September 11, 2014 at 11:46AM


Buying My First Camera...SOS

I am totally new to the filmmaking world, and I'm looking into purchasing my very first camera (not counting the one I got for Christmas when I was a child). I know little to nothing, but I'm a quick learner and I love to tinker with things.

Where's a good place to start and what should I be looking for?

I just graduated college in theatre, so I still have the stench of student brokeness on me.

Thank you!


The main questions I have are, what are you shooting and what's your budget?

September 11, 2014 at 12:32PM

Alex Smith

I suggest you start with a DSLR to learn the basics. I highly recommend basically any of the Rebel series cameras from Canon. They're all compatible with Magic Lantern as well, which should keep you busy once you understand the basic function of the camera. Unless you're doing photography, theres no point going with a 7D as the newer Rebels actually have more sensitive sensors (the T2i and T3i have the same APS-C sensor at the 7D). As far as lenses, I recommend obviously buying the kit lens with the camera (or scraping together a little more for a nicer 18-55 like the one from Sigma) and then buying a few cheap primes after you know what you like. A prime is a lens that doesn't zoom. People generally buy these because you get a lot more for your money than with a zoom (due to it being a less complex mechanism).

September 11, 2014 at 5:47PM

Aidan Gray
Director of Photography Assistant Camera | Gaffer

Going with a DSLR/MILC to start out with is a great suggestion, but I wouldn't in 2014 suggest with good conscious a Canon DSLR for a beginner because at every price level something a lot better exists! At the mid range to high level DSLR/MILC: Sony A7s or Panasonic GH4. At the entry level to mid range: Nikon D5200/D5300/D7100/D3300, Sony A5100/A6000, or Panasonic G6/GM1/GX7/GH3. At the super cheap level: Panasonic GH1 or Sony NEX-5N.

David Peterson

September 13, 2014 at 4:25AM


I am in the process of working on this guide, however I've mostly finished up the "Choosing a Camera" section. I have a lot more work to do, but thought I would at least share with you something that might help answer your questions.

September 11, 2014 at 11:35PM

Alex Smith

Very much depends on what you want to shoot.
for comedy you would want one thing, but for drama or sci-fi, a whole different camera.

I would recommend a DSLR because you can do video, mostly pretty dang nice video actually, but you can also take picture to help you understand composition, and how the camera works. i started on the T2i (I would get the T3i or a Sony camera like the NEX-6 or NEX-7) and though it wasn't the best camera on the world, it taught me so much, just by using it when i traveled and wanted to shoot short films.

the primary concerns anyone has getting a camera are(in no particular order, and these were my concerns anyway):

1. Low light capability - because this is your first camera you don't need to worry greatly about this area. the better the low-light, the higher the price most times. I have the C100 now ($5000) and its amazing in low light, but with a cringe-worthy price-tag
Just understand, with a cheaper camera you can get GREAT images, outside... not as much inside without large amounts of light. if you understand this it won't affect you that bad

2. Frame rate options - most filmmakers want to be able to film slo-motion, and for this you need higher frame rates (60p - 240p - 10,000p) there are plenty of options, but this is another area where just starting out, you probably don't need these features. however they are dang nice to have.
If you care about slo-mo then i would go for Sony, they have cheap cameras with 60fps options everywhere (like the 2 mentioned above)

3. quality - this is paramount, the main thing you want from a camera is nice images... this is all personal preference. find the cameras in your price range, then look up Youtube and Vimeo videos of their footage, see what pleases your eye the most.

Just a side note, lenses are the confusing part of all of this (i don't mean to assume you don't know anything, but I'm justing covering the bases)
the camera you get will have a crop factor, depending on the sensor size.
so on the T2i, its sensor is an APSC sensor. and the crop factor is 1.6
basically you multiply the crop factor by the length of your lenses zoom to see the actual zoom.
So on a 50mm lens (which is pretty close to the zoom of the human eye) on an APSC sensor the lens will actually be zoomed to 80mm.

This won't help you pick your camera per se. but it will help you pick your lenses.

but you can find a ton of resources on lens options.

anyway, read the recommended cameras link the guy above me sent... looks pretty nice.

Hope this helped!

