- Logitech C920 ($80)
- Neewer 2-Pack 20x28in Dimmable Softbox with Color Filter ($160)
- Foam Board ($3)
- A Window ($0)
- Blue Yeti ($100)
- You've got $120 left - Put it into a savings account, it's worth saving for that DSLR when you're this close!
Are you kidding me? This thing again? $500 bucks and I'm going to use a $80 webcam? At this tier, you've now got two lifetime buys: your microphone, and a pair of lights that are good enough to always be useful.
The trouble with cameras in this budget range is you're just outside what your need for a starter DSLR($400)+equipment. You could spend $200 on an Elgato Facecam, but that money will come out of your lighting budget, and you're only $200 from a DSLR that you can upgrade over the next 10 years.
If you're never going to buy a DSLR, pull the trigger on an Elgato Facecam. Otherwise it's a tough spot!
This workhorse has been around for a while, and for good reason. A terrific sensor that squeezes everything you can get out of 1080p, and works well in bright and dim light.
Perhaps most important, the Logi Capture software gives you great control over the video itself. No camera is optimized out of the box, and most don't give you control over settings like white balance, color temperature, and contrast.
While Logi Capture isn't perfect, it at least gives you control. Put your video feed alongside another that you like the look of, turn off all the auto adjustments, and tinker with the settings until you find something you like.
If you aren't a stickler for new hardware, these can be had used for as cheap as $50.
You'll notice a trend here: we're looking at large lights. This is the next step up from Neewer: they're dimmable, the color temperature is adjustable, and they even come with filters you can put over the light to change the color of the light itself.
Unlike the parabolic softbox design I use, this rectangular design gives you a big surface area to diffuse the light while not being too deep. These ones come with a remote (remember, you're lazy) and a handy carrying bag for taking your show on the road.
Remember the key with lights like this is to design a setup you can coexist with. They're big softboxes, so ensure you've got a way to push them out of the way when you aren't using them. You can buy more compact LED panel lights in this price range, but they'll have around 1/8th of the surface area, which will make a massive impact on the quality of the light.
Foam Board ($3)
Head down to the local craft store and pick up a 36"x36" foam board. You won't believe me until you try it, but a foam board makes for a great reflector on the cheap. Remember most photographers & videographers rely heavily on reflected light. My main set currently uses a reflector, and a foam board is a nearly-free way to get better light control. My favorite YouTuber DSLR Video Shooter uses foam boards in his videos to nail the fill light.
A Window ($0)
Get creative & shooting from different locations relative to the window. Think of positioning a window the same way you would your key light: not directly head-on, but from the front, 20-30 degrees off-center. Regardless of your budget & other equipment, the light you're letting in (or not letting in) from your window can make your break your shot!
At this budget, you're able to make your first 'lifetime buy'. The Yeti is good enough that you may never have to replace it. If each of these budgets are stepping stones, there's value in having something you can keep using well into the future.
This is the mic I'm currently using, and it offers a good amount of flexibility for the money. Audio quality is decent, though it has always struggled a bit with picking up background noise. The microphone has 4 modes meant to isolate sound around the mic itself, omnidirectional, bidirectional, etc.
It comes with a stand, but as we touched on previously your best bet here is to get the microphone off the desk to prevent sound from being transferred from the desk to the mic. Your best bet is to pick up a boom arm ($15), and a shock mount ($24). People use pop filters, and this may be necessary depending on how close you are to the mic when you record.