December 10, 2015 at 9:54AM

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New Camera

Hi everyone. I own a Canon 70d, my first camera ever and I am starting to get very serious about filmmaking and I'm starting to feel the limitations of my 70D, that said I want to upgrade very soon. I have my eyes on the Sony A7SII for many reasons, that said I would love some input to help me pull the trigger, or not. I have done a lot of research but I'd love input from my friends at NFS and any other suggestions, similarly priced as well would be amazing.

30 Comments

Also, is this 4k at 8bit going to be a problem? The amount of technicalities that are dictating my decision is overwhelming.

December 10, 2015 at 11:05AM

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Nathan Karimi
Writer/ Director
231

Yes that's a problem. With the A7s at 4k 4:2:2 I was rolling in about 8GB a minute. The bit rate is insane. I can't even work off SSD's. You would need some kind of RAID.

December 10, 2015 at 11:40AM

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Clark McCauley
Spaceman
2050

Thanks Clark. Would you mind explaining to me what 4:2:2 is, and what do you mean rolling 8gb a min, is that a download speed? RAID is a type of storage device? I am actually very new to the technical aspect of things.

Thanks for your help

December 10, 2015 at 12:52PM

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Nathan Karimi
Writer/ Director
231

4:2:2 is in reference to the chroma/color subsampling. ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chroma_subsampling ) The 8gb's per minute is how large a minute's worth of footage is. I believe he's referring to the 10 bit 4:2:2 output to something like the Atomos Shogun, which results in very large file sizes, but the extra bit depth and color information is a pretty big gain.

December 10, 2015 at 3:59PM, Edited December 10, 3:59PM

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Alex Everingham
Video Editor
460

Something that may help NFS answer you better would be to describe what kind of filmmaking you're going to be doing. Is this doc work, music videos, corporate gigs, etc? People use these cameras for different reasons and their strengths and weaknesses are revealed in the way they're used to shoot.

December 10, 2015 at 12:31PM

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RJ Ortiz
Cinematographer
228

I am doing strictly cinematic filmmaking. Narrative style, I don't have frequent access to a good light kit or someone to light for me and a lot of what I do is a 3 man team, Me-Directing and Camera, A boom pole guy and whoever is acting. Thus, the low light capabilities appeals to me greatly, I know it won't take place of lighting but at least I can work with minimal and natural light more efficiently.

Basically making VERY LOW budget movies.

December 10, 2015 at 12:55PM

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Nathan Karimi
Writer/ Director
231

So I guess another question is, what are my other options for shooting? Is there a higher bit rate available to a lesser definition on this camera? I know some of my vernacular is not up to date but I'm working on it. And other camera suggestions are welcome, I don't care for the BMPCC, though.

December 10, 2015 at 12:59PM

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Nathan Karimi
Writer/ Director
231

Any of the cameras that can shoot 4k internal at 8 bit 4:2:0 aka the GH4, A7s/A7s2, or the Samsung NX1 can be downscaled to 1080p with very nice results. The image quality on the A7s series in my opinion is superior, but I work with GH4's on a weekly basis and I just purchased a NX1 for personal use, and both can produce pretty stunning images. The a7s has a much better advantage in low light obviously and the DoF advantage since it's a full frame sensor.

December 10, 2015 at 4:09PM

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Alex Everingham
Video Editor
460

Alex, if you had to buy only one cam for narrative work, since you have the GH4, the ASs2 and the NX1, which one would you get among these three?

December 12, 2015 at 3:24PM

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Sorry for the late reply. I don't actually own an A7s, but I really like the picture quality that you get out of it. However in normal lighting the picture quality between all three is pretty comparable. If Budget is no issue though A7s2 with an Atomos Shogun would be my personal choice. Gives you a ton of flexibility with any lighting situation, as well as that beautiful full frame sensor. Plus if you need to take Photo's as well it's a solid option (The NX1 is actually a very good stills camera as well).

December 14, 2015 at 9:35AM

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Alex Everingham
Video Editor
460

>>>I'm starting to feel the limitations of my 70D

Can you describe what you mean by this ?

Also, how are you covered for lighting and audio gear ?

