February 14, 2016 at 12:15AM

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Needs suggestion for a beginner camera

I recently decided I want to try my hand in filmmaking and saved up a few hundred bucks to start. I am a complete beginner and i have a budget of about 700$. Could somebody help me with some suggestions? I dont mind buying used camera at all. Thank you all in advance!

7 Comments

They say that a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. But in what direction do you wish to travel? The world of filmmaking is so large...

Are you shooting principally indoors or out? Narrative or nature? Are you most interested in capture, editing, grading, or all of the above?

Generally speaking, a camera is to filmmaking what a stove is to cooking a meal. Without food, plates, flatware, glasses, wine, a fridge, a freezer, a sink with hot and cold running water, serving implements, a table, chairs, a dining room, and guests, a meal would be quite incomplete with only a stove at your service. And that doesn't include consideration for the cleanup afterward.

Moreover, in most cases, filmmaking is a collaborative act. Even the most bare-bones 24 hour rush projects need 4-5 people to complete them. If you really want to try your hand at filmmaking, find some collaborators, volunteering yourself for whatever needs to be done. You can learn a lot by holding a light.

Alternatively, you might think you are lucky to find a $7,000 camera for $700 in the used market. It might even be a camera that's been used for making Indie-famous movies that got screened at Sundance. Ignoring whether or not such property might be stolen, what that camera will teach you is that a camera is a very important component of a much larger production. And that without everything else in that production (lighting, sound, acting, music, editing, grading, etc), let's just say that it is a long and expensive process to learn what filmmaking is by learning all the things it is not.

If you have a team, you have a concept, you have some basic grip and lighting equipment, and you are just nervous about translating your cash into a first camera for shooting that project, knowing more about the project could lead to much more helpful suggestions!

February 14, 2016 at 4:56AM

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If you own a smart-phone you can start with that without having to spend any money, except for audio gear to record good sound. The 2015 feature film "Tangerine" was shot with 3 iPhone 5s cameras with low-cost lens adapters.

Given your budget, if you want to buy a camera I would take a look at the Panasonic G7 camera which is currently selling for $600 US. It produces a good video image and also shoots 4K format which provides you with more options when editing.

You will also need some sort of audio gear to record good sound, so something like the $100 Tascam DR-05 recorder might be a good fit. This recorder can be boomed above or below your subject ( just make sure one mic capsule is pointing at the person speaking ) and it also supports LAV mics.

As for camera lens, I would start with the 14-42mm kit lens and then look at low cost lens adapters to mount old Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Olympus, Minolta 35mm film-camera lenses that you can buy used at very low cost.

February 15, 2016 at 7:06AM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
33580

I own and love the Panasonic G7, and it's the first decent camera I've ever had, so maybe I'm biased. Anyway, I think it's the perfect starting camera, as it is very versatile: light, good for video and photography, you can carry it around everywhere and all the time. It is un-complicated if you want it to be, but it's also able to produce a great looking image if you know your way around it.
Around your budget, there's the BMPC, but the crappy sound, horrible battery life and the huge file sizes makes it too much of a "only-for-short-movies" camera for my taste, if you know what I mean (then again, that might be exactly what you're looking for).
The Canon cameras at that price all feel way too soft to my eyes (not necessarily a bad thing, that's where taste comes into play), even though they produce good color very easily.
Within your budget, there's plenty of good picks in the Panasonic brand, like the GH3, or the GH2, or the G7.
That being said, it's all a matter of what you want to do. The G7 is small but packs a punch with a very sharp 4K image, and the battery life is crazy good. But it has no headphone output, and it's not weather-proof (the GH3 is both). Both cameras would require an external recorder or pre-amp if you want good audio out of them, so maybe they are not what you are looking for. Some cameras have built-in XLR inputs, though, and you might find them used within your budget, if you take the time to look around.

It's really all about what you would be using it for. If you want a versatile and easy camera with great video, then I agree with Guy that the G7 is currently the best way to go. If you're looking for a camera with even greater video capacities (except 4K), there's the BMPC. For an all-around workhorse, maybe look for a camera with XLR inputs, internal ND filters and a good range zoom lens (which would have to be used, to fit in your budget).

February 15, 2016 at 1:01PM

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José Pedro Pinto
Wannabe
717

At that price you could easily get a used Canon 70D also, maybe with the kit lens, and then you can build up from there. Furthermore, the 70D price should drop a little bit now that they announced 80D. The aftermentioned Panasonic G7 is good advice too, no doubt.

February 17, 2016 at 1:18AM

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David R. Falzarano
Director / Writer / Editor
1517

You should also add the Sony a6000 to your list of options. Looks awesome, and now that the even better Sony a6300 came out, the a6000 may get a bit cheaper (and it's already a bargain, for how good it is).

February 17, 2016 at 1:22PM, Edited February 17, 1:22PM

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José Pedro Pinto
Wannabe
717

a6300, hands down

February 18, 2016 at 2:05PM

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The specs look great, but I think we have to see how it performs in actual use. We should know this in about a month from now.

Guy McLoughlin

February 21, 2016 at 9:00AM

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