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5 Essentials Tools for Your Documentary Camera Package

Tanner Shinnick

In this write-up, we’ll take a look at five of the best, highest-quality tools and accessories to make your documentary camera package top notch.

Building the perfect documentary camera package is a constantly changing process. Through years of trial and error, you begin to find which camera system (and accompanying tools and accessories) works best for you. Although cameras are constantly evolving, accessories can remain consistent across multiple camera systems. For this reason, I’ve always found it highly advantageous to buy the highest-quality tools and accessories I can afford.

1. Articulating Arm

5 Essentials Tools for Your Documentary Camera Package - Wooden Camera Ultra Arm Mini Mount

Image via Wooden Camera.

Articulating arms are one of the most versatile tools you can have in your camera package. Whether you use them to mount an external monitor, a wireless video feed, or even an audio recorder, these arms are very beneficial. When it comes to articulating arms, you most certainly get what you pay for. While it’s easy to find many cheap models, buy the absolute best that you can, so this valuable tool will be a part of your kit for years to come.

My personal favorite is the Wooden Camera Ultra Arm. It’s robust, strong, and ultimately reliable, in even the most extreme conditions.

2. Follow Focus

5 Essentials Tools for Your Documentary Camera Package - Wooden Camera Zip Focus

Image via Wooden Camera.

A solid follow focus system will last you multiple camera and lens systems. Also, a quality follow focus will prove vastly beneficial when you’re filming the reactionary style content involved in documentary filmmaking. If your follow focus decides to fail, then your shot could also fail.

There are many great options out there for quick, lightweight follow focuses. My go-to is the zip focus from Wooden Camera.

3. Dovetail Plate

5 Essentials Tools for Your Documentary Camera Package — Dovetail Plate

Image via Wooden Camera.

With documentary filmmaking, you have to be consistently on-the-go and as reactionary as possible. However, sometimes lifting your camera off the tripod head can take longer than you expected, and the movement is never very smooth.

Fortunately, a dovetail plate makes that transition exceptionally smooth and safe.

4. External Monitor

5 Essentials Tools for Your Documentary Camera Package — SmallHD

Image via SmallHD.

Documentary filmmakers tend to keep their camera packages as light and portable as possible. As a result, external monitors are typically one of the first things to go. However, these monitors’ benefits far outweigh the space they take up.

The added benefits of false color, focus peaking, higher resolution, and a variety of other perks make external monitors an essential addition. Fortunately, external monitor manufactures, like SmallHD, have taken the need for lightweight options into consideration with products like their Focus 5 inch monitor. For this reason, it’s now an even easier choice to add a monitor to your documentary camera package.

5. EasyRig

5 Essentials Tools for Your Documentary Camera Package — Easyrig

Image via EasyRig.

I’ve found an EasyRig is one of the best gear investments I’ve ever made. One of these can save your back, supporting you while you operate the camera all day with significantly reduced fatigue. Most often, you’ll see someone using a system like this for gimbal work, but they’re just as great, if not better, for handheld work and the demands of documentary filmmaking.

While the number of filmmaking tools available is nearly limitless, these are five that I’ve never regretted adding to my documentary camera package.

Cover image via REDPIXEL.PL.

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