December 10, 2015 at 1:50PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
30398

Limiations (in my eyes)
1.) The Crop Sensor gets on my nerves: My 50mm lens that I love is too zoomed in, and similar with other lenses. It's too expensive to get a "wide angle lens" because of the crop. I know there are some benefits but b/c of what I am doing, I don't really need telephoto lenses as much as I do wide
2.) The low light sensitivity isn't great and I don't have access or $$ for light kits (that I wouldn't rather put elsewhere)
3.) Working with the footage in post/ color grading etc. is where I really notice some limitations, a very unnatural look with any manipulations

**All of this said, I know I'm not an expert by any means in post, cinematography, shooting etc. BUT I am doing everything by myself, and for me, my time is best used writing and perfecting script and story and having a more ease of use oncamera.**

LIGHTING/AUDIO

I borrow lighting equipment when I can and use common sense when setting it up. Checking the viewfinder for how it looks and moving forward. I have a small light that is handheld and battery powered with a few filters and I have two reflectors with black backs.

Audio: That is the one thing I have been blessed with. I have terrible audio perception so I just shelled out for a boom pole, rode shotgun, and about to get a blimp and a dead cat. I generally have someone else boom and I either go by ear in editing or have more competent friends help me when they're available.

***All of this said, ANY advice on AUDIO/LIGHTS etc. is welcome and appreciated. I am happy to drop a few hundred on lights/audio if anyone has suggestions for what is a MUST HAVE..

THANKS AGAIN GUYS for taking the time.

December 10, 2015 at 2:04PM

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Nathan Karimi
Writer/ Director
231

In my opinion you'd do better save the money that you would be spending on the new camera and buy a few lenses and a light kit. I have a 70d that I shoot commercials for broadcast television with and have not felt the limitations of the camera.

December 10, 2015 at 6:07PM, Edited December 10, 6:34PM

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Michael Militscher
Director / Commercial Producer
2474

>>>1- The Crop Sensor gets on my nerves

You do realize that the Canon APS-C format is almost identical to the motion-picture industry standard Super35 format that most feature films are shot with.

Some people coming from a photography background (that's my background too) have this idea that the Full Frame 35mm still-photo format is the best format for filmmaking, when in reality it's the odd-ball format compared to Super35. There are lots of very expensive professional cine lenses that will NOT cover the Full Frame 35mm still photo format, and the ones that do you have to make sure you stop down your aperture enough to have a workable DOF range. For the Full Frame format this normally means shooting between f/4.0 to f/8.0.

>>>2.) The low light sensitivity isn't great and I don't have access or $$ for light kits

It's pretty good when you look at it from the world of motion-picture film-stock where the fastest film you are going to shoot is likely 500 ISO, which might be pushed a couple of stops to get a fairly contrasty 2,000 ISO out of it.

I really think people are getting spoiled by having a few cameras that can shoot a good image at 10,000 ISO because this is a fairly recent phenomena. Go back 3-4 years and it wasn't possible.

Also having a camera that can shoot a clean image at a high ISO doesn't mean that you can skip lighting. Found lighting at most locations is "garbage" lighting, so to get a great shot you are still going to have to use lights, they might be much much smaller lights because of the high ISO, but lights are still necessary.

>>>3.) Working with the footage in post/ color grading etc. is where I really notice some limitations, a very unnatural look with any manipulations

You have to know the limitation of the footage you are working with. Yes it's not RAW or LOG footage, so your color is pretty much "baked in" when you shoot, so you have to make sure you get things right when you shoot because just like the old film-days if you screw-up you're going to have to shoot it again.

I am not sure how clean the HDMI signal is from the Canon 70D, but if it's good it might be worth looking into an external recorder that allow you to record high bit-rate ProRes 4:2:2 files that should grade a lot better than the internal 4:2:0 recordings the camera makes.

>>>Checking the viewfinder for how it looks and moving forward.

A good monitor can be very useful when it comes to getting accurate focus, accurate exposure, getting your lighting ratios right, knowing when you are losing your highlights or losing your shadows, etc...

There are also some great monitor/recorder units on the market that start as low as $500 for the Blackmagic Video Assist unit. These units enable you to record at a much higher bit-rate like 220 Mbps ProRes and record your image with a 4:2:2 color space, which gives you a lot more room to modify things in post.

