We share our recommendations for the best cameras, mics and lights to build the ultimate desktop studio, including basic, mid-range and high-end options.
In Part 2 of Your Best Online Self & The Ultimate Desktop Studio, we focused on how to test and optimize your existing equipment. Rather than immediately replacing your camera, microphone and other peripherals, we helped you evaluate the gear you already have on hand, and explained how to set it up properly.
In Part 3, we dive into the gear you need to buy to build out the ultimate desktop studio, focusing on basic, mid-range and high-end price ranges and recommendations.
Setting Up a Desktop Studio for Video Broadcasts
For camera, audio, lighting, and peripherals, there’s an ocean of options and opinions on the web that can be overwhelming. To simplify the job, we built a product wish list at B&H, one of our favorite online vendors, which has most everything Worktank recommends. (Note: We do not have an affiliate partnership with B&H, and do not make revenue from any purchases.)
Microphone + Headphone Combos
Basic: There are too many good Bluetooth headphone options to list or recommend, so use your existing workaday wired or wireless headphones. We recommend wired, as connectivity is far more trustworthy, and it’s one less wireless device to manage at your station. Test your headset by calling a friend and asking, “How do I sound?” If the response is positive, use what you have.
Mid-Range: Worktank is a big fan of wired and wireless headphone and mic combos. Sound is usually crisp and bright. Because the mic is positioned close to your mouth, you’re always going to sound like you’re in the room. If you’re willing to go wired, it’s half the cost with similar performance, and a wired headset always works.
Mid-Range: If you don’t want to wear a headset for a day full of meetings, separating your microphone from your headphones, or earbuds, is the answer. A good starting point is a desktop mic like the Blue Yeti USB Microphone or Marantz Professional Pod Pack Mic, which both plug into your computer easily, and ship with a desktop stand and arm. They are also portable.
High-End: You seriously level-up your options to podcast production with a stand-alone mic, like the Rode PodMic, paired with a desktop stand. Standalone mics also pair to an extendable arm, giving you the advantage of adjusting the mic position towards your face or away from you when meetings wrap and you want more space.
Mid-Range: Webcams that ship with your laptop or monitor are just OK. You get much further with a dedicated webcam, such as industry leader LogiTech’s BRIO Ultra Pro Webcam, which easily clips to your laptop or monitor. With it, you’ll find up to 4K resolution, but keep in mind platforms may stream up only to 720P, so the high resolution promise may not pay off. However, if you record your own talks or meetings for HD on-demand viewing, the BRIO will serve you well.
High-End: Most DSLR and video cameras have HDMI output to allow you to easily plug into a video converter like the El Gato Cam Link 4K. So, if you have a camera and a tripod on hand, it’s easy to configure for quality that is well above any webcam. We don’t suggest buying a camera for just your webcasts, but if you’re an enthusiast, or looking to purchase a camera, consider the fantastic Sony Alpha Mirrorless a6600. This is the best camera to pair with Microsoft Teams or Zoom – and depending on the lens you buy, you can achieve beautiful depth of field to show off your work space. High-end cameras also integrate nicely with XLR and mini-type microphones.
There are few basic or mid-range lighting options, however, if your workspace is dark or filled with too much light, artificial lights can help boost your image.
- Wescott’s 18” Bi-Color LED Ring Light is a strong all-in-one adjustable light for highlighting your face in a call. It’s easy to set up and is portable if you move locations.
- Elgato Key Light Air is a nice flat-panel light that comes with a telescopic pole and weighted base, and is easy to set up. It casts a nice broad, even, diffused and controllable light, which you can dial up and down from your smartphone.
- To add more power and fill to your office setup, the Godox SL-60 is an incredible buy, but you’ll have to add both a light stand and umbrella for the setup to be complete. The Godox or the Aputure options are great for a fixed home studio environment.
- If you want to invest in a high-quality light with a softbox and c-stand for a permanent home studio, it’s hard to beat the workhorse Aputure Light Storm LS C120D II LED Light Kit with V-Mount Battery Plate, and it’s softbox companion Aputure Light Dome II. The light is dimmable, super quiet (we never hear the fan come on after a full day of use), and it easily adjusts to meet the natural light hitting your office. With a quick adjustment on the controller, you can dial the light up or down as the light changes throughout the day. The Light Dome II softbox comes with accessories like a honeycomb grid to soften the light hitting your face. The best part is that you just turn on the C120D II and it works. At about $750 for the light and softbox, the Aputure setup is expensive, yet the pricing is reasonable considering the cost of professional lighting gear.
- It’s nice to splash color on a wall or object, and the tiny Aputure MC RGB LED light is a fantastic tool to throw color into your backdrop. The LED is bright and dimmable, and you can dial in any RGB color with the easy-to-adjust wheel. Simply pop it on a light stand, or snap it to a metal object using its built-in magnet backplate.
Level Up You Video Broadcasts
A professional desktop studio helps to establish rapport and credibility with your audience and sets positive expectations. Whether you’re recording podcasts, livestreaming company all-hands meetings, or simply conducting daily video calls, the right gear will ensure you’re always seen in the best possible light.
Of course, it also helps to have a seasoned Worktank producer by your (virtual) side. For assistance setting up your desktop studio, and putting together professional presentations and virtual events that wow, give us a call at 877-975-8265 or contact us online. We’ll show you how to take your video broadcasts to the next level with content creation, engagement tools, presentation skills and more.
Next: Evan’s World Studio Tour
In Part 4, our final installment of Your Best Online Self and The Ultimate Desktop Studio, our Director of Content Solutions Evan Sadler will take you on a tour of his real-life home studio. You’ll see the gear in action and get a feel for the footprint necessary for lighting, camera and audio gear. (Spoiler alert: it doesn’t take up as much room as you might think).