Lu-Hai Liang

thoughts from a freelance foreign correspondent

Six Dream Gifts For A Freelance Journalist

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These are six things a freelance journalist rarely can afford, and so she or he would love to receive them as gifts. This summer why not treat your friendly freelancer to one of these items, any of which would make him or her very happy.

The Sony A7 II (left) is a full-frame camera like the Nikon D800 which it is pictured next to. A big selling point is its small size compared to DSLRs.

Sony a7R II, £2,063 (body only)

Now I’ve gone on record saying how I don’t rate Sony cameras because their colour rendition is poor. And it is true that the colours they produce are not comparable to the accuracy and vividness of Canon and Nikon cameras (Sony’s palette tend towards yellow-green). But for the Sony Alpha 7R mark two, I will make an exception. It is a very well-made camera. An all-metal body so it’s tough and should last some years. It has a new sensor that has backside illumination giving it even better low-light capabilities than its already formidable predecessor.

The main advantage of this camera is its small size compared to the lumbering beasts that are its DSLR competitors such as the Canon 5D Mark III. It has extraordinary video capabilities and a 42.4MP full-frame sensor that deliver cinematic images. As a freelancer who likes to travel light, I’d love to have one of these in my kit.

ThinkPads have the best keyboards and typing experience among laptops.

Lenovo ThinkPad T450s, £1,064.79 

This is for the Intel Core i5, 4gb RAM, full HD touchscreen, 256gb SSD configuration. Lenovo is well known for its superior keyboards on all its laptops, but on its ThinkPad line they find their best form. The keys have more travel than most laptops and they just feel great to type on which for a writer is important. Considering a keyboard is one of the main ways you interact with a computer it stands to reason it should be decent.

The trackpad on ThinkPads are also superior. Battery life is around 7 hours. They are built rugged and durable so they can take rough treatment. The T450s has a 14-inch screen, which will take up extra space for traveling rucksacks. There is a smaller brother, the X250, which has a 12.5-inch screen. The larger one has a better screen and keyboard, but not so great as a travel laptop, but both versions satisfy as machines to get business done.

It’s a small computer with photo & video production capabilities.

iPhone 6 Plus, £789 (128gb) 

I wouldn’t use this device as a phone. It’s unwieldy and hard to use with one hand. But if you conceive the iPhone 6 Plus as a very portable computer and media production machine, then it immediately becomes more compelling. It’s essentially a mini-mini iPad, but with a better camera and more useful ergonomically as a camera. The camera in the Plus is better than the iPhone 6 because it has optical image stabilization. Images and video look better on the larger screen too.

And what a camera. Ken Rockwell, not a photographer who easily doles out praise, calls it a “very serious camera”.  It’s also a genuine filmmaker’s tool. One of my favorite filmmakers YouTuber Casey Neistat says the iPhone takes better time-lapses than his DSLRs. It also records good slow-motion footage.

The phone also works as an email and productivity tool with its giant screen, although the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is better in this regard. Another phone to consider for its photo and video quality are the Samsung flagships the Note 4 and the Galaxy S6, the latter of which has OIS and works better as a phone. But for ease of use, you cannot beat an iPhone.

Subscriptions to media, various prices

Okay this might not be the dreamiest of gifts, but the truth is a lot of journalists would like subscriptions to their favorite publications — whether that’s the New York Times, GQ, Wall Street Journal, National Geographic — but what we would really like is for someone to buy us a subscription to these magazines or newspapers, digital or paper.

I only have a subscription to The New Yorker, but I’d really like one to the New York Times and many of Condé Nast’s productions. In my dreams…

An around-the-world ticket, £1,500+

The cost of an around-the-world ticket can vary depending on how many stops you have, the route and distance. So the above price is around the low-end. The advantage of this kind of ticket is that you can change the date and times of the tickets to pre-ordered destinations at no extra cost. The reason why I’d like something like this is so I could properly test my travel + journalism idea, and go to places where I desperately want to write stories about and from: Vietnam, Indonesia, Japan, Central Asia, Turkey, USA all immediately spring to mind.

Let me emphasize: you don’t need a ticket like this or lots of money to start a career in international freelance journalism. But since this blog post is about dream gifts, then of course a freelancer would love one of these.

A Journalist, Filmmaker, Storyteller? This camera brings it to inimitable life.

Sony PXW-FS7, £5,250

I asked a friend of mine Jordan Terrell who made a video with Daniel Holmes, that was recently published by AJ+, what his dream gift would be. Here’s what he had to say about it:

“If someone surprised me with a rich gift I would first be worried what the catch was. But as a filmmaker new equipment is even better if it’s free. I would be happy with new lights, a zoom audio recorder but if we’re talking super fancy I would be thrilled for a new camera. The Sony FS7 wouldn’t be bad. I’ve rented it out for a project before. It’s easy to use, the super slow motion is excellent when used wisely and the look of the video can take a film to a level DSLRs don’t have. Plus I could rent it out to make a bit more money for other equipment”.

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  1. […] at numero cinco, it’s Six dream gifts for a freelance journalist. Does what it says on the […]


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