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Only the Tools We Love. No Crap!

We’ve used a LOT of tools and gear to build YouTube channels. This is where we share the best production, editing, productivity and recording gear we’ve found.

Let's Get Going. Select One:

I'm Just Getting Started

I recently started my YouTube channel and want to get the best gear I can on a starter budget.

I Want the Next Level

I’ve built my channel up and am getting good traction with views and subscribers – what’s next?

I Want Top Tier Gear

I’ve been doing YouTube for a while, and I want the best gear I can get for a full-quality channel.


Starter Gear Setup

Camera: Your Current Phone/Camera (as long as it was released in the past 3 years)

Why We Picked It: Most smartphones and cameras released recently have cameras that are just fine for a person starting on YouTube. Unless you have a good reason to record at 4K resolution, we recommend setting your camera to 1080p which is fantastic for most YouTube videos. The same is true if you’re doing Youtube Shorts, just make sure you get the resolution to 9:16 rather than 16:9!

What You Could Do: We don’t recommend using a phone as your primary camera long term (which is why we recommend other gear below), but if you’re planning to use a phone for a while, consider watching videos or buying a simple course to get really familiar with everything you can do with it, and never settle for the same style every video

Video Lighting: Neewer LED Softbox Lighting Kit

Why We Picked It: We like that these lights have multiple leds (no need to replace a single bulb), and are adjustable for a variety of filming situations. Each light has a display and separate knobs on the back to adjust color temperature and brightness. When it comes to video lighting, more light over more space is most often better, because it gets rid of harsh shadows and makes a more natural look. Softbox lights are a really good option because they don’t cost as much, but still disperse light over a larger area with the box design.

What They Could do to Improve: We have only two things we would change about these (awesome) budget lights: 1) We wish the brightness could get just a biiit brighter for more lighting situations, and 2) the power cord could be longer.

Compared to the Competition: We’ve tried several budget brands of softboxes (Yicoe, and Mount Dog to name a few), and while this set costs slightly more than many you’ll find, the brand (we’ve used Neewer lights for years) and added adjustable features like color temperature and brightness WITHOUT needing a remote are totally worth it.

Microphone: Tascam DR-10L

Why we Picked It: This lav mic is almost perfect. We use the Tascam in almost EVERY YouTube video we’ve made because it does 80% of the work of good video audio for me, and it has stood the test of time; The Channel Makers Team has bought and used 5+ of this same model over the past 4 years, and they’re still working great. It’s 80% of why people think our audio is the best they’ve heard on YouTube.

Whenever someone asks what we recommend as a first purchase for good YouTube videos, this mic is what we recommend. It’s just too good.

What They Could do to Improve: The one downside of having a separate audio recorder like the Tascam is that the audio files need to be synced with the video. Not a big deal because most editing software allows for easy syncing, but it’s still an extra step.

YouTube Growth Tools: vidIQ AND Tubebuddy!

(Updated Sept. 2023) Why We Picked Them: Over that last year or 2 we realized that we didn’t end up using YouTube growth tools in our everyday processes.  We tested both tools head-to-head and realized that both have some decent features.  

Rather than only using one tool, we would recommend using the FREE VERSIONS of both tools to see what you find helpful.  

Eventually you might find you like one better than the other, but we just couldn’t say one was objectively better. 

P.S. If you feel like you don’t need either tool, you are probably right. Like I said, we don’t use either on a day-to-day basis, so you might just go without. That’s ok too! 

Compared to the Competition: I guess you could call it a tie, but really, each tool has its strengths and weaknesses.  For small creators, trying both will be your best bet! 

Editing Software: DaVinci Resolve

Why We Picked It: While there is a paid version, the free version of Resolve is surprisingly capable without a lot of the limitations on other free softwares (like watermarks, limited video length, etc). If you’ve used other editing programs the interface is easy to get used to.

