January 7, 2017 at 11:25AM, Edited January 7, 12:02PM

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Documentary filming - A7S II, GH4/5 or even a C100?

Hi all,

I am a documentary film maker who usually works with a dedicated DOP. However, it's time for me to get my own camera (duh?), which will allow me to go out and shoot my own projects without any need for someone else to help me.

Starting this year, I finally have some cash on hand right now to buy into a camera (system).

Here are the three camera criteria I mapped out for myself:

1 - Good image quality, with an emphasise on good-enough to strong low-light capability.
I don’t have the luxury to properly light my subject and/or its surroundings. The image does need to stand up to a proper grade in post.

2 - Run and gun capability.
I need to be able to quickly dive into the action.

3 - A budget of max. $3300 to start off with, for a basic documentary setup (camera body, lens, ND filter, microphone, perhaps a cage or shoulder mount).

At the moment I’m considering the Sony A7S series and the Lumix GH series, which puts the A7S II, the GH5 and - still - the GH4R into play.

Pros for all: bang-for-buck technology-wise.

Cons: not necessarily good run-and-gun camera’s, in that they need to be rigged up before shooting every time. Plus, they need loads of add-ons for proper video camera features, such as ND filters, XLR and handling gear, such as a cage/shoulder mount.

Here's my pickle.

Either to go down the Sony A7S II route, which is available right now, or the GH route, waiting for the GH5 or perhaps buying a GH4R now and jumping on the GH5 bandwagon later on.

Here’s the curveball.

I’m actually also considering the Canon C100 mark I, with its run-and-gun form factor and capabilities such as on-board ND’s and XLR.

In short: technology and specs-wise, the A7S II and GH4/GH5 blow the C100 out of the water, but run-and-gun-wise, the C100 is still considered to be a good choice as well, with decent image quality, but far less technologic back-for-buck in today’s market.

I’m extremely eager to buy a camera right now and start filming myself. So, I’m banging my head: should I get the A7S II now? Wait three more months for the GH5? Get myself a GH4R now, which leaves more money for rigging and extra’s and jump on the GH5 bandwagon later? Or even still consider a C100 mark I?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this, considering my criteria.

54 Comments

You said you used to work with a DOP. Did she, too, not have the luxury to properly light your subjects? Or did she in fact insist that the lighting be good before the camera started rolling? I ask because in my experience, with a wide range of cameras, failure to properly light a subject results in equally poor results across that wide range. Remember: lighting is not just about sending enough photons to the image sensor; it's about creating an image that serves your narrative and keeps the audience asking the right questions instead of the wrong ones.

January 7, 2017 at 12:02PM

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Hi Michael,

Thanks for chipping in!

Indeed, the DOP does not usually have the luxury to properly light the subjects for my projects either. We're talking personal, intimate documentaries here, with filming in a person's home, at his/her work, gym, at clubs et cetera. Scenes play out in real life. No talking heads, no special interview setups. See this short example, especially the part where the delivery nurse interacts with one of her clients: https://vimeo.com/174349317.

January 7, 2017 at 12:25PM, Edited January 7, 12:27PM

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Jeroen Pool
Director, researcher, editor
96

Well, on the contrary the DOP has done a great job of using existing natural light very effectively. Large windows full of daylight can be great light sources if you put them in the right place!

January 7, 2017 at 12:46PM

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For sure, the DOP on this project was absolutely great!

I do feel we're drifting away a bit from my original question though. I understand your point of fixing proper light, but for the sake of the argument let's assume there's only natural light to play with.

Do you have any opinions concerning the cameras I mentioned, especially geared towards the criteria?

January 7, 2017 at 1:49PM, Edited January 7, 1:54PM

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Jeroen Pool
Director, researcher, editor
96

If you can wait, I would rent both cameras and see which one does the better job for you. The A7S II is the low-light king, but the GH5 might be a contender if you can live with it's low-light performance. The night shot near the beginning of Luke Neumann's "Beyond the Grid" short made with a GH5 beta camera looks pretty good, but will you need to shoot in darker lit places than this ? : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=00AFU9IVQf0

January 7, 2017 at 1:57PM, Edited January 7, 1:58PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
30432

Thanks for the advice, Guy. The dark scene you provide I would say is pretty extreme. I'm talking mostly scenes that are under-lit (just a living room lamp being on and such), not filming in the dark. How would you say the GH4, for instance, stacks up to those kinds of under-lit scenes? The low-light (in)capabilities are my biggest concerns for this camera.

