January 11, 2015 at 11:45AM


Shoulder mount ENG Doco camera kit for under $5000. Buy used?

Hi guys, long time reader, first time poster.

I will be shooting a documentary in the Caribbean this year as a pre-cursor to a drama feature film I will be doing there.

I'm done with Frankenstein rigs, and really miss using ENG broadcast shouldermount cameras for this kind of work. I want something I can chuck on my shoulder, and will stand up to some light abuse (happy to buy a portabrace cover of course).

Unfortunately, my total kit budget is sub $5000. But I don't really need a tripod for what I'm doing, and I'm a one man director/camera man on this one. Interview audio will be recorded with a portable device, so the budget can be sunk into just the camera, lens, and good onboard mic.

It will need to preform well in bright sunlight, but also have some sort of ability to shoot in lower light situations (bars etc),although I don't mind a bit of noise, as long as it's usable footage. (so fairly clean at 1600 iso idealy).

The only thing new in my pricerange seems to be something like the Sony NEX-EA50UH, with a few minor add ons. I could set that up for under $4000 I'd say.

But I'm open to suggestions of used equipment, although I'm a little weary of the amount of abuse used broadcast equipment will have endured. It's a hard, hard life for cameras in the doco world!

Thanks! Look forward to hearing what you guys think.


Okay are you oposed to Mirrorless Camera System? Seeing that you may be doing some lowlight work you could look into the a7sand Build a rig from www.kamerar.com and get some lens from Rokinon. I dont want to write alot of stuff just giving you a baseline and then youc an research. When it comes on to buying 2nd hand equipment i get very wary. There are somethings you can buy second hand and some tihing i just wouldnt buy 2nd hand like a camera. Lens, shoulder rigs, sliders, lights, mattebox i would buy 2nd hand

January 11, 2015 at 11:55AM

Wentworth Kelly
DP/Colorist/Drone Op

Thanks for your reply. I have definitely considered the A7s and the GH4, and both cameras produce beautiful images. But I'm trying to move away from the DSLR form factor and have something a bit more "run and gun" friendly. Something I can throw on my shoulder, is ergonomic, and I don't have to worry about all of the different accessories to make it work.

Sadly, I'm not sure such a camera exists in a budget friendly price range.

Hendrikus De Vaan

January 11, 2015 at 1:22PM

I second the mirrorless camera recommendation, either the Panasonic GH4 or Sony A7S cameras.

I would also take a close look at the $700 Nebula 4000 pistol-grip gimbal that can fly either of these cameras...

Nebula 4000 - A7s - 10-18mm f4 = 3 Axis Pistol Grip Stabilizer of Death

Nebula 4000 Lite Review

Nebula 4000 – The Gimbal for the Run-And-Gun Shooter

If you are dead set on buying an ENG style camera, then I would look at the Sony X70 camera which is a compact ENG camera with XLR audio inputs that shoots 10-bit 4:2:2 1080 HD, and will have a paid 4K upgrade available by late Spring.

January 11, 2015 at 1:23PM

Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer

Thanks! The Nebula looks like a really nice device. Watching reviews now.

One of the other problems I have with non-shoulder mount cameras is this: I'm going to a place with a very high violent crime rate, and there's a good chance that I could get into some slightly hairy situations. Now, from what I have been advised by locals is; If you look like a news shooter, people generally won't mess with you.

The smaller cameras, although great for grabbing sneaky shots (and producing beautiful images), ultimately will make me look like a tourist. A tourist with money, and a good target.

Hendrikus De Vaan

January 11, 2015 at 1:32PM, Edited January 11, 1:32PM

I have several comments.

-Why not rent one there and get insurance in case you get robbed?

-If people are desperate, they will rob you, it does not matter if you look like a tourist or a professional. It is, off course, easier to find a buyer for a dslr or a mirrorless camera than it its to find a buyer for an ENG camera. I know people who got robbed of their ENG cameras on the beach in Rio, while I did a ton more dangerous stuff with a mirrorless and never got any trouble. It just depends if you are lucky or not and are at the wrong place at the wrong time.

If I was you, I would not focus too much on the local crime rates but focus more on your documentary. A mirrorless camera is ideal in these places, especially when paired on a rig with a matte box, microphone and a monitor, it will look professional and people will leave you alone or will be interested on getting filmed. If your gear looks professional, it will be easier to film official instances like police, inside shopping malls etc. The good thing is, when you need to film something intimate a mirrorless feels less obstructive than having a two foot camera shoved in your face.

