November 6, 2014 at 8:12PM

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Fancy or Affortable? Help A Beginner Out!

hey there!

I am a lifelong film admirer and somewhat recent aspiring filmmaker. Being the newbie that I am, I don't have a camera other than my iphone6. I'm constantly trolling the internet to find the best camera for me, I've done the research and came up with two cameras to truly consider.

(Keep in mind most of those numbers without a dollar sign in front of them mean nothing to me. #beginner remember?)

1. Canon T5i ($699.00)
- Resolution: 18.00 Megapixels
- Sensor size: APS-C
- ISO: 100-25600
- Shutter: 30-1/4000

2. Panasonic Lumix GH4 (Body Only | $1,697.99)
- Resolution: 16.05 Megapixels
- Sensor size: 4/3
- ISO: 100-25600
- Shutter: 60-1/8000

The Dilemma: Do I use what money I have already saved to get the Canon t5i; what some might call the "student camera". Learn as much as I can before going "pro" Or! Instead of getting one before the other, do I go right to the good stuff!? Continue to save for the Panasonic GH4, learn all there is to know and immediately become the next Scorsese? #thedilemam It's a daily inner struggle.

Alright. That's all! Come at me with your opinions. Have I chosen two terrible cameras? Am I way out of my league here?! Save and learn? / Go Big or Go Home?

Ultimately, help a beginner out!

43 Comments

If you're a beginner, then I would recommend going with whichever camera gets you shooting ASAP, as it's going to take lots of practice to get good with any camera.

Also, consider that you can always buy a "starter" camera and then sell it to upgrade later on...

Given your budget, I would also look at the following cameras as too:

Nikon D5200 or D5300 : Shoots very good video and does not have the moire and aliasing issues that most Canon APS-C cameras do.

Panasonic GH3 : Because of the GH4 coming out you can find lots of good deals on used GH3 cameras. ( I've seen them selling used in the $600 ) This camera also uses the SAME battery as the GH4, and the SAME battery grip. The Panasonic kit lenses are quite sharp and have optical image stabilization so you can get very smooth looking hand-held shots with a little practice. If you might end up going with a GH4 camera down the road, then a used GH3 will help you build up a nice GH4 lens collection.

Between the GH3 and the D5300 cameras, they are very close in terms of what they can produce, but the electronic viewfinder of GH3 is a little easier to shoot with. ( i.e. it's bright in dim light, and shows all your camera controls just like the LCD screen does )

November 6, 2014 at 10:01PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
32706

Thanks for taking the time Guy!

That's some great advise that I'll be looking into. I'm definitely gonna check out those Nikons and consider the GH3!

Jessica Lee

November 7, 2014 at 12:36PM

Agreed - buy a camera and get shooting. You can find T3i's for dirt cheap these days, and they have all the pertinent bells and whistles of the T5i. We still use the T3i at our mega church here in Vegas for some of our shorts that are watched by 6000+ people. Kendy Ty has a wealth of videos that were shot on the T2i - proof is in the person, not the camera. https://vimeo.com/kendyty/videos

November 7, 2014 at 4:31PM

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Preach Cameron! Thanks!

Jessica Lee

November 7, 2014 at 4:58PM

Kudos to you for suggesting the T3i for a beginner. People get snobbish and want to disregard it, now especially. I cut my teeth on the T3i.

Chris Uy

November 13, 2014 at 3:09PM

The Canon T3i (with Magic Lantern) was were it started for me. If you're learning and you're really willing to learn, the T3i is what I suggest, it gives the "nofilmschool" student probably the easiest introduction to dslr filmmaking. I picked mine up with a descent 50mm lense for $400.00 used and it had Magic Lantern.

