January 2, 2016 at 10:31PM

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Best Camera Options

I am looking for a decent camera lower or around 1000.00 any suggestions?

10 Comments

A used Panasonic HMC-150 is a decent camera around $1000. By decent I mean:

13:1 zoom lens
3 built-in ND filters
Shoots 1080p up to 30fps, 720p up to 60fps
4:2:2 HDMI output
XLR audio inputs
jams to external timecode
built-in waveform monitor and vectorscope

You can buy a consumer-grade point-and-shoot camera for less, but to get the pro-level features (which is really necessary to up your game), you need to spend about $1000 on all the upgrades and rigging equipment necessary to do what this oldie-but-goodie does out of the box. New, the HMC-150 cost over $4000.

January 3, 2016 at 10:33AM

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I owned and shot with a HMC-150 for four years. It's a good camera but the image it produces is inferior to what you can get from a good consumer DSLR or mirror-less camera. My main beefs with the HMC-150 ( and largely why I sold mine ) are:

- It does not record a real 1080p image, but rather a 720p image that is upscaled to 1080p.

- It records a low bit-rate 4:2:0 image that gets quite "grainy" in low-light environments.

Today I would only recommend a HMC-150 to a film-student who wants most of the professional image controls that it offers, and does not mind the image it produces. Otherwise a Sony CX900 or a Panasonic G7 would be a better buy for image quality.

Guy McLoughlin

January 3, 2016 at 1:25PM

What do you want to shoot ?

January 3, 2016 at 1:19PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
32191

Indeed what she will shoot is more important than what she shoots with.

Julian Richards

January 3, 2016 at 7:14PM

Thank you all so much! I'm currently in film school I just need it to do a few 10 minute film.

January 3, 2016 at 10:35PM

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>>>I'm currently in film school I just need it to do a few 10 minute film.

Given your budget I would look at any of the following cameras...

Blackmagic Pocket Cine Camera
- Records 1080p video
- Micro 4/3 lens mount
- 13 F-stops of dynamic range
- Produces very cine-like image right from the start
- Unlimited recording time ( limited only by the size of memory card and battery )
- Not great for audio ( you need an external recorder )
- Eats batteries like candy

https://goo.gl/Q8jbup

Nikon D5200, Nikon D5300
- Records 1080p video
- Nikon APS-C lens mount
- Up to 11 F-stops of dynamic range
- Records good video image
- Excellent still photo image
- Video recording limit is 20 minutes

https://goo.gl/dDEiGj

Panasonic GH3
- Records 1080p video
- Micro 4/3 lens mount
- 10 F-stops of dynamic range
- Unlimited recording time ( limited only by the size of memory card and battery )
- Records good internal audio when fed a strong signal
- Battery last for 3+ hours
- Weather-proof body ( you can shoot in rain and snow )
- Accessories compatible with more advanced GH4 camera

https://goo.gl/3kb6Mx

Panasonic G7
- Records 4K video ( 4 times the size of 1080p cameras )
- Micro 4/3 lens mount
- 11 F-stops of dynamic range
- 30 minute recording time
- Records good internal audio when fed a strong signal
- Battery last for 90+ minutes

https://goo.gl/EHf4i4

Sony A6000
- Records 1080p video
- Sony APS-C lens mount
- Up to 11 F-stops of dynamic range
- Records good video image
- Video recording limit is 30 minutes

https://goo.gl/QQqLaJ

All of these cameras can produce a very good video image, and given your budget I would try and buy one with a standard "kit" lens to get you started. In almost all cases you will want to use an external audio recorder to obtain high quality sound for your films.

January 4, 2016 at 12:34AM, Edited January 4, 12:51AM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
32191

I would disagree with all of the above except for BMPCC. As a film school student, waveform and vector scopes are incredible important tools, and none of them have the tools built-in. The BMPCC at least has a Thunderbolt port that will feed an application that brings them up on a Mac, if you have a Mac. And the audio capabilities of the BMPCC are famously so terrible that you absolutely must use an external audio recording device to get anything close to useable at all.

