June 1, 2013

What Cameras Are Festival Filmmakers Using in 2013?

arri-alexaWhen thinking about your upcoming project, do you ever catch yourself dreaming about the latest greatest buzz camera? I know I do. It's easy to get caught up in the tech and forget that finding the right tool for a given project is just as important as thinking about the right project for the tool you have at hand. As the good folks at Indiewire found out at this year's Tribeca Film Festival, filmmakers are using a great variety of cameras to make their projects happen.

From everyday devices (Apple iPhones) to old stalwarts (Panasonic AG-HVX200), and high-end (Arri Alexa) to DSLRs (Canon 5Ds), filmmakers are making quality movies with a dizzying array of cameras -- over 33 were used in making this year's Tribeca offerings.

Most popular? Arri Alexa, Canon 5Ds (I guess some filmmakers didn't specify the Mk when responding to the survey), RED EPIC and Sony F3 -- roughly in that order, with the RED EPIC and Sony F3 tied.

Not only did cameras vary across projects, but sometimes even within a given project. For example, Mr. Jones made use of 8 (!) cameras -- 2 iPhones, an Arri Alexa, 2 Canon 5D Mk IIs, a Canon 5D MkIII, a Canon T2i, and a RED EPIC. Check out the clip below (I'm guessing this portion wasn't shot on the iPhone):

Which brings us to the overarching message -- we have an incredible variety of tools with which to tell visual stories today, and filmmakers are taking advantage of that to make all kinds of projects. This selection works both ways -- we can select the right tool for the project we already have in mind (based on aesthetics, shoot logistics, etc.), or build a project around the tools we have access to. We don't all have access to an Arri Alexa. Luckily, most projects don't require an Arri Alexa!

In fact, many projects simply wouldn't work with an Arri Alexa (i.e try sneaking one of those babies onto the subway to shoot that quickie date scene with your leads). How many of us have an iPhone? Or a buddy with an HVX-200 collecting dust? Can you think of a project you can make with those tools? And if so, are you making them happen?

For the full list of cameras used at this year's Tribeca Film Festival, check out the article. If you're curious as to which cameras filmmakers used at this year's SXSW festival, go here, and for this year's Sundance Film Festival, read this.

What cameras are you using?  What kind of project can you make with the camera you have on hand? Have you tried making something with an iPhone? Share your experiences below!

Links:

[via John August]

Your Comment

53 Comments

I use a canon xha1s. Totally loving it. Has never let me down and is up to many tasks. Though the dated hdv tapes make it a drag to get the footage on the computer, it also offers the advantage of an extra backup. Though no 4-2-2 capture and only 3,2mbps datarate. Best bang for bucks for starting filmmakers as myself, imho.

- Freerk

June 1, 2013 at 5:40AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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I've been "working" in some of those kind of short films or projects aimed to festivals, etc. I've noticed how the director and producer have a lot of money to rent alexas, red's, 35mm film cameras....etc etc. But then they happen to not have money to pay for the people who's helping them ......I quited "working" on these kind of projects because I think it's very offensive for both parts. And I hope festivals could control that and ensure that everyone involved in the project had some gratification for their work. It's sad to see film students friends of mine who are wasting time and time and their own money to help people who will never aprecciate that and will never have a single kind word to them. And this is film industry, especially in short films projects. And I hope those projects never get to see a f****ing prize XD

June 1, 2013 at 5:47AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Jesuan

Amen

June 10, 2013 at 9:34AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Marcus

That's got to be one of the most ignorant things I've read today. You're stance typifies what's wrong with so much of our society. Now lets all make sure we fight for the people who wouldn't help themselves

September 16, 2013 at 8:50PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Jack

I am filming with a Canon 6D for my first big festival submission. I love the camera as it is my first full frame and my first Canon model. The sharpness and overall look of the camera is just what I wanted. I was hoping a stable version of magic lantern would be done in time, but filming with the all-I compression is good enough. I rarely see noise and the moire issue is easy enough to shoot around.

June 1, 2013 at 6:27AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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TJ Webb

Just upgraded from a t2i to a 6D. Very pleased with the purchase, especially the ISO sensitivity

June 1, 2013 at 8:11PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Billy_Dee_Williams

Alternative beginning:

When procrastinating about your upcoming project, do you ever catch yourself dreaming about the latest greatest buzz camera? I know I do.

June 1, 2013 at 6:32AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Simon

HAHAHA!

June 1, 2013 at 7:48AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Conan

Amen

June 1, 2013 at 12:46PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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I wonder why not much use of Nikon cameras? Is it because Cinestyle not available for it?

June 1, 2013 at 9:45AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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steve

Probably has to do more with ergonomics (many Nikons you have to exist live-view to change aperture.) stronger hacking on the Canons (Magic Lantern is a beast) and just general preference for Canons.