November 8, 2014 at 2:28PM

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Enrique Olivieri
Film Maker/Writer/Actor
117

I currently have the Canon T3i (upgraded from the Canon T3 this summer) and it fits my needs perfectly. Of course I'd rather have a 5D or a GH4 or a A7S or other expensive cameras, but I just want them and don't need them. Something you should know for the difference between the T3i and the T5i is that the T5i has continuous video autofocus but the T3i has more Magic Lantern features. Something else to keep in mind, is that you could have a super nice camera, such as the Red Epic, but if your lens was the kit lens for Canon cameras, it wouldn't be impressive. You will use your glass a lot longer than your camera. I have the 18-55mm kit lens and the 50mm f/1.8 "plastic fantastic" (both made by Canon) and they are excellent for beginners (including myself). You also want to consider getting a good, solid tripod and a microphone. But, remember, it's experience not the gear.

November 8, 2014 at 8:08PM

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Zachary Welker
Student Filmmaker
144

I agree with the above posts regarding cheaper camera choices to start with.

Something to always keep in mind with expensive electronics: technology moves on, and at a rapid pace. By the time you get good with that expensive new camera, technology will be far ahead of you and you will have spent a lot of money on a learning tool - when you could have had a very comparable tool (camera) for 1/2-1/3 of that price. As long-term investments go, figure out which brand you'll be using and pay good money for good glass - lenses that you will use for the long-run, when you really do want a great camera body.

I bought a T2i last year from a friend for $300. But I spent $800 (new) on a great lens (EFS 17-55 2.8, Ultrasonic, etc) The "Nifty-Fifty" 50mm f/1.8 is decent for under $100, but cheap plastic and not very fast. For a 50mm, spend a little more and get the f/1.4 (don't forget some new filters as well). This kit with Magic Lantern now installed is really all I need at this point.

Don't forget that you can also rent virtually anything you'd need for any shoot. Try before you buy...

November 9, 2014 at 12:41AM

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I would buy a cheap - yet amazing - Panasonic G6 ( http://www.amazon.com/Panasonic-DMC-G6KK-Compact-Digital-14-42mm/dp/B00C... ) and a bunch of old Canon FD lenses (search Canon FD 28 and 50 on ebay).
I made this video with that setup:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIMHVO1XANE

November 11, 2014 at 3:37AM

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Simone Salvatore
Filmmaker / Recording Engineer / Musician
143

that is a terrific video given the resources. just goes to show that great ideas and patience surpass less than average equipment any day.

steven morris

November 14, 2014 at 4:39AM

p.s.: you also need a cheap "FD to MFT adapter", in order to use Canon FD lenses on Panasonic body

November 11, 2014 at 3:38AM

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Simone Salvatore
Filmmaker / Recording Engineer / Musician
143

Cheap. Almost so cheap it cramps your style. Buy a camera that you *know* will be (or is already) outdated and invest your $$ in GLASS. Buy glass you can keep and grow with for a while. DSLR? Sure. With an adapter, DSLR glass can go onto any smaller chip camera (think micro four thirds). A camera like the Panasonic GX1 is crazy cheap (same framing size as GH4 but about 10x less $$). There is so much to learn and so many tools available, I'd say spend the least on kit and some on food for friends (as actors) and mentors (for lunch). That'll get you farther than the "best" body available today. Because come tomorrow--there will be another, newer, better "best." Don't get sucked into that cycle. Do what gets you shooting and learning.

November 11, 2014 at 7:11PM

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Erik Stenbakken
Videographer & Photographer
231

I currently have a Canon T4i and I bought it as a beginner, pretty new to DSLRs. It's incredibly easy to use and of course if you begin to find a passion in photography you can upgrade your lens kit. I highly recommend you look into it!

November 11, 2014 at 11:58PM

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Shivani Jhaveri
Producer
230

My suggestion would be find a used T2i, T3i, or Nikon starter camera (others will know more about Nikon than I). Saving money on the camera will give you room for better lenses. Good glass will always be a higher priority than the next best camera.

November 12, 2014 at 11:29AM

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Kyle Acker
Cinematographer/ Video Editor
459

I agree! I have had a T2i with ML since it first came out and I still use it as a second cam. Even as a first cam on low budget stuff or jobs I won't risk my other camera on. Using it enable me to get enough jobs to buy a RED!

