April 25, 2016 at 3:04AM, Edited April 25, 3:07AM

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Ideal Camera for ~$1600

All right, I may be out of line posting this here, but I just need answers from fellow filmmakers. I'm hoping to be attending a film school this coming fall, and this summer I'm hoping to shoot a short film which I'm currently in the writing process of.

It's a short film inspired by my favorite director; Nicolas Winding Refn. Primarily influenced by the look of 'Drive'. So, it's important that the camera handles nicely during night shoots.

What I need:
Best possible video quality (4k not necessary - out of my budget, I believe).
Needs to have an option for 720/60fps for slow motion shots.
Needs to be compatible with the coming Irix 15mm, which I have planned on purchasing, i.e. Nikon F- Canon EF- or Pentax K mount.

Also, if there are any better lens alternatives, feel free to share them as well. I'm interested in shooting with 15mm though.

Note: I have looked a lot at the Canon EOS 6D, but am hesitant.

Thanks in advance!

26 Comments

Alright so I started out when I entered Uni with a T3i , and it was perfect for me. Great in low-light, powerful with the Magic Lantern firmware add ons , and it uses EF lenses. A few years later I invested in a bigger camera which could use my arsenal of EF lenes .

I personally never liked the 60-D , one of my DP's had one but I could never see any difference in image quality with the T3i - and I didn't like the ergonomics of the thing. That being said My suggestion is the T5i (the newer version of the T3i)

Pros -
1080p 24
720p 60p
Durable
Great Low Light
Shoots on SD Cards

Cons
Bad Audio (True with most DSLRs)
No XLRs ( You won't get any for your budget )

April 25, 2016 at 12:54PM, Edited April 25, 12:54PM

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I forgot to leave out one detail - It has to be a full format camera.

Isak Olsson

April 25, 2016 at 1:07PM

Have you considered the Sony a7s?

April 25, 2016 at 4:14PM

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Adam Wright
Freelance Cinematographer
173

I have, but not only is it nearly 600 dollars over my budget, it also won't fit the Irix 15mm- as far as I know

Isak Olsson

April 25, 2016 at 5:00PM

Altho, I did just find a used one for only 1475 usd. I just wish I could find alternative 15mm lenses...

Isak Olsson

April 25, 2016 at 5:09PM

5d Mark 2 is within your price range and full frame, even a cheap mark 3 would work. 6d and 7D mk 2 I think are both full frame and can be had for that price. You could opt to not get the irix lens and just go for a crop frame camera and some cine glass or go cine cheap and buy a set of nikkorr non ais primes.

You can get the look of drive without a full frame camera. GH4 A7S or even black magic pocket would be better suited especially with a speed booster.

April 25, 2016 at 7:55PM

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Chris Hackett
Director, Director of Photography, Writer
1071

Been looking at the A7s, which is a full frame camera, and I also read on metabones.com that the Sony NEX speed booster isn't fully compatible with the camera... I really am considering the A7s tho considering I found one for a very cheap price

Isak Olsson

April 26, 2016 at 6:49AM

I would say that buying a used Sony a7s would be your best route. It has great low light, a great overall image, and you can adapt almost any lens to it with an inexpensive adapter. Also you can always rent a Atomos and get 4k if you need that for your short film. You also have great functions like focus peaking and S-log if thats something your looking for.

Canons are good, but in the past few years they have been slacking on their video functions, and if your looking for the best bang for your buck for a DSLR for video, Sony would be the best way to go on your budget.

April 26, 2016 at 9:31AM

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I've 99% made up my mind that I'll get the Sony A7s! I appreciate all this help I've gotten!

Isak Olsson

April 26, 2016 at 11:11AM

I bought an old Nikon 35mm with a host of lenses adapters and filters at a junk shop for $40. Then I purchased a used Nikon D5300 for $350. I'm getting incredible images from it. I'm sure many people will decry Nikon for video, and will insist you need a full-frame camera. Believe me, there are times when I thank god for the extra depth of field that the crop sensor provides. If you're going to be making films with a DSLR, you should consider this camera. You can get one new for $500, it's great in low light and does 1080 @ 60fps. Old Nikon glass is cheap, covers full frame and can mount on anything you get in the future with an adapter. The real bonus is that you'll have hundreds of dollars to spend on extra batteries, cards and support equipment. Those are the things you will actually need to complete a project. Just my two cents, but I think most folks are too quick to recommend the go-to cameras. The 5D and A7S are great cameras, but you don't need to spend your whole bankroll on a nice body to get amazing footage. You will need all of the items I mentioned to complete a day of shooting though...

April 26, 2016 at 12:02PM

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Jed van Dale
Director/cinematographer
74

Get the Panasonic GH4.

Pro:
- 4K internally
- up to 96 fps in 1080p
- has every feature that also pro cameras like Arri Alexas have (luminance level, highlight/shadow adjustment, pro picture styles, true 24 fps by 24.00 Hz mode)
- semi weather sealed
- battery lasts bloody ages (between 3-4 hours each)
- Files are still very small even in 4K (100 Mbit/s)
- lighter than most DSLRs because it's a DSLM and has no mirror
- build in EVF instead of OLF which is useless in videomode for DSLRs
- most of the other lenses are adaptable (i. e. EF, F, A, PL)

Con:
- not the best low light but good enough even for documentarys

It's about $1.500 for the GH4 + Lumix 14-140 f/3.5-5.6.

