Affordable cameras for students and DIY film makers
September 3rd, 2013 | Dr. Cameron Pace
So many cameras …
Nearly every week, I hear about another camera manufacturer getting ready to put out a new model DSLR or camcorder. It is amazing how often models are introduced these days. And the features? This one can record in RAW (uncompressed video), this other has 4K (four times the resolution of current HD); it’s a wonderful world. It can be difficult to decide what to spend your money on.
I am often asked by students, “What is a good start-up camera?” What they really want to know is how to get more bang for the dollar on a camera that at least has some professional features. At Evangel, I am constantly looking for cameras/camcorders that are inexpensive enough that our department can buy more than one, and that have the features and formats that students need to learn to be professionals.
Just this summer, we decided to purchase a new camera for our student film organization, EU Films. The Black Magic Design Company promised a new 4K cinema camera in late July. People are still waiting on it, I understand. We, instead, bought the Black Magic Cinema Camera 2.5K model that records in RAW format. It is a very impressive camera for only $1,995.
Few students have $2,000 to spend on a camera, so let’s look at some of the options for less than $1,000:
DSLR cameras (used for still photography) now are able to record outstanding video with some caveats in the $400-$700 range. Rolling shutter, poor audio inputs, and the need to stabilize the camera for video shooting are some of their weaknesses. There are ways to overcome these problems if you add some accessories and hold the camera steady.
A great website for learning film techniques with DSLR and other small cameras is www.nofilmschool.com. This website doesn’t mean to infer that the student wouldn’t benefit from a proper education in film or television communication, but is there to help those who are DIY filmmakers. Cell phone cameras and other small video camcorders are acceptable for some types of video, but don’t have the features or larger sensor for film-style shooting. Don’t let that discourage you.
The best camera for making films/video is the one you can get your hands on. The videographer is more important than the camera. What you know how to do matters most. Think of a master violinist. Whatever violin he or she decides to play will make great music. Having an expensive instrument would make it better, but it is the musician who makes the music.
With practice and instruction, you make the difference. Make an effort to be a great photographer/videographer with whatever you have, even if it’s just your cellphone. But if you can, get a camera with a real lens. At Evangel, we encourage students to try many different cameras as they learn. The more control you have over your instrument, the more you can exercise your skills and develop your talent.