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Choosing the Right Camera
This chapter will help you choose the Right Camera for your film production needs. There are many cameras that can record high-quality video. Some cameras are great for traveling. Some are perfect for online trainers. Some of them are great for live streaming and some for short films.
A digital camera captures video images and records them on digital SD cards. Or, the camera can be connected to an external hard disk that downloads and reads the footage while it is being recorded. There are many digital formats and cameras that can be used with a digital camera.
We will discuss the most common types of cameras and their pros and cons. Finally, we’ll discuss who would benefit most from these cameras. We will be covering the following types of cameras:
DSLR / Mirrorless Cameras
Digital Cinema Cameras
We do recommend some brands and models, but we do not include all of them due to the nature of the industry. Each month, new models are released that are superior to the older models.
Filming or shooting is the main single step in film production. The main step is to capture the raw video and all the sounds and shots that the script requires.
Your equipment will be the most important element, provided that all other elements are in order. A suitable Right Camera is the most important, as well as microphones. Suitable lighting should also be considered.
10.1 DSLR and Mirrorless Cameras
Let’s start with the most common type of camera, the DSLR and mirrorless. These cameras were originally designed for photography and have been able to record video since the early 2000s. These cameras produce amazing quality. They can now record 8K and 4k slow-motion videos at a reasonable price. Something that was impossible ten years ago.
There are many options for DSLR and mirrorless cameras. Prices range from the low hundreds to about $400 for an entry-level kit and up to $5,000+ for professional-level cameras.
All major camera manufacturers (Canon, Nikon, and Sony), make DSLR or mirrorless cameras capable of shooting video.
Both cameras can be interchangeably equipped with different lenses. The camera’s inner workings are what makes the difference. When filming, the DSLR features a mirror that flips up to open the shutter/sensor. Mirrorless cameras don’t have mirrors and they are great for travelers because they are smaller.
Anyone considering a DSLR should look into mirrorless cameras, and vice versa. You can shoot the same way as you do with video, and the quality will be very similar.
Pros of DSLR and Mirrorless cameras for film production:
- It is small and easy to transport
- Video recording options of high quality
- Low light Sensitivity is great for shooting in low lighting
- Interchangeable lenses to give you the cinematic style
- You won’t be noticed by the crowd when you shoot
- Accessibility of affordable accessories, i.e. camera gimbals, etc
- RAW format is great for color correction.
Cons of DSLR and Mirrorless cameras for film production:
- No mechanized zoom (if you prefer that style)
- Most cameras have a time limit on how long you can film (e.g. a maximum length of a video file is 15 or 30-minute with many cameras)
- There are often fewer audio inputs and controls than in traditional video cameras
- Autofocus was a con in the past, but becoming better
- Many models don’t have video tools such as peaking and zebras (for exposure and focus).
Who should use DSLR and Mirrorless cameras?
These cameras are a great choice for most people, and I’m not ashamed to say that they are my favorite. These cameras are great for families, travelers, bloggers, and low-budget filmmakers.
Live streamers are the only ones who may not require or want this type of camera. However, it is possible to stream live with a DSLR/mirrorless webcam but it is not very easy. A digital cinema camera is a great option if you require high-quality footage to create a narrative or short film.
10.2 Digital Cinema Cameras
Digital Cinema Cameras are the next step in professional filmmaking. They are super high quality and have most of the options built-in cameras that are great for professional filmmakers.
There are many great brands like Sony, Blackmagic, Canon, and Panasonic that offer digital cinema cameras. These interchangeable cameras have many of the controls that you would need for high-level filmmaking (XLR audio inputs and ND filters, peaking, zebras, outputs for external recorders, monitoring, etc.).
The sensors in these cameras will generally be larger and more powerful, resulting in a greater dynamic range, and better shooting in low light.
Pros of using digital cinema cameras:
- superior ergonomics for handheld shooting
- high dynamic range
- RAW format available (great for color correction)
- capability to shoot in low lighting
- video quality and recording options
- audio inputs and controls built-in
- cinematic quality with interchangeable lenses
Cons of using digital cinema cameras:
- takes time to learn and is difficult to use
- not travel-friendly and heavy
Who should use digital cinema cameras?