Compared to the Competition: While the CM editors typically use Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere, Nathan uses DaVinci Resolve to edit the videos on his personal YouTube Channel.  In nearly every case he says DaVinci Resolve will do the trick. (And there are TONS of tutorials on YouTube which makes it easy to learn) 

Screen Recording & Streaming Software: OBS Studio

Why We Picked It: We’ve been blown away by just how much OBS is capable of. Want to stream from 3 different cameras, your desktop, and play a video all at once? Can do. It’s actually what Nate used to record with 7 webcams simultaniously in this video. It’s free, and ready to do whatever you want it to (maybe you could get it to make breakfast for you, too? It’s possible…).

What They Could do to Improve: Because of how much the software is capable of the starting learning curve can be a bit steep, but only at the beginning. Thankfully there are a lot of really good guide on how to use it.

Compared to the Competition: If you do a lot of YouTube livestreams (or are planning to in the future), it’s worth getting to know OBS early on, because you’re able to do things not built into YouTube (like sharing your screen, multiple cameras, and much more)


Next Level Gear Setup

Camera: Canon Powershot G7X Mark III

Why We Picked It:  The screen flips up for selfie recording, it’s lightweight, and does almost everything a bigger camera does for a much lower price tag. The only reason we don’t use this camera more is because we’re using the Sony we recommend in the Top Tier section on this page (below).

What They Could do to Improve: Make sure you get an extra battery if you’re going to do longer recording sessions or batching, because this lil beast eats the little battery life for breakfast.

IMPORTANT UPDATE Feb 2022: Some members of Project 24 have reported having issues with the Mark III autofocus not working correctly, and recent updates to the camera don’t seem to have fixed them. I’d hope Canon would get this fixed more quickly, but until then, maybe hold off purchasing this model.

Alternate Camera: DJI Pocket 2

Why We Picked It: This little thing is almost perfect if you do a lot of vlogging or shots walking around. Why? Because it really is as small as it looks, and packs a solid 4K camera, stabilization, a selfie screen into a frame you could forget you put into your pocket. We also enjoy the cool features like face-follow and smooth transition between stabilization options. Sometimes we just wish we had an excuse to use this camera more on Channel Makers. Maybe we need to, you know, go outside more? 🙂

What They Could do to Improve: Not a big deal, but becaue it’s so different there is a learning curve upfront. We also wish the price was just a little bit less, but hey, they’re packing a camera, screen, and gimbal into something just bigger than a pack of gum.

Tripod: K&F Concept 72 Inch

Why We Picked It: Most low-to-mid-end tripods are awful. This one isn’t.

But really, We own two of these and they’re the perfect blend of capability vs price. Most tripods don’t go as high as this one (when you’re tall, that matters, okay?), and this tripod also allows for ultra adjustable close up shots with a unique inverted design. It also folds into a really compact space for transport, and can convert into a monopod.

What They Could do to Improve: Because it’s sooo adjustable, it can take extra steps to get it just how we want it. It’s a pro and a con. 

Video Lighting: Falcon Eyes RX-18TDX

Why We Picked It: This is the BEST video light we’ve ever tried. We’ve solved 95% of every YouTube video lighting issue just by buying this light. It’s larger with an “egg crate” cover that disperses the light evenly, and eliminated sharp shadows without being too much. You’ll need a stand for it like this one, then once you have it set up, you’re good. Our videos got DRAMATICALLY better when we added this light to the setup.

Compared to the Competition: The CM team has tried a variety of lights, from panels, ring lights, soft boxes, and much more expensive versions (We mention one in the Top Tier section below), but the Falcon Eyes looks the best on video hands down.

Video Accent/RGB Lighting: IVISII G2 Pocket Light

Why We Picked It: RGB pocket lights are some of the most versatile lights to add to your recording setup as either a background accent (like we use in virtually every Channel Makers video) or a hair light to add a “3D” look to you on camera.

Nate made a video where I bought and tested 7 top RGB lights, and the IVISII G2 won in multiple categories. The price + value of this light is just unbeatable.

What They Could do to Improve: We wish this light had is an app to make setting up multiple lights easier, especially if we’re using different light styles or colors for different shots or videos.

