August 25, 2015 at 9:45AM, Edited August 27, 11:34PM

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Best affordable film camera

I am a film student and I'm looking for the best affordable camera to shoot my movies.
I was thinking about buying a full frame DSLR, the Canon 6D, but I'm not sure if it's the best camera that I can buy.

Do you maybe have some tips for me?

33 Comments

The Canon 6D has aliasing and moire issues that the Canon 5D Mk3 doesn't have, but the 5D Mk3 might be out of your budget range.

The best camera to shoot video in the $1200 - $1700 range is the Panasonic GH4, which goes on sale from time to time. ( I've seen it selling brand new on eBay for as low as $1200 )

Vimeo GH4 Videos
https://vimeo.com/groups/gh4

Otherwise you might want to take a look at the Blackmagic Micro, which is supposed to start shipping around the middle of September. I expect the Micro to perform like an upgraded Blackmagic Pocket Cine camera, so it should produce similar image quality but with a better sensor and MUCH longer battery life.

Vimeo BMPCC Videos
https://vimeo.com/groups/188659/

If you are committed to Canon and can't afford a Canon 5D Mk3, then you might want to look at the Canon 7D Mk2 which does not have the aliasing or moire issues that the Canon 6D does.

Vimeo Canon 5D Mk3 Videos
https://vimeo.com/groups/5d3

August 25, 2015 at 11:52AM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
32247

Thanks for your comment but I still have some questions.

The Panasonic GH4 seems really nice, but how does it work with lenses? Does it mount the same lenses as Canon or does it have special lenses wich are created for this type of camera?

I also have a question about the Canon 7D Mark II. It doesn't have a full frame censor, but I always thought that was the most important thing for DSLR.
Is this camera despite not having a full frame censor still better than the Canon 6D?

And also does the Panasonic GH4 have a full frame censor? If not, is he still more interesting for filming?

Jan Baeyens

August 25, 2015 at 2:18PM

I've just watched several of the videos from the links above from the GH4 and the BMPCC and I must say the BMC is so much better. I think the higher quality of the color space beats the higher rez of the GH4 that doesn't produce images as full.

Philippe Orlando

August 30, 2015 at 12:25PM

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Gian Barbarona

August 30, 2015 at 7:03PM

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August 25, 2015 at 2:17PM, Edited August 25, 2:19PM

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Jan Baeyens
Student
74

The GH4 is a MFT camera I believe so you'd need MFT lenses. And no its not Full Frame its Micro Four Thirds. It shoots 4k internally whereas all the Canon DSLRS do not unless you consider the 1DC and 1DX

Clark McCauley

August 25, 2015 at 3:54PM

>>>The Panasonic GH4 seems really nice, but how does it work with lenses?

The GH4 uses a Micro 4/3 lens mount that uses native Micro 4/3 lenses, but you can also mount almost any lens ever made using a lens adapter for the GH4.

So the GH4 can use: Canon lenses, Leica lenses, Minolta lenses, Nikon lenses, Pentax lenses, Zeiss lenses, etc...

Dave Dugdale's In Depth Review of the GH4 Camera
( Dave switched from Canon 5D to the GH4 and explains why )
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gxGekOHEPuc

>>>Does it mount the same lenses as Canon or does it have special lenses wich are created for this type of camera?

It uses both native Micro 4/3 lenses and it can use Canon lenses using an adapter.

>>>I also have a question about the Canon 7D Mark II. It doesn't have a full frame censor, but I always thought that was the most important thing for DSLR.

A Full Frame sensor is ONLY important when trying to shoot the best quality still photos, and when you want to shoot videos in very low light.

>>>Is this camera despite not having a full frame censor still better than the Canon 6D?

Yes when shooting video. The GH4 has no aliasing or moire in the video image, it has professional video imaging controls, has no limit to the length of the video you can shoot, and it also shoots 4K video which is four times the size and detail of 1080 HD video.

No when shooting still photos. Full Frame cameras like the Canon 6D produce a more detailed still photo image, with shallower depth of field.

