May 30, 2015 at 5:08PM


First camera

I can finally afford to buy a good camera to begin experimenting with film. The problem is that I can't decide on a camera. I would really want something that is simple and easy to understand since I am just getting started. I have a $2000 budget.


What sort of things do you want to shoot ?

Do you own any audio gear, or are you going to let somebody else record the audio ?

May 31, 2015 at 9:42AM

Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer

I don't own any audio gear and i don't know anyone who does. I'm looking to shoot only short films.

May 31, 2015 at 12:45PM


...To start I would put a bit of your budget into a portable recorder to ensure that you get decent audio for your films. What I would recommend is the Tascam DR-40 that currently sells for about $150 US. It's a good unit that can be used with it's own stereo mics, or you can plug in and power professional XLR mics with it. ( I still own a DR-40 that I use on some shoots )

If you were going to spend more than this on audio then I would look at the Tascam DR-60 Mk2 preamp/recorder which sells for about $200, but really needs a decent XLR mic plugged in to it which will easily double or triple the cost. ( I own a bunch of XLR mics, including a pair of Audio-Technica AT3031 mics I bought used for $100 each. The AT3031 has been discontinued, but it's a great sounding mic that you can sometimes find used. This type of mic is really good when boomed to record dialog indoors. If you're buying a new XLR mic then the Rode NT5 is another great sounding indoor mic that sells around $220 US. )

As far as cameras go, here is what I would look at...

Blackmagic Micro Cine Camera

This camera won't be available until the end of July, but it's very compact and should produce a beautiful cinematic image with 13 F-stops of dynamic range. It requires an external monitor to view your image while shooting, as there is no built-in camera image display. It will also require that you learn to use the editing software that is included with it in order to get the most out of this camera. For a lens I would start with a lens like the Panasonic Lumix G Vario 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, which gives you a moderately wide to medium telephoto range. ( the lens mount for this camera is Micro 4/3 )

Nikon D7100 DSLR Camera

This is both an excellent still photo camera and a very good camera to shoot video. It produces a great video image with the right settings, and does not have the moire problems that most of the Canon DSLR cameras have. There is a newer model called the D7200, but from a video perspective the new camera doesn't really add anything that the cheaper D7100 camera can do. For a lens I would look at the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 zoom lens which gives you a wide-angle to medium telephoto range, which will cover most of what you will need to shoot video with.

Panasonic GH3 Camera

This is a mirrorless Micro 4/3 camera that shoots great video and is a decent still photo camera. This camera can shoot for 3+ hours on one battery, and it has no time limit to how long your shots are, so you could easily shoot one 3 hour video with this camera. ( where other cameras may be limited to as short as 20 minutes per shot ) Another nice feature of the Micro 4/3 cameras is that they can use almost any lens ever made with the right adapter. ( same for the Blackmagic Micro Cine camera I mentioned above ) So you can use Canon lenses, Nikon lenses, Pentax lenses, Minolta lenses, Leica lenses, etc...

Panasonic GH4 Camera

This is the big "brother" to the GH3 camera, and physically it looks almost identical to the GH3 body. The big feature of this camera is that it can shoot 4K video ( along with 1080 HD video ) and it has many built-in cine style image controls. This is currently one of the best cameras in it's price range when it comes to shooting video. It can do everything that the GH3 can do and a whole lot more.

For both the GH3 and GH4 I would recommend buying one of their kit lenses as a starter lens, and later you can check out the wide range of prime lenses available for these cameras. ( I own 8 used Nikon AI-S lenses that I use with my GH3 and GH4 cameras )

Panasonic Lumix G Vario 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, which gives you a very wide to moderate telephoto range.

To get some idea of what you can do with these cameras, here are some Vimeo links to check out...

Blackmagic Pocket Cine Camera
( the newer Blackmagic Micro camera updates the Pocket Cine camera,
and should produce similar looking videos )

Nikon D7100 Camera

Panasonic GH3 Camera

Panasonic GH4 Camera

May 31, 2015 at 7:57PM, Edited May 31, 8:06PM

Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer

Surely the Black Magic is rather a beast to have as a first camera? Once all the necessary extras are added, the cost is rather high. The other cameras would seem rather more user friendly, especially for someone who is on their first "proper" camera. Anyone mentioning RAW at this stage should leave the room now. The phone option does seem to be rather too much at the other end of the scale. I think that she does need something with true interchangeable lenses and aperture control.