November 13, 2014 at 11:58AM

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Justin Miller
Director/DP/Editor
357

Oh but I did invest in Nice Canon L-Series glass to go on it...

Justin Miller

November 13, 2014 at 11:59AM

Focus on the key skills that are going to make you a good filmmaker and story teller. TBH you can learn all that with yout camera phone. But if you're determined to buy a new camera then I can tell you from personal experience that the GH4 is a brilliant bit of kit. But if you can cut corners by getting a second hand GH3 etc. then it leaves you other cash for SDs, tripods, external mic and so on.

November 14, 2014 at 1:02AM

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Have to echo what the comments above have already said...buy something cheap and start shooting asap. If you're not worried too much about shooting stills my advice is to get a DSLR that's $500 or less and learn how to shoot. If you have extra money, invest that in good lenses.

A lot of people fall in to the trap of spending too much before they've actually learned how to shoot. Be patient, get yourself something cheap with a kit lens and a couple of primes if it's in your budget. If you're looking at the T3i/T5i, that's a great option especially if you run Magic Lantern on it.

I have heard good things about the GH4 (I haven't used it myself), but for someone starting out most of the cameras between $500-$2500 usually are not worth the extra expense unless there is a specific feature you must have. And don't diss that iPhone, someone shot an Oscar winning film on one after all!

Great gear is great, but filmmaking is first and foremost about craft, not equipment.

November 14, 2014 at 1:18AM

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Andrew Young
Filmmaker / SFX Supervisor
105

I would go with Sony A6000 or A5200. Same sensor as Nikon D5200/5300, video quality on par, but more flexibility in terms of the lens choices w/ adaptors. Also the possibility of speed booster ;)

November 14, 2014 at 1:24AM

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Mida Chu
independent filmmaker
55

I started out with a T3i. Shot as much as I could to get the technical stuff aside. Eventually sold it and purchased a 5D Mark ii. Learned more, practiced every day. Then I sold that and bought a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera so that I could learn how to work with RAW files. I had a GH3, sold it. I shoot on REDs at work but own a GH4 (very similar to the GH3). Once you understand the basic concepts of how a camera works, you'll be able to pick up any camera and figure it out quickly. After owning and shooting on so many different cameras, I have realized that the camera is only a fraction of what matters. The most important thing is what you're pointing your camera at and how you choose to show the subject. At the end of the day we're trying to tell stories and if you can pull that off, no one will care which camera model you shot it with.

But since you do need a camera before you can film, I'd recommend staying away from Canon. I swore by them for a while but have grown away from them as they offer only what they have to in order to stay in the market. I'd honestly suggest a GH3. They're robust (I took mine to Afghanistan), they can shoot 1080p at 60fps, they offer convenient settings for film on a photographic oriented camera and panasonic is really trying to push the bar and offer more bang for the buck.

Good luck on your search!

Best of luck,

Mikai

November 14, 2014 at 1:46AM

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I feel you Mikai. I started out with a T3i because of the price, and I figured I'd make the 5D jump over time. It's a misguided statement I hear all of the time. I thought I would invest in Canon glass that I'd then bring over to my next camera. I loved it for what it was though. Magic Lantern made my T3i very versatile. I picked up a Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 for $300, a Canon 28mm f/2.8 for $50 (flipped it for $285 on Amazon Prime) before I got into adapting vintage film lenses. Those have been my favorite, especially the ridiculously cheap Nikkor AI 35mm and 85mm f/2 primes. Sharp, compact, under $200 each. I purchased most of these items between late 2013 and mid-2014. While I continued to use the T3i as my main camera I purchased a Sony a5100 with a kit lens as a smaller b-cam. It did so well that I sold the Canon and bought an a6000. The point of this rant is that all the extras such as lenses, SD cards, tripods, rigs, lights, audio recorders and mics were all adaptable to a new camera system. Mirrorless cams such as the Sony Alphas and Panasonic GH series can use lenses from pretty much anyone else with the right adapter.

