Cameras and Lenses for Film Makers

This page is part of my larger Resources For Film Makers section .

There are so many different camera types and models out there it's no wonder people are confused about what camera they should use!

If you are just getting started with film making, the best advice I can give you is this: any camera will do, you can even use your phone! Avoid spending a large amount of money on an expensive camera until you have created some films and figured out what you want and need. There's nothing worse than sinking a few thousand dollars into a fancy camera just to find out a few week later that you weren't really that interested in the hobby anyways.

I am a photography enthusiast (fanatic) and have grown up with SLR cameras. I am used to their controls and therefore shoot all my main videos using DSLRs. I use a number of smaller cameras for Vlogs and B-roll footage at times.

Canon 5D

My main camera is the amazing Canon EOS 5D Mark III Full Frame Camera

I grew up with Nikon and dreaded the jump to Canon a little bit, but this camera has won me over. The image quality is spectacular and I love the low noise I get even at high ISO settings. The biggest downsize of the Canon 5D Mark III are its price at around $3.5k and its physical size, weighing in at around 900 grams.

Also, once you own such a high quality DSLR camera, you will likely want to invest in at least one high quality lens to go in front of it. I am pretty lucky and own the following two Canon L lenses that I use depending on the situation.

Canon EF 24-70mm F/2.8 L USM IS Lens

The Canon EF 24-70mm F/2.8L II USM Lens
is my workhorse and I use this lens for 90% of shots I take.

The lens performs extremely well in low light due to an F/2.8 aperture and can be used for cinematic establishing shots at a wide 24mm (which on a full frame is wider than 18mm on a crop sensor) as well as super shallow depth of field macro shots.

The downsizes of this lens are, again, the price at around $2k and its weight of almost 1kg. For me however, the weight and price are worth it. If I had to chose a single camera and a single lens I'd go with the Canon 5D Mark III and this EF 24-70mm lens.

Canon EF 70-200mm F/4 L IS USM Lens

Sometimes I want to take very long shots although that happens more with photography than with film making. During filming I usually have the luxury of simply moving closer to my subject as required. However, sometimes it's useful to have a bit of extra reach and in those cases I use my Canon EF 70-200mm F/4 L IS USM Lens

You might ask 'why not the F/2.8?' and my reasons are pretty simple: price and weight. Yes, there is a slight advantage in image quality and low light performance, but to me the difference is too small to justify paying twice the price and then lugging around twice the weight.

Nikon D7000

Before I upgraded to the Canon 5D Mark III, I owned and used a Nikon D7000
for a few years.
Even though it is a crop sensor camera I felt the video quality coming out of this camera, combined with my Nikon 35mm F/1.8G AF-S DX Lens
was pretty darn good. Heck, we shot almost the entire Zombie Hunter VFX short film using a Nikon D7000 and the 35mm lens. What's even better is that this camera and lens will put you back less than $1k in total.
Note that the Nikon D7000 is a bit older and has since been replaced by the Nikon D7100

Nikon Nikkor DX 35mm F/1.8 AF-S

While my main photography lens for the Nikon D7000 was the super flexible Nikon Nikkor 18-200mm F/3.5-5.6 AF-S VR II
, I usually switched over to the Nikon 35mm F/1.8G AF-S DX Lens
for most film projects. The quality of this lens is awesome and due to the F/1.8 aperture it performs really well in low light.

It does not allow for very wide establishing shots, but for most situations, this lens served me very well and I enjoyed using it.

GoPro Hero 3

I own a slightly older GoPro Hero 3: Black Edition
that I take out whenever I need to film something that I wouldn't dare risk my Canon 5D for.

Shots in or near water, on a roller coaster, scenes at high speed and close to the ground, anything where things splatter or explode are scenarios where I'd much rather take my GoPro for the shot. The GoPro Hero 3 takes great looking footage at up to 4k at 24fps down to 120fps at 720p. I do find myself often correcting the ultra wide angle though as it's not usually the shot I'm going for.

The camera is super sturdy, easy to travel with and there are a ton of different accessories that you can get to mount the GoPro onto almost anything.

There is now a new version of the GoPro available which is even more popular, the GoPro Hero 4: Black Edition

Canon S120

Yes, I do occasionally film Vlogs and I try to remember to shoot B-roll footage for my bigger projects.
For these less essential shots I often like to use my Canon PowerShot S120 compact camera

I have to admit I have not actually taken too many photos with this camera, I mainly use it to shoot video. The video quality and especially the video stabilisation are excellent though! It shoots up to 60fps in Full HD and gives fantastic shots as long as there is enough light in the scene.

It does struggle a bit when it gets darker and as someone who loves to film with a DSLR I do miss manual controls over aperture, shutter speed and ISO during video recording. Still, it's a reasonably priced camera that does capture some great photos and video!


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