weigh you down.
And, after a day or two of using a larger camera,
you really do start to feel it in your arms.
Next, I want good image quality.
If I’m going to be documenting
exciting and exotic locations,
then it’s important to have a camera that
can capture the beauty of your surroundings.
And, if that image can be stabilized
as well, that would be perfect.
I also want it to be rugged and waterproof.
I’m not the kind of tourist who lounges
by the pool or sits on a beach.
I’m a wanderer.
Oftentimes, I’ll arrive in a new city and
will just pick a direction… and walk.
So, I never know what I’m getting into.
I do also love heading out into the wild, and
I’m no stranger to mountains and jungles.
I need a camera that can cope with all of that.
Excellent sound quality is very important too. And, in a
lot of ways, it’s more important than the picture quality.
If people can hear you and hear what’s going on,
they’re often willing to forgive
some “ropey” video now and then.
What this means is that ideally my travel camera
needs to have a great built-in microphone.
And, if it’s possible to attach an
external mic, that would be a bonus.
One last thing that’s nice to
have is a front-facing screen.
Imagine filming yourself at an exotic location,
and then getting home to realize that
you missed out something important,
because you pointed your camera slightly wrong.
So, being able to see yourself is really, really valuable.
In terms of the other accessories,
a small and simple wired microphone is useful.
But I think they can be overkill sometimes.
Also, a small portable light would
be great for some nighttime filming.
There are some great rechargeable ones available. Some of them are even waterproof.
But the waterproof ones are much more expensive.
And, finally, I will need some protection.
Not THAT kind, because I’m not THAT kind of tourist!
The kind of protection I need will
inevitably include lens protectors.
But, I also need a camera cage, so it’s
easy to connect everything together.
I already have a variety of mini-tripods and monopods.
So, I would prefer if the camera, or the camera cage
at least, has a quarter inch hole at the bottom.
But, if that’s not possible, then
a GoPro style mounting will do.
So, let’s start with the camera itself.
If you want a small, lightweight, rugged, waterproof
device, it’s obvious you need an action camera.
There are plenty of cheap action cameras around.
But they always have awful picture quality,
and the sound quality is even worse.
The camera is basically the beating heart of your setup.
And choosing an inferior device would be
a terrible decision.
So I decided I wanted the best action camera possible.
And when it comes to action cameras,
the number one brand is GoPro.
So, you might think the sensible choice would
be either the GoPro Hero7 or the GoPro Hero8.
The Hero7 is obviously a fantastic little camera.
And it has so many accessories available for it.
But I decided against it because
it’s getting a little old now,
and there’s no way you can see what you’re filming.
Unless, of course, you connect it
wirelessly to your smartphone.
But that’s just complicating things
and I don’t want to do that.
So what about the Hero8?
It promises to be better than the Hero7.
And it has a Media Mod that’s
supposed to be perfect for vlogging.
There’s a shotgun microphone built into it.
Plus, you can connect a portable
light and a front-facing screen.
There’s no doubt it’s the best camera
GoPro have ever made… on paper.
Unfortunately, there are YouTubers who
switched to the Hero8 as their main camera,
and then very quickly switched to something else.
Because the Hero8 is not reliable.
It crashes regularly and you end up losing footage.
That’s just not acceptable.
Especially from the market leader.
Also, the media mod turned out to be a massive scam.
Firstly, that shotgun microphone isn’t a shotgun mic.
People have taken the Media Mod
apart and confirmed that for us.
Secondly, it’s been almost a year
since the camera came out.
That front-facing screen still hasn’t been released.
So no GoPros!
That left me with two realistic options:
The newly-released Akaso Brave 7 and
the DJI Osmo Action.
I looked into the Akaso Brave 7 and it’s
an amazing device for less than $150.
Waterproof straight out of the box,
a front-facing screen and built-in image stabilization.
Again ,on paper, a very compelling device.
But, once the reviews came in, it
was obvious why it was so cheap.
It’s only waterproof to about three feet.
So, basically, it’s splashproof.
I would be very wary of putting it under a running tap.
What’s also disappointing is
the sound and image quality.
The sound, in particular, is atrocious.
And the image stabilization is basically on a par
with the Gopro Hero5 from a few years back.
So, by the process of elimination, that left
me with the most obvious starting point:
The DJI Osmo Action.
And, once I decided to get the Osmo Action,
I also ordered all the right accessories for it as well.
So here we have a mountain of boxes.
And it’s time to start the fun process of unboxing it all.
Don’t look at my address.
It’s not for YOU, stalker!
“Thank you for your purchase
from London Camera Exchange.”
Who normally sell second second-hand cameras,
but this is brand new. Or so they told me.
It’s always a joy opening a new camera.
And here it is: The DJI Osmo Action.
OK, according to this…
Dual screen. HDR. 11 metres waterproof.
Electronic image stabilization.
4K 60p. And 8 times 1080p.
I’ve no idea what that bit means.
Eight times slow motion?
So this is very nicely packaged.
The Osmo Action by DJI.
It cost me just £199 GBP.
That’s about $260 US.
Let’s open it up!
If you’ve seen my videos before,
you know i hate this bit.
