Gear – Choosing the right camera

Gear- Choosing the right camera

Just to say in the in the beginning: The pictured cameras aren’t related directly to this post.

Well, in the last blogpost we talked about how important a camera is to a becoming filmmaker. Today we will talk about the right one for me and maybe also for you, if you are on a small budget. You will get an insight of what my preferences and their benefits are.

On this point I want to make clear, that this blogpost will be a lot longer to read, even if I always try to keep it as short as possible. Also because of that I will split this post into two, to make it easier to read for you.

Choosing the right camera can be easy if you got some pre-information, some friends with experiences or if you had a camera before. If that isn’t the case you have to do some (a lot of) research to find out which camera fits to you, also because you don’t want to spend money on something you don’t need. Like always, the question comes up here too: “What do we really need?” But from where should we know what we really need, if we don’t know which configurations different cameras offer.

Hm, so let’s start with the easiest requirement. We want to shoot in the highest resolution available to us. For the ones of us, who are on a no- or a really low-budget, 4k isn’t affordable. Which leaves us only Full-HD with 1920×1080. Like you can guess that isn’t really a problem since nearly every modern DSLR got a full HD video mode. But the “Full-HD” sign on the package doesn’t mean that you will get the same outcome with every camera, even though you don’t have to worry that it will be absolutely miserable. The most different styles you will acquire with different lenses, but we will discuss lenses later and at full length. In this point we will find no big differences between modern cameras, unless it’s going up to 4k.

The next big point in our analysis could be the sensor. I won’t explain the function of the sensor in detail, but I will try to explain you the general aspects. If you are interested in knowing more about the exact function of sensors I can advise this article by Matt Golowczyncski at “What Digital Camera” in 2010. Four year’s old, but still pretty actual. It could be helpful for you to read it to understand the following things, if you are completely new to this area.
In the optimally case we will get our fingers on a Full-Frame Camera. Since they are in the higher price segment it is nearly unaffordable for the no-/low-budget user. Even though, in my opinion (Which could maybe change in the near future with more knowledge and more experience) the goal should be a Full-Frame camera. The greatest benefits of a Full-Frame sensor is that there is no crop factor to the lenses you use and definitely a larger area which can be hit by incoming light, which means you will get better results in low-light.
The other type of sensor which will be in our focus will be the APS-C Sensor, with an average crop-factor of 1,5 to 1,7. That is no huge handicap, but you will have to work with it and always know that you have to calculate it to your lens focal length. This will be the sensor which will cross our way most in our budget segment.
We also might find some Third-Four sensors in some smaller DSLR’s or compact cameras (Even though I think I didn’t meant compact cameras), but I think we will focus on the APS-C sensors most.

Another point which could be interesting for you could be the size of the optical viewfinder. Where some cameras just show 80% of the real picture you try to capture, there are cameras out there which get 100%. The question is if we should put interest in that since we want to shoot film with the camera. Personally I think: no. We won’t use the viewfinder a lot, since there is a monitor on nearly every modern DSLR. And if that isn’t enough for you, you just could by an external viewfinder or an external monitor to control your image better.

What about the weight of you camera? Of course you want to stay flexible and mobile, but most DSLR’s out there will have a pretty similar weight. If you prefer one which is a little lighter or heavier is up to you, but there is not that much difference. For me, other aspects are more important and this won’t influence my purchase, also because we will use a lot of stabilizers like Tripods/Monopods or sliders too, which will not be affected by the weight. If you are more into run-and-gun shooting or traveling a lot with your gear handheld a lighter camera will be a blessing.

So, like you can see it is not easy to choose the right camera for you right away. Also everybody got other preferences on their camera, but this is my mind. On the one side different cameras in different types and by different brands, stand tight together in function and ability at this budget, but on the other side we found out what are the things we might look at on our purchase.
For me it’s definitely a Full-HD DSLR, with an ASP-C sensor in it. Also the amount available lenses should be not small. I don’t care about the viewfinder and if it’s light it would be an extra. (That can also be negative if you got heavy lenses). When we analyze these results we see that there are a lot of different cameras on the market which fulfill all these aspects, especially by the brand Nikon, Sony, Pentax or Canon. At this point it is up to you which brand you prefer most. For me it is definitely Canon and I can’t even say you the reason *laughs*. Maybe I’ve been affected by other cinematographers whom I have seen and liked. Most I like their appearance and their perfect fit to my hand, what makes them so interesting to me.

Of course there are a lot more characteristic which I didn’t mentioned, but for the beginning it should give you a good overview for what to look for.
In the next part of this camera-choosing-series we will compare three direct rival Canon cameras against each other, in the price range from round about 400 – 700€ ( 550 –  950$ )…or less – get ready to be surprised.

Stay tuned for the second part of this series, which hopefully will be released in the next two or three days. Like always: Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.
If you like this project, feel free to tell your friends about it. This will help to keep the work up.

You know of course that I will be glad and thankful to read your thoughts and own experiences on this. Thank you a lot for reading.

Until next time – Cornelius

5 comments on “Gear – Choosing the right camera

  1. The one thing that turned out to be crucial for me when I picked my first camera was manual exposure for video. I was naive enough to believe that this would be standard for a DSLR, whose main feature and major advantage is the ability to control everything manually. But for some weird reason, the first camera that I bought (a Nikon D3100) didn’t allow it for video – and actually it took me a while to figure that out because it _seemed_ as though I could control aperture and shutter speed manually. But as soon as I hit the record button, the camera would override my settings. I ended up sending it back and got a used Canon 550d for about the same money.

    The point of the story is that, even if the camera is HD1080 capable, there may well be other differences that can turn out to be absolutely crucial, and the ability to control exposure and shutter speed manually is definitely one of them. Without this ability, you will be handcuffed. I’m not sure if later Nikon consumer DSLRs allow manual control, but if you consider buying one, you absolutely gotta make sure that it does. I’m still quite baffled by the fact that the D3100 does not, and this has so far kept me from considering Nikons for video again.

    So, yes, there can be radical differences between modern DSLRs in the way they can be operated. Audio features, Magic Lantern compatibily and sensor heat management might also factor into the discussion. I’m sure you’ll address those points and others in one of your next blog posts, and I’m looking forward to reading them.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, at first: Thank you for your detailed answer. You brought up some good arguments here. I didn’t knew about the problems with Nikon (D3100) and other models. I will check that, but in fact I researched a a lot more about Canon lately, where I didn’t found that problem. But yes, you are right, everybody should know about this before buying.
    Of course there are a lot of points which I didn’t mentioned in my blogpost, like the audio features or Magic Lantern. That will be defenetly in the next one post. I just don’t wanted to go too far with my thoughts, because in my opinion spending your money on external audio devices ( recorder ) could save you some money on the camera.
    Sometimes I think it’s hard to get into this whole blog-thing, because there are so much things in my head that I could talk about and want to talk about, but don’t know in which order. Maybe I should think about that and maybe I should create a post about writing *laughs*

    Thanks again and hope I will catch your attention in the future again.
    Greetings – Cornelius

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, blogging is hard, it’s the same for me. I guess I will outline my own blogs in the future, before I start writing. I had planned to write one post about casting only, but it easily turned into three, and they are pretty long as well. We’ll get the hang of it eventually, I guess.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent article, keep up the great work!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. […] in more of his opinions ) gave me a good hint in one of the comments (which you can check here for exact words) of my last blogpost. The fact is: Not every “modern” DSLR supports […]


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