I shoot with a Sony PXW-X160 (pictured) with a Rode NTG2 microphone & fluffy, essential for wind noise on airfields and in the Mach Loop. All of my editing is done in Final Cut Pro X.
I used to use a Canon XA-20 until later in 2015. The Canon was okay but it suffered from a few really annoying traits that I could no longer live with. Before that I used a Sony HDR-SR11E until early in 2014. The Sony was a great little camera, and a great introduction to shooting jets, but it lacked certain features that I began needing as my shooting improved. The Sony’s internal storage was great and made me never want to use a Mini DV camera again, but it lacked the ability to shoot progressive images at a high frame rate. Its zoom rocker was also very difficult to use with any finesse and gave disappointing results in some situations. This resulted in some lost opportunities when shooting F-18s at Axalp, as well as many other situations.
The first upgrade for the X160 was a Sony RM-1BP LANC Remote Commander zoom control. This allows for smooth controlled zooming from the pan handle of the tripod head at the same time as being able to steady the shot. An excellent upgrade.
Next on the list of essentials for me is a good tripod and head. I’ve scrimped here in the past to try and save money, and I quickly realised it was a bad move. I ended up buying a cheap head and had to replace it only about a year later. I would have done better saving my money and getting a higher quality head later. I now have a Manfrotto MVH502AH which is stunning. The fluid drag system is awesome and really has taken my footage to the next level. An essential bit of kit.
Lastly on the subject of camera mounting I have both a tripod and a monopod. The tripod is a Manfrotto 545B, which is double braced and very stable.
The monopod is a Manfrotto 561BHDV fluid monopod for situations where subjects are either moving around my shooting location or I don’t have the room for the tripod. The monopod also extends to over 2 meters so its great for situations where you need to get over the perimeter fence of a base.
Other bits of kit include an ICOM R-20. This scanner has a built in audio recording function and is really useful for that bit of advanced warning, especially when linked with Photavia’s excellent Airwaves & Callsigns directory which sadly ended its print run in 2015. I also use a camRade CAM-CBC CB Combo bag and camRade wetSuit for the camera, again, essential bits of kit to make sure the day is not affected by the rain, which it often is in the UK! And finally I use a Sachtler SC306 Air-Flow Camera Backpack when I’m out and about to make sure I’m totally mobile.