I filmed a comedy album recording last month on a mashup of cameras. We used a 5DmkIII as our a-cam with a Rokinon 85mm cine-lens. The b-cam was my T3i with a Nikkor 85mm (136mm equiv). A Panasonic GH2 was left running by the side of the stage with the kit lens at the wide end. I placed two Sony action cams on the stage with one facing the audience and one behind the performer (I saw that in an Aziz Anzari special on Netflix) and I floated around with a hand-held a5100. I was able to painstakingly match and colorgrade all of the different cameras used.

Of all of the tools I had at my disposal the one I fell in love with was the GH2. Stupid sharp, great color, autofocus, ridiculous battery, and small and light. That's when I committed further to mirrorless and bought the a6000. Though the 5D did have the best skin tones and overall best image from the event, I learned to appreciate the merits of the other systems available to us.

Luis Cardenas

January 28, 2015 at 11:42PM

If go low budget cam(this is also my suggestion) and have money to spare on lenses get some decent basic audio too, something like a rode videomic.

November 14, 2014 at 2:04AM

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If you're dead set on getting a camera, get something cheap and start learning how to use it, putting money in lenses and lights is smart because you will tend to use those for longer than any one camera body. You can also consider renting a camera online and trying it out for a weekend before committing to something.

That being said, I'd hold off on getting a camera entirely. There are plenty of roles on a crew, find some student filmmakers or a 48hr film festival and get your feet wet. Even where I work now, there are over 100 people on crew and only 8 of them go anywhere near a camera, but plenty of people who don't use the cameras have creative input or make other lasting contributions to the show. See what it is most you like about film, you can have a lengthy and lucrative career in film without ever buying a fancier camera than your phone. If your primary interest is in cinematography, spend some of that money on lights, and look up ways of making diy lights and light modifiers. You can even use your iPhone to practice, learn to use your environment and lighting options to make that phone footage look as good as possible, then when you've learned more, you can make a more informed decision about what camera might work for you and your budget.

November 14, 2014 at 2:05AM

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Thomas Wyatt
DoP/DIT
93

I've got to be honest, I'm really tired of hearing this question. I'm still using my first camera, an old Canon 50D I bought off ebay for $450. It's incredible. But it doesn't matter what camera you buy! Cameras don't take pictures, people do. If you gave a teenager a $60,000 Hasselblad, you'd still end up with selfies, but with 80MP. Just to be clear, a nicer camera won't improve your quality as a photographer or cinematographer.

Now some advice: Buy an old or inexpensive body, and put your money towards a real lens. The lens is the most important part of the camera. Regardless of your camera body, if your lens is crummy and cheap, you'll just end up with a blurry picture. If you spend twice as much on a lens than you did on a body, then you've made a good decision.

Another piece: I'd go with an Micro-Four-Thirds camera, either by Olympus or Panasonic. Lenses are less expensive and accessories can be cheaper. They're light-weight and easy to transport. If anyone gives you crap about "sensor size," ignore them. Today's technology is advanced far enough that the difference between so called "full-frame" and MFT is negligible. They want full frame? Tell them to go buy medium format. If Canon and Nikon don't learn soon to ditch the mirror, they'll be out of business, FAST. Go past the curve and buy an MFT.

More importantly, dedicate your time to learning how to shoot better pictures. The fact that my camera is 6 years old with 300,000 shutter actuations doesn't stop me from learning and doing my best.

Good luck and happy learning!

November 14, 2014 at 2:54AM

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Brandon Neubert
Color Artist / Writer / Director
648

I have had my Canon Rebel T3i since I was a beginner and now, with a degree and a good amount of professional work under my belt, I still have it and love it. Would I love to upgrade to something like a 5D at some point? Absolutely! But the Canon Rebel, regardless of generation, is a great camera for a great price! Another thing to keep in mind is your lens. There is no sense in spending loads of money on a nice camera if you're gonna have a crappy lens. Even though you're a beginner, that's something you should keep in mind because you don't want to spend all of your money on a camera then not be able to afford a better lens down the line. Best of luck to you!