If you are ready to improve your video skills, it is time to consider a digital cinema camera. They are recommended to independent filmmakers and high-ranking Hollywood personnel. They can also be used by YouTubers and online instructors to set up in their studios.
If you are only using the camera for a few days, renting one might be a better option. If you need a camera that makes it easy to create videos in a consistent manner, this type of camera is for you.
Camcorders are still manufactured. Remember the days when everyone used camcorders before DSLRs and mirrorless cameras took control of the video market?
The camcorder market is dominated by Sony, Panasonic, and Canon. JVC continues to make great professional models. Their camcorders are affordable and comparable to mirrorless and DSLR cameras. These companies make amazing camcorders that can shoot 4K footage and are very easy to use.
Camcorders can capture video, but not in the same cinematic depth of field as interchangeable lens cameras. Camcorders are ergonomically more comfortable and offer more sound recording options.
Pros of using camcorders for film production:
- Easy to use, plug-and-play
- You don’t need to buy additional lenses
- Hours of continuous recording
- Great autofocus
- XLR audio inputs, and manual adjustments
- Many people shoot 4K footage.
- Superior microphones to DSLR and mirrorless cameras
- Good auto exposure
- Battery life is longer
Cons of using camcorders for film production:
- Filming in low-light conditions is usually not great
- This is not the best style for filmmaking
- They are not able to take good quality still photos (sometimes it is impossible)
Who should use camcorders?
Camcorders still work well for long-term events. It’s great to be capable of shooting for hours on end, especially if you are covering sports or talent shows. These cameras are great for studio setups, especially DIY ones. They require a high-quality camera with a ready-to-roll capability.
These are also great for those who have been using older camcorders. Many new camcorders can record 4K footage so you can create great videos without the need for lenses and accessories.
10.4 Action Cameras
An action camera can be used for many purposes. One of the well-known brands of action cameras is GoPro, which has been dominating the camera market in this niche.
The action camera is a perfect choice if you enjoy being outdoors and want to capture your next adventure. The quality of the cameras has improved over the years. Most models now come standard with 4K. Some models can even be used for 360-degree VR.
Pros of using action cameras for film production:
- simple to use
- high quality, but very small
- good for underwater filmmaking
- many attachments/mounts are available that can be used for various purposes, such as driving, riding, surfing, skydiving, and skating.
- battery life is long
Cons of using action cameras for film production:
- fixed lens with a minimum focal length
- low-light abilities are poor
- many do not have a back screen, you will need one, or another mobile device, to see what you are filming
Who should use action cameras?
An action camera is a great choice if you are doing an action. These cameras can be used to record a killer mountain bike ride or a thrilling surf session. These cameras are great for travelers looking for a small camera to carry around. A GoPro is a great choice if you’re cliff jumping in the Great Canyon and looking to take a video of how you survived this ordeal. These cameras are perfect for aerial videography.
Because of their wide focal length, we wouldn’t recommend using action cameras to film ‘talking head’ videos. They can’t be connected to external microphones so you will have to record audio on a separate device.
The latest smartphones can shoot 4K and are getting better at low-light videography. You don’t need any other devices.
You can always have them with you. They are perfect for taking along on trips and capturing everyday moments. Even Oscar-winning filmmakers use them to make feature-length films.
There are a lot of points why having a good-quality camera in your bag is so important. However, there are many reasons why to ditch your smartphone in favor of a more traditional camera. You can still shoot 4K footage with a smartphone but not all 4K footage is the same. Smartphone sensors are smaller than many DSLR, mirrorless, camcorder, or digital cinema camera sensors. The result is that 4K footage shot with a smartphone will be of a lesser quality than 4K footage taken with traditional cameras.
Pros of using a smartphone for film production:
- high quality, small size
- It is simple to use
- you can edit and share videos on the go
- availability of stabilizers and lenses
Cons of using a smartphone for film production:
- almost impossible to achieve shallow depth of field for cinematic style
- controls and audio inputs are minimal
- low dynamic range
- difficulties to maintain complete control of the image
- digital zoom isn’t available in most models
- limitations on battery life
Who should use smartphones?