September 12, 2014 at 8:19AM

Connor Norvell
Cinematographer, Writer, Director

First of all, what is your budget? (both budget for camera body, and total budget) Second, what are you shooting? Third, what are your plans for the future?

Without knowing the answers yet to these question, I'll take a punt at answering anyway... if your budget range is say sub $1,000 for a camera body then (as this is a rather good budget range, you can get a rather good camera indeed with it. Yet it is also for most people not too much, as it isn't a good idea to overspend on your first camera that you'll be learning on):

In your budget range the "best" are (though "best" will always be a very subjective term, and depends on the person): Nikon D5200/D5300/D7100/D3300, Sony A5100/A6000, or Panasonic G6/GM1/GX7/GH3.

Noam Kroll regards the Nikon D5300 as the best entry level DSLR on the market:

I use a Nikon D5200 myself, which is quite a bit cheaper, and as EOSHD showed it performs very nicely when compared against the much more expensive 5DmkIII:

The D5200 is basically almost as good as the D5300 but at a big discount in price, however.... lately the folks at have been making great progress and the hacked D5200 is looking even better than the D5300!

I believe however mirrorless is going to be the way of the future, so let's check out Panasonic and Sony:

The Panasonic G6 is also a stronger contender, as the G6 is in many ways the updated Panasonic GH2 which was a big hit with filmmakers on a budget (check out "Upstream Colour" as an example of a feature film made with it: ):

The GX7/GH3/GM1 are also good ones too, but I reckon overall the G6 makes for a better value choice.

Then there is the Sony A6000 and the newer A5100 which is even cheaper but is arguably an even better camera (due to the 50Mbps XAVC S Codec in it):

Another final camera to mention is the BMPCC, which is an absolutely fantastic camera but... I probably wouldn't suggest it as a person's first camera if they haven't first owned a DSLR/MILC to learn on. But check it out anyway, you might decide it is for you after all.

If you've got a bigger budget, then check out the Sony A7s and Panasonic GH4. As those two really are "King of the Hill" by a hefty margin right now in terms of DSLR/MILCs for filming with.

If your budget is smaller than this (and nothing wrong with that, as after all the camera body is only a small part of the total. You could have a total budget of a couple of grand yet still decide to go with one of these two instead) then check out the Panasonic GH1 or Sony NEX-5N. They can each be found for about US$200 on eBay, and in my opinion nothing is as good in that budget range as the GH1 (I have one myself). But some people also quite like the NEX-5N, so check that one out too.

September 13, 2014 at 4:21AM

David Peterson
Wedding Cinematographer

The two questions you need to answer for us are...

1- What is your budget ?

2- What do you want to shoot ?

It's pretty much impossible to answer without knowing these two answers first.

September 13, 2014 at 11:43AM

Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer

I think your question got answered with the last 3 responses below. Get a DSLR and read those comments.

September 13, 2014 at 5:32PM

Tommy Plesky
Director / D.P / Editor

I went with the 70D and absolutely love it! Imo for the money there is no better pro/consumer camera for video out there at that price point well for me anyway. Though its more about who's using the camera than the camera it self.

September 13, 2014 at 7:50PM

Michael Militscher
Director / Commercial Producer

There have been some great suggestions... I'd recommend you go for an APS-C camera if you're still learning. Focus will be easier than with Full Frame, and the lens sizes are equivalent to motion picture HD cameras, so you'll learn what a 75mm looks like on an Arri Alexa, etc. Micro 4/3 mount cameras such as the Panasonic GH series are also a good choice. Even easier on focus, though lenses will look more telephoto, but a well-loved series of cameras and you can probably pick up a GH-3 for cheap.

Another camera option... Sony recently announced the a5100, an Alpha camera with great features for around $550 (without lens). It's APS-C, decent in low light, and the recording format is XAVC S 50Mb/s, which is nice.

September 14, 2014 at 12:07PM

Scott Ressler
Director of Photography

Oh, and here's a nice suggestion article for inexpensive Alpha lenses:

The single biggest advantage for going Canon, in my opinion, is that there are more Canons out there than all other DSLR/mirrorless cameras put together. So if you need to find an additional camera or two for a day, it'll be easier. And they are great cameras. The Nikons have better dynamic range (better highlights and shadows), the Sony has a better internal recording format, the Panasonic GHs can use any lens (via adapters), are easier on focus but harder to get that nice shallow focus look, etc., etc.

