I have been blessed with the chance to shoot on many different cameras in many different scenarios. Below you’ll find the entire list of all the cameras I’ve used, as well as my feelings on each. Use this list to help you make a decision on which camera is right for which filming situation you are in. There is no perfect camera for every shoot, which is why there are many to choose from.
The FS100 is my new favorite camera. Imagine all of the strengths of a DSLR (low light capability, interchangeable lenses, shallow depth of field, small form factor, beautiful image) but with none of the weaknesses. Dual XLR inputs with good preamps, a shotgun microphone, autofocus (with Sony Lenses), and the sensor from the $15,000 Sony F3 make this camera a switchblade of features. By far one of the best features is the ability to use lenses from many different manufacturers with different lens adapters. The distance of the sensor from the lens (without one of those pesky DSLR mirrors in the way) means this camera can take lenses from Canon, Nikon, Sony, Leica, Hasselblad, Zeiss, Sigma, etc.
Pros: For only 500 more than the 5D Mark iii (at this time of writing) you can have a full featured video camera with better low light capabilities. Now, Metabones has come out with an adapter called the Speed Booster that is supposed to increase light coming into the camera by one stop, make your lenses wider, and sharper. This camera is a no brainer if you are looking for a great image for a variety of scenarios. The lowlight capabilities of this camera are stunning with the grain introduced from higher ISOs looking filmic. I filmed a wedding reception at 4,000 ISO and a friend thought it was at 640. It’s that good, and it goes to 16,000 ISO! This camera is also extremely modular, if you want just a box with a lens, no audio or anything else you can have that. It also records to SD cards which are far cheaper than CF cards like in Canon DSLRS.
Cons: There aren’t many. The camera itself is rather boxy and not very ergo-dynamic. The carry handle doubles as the shotgun mic attachment and feels slightly flimsy. The viewfinder is also on top of the camera so if you’re holding it above you, it will be difficult/impossible to see what you’re looking at. I would recommend a SmallHD monitor to overcome this drawback. There are buttons on literally every possible location on the camera, some of them redundant. Once you learn what they all do they are very nice to have, but it can be overwhelming and its hard to operate the camera by feel, you usually have to actually look at the buttons to see what you are pressing, especially when starting out. Also, the lowest ISO setting is 500 so expect to have to use ND filters if you want to film with a shallow depth of field outside during the day.
Highlight from a wedding I helped film exclusively with the FS100 in 2011.
FS100 Highlights (from B&H):
- Exmor Super35 CMOS Sensor
- E-Mount Interchangeable Lens System
- Uncompressed 4:2:2 & RGB Output via HDMI
- NXCAM Recording Format (AVCHD)
- Embedded Timecode
- 3.5″ XtraFine LCD Screen
- 1920 x 1080p Slow & Quick Motion
- Dual XLR Audio
- Modular Design
- Memory Stick, SD/SDHC/SDXC Recording
The big brother to the FS100, the FS700 offers built in ND filters, a better carry handle, and HIGH DEFINITION 240 FPS VIDEO! The slow motion capabilities alone make it worth renting. It’s like having a Phantom camera without all the difficulties of hiring an operator to go with it. In 2013, Sony will release a recorder for the FS700 that will let it record RAW 4k video. Think of this camera as a more refined FS100. The FS700 feature set makes it even more versatile for whatever you throw at it, be it an event, short film, or promo video.
Pros: Sony appears to have listened to the complaints some people had about the FS100 and improved on it in many ways. There is now a set of built in ND filters to assist when filming in sunlight, and there is an actual detachable carry handle. Buttons on the camera are now more prominent to help you know what you’re pushing without having to look. The sensor has been upgraded to be capable of outputting 4K RAW video with an external recorder. By far the best feature of the camera is the ability to record 240fps at 1080p, 420fps at 720p, and up to 960fps at standard definition. I really should do a test to see what this footage looks like slowed down even more with Twixtor.
Cons: The Fs700 is slightly worse in low-light than the FS100 and $3,000 more if you want one new. It is also heavier than the FS100. You should still be able to fly it on a Glidecam HD-4000 though. The built in ND filters are a bit clunky as well, you can hear them slam down when you choose to use them. For better or worse, the view screen is still on top of the camera like in the FS100. Because of the new 4k sensor the lowlight has suffered a bit and looks a bit noisier than the FS100.
I filmed this exclusively with the Sony FS700 at Woodlands Church in 2012.
FS700 Highlights (from B&H):
- 4K Exmor Super 35mm CMOS Sensor
- Capture 1920 x 1080/60p Video
- NXCAM Recording Format (AVCHD)
- LCD 3.5″ Screen with VF Attachment
- Up to 960 fps Super Slow Motion
- ISO 500 (0 dB) to ISO 16,000 (30 dB)
- Dual XLR, HDMI & 3G/HD-SDI Connectivity
- FMU Port Supports Optional Memory
- Future 4K Upgrade
The Canon 7D was my first DSLR purchase and I still love using it for photography and a “B” camera for the Sony FS100. I purchased my 7D from Adorama in October 2009 and it has served me well over the past four years. I’ve filmed many weddings with this camera and it still holds its own against the new 5D Mark 3.
Pros: The 7D was the first DSLR to shoot natively at 24fps. It also allows overcranking up to 60fps at 720p. The dedicated video recording button, frame rates, build quality, and other “video” features, make this a great camera for film or photography. I have actually both photographed and filmed weddings with this camera. While many people only want a DSLR for it’s “full frame” capabilities so they skip over the 7D, honestly it offers more versatility with the crop sensor. Many lenses are available for the the 7D and other APS-C sized sensors that won’t fit full frame. They are also cheaper, so if you are a budget filmmaker (aren’t most of us?) then this camera is great.
Cons: It isn’t full frame, but as I said above it means it can take more lenses and is more versatile overall. Also, it is now much cheaper than than the 5D Mark 3. Unfortunately, like most DSLRs the 7D suffers from Moire and Aliasing that is very visible when shooting at 60fps. This is a problem with the sensor and something that you will have to keep aware of when shooting people with striped shirts, brick walls, and other patterns. There is also a chance of the 7D overheating – I’ve never actually overheated but it has come close before.
Canon 7D Highlights (from B&H):
- 18.0 Megapixels
- 3.0″ LCD
- HD Video Recording
- Selectable Video Exposure + Frame Rates
- Dust & Weather Resistant
- 100% Viewfinder
- Self Cleaning Sensor
- High Sensitivity (ISO 12800)
- 8fps Burst Mode
- Accepts EF and EF-S Mount Lenses
This is the DSLR that started the entire HDSLR craze in 2008 with Vincent Laforet’s Reverie.
GoPro HD Hero