Anyone can create videos for social media and vlogging using smartphones and other mobile devices. Although you can edit videos directly from your smartphone, they are best for live streaming to your social media accounts and sharing short clips of your film production day.
You can increase the quality of your videos with a smartphone if you have a limited budget. A smartphone can be used to create videos for your film production company’s YouTube channel, tutorials, or other similar videos.
Webcams are an excellent option for creating quick online videos, tutorials, or live streaming from your workplace. Logitech is our preferred webcam brand. They produced a 4K model, The Brio, that can be used in low light conditions.
You can also use an app such as Webcam Setting for PCs or iGlasses for Macs, to adjust your webcam’s exposure and white balance. They are not Oscar-worthy films, but they are very helpful for many video creators.
Pros of using webcams for film production:
- they are simple to use
- record directly to your computer
Cons of using webcams for film production:
- performance in low light is poor
- poor audio quality (a USB microphone is recommended)
- sharpness is not great
- controls are lacking
Who should use webcams?
Online course creators can easily add talking heads videos to their courses using webcams. Webcams are also great for online marketers who do webinars and other types of sales videos remotely.
If you are a gamer or doing live presentations on social media, you can use a webcam. These webcams are perfect for Skype calls and anyone who is conducting business meetings remotely.
To control the size and shape of your shots, camera lenses are sized using millimeters. This is the circumference of the lens or the ring size attached to the housing. Depending on the type of camera used, there are a variety of lens sizes that will be required. A set of standard lenses to cover 35mm cameras includes the following: 18mm, 25mm, 35mm, 40mm, 50mm, 75mm, 75mm, and 100mm. While modern lenses look similar from the outside, the specifications and glass inside can be configured to allow for close-up or wide-angle views.
Every lens has a specific purpose and can be attached to the camera to produce a different size image. The characteristics of an image can be altered by a lens. A wide lens, such as the 18mm, can make things seem larger by slightly stretching the image (injecting more information into the shot). Wide lenses are useful for creating establishing shots that make spaces and areas appear larger than they actually are. Telephoto lenses tend to compress and flatten images, making them appear closer together. Telephoto lenses can be used to bring distant objects closer to your camera (using magnification similar to a low-powered telescope).
Which lenses are best for filmmaking with a DSLR or mirrorless camera?
If you are on a strict budget and have a camera that comes with the kit lens, you should consider buying a medium telephoto prime lens (non-zoom). This lens is great for close-ups and images with shallow-focus backgrounds. Then, I would get a high-quality wide-angle lens.
A set of prime lenses is better for narrative filmmaking and creative work. They will produce sharper images and have shallower focus effects. Although you can purchase matched “cine primes”, which give you exact control over focus and exposure, they are more expensive. If you have a limited budget, consider buying used manual focus primes that come with an adapter.
One or two quality zoom lenses are better for news, events, and document. A constant aperture zoom is a good choice if you have the budget. It covers the entire range of wide-angle to medium telephoto. The exposure will not change even if you zoom in or out. A wide- to ultrawide zoom is also available for handheld, close-range shooting.
You should not rent a more expensive lens, such as an ultrawide full-frame lens or fast telephoto unless you are certain you will use it frequently.
Important lens features
If you have to work quickly without a tripod, this can be very important.
Focusing can be either mechanical or electronic
Modern camera lenses can be referred to as ‘fly by wire’. This means that you move a physical focus ring and an electronic motor adjusts it. The speed at which you turn the focus rings will affect how much focus is achieved. If your camera has the ability to set focus pulls, this is fine. It doesn’t work well for manual focus changes. You might choose lenses with mechanical focus rings manufactured by third-party companies or vintage prime lenses that are designed for manual focus.
Parfocal lenses keep their focus even when you zoom in or out. This is important if you work quickly.
Depending on the lens, image size may change as you adjust focus. If you pull focus, this can distract from the image. Modern lenses with higher quality and more expensive lenses can reduce this effect.
Sensor size and focal length
The ‘Full frame’ sensors used in high-end Canon, Sony, and Panasonic cameras are approximately the same size as 35mm still-camera film.