November 14, 2014 at 3:03AM, Edited November 14, 3:03AM

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I've owned a 600d, a 60d and now have a GH2 and a GH4. The 600d (t3i I think) was a great starter camera and taught me so much about dslr video and photography. I am heavily invested in the m4/3 system but with all of the adapters available I wish id kept my canon glass.

Like many people have said already, if I was you I'd buy a t3i or equivalent with a nifty fifty and use that to learn. Then invest in the best glass you can afford, or save up for it.

November 14, 2014 at 3:24AM

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get a starter camera.

It's not the body that matters the most, save the money for rigs, lights, mics, and get a good editing software etc.

And I agree with shooting ASAP since experience is the most valuable weapon in a filmmaker's arsenal, but it couldn't be bought with money.

November 14, 2014 at 4:00AM, Edited November 14, 4:00AM

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ioklmj1
86

I personaly think you should go with the T5i, and do a Magic Lantern hack with it. Then invest the rest of the money in audio gear, lenses, rigs, tripods, and so on. Then when you got the money to afford the GH4, you can upgrade. It is not always about the camera by it self, it is about how, and what yo use it with. ( Sorry bad English i am from Denmark )

November 14, 2014 at 4:31AM, Edited November 14, 4:31AM

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As a long term Canon user - and after dealing with my 5d MKII for long years - I'd say: Sony A6000 for $699.
I know NO camera makes the photographer - or videographer. BUT the camera can help you a lot to express yourself through the lens.
The A6000 is VERY small… tiny but very well made. Solid, if you wish… I've got FD and EF adapters, so I can use all my "L" series lenses and VERY cheap old Canon FDs from used stores and eBay. The lovely 135 F2.8 I've got in London for £57… and it's and amazing piece of glass. I have a "cheapoboost" for EF too…. and it's quite nice… and of course it gives me MORE light than in my MKII.
Saying all that, my video now is all A6000 and zero MKII… because I have zebras, focus peak… and in a very small body, and with nice 60FPS - or 24, and I don't need Zacutto ;)

November 14, 2014 at 5:17AM

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Patricio Orozco-Contreras
Photographer/Audio Pro/Teacher at University of Santa Maria
120

T2i and a good lens. If it's not enough 60D and good lens.

November 14, 2014 at 5:55AM

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I think a lot depends on what editing capabilities you have or foresee yourself having
It's nice to have a camera that takes great images, and you can get them for cheap, but long projects in high resolutions can throw a wrench in the creative process if you don't have a fast editing system

November 14, 2014 at 7:22AM

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Chris Westerstrom
filmmaker
86

As an absolute beginner the only camera you should buy is a cheap dedicated video camera with a zoom and an LCD screen.
They are built to film and it's very hard to get it wrong, unlike what everyone else has suggested.
Learning to make a film is hard enough without obsessing over the technicalities.
Buying a DSLR is a slippery slope and you'll spend more time discussing the merits of various equipment (see previous comments) rather than learning to make films.
Get a camera, practice and develop your style.

Now, I'm thinking of learning to draw so I'm going to ask the internet which pencil I should buy...

November 14, 2014 at 7:28AM

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Stelrad Two Machine Doulton
Editor by choice, film maker by necessity.
227

A camera phone..an old 35mm film SLR...an entry level level DSLR. It does not matter which camera you get as an photographer as long as it takes images. At the further end of the Photography spectrum when you have clients and commissions for business or projects that require production into different formats that's when you need a pro-camera.
Photography is subjective so any image is based either on how you see it or what you want it to project and any camera will do that. I have taken shots on an Iphone 4 that have had better comments than my pro pictures, go figure but what I did know with each of my shots where that I was happy with composition...happy with exposure and image quality and it was what I imagined it in my own minds eye.
I would advise that you spend your money on an entry level DSLR and get 3 okay lens or 1 great lens to get the shots you want.

