January 16, 2016 at 11:03AM


What would be a great first camera?

I was just wondering what would be a first great camera for a Cinematography major. I've never had a camera before and I would like to know which one you all recommend for me to get.


What price range are you in?

January 16, 2016 at 8:00PM, Edited January 16, 8:00PM

Andy O'Neill
Filmmaker / Cinematographer

Get an ancient t3i or its Nikon equivalent. It is an icon that made digital film-making widely available to the population.

Here is what the people make with the t3i: https://vimeo.com/search?q=t3i

Here are some thoughts about how long you would be able to keep milking your t3i: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gb58PSxuj8s

January 17, 2016 at 2:20PM, Edited January 17, 2:20PM


I personally would go with a Panasonic GH2 or GH3 depending on your budget. The Panasonic's have a much sharper picture than the Canon cameras.

The GH2/3 has a micro four thirds sensor while the Canon's have APS-C sensors. Despite what people say you do not need a speedbooster for the GH series to be workable. I don't know where this comes from. I have a GH4 which I use professionally and have never used a speedbooster with it. People will talk about shallow depth of field and how great it is and that's why you should get a Canon. Honestly, shallow DoF is way too overused and cheap looking. To give your films the 'film look' work on making the background look good, then over time add lighting to your arsenal. You don't see many big budget films with shallow depth of field everywhere so it's not really giving you a film look.
Shallow depth of field should really only be used for closeups, dramatic scenes or dreamy look sequences. And for aesthetics at night with city scapes or lights in the background.

I moved from a Canon 60d to the Panasonic GH series and the only regret I have is that I didn't do it earlier.

With a hack you can make the GH2 shoot with a really high bit rate. Also, the BBC in the UK still use the GH2 and they're really strict on which cameras you can use so it puts it somewhat in perspective.

I hope this helps. And good luck whichever camera you end up buying.

January 17, 2016 at 6:02PM, Edited January 17, 6:05PM

Andy O'Neill
Filmmaker / Cinematographer

Yes, and finally somebody who makes sense about that damn shallow depth of field. Thank you so much with that.

Philippe Orlando

January 18, 2016 at 4:03PM

I said big budget movies, and I said not everywhere in them. In what way does the GH4 look terrible exactly?

Andy O'Neill

January 21, 2016 at 6:46AM, Edited January 21, 6:46AM

I never said I swear by it. And if you find it funny that someone would swear by it you must be a great laugh, but I'd say there's very few people that would say that you are. You seem to be quite insecure going around NFS being hostile towards people and their opinions. Everything is 'terrible' or 'shit' according to yourself. So much fun you seem to be.

I don't need a camera to do the work for me. I know how to use it and know it's limitations so I don't find these limitations a problem. I've never had any problems with auto settings not being able to turn off, except for the little AF button that's stays in the corner of the screen in video mode with manual settings. This is not a problem.

Andy O'Neill

January 21, 2016 at 8:14PM

I ditto the comments for a used canon camera, the free magic lantern software that adds many cinematic features is a slam dunk as far as I am concerned. The reality is that you will never need to upgrade from a T2i or T3i.

January 18, 2016 at 10:41AM


To say you'll never have to upgrade from a t2i or t3i is a bit of a wild claim.

Andy O'Neill

January 19, 2016 at 5:44AM, Edited January 19, 5:44AM

Used a T3i for 2 years. I was working around limitations 24/7. Magic lantern does nothing to the T3i besides focus peaking and a few other things. RAW is unusable. No clean HDMI. Basically nothing to increase quality besides the bitrate which is hardly noticeable and causes overheats and crashes (and YES I speak from experience). I rent now and have rented the C100, GH4, A7s, Scarlet X, etc... You'll be begging to get out of the Canon cheap DSLR line 1 month in. I'd go Panasonic GH something and save yourself some upgrading and money and get a simple camera that doesn't choke you out.

Clark McCauley

January 20, 2016 at 1:52PM

^ it's so bad >.<

Clark McCauley

January 21, 2016 at 9:47AM

Get a Canon C100 Mk2 if u want a real video camera...Get a GH3 or GH4 if u want a DSLR...As far as lenses go....get a fast 50mm prime and thats it (or a 25mm prime if you go with the GH3/4).

January 18, 2016 at 5:13PM

Kerrin McLean
Director / DP / Editor

Good answer. I just started a little less than a year ago with an A7ii. and a 50mm Rokinon 1.4 is all I've used with the expection of the kid lens when the ROkinon was out fro warranty replacement. It's been all I've really needed. Only addition I'm adding this year is a 14mm.

Blue Ridge VIsuals

January 20, 2016 at 9:57AM

C100 is great but will be much too overwhelming for a first camera. Unless you watch youtube videos for 8 weeks straight it would be difficult to jump on the bus with a "cinema camera".

Clark McCauley

January 20, 2016 at 2:11PM

I agree with GH4 if you're on a budget and a C100 if you have a bit more money to spend.

January 19, 2016 at 4:54AM

David R. Falzarano
Director / Writer / Editor

I'd pick up a hacked Canon 60D or a Panasonic GH2 for cheap, use the balance to build up a matched prime lens kit (Ultra wide, 24mm, 35mm, 50mm & 85mm), base plate/rig, audio recorder and gain proficiency before moving up. The 60D has many improvements in it's layout over the earlier Rebel line, and the GH2 sensor is capable of producing sharp, beautiful, dreamy imagery in a class of it's own. The learning curve, workflow, storage requirements and rig outfitting are considerably steeper with the Blackmagic BMPCC/BMCC RAW cameras despite their low cost.