Crop sensors are smaller sensors than these. The ‘Crop factor” refers to how small the sensor is compared to a 35mm still camera frame. This allows you to compare lenses from different sensors. An 18mm lens mounted on a camera that has a crop factor 1.6 will have the exact same field of vision as a 29mm lens attached to a 35mm full-frame still camera. (18 x 1.5 = 29).
Many mid-range cameras from Sony, Nikon, Canon and Nikon use APS-C sensors. They are approximately the same size and dimensions as a 35mm film camera frame. Canon APS-C cameras have a crop ratio of about 1.6, while it is 1.5 for Fujifilm, Sony, and Nikon.
Some cameras, like the Canon Cinema EOS range of cameras, have Super 35 sensors that are slightly larger with a 1.4 to 1.5 crop factor. These cameras can typically use lenses that are APS-C compatible.
MFT (Micro Four Thirds), a smaller sensor size, is used on Olympus cameras and Panasonic cameras. The crop factor can vary from 2-2.6 to 4-K depending on the camera you use.
Lenses that are designed for full-frame cameras can be used on smaller sensors. However, you might need an adaptor. It’s best to determine the equivalent 35mm focal length for compact cameras. Many Panasonic MFT owners have the optical Metabones Speedbooster adapters that allow them to use full-frame Canon EF lenses on a smaller sensor.
How the focal length influences the image
Focal lengths: Full-frame 50mm, APS-C 35mm, MFT 20-25mm.
These lenses give you a natural-looking perspective. These lenses are great for taking two shots of people and mid-shots (hips up to the head), but you may notice slight distortion when they are used for close-ups. The 50mm prime lenses are small and fast, as they have a large maximum aperture to allow in lots of light. The f/1.8 version is compact and offers excellent image quality. However, the 1.4 and 1.2 versions are larger and more expensive. You can use the wide maximum apertures to create a shallow depth of field. This is great if your goal is to use focus creatively but not so much if everything needs to be sharp.
Medium Telephoto or Portrait Lenses
Focal lengths: Full-frame 85-100mm, APS-C 50-60mm, MFT 35-50mm.
These lenses are the shortest and most likely to give clear closeups. These lenses are fast (they have a large maximum aperture), which is why they work well in low light. They are difficult to hold so they work best when mounted on a tripod.
These lenses can flatten perspective, which is great for creating strong and graphic compositions. They also allow you to create shallow depth-of-field effects. Focus accuracy is essential.
A 50mm f/1.8 lens is an affordable medium telephoto lens that can be used with an APS-C sensor or Super 35 sensor.
Focal lengths: Full frame 135mm or higher, APS-C 85mm or higher, MFT 60mm or higher.
Telephoto lenses with longer focal lengths are useful for adjusting perspective, isolating subjects from the background, and bringing faraway objects closer to you. They are heavy and slow and should be used with a monopod or tripod.
Wide angle lenses
Focal lengths: Full-frame 24-40mm, APS-C 15-24mm, MFT 10-17mm.
These lenses can be used to film master shots or in tight spaces. These lenses are easy to hold, have dramatic perspectives, and good depth of field, and a lot of the shot can be in focus simultaneously. However, close-ups can be blurred. This lens is the best if you only want one prime lens.
Focal lengths: Full-frame less than 24mm, APS-C less than 16mm, MFT less than 10mm.
These lenses can fit in a lot of scenes. These lenses are easy to hold and provide a good depth of field. However, close-ups will show distortions in the edges and the lens won’t be level. These lenses are great for quick, fly-on-the-wall documentary work. They allow you to get very close to your subject and can give you a dramatic perspective that can make almost any subject look exciting. High-quality ultrawide lenses are costly for system cameras.
Lens filters are camera accessories that are attached to the front of a lens. Lens filters can be used for different purposes. Photographers use many lens filters to change the way light enters the lens.
Lens filters are made for outdoor use. Lens filters are designed to be used in the wild outdoors where you will encounter unpredictable light, and a high chance of wind, dust, dirt, or rain. So, when you do, you’ll want lens filters to protect your camera and regain some control over your shooting.
You can achieve many desired effects with this filter, but not all of them can be reproduced by photo editing software. These filters include color filters, polarizing filters (CPL), neutral density (ND), and ultraviolet filters.
