Regardless the equipment, the indie filmmaker requires certain features to produce a professional quality film. Thanks to recent drops in prices, professional grade features come on an array of equipment that is no longer prohibitively expensive.
A used Sony A57 has (almost) everything you need: interchangeable lenses, high ISO / low-light shooting capability, color peaking focus assistance, 24-frames per second, manual exposure locking, external storage capabilities and up to 30-minute shoot times. It also has plenty of external accessory options to accommodate an external monitor or a microphone. The only thing it doesn’t have is manual audio gain adjustment. Consequently, the in-camera audio emerges with a steady hiss because the camera automatically sets and resets the audio gain during the filmmaking process. However, in camera audio is more of a backup audio device rather than a primary because a filmmaker can’t follow the sound as closely. Using an external microphone negates the need to use the on camera audio recording.
Although not necessary, full-frame capabilities on one’s camera allows a greater area of information to be recorded. This is because a full-frame camera has more filming area than non full-frame cameras. If a filmmaker wants a full-frame video camera, consider the new Sony A900 or a used Canon EOS 5d.
A used Sennheiser MKH 416 sounds like an expensive fully automatic assault rifle, but this professional-grade shotgun microphone has dropped in price so much that any filmmaker can now incorporate Hollywood-quality sound into their films.
To see what a film sounds like without the Sennheiser, check out the accompanying video. Recorded on a standard shotgun mike and mixed at times with cleaned-up audio originating from the camera, the sound is too much in-camera rather than seeming organic and from the setting.
There are no other shotgun microphones than can really compete with the Sennheiser. People often go with the Rode, the Tascam DR40 or the Zoom H4n, but the Sennheiser outperforms these on all levels.