Sincerely doubt anyone is picking Canon over Nikon just because of cinestyle, especially since there are boundless other flat picture styles to choose from.

June 1, 2013 at 10:32AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Jake

So where does that leave the GH2 (hacked or not) or GH3 for that matter? Aside from its sensor size, which personally isn't an issue I don't see the appeal to Canons. Since the GH2 first came out I dumped my MKII and lenses and built a bigger kit with 2 GH2's and 4 lenses. Still had some money left over too. It is by far the best DSLR for video.

June 1, 2013 at 11:23AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Jorge Cayon

Good point, but I feel I should mention that technically it's not a DSLR - it's a mirrorless camera, but yes, I agree with you totally and also left Canon behind for GH2s years ago. The RAW hack is interesting, but I shoot way too many projects and space would be a huge issue. Hell, the MoonT5 intra hack at it's very high data rates (and surprisingly flexible grading capabilities) is even taking a noticeable toll on my ever expanding disk bays.
ProRes 422 in a 10bit space with 13 stops of DR in a pocket sized body with Micro4/3 mount sounds mighty tasty to me.

June 1, 2013 at 3:53PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Jules

+1. Totally should've called it a mirror-less but wanted to stick to the stills/video form factor. If the Black Magic Pocket cam ships I will buy one and maybe another if they make my life on set easier. With 2 x GH2's and a GH3, supporting lens collection plus adapters I can do more for less. My clients are stunned by the footage I deliver, considering the type of camera and gear I bring. Once my work is familiar, producers appreciate the savings and throw it into the budget, either in better locations, crafty's or my personal favorite hiring an AC for me. This is great as its usually a friend looking for work. I'll take that any day over the day rate of an Alexa. Sure I can and have shot with all the big names, but it's the unknowns that pay my rent consistently.

FWIW, I had a major music video shoot stop for 3 hours due a "stuck" Alexa. I've never once had an issue on set using my GH cams. I did brick one though, but conditions were not ideal for the camera and it wasn't a paying gig. Don't even get me started on all the limitations I've encountered using Canon.

June 1, 2013 at 10:15PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Jorge Cayon

Moon T5 is amazing. It's like a new camera

June 2, 2013 at 12:39AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Anthony Marino

Because it takes 1-3 years to finish a picture. check this survey out in 2015. You'll get a very different answer.

June 1, 2013 at 1:46PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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marklondon

Good point. I just wrote below that I thought it was because they were still getting use if existing cams but totally agree.

June 1, 2013 at 10:23PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Its just because many who wanted DSLR's for video bought theirs a few years ago when the 5D was the best choice. They are still getting good use out of them. As good as say the D800 is many wont go out and buy all new lenses and body to switch.

June 1, 2013 at 10:19PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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The much-hyped Blackmagic Cinema Camera is completely absent from all of the lists. Of course, the fact they totally blew shipping cameras when they were ordered is part of that. But it seems to me that can't be the entire reason. My $$$ says the BMCC -- in terms of use on festival-quality or theatrically released feature films -- is going to be one of the duds of all time. We'll see...

June 1, 2013 at 10:22AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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John B.

...we'll see that you're completely wrong. No camera released in the last 18 months will be on this list. It takes a long time to finish a film (which you obviously are unaware of).
Yesterday at CineGear in LA the list of demo cameras in order of popularity across all stands went like this: Alexa (by far), C300, BMC, (big distance here) C500, RED, F3.
That seems about right. There are a LOT of people currently shooting with the BMC. You're going to see a lot of their films in 2014/2015.

June 1, 2013 at 1:51PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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marklondon

Wrong...
Don't throw a negative comment out on a piece of kit you have never used. Having shot with the bmcc numerous times, I can tell you it's a fantastic camera!!

June 1, 2013 at 8:52PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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I'm shooting on a Fujica ZC-1000 Single-8mm. Got caught up in the lame hype of RAW for a moment, then chose small format film instead.

June 1, 2013 at 10:32AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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ZacharielJShanahan

super 16mm
nice!

June 1, 2013 at 11:03AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DIO

Sony F3 aka the poor mans Alexa. S35,13.5 stops of range, sees in the dark and the Sony lens mount can be converted to anything with a cheap adapter. Also rolling shutter is minimal. It's HD (1920x1080) so file sizes is manageable. 4k is a disk space and resource nightmare for an indie show. The F3 will record in anything from Prores to uncompressed slog 444. Unlike redcode, which is a resource monster, slog is simple to process and manage, because it's already debayered etc., so you are not sitting there for days or weeks trying to process your Red raw footage in to something you can actually use. You can get a used F3 body for as little as $9000, because they are now almost 2 years old and everyone has moved on to 4k and beyond.

Also Nikon D600 or 5d with a cheap Atomos recorder for stealing shots. The Nikon D600 didn't see a lot of use, because until recently the hdmi output was scaled to 95%, which made the camera useless. But Nikon finally fixed that in the last firmware upgrade.

