January 13, 2016 at 4:40AM


Beginner filmmaker investing money on gear for the first time

I have a budget of about 2500$ of which I will spend around 200$ to upgrade RAM and SSD on my 15" Macbook PRO MID 2012 for it has supported me well in the past two years at film school. So I have about 2000$ as I might spend 300$ on a decent phone( I have an old Nokia 1100 now).
I'm not a gear geek so I need to know what to buy right now. I'm into documentary film making and I travel a lot. I would also like to know that is it necessary to buy a full frame body?
So basically what type of gear should I get as a beginner documentary film maker in 2000$
Thanks for your time


To try and stretch your budget as far as it can go, you might consider looking at the Sony HDR-CX900 ENG style video camera. It's currently $1,100 if you buy directly from Sony : http://goo.gl/m6tlWX

- It uses a 1 inch sensor so it's pretty good in low light
- Features a 12x Zeiss parfocal zoom lens
- Built-in image stabilization
- 120 fps slow-motion recording
- Mic and Headphone jacks
- Has no time limit on how long it can record
- You can shoot all day with 3+ batteries

Vimeo Sony CX900 Group

This will leave you with $900 for other production gear like microphones, recorders, lighting, etc...

January 13, 2016 at 8:59AM, Edited January 13, 9:04AM

Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer

Why a camcorder? why not a dslr? the variety of lenses can be good in a dslr

Karim Baig

January 14, 2016 at 1:22AM

>>>Why a camcorder? why not a dslr? the variety of lenses can be good in a dslr

A good camcorder because...
- It's lower cost ( $1100 with a very good lens )
- It comes with a long parfocal lens ( equivalent to 29 - 700mm lens on a FF camera )
- Has good built-in image stabilization for smooth hand-held shots
- Can shoot very long takes ( no 20 or 30 minute time limit )
- Batteries last much longer than most DSLR cameras
- It's more compact than carrying a DSLR and a set of lenses when you are traveling

A DSLR with a few lenses is going to burn up your entire $2,000 budget and leave nothing left for audio gear or lighting. Audio is a big deal for any type of film-making, especially documentary films, so you want to make sure you have this properly covered. Same goes for lighting, though you will probably want to use small battery operated lights along with portable reflectors.

January 14, 2016 at 10:28PM, Edited January 14, 10:37PM

Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer

I think Guy is giving you good advice.
I would not blow your budget on a camera body, the difference in quality in video will primarily be your skill.
There are many used point and shoot cameras that will work fine, I would check old post on eugenias rants and thoughts for suggestions, look at the filmmaking section.
Get a monopod. Make movies.
Lots of 3 florescent setups on amazon.com and elsewhere for little over $100 check out cowboy studio offerings as an example. No matter what camera you use, you will need a computer to edit it and software, this would be where I put my money, you will use this computer with every camera you will ever use and so it will be the difference between editing being a breeze or frustration. The options of point and shoot used or Canon T2i or eos-m are all inexpensive options, but have tremendous potential. If anyone claims they are lousy for video, what they are really saying is that they lack the skill to operate them well. They are trying to replace skill with a camera purchase which buys them bragging rights. Here is an example in a recording studio http://topofthehillmusic.com has a beautiful recording studio building with an amateur questionable talented operator. Musicians in the area refuse to use this studio even when offered free studio time there. Just because you have an expensive beautiful camera doesn't mean you can make beautiful video with it and just because you have a cheaper camera option doesn't mean you can't make beautiful video with it. It truly is the operator not the camera. Knowledgable filmakers know that story, light and composition will make virtually any video look great with any camera that does video. Best option, buy something less than your budget and as far as investing, invest in yourself.

January 16, 2016 at 11:37AM


Id definitely listen to Guy. I was even thinking before seeing the comments that you should not go DSLR. Id recommend the Canon XA20. Its small and gets some decent picture, you'll be able to plug your XLR mic direct into the camera so no need for dual system sound. Comes at a price but the XA10 aint bad also and is cheaper.

DSLR has a ton of obstacles whewn doing doc work. It can get great images for relatively low cost but I would never use it for a doc unless I needed a great stills camera as well.

January 21, 2016 at 8:59AM

Chris Hackett
Director, Director of Photography, Writer

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