Gavin

November 14, 2014 at 8:49AM, Edited November 14, 8:49AM

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Gavin
86

As a video/photo journalist and longtime producer/shooter/editor, I think you're looking at this a little bit in the wrong way. Yes, you need a better-than-an-iPhone camera to get rolling... but what are you shooting? That will largely dictate your choice. Shooting fast action/breaking news? Smaller sensor cameras (Micro 4/3, Super16, 1/2" CMOS, 1/3" CMOS camcorders) are your friend there - because you're not chasing the focus all over the place. Most news stations use 1/3" and 2/3" sensor cameras like the Sony HDX900 and EX3 for this reason. Smaller sensor = more of your shot in focus at the same settings, meaning less chance you'll miss a shot when doing a live shot on air. At f/1.8, a lens on a 1/3" camera is getting many feet in focus.

Shooting primarily documentary interviews or scripted/blocked/lit scenes with actors? Larger sensor cameras (Micro 4/3, Canon APS-C, Nikon DX, "Full frame") are your friend here. Larger sensor = MUCH thinner focus. At f/1.8 on a full frame camera like the Nikon D800, or an APS-C camera like the Canon T5i, you're getting razor-thin "eyeballs and eyelashes" focus, and everything else is going to be a smooth gradient of color. That said, you're going to be pulling fine focus all take long, and you'd better keep up or your shot will be a wreck!

Tell us more about what you intend to shoot. There's a multitude of factors that come into play (low light performance, ergonomics, framerate, slow motion/timelapse capabilities, etc) depending on WHAT you intend to shoot!

Also, the numbers you're looking at above specifications-wise, don't mean much in the way of video. That Canon T5i might be 18 megapixels for stills and the Panasonic GH4 might be 16 megapixels for stills, but HD video is HD video (1920x1080 pixels (1080p) or 1280x720 pixels (720p)), and 4K is 4K (3840x2160 pixels (UltraHD) or 4096x2160 (Cinema 4k))... and only one of the two cameras can do 4K.

I disagree with the vast majority of posters here who are suggesting that you buy an entry level camera, play with it, sell it, and buy the next thing. You will learn a lot, but the majority of what you'll learn that way is that cameras are poor investments and you're going to lose a lot of money. I did that early on and I cringe at how much money I pissed away on "not the right tool for the job, but the tool I could afford right now" You wouldn't buy a $10 wrench because you had $10 in your pocket when you needed a $20 hammer, would you? My recommendation is to assess your needs, and BUY ONCE, CRY ONCE.

Where would I start if I were buying today? There's no question in my mind that the Panasonic GH4 is an excellent camera that will grow with you, and be broadly capable enough to cover just about anything you can throw at it. Its Micro 4/3 sensor size is the happy balance between large and small sensor cameras' look (one can get thin focus when you need it - pretty easily - with the affordable and diminutive Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 and Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lenses, and you can get deeper focus with the same lenses in a fast paced breaking-news situation). The GH4 has HD video in many different flavors, including 96 frames per second - giving you suuuuper slow motion on playback. GH4 also affords you Ultra HD 4K (4x the resolution of 1080p) or Cinema 4K if you intend to shoot a project destined for the silver screen... but you'll eat up memory card and hard disk space if you shoot 4K every day!

I shoot celebrity interviews and breaking news for a major news outlet's New York City bureau using my GH4, and it delivers the shots I need. I also use my Nikon D800 for more controlled situations.

Also remember, your camera purchase is only part of the equation... you need lenses (the smart investment - buy GOOD lenses that will stay with you for a long time; cameras come and go), some sound gear (half of good video is good audio), and lighting (photography comes from greek: photographos - to write with light).

Smart money for a camera kit is spent in this order: High end lenses, capable camera & memory, sound equipment, support equipment (fluid head tripod), lights.

I hope this helps - feel free to reach out to me if you have more specific questions!
Happy shooting,
Jason

November 14, 2014 at 9:54AM

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Jason Allen
Video Producer/Shooter/Editor at USA Today
86

What many have said: if you're committed to this long-term, build your purchase strategy around lenses. Lots to research and think about right there.