I have high hopes for the digital Bolex D16.

The Black Magic cameras look like they would be a nice option. If you could actually buy one. The EF mount is a disaster on the original BMCC, but the M43 mount version is still not shipping. Time will tell.

June 1, 2013 at 12:04PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Hank Carter

You were doing so well (agree completely re the F3 - wish they'd come down!) until you slagged off the BMC. There are plenty available, and people seem to be doing fine with the EF mount (although its not my preference either).
There are so many people shooting with them now: we're seeing about 10% of the footage through our facility on it already, including commercials. This rush has started to come just in the last 6 weeks.

June 1, 2013 at 1:54PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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marklondon

Hi marklondon, I'm just interested if you have any views or interest in the upcoming digital bolex. Best.

June 1, 2013 at 2:39PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Saied

I'm really interested in seeing it. I'm not as put off as some by its unique take on things. I don't think it's ever going to be mainstream, but it could be the true indie darling, perfect for shorts or features. Plus it'll be nice to have another non-CMOS camera out there.

June 2, 2013 at 3:20AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Marklondon

Thanks!

June 2, 2013 at 10:25AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Saied

Pay for a Red or ARRI? Not gonna do it---but I wish!! $10,000.00 for a 4k 1D, no way! 4k for $4k, I just might do it. BM 4k will make a better video than 1D 4k I'd wager. BUT! Still waiting on for video of it on vimeo. BM Pocket samples now out, 4k should be soon.

June 1, 2013 at 2:41PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Gene

Now, now. I think the BMC is a good camera and it may turn out to have as big an impact on the biz as the 5D did. It has some quirks and the rolling shutter is as bad as a DSLR, but you just shoot around those problems and for $3k who cares? It's got 13 stops and shoots RAW.

But the reality is that Black Magic seriously screwed up the release of this camera. People waited for months and those that preordered the version of the BMCC with the MFT mount are still waiting. The EF mount is a problem on the BMCC, because the crop factor makes it difficult to locate wide angle lenses, especially fast glass. The MFT version will help alleviate this issue.

It will remain to be seen if Black Magic can deliver as promised on their two new cameras. I hope everything goes well, because I wouldn't mind picking up the 4k production model (although I wish they would make a MFT version)

June 2, 2013 at 1:34AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Hank Carter

I don't think anything will have the impact the 5d2 did. :-) .
I understand your point, but I don't punish RED for their many mistakes anymore either. Both companies are learning this camera game from scratch.
From what I hear all is progressing well with the new cameras - but their current one is finally gaining some serious traction. My only problem apart from lens mount issues with them is no high frame rates. That annoys me greatly.

June 2, 2013 at 3:10AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Marklondon

I've been using a friend's Canon T2i for all my projects so far, but I am in the process of upgrading to and OWNING a GH3. An article on this site about the use hacked GH2s in a few award winning indie films is actually what prompted my interest in the camera.

June 1, 2013 at 5:02PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Alien Astronauts

The GH3 is a pretty awesome camera, I used it for a recent short. Very fine noise/grain pattern, shadows hold up nicely, super sharp picture- looks like film in some cases if you use good lenses, no mirror so you can mount any lens on it, and has a nice loud BEEP sound when you start recording so syncing sound gets really simple

June 1, 2013 at 10:17PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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john jeffries

Alien,

did you see the documentary 'Zacuto Revenge of the Great Camera Shootout'? GH2 hacked did well in it.

June 2, 2013 at 12:18AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Gene

I didn't. Might be something to check out since I'm currently trying to decide between a GH3 or getting a GH2 and spending the difference on some quality glass. Any thoughts?

June 2, 2013 at 12:23AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Alien Astronauts

Here's links to the documentary

part 1 http://vimeo.com/42806211

part 2 http://vimeo.com/45757783

part 3 http://vimeo.com/47582731

June 2, 2013 at 1:29AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Gene

I can't tell you firsthand if the GH3 is better than the GH2 hacked. I have seen a photographer that owns both say that they are basically the same. But that's secondhand information.

There's two YouTube channels I can point you to that may help in that area:

DrewNetwork: http://www.youtube.com/user/drewnetwork/videos

DiscoverMirrorless: http://www.youtube.com/user/DiscoverMirrorless

You can send messages to both these and maybe they will give you better advice than I can. But it's true, the lens makes all the difference.

June 2, 2013 at 1:35AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Gene

Also,

There's lots of GH3 and GH2 Hacked videos on vimeo. Watch them all and I'm sure it will help you decide.

June 2, 2013 at 2:00AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Gene

One more thing I realized,

There's a GH3 hack in the works right now from Driftwood. I don't know when it will be done. And, I don't know how much it will improve the GH3. I'm not trying to complicate it for you. But a GH3 hack could affect your decision.

