Panasonic Lumix GH2 and 14-140mm HD lens
Best Documentary HDSLR hands down. I don’t know why this hasn’t been highlighted more in blogosphere. Two elements – size and autofocus are key for the documentary filmmaker. With the 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens, you get contrasty shallow focus images in a package that’s no bigger than a pocket-camera. Combined with a lens like the eminently capable 14-140mm, or the new 100-300mm, you get incredible versatility (for more details see here). However, for documentary filmmakers, the most underreported feature of this camera, and its predecessor, the GH1, is the face detection autofocus. You can be in the thick of a chaotic situation and this thing will track faces across the frame with speed and accuracy. This is an absolutely killer feature, particularly for micro-budget documentary work, where you are likely either on your own, or with a soundguy.
Zoom H4n Handy Portable Digital Recorder
A workhorse that’s cheap, sounds great sound and has just about every feature you could want.
Manfrotto 035RL Super Clamp with Stud
Best indispensable thing-a-majig you don’t think you’ll until you do. It adds much needed weight to small HDSLRs for stability. It attaches to anything so you can put your camera/light/strobe/microphone where ever you need it and forget about it. Just a good tool – always be helpful for problems you didn’t know you had.
The best field vest around. It may seem a little pricey, but it’s one of those things that ends making WAY more of a difference than the latest whiz-bing tech on your new DSLR (which will be worth nothing in two years when you move on to the next best thing). Photography is all about moments, you need your gear on hand to capture those moments. If you intend to do this kind of stuff for a long time, this vest will likely outlast 10 dslr bodies, helping you actually go out and shoot good stuff. Underrated piece of gear that you’ll thank yourself for buying if you do a lot of field work.
BongoTies – another indispensable thing to keep in your bag. Elegantly simple design that will find a million different uses on a shoot.
Z-96 Led light
Unless you want to pony up for a Litepanel, this is the best deal around for LED lighting. I’ve used these flawlessly in many situations. Some report problems with flickering, but I’ve not experienced this. Useful in a hundred ways for both motion and stills work.