January 7, 2017 at 3:23PM, Edited January 7, 3:23PM

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Jeroen Pool
Director, researcher, editor
96

"Found" lighting ( the lighting that's already there when you show up ) is often poor lighting in terms of how it lights your subject and the quality of the light itself.

I generally find that it's easier to fix under-lit scenes by bringing your own lights, even if it's just being bounced off the ceiling or a wall, or bouncing daylight with a pop-up reflector. The main thing is that you want to reduce the lighting ratio to something that your camera can deal with.

You can get very good small LED lights that will run for 4+ hours using cheap Sony rechargeable F or L type batteries. The Aputure Amaran AL-H160 LED light costs $50, is about 3x5 inches in size, it's very bright, has a built-in dimmer, has very good color, and uses Sony rechargeable camcorder batteries. This type of light could be used as a key-light with some softening or simply as a bounce fill light to bring down the lighting contrast of your shot. With a bit of practice it's easy to visually adjust the brightness of your fill light so that it will seamlessly blend with the light that is already there. ( just be prepared to bring filters to match the color of the "found" lighting )

Pic of somebody bouncing the AL-H160 light off a wall
https://goo.gl/Sx34ey

January 7, 2017 at 9:38PM, Edited January 7, 9:50PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
30432

Thanks for the feedback, Guy. Good to get some tips on this.

For the sake of the argument, I'd like to assume I only work with natural light, without bringing in extra lights.

Following that, do you have an opinion about either stepping into the Sony eco system now, the GH system now and whether or not to get a GH4R now or wait for the GH5? How would you rate the Canon C100 in this context?

January 8, 2017 at 7:02AM

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Jeroen Pool
Director, researcher, editor
96

Jeroen,

As you can see from Guy's response, as much as you try to bring the conversation "back on topic" you really cannot escape the fact that there really is not a good camera when it comes to really bad lighting. As I mentioned above, your DOP was artful in finding good lighting in naturally lit scenes, which is a talent. Camera equipment alone has no such talent, and the only benefit you get from ignoring this lesson is a hard-won education. The GH4 today is already a highly discounted camera, which is appropriate, given the GH5's superior specs. The GH4 with some lights will out-perform at GH5 with no lights 80% of the time. 20% of the time you'll have good enough lighting, and the experience to know how to use it, that the GH5 might be a better camera.

As for the realm of Canon cinema cameras, the Mk-II versions have incredible auto-focus, which also makes them much better cameras than the first-generation items. And I think both have better auto-focus than the GH4. (The GH5 supposedly also has much-improved auto-focus they say.)

January 8, 2017 at 9:19AM

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Hi Michael,

Thanks, your point is definitely taken! Appreciate the input on the cameras as well.

January 8, 2017 at 4:20PM

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Jeroen Pool
Director, researcher, editor
96

Better low-light performance from a Sony A7S or Canon C100 will help you to get proper exposure, but as Michael pointed out no camera will help you when the quality of the light you are shooting with is bad.

I sometimes see videos shot by natural light that's missing a key light on the subject, so the environment they are in looks great but the person being filmed does not because they are not well lit. Even if you are just using pop-up bounce reflectors, the end result will be so much better.

The rule of thumb to always remember when it comes to lighting: If you can't see the lighting you want with your own eyes, then the camera won't see it either. In other words, if the lighting doesn't look great with your own eyes, then it won't look any better to the camera.

January 8, 2017 at 11:40AM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
30432

Hi Guy,

That's a great rule of thumb and makes a lot of sense. Thanks for that!

January 8, 2017 at 4:21PM

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Jeroen Pool
Director, researcher, editor
96

Something else: I've come across a used C300 for around $3000. It's a proper film camera in terms of run-and-gun and I'm definitely tempted to go down the Canon-route for its form factor and in-camera capabilities (ND, XLR etc). Anyone has any thoughts on this camera at this price-point?

January 7, 2017 at 3:23PM, Edited January 7, 3:25PM

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Jeroen Pool
Director, researcher, editor
96

I realise now this C300 has a PL mount, which limits it to seriously expensive cine lenses, unfortunately.