September 14, 2014 at 12:16PM

Scott Ressler
Director of Photography

I will make a few assumptions (no disrespect) just to make a baseline:
1) Your getting into filmmaking as a hobby but potentially want to make it a profession.
2) You have minimal or no camera experience and almost no budget.

In this scenario, I would recommend the following:
1) Purchase 'vintage' manual prime lenses off ebay ( Why? One, they are affordable even on the most modest of budgets. Second, being fully manual you'll be able to focus on the core principles of how lenses capture images (Focal Length, DoF, etc) w/out the distraction of 'tech'. Finally, they are adaptable (using an mechanical adapter) to almost any camera you purchase since they don't need to electronically talk to the camera.
2) As suggested by earlier comments, focus your search to VDSLR or Mirror-less cameras. The Canon 'T' line is nice. I am personally fond of the Panasonic GH line. Basically, purchase the best camera you can afford on your budget. At this point don't be too concerned about crop factor, full-frame this or full-frame that. Once you really understand the principles of filmmaking you'll realize it doesn't really matter (ok, maybe just a little).
3) Set aside some of your budget for a cheap Lav and/or Shotgun mic. Unless your planning on making silent films, you'll need to learn something about audio production as well. Oh, don't forget a set of sticks!
4) Once you get your gear, set your camera to full manual. Set all the color settings to Standard. Learn the basics! Practice the exposure triangle (ISO, Shutter, and Aperture). Learn how they are inter-connected, how changing one value affects the others. Learn what other things are affected too (motion)! Don't get to caught up in sliders and gimbals. Focus on framing and composition. Study great photography. Learn to capture "still images" (with motion within the frame). After you feel comfortable with that, then introduce camera motion. If you still have room in your budget go to home depot and grab some lights. Practice the basics of lighting. Learn the lighting triangle (Key, Fill, and Back Light). Conduct little interviews so you can learn how light a face. Keep coming back to blogs like this. In other words, fill your mind with as much information you can! And remember, "technology is only as good as the one using it!".

September 14, 2014 at 5:46PM


I shot this with Canon Rebel t2I and an 85mm f1.8 lens this past Friday:

If you like it then I submit to you that the cameras do not matter -- only the lights and the lenses matter.

Good luck!

September 15, 2014 at 5:54AM

Alex Zakrividoroga

T3i, T4i and start with a 1.8f 50mm Prime... Have Fun!

September 15, 2014 at 10:30AM, Edited September 15, 10:30AM

Wentworth Kelly
DP/Colorist/Drone Op

Getting either of those Canon DSLRs wouldn't be wise. Canon APS-C has not been updated in so so long! Even their headline 5DmkIII is not so hot now. Currently the camera market for DSLR/MILC looks like the A7S and GH4 are top dogs (with probably the Samsung NX1 joining them when it gets released?). With those two being far ahead of the competition.

The top tier cameras of the rest being:
Panasonic GH3/G6/GM1/GX7, Sony A6000/A5100, Canon 5DmkIII, or Nikon D5200/D5300/D7100/D3300.

With all of those cameras being fairly similar-ish priced to each other, within a few hundred dollars each way. *EXCEPT*.... the Canon 5DmkIII which is the odd one out :-P It is up there in that top tier with the rest of them at that quality level, but at a radically different price level which is much higher!

David Peterson

September 18, 2014 at 8:11AM

any semi decent dslr with a nifty 50! i would be willing to bet most people on this site has used that configuration alot.
I still shoot 5dmk2/7D with 50mm ALL the time!

September 18, 2014 at 1:10AM

Riaan Myburgh

If it's filmmaking in general you're aspiring to, then you really need to budget for the sound side as well. If you already have this taken care of, apols.

If you have an iOS device, I wholeheartedly recommend the IK multimedia irig pro, or if budget won't stretch, the irig pre, but bear in mind you will then need to sync the sound. Pluraleyes is the fastest way of doing this. Also budget for a decent mic, but an oktava is a good and cheap option, or the ubiquitous rode Ntg2.

September 19, 2014 at 10:44AM, Edited September 19, 10:44AM

Ian Garforth

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