November 27, 2016 at 6:46PM

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Highly discouraged but still looking for a camera, which one should I look into?

I just recently got scammed half of the money I saved in my years of college trying to buy a C100 on craigslist. I was never sent the item. I simply want to quit filmmaking because I continually run into issues simply trying to get my hands on something better (this isn't the first issue). That being said IF I come back. What is a better means for cinema for a college student managing bills/low budget on half what he originally had:

My phone with lens attachment or looking intensely for a very very used but workable black magic pocket cinema camera?

And with that, which one is the best at both audio and low light? because I can no longer afford better audio/lighting equipment.

Thanks guys

23 Comments

That's tough man, I hope you're taking legal action! I only pay upon delivery for Craigslist stuff.

As much as I hate Black Magic, it's better than a phone by a long shot. You can't rely on a phone to run at a consistent frame rate, the bit rates are poor, forget about audio. If you go the BMPCC route, you'll eventually want to invest in an OLPF to get rid of that nasty alias distortion and IR pollution. My own suggestion would be a used GH3 if you can. It's much more usable right out of the box than either a phone or BMPCC. No matter what camera you get, you'll also want to get an external audio recorder. I've only used ONE sub-$10,000 with professional quality audio. With a BMPCC or GH3, you can get away with the on-board audio with some adapters but it isn't professional quality. Don't forget lighting equipment, camera support and a couple of good books on how to use them. Your production is only as good as the weakest link, which is usually the user these days.

This is a tough business. There's probably hundreds of other students at your school doing what you want to do, so you need to be something special and people have to know it. Whatever you buy now will be horribly obsolete in 3-4 years so you have to get new cameras regularly. I didn't even own a camera for a long time. From high school through college, I just borrowed cameras as needed, throw $20 or whatever to the owner if I was getting paid for the job. I actually still do this a lot when doing freelance work. IMO, DSLRs aren't good enough for serious video work and I can't afford to buy real professional video cameras again and again, so I just own a good consumer-grade camcorder and rent/borrow for more serious work.

I'm not trying to discourage you, just telling you what I wish somebody would have told me when I got started.

November 28, 2016 at 7:37AM

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Hi Stephen,
I own a GH3 but I miss the form-factor of a camcorder. I was wondering if you'd share what consumer camcorder you own.
Thanks, Dave

Dave Esposito

December 1, 2016 at 7:30AM

Someone sells OLPFs for the BMCC? First I've heard of it. That's actually really cool. Similar to the old 7D ones?

Renting is great unless you think you can make your camera work or want to go full time into making your own stuff and improving your craft. I bought a BMCC when it was new and shot a TON of content with it and saw drastic improvements. Practice makes perfect. Most of my projects funded by bigger companies were shot on RED Epics and RED Dragons, with the odd ALEXA, but I always had my BMCC for smaller shoots.

Always be careful buying gear online. Always always always!

PayPal has a feature to hold the money until both parties agree the sale was a success. You can also buy in person at most police stations! Check with your local PD but chances are they have a secure space where you can meet and do an online transaction. Craigslist is a great resource but there's sketchy ass folks out there.

(ps, I'm trying to sell my BMCC with no success, because now I rent everything, soooo... if you decide you want to go that way LMK haha)

Zack Wallnau

December 4, 2016 at 10:57PM

Sony a6500, a7rii, a7sii

November 30, 2016 at 2:44AM

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I shoot on my Panasonic GM1 and am perfectly happy with it. It's small, has no hassle, is good enough in low light (with a 20 mm F1.7) and gives me a cinematic enough quality. I also love my GM1 because it's perfect to take with me as a snapshot camera. For me it's the only camera I need. I'm even doing a paid videoclip with this thing right now. If you're just learning and are so close to giving up, just get something that's cheap and good enough.

November 30, 2016 at 5:07AM

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Auke-Jan Weening
Dissapointment
356

I almost fell for one of those c100 craigslist scams as well, funny that they like to pick that camera to use as bait. Price is just a little too good to be true, but the person is able to legitimize things to a degree. But then the payment method is fishy. Told me to basically wire transfer money and the bank would hold it until I received the camera. I asked to meet in person, and the guy gave me a slightly odd background story and address. Pretty sure it would've been a wasted 2 hour drive had I gone.

November 30, 2016 at 9:50AM

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kj
166

Don't forget... The movie UPSTREAM COLOR was shot on a hacked GH2. And for audio... a little Zoom H1 with an occasional lav miv will go a LONG way.

November 30, 2016 at 11:46AM

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Dennis Nagelkirk
Write. Film. Edit. Draw. Paint.
256

It's not clear to me what path you are on, but whatver it is, the camera you own has nothing to do with it. If you want to direct, write something amazing and find a great student DP to execute. If you want to DP, assist a great DP and do the best job ever. OR work in a rental house, and on your day off (after a few months working there) you can play with all the cool toys you ever dreamed of.