I shot this short film entirely on a hand held T3i (except for the octocopter shots which were with 5dm2) for a contest. It doesn't look great, because I was my own DOP but it did the job. I was fortunate enough to borrow someone's kit of ZF primes and that made a huge difference. https://vimeo.com/65207290

November 14, 2014 at 10:42AM

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Jon du Toit
Writer / Director
167

Go with what everyone said :-D Cheaper Camera and you spend your serious money on some glass!

November 14, 2014 at 2:42PM

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Wentworth Kelly
Director/DP/Colorist/Drone Op
2033

If you're a beginner I recommend a t3i, (not even a t5i), with a lens that's very fast like F1.4 or T1.6, it will teach you all the basics and give you a foundation in camera operation then from there start playing with lighting and that'll make you better versed in cinematography.
The T3i is quite ideal as it's the tricycle of the camera world, very easy to understand and teaches you the basics; a down scaled version of what you'll encounter with bigger more complex bikes.
But honestly, if you want to be a filmmaker I recommend getting an editing system first, before anything gear wise. I say this with experience, editing is where you really learn what making a film is like.

Also, if you do consider yourself a rookie, don't jump the gun and get something crazy expensive. You must first work with a hammer before you appreciate the drill. If you can make gold out of your t3i and feel that you've pushed that thing to its limits and can operate that camera with your eyes closed, only then are you ready for the drill.
Trust me, there's real value in getting really good with very little, and I believe Scorsese would agree.

P.S. I'd recommend using a film camera every now and then, Analog is an experience. The fact that it's all manual will teach you a lot.

November 14, 2014 at 7:46PM

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Andrey Medina
Renaissance Man
81

The gear is always the fun bit to explore when you start. It's a strange sort of disappointment when you discover that most people, including many of your clients/audience, don't especially care about or notice these details. They care about watching interesting stuff.

If I started again, I'd spend much less time researching gear and more time linking with other film makers, finding interesting people/things to shoot and showing my work earlier.

November 15, 2014 at 9:55AM

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Right now you can get a Canon eos-m from amazon.com, but I bet B and H has them too for under $250. I also have a t2i I paid over $800 and a refurb T2i. All though over and over people have recommended these cameras as "starter" cameras, when used well, they can effectively compete with quality of cameras costing many times as much. With the free magic lantern software (no from canon check out magiclanternshooter) Your audience will not know if the camera was a $230 eos-M or a $3500 Canon 5dmk2. Your film and mine has no chance realistically of being projected in a movie house and even if it were, the audience doesn't care. So you can spend many times the money on an expensive camera, but with little result. The key to any camera is learning how to use it well. The skills you need on the eos-m are the same for the expensive 5dmk3. The majority of refurbished cameras have never been used. They are bought by big box stores and replaced by new models. The older models desintened for replacement are then individually checked, adjusted and sold as refurbs on the mjg website, B and H and amazon.com. New cameras are batched tested so maybe one in a thousand are tested for quality. In my mind not only are refurbs much less expensive but also higher quality due to testing. Phone Canon.com, talk to a sales person, often they go lower than the advertised price for refurb. I could have bought a Canon 5dmk3 for $1500 had I the money at the time. Phoning around a holiday is a good strategy. If you buy one of the recommended Canon Rebel series you are getting a very good camera made great with Magic Lantern and nothing to be ashamed and capable of putting the people with the expensive cameras to shame by what you can do with it.

November 15, 2014 at 11:00AM

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I wanted to comment on the post saying you should buy a more expensive camera for its investment value. A camera body is an investment like a new car is an investment, you drive it off the dealers lot and you just lost $10k. Cars and cameras are not investments and not valued for what they are worth, but for what they can do. More expensive cameras like cars can do more with style as you go up in price, but the core things, the things you do 99% of the time are the same. When you buy the Canon Rebel you are getting great camera potential and it is likely if you exploit it fully you will never need to "upgrade" The real upgrade is within you and applies to any camera you use. I did want to recommend at looking at a used Canon 17mm-85mm lens. Amazon has them used for about $200. Great lens for a crop sensor camera, Kenrockwell.com a great resource for articles and camera/lens reviews.