>>And also does the Panasonic GH4 have a full frame censor?

No it uses a Micro 4/3 sensor which is about one quarter of the size of a Full Frame camera sensor. The standard for professional film production is the Super35 sensor size, which is about half the size of a Full Frame sensor, and double the size of a Micro 4/3 sensor.

Sensor size is not as important for film production as it is for still photo production, what matters more is the image quality that the sensor produces when recording video.

August 25, 2015 at 5:38PM, Edited August 25, 5:38PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
32247

Shallow depth of field is only important to photography? Detail is usually something cinematographers fight against, usually adding promist because 4K HD cameras like your GH4 are way too sharp for cinema purposes. Great for reality TV, docs and corporate but cinema has always has a softness blur even today. Taking your attention to the piece of the frame they choose, similar to when you are talking to someone in reality. The background is blurred and your attention is drawn to the person you are speaking to. That's why most ASC cinematographers will shoot wide open (or close to it) on a lens to aid in blurring the fine details in someone's face and the background. This distracts me and most viewers watching sharp HD films as we are looking at every crevice of their face on a 30 foot screen and forget the story. For smaller exhibitions like I mentioned it would be great though.

NinjaMonkey

August 27, 2015 at 7:00AM, Edited August 27, 7:00AM

I'm a Canon 6D owner. It's a great camera, especially now that it's only $1400 on Amazon. Yes, it has aliasing issues. Buy the anti-aliasing filter from Mosaic Engineering ($365). The 7D also has pretty bad aliasing too, btw.
The GH4 is a great camera too. Much smaller sensor, requires different lenses to fit that sensor.
A lot of people say that Canon also has the best color science, but that's a matter of opinion.
Personally, I've switched to the Sony A7s. Obviously much more expensive than these other cameras. BUT, you should look at the Sony RX10 II. For $1300, you get a 4k capable camera with a 24-200mm f2.8 lens. This would be a phenomenal 1st camera to use for films.

August 26, 2015 at 2:33PM

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Sean Kenney
Event Cinematographer
200

>>>The 7D also has pretty bad aliasing too, btw.

The Canon 7D Mk2 performs like the 5D Mk3, so aliasing and moire have been fixed.

>>>The GH4 is a great camera too. Much smaller sensor, requires different lenses to fit that sensor.

Yes for wide-angle shots you need dedicated Micro 4/3 lenses, otherwise you can use almost any lens ever made with the GH4 and the appropriate adapter: Canon, Nikon, Leica, Zeiss, etc... with a plain adapter or a SpeedBooster adapter for non wide-angle GH4 shots.

Guy McLoughlin

August 26, 2015 at 3:56PM

If image quality is your main concern, go with the Blackmagic Pocket cinema camera. The sensor is small, and it has many annoying quirks, but for its price it's unparalleled. The 13 stops of dynamic range deliver a far more cinematic image than any Canon DSLR (Which have 10-11 stops) or the GH4. I've shot with the GH4, and while it's a hell of a camera, and 4k is nice to have, the image it delivers is very "videoey" and not cinematic at all (and it costs 300$ more).

August 27, 2015 at 4:36AM

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Gal Chen
Documentary Filmaker
98

The new Blackmagic Micro is another camera to look at. It should be for sale very soon, and it does everything the Pocket Cine camera does and a lot more. ( one big deal is that the batteries last 3-4 times longer in the Micro than the older Pocket camera )

>>>I've shot with the GH4, and while it's a hell of a camera, and 4k is nice to have, the image it delivers is very "videoey" and not cinematic at all

Many people have no clue how to properly use the GH4 and thus their footage can look very "videoey", but if you know what you are doing you can produce a very cinematic image from this camera.

The V-Log upgrade that's coming out in October will take things even further, and finally give the GH4 12 stops of dynamic range. ( right now it's in the 10-11 F-stop range depending on your settings )

Guy McLoughlin

August 27, 2015 at 8:54AM, Edited August 27, 8:54AM

For film-level resolution, the GH4. For film-level dynamic range and a real chance to get your feet wet grading footage, the Blackmagic Cinema Camera (regular, not pocket, version). In both cases, you will quickly discover that once you have your imaging platform sorted, lenses and lighting are super-important.