January 7, 2017 at 4:38PM

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Jeroen Pool
Director, researcher, editor
96

When I hear "run and gun" I envision a lot of hand-held shots and sequences where you can't control potential fine patterns, background etc. IMO, that renders virtually all CMOS cameras useless. For that budget and your intended purpose, I'd see if I can dig up a used Digital Bolex or other CCD-based camera with a proper OLPF. The DB has no rolling shutter, no discernible alias distortion, accurate color, 48K 24-bit XLR inputs with decent preamps, raw capture. The HDMI output is also fairly good if you want compressed capture. Now as Phillip Bloom said probably 400 times in his 40-minute review, the Digital Bolex is "not a low-light camera". It's natively 200 ISO and can be pushed to 800 with good results using post-processing that is normally built into DSLRs. I've used that camera, never needed to go beyond 200 because I know lighting and value artifact-free images over interviews by candlelight.

Having worked on plenty documentaries, I can say it is extremely common to bring lighting equipment. Most of the interviews I helped conduct, we had at least one soft box, often more, even in people's homes or on the street. Bounce cards are common too, so you can interview somebody by a window or whatever and fill the shadows with diffused, natural light. I recently got a nice little battery powered LED lamp with adjustable color temp and brightness that can be mounted to a cold shoe, tripod, cymbal stand or held by hand. It's even good in broad daylight for filling in shadows. I wouldn't want to use it as my sole light source but I put it in my "Where have you been all my life?!" category. When you absolutely CANNOT have decent lighting, natural or otherwise, record audio only and use cover video.

Getting back on topic though, there's quite a few decent CCD cameras out there that are better suited for "run & gun" situations than most DSLRs. Since actual video cameras are somehow "uncool", older models can be had for very little money. I even know of a few people who have used industrial cameras with external recorders. Also, I would specifically NOT get the GH4 because the rolling shutter is terrible. The GH5 is said to be much better in that regard and I'm seriously considering one when my financial situation improves. I need to be able to have movement in my movies!

January 9, 2017 at 10:17AM, Edited January 9, 11:05AM

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Hi Stephen,

Thanks for chipping in!

Interesting, I never thought of a Digital Bolex. I see they the company's discontinued, which is a worry in terms of support. I could look into other CCD-camera's.

Regarding what you're saying about lighting equipment: in my documentaries I do not do talking heads. It's simply not my style and I therefore never having to think of lighting subjects in these circumstances. This might help explain my comments on Guy and Michael's replies also.

Thanks also for your views on both models of the GH series! Good to know.

January 10, 2017 at 8:35AM

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Jeroen Pool
Director, researcher, editor
96

The DB team itself has ended the product but the company that manufactures them is alive and well making many other lines of products for other companies. They say they will continue support, so I'm not too worried.

I can understand not liking talking head interviews, hence my suggestion for a clip-on light. I used to hate them but they've come a LONG WAY in the last five years. They're more flexible, less harsh but more powerful, less expensive and can adapt to available light. I like to set up mine so it isn't obvious, just softens the shadows. It can fill a room though and the dispersion matches the widest angle of my zoom lens. So if I'm in a location with 30 lux, I can at least bring my subject up to 300 lux and not need gain anymore but still see the available light working in the background.

Now what I'd like to see is a clip-on light with a sensor on it that will automatically white balance (with manual override of course) and adjust brightness to the subject. It wouldn't be hard to do and wouldn't raise the price too much either.

January 10, 2017 at 1:50PM

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Hi Jeroen!
I own all three of those cameras and they're all pretty fun in their own respect. Each one is capable of being kitted out to fit your documentary needs. I might suggest starting with the C100 (mk II if possible).

Here’s why I think the C100 might fit your initial documentary needs:
—battery life is great
—the built in NDs are great, going indoor to outdoor, run n gun, it comes in handy. NO FUSS!!!!
—files are small, compression is impressive.
—I think it’s 12 stops DR?
—superficially, it just looks cool—clients see you’re serious about film/video
—built-in XLR ports

When I’m JUST filming B-roll, I tend to grab the GH4 for daytime stuff and A7sii for low-light stuff. But when I’m capturing a little of everything (interviews, B-roll, indoor, outdoor), I almost always head right for the C100.

