I left my finance job 6 years ago to work for my dream boss, myself. I've never looked back. I focus on tech, gaming, and hardware reviews.
After several years of making YouTube videos, I've realized that spending a fortune on equipment simply isn't necessary. Yes, it's something that you may eventually want to do. However, you can get almost all the quality you need for a fraction of the cost that the pros are paying.
Keep in mind that most people view YouTube on a phone or a small screen format. Resolutions like 4k are used by a very small percentage of viewers. 1080p, on the other hand, is found on just about any cheap device.
Having started a successful gaming channel, I began with a webcam and used the atrocious internal microphone that it came with. I quickly learned that it wasn't the video quality that turned people off as much as the audio, so I upgraded my microphone. As subscribers kept coming in, I moved to a DSLR camera.
Start with an Inexpensive Shotgun Mic
Whether you're starting out or an experienced YouTuber there's a lot to say about convenience. Equipment that allows you to easily make videos but doesn't give you low quality is where I'd start.
That's why I'd recommend almost everyone start with a shotgun mic. Depending on your budget, I'd recommend a couple of different options.
If you've got a budget of around $30, I'd recommend you take a look at the Takstar SGC-598.
This is a shotgun microphone that can mount on top of your camera or be used with a Boom stand. If you're holding the camera, the top mount is fine; however, I highly recommend you bring the microphone as close to you as possible overhead for the highest quality sound.
The sound quality is unexpectedly good with this option albeit with a few restrictions. First, if you're going outside with it, you'll need a dead cat. Second, I'm again going to mention you want to get within a few feet for using this microphone. Otherwise, it's simply not going to sound good. Lastly, you'll have to be patient with it if you're taking it with you out and about or for action shots.
Overall, this is a great deal for someone just starting out. We've run a poll and since most of you have between $200 and $400 to spend, this is a great place to start.
For those that need a compatible dead cat for this, I recommend the Neewer NW-MIC-121.
Rode VideoMic with Boom Kit
I know it's a bit of a jump to go from a Shotgun Mic that costs $30 to one that costs $180. However, this is the jump I'd recommend if you're ready to go with an option that's better than the Takstar one I mentioned above.
Getting the kit along with the Rode VideoMic should allow you to easily set up your at-home studio and get the microphone as close to your face as you can. Plus, it comes with a great fuzzy windjammer for when you're out and about.
Speaking of being on the go, this setup does a much better job in the wind or when moving quickly.
So, in terms of quality and convenience, it's hard to beat this setup. And even after my channel has reached a moderate level of success, I still carry this with me wherever I go.
If there's one downside, it's that, again, you need to keep this close to your face.
From here, I like the Rode VideoMic Pro+ which has a bit better sound overall and a bit easier for tuning out background noise.
Canon EOS M50
Seeing as most of you only have around $400 this next part is pretty hard. If you can afford it, I'd recommend you go with something compact and easy to use like the Canon EOS M50. If you can't, there's really nothing wrong with using your smartphone until you can.
It shoots amazing 1080p video and has Canon's legendary dual pixel autofocus. This makes it SO easy to stay in focus.
Not for 4k.
While technically it shoots in 4k, I'd recommend you look elsewhere for that as the M50 simply doesn't perform well in that area.
Speaking of 4k, in general I'd recommend you avoid it while you're starting. It's a lot more storage to deal with and more expensive in general to shoot with it.
Which M50 Option to Choose?
The body alone is around $579 so you might as well go with the option that comes with the 15-45mm lens. This isn't the greatest lens in the world, but it'll definitely work while your channel grows.
Still want to Shoot in 4k?
The EOS M6 Mark II would be a good upgrade from there; however, this model will cost you twice as much and you won't be gaining that much unless you feel that you have to shoot in 4k.
I mention the T7i below, which I own and use as well. It's not the most recent model, but going with most recent is not budget-friendly nor does it give you the best bang for your buck.
Look at Renewed Options to Save Money
A renewed model may be a good idea for some of you. These often come with a good warranty and work just about as well as a new option.
Content is Still King
I don't feel that the interaction between my viewers and me changed all that much over the years. Rather, it was still more about the content that I made more than anything else.
