8 Best Video Cameras for Indie Filmmakers in 2015What cameras are used in the world of indie filmmaking, and which should you choose?
“Tools are a means to an end, not an end in themselves.”
We’ve updated our “Best Cameras for Indie Filmmakers” roundup for 2017. Check out the new breakdown HERE!
Here at Lights Online Film School, students and readers often ask what camera they should use to shoot their films, and no wonder! The market is inundated with options. You could spend hundreds or tens of thousands of dollars, and you could spend just as many hours scouring the internet for insight.
What to do? What cameras are commonly used in the world of independent filmmaking? What cameras offer the most bang for your buck?
We’ve done the research so you don’t have to, compiling our findings in the at-a-glance chart below. Options range from a $2500 daily rental to a $1500 one-time purchase.
The 8 Contenders
Before diving in, it’s important to note a couple of things. First, this is not a comprehensive roundup. We focus on eight of the most popular cameras we’ve seen mentioned time and again by students in our online filmmaking program, and every one of them is capable of producing memorable images:
- Arri Alexa XT | ~$1500.00 Daily Rental
- RED Epic Dragon | $24000.00 at RED
- Sony FS700R | $3999.00 at B&H
- Canon C100 Mark II | $3999.00 at B&H
- Blackmagic Production Camera 4K | $2995.00 at B&H
- Canon 5D Mark III | $2599.00 at B&H
- Sony a7S | $2198.00 at B&H
- Panasonic Lumix GH4 | $1297.99 at B&H
You, The Filmmaker, Matter Most
Which brings us to our second caveat: don’t get lost in the specs. Yes, technical capability is important – thus we’ve profiled each camera in-depth – but more important is the person behind the camera.
Said differently, it’s about what you can do with the tools that you have. Oren Peli’s Paranormal Activity was shot on a home video camera for $15000; it went on to make more than $193 million worldwide. Tangerine, a breakout hit at Sundance this year, was shot using an iPhone 5S!
As technology continues to evolve, it’s important to remember that tools are a means to an end, not an end in themselves. “Inherently, we all know that an image isn’t measured by its resolution, dynamic range, or anything technical,” photographer Chase Jarvis reminds us. “It’s measured by the simple – sometimes profound, other times absurd or humorous or whimsical – effect that it can have upon us.”
What Can These Cameras Do?
With that in mind, we invite you to study our camera chart. Simply click the image below to access a high resolution interactive PDF:
Every camera has its pros and its cons – arguably, there’s no such thing as “the best camera.”
How You Can Choose
When deciding on a camera, you must consider your budget and intended use. Low budget indie feature? Blackmagic’s Production Camera puts a cinematic aesthetic within reach – Run-and-gun documentary? You might consider something more ergonomic, such as Canon’s C100 – Low light conditions? The Sony a7S would be a powerful ally – Need 4K on the cheap? Panasonic’s GH4 is waiting; etc., etc., etc.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to determine the camera that best suits your needs. We hope this chart will help point you in the right direction. If you’d like to learn the nuts and bolts of how to make a movie with your camera, we invite you to check out our online filmmaking course!
So, what do you think? Vote for your camera of choice, and feel free to expand in the comments below!
Looking for more video camera comparisons from a filmmaking perspective? Explore our top picks from previous years:
Michael Koehler, with
Ready to learn more about cinematography and camera choice? Then we invite you to join our online film school, complete with a comprehensive filmmaking course. It’s everything you need to learn how to create professional narrative and documentary films using the equipment you already have, wherever you live, with guidance, community, and resources at a fraction of the cost of traditional film school.
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