>>>I just shelled out for a boom pole, rode shotgun, and about to get a blimp and a dead cat.

That's a great set-up for recording audio outside, and depending on which Rode mic it is you might be able to use it inside too. Otherwise you will want to add a small condenser "pencil" mic like a Rode NT5 or an Audio-Technica 4053b to record audio indoors.

I agree that the Sony A7S Full Frame camera has a nice look to it, and it's the best camera available for low-light, but all the usual rules to filmmaking will still apply, so you will still have to stop down your lens to obtain a workable DOF range, you will still have to light your shots, and good audio is as important as your image is. People walk out of theaters a lot faster because of bad sound than they would compared to a bad picture image.

December 10, 2015 at 10:10PM, Edited December 10, 10:14PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
30398

Guy,

Thanks so much for all of the input. I actually was unaware of the Super 35's similarity to Canon's APS-C. Good to know. And I really appreciate the time you took in answering all this. I am going to reconsider putting that 3k(ish) into some lights, (I am getting the Rode NT5) and things. My only concern was simply not having the people to help me and thus going for a more single crew solution.

Anyway, thanks so much. I'll be shooting a short film in Early January and I'll post it up here and let y'all know what camera/equipment I worked with. I'd love to hear your input on my short when it comes.

-Nathan

December 11, 2015 at 9:04AM

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Nathan Karimi
Writer/ Director
231

Shoot small, you'd be surprised how effective a dimmable ring light mounted on your lens can be.

Also you might want to foray into magic lantern. The 70D is not far into having stable development but if you start now then as things get added you can learn the functionality slowly. Maybe camera mount your mic if your not doing dialogue and have a china ball on the boom. There are so many ways you can make a small set up work. Just start looking at minimalistic lighting kits and slowly build. Your cam is fine for what you do you might want to invest in support.

December 14, 2015 at 3:35PM

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Chris Hackett
Director, Director of Photography, Writer
892

Just my two cents. I upgraded from canon T2i to pocket cinema camera because I wanted to do heavy color grades and, like you, any manipulation I did looked horrible to me. I learned later that I was lacking in the light department and that the T2i would still be a fine camera if I lit the scene right and baked in the look. Got the pocket cinema cameraand while I can grade without degrading the image, if I don't light it, it still looks like crap after the grade due to noise. Get some lights first and then reevaluate what camera you really need. The cinema cams are a pain in the ass. But it's the best camera decision I've made in my 8 years of shooting.

December 11, 2015 at 9:33AM

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Don Way
Writer/Director of Photography
1135

Everything Guy said is gold. He knows what he's talking about.

I will say, though, that if you are still in the market for a camera and you don't need slow motion, a used Canon C100 is the best bang-for-your-buck you'll get. Great low-light, internal ND's will save you lots of time and money. The color out of the camera is pretty great, way better than Sony, which will save time in post. Also, because you have to push the color less in post, the final image will look better.

But yeah, a couple lenses would be a great investment. As far as lights go, FilmTools in LA is having a sale on the 14th: 2x Astra LED light panels and a case for $1600. They're great lights if you don't have a lot of hands/time/power to do big lighting setups. My brother did a feature last month and lit almost the whole thing with Astra panels (shot on Alexa).

For a budget filmmaking package, I would try to pick up a used C100 ($2200ish), a Sigma ART 24mm and 35mm, and a couple Astra LED panels. That would all come out to about $5000, but it would be a very flexible kit.

Oh yeah. Audio. That's a tough one. A Tascam DR-60D with boom pole, blimp, and a Senheisser ME66 would run you about $1000? Not the best mic in the world, but ok for a starter. Beyond that I would just go straight for a Rode NTG-3, but that's $1000 by itself.

December 11, 2015 at 4:16PM, Edited December 11, 4:18PM

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Kenneth Merrill
Director
1073

I usually just hire a sound guy for projects. He will have better equipment and know what he's doing (hopefully) so I don't have to worry about it.