Do I need a lens filter for your camera?
Lens filters can be used by professionals, beginners, and anyone in between. They are a great addition to any photographer’s kit.
Why should I use a lens filter?
A lens filter is the most powerful tool you have in your arsenal, and it takes up the least space in your bag. After you have mastered your camera settings, and know-how shutter speed, ISO, and aperture affect your photos, lens filters will open up new possibilities for experimentation.
Although ultraviolet filters are primarily used to protect lenses and serve a very utilitarian purpose, they can make the difference between a lens that is damaged and a camera that works well.
You can use neutral density filters to deal with bright lights, create blur effects by using motion, and get special effects with long exposures.
A circular polarizing filter can be used to cut unwanted reflected light, such as sunlight bouncing off glass or water, and increase the color and contrast of your photos.
What is the working principle of lens filters?
A lens filter can be a simple equipment piece that protects your camera lens and improves the quality of your photos. Filters attach to the end of the lens and alter the light entering your camera.
Special chemicals are used to protect filters and increase their durability. Multi-coated filters can be more costly because they require more materials and take longer to make.
Lens filters need to be maintained in order to function properly, so be sure to read the maintenance instructions that come with them.
Which type of lens filter should I use?
Although there are many types of camera filters available, the three most popular are the three basic ones: ultraviolet, circular polarising, and neutral density filters. The conditions in which you are using a lens filter will determine the effect you wish to achieve with your images.
10.8.1 UV Filters
The UV filter, as the name suggests, is sensitive to ultraviolet light and helps keep it from reaching your camera sensor. A UV filter can help capture better colors in your photos by blocking out ultraviolet light.
A UV filter doesn’t affect your camera settings at all. This means that you don’t have to adjust your ISO, shutter speed, or aperture to accommodate a UV filter. Many photographers keep a UV filter on the lenses for a longer period of time. There is a big difference in the cost of replacing a UV protection filter lens filter and replacing the entire lens if you damage it.
A UV filter should be used on all your lenses. The UV filter doesn’t alter your camera settings or image quality. It protects your lens’s glass and reduces UV haze.
10.8.2 CPL Filters
CPL filters polarize light and cut out reflections from water and glass. A CPL filter, which is similar to polarised sunglasses gives you the illusion that you can see clearly through the glare from reflected sunlight.
CPL filters can make colors more saturated and dramatic. If you are filming the ocean and the sunshine makes the surface look silver, a CPL filter can be used to make the ocean look more dramatic and accurate.
CPL filters are dependent on the environment you’re filming. A CPL can be used to reduce glare and increase contrast in your photos if there is a lot of glare.
10.8.3 ND Filters
An ND filter reduces light entering your camera. This filter is great for shooting in extremely bright conditions, such as on a cloudless day in a mountain. It can also be used to experiment with motion blur and a large aperture in bright lighting.
An ND filter gives you more control and flexibility when shooting in bright conditions. You can use an ND filter to adjust your aperture to create a shallower depth-of-field, or a slow shutter speed to add motion blur.
The f-stops are the measure of how much light an ND filter cuts. Variable ND filters are available for flexibility.
If you need to create motion blur or shoot in bright conditions, an ND filter can be a great choice. You may need to use a fast shutter speed, a low ISO, and a small aperture without an ND filter. You can have greater control over your ISO and shutter speed in bright conditions by limiting how much light is coming into your camera.
10.8.4 Other Types of Filters
Some of the exotic filters that can be found are:
Pro-mist Softens the image
Star Causes light sources to sparkle
85 and 80 Color-corrects the image
Sunrise Adds warm sunrise degradation to the sky
Blue Sky Adds richer blue to the sky
Orange Warms the entire image
Blue Cools the entire image (also emulates nighttime)
What filter diameter do I need for my lens?
It may be necessary to look closer at your lens. You can’t simply measure the focal length of a lens (like a 50mm lens), but you must also look at the lens.
The diameter can usually be found by looking at the symbol on the lens body – “o”. You will need the number immediately next to it. It should be easy to locate if it is not on your lens.
The next step is to decide what type of filter you would like and then find the correct size for your lens. You won’t have any trouble finding the right size lens filter for you.