I own 3 main cameras, 3 supporting cameras, and 4 mini cameras. I have shot 60 Lego videos for YouTube with these cameras in the last 6 years.
The cameras have been used steady and handheld, indoors and outdoors, slow motion and time lapse, underwater, extreme macro closeups, mounted on Lego machines, etc. But most of the time they capture the construction of Lego builds, which are close distance (~30 cm), indoors (with additional LED lighting), and steady (on a camera stand).
The first camera I bought for shooting Lego videos was Canon 6D. It cost 1500 EUR (too expensive for a first camera!). Together with it I bought a 500 EUR zoom lens: Canon EF 24-105mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM. This couple I used as my main camera setup for a long time.
The image quality is great, the best of any camera I have. The camera settings are easy to use, as there is a separate physical button for most features. The biggest negative side is the shallow depth-of-field, which I think is primarily caused by the big full-frame sensor. I shoot most of the time in close distance to the subject, which makes the problem worse. To compensate it, I usually increase aperture to f/9, but then I’ll have to also increase ISO and allow more noise in the image. Second problem is the minimum focus distance (about 35 cm) for the lens. That is too long for some close-ups I would like. Also, the camera is too heavy for monkey pods and other mini stands. For those reasons, I rarely use it anymore.
Sony RX100 V
My second camera is Sony RX100 V, a compact camera. It cost 1000 EUR.
The main reason for buying this are the slow motion features, which are quite unique I think. It can shoot up to 1000 FPS video for 4 seconds at a decent resolution (1136×384). I have used that slow-mo feature many times in my videos. It has really paid off.
Besides the slow-mo, the camera is good in other ways. The auto-focus features are the best among my cameras, and I use them sometimes, even though manual focus is usually enough for me. The small physical size of the camera is a big benefit when finding different angles to shoot. One little practical problem is that you cannot get the SD card out when the camera is screwed on a camera stand. I usually have to carry the camera to my computer and upload the files via USB. Also, the zoom position is lost every time the camera is turned off. For those two reasons, and the fact that I usually want the same camera position and framing over several days of shooting, this camera is a bit laborious to use compared to the others.
Sony FDR-AX43 is my main camera today. I bought this camcorder 2 years ago with 760 EUR.
The original idea was to use it only for handheld shots, e.g. when filming outside, as the camera has a great stabilizer and a very smooth zoom button. But the camera turned out so good, that I’ve used it for everything else. The biggest benefit compared to the others, is that the minimum focus distance is only 1 cm. That really helps when shooting close-ups of Lego parts. Also, the zoom range is so large (20x optical zoom) that you can do pretty much any shot with it. Very versatile.
The biggest complaint are the settings. For some reason you cannot manually set shutter speed, aperture and ISO all at once. Only one of the three can be set to fixed position and the other ones go back to auto mode. To make it more confusing, aperture is called Iris and ISO is replaced with exposure and AGC limit functions. Often I fix shutter speed to get the amount of motion blur I want, but then exposure will auto-adjust when I move my hand onscreen and I have to even out the brightness in editing.
Canon Legria HF200 I use to capture tachometer readings and for other little supporting camera work. Good, easy-to-use little camcorder. It is 10 years old and the battery is dead, so I have to keep it on DC power.
I also have GoPro HERO 6 and 8. I use them mostly for underwater filming. The main benefit is the small size and waterproofing up to 10 meters of depth. Also, stabilization is pretty good so you can shoot things handheld.
Sometimes I have used GoPro 6 as a second camera for indoor shooting, but the image quality is a bit noisy due to the small sensor. Also, the minimum focus distance is 30 cm, so I have to use a close-up filter.
One little complaint I want to point out is the file naming. Those who implemented GoPro, what were they thinking? GoPro files are named for example GH010054.MP4 where the first number (01) is the multi-file part number and the second number (0054) is the actual recording session number. That is the opposite of what anybody else does. The least significant running number should be in the end. So, if you shoot long videos that are split to multiple 4GB files, they are organized like hell in any file listing. Not the end of the world, but very annoying.
I have SQ12, Kean Mini Camera with WiFi, Faironly Firefly Q6, and RunCam 5.
