Top 3 Best Cameras for New Filmmakers

One of the questions I have been asked over and over again is “What camera should I buy?”.

Well, that statement is kind of like asking what tools should be purchased for a project……what kind of project is it?  Are you repairing a sink, hanging a photo or building a whole freakin house?  What camera you choose to purchase should ultimately depend on what your trying to do with it, to begin consider the following options;

 

  1. Do you need to able to take photos with the camera as well?
  2. Are you shooting long format projects (conferences, weddings, sporting events)?
  3. Do you need internal audio?

 

These are some basic things that can mean a world of difference when choosing a camera.  If you chose 1, buy a DSLR for sure.  2, you are going to want to make sure that the camera you choose is able to record in long segments (some DSLRs only record segmented videos that stop recording after so long).  You will also likely want to consider 3 if you are shooting long format as most conferences will require you to plug into an XLR cable to capture good sound….in both cases I would recommend going with something more like a Sony FS7 or FS700.

There is a BIG DIFFERENCE between production cameras and cinema cameras.  DSLRs are somewhere in the void in between…many choose them for the cinematic look that can be achieved through the use of different lenses but they are still not a true cinema camera as without hacking them most lack the standard features needed for cinematic filmmaking (Histogram, color profiles, RAW video, Scratch/input sound monitoring).  This void is getting better over the last few years though, just make sure that what you are buying does what you need it to do.

Although there are many things to consider, lets talk about the main points before getting to the cameras I would suggest:

 

PRICE
As this is a discussion for entry level filmmaking lets leave the expensive gear out of the equation, cool?  For the sake of helping you track down the very best camera for the average filmmaker getting into the scene lets keep the price tag under $10k (and this includes getting the accessories you will need to be functional).  In a future post I will discuss my favorite pro-level cinema and production cameras.

HD vs 4K+
One of the biggest cost factors right now when buying a camera is if you will need 4K or not.  Of course you want it…but have you considered the downside to it?  (Buying more hard drives, is your computer fast enough to support it and do your really need it?)  If the answer is yes there are allot of affordable options to choose from.  However, if you are okay to hang out in the 1080HD world for a few more years you can get some amazing deals on some very functional equipment.

 

MY SUGGESTIONS
The following cameras are the ones I would suggest for beginning filmmakers on a limited budget.  In the future I will do a overview of the best overall cameras within specific price ranges.

 

SONY A7S II
I bought this camera a few months back as a "B" camera to my Red and Sony FS700/FS7 setups but quickly found myself using the A7s ii allot more than expected!  You WILL need the metabones Canon adapter if your planning on using Canon lenses of course but I have also heard good things about the Sony lenses, but have not tried them.

- 4K Video Internally
- 120 FPS 1080
- Amazing image quality and easy to travel with.
- Internal audio is an option with a converter
- Good option for long format recording with an external battery option as battery life is an issue on this camera.

 

 

Panasonic GH4
This is a solid and VERY affordable camera that is used by many filmmakers around the world.  With the new GH5 coming out, you may want to wait, but this will also give you a great opportunity to pickup a GH4 very cheap!

- 4K Video Internally
- Variable high frame rates (although bitrate seems quite diminished in visuals to me)
- Super affordable and easy to use.
- Battery life is decent and internal audio is possible with converter, but I haven't had great luck with it.

 

 

Blackmagic 4K  Cinema Camera
The images you will get from this camera CAN rival those of a RED.....however, you will have some challenges.  This camera is made to work in a studio environment, which means you will need to upgrade the viewfinder/monitor (SDI), buy a portable battery solution (as it only has an internal battery) and it's awkward shape and design makes it tough to use in gimbals and other native gear setups.   But if you are willing to work around all this and learn from trial and error, you will love the results.

- 4K Video to SSD
- RAW capabilities (you can alter your image after you've shot it giving you maximum flexibility)
- NO High Frame Rate Capability, take note if slow motion is important to you
- High end image capabilities
- Internal audio is available, but I have never gotten this to work to a satisfactory level.
- Great camera for long format events recording in prores

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