The trick might be to find friends and family with similar cameras and have a quick borrow. When she is almost certain of her choice, it might even be worth hiring one, just to make sure that it suits her.

Julian Richards

June 5, 2015 at 2:48AM

I would spend about half of your budget on the camera and half on a good lens. Used 5D with a good L-Series lens. The glass is so important!

Ken Horstmann

June 6, 2015 at 8:34AM

If you're just starting out, get one of those 3-4 lens kits for your phone. Shoot some shorts and make sure your edit them yourself. At the very least you'll figure out whether you prefer longer vs. shorter lenses, whether you prefer locked off vs. moving shots, if you gravitate towards exterior vs. interior or day vs. night scenes. Those things alone will help you a great deal in deciding what is the best first "real" camera for your budget (ie. 5-axis stabilization, high ISO, etc). Also, in the few months you're messing with the phone lenses kit, the prices on most cameras will fall and/or newer options will surface.

I know most beginner filmmakers hate hearing "start shooting on your phone", but the sooner they understand that camera selection is utterly dwarfed by other creative decisions (focal length, camera position, number of angles for the edit, juxtaposition of audio to picture, etc) in determining the quality of their actual films, the better. Sorry if that sounded pretentious. Also, those phone lenses kits usually resell well, so it's a prudent financial maneuver as well.

May 31, 2015 at 10:39PM

Jaan Shenberger
designer/animator & live-action director/DP

Like Jaan says: if you have a phone you don't need to buy a camera to start.
The best camera to start with is the camera you have access to.
Because that means it won't be the camera that is stopping you from filming. Shooting with your phone is a perfect way to learn to think as a filmmaker, to start learning to edit and to see whether or not filmmaking gives you energy and inspiration BEFORE spending a lot of money on gear.
Soon enough you'll know whether you love doing this or not AND you'll know better what you want your camera to be able to film :-)

And if you are going to buy a camera: get a tripod as well :-)

In 2000 I made my first video with a webcam, a few bags of sand, some cardboard, desk lights and Lego. Ok, we went to the beach to collect the sand and I spent about $3 on cardboard.
It was great fun to think about a story, make storyboards, making a breakdown to shoot it efficiently and then edit it.

Nowadays I shoot with C300, C100, A7s, GH4, EX1R, FS7: depending on the project and budget.

May 31, 2015 at 11:40PM

Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer

Also, along with the phone lenses kit, maybe get one of those 5-in-1 collapsable reflectors (usually something like 40 x 60" or 48 x 72")… but one of the inexpensive generic brands. With a person to hold it, those things will give you the biggest performance-to-price ratio for modifying light and making your early films look a lot better otherwise. They're also a great, simple primer for learning and understanding the principles of bouncing and diffusing light.

May 31, 2015 at 11:42PM

Jaan Shenberger
designer/animator & live-action director/DP

If you want to get a few more lenses. Check out the site. I've found some amazing vintage lenses which you can get an adapter and it will work with any camera, as long as the FOV is big enough for whatever sensor you are getting. I'm a fan of the Canon FD lenses, Leica R's, and Nikkors. If you get the manual ones, then you can adapt to almost any camera, I've used some lenses for my GH4s and then just adapt my Blackmagics or Arri cameras. Fun stuff!
Then at some point, you just get awesome lenses, but I still use the vintage lenses. You just pick the lenses depending on your story!

June 1, 2015 at 11:38AM


I suggest you get a cheap DSLR (a second hand Canon t2i would be enough and very cheap) and shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot... Learn and practice and then again. With a camera like the t2i and a 50mm 1.8 lens (greatest bang for buck lens out there), together with the kit lens (usually the 18-55mm) you have more than enough to start, it's easier to use than the Blackmagic someone told you before, and the quality of the videos you can get is really high.
If you don't know where to start, I recommend you check Neumann Films old youtube videos. They are very informative and they also started with a t2i :)
Hope that helps!