If you want to shoot a movie, chances are you are going to need a lens that has a nice, long, smooth focus throw, without too much breathing. Which basically rules out all AF DSLR glass, which tend to have short focus throws that can really only be dialed in by microstepper motors controlled by AF circuitry. Not to worry--there's an incredible range of affordable cine-friendly manual-focus choices these days (SLR Magic, Rokinon, etc).

And of course there's lighting--not the kind that get just enough photons on the sensor that you can check focus, but lighting that allows you to define your subject against the background, giving your scenes definition, depth, and life. You can spend tens of thousands of dollars on a really fine camera (RED EPIC DRAGON, for example) and tens of thousands more on really fine lenses (ARRI Master Primes, for example), and if you don't light your scene, you might as well use the video camera built into your smartphone.

August 27, 2015 at 6:37AM

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>>>Shallow depth of field is only important to photography?

Extreme shallow DOF is usually only desired for still photography. I remember when the Canon 5D Mk2 first became a big thing and some people were producing terrible short films by shooting wide open with fast lenses. It kept giving me the feeling that something was wrong with my eyes because almost nothing in their film was in focus or had detail.

Most people shooting with a FF camera today usually want to shoot with an F-stop range of f/4.0 - f/5.6, in order to get a workable DOF to create their film. This translates to f/2.0 - f/2.8 with the Micro 4/3 format, which is totally acheivable given how many fast lenses are available for this format. ( I shoot most of my GH4 corporate talking head interviews at f/2.8 because it has exactly the amount of DOF that I am looking for, and I would be shooting at f/5.6 if I was using a Sony A7S for the same projects. )

>>>Detail is usually something cinematographers fight against, usually adding promist because 4K HD cameras like your GH4 are way too sharp for cinema purposes.

It depends on the shot. When I shoot a wide exterior shot, I am trying to see as much detail as I can. ( I hate "soggy" Canon 5D cityscape/landscape shots that are starved for detail. ) If it was a close-up of a main character and I don't want record every pore in their face, then having the option to soften up the shot can be very desirable. ( as long as the softness is optional, so I get to choose if it's a soft shot or not )

>>>Great for reality TV, docs and corporate but cinema has always has a softness blur even today.

Again, it ALWAYS depends on the shot and what you are trying to achieve in the end. Being forced to live with a soft shot because that's all my camera can produce, is a lousy option.

>>>That's why most ASC cinematographers will shoot wide open (or close to it) on a lens to aid in blurring the fine details in someone's face and the background.

Yes, for close-ups ( especially when it's an older person ) you see this technique used a lot. But again, it's a conscious choice to shoot this way. You are not forced into it by a limitation of your camera gear.

August 27, 2015 at 1:17PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
32247

I upgraded from the Canon 7D to the Canon C100. Love it and use the 7D for stills.

August 27, 2015 at 11:50PM

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Ryan Atkins
Cinematographer/Editor/Colorist
181

you have the Samsung Nx1 too

August 28, 2015 at 12:58AM, Edited August 28, 12:58AM

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If you are not sure, I would recommend finding friends in film school who already have cameras. Try out for a weekend a Canon 5D mk 3, a Blackmagic camera, a Nikon, Samsung Nx1, Panasonic GH4. Try to film a few shots and edit the footage to see what you get.

In many cases, your school can rental for free (or at a very low price) cameras. Use this at your advantage.

For student films, I would personally get any 1080p camera that doesn't have moiré or aliasing. That means Nikon d5300, Canon T3i or anything that you cannot afford. It's WRONG to think that you need 4k or raw to succeed in student films. Kendy Ty ( https://vimeo.com/kendyty ) makes wonderful small movies with a Canon T3i. Spend the money on a good prime lens, paying talent and affording art for your movies.

