So you’ve upgraded your lights, your audio, your camera rigs. Everything you’d need to pull off a film production. Now it is time to upgrade the one thing everyone drools over in the world of filmmaking gear: the camera. Now, there are plenty of options out there. I’ve already done two blog posts about cameras that are pretty cheap to acquire:
But today, we’re going to be looking at different upgrade options that are available for under $1,000 for the camera body.
Disclaimer 1: Depending on the type of media and batteries that the camera itself takes, the overall total might end up being over $1,000. Using External power for all these cameras is highly recommended, but the cost for it won’t be calculated into the total cost)
Disclaimer 2: Some of the Links in this blog post are going to be affiliate links. Meaning if you use them to make a purchase, I will receive a commission at no additional cost to you.
Disclaimer 3: I was Originally going to Include the Original Blackmagic Cinema Cameras on this list, but in my research, I have found uncertainty in regards to them being compatible with modern ssds and sd cards. Testing is needed and that is something I’ll be looking into myself in the future.
Now with that out of the way, first camera I’m going to recommend is a smartphone. ……………Wait, what?
With multiple feature film films being shot on smartphones in recent years, it only makes sense that one would be on this list. Due to it’s portability and size, it makes it pretty easy to set up for the shoot. Only other thing you would really need to get going would be to download Filmic pro for $15 (I also got the cinematographer’s kit within Filmic pro and I got to say, worth the extra $15), as well as a stabilizer rig. Which the price for that can vary, but you can always go the cheap route, get a tripod adapter for $12 and then put it on a tripod or a gorilla pod.
Major downside to filming on a smartphone is that the image tends to get a lot of noise when the iso is pushed past 100. So strong lights are needed in most situations. But a major upsides to using Filmic pro with your smartphone is things like exact control over what frame rate you shoot at, being able to have more control over exposure, and the codec is really high quality, so you can push it in post production if you need to. I even used my Google Pixel XL to film a couple of scenes in my short film: The Robotic Horseman and I was blown away by how well the image was able to hold up. Spoiler Alert: The interior car scenes were shot with the Pixel XL.
Now, before we move on one quick note. The remaining cameras on this list are able to take the same SD cards with no compromise to being able to shoot at their best. The card I’d recommend, personally, would the Sandisk Extreme Pro SD Card which are reasonably priced for the capacity. Now, into the interchangeable lens cameras.
Panasonic GH4 ($600-$800 depending on seller)
Around the time I discovered this camera, I was starting to get an understanding of the anamorphic look and looking into how to actually pull it off. That is when I discovered that this camera (after a firmware update) was able to help pull off said look by filming in 4×3 which allowed for anamorphic lenses to actually be used and not have the final result be unusable wide. The camera’s micro 4/3 sensor also makes it ideal adapting pretty much any lens out there, so if you’re upgrading from Canon’s EF line or have some c mount lenses you want to use or both, with the right adapter, this camera is for you.
Sony A6400 ($700-$900 depending on seller)
I’ve actually done a video about this camera that I’ll leave here if interested, but I’ll make it brief as to why not only I’d recommend this camera but why I decided to get two of them.
Small compact body, Good image quality with 2 flavors of S-Log, Unlimited Recording time limit. These are pretty much the reasons I decided to go through with upgrading from my Canon T3i and get the A6400 for myself. I’m still glad I made the choice to pick up this camera and I’m planning on using it for various projects for years to come.
But regardless of which you pick (or go with one I didn’t recommend) at the end of the day, they are tools and you should pick one that works best for you. That get out there and tell some stories.