June 2, 2015 at 12:58PM

Andres Mata
Camera, Editor, Director of Photography

I would budget the following:
$250 APS-C camera (T2i with magic lantern anybody? Check out Kendy Ty.)
$400 fast prime lens(es) (50mm F1.8, 24mm F2.8, etc.)
$700 audio solution (mic, pre-amp, recorder, boom pole, stand, cables, headphones)
$100 camera support (tripod and/or shoulder)
$200 fluorescent lighting kit (or if using natural lighting, spend more on lenses or sound)
$350 misc. accessories (SD cards, ND filters, chargers, batteries, LCD viewfinder, adapters, cables, etc.)

Yes, spend more on audio. It will hold its value through years of camera upgrades. Buy a cheap used camera. Get used to manual focus and shallow depth of field. All of this gear adds up quickly, so stick to your budget in the different categories. I work at a production company where I have access to Arri Alexa, Red Epic MX, Sony A7s, Blackmagic Production Camera, 1D Mark IV, MoVI M10, Kessler CineDrive, GoPro, Arri Ultraprimes, tons of Canon L glass, etc. I've used them all except the Alexa, which we just bought.

I shoot on a used Canon 60D with Magic Lantern. I can borrow the other stuff for free if I want, but it's so much better having your own cheap camera to play around with.

People who spend too much on their camera become "camera poor." The good thing about buying a used camera that is over five years old is they are cheap, highly supported with forums and tutorials, have cheap third-party accessories, etc. Remember, everything you buy that is not camera-specific is more future-proof. So, sound, lighting, supports, some lenses, and some accessories will work with future cameras when you decide to upgrade. Focus on investing in those areas.

$450 can get you the camera, 50mm F1.8 lens and an SD card to be able to shoot with the bare minimum. You'll know what else you need to buy after a bit of time playing with it.

June 2, 2015 at 3:53PM

Dan Fredley
After Effects Artist

That's a pretty decent looking budget and not a million miles away from mine (EOS-M based). Bad picture and you have an art-house movie, bad sound and you have a bad movie.

Julian Richards

June 5, 2015 at 2:55AM

T2i all day long. I've been shooting on it for years and I can't believe how well it holds up. Check out my profile for my reel (which is all T2i). Good luck on your filmmaking journey!

June 2, 2015 at 9:52PM, Edited June 2, 9:52PM

Donovan Vim Crony
Director, DP, Editor, VFX, Sci-Fi Lover

Canon t2i and a canon 50mm 1.8, this will give you plenty of money left over to get essential accessories like an audio recorder with plenty great examples mentioned above. Do not buy any blackmagic cameras as your first, great images but not the most user friendly. Blackmagic will either shoot a flat image which will require a lot of colouring or a rec709 video most which is more rich in colour but I don't like. Battery life on them is a pain in the ass. And sd cards for it are expensive and requires lots of storage. Great images from them don't get me wrong but I wouldn't recommend as a first camera.

June 2, 2015 at 10:32PM

Gino Lynch

This is very helpful, thank you! I've been doing research on which camera would be a good start. My current options are, the Nikon D5300, Canon T5i and the Canon Rebel T5. They are affordable and would have enough money left to invest on other things such as sound, and lighting.

June 3, 2015 at 11:07AM, Edited June 3, 11:07AM


The Nikon D5300 produces a much better image than either of the Canon cameras you listed. ( both Canon's have moire issues and a limited dynamic range, where the Nikon D5300 doesn't have these issues )

The D5300 is on par with the Nikon D7100 when it comes to shooting video.

Guy McLoughlin

June 3, 2015 at 2:34PM

DSLR Guide has good video on your question Karen Martinez:
Hope this helps

June 4, 2015 at 2:24AM


How about a Canon xc10 ?

June 4, 2015 at 4:57PM


I thought that this video might be of interest by Simon Cade of
Lighting is more important than camera? Fighting words indeed!

June 5, 2015 at 4:57AM, Edited June 5, 4:57AM

Julian Richards
Film Warlord

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