December 11, 2015 at 4:18PM

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Kenneth Merrill
Director
1073

I F****** Love you guys....Thanks for real for everything, I am going to look into all options mentioned and I'll post on here what I ended up doing along with my next short movie...Mid January(it)

December 11, 2015 at 6:20PM, Edited December 11, 6:20PM

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Nathan Karimi
Writer/ Director
231

>>>My only concern was simply not having the people to help me and thus going for a more single crew solution.

Yes, being a one person crew is a huge hassle. Just getting your equipment to the location , then setting it up, then checking to make sure everything is working properly, then getting your talent to perform well in front of your camera while you hope that you didn't make any mistakes when you were setting up, all of this can make you feel like your head is about to explode. :-)

Lav mics can be very handy when you've got more than one person in front of your camera, and low cost recorders like the Tascam DR-05 allow you to give each person their own lav set up without breaking the bank. ( you can buy a good low cost lav mic plus the Tascam DR-05 recorder for about $200 total ) My favorite low cost lav mic is the Oscar SoundTech lavs, which cost less than $100 each, and you buy them directly from the Oscar SoundTech website. For something like the Tascam DR-05 recorder you would order lav mics with the standard 3.5mm mini-plug attached, which plugs directly into the DR-05 and is powered by the DR-05. You can easily record 10+ hours of audio with this type of set-up.

December 11, 2015 at 6:51PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
30398

Are you sure you're 'feeling the limitations' of your 70D? What are those limits? Are you sure you're not just falling into the 'A better camera makes me a better filmmaker' trap?

December 12, 2015 at 2:37AM, Edited December 12, 2:38AM

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Logan Fish
Video Journalist
249

Also why the heck is my picture upside down? lol

December 12, 2015 at 2:40AM

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Logan Fish
Video Journalist
249

Do you live in Australia ?

December 13, 2015 at 6:25PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
30398

The Sigma Art 18-35mm lens would make a great companion to the aps-c sensor in your 70D, it's actually made to accommodate that size sensor. It would give you an effective 28.8-56mm range, which should be plenty wide, and would compliment your 50mm (which on the 70D is effectively an 80mm lens) quite well. It's also pretty fast at 1.8, which would help you out in the low light department. And it's only $800 :)

December 12, 2015 at 12:08PM

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...depending on what your doing and where you headed...cameras don't matter...use what fits the project when the time comes...the best film this year at the CAMERAIMAGE festival was shot on super 16mm..I would get an arri sr2..or 3

December 12, 2015 at 1:42PM

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Stephanie Mahalis
graduate film student
164

Nathan, get a used A7S -- everybody is getting rid of them to get the Mk2 version. The advantage of A7S over 70D is that you can light with just LED panels. Get 6 of those, for like $70 each. You can store all of them in a backpack. This is a sharp contrast with 70D's lightning needs where you'd have to get at least three 800W redheads.

December 13, 2015 at 12:27AM

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Alex Zakrividoroga
Director
4091

So here is my final solution....and to all of you, thanks for your help, unless I run into some fabulous cash, I am going to stick with my 70D, I'm going to check out that Sigma 18-35 (It seems that I've been told that only Prime lenses produce good picture??) and buy it if I love it. I've gotten some audio stuff, (looked into hiring a guy HOLY COW $$$$$) and I'm gonna put a few hundred towards lights. I just REALLY want my next short film to be my absolute best, I've gotten the script EXACTLY where I want it, shots planned, locations picked, etc. If I still believe that my 70D is failing me after this, then I'm gonna shell out for something else but I am gonna give it 100% in the set up department before I complain

**Again, thank you all for your advice and stay tuned for "4am"***

December 14, 2015 at 9:27AM

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Nathan Karimi
Writer/ Director
231

Which ever camera you choose make sure you understand the workflow in post. Check this out: How a Post Production Supervisor Can Save Your Butt! - http://bit.ly/1TNL6XE

December 15, 2015 at 12:16PM

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Alex Ferrari
Director / Producer
983

Well, at this stage of my "career" I am doing everything myself and I have the time (after work) to do so. It may take a while but learning it all myself is what's really going to save my butt. Thanks.

December 15, 2015 at 1:14PM

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Nathan Karimi
Writer/ Director
231

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