August 28, 2015 at 1:00AM

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Heri Rakotomalala
DP/Camera, Studio owner, Associate Producer
368

I own a T3i, and it has horrible moire, and aliasing is also an issue. That said, you can do some pretty amazing stuff with it. Get some old manual M42 mount (Pentax Screw Mount) lenses and some cheap adapters. Also running Magic Lantern on Canon cameras opens up a lot of settings that Canon "locks" away. Namely the native (low noise) ISO settings. Quite honestly, lighting, exposure and composition are far more important than the camera you use. As far as detail, more is definitely better. it is far easier to throw out detail in post, than it is to try and recover it. Cameras like the Panasonic G7 bring 4k down to a level that many can afford, and has very similar image quality to the GH4, just no Cinema 4K option, and no V-Log profile. For any DSLR, or DSLM video, you want to crank the sharpness way down to the bottom. In camera sharpening is the biggest culprit to the "video" look... Also, shoot as flat as possible. Low contrast, lower saturation. This makes it easier to push color grading in post. Just my two cents.

Robert Rock

August 28, 2015 at 10:22PM

If you can afford it, I would recommend 5D3.
With Magic Lantern installed.

If you learn to use this, you will have a lot of opportunities for your creative learning curve. If that is out of your pricerange, the GH4 is a really good one.

August 28, 2015 at 1:38AM

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Jan, don't fall into the trap of obsessing about lenses and sensors and the like.
Your short film is well made and all that will go out of the window when you get drawn into debates about which gear is best.
Buy a dedicated video camera with a decent zoom then make films and learn your trade rather than worrying about the technicalities.

August 28, 2015 at 3:33AM

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Stelrad Two Machine Doulton
Editor by choice, film maker by necessity.
293

I've used the bmpcc, 5D2, 5D3, t2i, a7s and more high end camera's(sony FS,RED,...). First rule: if you want to make good looking images, lighting, rigging and sound is the most important part. Next is lenses and lastly the camera you shoot with. Invest accordingly.

Every single camera has it's flaws, even those lovely RED cam's. You need to look at what flaws are most workable with what you intend to shoot. If you are only going to be making films/music video's or similar things where you have the time for separate audio and decent lighting, offloading footage on set and when you can afford all the required accessories to make it work: BMPCC all the way.
If you're more in a run and gun type situation go with a gh4 or a used fs100.
If you need it cheap, buy a second hand canon(t2i, 5D2, t3i,...) and throw on magic lantern. Don't use RAW on it unless you can afford to lose some shots from time to time.

Watch reviews on all your candidates from good sources(Philip Bloom for example).

August 28, 2015 at 3:36AM

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I've recently switched from the 5D3 to the GH4, and as far as filmmaking goes, the GH4 gives you a lot more tools and works in a lot of different situations and environments. The GH4 gets even better if you take time to watch LUT/ picture style tutorials on Vimeo. I also feel like it's not the right time to invest in a 5D3 or 6D (unless you get them cheap), as they're coming to the end of their cycle. Sure they're great cameras, and if you're looking for full frame they're hard to beat, but their updates are on the way.

This is a recent commercial film I shot entirely on a GH4: https://vimeo.com/137162911

August 28, 2015 at 4:17AM, Edited August 28, 4:56AM

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Sebastian Kammonen
Filmmaker
289

Can you please give us links to LUT/ picture style tutorials on Vimeo. Thanks!

Sri Kalyan

August 28, 2015 at 10:40AM

For narrative pieces: blackmagic - pick your flavor, add a Nikon speedbooster, you've got tons on lens options.
For client work: gh4 or c100 or a7s.
Don't buy a canon dslr at this point, or a Nikon dslr.

August 28, 2015 at 9:34AM

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Lane McCall
Producer/Director
40

After a lot of research and the help from you guys i'm thinking of buying the Panasonic GH4.

