This is a post containing the most up-to-date look at what gear Brandon Li uses to film his videos.
Brandon Li is a YouTuber famously known for his story-driven travel films.
He travels the world creating incredible narratives and also has his very own online film school where he teaches others how to get his signature look. His online film school, Unscripted Studio, is one of my favorite courses of all time for learning filmmaking and is, in my opinion, the best education available for those looking to make travel narratives, especially if you like the look of Brandon’s films. If you want to learn more about his online film school, you can read my review here.
Storytelling Through Camera Gear
I believe that, if Brandon was armed with the cheapest video camera available, he would be able to make something breath-taking. He’s an incredible talent.
With that being said, one thing I truly admire about Brandon is how he assesses every aspect of filmmaking and figures out how it will enhance or distract from the story. Even when it comes to camera gear, he decides very carefully how the lens choice will affect the feel of the film. He is so aware of what he wants to express that he chooses gear that gives him the flexibility to tell different stories while remaining extremely practical so he can shoot all day without getting tired.
Brandon Li’s Camera Equipment
This is a list of all the main equipment Brandon Li currently uses to produce his films. In many ways, this is the ultimate Sony filmmaking kit for travel filmmakers.
Brandon has a main camera that he uses for the majority of his work. With his focus on using a gimbal, handheld movements, and high portability, it should come at no surprise what his camera of choice is.
Sony A7S iii
The Sony A7S iii is an extremely popular option for working videographers and filmmakers alike. With its incredible low-light capabilities, in-body image stabilization, high recording formats, small size, and great value for the price, it’s a top option for many.
One of the signature items in Brandon’s filmmaking toolbox is his stabilizer. If you watch his films, he loves movements and incorporating long camera moves that drive the narrative. He also uniquely likes to film a lot of BROLL shots in a regular frame rate, like 24, instead of a slow-motion-ready frame rate like 60. A gimbal allows him to keep shots steady and give him full access to the powerful storytelling tools that a gimbal can do.
Ronin RS 2
The Ronin RS is the latest and greatest gimbal stabilizer from DJI. The carbon fiber body keeps the weight to a minimum, the intelligent balancing quality-of-life upgrades makes getting ready to start shooting super easy and quick, and the overall stabilizing of the unit is top-tier. For a traveling filmmaker like Brandon, he is able to use a gimbal like this on his Sony camera, all day, with feeling minimal fatigue and being able to accomplish the types of shots he wants to get.
Generally speaking, Brandon has said that he now prefers the light weight of prime lenses as well as the shallower depth of field unlocked by these primes. When choosing lenses, Brandon likes practicality and oftentimes will choose a lighter lens over a heavier one, even if it means a small dip in quality.
Sony FE 35mm f1.8 One of his favorites
Brandon cites the Sony 35mm as one of his favorites because of its natural field of view, light weight, and low light capabilities. It’s a comfortable lens that does what it needs to do for his needs as a filmmaker, both handheld and on a gimbal.
Sony FE 85mm f1.8 Always in his kit
Part of his main kit, he likes to use it for portrait-type shots. The light weight and abilities in low light puts it high on his list. In combination with the stabilizing capabilities of the A7Siii and his gimbal, he can achieve shots that he otherwise would not be able to.
The high quality optics of this lens make it the perfect choice for when getting the best possible wide image is desired with zero distortion.
A very small, inexpensive lens that surprised Brandon. A light weight option that he enjoys using for selfie and vlog-style shooting.
A versatile, wide-angle lens that isn’t too heavy but offers exceptional image quality.
A great street-style lens that can be used all day without too much fatigue. The focal length offers an interesting street perspective that is adaptable to many situations.
The stabilization in this lens made it a solid choice for Brandon, especially when Sony didn’t have strong stabilization. Although he now prefers using primes for their light weight and low light capabilities, the 16-35 offers a range of flexibility that would otherwise not be possible because of its focal range.
A great run-and-gun lens that is Brandon’s choice when he is unsure what type of situation he may run into. Even though it’s not ideal in low light, it makes up for it with its lens stabilization and quality optics.
Brandon uses Final Cut Pro X for all his editing needs. He covers how he uses FCP X to the max in his online film school.
Final Thoughts on Brandon’s Gear
I am always intrigued by what kind of gear filmmakers use. Brandon, in particular, is interesting to examine because he values tools that make shooting all day easier and better tell his story. While others may naturally migrate towards the most expensive offerings or the newest releases, Brandon will pass on them for items that work for his workflow.
And I think that is the main takeaway I learned from Brandon. I think we all know that it’s not the gear that makes a filmmaker a filmmaker. But, to see an incredibly talented filmmaker choose less expensive tools because they better fit his workflow was pretty eye-opening.
So maybe it’s worth asking yourself, especially when it comes to your gear, what having a camera kit that is half a heavy do to your creativity? Would you feel more free and (literally) less weighed down? I know I’ve thought about this more after watching Brandon.
I hope this article was helpful to you and best of luck in your filmmaking journey!