If you ONLY have $3k to play with, I would suggest:

—used C100 mk1 body, no duel pixel focus = $1900 used
—decent range Canon zoom, maybe 18-135 and the cheap 50mm f1.8 = $300 used
—a good shotgun mic… Rode maybe? = $220 used
—a good Manfrotto monopod with 500 series head = $260
—Sony MDR7506 headphones = $80 new
—Separate lapel mic system, like a zoomH1 recorder paired with an Olympus ME-15 lav mic = $120
(or the new Tascam DR-10L = $220)

Assuming you buy used on eBay or Amazon, you can get all this for less than 3 grand.

And like I said earlier; superficially, this camera just LOOKS more impressive than the others. It’s a serious camera right out of the gate, where the others need to be franken-rigged with several other parts to be a versatile documentary camera.

You kick out a few jobs with this setup and down the road you can purchase the A7s, GH5 or BMPCC or whatever else you want in your kit. The main thing is starting somewhere. You play your cards right, next year you might afford a C300 mkII along with a couple other little bag cameras for b-roll goodness.

Hope this helps! Good luck!

—Dennis

January 9, 2017 at 5:26PM, Edited January 9, 5:31PM

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Dennis Nagelkirk
Write. Film. Edit. Draw. Paint.
230

Hi Dennis,

Thanks for your thoughts on the C100 and putting out that list with gear suggestions!

Indeed, I'm totally with you on the C100's run-and-gun capabilities. To have on-board ND filters is awesome and the form factor feels quite good.

Do you own or have you used a C100? My main worry with this camera is its codec and image quality. My projects tend to go through a proper grade afterwards and I'm not sure if the C100's 8-bit AVCHD codec can really stand up to this. What are your experiences in this regard?

January 10, 2017 at 8:39AM

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Jeroen Pool
Director, researcher, editor
96

Jeroen, I do have the c100 and use it often. I was skeptical too at first, with the compressed AVCHD codec, but I was impressed how tack sharp it is. I came from a 70D to the C100 and was blown away by the difference. Canon's DSLRs are a lost cause, but their cinema line has some strengths. Maybe download some sample C100 footage online. You might have to search for it, but you should find some outlets still offering. Like I said, when I'm doing a day of run and gun, a day of everything, inside and outside, I use the C100. The controls are quick and easy; aperture, white balance, ND filters... it's all right there. And I don't even have duel pixel auto focus because there is a simple focus button in the front... and the focus peaking option is super nice and accurate. For more careful B-roll setups, I'll use other stuff, like the GH4, A7sii and BMPCC... not because the c100 can't handle it... but because I want to give all my babies some love.

The main thing is, if you get a used C100 and you kick ass with it, you can sell it again next year for a little less than what you paid for it, and then purchase the next camera in your sights. Like I said, just start somewhere. With ebay at our side, you can unload it fairly easily when you're ready to make the jump to something else. Good luck!

January 11, 2017 at 5:40PM

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Dennis Nagelkirk
Write. Film. Edit. Draw. Paint.
230

I agree with Dennis.

The C100 is one of the best budget cameras I have ever used, and I've used a lot of Sony cameras as well. The C100 will actually stand up better to grading than the Sony A7sII, I think. While the spec sheet suggests the C100 has a weak codec, I've found it to be incredibly robust and it's much easier to get a pleasing image than from Sony cameras. I don't have much experience with the GH line, but I've never been impressed with their skin tone or low light capabilities.

The internal ND's, on-board XLR inputs, and battery life should be reason enough to sway you to the C100 for documentaries. I've used C100's for a few years now, and I've never been unhappy with the results.

January 12, 2017 at 2:05PM

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Kenneth Merrill
Director
1145

Hi Kenneth, those video on "assembly required" vimeo account are make with the C100 (mk2)? external recorder? those results are really great. i hesitate betwenn C100 mk2 or A7s2, and i'm scare by not having a good color and contrast with A7s2. i see a new eosHD pro color profile for sony but not sure of the result: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQXg38qaRuY&t=112s

January 13, 2017 at 9:20AM

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Olivier Fanchon
Filmmaker
8

Hey Oliver, thanks for the compliment! Actually the material on there was all made with a slew of different cameras including Red Epic, C100, and A7s. The LOA Swim and EA$Y Apparel videos were both made with the C100.
The A7sII is a very flexible camera, but I've always had a hard time with the color on Sony cameras. Even with LUTs, it can be hard to work with, as some LUTs don't work as well under some circumstances. I think Sony stretched the codec a little thin with the A7 line; so I've always recommended the C100's.