But does anyone maybe have some tips for lenses?
I am looking for a wide angle lens but someone mentioned that for a Micro Four Thirds camera you need to buy a wide angle lens especially made for this type of camera (MFT). Is this really true and what happens when you use for example a canon wide angle lens with a speedbooster?

Also in my experience lenses without a zoom (like a 50mm, i don't know how the term is in english) are better than lenses with a zoom. Is this correct or should i also look for lenses with a zoom possibility (like 18-55mm for example)?

What type of lense would you recommend for me?

August 28, 2015 at 11:40AM

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Jan Baeyens
Student
74

Hey, I've been using the Tokina 11-16mm with the GH4 and the results are pretty solid. I love the way wide lenses look in moving shots. The Metabones Speedboosters are great, I have the .71x but there's an XL model that's supposed to make the GH4 into a Super 35.

Sebastian Kammonen

September 1, 2015 at 6:11AM

A wide angle lens for a Micro 4/3 camera means using a lens with a focal length between 7-17mm, so even with a SpeedBooster this mean using a FF lens that is 24mm or wider. In most cases you may want to go with a native Micro 4/3 lens because it's cheaper and does not require a SpeedBooster to use it.

My favorite lens for my GH4 is the Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 zoom because it's a great focal length range from very wide to moderate telephoto and it's optically stabilized for hand-held shooting.

The Sigma 18-35mm lens with a SpeedBooster is a good alternative if you also want the Canon or Nikon APS-C mounting option.

August 28, 2015 at 2:12PM, Edited August 28, 2:12PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
32247

You really just need to try the cameras mentioned to see if you like it, there's enough cheap rental places everywhere renting DSLR or whatever you want. It's image quality, ergonomics, menu systems that you need to get used too. Or if you just really want to jump in, just picking one and really learning it. The strengths and weaknesses. There are so many good cameras nowadays, if your going to take forever trying to choose a camera, then you aren't learning.

August 28, 2015 at 2:17PM, Edited August 28, 2:19PM

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Tony
300

Are you able to achieve the cinematic look with a 1 inch sensor camera such as the Panasonic FZ1000 or Sony RX10 II? And are those cameras good to learn and start off with?

thanks

August 28, 2015 at 7:28PM

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Yes, but shallow DOF is going to require a longer focal length, meaning you can't do a wide-angle shot with shallow DOF. ( not that big of a deal for someone starting out )

Between these two cameras I would go for the Sony RX10 Mk2 because the zoom has a constant f/2.8 F-stop and it comes with Sony S-log2 built in. ( the FZ1000 may never get log )

Guy McLoughlin

August 28, 2015 at 8:18PM

Shallow DOF doesn't mean cinematic if that's what you mean? There are many variables that go into making an image "cinematic". Look at Stanley Kubrick, he has large DOF where you can see everything in the frame but he control everything that is seen in the frame.

Tony

August 31, 2015 at 10:29AM

>>>Look at Stanley Kubrick, he has large DOF where you can see everything in the frame but he control everything that is seen in the frame.

And then look at Stanley Kubrick's "Barry Lyndon" where he was shooting wide-open with f/0.7 lenses and paper-thin DOF. So Kubrick has used shallow DOF as much as he used deep DOF.

Guy McLoughlin

August 31, 2015 at 10:59AM

The Panasonic GH4 is a very well-rounded camera for it's price. I'd go with that.

Things the GH4 can do that most cameras in it's price range can't:

- Shoots 4K. (The image processor and sensor offer a very sharp, crisp image)

- Does time lapses in camera. (All you do is set the time interval, and the camera will start snapping photos for you and once finished, compress it into a movie file)

- Capable of 96 frames per second slow motion. (Alhough it doesn't work well at night: the image becomes really blocky and full of artifacts, but it works well during the day)

The GH4 is a wonderful, versatile little camera. And although I love the image from the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera better, I don't think it's a good first camera. You will have to learn color grading, because it shoots a flat image that's meant to be corrected in post production later, and it has horrible audio pre-amps, so it's near impossible to get good sound in camera.

August 29, 2015 at 11:21AM

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