Having looked at multiple set ups for Gamers and Youtubers, I wanted to build a simplified version that would work in a home office. This is what I ended up with:
How much a difference does it make? Currently night time here. Mirrorless camera with key light on the left // Webcam with the room normally lit on the right. I don't look like it, but I 😃 a lot in my ❤️ . 😅 pic.twitter.com/HM6N1xU6U5
— Yann Ranchere (@tek_fin) September 1, 2020
The main goals for this build where:
- HD image with depth of field — that cinematic look
- Constant lighting irrespective of external light conditions
- One attachment point to the desk — no on desk clutter
Note: there are ways to make this cheaper or way more expensive. I also have access to a more limited set of gear where I am based. The camera gear is something I am using for photography as well (imv prime lenses are the only reason left to buy camera gear as phones have become so efficient and are in your pocket all the time).
Camera set up:
- Sony A6100 body only https://amzn.to/2Qy2Hto : The entry point of Sony’s APS-C mirrorless camera range. The body is very compact and the autofocus is considered one of the best. No tendency to overheat so it allows for long call. Outputs clean HDMI. The alternative would the Canon M50.
- Sigma 16mm 1.4 emount https://amzn.to/32zVy17 : if you have to choose between spending on the body of a camera or the lens, always choose the lens first as it will make the most difference. This is lens is a wide angle lens (24mm full frame equivalent) (ie it will capture more of the scene and can be closer to you — important in a desk set up. It also has a very wide aperture : 1.4. Super summarised: this is what will allow for the blurry background behind you. This choice is probably a bit of a splurge but it is a brilliant lens for its price including for photography.
- Dummy battery for Sony FW50 https://amzn.to/2YKxtDP : This is a battery with an AC adaptor so it can be plugged and provide continuous power. Plenty of different versions on any electronic store
- Mini HDMI to HDMI cable: buy one it will connect from the mini HDMI port of the camera to the HDMI port of the capture card.
- Elgato Camlink 4K https://amzn.to/32w5cC0 : This is a capture card, it basically convert the HDMI output into a feed your computer can use via a USB port. The computation happens on the card which frees up resources from your computer. Elgato’s card are very easy to use, it’s basically plug and play. Your camera will appear as Elgato 4K when you select your source of video in any video applications.
Lighting and stand
- Elgato Keylight https://amzn.to/3gJhCM8 : an equivalent to studio light system with a reliable desk stand: 2 in 1, the key light gives you a strong and reliable desk clamp style stand that can extend vertically and a LED based key light with color and temperature control. All these parameters can be managed from your laptop. The footprint is relatively small and can be managed in many configurations.
- Manfrotto Magic arm 143 configuration https://amzn.to/2QAXOjg : Magic arms are used in studio or video production settings, they are configurable and can hold heavy loads (15kg for this one). The idea here is to extend an arm from the keylight stand for the camera so that it sits at eye level without having a tripod cluttering a desk . Elgato sells a Solid Arm for this purpose (much cheaper) but it is sold out and slightly less configurable. The 143 kit has the magic arm, a super clamp, a base (which is not needed for our build) and a bracket. If you can find a cheaper configuration of the magic arm, super clamp and a bracket for the camera go for it but in general this kit is discounted.
The cost: it is still very expensive to build one of these, although there are ways to do it cheaper or much more expensive (from a utility standpoint the camera cost is somewhat mitigated if you are into photography, this was my renewal for my 10+ years old DSLR). However there are no reasons for these to remain at this price point. The camera especially is full of features that are overkill for this use case alone. The lens can also be made more cheaply.
All price listed are standard. Discount can be found for any of these.
- Sony A6100 body only https://amzn.to/2Qy2Hto : $748
- Sigma 16mm 1.4 emount https://amzn.to/32zVy17 : $390
- Dummy battery for Sony FW50 https://amzn.to/2YKxtDP : $30
- Elgato Camlink 4K https://amzn.to/32w5cC0 : $130
- Elgato Keylight https://amzn.to/3gJhCM8 : $199
- Manfrotto Magic arm 143 https://amzn.to/2QAXOjg : $160 (Elgato solid arm $35)
Total: $1657 ($1532 with the solid arm)
In a remote first world, you have however to put it in perspective with employee office costs and any discretionary expenses that comes from IRL interactions: lunch costs etc etc. Those numbers can ramp quickly and compare fairly in the end.
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