April 26, 2016 at 12:58PM

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Eric Halbherr
Director, DP, Editor, Creative Storyteller
2229

sony a6300
most underrated camera on the market currently in my opinion

April 26, 2016 at 6:02PM

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forest erwin
Cinematographer
173

Yeah I would totally recommand the GH4 which has a better bitrate than the sony, and it can really make the difference...

April 27, 2016 at 12:30AM

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Xavier Munch
Director
81

I'm looking at the Panasonic GH4, but I'm not sure it would be a good choice cause I want the cinematic look and feel of the film 'Drive', and everywhere I read about the GH4 they talk about documentaries. Never (short) films. Would love some help here...

April 27, 2016 at 3:49AM

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Honestly, if this is your first short film I would focus on effective story telling over look. In your budget you are not going to be able to achieve the exact look that "Drive" has because it was shot on Alexa w/ master primes, lit extremely well, and colored by some of the industries finest.

The best you are going to get is in the lighting arena, unless you have money to color and rent pro grade equipment, which I wouldn't recommend doing.

I own a GH4 and absolutely love it. It's a workhorse and has many features available for a low price. I say go that route, get a decent lens + tripod, and really hone in on the story rather than look and technical achievement.

Ramez Silyan

April 30, 2016 at 5:32PM, Edited April 30, 5:32PM

Sony a6300, looks like the best option for the price out there

April 27, 2016 at 4:51AM, Edited April 27, 4:51AM

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AvdS
1329

I've used the GH4 a lot and even though you are doing night shots I guess you will be lighting your scenes too? Then it should be no problem.
The 1080/60p All-I is pretty nice in the GH4 and with a Speedbooster you can really push the iris.
A7s would probably be a good choice for low light but I would use something less wide than 15mm on a full frame.

April 27, 2016 at 5:37AM, Edited April 27, 5:37AM

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Oscar Byström
Filmmaker and photographer
86

I'm quite certain I'll buy the Panasonic GH4 along with the SLR Magic HyperPrime 12mm f/1.6 lens! It's my best choice.

April 27, 2016 at 7:31AM

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Add me to the GH4 band-wagon. It's the camera that I currently shoot with most of the time.

Otherwise if you absolutely have to have a Full Frame camera I would try and find a used Canon 5D Mk3 or a miracle deal on the Nikon D750. ( the Nikon would be my favorite of these two because it's a stunning still-photo camera and it's one of the best Nikon cameras when it comes to shooting 1080p video )

April 27, 2016 at 8:07AM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
30798

I am going to go in a different direction than the other posters here. I recently just bought a camera with almost the exact same budget.
Notes:
I understand this camera is not full frame
I understand it doesn't shoot 60fps

I would recommend buying a used Blackmagic Cinema Camera 2.5k MFT mount.
I just bought this camera and a 512gb SSD and a V-Mount battery solution for about $1500. The reason I chose this was based on the following criteria: 1 Image Quality, 2 Film Centric, 3 Reliability.

1. Image Quality
I have owned both the BMPCC and the GH4 and a few other cameras as well. The BMCC image is better than the GH4's in my opinion. Although the GH4 with V-Log is very nice. The codec options on the BMCC are wonderful to work with and have an image quality that the A7s or the GH4 cannot match unless using an external recorder and even then the BMCC is still slightly better. The BMCC (In my opinion) has the best image of any camera under $2000.

2. Film Centric
No 30 min time limit (neither does the GH4). I am assuming at some point someone will ask you to shoot something that would require you to film for longer than 30 min (I am a film student at Asbury University, so I am making an assumption.) SSD recording is very nice. The price per gigabyte is significantly cheaper than SD cards and if you need to, you can use them in your PC in the future. I never have to worry about running out of space even when shooting RAW. The MFT mount is very flexible. I use a speed booster and the image is undifferentiable from my schools C500 (I understand super 35mm is not full frame). I would just suggest buying lenses for the sensor size you have. For example, I use a TV 12.5mm C-mount lens as my wide angle and it works perfectly. The BMCC is just very filmmaker friendly.

3. Reliability
No overheating. The V-Mount battery powers the camera for 12+ hours and is hot swappable. As previously stated, no record limit, and no reason to run out of space on card.

This is from a filmmaking perspective where you have setup time and crew. By purchasing this camera you do have to kit it out and it is not a vacation camera. But, if filmmaking is your goal, the BMCC (in my opinion) is the best sub $3000 on the market.

Low Light:
People complain that they can't shoot above 1600 ISO with the BMCC and GH4, so they buy an A7s. Instead of doing that, maybe spend $300 to buy 3 small battery powered LED lights and some stands. Those create more than enough light for either of the cameras. As a rule of thumb (for myself and I recommend this) Unless you are shooting documentary there is no reason to not set up/own lights. Especially when cheap battery powered options are available to us.

