January 3, 2016 at 7:46PM


Buy a camera? Or just continue to use my phone camera?

I apologize if it's a stupid question, but will I need to purchase a bigger video camera for when I go off to film school?

For the submission process to all three schools, I was required to shoot short videos to broadcast my skill. While each video came out as well as I wanted it to be, I had to use my phone to shoot all three of them because I didn't have the resources to do otherwise. I was able to do so alright (my phone is an LG G3, and it can shoot 1080p video), but I noticed that some of my shots were odd to look at due to the colour balance (and I don't know of any app that can fix that), and I wasn't able to find a way to white balance the camera. As well, my phone was able to pick up sounds, but it wasn't as good as I wanted it to be, and some things came out foggy. So I was wondering if, in your opinion, my current camera would do me well throughout at least year one or two of Film school (I've chosen very hands-on programs), and if not, does anyone know of a good "starter" camera that I could buy/rent?


Do you have any budget for a camera ?

Shooting with a cell phone camera is one way to show your talent because you have to make up for all the limitations that the cell phone has. The feature film "Tangerine" (2015) was shot with three Apple iPhone 5s, but it's still a great film despite being shot this way.

January 4, 2016 at 10:00AM

Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer

If your film school is worth anything you should be able to rent from a lab on campus. I'm an advocate for renting the gear you need on a project by project basis, so that you are not locked into any 1 particular look or shooting style.

Also, we are at a point in time where you can get accessories for your phone to overcome many of the challenges like audio and an app like "Filmic Pro" which you can now get for Android that will allow you to lock in the white balance & exposure etc.

Hope that helps you to think through some of your options!

January 4, 2016 at 2:15PM

Derek Armitage
Filmmaker & Vlogger

Your phone can do a lot for you if you also have some cheap external recording capabilities.

Here's a video shot on an iPhone 5s or something like that with Filmic Pro. https://vimeo.com/116355291
It was aired on RTÉ TV here in Ireland and Philip Bromwell regularly shoots on his iPhone for special interest news reports.

If you're going to get a cheap camera buy a Panasonic GH2. It should get you great picture and last you the duration of college for all projects.

January 6, 2016 at 7:15AM

Andy O'Neill
Filmmaker / Cinematographer

The Panasonic GH2 is amazing for the price. The IQ is pretty up there.
Also Panasonic recently announced Lumix DSC-ZS100, seems pretty great for what it is, and you don't have to get any lenses. I think this would be a perfect start up camera, and you could still use it when you decide to purchase a bigger camera.

January 7, 2016 at 12:50PM

Keith Kim

I just put this together and it is 90% gh2 footage. A $300 camera, and $200 worth of old lenses and adapters can go a long way.


January 8, 2016 at 10:19AM

Gordon Byrd
Owner, Byrd Pictures

k everyone, thanks for the advice so far!
I've decided to save up for a camera just in case, but once I get to film school I'll see about borrowing/renting cameras. For now, I think I'll try out some of the apps that people have mentioned. Once again, thank you!

January 7, 2016 at 1:15PM

You voted '+1'.
Marquela Nunes
Film Student

I see that you've decided to save up for a camera. That's cool, but I know budget is still gonna be an issue, so I highly recommend having a look at refurbished DSLRs on websites like KEH and obviously eBay. A few things to keep in mind:

If the camera is too old, it may not have video capability. Do your research before you buy, but there's definitely no need to spend a ton of extra money on a brand new camera. Save your cash to spend on equipment that's going to help you in other areas of capture, like a good microphone, a solid kit of lenses, lighting equipment, and stabilization accessories such as tripods, shoulder rigs, and rail mounts.

Canon is the popular choice for DSLR video, mainly because of their superior autofocus and better silent motor technology, but it's a great idea to use manual focus and an auxiliary microphone anyway for best control and quality results. So what you end up doing is probably going to override all the benefits of Canon, leaving you with its inferior dynamic range as compared to Nikon.

Vintage manual-focus prime lenses (meaning fixed focal-length as opposed to zoom) are your best value for quality glass. Zoom lenses cost a ton of extra money and almost always deliver inferior results. Nikon made some great primes back in the day which are very affordable on the used market. They'e still compatible with their current DSLRs, due to the fact that they've been using the F-mount system since the mid-50s. Canon, on the other hand, has changed their mount several times, so there aren't a lot of used lenses that are easy to get your hands on, offer manual iris control, and will fit the current DSLR system. However, since Canon's flange distance is slightly shorter than Nikon's, you can get an F-mount adapter that'll allow you to use old Nikon lenses on a Canon body, so no matter whether you get a Nikon DSLR or a Cannon, it's a good idea to build a kit of Nikon F-mount lenses.

There are two different sensor sizes for DSLRs: APS-C, aka "cropped sensor" is roughly 2/3 the size of CMOS, aka "full-frame," which is based on the classic 35mm format. You need to know what sensor size your camera has when you search for lenses. The more affordable DSLRs tend to have cropped sensors, so you need to multiply focal length by the crop factor (roughly 1.5). For example, if you have a cropped sensor and want the field of view of a standard 50mm lens, you need to use something like a 35mm lens (35mm x 1.5 = 52.5mm, so that lens is going to give you a little tighter field of view than a 50 would on a full-frame camera).

Rode makes a very affordable microphone that mounts to the camera's hot shoe (flash mount), which is a popular solution for quality audio recording. There are other brands, of course, but it'll be an essential upgrade to your audio quality. If you can find one used, even better.

So I'd say bare minimum kit would be a used DSLR (I'd choose Nikon, but maybe I'm biased. How much you spend is going to depend on how important it is to have 1080p or 4k capability, and how important it is to have a full-frame sensor.), a vintage 50mm lens (35mm if the camera body has an APS-C sensor - of course your go-to focal length is going to be a matter of personal preference), a hot-shoe mounted microphone, and of course storage (SD cards, flash cards, or whatever works in your particular camera) and at least 2 batteries (3 or more would be ideal for a full day's shooting, buy them on eBay and not from a battery store for ridiculous savings, as in $5 as opposed to $90 - but pay very close attention to product photos and make sure they at least appear to be authentic). You can probably get all that without spending more than $800, and you get a kit that can keep on expanding as you collect more lenses (a wide-angle for environmental shots and shooting in cramped spaces, a telephoto for close-ups), back-up bodies for second angles, etc. Also, it'd be a good idea to look into tripods and shoulder rigs for stabilization, depending on your stylistic preferences.

If there's one thing that's vital for you to take away from this, it's that you should never buy new gear when you can save a ton of money getting it used.

January 7, 2016 at 10:21PM

Dustin Hern
Photographer, Amateur Filmmaker

You've mentioned Nikon as a choice for cameras. Do you have a specific model in mind that can I can use with a wide range of lenses, 1080p video capability, and preferably under $1000?

January 8, 2016 at 8:44AM

Marquela Nunes
Film Student

Check out the Nikon D5300 or D5500. Articulating Screen and a pretty capable sensor for the $'s. If you can find them used, price should be great.

August 24, 2016 at 9:35PM


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