But an HMC-150 solves all of these problems. It does not have shallow depth of field (except at the tele end of the lens), it's 1080p resolution is not the best in the world, and it doesn't shoot RAW, but it has all the controls and ergonomics of a camera that will teach you how to use a real camera when your budget is higher. The other cameras will either force you to spend many hundreds of dollars--possibly over $1000 to get the features they were designed to support, and you'll be chasing your tail when it comes to learning the craft.

RAW is a big deal if you really want to focus on the editing/grading part of the equation. But if you want to focus on lighting and composition (more the camera end), it's not as important.

If you have a $1000 camera budget and another $1000 "extras" budget, and you have a good bit of experience integrating systems, Guy's suggestions are very good. If you have a $1000 all-in budget, I would talk with your film school teachers about how to best spend that money for the courses you plan to take.

Michael Tiemann

January 4, 2016 at 6:25AM

>>>As a film school student, waveform and vector scopes are incredible important tools, and none of them have the tools built-in.

Yes definitely, but you're not going to find these professional imaging tools on a $1,000 camera. ( sure buying a used camera is a posiiblity, but you are going to pay a high price in image degradation to obtain these tools with a used camera )

I would still recommend buying the best camera you can afford within your budget ( in terms of image quality and usability ), and then look at purchasing an external monitor with these imaging tools. It's possible to buy a monitor ( new or used ) with these tools for $500 or less, and these tools will be available to every camera you work with. I own a professional Marshall monitor that I use all the time with every camera I shoot with.

>>>The BMPCC at least has a Thunderbolt port that will feed an application that brings them up on a Mac, if you have a Mac.

Which means you are going to drag around a Mac laptop everywhere you shoot ( not a bad idea if you have one and don't mind the extra size and weight ), where a good quality external monitor will provide you with the same tools in a more compact device that can run all day with a $40 battery.

>>>But an HMC-150 solves all of these problems. It does not have shallow depth of field (except at the tele end of the lens), it's 1080p resolution is not the best in the world, and it doesn't shoot RAW, but it has all the controls and ergonomics of a camera that will teach you how to use a real camera when your budget is higher.

A DSLR or mirror-less camera combined with a good external monitor is going to do almost everything the HMC-150 does ( you won't have the long parfocal zoom lens ) and produce a better finished image. Over the 4 years I owned my HMC-150, I went from shooting almost 100 percent of my work with the HMC-150 to less than 10 percent of my work because my Panasonic GH2/GH3 cameras produced a better image. In the end the only time I used my HMC-150 was for live event work, where I needed the long parfocal zoom lens, otherwise the GHx cameras easily outperformed the HMC-150 camera in almost every situation.

>>> The other cameras will either force you to spend many hundreds of dollars--possibly over $1000 to get the features they were designed to support, and you'll be chasing your tail when it comes to learning the craft.

I completely disagree here. If you master your tools and understand the limitations of ANY piece of production gear ( cameras, audio, lights, etc... ) you will quickly learn how to produce the best quality from each item.

I can hand the same low-end camera to 5 different people, and it will become obvious which people have mastered their tools. Some people will produce absolute crap, while others will produce something amazing from the same camera.

Just take a look at the trailer for Shane Carruth's "Upstream Color" (2013) which was shot with the very outdated Panasonic GH2 camera ( you can buy one used for as low as $250 now ), and you will see what is possible with the lowly GH2 camera. This crappy camera produced an amazing Indie film that won at Sundance, and earned Carruth more than $500K. Anyone can do this with a GH2 provided they understand the strengths and weaknesses of this cheap crappy camera.

Upstream Color (2013) - Theatrical Trailer
https://vimeo.com/57342043

Upstream Color (2013) Website
http://erbpfilm.com/film/upstreamcolor

January 4, 2016 at 12:44PM, Edited January 4, 12:48PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
32191

Today with a limited budget and with the least compromise I think the G7 is the best option.

Philippe Orlando

January 7, 2016 at 9:51AM

I would second the GH2. With the Driftwood hack they can shoot very high bitrate. Even standard you get amazing looking video out of them.

The BBC in the UK use them for certain shows and they're notoriously strict on what cameras they allow to be used.

January 6, 2016 at 10:06AM

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Andy O'Neill
Filmmaker / Cinematographer
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