January 19, 2016 at 6:46AM, Edited January 19, 7:01AM

Marc B
Shooter & Editor

I like the Blackmagic Cinema Camera but it all depends on what you're trying to do. Take a listen to this podcast about cameras, it's eye opening: Don’t only hire DPs because they own a RED Camera! - https://www.indiefilmhustle.com/red-camera/

January 19, 2016 at 9:23AM

Alex Ferrari
Director / Producer

It all comes down to the budget you got in the end. The cheapest is a used T3i indeed and it's good enough, the advantage is that you can use more easily cheap old lenses and get nice results. Then you can get a panasonic GH series witch will be more expensive in lenses. And finally if you can afford it, you can go for a blackmagic, these are great little camera.

January 20, 2016 at 9:17AM


Get the one that you can afford. Because once you get going, WHATEVER you get next will trump all the previously mentioned cameras by so much that'll you'll regret wasting time debating it. SO honestly get whatever you can afford with a fast prime or two and get going.

January 20, 2016 at 9:59AM


Make sure to start investing in good glass as well. Lenses will outlast your camera body.

January 20, 2016 at 2:52PM

Ethan Cardoza

Having owned the t2i and t3i the only reason you cannot get great results is ignorance. However if looking used you have lots of choices beyond the canon rebels. Lots of camera braggarts here, but use a camera based on your needs and check the posting history of anyone who posts negative posts. I am assuming the OP wants a camera to use, not brag about.

January 22, 2016 at 3:03AM, Edited January 22, 3:06AM


If your budget affords it, the Panasonic DVX200 would be my recommendation. The bones are there: internal 4K recording up to 60fps, HDMI 4K out, V-Log L. What sets this camera apart is its camcorder style. With its XLR inputs, rugged ergonomics, and ease of use, the camera is set up to be a workhorse. What really does it for me is the 4/3s sensor with the Leica zoom. This is a camera that can earn its money back by doing freelance jobs AND can create worthy images for short films, music videos, or the like. It, of course, doesn't measure up to cinema cameras, but for the range you get, this would be my suggestion for a first camera.


January 22, 2016 at 7:01AM

Ramon Galvan
Video Producer

As a cinematography student, I think anything from a GH2 to GH4 would be great. Sure, there are cameras with better dynamic range, bigger sensors, better low-light, etc. But, what you get is a very solid and versatile camera that leaves enough money to invest in lenses and lighting so you can hone your skills.

January 22, 2016 at 6:01PM


Agreed. And practically every lens ever made goes on the GH series with cheap adapters. Some of these adapters come with a built in aperture so you can still have control of your f-stop.

Andy O&#039;Neill

January 22, 2016 at 8:02PM

This question comes up all the time. Watch these videos, and then get a Canon T3i


January 23, 2016 at 12:47PM

Dan Horne

The GH line has a much better picture than the T3i.
A Lumix GH2/3/4 combined with the techniques that Simon from DSLR Guide shows would be a great starting point.

Andy O&#039;Neill

January 24, 2016 at 9:24AM

Panasonic G7 is the cheapest 4K camera, with a ton of control. Like a GH4 for half the price without the high speed options.

January 24, 2016 at 4:12PM


Canon 60/70d. Panasonic gh3/gh4.

These cameras are great for aspiring cinematographers. If you buy used you'll have plenty left in your pocket to accessorize (media, lenses, support, post production equipment, sound, etc.)...

They have everything you need: the ability to interchange lenses, decent image acquisition, and simple post production workflows.

The 70d has dual pixel autofocus which can be pretty handy if you're shooting alone. I strongly recommend learning how to pull focus manually though - either right off the barrel or with a follow focus.

The 60d is a great camera but the MAGIC LANTERN hack and TECHNICOLOR cinestyle color profile are essential software add ons.

One limitation with the 60d is the lack of a headphone jack. There are some workarounds but they are not pretty. With MAGIC LANTERN you can judge audio levels by eye so it's not a huge problem, just worth noting. Also, the recorded image is highly compressed HD. Fine for the web but I'd be reluctant to project content shot on this cam.

The 60d also has a fully articulated screen which is very handy.

The nice thing about the 60d is that it has an APS-C sensor, which is slightly smaller than Super 35mm 3 perf film. Meaning, you'll have roughly the same field of view/depth of field characteristics that you would have if you were shooting 35mm film with cinema lenses.

Even when you don't to shoot with the camera it makes a decent director's finder and stills camera.

I don't have much to say about the Panasonics - I've always been impressed with the images they produce. They do have smaller 4/3's sensors which can be a good or a bad thing depending on how you look at it. I personally feel that APS-C is the sweet spot between 4/3's and stills full frame - you have manageable focus with enough shallow depth of field. Again, that's my own subjective opinion.

I didn't mention Nikon but I'm sure they have some great cameras in this class too. Anyway, you should be able to get a used 60d, a few lenses, a good set of sticks, an onboard mic, media, and perhaps even a shoulder rig for under $1000.

If you have more than that to spend, I'd say a GH4 is a great place to start.

January 25, 2016 at 4:19PM, Edited January 25, 4:23PM

Andrew Kierans
Digital Cinema Technician

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