The perfect camera setup for remote work

There are a million posts and videos on working from home and remote setups, and a ton of info out there on every piece of gear to get set up. Still, I’ve spent months surfing through a huge chunk of it trying to find a manageable setup for working remotely on a Mac. Even with so much out there it’s been hard to find what works best for me. Now? Every time I get on a Zoom call people immediately want to know about my setup.

Being fully remote means I get asked about my setup at a lot. Since I haven’t found this info all in one place, especially for Mac users, I thought I’d share it here for anyone who’s looking to get a great setup without having to do a ton of reasearch or dealing with lots of technical challenges. This setup is aimed at Mac users, but should also work for PC. I won’t be getting into technical specs and details, just the basics you need to get up and running quickly to do your work.

Photo by Safal karki on Unsplash

The Camera

The first thing you’ll need is a decent camera. Apple’s built in camera quality isn’t great (sorry Apple) and most webcams you can buy are only small step up. Most major camera brands offer something that can work with what I’m listing (you may even already own a camera you’d like to try out), but we’re going to focus on Sony cameras. Sony has been the most straight forward and easy to set up at reasonable-for-DSLR prices. I’m using the Sony a6100 which is on the lower end of what Sony offers while still looking amazing. It’s got everything you need without the higher price tag of some of Sony’s other options. I highly recommend starting with the a6100, but you can go up or down from there based on your budget and needs. If you already know you need to more professional video capabilities like color grading, you’ll want to go for the next version up, the a6400. The a5100 will work, but it has enough drawbacks (mostly due to age) compared with the other cameras that I’d only go for that if you absolutely must.

Lenses

I recommend most people start out with the 16–50mm kit lens. It’s a great lens and will let you figure out what focal length works best for your desk setup based on where you put your camera and how far you sit away from it. If you want a steller quality lens, most people have had good luck with the super popular Sigma 16. Before you upgrade, you’ll want to see what 24mm looks like on your kit lens once you are all set up before buying the Sigma. I know I said no technical details, but this is more of an FYI: There is some weird lens length conversion math due to the type of sensor that these types of cameras use — so the 16mm will end up looking more like 24mm on your a6100. Otherwise, you should be perfectly happy with the kit lens for a long long time. I’m using the Sony kit lens at the time of writing and it’s lovely. The only thing that can be inconvenient is when you turn off the camera, the lens goes back to default length, meaning you have to adjust the focal length every time you turn the camera back on. This is something you won’t have to deal with if you buy a fixed length lens at some point.

Photo by Milin John on Unsplash

Connection

Connecting your camera is pretty straight forward and only takes a couple cables. First, you’ll need a Micro HDMI to HDMI cable for the camera. Next, In order to get from the HDMI cable and convert it into a signal your computer can read you’ll need to connect that cable to a capture card. My favorite is the Elgato Cam Link 4k. This has the best quality at the best price, and is pretty tiny which keeps the cable clutter to a minimum. There are a many higher and lower priced but this is the one you want. Most of the lower priced options are junk and not worth buying. They often sell out due to demand so look out for price gouging (A Cam Link can easily go for 2–3x the price on Amazon or Ebay when out of stock). So, if you find this is the case, don’t get gouged! I found a pretty dang good converter that ranges from $20–$40 and for a no-name-brand knockoff, it works “almost” as well. I’ve used this myself before I was able to pick up a Cam Link. It will do the job while you wait. Finally, you need to keep the power going for those long zoom call days with a dummy battery. I tried experimenting using the camera battery only but the camera tends overheat pretty quickly and only lasts an hour or two max even when plugged into the usb charger. I don’t recommend it. Get the dummy battery.

Tripod/Mount

Now that you’ve got all the main camera gear ready you’ll need some kind of tripod or a mount. This will depend on your desk setup and how much space you have. I have minimal space and found a great clamp that grabs onto my monitor stand (behind the screen) and holds the camera up right over the top of my screen. I added a small ballhead camera mount on top to make moving and adjusting the camera super easy. Don’t skip this one. You may also want to try a standard tripod if you have the space (or a lot of floor space behind your desk) or even an adjustable arm mount for the most custom flexibility.

Using Zoom with the gear in this post.

End Scene?

After months of searching, watching reviews, and trying out different gear, this is the setup I’ve found works best for me. I’ve done my best to make it as plug and play as I can so you don’t need to take months of time figuring out how to get a great set up. Of course, if you want to really dig in and check out all the different gear options the good news is there’s tons out there to explore. Good luck getting your new setup going, let me know if you try any of this out and how it goes for you! Full disclosure: I am using affiliate links, so any purchase you make using them helps cover a small fraction of the cost of trying out and testing new gear.

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