All of this is my opinion and my suggestion based on your description of what you are doing. I personally don't think you need full frame, but need to buy lenses that fit your FOV needs. I also don't think that the A7s or GH4 are as suited for filmmaking as the BMCC.

Other notes:
I'd stay away from Canon
If you get the GH4 buy V-Log, it is a game changer for the camera, it was a lovely little camera that does a great job, but 4K doesn't mean better image quality.
I personally have only seen one shot from an A7s that I actually think looks nice (and that's after watching a total of 10 hours of footage from the camera on vimeo and youtube.)

April 27, 2016 at 2:23PM, Edited April 27, 2:25PM

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Paul Goodyear
Director/ DP / Writer
147

Would've considered BMPCC if it didn't drop frames during shooting

Isak Olsson

April 30, 2016 at 10:30AM

I am not saying you should get the BMPCC. But I owned the BMPCC and never had a dropped frame. If you buy one of the recommended SD cards it won't happen (unless something else is seriously wrong). But like I said, I never had a dropped frame, ever.

Paul Goodyear

May 2, 2016 at 12:25PM

i have the gh4 and have shot with it a fair amount for the last few months. i tend to pair it with the sigma 18-35/1.8. i like the image the sigma captures over the panasonic 12-35/2.8 that i also have. the panasonic lens seems a little overly sharp and clinical to me, although the sucker is super small and light.

+ great: easy in the hand
i love the size and ergonomics of the gh4. super small. it has a flip-out, swivelling lcd screen which is great for shooting at different angles. the screen is not great in bright sunlight. (does anybody know of a good solution?) i also really like the layout and ergonomics of the camera. the controls just make sense to me (i come from a photography background). in contrast, i've also shot with the c100 and the controls on that camera are not nearly as easy to remember or navigate through.

- average: low-light with the right combination
with the sigma 1.8 and the metabones speedbooster, i can get okay low-light performance. i don't think it's going to be anything to write home about, but if you also take time to supplement the light, i think the gh4 will be quite alright. i purchased some cheap led lights on amazon (yong-nuo brand) which have been working out pretty nicely on my shoots.

- average: color/image rendition
i've had the chance to shoot with a canon c100 for a few months as well, and i generally like the colors it captures and the image quality over the gh4. not to say the gh4 is bad, but i feel like the colors are a little muddier on the gh4 in comparison. this could be because of lens or aperture or picture settings or a number of other factors, but straight out-of-the-box, i tend to like the image from the c100 better. which is funny because paul says to stay away from canon. any reason why paul?

the only reason i might consider the a7s is because of the great low-light performance its supposed to have. i haven't had a chance to get my hands on one yet though, so i have no idea how it operates in the real world or its true image quality.

if you're going to be attending film school and you'll be learning proper sound/lighting techniques, then i can definitely recommend the gh4. ultimately though, don't sweat the final details of which camera too much. a camera is a camera and in the end story trumps technique or equipment. just look at Tangerine (shot on iphone 5s).

if you don't get into film school, don't despair. if you can afford to buy some cheap led lights, great. if not, get whatever lights you can get your hands on. clamp lights, lamps from home, whatever. then also think about your sound. you can get away with recording into your iphone using your earbuds with the mic (use it just like a lav mic). then just start shooting. shoot, edit, share. and keep shooting, editing, and sharing.

good luck with your purchase!

April 28, 2016 at 5:10AM, Edited April 28, 5:12AM

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min win
nerd
32

Have you thought about blackmagic micro cinema camera? if can look at what cheesycam has done, he has made the camera work in rig, and capability of shooting 60fps 1080p in raw is quite exciting

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSQxtKEWFl8

cheers

April 28, 2016 at 10:15AM

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I second the motion for the T3i and I have two of them plus 2-eos-m basically the same camera but mirrorless. You can pimp out a T3i used and have change for about $400 with lens. The magic Lantern software is free add many wonderful film friendly features. Altho many people have recommended cameras within the budget. The T3i handled well is capable of STUNNING video. Dave Dugdale has a $40 course on using the T3i and the T5i for $40 at learningvideo.com. What is more important than the camera is how well the camera is to be used. The T3i is cheap to buy used, because the snobs who bought it now disdain because now they have a newer slicker camera to brag about. My sense you don't about bragging, but want to learn. Learn on the T3i, spend the $40 for the course, master it. That knowledge will be with you and your next purchase you benefit from all that you have learned, you then have budget for audio recorder, a monopod and other fun toys. You can make movies every bit as good as the more expensive cameras. The only true upgrade is you. If you have budget spend 1/3 of it on a camera and lens, $40 on a course for that specific camera and you are up and running in days, where as if you blow your budget on a camera, then you have nothing for tripod, recorder etc and your video will likely look worse as you learn without instruction.

April 28, 2016 at 7:47PM, Edited April 28, 7:48PM

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I´d definitely go for the a6300! And for the money that´s left you can get some good glass too (:

April 29, 2016 at 11:08PM

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Robert Zinke
Blogger / DP / VFX Artist
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