And again, I cannot overstate the awesomeness of internal ND's and on-board XLR's.

January 13, 2017 at 7:59PM, Edited January 13, 7:59PM

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Kenneth Merrill
Director
1145

In your opinion, would you even bother with the GH5 at this point? I'm in exactly the same conundrum as OP and wonder if C100 DPF would be worth it today, despite the lack of 4k OR whether to hold out for the GH5 with 4k and possibly good handheld ability (rolling shutter fix?)

January 10, 2017 at 2:27PM

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Ian, that's a really good question... and a tough decision... the GH5 with XLR add-on compared to the C100 mkii... Youch, that decision makes my head hurt. In my opinion, the GH4's 4k has not always worked out the way I thought it would, especially filming indoors or in low light. Punching in from 4k to HD just showed me how much noise was in the 4k GH4. I had to denoise a lot of stuff from the GH4... the GH5 sounds like it might be similar...? The C100 mkii, with the built-in ND filters... man... can't go wrong with it. But again, that's a tough call. Both are strong choices and in similar price points.

January 11, 2017 at 5:48PM, Edited January 11, 5:48PM

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Dennis Nagelkirk
Write. Film. Edit. Draw. Paint.
230

I work at a small, low budget documentary studio as the head cinematographer, and we use the A7sii almost exclusively. We spend a lot of time shooting in old buildings with poor lighting, and the A7sii makes it possible. Of course lighting a scene is preferable, but it isn't always possible. The A7s really lets you utilize existing light in interesting ways. Light sources that would be too dim on other cameras can be used with the A7S, and allow for dynamic lighting that you wouldn't expect, and wouldn't create yourself by lighting a scene. The low light capability of the A7s isn't a panacea, but it gives you options, and if you are resourceful can be stunning.
Additionally, the on sensor stabilization of the A7sii can be a lifesaver for run and guns shooting, especially when a situation changes suddenly and you have to react. Maybe you're shooting an interview with an 80mm lens, and for whatever reason you have to move immediately and keep shooting. While by no means preferable, the on sensor stabilization can save what would be completely unusable footage.
Finally, the A7sii shoots 4k internally, a leg up over the C100. Even if you are making a 1080p project, 4k is valuable for reframing and stabilizing in post. Especially for interviews, where the punched in image can effectively be a second angle in a pinch.

January 9, 2017 at 6:59PM

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Thanks, Rudy! The A7sii is definitely up there in my considerations. Have you used its hand-held, without a rig? Is that doable?

January 10, 2017 at 8:41AM

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Jeroen Pool
Director, researcher, editor
96

When we're in a sensitive area, where a rigged camera would draw attention or make the subject uncomfortable, we'll definitely go handheld. The ergonomics are pretty poor, but manageable. The on sensor stabilization does a lot to make handheld shooting easier. I didn't think that the stabilization was a big deal until I got my hands on it, but it is very impressive. That being said, we use a shoulder rig when possible.

January 10, 2017 at 7:36PM

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I'd go with the C100 all the way for DOC shooting. It's all in one with great battery and awsome on board audio.

January 10, 2017 at 4:48AM

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Logan Fish
Video Journalist
247

Logan, I see you're another C100 convert for doc shooting. Good to hear! This camera seems to be (unfairly?) disregarded by many, but loved by people who actually use it. What are your thoughts on the image it produces, especially if it would undergo a proper grade in post?

January 10, 2017 at 8:43AM

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Jeroen Pool
Director, researcher, editor
96

Other then a bit of Neat Video, I would say that I never do a 'proper grade' with this camera. It's beauty for me is it's ability to capture an awsome image and audio out of the bag with no hassles in production or post. Also it's good to keep in mind that before the A7s came around, this camera was regarded as the low light beast. This camera isn't disregarded, more like it's over shadowed by the C300, which provided Broadcast Quality video. I love both cameras personally.

January 16, 2017 at 5:11AM

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Logan Fish
Video Journalist
247

C100 would definitely do the job, but since you're low on budget and want it all in a small package why not consider the Canon xc15? Great codec, lens sorted, xlr outputs and all day handheld friendly.

