October 26, 2021 (Updated )
More and more journos now find themselves working from home. For those of you powering through from your bedroom, we salute you. And those of you deep diving through FOI requests. And those of you currently polishing off the seventh piece of the day. Basically, we’re in awe of the whole damn lot of you.
There are so many pieces to putting together an amazing story – and it takes some serious skills to get it right. Luckily though, these days there’s more help than ever before, thanks to our good pals science and technology, but your gadget and tech needs may have now changed.
And what’s more, if you’re a freelancer, you can very much whack them on your tax-deductible expenses.
So, whether you’re an intrepid news reporter, a keen-eyed photo journo, or an Instagram-savvy whizz-kid, here’s our pick of the best value gear right now. We’ve still thrown in some bits for those of you still braving the weather and reporting out there IRL – we know you might need a helping hand!
Oh, and some incredibly beautiful notebooks. Because everyone loves notebooks.
All prices were correct at the time we published this. We’ll do our best to keep it up to date, but please don’t shout at us if we slip up.
So, it’s worth stressing here that for most of us there’s no reason why you can’t do everything you could ever dream of with a decent smartphone camera these days.
We don’t want to sound like those dudes on the internet, but you’d be amazed at what you can achieve with a tripod and a fairly decent mic, and wouldn’t want anyone to think they had to splurge out on this kinda stuff.
This said, for video journalists who want a bit of compact kit to take their work to the next level, this Movo Rig is an affordable option to bypass the whole DSLR thing, allowing you to achieve top-notch professional video on your phone.
It comes with a stereo microphone, padded grip, and a wrist strap, and can be pretty much fitted onto any smartphone in the market.
Available now for £29.99.
It’s always worth mentioning podcasting. It’s one of those disciplines that can quickly swallow up all of your free time and available funds – mainly just through having to get a bunch of equipment.
But, if you’re starting out, forget the frills to begin with and start off by getting a good quality microphone. Don’t believe us? Here’s what the experts had to say about it.
This Seiren Mini microphone from Razer is currently Amazon’s Choice, can plug into your laptop by USB, and provides clear audio for minimal cost.
While we’re here and talking about video stuff, have you ever looked at all those make up tutorials on YouTube and wondered how all those vloggers look so pristine and perfectly lit on camera? Well, they aren’t just born with it, and nor is it Maybelline. Scandal.
Ring lights like these are actually pretty affordable – and are crucial for getting the right lighting every time you’re doing takes to camera.
If vlogging is your business, or you find yourself often recording pieces to camera or sit downs with others, one of these could be the fix you’re looking for.
Get one here for £11.99.
A Subscription To This Transcription App
Since many people’s interviews are now done virtually rather than face-to-face, transcribing them has changed too.
Made for automatically writing up meeting notes, we’ve found that Otter is great for uploading audio recordings of your Zoom or phone call interviews, instead of re-listening to your own voice whilst you listen for important quotes. Their basic plan is free but can only transcribe live meetings and chats.
To upload pre-recorded interviews, sign up for their Pro plan from £6.04/month!
These notebooks are absolutely delightful. We know this because we’ve tried them (and they say they’re made with love, awwww). These Classic Journals from KAPDAA are super sustainable: printed with natural ink made from soot, with each notebook bound in offcut fabric. They’re bound to make you feel a little fancier jotting down notes.
We should also add that it is actually pretty useful – it comes with a ribbony bookmark so you don’t get lost in the notes, as well as a pocket for receipts and general bumf at the back.
Get yours here, currently at £17.90.
Riveting, we know, but no one wants to end up on the wrong side of the law, and McNae’s Essential Essential Law for Journalists is pretty much the holy book of everything.
We’re not suggesting you need to pore over the thing nightly before bed, but it’s a genuinely accessible guide to almost any problem you might have in the newsroom. We know for a fact that this award-winning piece from London Student, for example, was pretty much legally cleared by reading through this book with a fine tooth-comb.
Also, even if that’s not selling it for you, it’s quite satisfying to highlight and annotate in a range of different colours, which also has the bonus effect of your colleges thinking you’re particularly well versed. We know, we’re party animals.
Get a copy to leave on your bedside table for less than £25.
It’s the luck of the draw that never goes your way. You know you’ve got about sixteen iPhone cables in your rucksack, but whichever one you pick, it’s always the one which has been bent a bit too much to work. So’s the next one. And the next one.
Not so with this UNBREAKcable Charger which claims to have been tested with loads of up to 50kg and bend tested to 95-degrees more than 8,000 times.
There’s also a wild picture showing the exact make-up of the inside of the wire and the polyester coating, a promise of 20 percent faster charging, and a three-year guarantee. Phew.
If you’re out and about interviewing people IRL, then this Olympus WS-852 could be for you – though you still might want to whack it on the birthday list.
Aside from the high-quality voice recording, the standout feature here is the whopping 112 hours of battery life. That’s more than four days of solid recording. Which would be a hell of a long interview.
If you’re looking to record phone interviews too you can also pair it with one of their telephone pick-up microphones for about £15. Or you can old-school it like we do, and use a wire from your phone headphone jack as a line in, and put some headphones into the dictaphone. We’re nothing if not inventive.
Here’s the dictaphone, currently on sale for £58.18.
Alright, we’ve thrown a lot of stuff your way so far. A lot of which you’ll need to put somewhere. This convertible backpack from Targus is the perfect size for carting around all your gear and your laptop or smartpad.
If you need some back relief from slumping in an office chair all day, you can change it from backpack to shoulder-bag using its convertible straps. The design is cute enough to take it out to dinner after work, and it even has an extra strap so your bag can ride your suitcase! Adorable.
Find it here for a slightly investment-pricey £77.65.
Our only issue with power banks is remembering to charge them up in the first place.
Sure, they can really save you when you’re out in the middle of nowhere with no charge, but you really have to make sure you’re on it.
This said, the chances are you’ve got way more self-discipline than us, and we can’t stress enough how much of a game changer these can be. This Anker power bank is a sturdy keeper, offering one of the smallest, lightest, and fastest charges on the market.
This 10,000 mAh bank will power up your iPhone 8 more than three times from flat to full, and two and half on your Samsung Galaxy S8.
Pick one up for £16.99.
Okay, we never said we were here for high fashion, but we presume you probably want to stay dry and avoid the fun of standing under the office hand dryers on your return from the great outdoors.
If you’re running out of a newsroom to grab a story, or it’s one of those spring days where you just can’t quite tell what’s gonna happen, a jacket like this one should sort you out.
This one has has pockets, a hood, and is lightweight enough to just fold it up, whack it in your bag, and forget about it until you really need it. Plus it comes in nine colours, some a little bit less appealing than others. Olive green, anyone?
You can pick up one here, from just £7.93.
If you’re still out there in the field you’ll likely need a pretty sturdy backpack. This one from Matein is apparently Amazon’s Choice, whatever that means.
It’s made of breathable fabric, so there’s allegedly less sweating involved. It also has separate compartments for your laptop and other gadgets, and comes with a built in charging cable so you can easily hook your phone or tablet up to a power bank.
There’s also an anti-theft pocket on the back, so you can be truly confident no rogue journo will steal your scoop.
Take a look here, it’s just £31.99 and comes in two sizes.
Have you found a low-cost gadget that has revolutionised your journalism? We’d love to know about it for a new gadgets series. Drop us a line on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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