So, if you're starting a YouTube channel, keep in mind that you can do without a lot of the gear I'll mentioned below. That being said, here's a look at some budget gear that you should try to move to as soon as possible. This post is a follow-up to several others I've done about budget microphones, lighting, tripods, and cameras. So, if you'd like additional information after you've read what I have to say below, be sure to check those out for more options.
USB Microphones Around $100
There are a few options you've got here depending on the type of video you're recording and where you plan on recording it.
A cheap $30 lavalier microphone is definitely enough to get you up and going. Still, you might want something different even within a couple of months. So, here are two options that I bought several years ago that I still use today.
Grab a free audio program like Audacity, get the Blue Yeti microphone connected through USB, mount it or place it near you, and you've got a great studio setup for the next couple of years.
The Yeti microphone is definitely one of the best budget microphones available. It has four different settings that allow you to record audio in different ways. These include cardioid (sounds in front), stereo (left and right channel), omnidirectional (all around), and bidirectional (front and rear recording).
I find myself using the cardioid option more than anything else as it focuses the sound towards you; however, other options are great for recording music or doing interviews.
This microphone looks amazing in any shot because of its design and is available in silver, blackout, whiteout, and cool grey color.
Overall, the Blue Yeti has great quality and is very affordable at right around $100. It's plug and play for both PC and Mac and easy-to-install with its USB plug. Grab a pop filter if you plan on being very close to it. This is something I had to do while recording gaming videos.
Rode VideoMic Pro
The Rode VideoMic Pro is so convenient that I recommend you grab one as soon as you can afford it. It's not super cheap at around $200; however, it's something you'll use for years to come. This particular microphone was made famous by Vlogger Casey Neistat. He uses the VideoMic Pro as the ultimate convenience solution.
I actually find myself using this both on the road and in my studio a lot. In my home studio it adds convenience by allowing me to record the video and audio at one time. On the road, it's a lightweight solution for expos, conventions, or just outside. If you do use it a lot outside I highly suggest you pick up the deadcat with it to reduce external wind sound.
The Rode VideoMic Pro R uses a 9V battery and does a great job of recording right in front of you. The sound has fantastic depth to it and works great as long as you're not in a crowd full of people. If you find yourself in that type of situation, you'll likely want an additional interview style microphone for better isolation.
Setup for the VideoMic Pro R is simple. The microphone is mounted to your DSLR camera via the shoe mount on top of it. Then, you use the 3.5mm plug to go directly into your camera.
Overall if you can spring for the Rode VideoMic Pro it's the first piece of audio gear I'd get. The added convenience will make making videos easier and therefore give you additional motivation to create.
Don't just jump into the camera world hoping to get something cheap. It's likely your phone may be as good as some of those options.
This is especially true if you have something like the iPhone 7 or Samsung Galaxy S8. If that's you, you'll probably want to make the upgrade to a DSLR right away. That might seem like an expensive option; however, compared to other options in the market it's actually very affordable. Making this jump right away also means you won't squander away any money on equipment that only gives you a small upgrade over your phone.
You might be surprised that I'm recommending the Canon T7i over something like the Canon 70D. And while the Canon 80D would be an upgrade over the T7i, I'm perfectly happy with the picture that you can get with the T7i.
In my article on the best budget cameras for YouTube I compared the T7i directly with the Canon 70D. While I won't completely get into that here, it's enough to know that with the T7i you get as good of a picture or better, better ISO range, a more up-to-date system, better sensor, and lighter camera.
It has a flip out LED screen which you can rotate to see yourself while filming. As you'll likely be filming yourself for a while when you start out, this is kind of a must-have option.
Overall, I highly recommend the T7i. No, it doesn't do 4k. So, if you want to do that you can take a chance with something like the Panasonic Lumix G7. Still, I think that storing the 4k footage just makes your job a lot harder right now without any real benefit. That being said, if you have to have 4k that's the inexpensive route I'd take.
For now, I'll recommend that you use the stock 18-55mm lens that comes with your Canon DSLR. It works very well and can handle a variety of pictures From there, I'd get the inexpensive Canon Nifty Fifty 50mm lens that comes in at around $100.
Once you've gotten used to these lenses you'll have a better idea of what types of lenses you'll want moving forward.