Lavalier Microphone: Tascam DR-10L

Why We Picked It: We already recommended this in the Starter set, so if you haven’t gotten this already, just get it. 🙂

The Tascam device is the recorder itself, so you put the box in your pocket and press record, run the wire under your shirt to clip the mic on your collar, and you’re ready to go. It also records two tracks simultaneously at two different gain settings, so if you yell or laugh loudly, you never have audio peaking issues.

Compared to the Competition: If you’re in the market for a lavalier mic, the only reason why we wouldn’t get this one is if you’re looking for wireless capability, meaning a mic that connects directly to your camera via a receiver and syncs audio right then. In that case, we recommend the lav mic in the Top Tier set later on this page.

Voiceover/Streaming Microphone: Blue Yeti X

Why We Picked It: If you’re doing more livestreams or stationary recording, the Blue Yeti X is a solid option. What we like about it is 1) audio is solid, 2) good build and weighted base means it’s not going to move around and break if you accidently bump it, and 3) it looks dang good so you’re not worried if it makes a cameo in your videos.

What They Could do to Improve: If we bump the table the mic is set on you can hear it pretty loud, so a better suspension/reverb cancelation method would be nice.

Editing Software: Final Cut Pro

Why We Picked It: Final Cut is FAST, inexpensive since you don’t have to pay a monthly subscription and works beautifully for us since the whole team uses the Mac platform.

What They Could do to Improve: It’ll fill up your hard drive fast if you don’t regularly delete generated files manually; we would love a more automated solution.

Compared to the Competition: Editor Cody prefers to use Adobe Premiere but some report it’s just gotten SOOOO slow.  It took us about 3 days of using Final Cut before we were COMPLETELY convinced that it was better for the majority of the team and we’ve never looked back. Editing software is definitely a matter of personal preference, but this is working great for us.


Top Tier Gear Setup

Camera: Sony A6600

Why We Picked It: Before doing YouTube, we’ve owned or used nearly every single model of DSLR/mirrorless camera currently in production.  The a6600 is small and light, has a flip-up LCD screen so you can see yourself when recording, excellent video quality, near-perfect autofocus, and it’s reasonably priced. The battery is much larger than the previous models and there is no 30 minute video record limit! There really isn’t much more we could ever ask for in a YouTube camera.

What They Could do to Improve: The only thing we would like to see is 4k 60fps.  That’d be nice for some cinematic slow motion stuff at 4k, but you can do it at 1080 and few people will notice.

Compared to the Competition: Panasonic makes some cool cameras for vloggers with neat advanced video features, but their autofocus SUCKS.  Canon and Nikon have each released their mirrorless cameras now, but frankly they’ve disappointed.  The a6500 is nice but doesn’t have the front-facing LCD.  There are some excellent full-frame cameras but they are pretty pricey for making a vlog and the lenses are much larger and heavier.  Fuji’s cameras are fun to shoot with the aperture ring on the lens, but autofocus in video is still lagging.  In our opinion, if you’re using a camera strictly for YouTube, it’s tough to beat the a6600.  

Camera Lens: Sigma 16mm F1.4

Why We Picked It: Generally, we prefer zoom lenses, but for vlogging/YouTube videos we usually want to be pretty close to the camera so it feels more personal.  For us, the 16mm focal length on a crop sensor camera is perfect.  Plus, it’s crazy fast so we can slightly blur out the bookshelf behind our desk in our Youtube videos. We use this lens in 90% of our Youtube videos now.

Compared to the Competition: Before we started using this lens, we were using the Sony 18-105.  We still use that lens for some outside shots where we need a longer focal length, but it’s rare.  It wasn’t fast enough for what we wanted.  Sony also makes a 16, but it is way more expensive for arguably no better quality.

Tripod: Sirui AM2-Series AM-284

Why We Picked It: This tripod is just so smooth; everything about it oozes quality. Where we’ve had many cheaper brands of tripod lose parts (still don’t know where all my tripod feet went) or break, we’ve never had any issues with this one.

What They Could do to Improve: This particular model doesn’t have a center stock, which can be an issue for some if you like that freedom to adjust height. Because of it, the tripod doesn’t extend as high as our other recommendation further up this page. Also, good luck pronoucing “Sirui” – We’re still not sure how to.