SQ12 is the smallest one (24x24x26mm) and it weights only 17g. It is very durable, as I have spinned it 5400 RPM and put under 100 G-force without problems. On the negative side, the resolution is only 720p, auto-exposure works in visible steps, and the audio distorts very easily. But you can’t expect quality for such a small camera. Pro tip: you can open the camera, scratch off glue from the lens, and then rotate the lens to adjust focus for close-up shots.
Firefly Q6 is the second mini camera I have used often, e.g. on Submarine 2.0 and on a 100 wheel Lego vehicle. The image and audio quality are much better than the SQ12.
Kean Mini Camera I used only once for the teleoperated Lego vehicle because you can connect the camera to WiFi and watch the footage live using an app. Also, this camera has good night-vision features.
RunCam 5 I used in Submarine 4.0. It has probably the best image quality out of these mini cams.
For long I used Velbon DF-40 as my main camera stand, but a few months ago I replaced it with Velbon EX-640, which is a little taller and sturdier. I have also a small and light Rollei Compact Traveler Star S1, which I use sometimes, but I don’t like the screw that connects camera to the attachment plate, it is difficult to use.
I have a bunch of mini stands for light cameras, LED lights and microphones. I have 5 gorillapods/monkeypods that are always good versatile stands. Manfrotto PIXI is very sturdy little tripod with a terrific ball socket on top. Benro BK15 is another one I use often, as it can be adjusted height-wise between 50…100 cm, although it is quite flimsy and falls easily. I have 3 pieces of K&M 232BK stands that are heavy and sturdy. Black Eye Filming Handle Tripod is not very good IMO, as you need to turn the rod to adjust height, and your camera will spin also.
I’ve shot 4 submarine videos that included underwater shots. In my experience the best weather for underwater filming is a cloudless day. That is because underwater shots are low-light and low in contrast, so you want the maximum sunlight coming through the surface. Even with those conditions, you need to add a lot of contrast and saturation in editing to make the underwater shots look good. Below are two examples.
Clear water is also very important. I live in Finland, the land of thousand lakes, but nearly all the lakes have terrible visibility underwater. It has been difficult to find good clear lakes to shoot in.
The cameras I have used underwater are GoPro 6, GoPro 8 and SQ12 with proper underwater casing.
When filming through the water surface (camera is above the water level and the subject is under water), I add a polarizing filter as it removes reflections. It helps to see through the surface. The polarizing filter also helps filming a glass jar or an acrylic plastic hull, as it remove some of the reflections on the see-through glass/plastic.
I’ve shot slow motion many times. (example 1, example 2, example 3, example 4) Usually I use Sony RX100V with either 500 FPS or 1000 FPS frame rate. Aperture is typically the largest possible (F2.2), shutter speed is a little bit faster than the frame rate (1/800 or 1/1600) and ISO is about 2000. Of course, a lot of extra light is needed, and even with that, the video is a little bit grainy.
For underwater slow motion shots I’ve used GoPro with 100 FPS frame rate. The good thing about slow motion is that you can shoot handheld without stabilizer, and it will still look smooth. You only need to capture quick moments from different angles to get good material. In many ways, filming slow motion is easier than normal speed.
I’ve shot extreme close-up videos a few times to e.g. emphasize broken pieces and Lego eyes. For those shots, I have experimented with different camera setups to find what gets the highest magnification. Here are my experimentation results:
- Canon 6D, focal length 105mm, distance to object 190mm, field of view height 62mm
- Canon 6D, focal length 105mm, close-up filter +10, distance to object 65mm, field of view height 23mm, blurry at edges
- Canon 6D, focal length 105mm, extension ring 68mm, distance to object 15mm, field of view height 15mm, lighting difficult
- Canon 6D, focal length 24mm, reverse ring, distance to object 40mm, field of view height 7mm
- Sony FDR-AX43, distance to object 100mm, field of view height 20mm
- Sony FDR-AX43, close-up filter +4, 75% zoomed in, distance to object 230mm, field of view height 4mm
So the best setup is the Sony FDR-AX43 camcorder with a +4 close-up filter attached to the front. With that setup you get a decent quality magnification where the entire frame covers a 4 mm object. You could zoom in fully to get a 1 mm object fill the frame, but then the image is very pixelated due to digital zoom. The distance from camera to the object is 23 cm, which leaves enough room for lighting the object properly. I find it funny that this relatively cheap camcorder and a simple close-up filter did better work than the expensive Canon equipment.