November 30, 2016 at 12:15PM

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zev st
108

Sony a6300 is a great option as well for the money, shoots 4k and 120fps on 1080.
Assuming your budget you have left is around $1.5K.
it has s-log as well. It gets pretty crazy on grading the footage do to 8bit but you could still achieve a great look with it. Only draw back is that you don't have mic out port. Bummer if you are trying to do run and gun shots but you could always get a external monitor that has mic input through it.
And for lenses if you already don't have canon lenses, get some old Nikkor Ais lenses.

November 30, 2016 at 12:34PM

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Keith Kim
Photographer
1660

BMPCC is a big beast in a very small package. You can buy used for 700-800$ but you need to add things (batteries, cards, etc).
Depending on what you are going to use it for, a used DSLR such like the Canon T4i can be found for 350$ for sure. That paired with a Yongnuo 50mm 1.8 (60$ new) is a great low light DSLR kit.
Check out Kendy Ti's work with just a T2i and a 35mm Sigma lens. It's just amazing!
The most important thing is knowing your gear to get the most out of it.
Good luck and sorry for your bad experience. I always buy used through ebay and paypal to try being a little safer.

Here you have some samples of what I have made with the BMPCC (using Prores LT):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z1c5DqcxN8k
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QcXDo16c1cw
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZusS9_11jY
https://vimeo.com/128780221

And also others I made with the T4i and Magic Lantern raw:
https://vimeo.com/111512507
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EB6O5yfCSvQ
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clcVjGrqBr4

November 30, 2016 at 6:55PM, Edited November 30, 7:12PM

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Andres Mata
Camera, Editor, Director of Photography
123

Couldn't have said it better, Andres. Kendy Ti does amazing work with very little.

Regarding the BMPCC, It wasn't until recently that I learned how much you can actually get from that camera. It's got a steep learning curve but oh man, when you make it sing it can really sing. But it's definitely got hidden costs ALL over it.

BMPCC Body: 1000 USD
Datacolor SpyderCHECKR 24: 50 USD
Metabones EF Adapter: 670 USD
Switronix Battery: 285 USD
Lens: 500+ USD
Monitor: 500+ USD
Media: 50+ USD

Are all of these necessities? No, not really. But it makes for a much better/easier/efficient experience. I added a Atomos Ninja Flame to my gear and I'm on cloud 9. And shooting a color chart on every location move / new setup has made my coloring a breeze. I love the BMPCC.

Braden Croft

December 2, 2016 at 2:35PM, Edited December 2, 2:35PM

Hey Jackson -- where are you based?

December 2, 2016 at 1:03PM

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Bryan Howell
Screenwriter, corporate videographer, and indie filmmaker
413

I'm currently in school in San Marcos Texas

Jackson Flowers

December 4, 2016 at 6:58PM

Bryan Howell

Jackson Flowers

December 6, 2016 at 10:39PM

I'll add my bit, which has been said many many times already. What camera you use is perhaps 5-10% of what will make your film a success or not. If you're low on funds, pick up a decent used Canon or Panasonic DSLR, or shoot on your iPhone. Acting, sound, story, lighting, story, acting, acting, story.... that's what matters. Get out and shoot ten short films on anything then worry about equipment.

December 3, 2016 at 2:11PM

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Mark Holmes
Guy with camera
117

I actually own two C100s. Before that I shot using a Canon T3i for a few years, perfecting my craft. It would have been useless to purchase something better or more expensive then.

With a C100 at that at that point in my learning of the craft I would simply have produced nicer images but still shitty stories, with shitty lighting and shitty sound, with bland composition.

Should you really want to buy a camera and have a low budget, I would recommend a T3i with a 50mm f1.8 lens. The price of cameras keep coming down, as you know the C100 Mark I was on sale at B&H at less than 1800$ on Black Friday. Of course, the C100 Mark I is not the latest and greatest camera, but it is still one hell of a great camera for shooting short films and documentaries with small crews. Since you are low on funds, I would recommend renting instead of buying.

Oh and by the way, The C100 with its XLR inputs records surprisingly decent audio, and the images recorded with its AVCHD codec are really amazing. The C100 is so good in low light I only need a few led panels for fill and hair light most of the time. As for audio capture on a budget, if you can't or won't rent a microphone with an XLR cable, you can always use an Amazon lavalier mike plugged into your iphone as a sound recorder.

Please don't abandon your dream because of a setback. Money comes and goes in life, but that does not need to drive your destiny. Be the master of your own ship. I sincerely wish you the best of luck.

December 3, 2016 at 6:21PM

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Pascal Forget
Dreamer
31

Dave Esposito, I just saw your reply (it's easy for posts to get lost on this forum). I have a Canon G20, which has the same optics and sensor as their lower end prosumer-grade stuff. It has virtually no rolling shutter or alias distortion that plague most DSLRs.

Zack Wallnau, yes, you can get an after market OLPF with better IR rejection for about $400 (and that's not a huge margin, good optical blocks are EXPENSIVE!). It really does make the difference (IMO) between useless junk and a decent B-cam. No perceivable aliasing, no perceivable IR pollution. The only major remaining problem is the nasty rolling shutter.