I filmed in Brazil (as an European) to promote MMA fights and never encountered any problems, although I went chilling with some heavily armed cocaine dealers in the shanty towns, went to some football hooligan parties, filmed in large crowds, followed crackheads in abandoned buildings (all scenarios that seem like they could end for the worst) but I never encountered anything. I guess the key is to be confident and not look scared. People feel when you're scared and will take advantage of you, no matter if you are in Brussels or in Rio.

It also helps not to be too flashy when being in a bad neighborhood, I usually was wearing shorts, tennis shoes and a t-shirt, do not wear an expensive watch or jewelry etc... and when in really bad places I put my camera in a cheap plastic bag from the supermarket.

January 12, 2015 at 6:20AM

gandulf charpentier
director of pornography

I would normally rent, but this is the kind of project where I need to be able to grab a camera and go at a minutes notice, stretched out over a month or two. So renting would be impractical.

That's all good advice, thank you!

Hendrikus De Vaan

January 14, 2015 at 7:24AM

>>>The smaller cameras, although great for grabbing sneaky shots (and producing beautiful images), ultimately will make me look like a tourist. A tourist with money, and a good target.

I've heard of photographers that shoot street photography in high-theft areas taking a roll of white gaffer tape and magic-markers to turn their expensive looking cameras into something that looks like a piece of sh*t they found in the garbage. I can't find the link at the moment, but there was one article about a street-shooter that did not have one camera stolen in 2 years of shooting because he made all his cameras look like junk.

January 12, 2015 at 8:22AM

Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer

That's a really good idea.

Hendrikus De Vaan

January 12, 2015 at 4:16PM

If you don't need single-system audio (ie. XLR inputs), then you should go for a small, benign-looking camera that is lightweight and has stabilization. If you have a big obvious (ie. expensive-looking) camera then you are going to attract thieves, background onlookers, and possibly cops/etc hassling you for bribes (this bribe thing is a generality and I have no info about any specific Caribbean countries).

And like Guy mentioned, make it look like a piece of crap—like something no one would ever want to buy. Or at the very least like it would be a lot of work for a thief to clean up before selling.

If it's an ultralight camera, then for added stability you can attach something weighted to a QR base to quickly pop on during handheld shots that will put its center of gravity lower than your hands' contact points.

January 14, 2015 at 8:29PM

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

I'm a little disappointed to see only one suggestion that was actually based on your criteria.

If you're still hanging around on NFS, what did you end up going with?

April 27, 2015 at 6:33PM


Hey, only just saw your message. I still haven't bought anything. Just sticking with my t2i for the time being until the last minute.

Modern camera designs are frustrating, to say the least. I really want xlr inputs etc, as syncing a docos worth of audio is not exactly my idea of fun.

I'm thinking about a couple of routes now, but altogether undecided. If the digital bolex shot proress, I'd go for that, but I don't want a gazillion gigabytes of RAW footage.

I may end up building something tiny around a Blackmagic Micro camera, in sort of a s16 Aaton formfactor, but a touch smaller. I could make a custom handgrip with a lot of controls using the expansion port and programmability.

As much as I love the formfactor of shouldermount cameras, there isn't one I like. FS7 is out of my budget, but even still - doesn't look super durable. The URSA 4.6k mini looks nice too, but again, Durability may be an issue.

One things for sure, I want global shutter (I wish I could afford a mechanical shutter or soft global shutter, but that's another story). Rolling shutter and motion cadence are not two things that go together.

Finally, I was set on 4k at one stage, but not so much now. In fact, I don't care about resolution at all, as long as it's 720p+. What I DO care about is DR, color depth, highlight rolloff, and motion cadence.

For drama, I'd just shoot s16mm or two perf 35mm. But for doco, this is not practical.

So yeah. No decision yet. Sorry...

Hendrikus De Vaan

July 16, 2015 at 2:57PM

I know this isn't a really popular choice on NFS, but I think the C100 fits your criteria pretty well. You can make it shoulder mounted with some 15mm rails (It's no ENG camera, but I really like it). It has built in ND. Can take EF lenses natively. It has really good build quality. Shoots AVCHD so you aren't taking up a ton of space. The battery life is also really good as well. It does pretty well up to ISO 10,000. Obviously its not a perfect camera, but if I was in your situation, I would buy the C100 (I'm talking about the Mark 1 as I haven't used the Mark 2). It is a really great documentary camera and is super versatile. Especially if you pair it with the 24-105 F/4 IS and then some fast prime lens, you have a full documentary setup in a very small, durable package. Also, it has XLR inputs, so that's a plus.

April 17, 2016 at 1:19PM, Edited April 17, 1:21PM

Paul Goodyear
Director/ DP / Writer

Your Comment