If there was some way I could do this
without a knife, I would prefer that.
Beautiful piece of kit.
So first thing you get is the camera.
In a DJI Osmo Action cage.
Got screen protectors on both the front
and the back, and the lens protector.
That looks very nice to hold.
And it is tiny. It is tiny.
OK, what else do we get?
Well all you get is the camera and this additional box.
I wonder what’s in here.
You get some manuals.
This must be the battery. Yes it is.
I have no idea what this thing is but it
must be some kind of way to mount it.
Oh, OK, it’ll be like a quick release thing.
I have no interest in that.
Battery, camera and charging cable. And that’s it.
That’s a pretty minimalist setup.
Unfortunately, the camera doesn’t
work straight out of the box.
You have to activate it using the
DJI app on your smartphone first.
Normally, that would annoy me.
But I don’t really mind this time around,
as i need to update the camera’s firmware anyway.
DJI have been releasing regular updates
to improve the camera software,
and those have really made
a big difference over the last year.
Right, so I’ve got my camera and
that’s the most important part done.
It’s also the most expensive part too,
as it took up almost 70% of my budget.
So, what else did I buy?
Well, firstly, I got myself a protective carry case.
This is the standard case that you can buy online.
It costs about £10 GBP and it has cutouts
for your camera and various accessories.
However, the immediate problem
I can see with this one is that,
once I put the camera in the
camera cage, it might not fit.
However, we’ll have to check that out later.
Next, I’ve ordered myself a couple of spare batteries.
These are not DJI official.
And a battery charger that can
accommodate three batteries at once.
I’ll admit that was a bit unnecessary at this
stage, but it’s done and it cost me £29 GBP.
I’ve also picked up a portable LED light.
This one has a cold shoe mount at
the bottom and it charges via USB-C.
So it should charge reasonably quickly.
Unfortunately, it isn’t waterproof.
Those ones cost five times as much.
But, this one only set me back £12 GBP.
I’m now dangerously close to blowing my budget here.
I set my maximum at £300 and I’ve spent £250 already.
I do have some mini-tripods and
monopods in my camera bag already.
So that’ll save me some money.
Luckily, I also have a Røde microphone as well.
However I’ve still had to buy the CYNOVA audio adapter
Without it there’s no way of plugging in a microphone. And that adapter cost me another £20 GBP.
By the way, the reviews all say the internal
mics on the Osmo Action are pretty good,
and that you can normally use it without an
external mic, as long as it isn’t too windy.
So, if you had to cut corners anywhere, the microphone and microphone adapter would be the items
you could possibly, possibly live without.
So, now i’ve got pretty much everything.
There’s just one more accessory to worry about.
The camera cage.
And I’ve only got £30 GBP left in my budget.
Now this is where things can get a bit tricky.
There are lots of camera cages on
the market for the Osmo Action.
However, hardly any of them work
with the CYNOVA audio adapter.
In fact, for a while only the
PGYTech version was compatible.
I didn’t like that option, however,
because it was made of plastic.
I wanted a metal cage for my device,
just to add an extra layer of ruggedness.
I’d read online that many Osmo Action owners
were raving about something called the TILTA cage,
which does look like a fantastic product.
Unfortunately, it costs more than £50 GBP,
and I’m not keen on overspending here.
I was almost resigned to getting it though,
until I heard that Smallrig just brought
out a new cage for the Osmo Action.
And this one promised to be compatible
with the audio adapter as well.
It was priced at £29 GBP on Amazon.
Which meant I could stay under budget.
Smallrig, by the way, are renowned
for making excellent camera cages.
So now i spent £299 GBP.
But that’s it.
I now have everything you need
for the perfect vlogging setup.
This was a lot more difficult than I initially thought.
But, at the same time, I managed to put
together the best possible combinations.
Is it possible to build the perfect
vlogging rig for under $400 US?
Absolutely! But only if you do your research properly.
OK, full disclosure time.
There are a couple of items I
didn’t include in my calculations.
Firstly, I did also buy some screen protectors.
They cost me £8 GBP, so $10 US in total.
I didn’t need to buy screen protectors
as the camera is already rugged,
and I’ve also put a metal cage on top of it.
But I always buy screen protectors for my gadgets,
and I wasn’t going to make an exception here.
Secondly, I haven’t included the
memory card cost in the total.
I picked up a 256 Gigabyte Sandisk
Extreme micro SD memory card.
I got this one on sale and it cost
me about £50 GBP or $65 US.
This is the maximum size of memory
card that an Osmo Action can handle.
And it’s worth noting that the card I’ve bought is the A2 version,
which is the newer and faster type of memory card.
I intend to shoot in 2.7K most of the time.
If you’re planning to shoot in 4K,
then you really should get yourself a high speed memory card with an A2 rating.
If you get a slower card then you
could end up with lots of issues.
Your camera could end up overheating.
And there’s a danger your footage
won’t be recorded properly.
So, this is the most important
advice I’m going to give today.
Do not buy cheap memory cards!
So there you have it! The perfect vlogging rig.
I am really happy with how this one turned out.
But, does it work as well as it should?
Let’s take it outside for a test drive.