P.S. what makes a bigger difference with grading than 8-bit vs 10-bit is the compression used. Now, I am of the school of thought where one should shoot what they want to see and use grading only for fine corrections, but 8-bit is totally fine for that as long as the compression isn't too extreme. Of course, raw, 10-bit uncompressed or ProRes HQ can handle a lot more abuse than 8-bit uncompressed. Any time you take grading to extremes, you WILL get a bad image. That's just physics.

December 5, 2016 at 7:07AM, Edited December 5, 7:14AM

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Hi Stephen,
Thanks so much for getting back to me. Believe it or not, I owned a G20 and sold it when I started using DSLR's - and I'm sorry to this day that I got rid of the g-20 - right camera to use when running and gunning. Can you beat that. At any rate, I appreciate your comments which are serious, in depth, and informed. Thanks again!

Dave Esposito

December 5, 2016 at 4:24PM

Man thats sad to hear...yea, where are you based. I have the BMPCC and i never use it. its just sitting on my desk. Used it a few times then after that I just kind of stopped. I imagine if i would have bought an adapter to use my canon glass with it, I'd force myself to use it alot more, but i just didn't and i dont plan on it. Just got the Sony a6500 so been playing with that mostly, but still main source of video capture is 5dmarkiii for now.

December 5, 2016 at 10:32AM

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I got scammed like 10 years ago, for a big ticket item like you. One word of advice, if the deal seems too good to be true it probably is. The C300 series of cameras is great bang for the buck. I just sold my c100 mark II for a c300 mark II. Best decision I made.

December 5, 2016 at 10:37AM

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Walter Wallace
Spokesperson/Entrepreneur
1151

Hi Jackson. Sorry to hear that you got stung. I don't think I'd ever part with money through this kind of arrangement, and I imagine you won't again...

I see you've been struggling with camera choices in your last few posts. Everyone always wants to throw in their advice (or take a pop at their least favourite camera). Often, people haven't owned and used them all. We all get drawn into recommending things based on specs and reputation, which isn't a bad approach, but doesn't always help.

Mark's post above is a good advice. I've been hiring cameras recently to compare them. When I've filmed in nice light, or filmed something interesting, or composed something well, all the cameras produce nice looking stuff. And when I show the footage to friends, who are interested but not film-makers (and therefore, pretty representative of an audience or client), none of them can tell me much about which image looks best. They just ask why I was filming that particular thing, or make some comment about something happening *in* the shot.

I love the image from my BMPCC + Speedbooster. I've mentioned before, that I don't think there is a better image for anywhere near the price, when purchased used (eBay is safer!). For general video production, it won't do the job without extra gear. But the experimental black+white video in your profile suggests it might suit you well.

I'd really discourage any more headaches around camera choices. You'll wait forever, waste loads of time, frustrate yourself and then in two years, you'll buy another camera anyway. Just grab what you can, as cheaply as possible and start/continue shooting stuff.

December 6, 2016 at 7:33AM

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Hey Dave Esposito,
I totally agree with you. I've fiddled with DSLRs and they're great for some stuff, but for casual use, you still can't beat even a decent low-end camcorder. There's only two things I really don't like about the G20, the rolling shutter is bad at 24p and it's only about 50 ISO native (sigh, small sensors weren't a problem in the SD days). I wish there was a mode where it would clock the sensor at 48fps but just discard every other frame for 24p at 1/100th and half the rolling shutter. I'm surprised at how sharp it is and it has surprisingly good latitude in "cinema" mode.

December 6, 2016 at 5:51PM, Edited December 6, 5:51PM

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With the bad luck in purchasing used, I'm going to suggest something new. B & H has had some great promotions on the Panasonic line recently. I would have suggested the G85 but that sale just ended. They currently have the G7 for sale with two lenses and a $50 gift certificate for $697 and a three year warranty. I'm really impressed with the video quality of this camera. If you can wait, the G85 sale may come up again. It was the same price withe the same lenses but with a $100 gift certificate. Here is the link to the current G7 sale. I am not affiliated with B & H at all, just pointing out a bargain. https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search?Ntt=g7&N=0&InitialSearch=yes&sts=m...

December 7, 2016 at 11:20AM

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Dan Montenegro
Director/Producer
113

Absolutely! I got the G7 for less than 500 bucks on ebay with the 14-42mm lens. I love it. I bought a speedbooster, I'm playing with older Nikkor, a rokinon 16mm, all nikon mount. I spent a lot of time learning how to color grade with Resolve and frankly I consider now all my limitations coming from myself and my stories, not from my cam. The G7 with a decent lens and if you know how to use light is amazing. You will be able to produce a far more interesting look than the guy who shot Tangerine with a bunch of iphones. Of course you'll need an external recorder and decent mics. Soon you're going to realize that your problems and limitations are not coming from your cam, trust me on this one.

Philippe Orlando

December 8, 2016 at 8:24AM

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