January 10, 2017 at 9:13AM

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Filmdudezero
Director
333

Battery of a7s is the worst.

January 10, 2017 at 12:04PM

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Andy Zou
Producer
Filmmaker / Creative Director

I'm considering adding a GH5 to my kit when it's out and was an owner of a GH2, GH3 and have used the GH4...but I currently use a C100 mkii about 90% of the time and absolutely love it. I love everything about it...apart from the lack of 4k. When you get off the gear websites and start actually shooting or watching films or TV, 4k still doesn't seem important, but I'm aware that it is starting to. Personally I still prefer the look of the c100/c300 over anything from Panasonic or Sony (bar the Varicam LT which has an amazing look), whether it's at 1080 or 4k. There's a reason so many TV and feature docs have been shot on C100/C300's. Even oscar winning ones like Cartel Land was shot on a C300.

But yes...4k...what a bummer. I'm hoping that I'll get another year out of the c100 yet.

You could always consider a used c100 mark i? Then get a 4k camera when you need to?

January 10, 2017 at 12:18PM

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Liam Martin
DP, editor, part time director
481

Just get a used C100 Mark II, a 24-105, a shotgun mic, and call it a day. That setup will get you through almost any documentary scenario.

The other dSLR options, while they have great quality, are a pain to actually work with. The name "franken-rig" didn't come out of nowhere.

January 10, 2017 at 2:08PM

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BD
418

Non of these are "run and gun" they need to be set up, external sounds is limited, as sd cards. ( yes shallow depth of field but constantly focusing) Depends on your needs/subject. Go with the Sony pro am camcorders 4K, excellent in auto everything, full HD 9 hours in internal hd. Built in LED light that pops enough get good interview at night or in dark locations. Some have infra red capability. All have pro XLR hook ups with two channels and fully manual. I shot two years in Somalia with one, would of never got the footage I have today with the cameras above mentioned. If you need that shallow depth of field for an interview or other, toss in your camera bag a GH5, there light, cheap and amazing picture at 4K. Good luck.

January 10, 2017 at 9:01PM, Edited January 10, 9:25PM

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bjones
Filmmaker and Photographer
114

I feel comfortable commenting on this because I have the A7S, the GH4, and the C-100. Without question, I would say to go with the C-100, mostly because of it audio capabilities. With a cardioid pattern microphone, you can get stellar quality audio and a great, straight-out-of-the-camera look. You have a variety of picture profiles which don't require grading, but you can do very light grading to the C-LOG without it breaking down. Also, if you want to up your game, you can record directly to the ATOMOS, and get a very grade-able image. I would highly recommend the Tokina 11-16 for the C-100. It has a crop factor 1.5, so that puts you in a nice range. If you want quality sound AND good video in one package, the C-100 will work great. The battery life and video recording time is also fantastic. It also has a native ISO of 850 in C-LOG, built in ND filters, and a wave form monitor built in. It is a work horse of a camera. The form factor takes some getting used to and if you put in on a shoulder rig, you have to MacGyver a loupe kit to the LCD panel for a use-able eye piece. Also, for me, Canon has been great about service and support.

January 11, 2017 at 2:58AM, Edited January 11, 3:03AM

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Lots of cinema-based answers here, which makes sense on this forum. But I can think of plenty of documentary scenarios where controlled lighting isn't just impractical, but entirely inappropriate. I'd also suggest that moire and rolling shutter issues will be the last thing on your mind when grabbing shots under pressure.

I filmed lots of jobs with small, high bit-rate cameras, always trying to take a 'cinematic' approach. It was just a massive pain. I picked up a C100 mk2 recently and wish I'd done so a long time ago. Many clients either can't see or aren't fussed about the nuances between cameras and bit rates, glaring though they may be to us. Long battery life, built-in NDs, viewfinder/monitor combination, good high ISO performance, one-shot autofocus, tiny file sizes, dual card slots for back-up, powered XLR inputs... It's such a different experience.

January 11, 2017 at 7:51AM

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the C100 is no slouch in low light either.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mS0sCB42Qt8

January 11, 2017 at 4:22PM

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Michael Militscher
Director / Commercial Producer
2551

Something I consider important (but very few other people do): on a C100 you can record to two card slots at the same time, meaning you always have a convenient backup.