Video Lighting: Falcon Eyes RX-128TDX

Why We Picked It: We already recommended this one in the Next Level Tier on this page, because it’s just so good. We use this in almost every Channel Makers video as our primary light.

Compared to the Competition: We got a much higher end video light a few months after getting the Falcon Eyes, and it just wasn’t as good. (If you’re curious it was this one, that turned out to be ~twice the price when you factor in a lighting box to go with it). The Falcon Eyes was more compact, lighter weight, more adjustable, and when it came down to it, just looked better.

Video Accent/RGB Lighting: Atomcube RX7

Why We Picked It: Solid build, excellent color accuracy, and brightness, designed for professional lighting set ups, we love this RGB light. If you’re running multiple lights that need to be adjusted often, this is the best option we’ve found.

Compared to the Competition: There is one key factor that differentiated this light from the IVISII G2 in the battle of the RGB lights (video): the Atomcube (this one) has an app that ROCKS, and makes adjusting a single or multiple lights a cinch.

Lavalier Microphone: Rode Wireless Go II

Why We Picked It: We said it’s upgrade time, and this lav mic is an upgrade in so many ways, but especially for 2 key reasons: 1) it’s wireless, and it’s wireless that WORKS RELIABLY. You’re able to directly connect the mic to your camera so the audio is synced during recording and eliminates that extra step in editing, and 2) there are 2 mics in the box, which means if you ever have more than one person in your videos, you can both record to the same camera/receiver at once.

Compared to the Competition: We are a bit torn on this mic, because the Tascam we recommend elsewhere on this page is just so good. In the end it came down to getting that little extra convenience of wireless recording, from a solid audio device brand.

Streaming Adapter: Elgato Cam Link 4K

Why We Picked It: If you’re doing a lot of streaming or YouTube Live, this little piece of equipment is a must; with it you’re able to connect almost any camera to your computer and treat it like a webcam. Most cameras (and especially the ones on this page) are significantly better quality than a webcam, and allow for far more adjustment to picture, etc. on the camera itself.

Compared to the Competition: There are a variety of brands offering this same capability, but we like the Elgato as a reliable, quality option.

Editing Software: Final Cut Pro

Why We Picked It: We recommended Final Cut Pro above, but we’ll add here: because the software is SO widely used, there are a variety of LUTS, plugins, and more that are either free or can be purchased for a small fee that can make the software do just about anything you want it to.

Compared to the Competition: Personally, we dislike paying for software monthly, and Final Cut is a single price that you purchase once then have for LIFE. The only drawback is that it’s Mac only, so the alternate we would recommend is Davinci Resolve Studio, which is also a one time purchase, and works on PC, Mac and even Linux!

Great Thumbnail Tools

Beginner: Canva

Why We Picked It: Canva is a great option if you are just getting into thumbnail production.  Canva has many capabilities offered for free, and the learning curve is not too bad.  As you get more comfortable and need additional capabilities, they have additional paid options.

Compared to the Competition: They are one of the best in the business. We love that creators can get started for free while they are learning the ropes.  While there are many other design platforms out there, Canva has always been our go to.

Advanced: Adobe Photoshop

Why We Picked It: SOO MUCH POWER!! But really! Photoshop can pretty much do anything you want it to do.  The downside to this is it is quite complicated and can be frustrating to learn.  It also isn’t free.  All of that said, if you want the capabilities, there are a ton of great tutorials on YouTube to help you succeed with Photoshop.


Compared to the Competition: As we mentioned above, there are many design platforms, and out of them all, Photoshop is probably one of the most powerful.  Whether you should use Photoshop depends on your skill level and willingness to learn it. We would just make sure it doesn’t become the thing stopping you from hitting publish.

Important Legal Notice: This page contains affiliate links.  Channel Makers & Income School LLC is compensated for referring sales to Amazon and many other companies.  While we always do our best to be honest and only recommend the products and services we actually use and link, we want to be fully transparent about our relationship with these and other affiliate programs.

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