Buying Equipment

We strongly recommend that students entering our program invest in their own equipment. Here's what we recommend.


A laptop is a vital tool for a young journalist. We suggest Macs, particularly if you're interested in photography, design or video. The Journalism Program has Mac laptops for you to use in class. There are also Mac and PC labs around campus. The Campus Bookstore, located in the Campus Center, offers academic discounts on hardware and software.

External Hard Drives

We recommend a 4-16 GB flash drive. If you plan to shoot a lot of video or photographs, you'll want to invest in a 500GB or 1TB backup hard drive.

Digital Cameras

Which camera should you buy? That depends on how seriously you want to get into photo or video journalism. It's a multimedia world, and the better versed you are in telling stories in different media, the more marketable you will be.

Professionals use digital SLR cameras, meaning you can adjust the shutter speed and aperture manually and you can change lenses. These cameras and lenses can be expensive, but for $500-$600, you can buy a decent DSLR camera kit that comes with with a lens. Check out the Canon T3i or the Nikon D3100. Both cameras also shoot HD Video.

Even if you're not taking a photojournalism class, it's a good idea to have a sturdy, small camera to carry with you everywhere. Consider a lower-priced digital camera from the Nikon Coolpix line. For as little as about $120, you can get a Coolpix S220, which shoots digital images, video clips with sound, and fits in your pocket. You’ll also need a memory stick to download the photos from the memory card.

For advice on more expensive equipment, talk to your photojournalism professor.


The Journalism Program uses Canon Vixia cameras, which can cost as little as $300. What makes this camera unique at such a low price is that it has an input jack for external microphones.

For advice on more expensive equipment, talk to your professor.

Digital Audio Recorders

We recommend and use the Zoom H2 in our classes, which sell for around $140 apiece. There are cheaper models for just recording audio but for professional quality audio, the H2 is the best option for the price.

Software Applications for your Laptop

For Word Processing: iWork ($49) or Microsoft Office ($140) or Open Office (free). You can also use Google Docs, which is free.

For Video Editing: We use Final Cut Express ($179) in the computer lab. We also recommend Adobe Premiere, which you can rent on a monthly basis. We do not recommend the newest version of Final Cut, Final Cut X. IMovie (comes free with the Mac) is also an option.

Audio Editing: Garageband comes free with the Mac and Audacity is free to download for PCs and Macs.

Image, Graphics and Web Design: Use Adobe Creative Suite, which includes Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Illustrator and InDesign. The Campus Bookstore may be able to offer you a student discount on these programs. Gimp and Picnik offer free image editing software.

For Audio Slideshows: Soundslides Plus ($69.95)

The Journalism Program buys its equipment from B & H Photo, but you can also find equipment at Adorama, Amazon and Target. It pays to shop around.

Journalism Department
108 Bartlett Hall
University of Massachusetts
Amherst, MA 01003

Phone: 413.545.1376