By the way, over the past six years, I've had at least two or three SD cards fail on me.

January 12, 2017 at 12:57AM

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Adrian Tan
Videographer
546

Interesting discussion guys!

Stephen Baldassarre, would you be willing to share those CCD-camera/external recorder setups you mentioned earlier for run-and-gun shooting? That would be awesome! :)

January 12, 2017 at 12:26PM

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Gianni
Videographer
1

Why does everything have to be "run and gun" these days? Are movies not worth preparation anymore?
Any way, I know a few people who have used Prosilica GT2300s and thrown a laptop in a backpack or whatever. There was an 3-CCD Panasonic that's now discontinued with HDMI output, I think it was about $2,000-$3,000 I was eyeballing. That was a P2 camcorder but my plan was to use an Atomos recorder with it. In the standard def days, I used a 3-CCD Sony (forget which model) progressive scan camera and a laptop with USB converter. A friend of mine had a couple of industrial cameras he paired with MiniDV cameras to use as recorders. If you want REALLY portable but don't need super high resolution, there's STC-HD93DV with an Atomos recorder.

I've been giving a LOT of thought to getting a BFLY-U3-23S6C-C. It's CMOS but it has analogue memory like a CCD does and thus behavior/performance of a CCD at the low cost of CMOS. The only thing standing in my way is I don't have a USB3 port on my laptop.

January 13, 2017 at 12:32PM

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Great! Thank you!

January 13, 2017 at 2:34PM

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Gianni
Videographer
1

I would wait for the GH5, mate. First, as someone who recently shot a documentary on Sony alphas, stay away from them. Too much noise, aliasing, and banding. Not a big fan of Sony's color science either, versus say Canon. You need to shoot in 4K, though, to future proof your work, plus many serious broadcasters will no longer accept Full HD work. Having sold my Sony alphas, I am waiting for the GH5 - which effectively means until end of summer when the 400Mbps firmware upgrade becomes available, since it's not recommended to shoot V-Log at the lower bit rate. For run and gun, you'll love the GH5's IBIS and the fact that you can record 10-bit without a bulky external recorder. Another added benefit is recording a backup on a second SD card, or extending your recording time. The low light and depth-of-field issues can be mitigated with a speedbooster.

January 12, 2017 at 12:34PM

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most local broadcast stations are 1080i output and companies like Comcast and Cox which I have done work for both will even accept commercials in 480p.

January 12, 2017 at 4:29PM, Edited January 12, 4:29PM

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Michael Militscher
Director / Commercial Producer
2551

Most local broadcast stations don't air documentaries, which is what his thread is about. Plus, he's in Europe, where there's a higher demand for 4K content. You won't get far these days pitching HD content to say the BBC, or other similar broadcasters airing documentaries. Not to mention that 4K downscaled to 1080 will look better anyway. Since he's looking at buying new gear, it's not a good idea to invest in legacy equipment, with the mindset that he might be able to get away with it for a little while longer.

January 12, 2017 at 4:55PM

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How did you come to hear that the BBC won't accept less than 4K?? They don't broadcast 4K or stream it from iPlayer, so why would they be bothered? Genuinely curious not trying to start a beef

January 13, 2017 at 12:06PM

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The BBC debuted UHD on iPlayer for documentary work last month (Planet Earth II). While Full HD is still aired, and will be for some time, their technical guidelines for delivery spell out UHD/4K capture specifications. Similar to how feature films still mastered in 2K are typically shot at higher resolutions today, it's a good idea for the poster to invest in new rather than old technology, because: 1) his work will be marketable further into the future; and 2) it will look better today downscaled to FHD.

In addition to the trend toward higher resolution capture and delivery, BBC's existing delivery guidelines exclude native capture on the Sony A7s and C100 mk i, since both are 8-bit 4:2:0. He would have to purchase an external recorder to be within their 4:2:2 spec. That adds bulk/weight for run and gun, and the additional expense could be put to better use for lenses, etc. Both cameras are still more expensive than the announced cost of the GH5 - for less in terms of broadcast specs.

BBC delivery guidelines also reference EBU standards in terms of camera suitability for capture, and for what it's worth the latter have rated Sony alphas as poor/unacceptable for broadcast. Two other gripes that I ran into in the field with the Sony alphas, that I forgot to mention above, are rolling shutter and overheating.