GH4 is also on the way from Panasonic. But that's about a year away. There will be 2+k video in it---AT LEAST from what I've learned about it. But Sony is trying to get 4k video into it. From what I've learned about what Panasonic wants to do with the GH4 is this: GH3 was a disappointment to some GH2 owners. So Panasonic wants the GH4 to be a clear cut better than the GH3 so no one will be disappointed this time.

But again, if I was you I'd try to get advice from people that currently own both a GH2 hacked and a GH3.

June 2, 2013 at 2:15AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Gene

Thanks for all the information and links. I'll be sticking with the GH3. Looking over the features, test footage, and stills I think this camera will best suit my needs now and going into the future. I appreciate all your help.

June 2, 2013 at 2:24AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Alien Astronauts

Hope it works out great for you. It makes great video, I think better than 5D3 even with the addons. I never was a big fan of the pastel look in Canon---unless it's for weddings. But Canon does well. It's a very recognizable name and that has meant a lot for DSLR business. Canon DSLR was first so they've been dominating the market. But mirrorless is coming into the picture. The GH makes such nice video it's probably just a matter of time before it recognized more---I think.

When the Driftwood hack comes out maybe you can let me know how much it improves the GH3.

June 2, 2013 at 11:05AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Gene

no one uses the sony FS 100 ?

June 1, 2013 at 6:14PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Well I had to sell my last camera to pay for the new computer required to edit the last film...but the next one will be the D16 Digital Bolex, although in the interim I'm going to get a Canon XA20. I can't afford, nor do I want to haul around, a RED or an Alexa. The Canon C300 would be a nice balance between size/weight and features. Actually, I'd love to have the Ikonoskop, especially the panchromatic model. I guess I'm at the low end, but so what, I like "handmade" documentaries and I don't have any interest in the higher end for the current project.

Oh, and I've been using the GH3 lately. Its nice, but try to get a decent focus when its rolling video! Without a Zacuto type of loupe finder attached, its really tough to maintain focus. When you stop shooting, yeah, the image magnifies, but it won't do it when rolling.

June 1, 2013 at 8:25PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Canon 5DmkIII and T2i, mostly. Occasionally a 60D and a T3i, depending on the project. I've shot with a C100 several times before, and its ease of use and strong image is really, really attractive. I may have to invest in one. It's a very useful all-around tool.

June 2, 2013 at 12:02AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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The film I worked on used the Black Magic Cinema camera. Check out our facebook page and message us if you would like to get the link.

https://www.facebook.com/monheganmovie?fref=ts

June 2, 2013 at 2:48PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Jacob

It's all about story. The Academy award winner this year for best documentary was shot with a iphone in part because the filmmaker ran out of funds to print film with his Super 8. Best choice for an indie filmmaker is to get a good value and keep the price down in order to keep in filming. Concentrate on story. The rest is just marketing.

June 3, 2013 at 1:26PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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CB

The list includes the The Canon 5D, that cannot shoot video. So you see that indiewire is not bothered about technology check.
What does it matter anyway? A good filmmaker will do a great job on an iPhone 3 and a bad filmaker will screw up on an Arri.

June 4, 2013 at 5:22AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Tulio

Hey No Film School,
Just came across this article funny you used "Mr.Jones" as an example. I was second unit Cinematographer on it and we threw many flavors into the soup from 5D MK2 Hot Rodded PL, 5D Mark 3 with Canon glass, Canon T2i, iPhone and Gopro. We had the use of a RED MX but the 2nd unit size and time constraints made it prohibitive to utilize on this particular project. We were not interested at all in trying to match existing A Unit Alexa footage as we needed something that was distinctive.
I love multi media projects and treat every camera as it's own potential narrative flavor, ultimately to enhance the end product and viewer experience.

Cheers,

David M. Wexler
Cinematographer

June 4, 2013 at 10:00AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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David M. Wexler

I'm filming my action short with a Canon 500D, a Panasonic gh2 and to top it off using vintage Nikon, vivitar and Olympus lenses. Standpoint: The Series coming soon! Action packed cop drama directed by yours truly... Me lol

June 7, 2013 at 3:52AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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35mm still frames at 16fps from modified lomokino is enough for xxxHEEPxxx?

June 7, 2013 at 9:06AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Oleg

hello, i am a film editing student and i want know more about camera models which used in movies, please help me. my facebook id "prathamesh bhattacharya"

July 19, 2013 at 3:09AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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prathamesh bhat...

How about Nikon D5200??

October 11, 2013 at 5:33AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Hirenn

Hey people how about stop focusing on what kind of camera to use or what you use to edit with and start making a good film with great storyline.....geez you are not in the Hollywood league. Sick of it every year you buy a new camera and making Canon richer while you wasting your money.

February 17, 2014 at 7:48PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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julz