Top 5 Cameras For Indie Filmmakers
Independent film has meant a lot throughout the past few decades. Independent film used to mean any cheaply made film that was not produced in the Hollywood system. Then it became any film produced outside the Hollywood system. And then they became any film produced outside the Hollywood system, and often with lavish budgets. And now it seems that independent film is truly independent thanks to the advent of readily available, high quality digital cameras. If you are an aspiring filmmaker who is looking for a great camera to shoot with, then here are the top five cameras (in no particular order) for you!
5 Canon 5d Mark III – The 5d Mark II revolutionized the independent film industry when it was discovered that it had the capability of recording beautiful high definition footage at 24 frames per second (film standard). However, due to its moire and aliasing issues, along with the lack of a headphone jack to monitor sound with it was clear that this camera was not meant for filming. But with the 5d Mark III(Body), Canon has embraced the video aspect of their product by getting rid of the moire and aliasing issues and finally giving users a headphone jack. On top of that, the recording limit has been increased to roughly thirty minutes, along with improved image quality. It also carries the advantage of being light, so you can shoot at a moment’s notice (if you’re into the whole guerrilla thing).
4 Canon T3i (600 D) – The Canon 600D could be considered a little sister to the 5D Mark III. The reason why this camera was included as opposed to the 7D is simply because the price is right. With full 1080p video recording at 24p for roughly $800 for a kit, this camera captures exceptional quality for a great price. Another neat addition to it, one that the 5d does not have, is a flip out screen which can help save on monitoring costs if need be. While it does not have as great low light capability as the 5D or even the 7D, it still has a lovely image that is perfect for the person who needs a good camera at a fantastic price.
3 Panasonic AG-AF100 – Described by Panasonic as a professional video camera, the Panasonic AG-AF100 is pricier than the Canon DSLRs previously mentioned, costing around $5000. However, it is worth it given that unlike the DSLRs, it is made specifically for video. With a headphone jack and two XLR cable ports for microphones and additional audio equipment, the AF100 has a great image, even in low light. The downside, however, is that you need 4/3 lenses for it which are a bit harder to find. However, you can get lens mount adapters, though it will cost you.
2 Sony FS100 – Sony has long offered great quality camcorders, but the Sony NEX-FS100(With 18-200 Lens) boasts incredible image quality which is perfect for filmmakers. This camera has XLR ports, a headphone jack, and variable frame rates. On top of that, it runs for roughly the same cost as the AF100. However, despite the wonderful image quality and features, this camera does have some major issues. Ergonomically, the camera is horrible. This is because it uses a boxlike, modular design. Sony has included a handle on the side, but it does not work very well. In other words you need to have a shoulder mount or some other form of stabilization to shoot hand held. On top of that, the camera has no ND filters, which means you will have less control of the image as you shoot. And finally, the FS100 features a stunning LCD monitor built on top with a swivel…the only problem is that it is effectively useless when you have to raise the camera above yourself. However, if you have a monitoring system, this is no problem.
1 Red Scarlet X – Red has skyrocketed over the last five years due to their offering of high quality digital cinema cameras. When the Epic was released, it most certainly lived up to its name, offering 5K resolution. But the fact that in order to have a configuration to make the camera useable would cost roughly $50,000 (still relatively cheap in the Hollywood system) it still seems like a far off dream for many indie filmmakers. However, Red had announced that there would be a camera known as Scarlet that would be released that would offer 3K resolution for $3000. The problem is that the projected release dates came and went (though there was never an official date announced) and reports kept coming in and the price kept rising. Finally, the Red Scarlet X is out and about, offering 4K resolution video and 5K resolution stills for $10,000. But that is only the price for the body, meaning you have to shell out roughly $6,000 for the remaining accessories that you’d need to start filming.
So, why would I include such an expensive camera in an article for indie filmmakers? Because, being honest, it’s still doable. It’s simply a matter of risk and reward, and more importantly it’s about how seriously you take your interest in filmmaking. If you are not sure you will want to be a filmmaker for the rest of your life, or even the next few decades, then it is not a worthy investment and you should stick with the previously mentioned cameras. But if you take it with the utmost seriousness and can justify the investment, then go for it.
The reason you would want this camera is obvious. 4K resolution is stunning. But more importantly, it’s cinema grade, which means if you put it up on a big screen, it will still be stunning. But even without 4K resolution, you want this camera for its ability to record RAW video files. If you are interested in photography, you know what RAW is, but if you aren’t, then to put it simply, a RAW is like having a digital negative. Any settings you put on your video in camera can be altered in post, which means it doesn’t matter if you underexposed that day, you can fix it in post. It doesn’t matter if you had the white balance off, you can fix it with a click of the mouse. The Scarlet X is essentially the little sister to the Epic, and it does wonders.
So now for the big question: Which camera is best? Well, that all depends on personal taste and more importantly what your goals are as an indie filmmaker and what you can afford. If you’ve only got a few thousand dollars, then you may wish to go for the 5D MK III. But if you only have a few thousand dollars and want a camera and a lot of accessories, you may want the T3i. If you’re completely serious about filmmaking and want to take a risk, the Scarlet is certainly a formidable camera. But above all else you choose the camera that is most appropriate for the job you need to do.