July 28, 2016

We Pick the Best Camera for First-Time Directors [PODCAST]

In this episode of Indie Film Weekly, we finally settle one of our most FAQs: which camera should I buy?

NFS Co-hosts Jon Fusco and, yours truly, Liz Nord are joined by tech writer Charles Haine with his take on this hot topic. We also get into the DNC's film connections, the new slate of super-trailers released at last week's Comic-Con, indies nominated for this year's News & Documentary Emmys, memorials to both director Garry Marshall (Pretty Woman, Beaches) and the VCR, and some skyward drama around California's first drone-related arrest.  As always, the show also brings news you can use about gear, upcoming grant and festival deadlines, this week’s indie film releases, our Ask No Film School segment, and other notable things you might have missed while you were busy making films.

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This episode of Indie Film Weekly was produced and edited by Jon Fusco

Your Comment


I disagree about the 550d. For the same price you can get a panasonic g6 which is a phenomenal budget camera with a sharper image, focus peaking, zebras, half decent preamps etc etc. Add a cheap focal reducer and some FD lenses (the cheapest set of quality vintage primes) and you have a killer set up. You should hopefully then have money to invest in sound and lights. A much more important consideration.

July 28, 2016 at 9:25AM


I totaly agree with you. You forgot to mention, the Canon DSLR's are plagued with aliasing and moiré. The G6 has much sharper image very low moiré and aliasing, swivel screen, autofocus while filming with the kit lens... Ability to mount ultra cheapo C mount lenses... On the used market a Panasonic G6 and a Canon T2i are about the same price (300-350) and I wouldn't hesitate one second.

July 29, 2016 at 6:06AM, Edited July 29, 6:10AM


I would say the Canon 70D for a great start and AMAZING auto-focus!

July 28, 2016 at 10:43AM


which camera rig is featured in the above image in the article ?

July 28, 2016 at 10:57AM


DJI Ronin

July 29, 2016 at 1:40AM


The brain behind is more important than the camera. As is what is happening in shot.

July 28, 2016 at 11:10AM

Julian Richards
Film Warlord

Yeah, I hate to be negative. This is a great podcast. But suggesting the T2i is a bit outdated of a suggestion. Don't waste $500 on a camera that is already 5 years behind in today's technology. The BMD pocket cinema camera is a much better pick, and that too is getting long in the tooth. For general camera IQ, stay away from old Canon DSLRs. Panasonic, Sony and Blackmagic have much better options in that sub $1,000 range.

July 28, 2016 at 4:17PM


BMD pocket, unless you get a cherry picked copy, drops frames, has crazy hot pixels, and can physically fall apart in your hands while using it on day one. Also BMD doesn't honor warranties and provides no mechanism to fix their products when they break - even if you're willing to pay for repairs.

Sure, Canon DSLRs have serious problems w/ Jello and pixel binning, but with the Magic Lantern firmware add-on, you can get quite a remarkable image with their raw recording modes. They are also rather sturdy and can handle abuse. Plus, battery life tends to really go the distance. Pro Tip: cut out a piece of black poster board and wedge it into the optical viewfinder to cover it and correct exposure tools being off by upwards of a half stop (or use gaff tape).

Here's a quick video showing the 550D/T2i w/ magic lantern and filmconvert:

Although, i'd suggest a 60D/70D, a souped up version of the T2i/T3i, as the flip out screen with a loupe on the LCD makes a decent viewfinder. And as necks are great at stabilizing our own vision, pressing your face against it really helps to smooth out hand held shots. Adding a cheap L bracket to use as a side left handle also helps. You can also look into adding a SteadXP+ Gyro later this year to really smooth out shots and fix jello in post.

DSLR SteadXP+ Gyro test demo:

July 28, 2016 at 10:23PM, Edited July 28, 10:34PM

Daniel Reed
Hat Collector

The 60D is the better option for that era of Canon DSLR's. The GH2 is a more versatile option and is readily available for under $200 used. It's color science, detail and lens options blow away the Canon DSLR's of the same era, and the hack opens it up to shooting razor sharp imagery with stunning detail. . You can also use a Speed Booster to reduce the crop factor to 1.4, providing the option for nice DoF with all the aforementioned bonuses. Either way, the camera should be among the least of your expenses when starting out.

July 28, 2016 at 4:42PM, Edited July 28, 4:55PM

Marc B
Shooter & Editor

At £500 there are many better camera choices than the old and out of date Canon T2i camera...

Panasonic G6 : £349

Panasonic G7 : £379 ( shoots 4K video )

Panasonic GH3 : £450 ( weather-proof, unlimited shooting time, 3+ hour battery life )

Panasonic GX80 : £510 ( shoots 4K video, 5-axis stabilization, unlimited shooting time )

All of these cameras can use almost ANY lens ever made with the appropriate adapter, and they offer FULL manual control over your video settings.

NOTE: My comment above about unlimited shooting time may not apply to the UK or Europe, but for the rest of the world it applies.

July 28, 2016 at 7:41PM, Edited July 28, 7:46PM

Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer

Really appreciate all your suggestions, guys. I hope the people who have asked this question in many different forms on the boards will also read the answers here. (And I hope you get a lot more out of the podcast than this one point! We try to cover lots of news and opportunities relevant to indie filmmakers!)

July 29, 2016 at 2:27PM, Edited July 29, 2:27PM

Liz Nord
Editor-in-Chief & Lead Producer
Documentary Filmmaker/Multi-platform Producer

If Panasonic released something in the 3-5k range I think we'd be very happy. The GH4 is an awesome little camera and I'm sure it's successor will be too. I just wish it had a little more... 4k hfr, better low light capabilities, maybe CFast card slots to record higher bitrates or RAW even... I think it's a huge market opportunity for Panasonic. This is my wish.

July 29, 2016 at 2:43PM


Right now Panasonic has...

- The GH4 mirrorless camera

- The DVX200 camcorder with a micro 4/3 sensor and permanently attached zoom lens

- The Varicam LT Super 35 camera that starts at about $16K

So hopefully once the Varicam LT territory has been sorted out, they might try making a cine camera to compete with the Sony FS7, which would put them back in the low budget Indie film-making game. Sony is just eating things up at this price point.

July 29, 2016 at 10:55PM, Edited July 29, 10:55PM

Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer

I think the T2i is an excellent suggestion, esp considering the free Magic Lantern hack. Considering that you can purchase the camera use for about a hundred dollars and used with skill the resulting high quality video will compete with anything in the way we view video in the real world.
The other suggestions will cost many times the cost of a used T2i. People who have mastered the t2i for video will easily master any camera. Dave Dugdale at learningvideo.com has an inexpensive tutorial on the t2i which is well worth the money under forty dollars.

July 31, 2016 at 10:52PM