There's a few different webcams on the market that you could choose between; however, the Logitech C930e, in my opinion, is the best option.
Wildly popular streamers use this webcam and nothing else to make their videos. So, you could certainly go from having your Mom and Sister as you're only suscribers to millions of subscribers and continue to use this webcam.
Using a webcam allows you to pop out videos quickly. In fact, this means you might be able to do several videos in one day of you live streaming games onto Twitch or whatever platform you choose.
The Logitech C930e gives you a clear 1080p picture at up to 30FPS. This picture is great for a corner shot on the screen or even when you need to occasionally maximize the screen.
If there's one downside to this camera, it's that the microphone isn't that great .The C930e does have 2 omni-directional noise cancelling microphones, however, in my opinion they're kind of off-putting. This type of microphone is for an easy plug-and-play setup for your grandma. So, get something like the Yeti (shown above) for your audio.
Compared to the other Logitech Webcams this one includes a 90-degree diagonal field of view (vs 78), an external privacy shutter, and a better picture as well.
Best Budget Lighting for YouTube Videos Under $50
Getting the right lighting for your video can be a bit tricky. Luckily, it doesn't have to be expensive. I've never been one for spending a ton on light. Rather, I like to use as many natural sources as possible.
My office has 5 windows in it, I use 3 natural light bulbs in my fan light and then I use two more inexpensive items I'll show you below. Like with the options above I've written additional information on my favorite budget lighting for YouTube here. So, if you don't like these two options, check out that as well.
Cowboy Studio Triple Lighting Kit
When I typically do product reviews I tell you why one product is better than the other. However, with this Cowboy Studio Lighting Kit, it's very similar to several other options out there. This includes the LimoStudio kit that is a good alternative to this one.
All of these are similarly priced, have 2 umbrellas, 3 stands, 3 lights, and so forth for around $50. So, I'd really go with whichever one is the cheapest.
In using this, I really found that I could get just about as much light as I wanted for myself. So, this is the studio setup I still use to this day.
Run and Gun - Neewer CN-216
If you're looking for a run and gun lighting setup, I recommend you purchase the Neewer CN-216. It has 216 LEDs, attaches to the shoe mount on your DSLR, has temperature adjustment, and can be as bright as you need it to be.
It takes 6 AA batteries so you'll need to pack some extras if you're going on a trip or need to use it for an extended period of time. However, the LED bulbs themselves have a lifespan of 50,000 hours and should last you a very long time.
Overall, this $50 light gives you a ton of flexibility when you're out and about and I highly recommend it.
Joby Gorillapod and Ballhead X
The Joby Gorillapod is a great option for those who find themselves outdoors quite a lot. It can attach to a rail, a tree, or just about anything you can think of while keeping up to around 11 pounds steady.
I recommend you purchase the Gorillapod with the Ballhead X combo as it's much cheaper than buying each one separately.
Overall, the $100 you pay for the Gorillapod is made back quickly with quality of your videos. I've written about some cheaper tripod options for YouTube here as well. So, if this one is a bit out of your price range, check out those alternatives.
AmazonBasics 60-Inch Tripod
For $25 the AmazonBasics Tripod is the perfect starter solution for your home studio. It has an adjustable handle that takes it up to 60-inches, 2 levels for keeping your shot straight, a mounting plate, and several other options for adjustment.
Overall, it's cheap, sturdy, and works great for what most are looking for. I don't really recommend you take this particular model with you as it's a bit heavy at over 6 pounds. However, it's a great solution for a permanent setup and is as good as models several times its price.
Overall, you can definitely keep to your budget while starting on YouTube. In fact, using the environment around you, natural light, and your own cell phone are enough for many.
However, I think most of the upgrades are the next step up you should take. There are a few you could make in the middle, but I think these will have more staying power and in the end save you some money.
Have an inexpensive piece of video or audio gear you want us to know about? Be sure to let us know. I'm also happy to answer any questions about the gear featured here below.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Speak Your Mind
jahneyah on July 07, 2020:
thank you so much. me and my mom are looking to make one and you just amde this super easy. thank you
Matt on February 13, 2019:
Thank you! You’ve genuinely helped me set out the basics. Watch out YouTube!