I also have a cheap microscope (TELMU Microscope 40X-1000X) that I’ve used to shoot Lego eyes and Lego gears. For that, I attached my Samsung Galaxy A41 cell phone with 48 MP camera on the eyepiece to record videos. I found the microscope be best with 40x and 100x magnification. It can go up to 1000x magnification, but the image is too blurry. With 100x magnification and a 4x digital zoom on the cell phone, you get a 0.2 mm field of view.
For resolution and frame rate, I usually select 1920×1080 and 25 fps.
For codec compression/quality, I choose medium or low quality. That setting is IPB compression (Canon 6D), AVCHD 17M FH (Sony RX100V) or AVCHD FH (Sony AX43). The file size for Sony AX43 is about 1.2 GB for every 10 minutes of video when using AVCHD FH. In my early years, I always selected the highest quality, but then I had over 100 GB of raw footage for some videos I made, which created problems with disc space and backup drives, so now I use low quality settings. I don’t see much difference in the image quality.
The shutter speed I use is usually 1/80. If there is not enough light, I’ll change it to 1/50.
For aperture I select usually the lowest (largest f-stop) the camera can do to get enough light. The only difference is Canon, where it could go f/3.6 but instead I use f/9 because otherwise the depth-of-field is too shallow.
With ISO I usually end up anywhere between 125 and 1600 when shooting inside with extra light. Rarely I’ve gone up to 3200, which is about the limit where it starts to become too noisy for me.
White balance is set either using grey cards or the Kelvin value to the camera (usually 4000K for the LED bulbs I have).
Focus is usually manually fixed to a certain area before I start shooting. Sometimes I’ve used continuous focus function with the Sony RX100 V.
I use zebra indicators on both Sony cameras to indicate over-exposure. Also, for the Canon and Sony RX100 V I put a histogram on the screen to indicate exposure. Those help a lot to prevent over- or under-exposure problems.
Mistakes with focus
I’ve made my share of mistakes. Two of my first videos have slight reddish tint because I failed to fix white balance. Then I found WB Shift setting in Canon 6D and started using Lumetri Color in editing to fix white balance.
Focus was another problem. In my fifth video, I made two cardinal mistakes. The video was about twisting a Lego axle until it breaks. I used two cameras from different angles to capture the moment. The first angle was directed parallel to the axle and the other perpendicular to the axle. The first angle would need a large depth-of-field because there are objects both near and far to the camera. For that angle I chose Canon 6D, which has a very narrow depth-of-field. So everything other than a little part of the axle, was out of focus. That was mistake 1. Mistake 2 was using GoPro for the second angle, which was very close (15 cm) to the object. GoPro has a 30 cm minimum focus distance, and I didn’t have a close-up filter by then. So, for that camera angle, everything was blurry.
Well, regardless of the bad focus, the video got a lot of views. I guess image quality doesn’t matter much after all.
Advice for buying a camera
Buy something cheap. Even a cell phone today may have good enough camera for shooting YouTube videos. Editing, framing and lighting will be more or equally important aspects in your videos than the camera you use. So don’t do the mistake I made and get sucked into all the technical features and end up buying something expensive. If you noticed, the first camera I bought (Canon 6D) was the most expensive and the one I currently use (Sony AX43) was the cheapest. I learned it through the hard way.
when you started youtube did you use different editing softwares or different camera lenses?
Also… Moi olen myös suomalainen minua kiinnostaa se alue missä asut? en ole ostamis haluinen mutta se näyttää kauniilta Oletko sinä mökillä vai oletko kotona tekemässä videoita tai molemmat? Ja se Järvi oli niin ihana ja se pieni puro missä oli yksi kala 🥲
( idk what the website for submission means so i will put this one )
Also what got you to making lego experience videos? ( i hope you are doing good and have a nice day )
No, just the same equipment at the beginning. Adobe Premiere for editing and that same zoom lens for Canon 6D.
Alue on Pirkanmaan seutu. Eri videoita on kuvattu vähän eri paikoissa. Suurimmaks osaks kuvailen kerrostaloasunnossa. Se pieni puro on Suolioja Tampereella, Särkijärven ja Suolijärven välissä. Särkijärven vesi on mukavan puhdasta, siinä kuvasin myös Submarine 3.0 loppusukellukset.
The backstory is basically just having too much free time. I wanted to learn how to use a camera and randomly decided to film two Lego videos. To my surprise viewers liked it. More in this article: