What Camera Should I Buy? – The Short List

Posted by Anthony - October 16, 2012 - Cameras, Equipment - 1 Comment

As some of you know from my Guerrilla Film Tactics seminar I’m more of a proponent of “accessing” cameras and equipment rather than buying them, which I think is only necessary if you shoot a lot or need long-term and continuous camera access for a documentary project.

I’m approaching a project that may finally justify purchasing my own video camera and now am facing the very same question that many of you have asked me over the years – which one? And now I have to face the scary prospect of investing my $, biting the bullet and hoping that the camera I chose won’t suddenly be usurped by an even better and cheaper camera 3 months later. That however, is the nature of the beast.

It’s so daunting that I took the time to put together a Camera Buyer’s Guide to help you compare cameras (which in some ways could make the decision even harder once you really consider all the choices that are out there.)

So here’s some of my logic:

DSLR’s – Affordable, but disqualified from my list because they are still not video-friendly enough and don’t think it will be that much cheaper once I add on all the things I’d want to make a DSLR more like a dedicated video camera.  And synching audio in post is not an extra step I’d want to take everytime. I love working with DSLR’s…as long as someone else is shooting and posting.

SONY EX1 OR EX-3 – Hands down my all-time favorite cameras of the past decade with a very nice list of pro video features, very user-friendly and good image quality.  However, the EX-3 is a little pricey for the generally corporate and documentary style work I do, which does not scream out for interchangeable lenses.  While both cameras are rock-solid, they’ve been out for a good minute now, shoot on expensive SxS cards, and I think Sony will likely be retiring these models soon.  I think the $4K Super 35mm Sony NEX-FS100 is the strongest current contender from Sony for the features I look for, but I haven’t spent enough time or shot with it yet.  It’s still at the top of my short list.

[UPDATE: So it turns out there is already a predecessor to the Sony EX-1 and that is the Sony PMW-200 XDCam, which I have to say is now the TOP contender on my list. I'll definitely write more on this one in the near future.]

PANASONIC – I was a big fan of the old standard definition DVX-100 and liked the HVX-200 imagery when it first came out, but many other cameras have since matched the once-impressive image-quality of the HVX-200 and most of them perform better in low-light (a must for me).  P2 cards are also expensive and a little more hassle in post last time I used them.  The Panasonic AF-100 cameras are definitely cool, but more than I’m willing to spend unless I’m really in love. (However, I am definitely “in like” with AF-100, which is what my Lynda.com video course was shot on.)

CANON – I’ve got nothing against Canon and they came on strong on the DSLR scene with the T2i, 5D, 7D, etc.  However, none of their dedicated video cameras of late have been break out competitors with the HVX-200 and Sony EX-1.  I just haven’t encountered many ppl shooting on Canon video cameras (apart from DSLR’s) for a long time now.  They are a good manufacturer w/ good lenses, but their dedicated video cameras don’t seem to be as popular as they used to be back in the mini-DV days.  And honestly, Sony won me over a long time ago with their user-friendliness, so would take a hell of good camera for me to cross back over to Canon.

RED SCARLETT – At just under $10K sans lens, the Red Scarlett is out of my price range, but even if it were half the price, Red is just too unique for me.  They re-invented the wheel with some great image results, but the camera design and post-workflow is still too out of sync with everything else on the market (i.e. unfamiliar and not user-friendly) for my taste.  Again, love the high-quality images of the Red cameras… as long as someone else is doing the shooting and posting.   I don’t need extra complications.

…So that left me with the new crop of “Super-chip” video cameras as top contenders.  The early footage and buzz is impressive on cameras like the Digital Bolex and KineRaw, but the problem is that most of this new crop is still unreleased, very new and/or unproven.

One new camera beyond the Sony NEX-FS100 , however has stayed at the top of my short-list based on it’s price point, reliable manufacturer, feature set and impressive 2K imagery- and that is the  Black Magic Cinema Camera  priced at $3K (w/o lens).  The big cons for me are that it doesn’t have XLR audio inputs (1/4″ instead, but there are adapters), their is no phantom power for mics, the current models only take Canon EF lenses and as I said it’s all brand-spanking new.  The Sony FS-100 is proven and well,  it’s a Sony…but the BMCC (that’s what I call her for short) is sooooo damn sexy.

I’ve previously posted a review video from Rick Young , but the videos below from One River Media and Philip Bloom (the cameraman’s cameraman) are the most comprehensive early test footage/reviews I’ve seen so far.  Peep them for yourself and let me know your thoughts at this point in the unfolding BMCC story.

But here’s my real question to you, if I can turn the tables for a minute:

If YOU had to buy a video camera today under $10K- WHICH ONE would it be and why? 


One River Media – Video Review and Test Footage

Comparing the Cinema Camera & 5D Mk III from OneRiver Media on Vimeo.

Texting is gefährlich / Texting is dangerous from OneRiver Media on Vimeo.


Philip Bloom’s Video Review and Test Footage

Video review of the Blackmagic Cinema Camera from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

Dungeness shot on the Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

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