I've shot two feature docs and two short docs on Sony, and have now jumped ship, unloading my Sony gear. As indicated previously, I really appreciate Canon's color science, but have decided to go with Panasonic instead, as I find that Canon lags way behind in terms of features.

January 17, 2017 at 7:53AM, Edited January 17, 7:53AM

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Interesting. Presumably there will be a lot of productions that started in HD? I wonder how they will make a decision on some sort of cut off point when they stop accepting HD as acceptable.

I listened to a BBC podcast a few months ago where they said that in terms of large scale productions, particularly documentary and actuality stuff, it'll still be quite a few years before 4K becomes the norm because of the amount of data required, especially if you're using ProRes etc. Could just be an opinion of course, but it has definitely occurred to me that if you're shooting tons of unrepeatable events, you're looking at a lot of storage to shoot it all in broadcast standard 4K.

I may well pickup a GH5 to sit alongside my C100 mkii, but I imagine I will lament the colour, skin tones and detail it produces. Nothing lasts forever though I suppose!!

January 17, 2017 at 11:41AM

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Liam Martin
DP, editor, part time director
481

Just shot a feature movie with the C100. Can't beat it for price, quality, image, skin tones, easy mic setup.

January 12, 2017 at 7:23PM

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William Scherer
Producer, Writer, Director, Aerial Photography
200

Another vote for the C100. I just finished a week and a half documentary shoot in San Fran with the mki and it never let me down, it is a workhorse. The cheapest route to start (and still have a solid setup) would be a used C100 mki sans dualpixel, a used 24-105mm f/4 IS (can be had for under $500 on ebay), and a Rode Videomic Pro. The image stabilization of the 24-105 is a big help. As you have more spending money, you can get a Atomos ninja, another battery or two, a shotgun mic, wireless lav setup and more glass (I'd recommend the Senheiser MKE 600, Canon 17-55 f/2.8 IS, and Canon 70-200 f/4 IS). The ability to upgrade to prores 4:2:2 recording is huge.
You can strip the camera down and put the videomicpro directly on the body giving it a large dslr/medum format appearance for more discrete situations. The dual recording feature helps put the mind at ease and the high ISO allows for shooting in low light situations even at f/4. The form factor takes a little getting used to if you are used to a shoulder rig, but the more I use it, the more I like it. The whole camera just works and is designed for being on the move. Except for the lame evf. The $20 small hd vf4 viewfinder zip-tied to the eyepiece helps make it usable, but Canon really skimped on this.
There is some debate about the specific parameters of the default C-Log as it is only 8bit. Here is a jumping off point for that discussion: http://ntown.at/2013/01/06/canon-log/. I like Patrick's modified c-log, but I have adjusted it to include superwhites, and am quite happy with the results. Feel free to pm me for info on that.
Best of luck with your search.
ps - Wasabi batteries, while they may not last for more than a few months, are a great bang for the buck.

January 13, 2017 at 7:10PM, Edited January 13, 7:19PM

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Aaron Phillips
Photographer/Filmmaker
6

Hi Aaron,

Just wanted to thank you for your insights. I'll definitely be going through your link on C-Log. I've always had the luxury not to have to dig too deep into this kind of technical detail, but being able to film myself - I guess the time has come now. :)

January 14, 2017 at 6:17PM

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Jeroen Pool
Director, researcher, editor
96

You are quite welcome. Feel free to ask any questions you may run into, I've spent some time figuring this stuff out. And congrats on the great deal on the C100, I hope it works well for you.

January 18, 2017 at 1:20PM

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Aaron Phillips
Photographer/Filmmaker
6

Hi all,

Sorry I didn't reply earlier - I was out on a shoot for a couple of days with no time to spare. I read up on all your comments though and would like to thank you all for your great feedback!

There is some news: I found a used C100 mki for € 1100 / $ 1180, which felt like a good price to take the plunge - I went out and purchased it today. If I ever would upgrade to a better body in the future it won't feel like a huge capital loss. So, happy to get going now! Next stop: lens and mic.

Thanks again for all your insights. The ones about the C100 (setup, rigging, etc) specifically are extremely helpful and I'm definitely using them as guidelines for my next step.

January 14, 2017 at 10:18AM

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Jeroen Pool
Director, researcher, editor
96

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