November 15, 2014 at 11:07AM, Edited November 15, 11:07AM

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Concur with comment, what do you want to shoot? There is no one best or even better. Different horses for different courses. Or put another way, Ferrari is a zippy sports car but a school bus is better for hauling lots of people.

Pretty safe to disregard any comment pontificating "future proof" digital camera. None of them are. Moore's law & all that. Want a future proof camera? Shoot film (but not Kodachrome).

Include microphone(s) in your budget. If you can't hear them, you might as well watch Charlie Chaplin.

Happy shooting--a context sensitive statement if there ever was one.

November 19, 2014 at 1:29PM

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I have been at this for 50yrs starting as a kid with a film camera and a 8mm movie camera.
I currently have a refurb T3i I bought from canon.com last year for $335 with warrenty. I also more recently bought a Canon EOS-M. The chance of your films ever being shown theatrically is at a festival 99% of the people ever see your work will be on a tablet, cell phone or lg screen TV. It is highly unlikely that the audience will know if your camera is bought for $300 or $30.000. People have talked about the Rebel cameras like the T2i or T3i and used skillfully will compete with cameras costing tens of thousands of dollars. Kind of like the difference between a new car or a well running used car. Both can get you there equally for their primary function. I agree with all the recommendations for the cameras listed. I also agree about the nifty fifty and magic lantern. There are needs and wants, but I would recommend getting a decent tripod ($100) with a video head, a good audio recorder (less than $200) I think Tascam brand in particular is superior at a given price point, but Sony, Zoom, Marantz all make good recorders. A microphone like the Rode Video Mic ($150) A shoulder mount Cowboy Studio on amazon ($30) since the Sony Rebels have 480p output a lilliput monitor is great $200 or if you get the T3i it has a swivil lcd, Cowboy studio has great lighting available at amazon.com $150. So there are other expenses, Take your time. I use mostly used manual prime nikkors with adapters on my canon cameras. A great choice for a zoom is the Canon 17mm-85mm zoom, I paid the full $600 for it, but used available about $200. moveyourcamera.com has a great slider for about $100. Save some money for tutorials, learningdslr.com has individual tutorials for a variety of cameras and for a beginner this will cut your learning time much shorter.
To get by, get a camera, get the Dave Dugdale dslrlearning.com video for it and either a nifty fifty for a canon or the recommended zoom lens. Buy a monopod. Edit video on your computer. If that works, that is a good way to start. Then buy lights if filming indoors or a variable nd filter if shooting outdoors, then get a videomic or a separate audio recorder, take it one step at a time, buy one thing at a time, make it work, good luck

January 2, 2015 at 10:14PM

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also budget for batteries and memory

January 2, 2015 at 10:19PM

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I have to agree with what 99% all the replies you given the question.The way I approached this was to buy a few books on the craft found web site such as no film school and started self learning then figured out that you should choose your camera brand based on the glass that has the look you want color rendition the warmth or coolness ect. I choose the T3i because it use both current mounts EF and EF-S and bought the kit with the EF-S 18 -55 mm zoom model with image stabilizer and bought a
EF 28 - 135mm zoom to give me decent focal length range coverage. it's will give you decent video but makes you really work at doing it because of some things about the camera that are minor obstacles toward quality. Then when I move up I will already have one decent Lens and continue to acquire more rather than starting over again. All the technical bells and ding dongs doesn't mean anything Lens are the best investment they will outlast any camera unless they are abused. Camera specs change every year but the glass last. And keep reading NFS articles and especially the comments on the articles I bought some of the best books on this subject and that is what a beginner needs but the professionals who comment on the articles here have been as educational or more so for me and even when the shit hits the fan and differences in opinion fly like artillery
you learn a lot of things that are years of collective experience so thank all of you for the mentoring it really helps.

March 23, 2015 at 1:16AM

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