The Open School of Ethnography and Anthropology has a useful list of kinds of equipment required for its participants conducting ethnographic work in the Yucatan region of Mexico. (Ryan at Savage Minds linked to OSEA, as well as SLA’s Tools for Linguistic Anthropologists in his recent discussion of digital audio recorders.) There are few specific recommendations of items, but useful general recommendations for choosing your own.
The list includes recommendations for cell phones and laptop computers (they recommend that participants should have them), as well as links to discussion of digital cameras, camcorders, and photo management software. Of particular use, though, is the relatively in-depth discussion of audio recorders.
Prices of digital audio recorders vary widely, from nearly $2,000 for high-end recorders useful for music, to $20 micro-cassette recorders for dictation in quiet offices. For fieldwork, OSEA recommends mid-priced recorders in the $80-$300 range, and suggests several useful questions to bear in mind when shopping for equipment. For example, are the controls intuitive and easy to use? Is there an ‘off’ switch? Is there a USB connection, or must you remove the memory chip to transfer recordings? Does it work with different kinds of microphones? Different features will, of course, add to the price of your equipment, so it is important to think about your needs before you make a purchase.