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Vlogging with the Canon EOS M3: Jem Schofield of theC47

September 19, 2016

Jem Schofield

Note: This article has an accompanying video about how I chose the EOS M3 camera for my weekly YouTube Vlog “Random Acts Of…” which also includes the various set-ups and configurations that I use in different shooting situations.

A vlog is really a video-based blog and can be about anything. Like a written blog, it contains the ideas, activities and opinions of a particular person or people. It can be an edited version of their daily lives, a combination of commentary and gameplay (some of the most successful vloggers in the world are gamers), or a more focused “show” that teaches others certain techniques such as how to do makeup, exercise, brew beer or in my vlog, the craft of video production and filmmaking.

In 2008, I started theC47 as an educational brand that was focused on teaching the craft of video production and filmmaking. I recently launched a new weekly vlog called “Random Acts Of…” on theC47’s YouTube channel. Basically, it covers Random Acts Of… Lighting, Composition, Camera Movement, Lighting Control, Gear and anything else that interests me as a producer, DP and all around tinkerer.

You shouldn’t start a vlog with the intention of making lots of money. It can help people build their brands, but it’s the passion for the subject matter and a commitment to creating ongoing content that are key – and the one thing many successful vloggers seem to have in common. If the content they create is interesting, and it is posted regularly (generally daily or at least weekly), they can find an audience over time.

So let’s say you have the passion and the commitment – how do you get started creating your own vlog? You need equipment.

When planning my vlog I knew the first thing I would need is a new camera. While I own many (DSLRs, mirrorless cameras and even digital cinema cameras), I was looking for something that would specifically be used for vlogging purposes.

To successfully vlog on a regular basis you need to have tools that will allow you to capture your content quickly and easily. Most vloggers need to be able to shoot content at any time of day, and they need to be fast and efficient while still keeping the quality of their content high. They also need to be able to get a variety of footage in many different shooting scenarios and locations.

As vlogging is typically “run and gun” by nature, I had very specific requirements for what I wanted in a camera.

Here were my main requirements for a vlogging camera system:

1. Affordable (with the main camera body and lens solution I chose coming in at under $1000), small and lightweight

2. Good in low light situations

3. A “selfie” mode for monitoring (an articulating or flip-up screen so I wouldn’t need another monitor)

4. A wide-angle lens option (important when doing vlogs, as you need a decent angle/field of view when hand-holding your camera system)

5. A good autofocus system (face detection was a priority)

6. A microphone input terminal/jack (to use external microphone systems)

While I would have liked things such as 4K capabilities and a headphone jack, these were not priorities for my Vlogging camera. 1080p recording was what I was looking for at this point in time and for this application.

Once I had my list of main requirements I started testing various cameras that had all or most of the key features that I needed. I tested them in different shooting environments and situations to find a system that would give me the flexibility I was looking for.

When I was done testing all of the various cameras I had on my short list, the Canon EOS M3 with the native EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 STM lens combo became the system I chose to invest in. A lot of that decision had to do with the features of the camera but it also had to do with how well those features performed in the real world.

I was honestly surprised at the final outcome as the M3 wasn’t originally on my list of cameras to consider. Even though I have owned and have been using Canon camera systems for many years, I didn’t think to look at the EOS M3 until I researched its features.

In the end the M3 did most things better than the other mirrorless cameras I was looking at. I also needed something I could travel easily with along with my various rigs, lighting and audio equipment. Generally the smaller the camera, the smaller everything else is that supports it (gimbals, handheld rigs, car mounts, etc.). When the camera increases in size then so does the equipment around it. I wanted EVERYTHING to fit into one backpack.

In the accompanying video to this article I discuss and show the three main rigs I use with the M3 when vlogging and the equipment that I use with those rigs including filters, audio and mounting solutions.

1. Flexible Tripod:
The first rig I use is a more “traditional” bendable tripod solution. I use this with an adjustable ball mount and can use it collapsed for handheld use, as a tripod on a flat surface or I can wrap it around chairs, benches, columns, etc. It’s an incredibly versatile piece of kit equipment and I believe it should be in every vlogger’s kit. There are a number of these solutions on the market.

2. Car Mount:
The second way I rig the camera is with a car mount. This allows me to continue to shoot when moving from one location to another or when I am going to a particular location for an episode of the vlog.

3. Gimbal:
The third rig and now the main way I am using the M3 is with a handheld gimbal system designed for mirrorless cameras. It is small, lightweight and allows for very smooth shots. Coupled with an optional tripod base it allows you to also set the gimbal down and use the joystick controller (common on many of today’s one-handed gimbals), to control the camera’s movement from a stationary position.

One other thing I have done to allow for quick production (also covered in the accompanying video) is settling on a universal plating system for all of my rigs. This way I can move the camera from one rig to another without have to remove the baseplate on the camera. I am using an Arca-Swiss compatible system, as the baseplates come in sizes small enough that when they are mounted I can still have access to the battery and SD card slots on the camera.

For vlogging purposes I always have the camera set to the Movie mode and I switch between AF and MF depending on the shooting scenario. I also rely on the face detection AF system in many situations and use the AWB (auto white balance), and Auto ISO settings when running and gunning between inside and outside locations. I have been impressed with how well the camera handles those situations and changes.

The quality of the stills coming from the camera is also impressive. There are a number of native lenses for the system and they really keep the kit small. That’s one of the advantages of a mirrorless camera system.

I can even use Canon’s EF and EF-S lens family with their optional Mount Adapter EF-EOS M to allow for a wide variety of Canon lenses to be paired with the M3. One my favorites is my 40mm pancake lens, as it keeps the kit small but is well-suited for video shooting.

The M3 is now my main vlogging camera for my weekly series and while I would love to see things in future cameras in the series like expanded focus in video mode (it does have peaking), a headphone jack and Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF in a future camera, it checks off more boxes for me than any other camera that I considered using.

At this point I am actually thinking about getting a second M3 with another 11-22mm lens for my vlogs. That way I can set it up for alternate camera angles when I’m shooting. It would be a small investment that would help increase the production and educational value of my content.

I’m excited to see how the EOS M series evolves. The M3 is a very capable camera system already but I hope to see some of my “wish list” features in future versions of this family of cameras and lenses.

Fingers crossed. Let’s see where this goes!

-Jem Schofield

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Jem Schofield
Jem Schofield

Jem Schofield is the founder of theC47, an online and offline resource that is focused on teaching the craft of video production and filmmaking.

Jem Schofield

Jem is a producer, DP, director, educator and founder of theC47, an online and offline educational resource focused on teaching the craft of video production and filmmaking (with production based workshops taught throughout the United States and abroad). Jem is also an educational content creator & design consultant to many equipment manufacturers in the film and television industry.

For more information about Jem & his whereabouts visit theC47.com or his YouTube Channel where he posts a weekly video on production and filmmaking at youtube.com/thec47.

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