December 25, 2016 at 8:31PM


Need Help Trying to Pick a Camera as a Beginner Filmmaker

Hi everyone:

I was hoping I could get some advice. I'm 23 and I have been using a Nikon D5000 for the last few years for photography, and some video. The video quality is really poor on the camera, so I have never invested too much time into making films with it. However, I really want to start working on some film projects I've been planning on in the next year so I want to upgrade.

Originally I was considering a Nikon D750, since it seems to be the best Nikon for film under $3000. However, I know Nikon, in general, is not great for filmmaking, which is what I will primarily use the camera for. Other possibilities I have considered are a Fujifilm X-T2 and a Lumix GH4. My dream camera probably would be a Blackmagic, however, it is way over budget unless I could find it used I guess.

My ideal budget is $2000 max, however, I might consider $2500 if it is worth it. I'm open to any recommendations or suggestions. Thank you for reading through and for any advice you may be able to share.


Well, here are some other options:

-- Shoot on a smartphone. Have you seen the recent NFS demonstrating that, when treated properly, and compressed for web, a smartphone isn't particularly different from a RED camera?
-- What about the older generation of cameras, like an HVX200? Ridiculously low-price used, and extremely flexible camera. Huge zoom range, built in NDs, XLR inputs, etc.
-- What about filmmaking on a GoPro?
-- What about getting an old super 8 camera and shooting on film? In many respects, the image will surpass digital cameras.

December 26, 2016 at 2:20PM

Adrian Tan

Terrible freakin awful advice

Indie Guy

December 28, 2016 at 1:45PM, Edited December 28, 1:45PM

Very Poor Advice... he has the budget... i hope you were just trolling.

Wentworth Kelly

December 30, 2016 at 3:18PM

I agree. The man makes the movie, not the camera. That said, there's nothing special about GH4s or Blackmagic cameras nor is there anything particularly bad about the D5000. They're all essentially consumer grade still cameras that do video. The only difference with BMs is that they took away the still function and added raw capture. I would rather shoot on a semi-pro progressive HD video camera of any era (see HVX200) than almost any still camera.

Film is still an amazing medium. It will also train you to be an ACTUAL filmmaker rather than a video maker; two completely different workflows and mentalities. Super-8 cameras are fun, especially ones like the Canon 814/1014 variants which I have used for many film shorts and music videos, but they don't do well in our HD world IMO. 16mm with a good lens (American Horror Story, Walking Dead, Scrubs etc.) is not much more expensive but gives a much cleaner image, especially when modded for S16 or Ultra-16. CP16s are easy to get for under $1,500 (and common to mod), Mitchells are clunky but can be had for $2,000 and it's almost impossible to find a higher quality camera. I got a Zenit K3 for $200 and replaced the zoom lens with prime lenses (see my avatar) and that camera produces great results. Best of all, film is expensive so it makes you think about what you need and not waste time/resources on-set.

No matter what camera you get, whether it's an iPhone or a 65mm Panavision, your movies will look horrible if you can't light or handle the camera like a pro.

December 27, 2016 at 6:57AM, Edited December 27, 7:22AM


While I agree that the story and composition/lighting, are more important than the tool, I really recommend the GH4. Its affordable, and will give you room for experimentation with its variable frame rates, 4K quality, and vast array of lenses you can attach to it.

As for film vs is just so damn expensive when you are just learning and experimenting. With the money you spend on developing, you could be saving towards the never ending list of gear you will want to improve your craft. You can still be very intentional with your camera work and transcend the "video maker" stigma by owning a digital camera. Just my opinion, and also biased because I am a documentary filmmaker and shoot hours of footage daily which is just not feasible on film. Unless someone wants to throw me a mil....

December 28, 2016 at 3:50PM

John Haas

Mr Haas, that's part of the "video" mentality of which I warn, where one constantly shoots everything just to throw it away. It's hard on the equipment, hard on you and unreasonably hard on the editor. In some ways, even ENG people have more of a "filmmaker" mentality than most DSLR shooters, though I've never seen either with a light meter. They'll set up lighting on the spot, shoot 10 minutes of video in 5-20 second spurts for a 2:30 piece and not need any corrective work in post. More experienced folks actually stop the camera and move to different positions while interviewees ramble just to make sure the editor doesn't waste time.

Sorry Mr. Haas, I'm not picking on you. I'm just saying I'd rather gouge out my eyes with a plastic chopstick than sit at a computer and cut 100 hours of potentially grainy, jelloey, plastic video shot without a camera report down to 90 minutes. I don't even like editing multi-cam live events without real-time switching. Don't get me wrong, film and raw shooters can produce garbage just like DSLR shooters can do amazing work, but more expensive media forces people to take greater care in shooting only what they can use.

Moral of the story to the original poster, keep your D5000 and learn how to shoot better. The only thing that's really awful about it is the rolling shutter. Maybe buy some lighting equipment or a better lens... and make camera reports! They keep the editors from hunting down and killing people.

December 29, 2016 at 11:48AM, Edited December 29, 11:50AM


We merely have different philosophies and work in different fields.

I will spend all day filming for a documentary to get that one powerful shot that I need. Or I'll be delighted when I go over hours of footage and see something I missed in the moment but captured because the camera didn't stop rolling.

Often I am not afforded the luxury many narrative cinematographers have on their features because I am working with sensitive subjects in sensitive settings, and capturing honesty on camera can be valued in my field in the same way capturing a perfectly lit shot on a narrative film may be for you.

And I carry a light meter with me. Its even a classic analogue Sekonic that I originally used to meter for Super 8 and 16mm. But I constantly weigh the balance between making the shot as beautiful as I can, with as meaningful as I can make it under the constraints I am working with.

With respect, I am not afforded the luxury of working on film as you are, but I think it is great you have that ability.

John Haas

December 31, 2016 at 8:03PM

The Budget you have, Get the GH4 as its a camera that will perhaps outlive you. Along the way like many of us you will learn the art of being a cinematographer. You are someone who have done some amount of work with a DSLR so i wouldn't send you to use your iPhone and all that because people make it seems as if you can just turn on your iPhone and BAM! it works when the truth is, it takes time to make your Smartphone camera to get beautiful images that can be considered cinematic. The GH4 is a proper camera since you have the budget. I got the 7D when i was fresh in film i never understood lighting creating a cinematic image (i wouldn't even show you the stuff i shot in the beginning lol). But as time went by.. i learnt and me and that camera grew together and now i can shoot on anything. Make the investment if you have the capital and grow. I don't know about anyone else but i am still growing and learning.

December 30, 2016 at 3:15PM, Edited December 30, 3:15PM

Wentworth Kelly
DP/Colorist/Drone Op

Canon EOS M5 w/Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM, Canon EF-M to EF/EF-S adapter. Cheap audio Zoom H5, pricey audio Sound Designs MixPre-D. Cost depending on audio option $2,247 to $2,996.

Compare the EOS M5 to the EOS C100 Mk II. Serious chops.

Edit- On 4K. I'm not a fan. It eats media, processor, and bandwidth but adds nothing to the story. For me it's all about the story and the EOS M5... though 'only' 1080p... captures on a MUCH larger sensor than the GH4 (better low light), and accepts EF-M, EF, EF-S, and PL depending on the adapter used. Of course don't ignore that the EOS M5 provides in-body five axis stabilization, dual-pixel focus, and HD 60p.

January 1, 2017 at 4:38PM, Edited January 1, 4:56PM

M Wheeler

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