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Thread: $4,000 Camcorder or DSLR? Why/why not?

  1. Default $4,000 Camcorder or DSLR? Why/why not?

    Getting ready to make the plunge into getting equipment to kick off my foray into filmmaking. I've seen so much floating around the internet today on DSLRs being used for video and lots of comparisons like blackmagic 2.5K camera vs 5D mark III etc. Investing in beyond 1080p sounds great and all but how the heck am I gonna actually work with 2.5K or 4k in post yah know?

    I haven't been able to dig up enough information on why one would go for DSLR like a 5D over a more suited to filmmaking device like the various sonys and panasonics I hear about. Is there really viable options for DSLR add-ons/accessories like mounts and other gadgets common in serious productions that make it worth considering? much money do you have to spend to get video quality superior to a 5D Mark III if it seems to be outdoing everything at that price point?

  2. #2


    ...$4000 for a camera?.....

    How much are people going to pay you for your video work?...If it's zero, You can spend a heck of a lot less.

  3. #3


    Please understand it's not about the camera, it's much more about how the camera is used and how the light is used and what lens you have on the camera. When comparing DSLR with video camcorders it's a lot about the "form factor". How easy to use the buttons and knobs, manual adjustments etc.

    You could probably take any camera $4,000 to $400 and get a good image from it in the right hands. There are some technical specifications on some cameras, like the dynamic range, that will be better than another and this will have a bearing on the final result but not as much as the way it is used. All you have to do is over or under expose the image and you have lost a lot of the benefit of having a wide dynamic range.

    I have a $4,000 video camera and a nice DSLR at half that cost both are capable of producing nice results. I have leaned that one is not necessarily better than the other they are just different and should be used for different types of filming. This is another reason that form factor is important. For example try doing a focus pull with a photography lens compared to a proper video lens. If a camera is hard to deal with certain functions you will eventually just not bother.

    Yes, you can buy add-ons for a DSLR to make it easier to use and if money is a major issue you will be happy to work around some issues to save money on getting a full sized sensor camera. These are all considerations you must think about when choosing a camera.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    London, England


    In a way OP is missing-out the learning process that comes before making any serious filming.

    The Blackmagic needs special software to prepare the otherwise flat video - and is quite a big camera, which probably cant be handled by women - it's just too heavy/bulky, even after a 1/2 hr. When you add the cost of the external memory, a small monitor and a decent lens it can easily cost more that his Budget.
    + It's too heavy for me to do more than say "thank goodness mine is a fifth of the weight".
    That 2.5K also needs some handling, as it's not (yet) mainstream. Few DSLRs are really good filmmaking gear, it's just that if you need a shallow DoF it's an easy way to get it in a small space.

    The use of DSLRs is all about the filmic-look . . . but in reality if there is a good story, you can use more modest equipment which is far easier to handle. Better IMHO to get two identical camcorders, so you have a back-up and very useful for cutaways, or taking the wider-view (etc).

    Before spending so much, join a FilmMaking Club and learn how others do things.....then, you can buy the right kit for those likely jobs. It's also handy to know folks who are experts in other aspects of filmmaking.

    .... Hope that helps....
    Last edited by vidmanners; 08-24-2013 at 12:24 AM.

  5. #5


    Also depends what you are filming. DSLRs often only shoot a certain amount of minutes for each clip (up to 12 on some) which is not an issue at all for films, music vids and anything that consists of shots within those time frames. However if you see yourself wanting the option of shooting weddings/ live gigs/ documentaries with lengthy interviews, you'll need something that can shoot for longer periods of time which is when you should start looking at 'video cameras'.

    If it is short films your looking to do then go for a 550 or one of the 5d's or similar, workflows are less hefty for someone looking to 'foray', you can build up lenses and kit and learn quickly rather than having to spend money and time on 4k post production power.

    I'd argue vidmanners point, the black magic camera can be handled by women, unless your handling it like a nancy girl
    Last edited by fuzzymuffin; 08-24-2013 at 01:54 AM.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Blog Entries


    Quote Originally Posted by vidmanners View Post
    ... and is quite a big camera, which probably cant be handled by women -
    The most stupid comment ever posted on this forum.

    My wife is an artist film-maker who still uses a 16mm Arri SR3 with lenses which you couldn't even lift!

    Comments like this are, quite frankly insulting.

  7. Default

    Sorry for the delay everybody.

    Fuzzy, that's interesting. I could of sworn people make time lapse videos with DSLRs too but I guess I am wrong.

    Thats a lot of really sharp advice which leads me onto more questions. I realized, when watching a POV short-film about a live action video game parody, the advantages of having a camera as small as a DSLR (like the 5D used in the film). I can foresee scenarios where your ability to get the shot you want is hindered by the length of the video camera your using. I can imagine scenarios in the opposite where the DSLRs small size or lack of video specific functionality on the physical camera can prevent certain live shot work.

    The blackmagic 2.5k is shaped more like a DSLR than video cameras. I try to contemplate all the advantages and disadvantages of that but I'm afraid I surely miss some points. I'm starting film school back up again after a year hiatus and I asked some professors for recommendations. They recommended I don't get a camera at all and that I should work around the supply of the schools film cage. However. I feel as if not owning a camera is what has held me back thus far and will continue to do so. Like playing guitar, I'm much better at getting at something if it's right there and I can grab it and use it whenever I want as long as I want and nobody can tell me what I can and can't do with it.

    I would like to start taking photography as a hobby more seriously to. My girlfriend wants me to do shoots of her and us. I have a strong desire to go on adventures around the city and create some quality photos. I'd also liked to be fully equipped with photo gear next time I go on vacation. So all that puts a lot of points into the DSLR side. I need some strong opinions on what kind of questions I should be asking myself. i notice photography friends and professionals travel with several lenses and switch between them frequently. I have a general sense of why that is but lenses as they pertain to filmmaking are a big mystery to me. That is, what kind, how many. I hear about cameras in video often but never really about lenses. So that raises some questions:

    1. Average number of lenses in a serious amateur filmmakers arsenal. (this will help me understand what to get, where I'm going to be, and the division of budget)

    2. If I were to say, buy a $2,000 canon video camera and say a $1,000 canon DSLR for seperate purposes, would I capitalize on the ability to interchange lenses between the two devices or are photography lenses unusable for film format? I don't know much about compatibility of lenses but I feel like the money invested in lenses alone that may only work with a single brand or camera type is kind of a binding contract. It'd be nice to purchase something that I may want to upgrade one day but am able to stick with all the same lenses and accessories.

    3. Does using two different kinds of cameras on one project create an inescapable picture quality continuity problem? Say, if I ever wanted to have a DSLR jump in for just a single shot that is too compact a space for my video camera, will the audience notice even after, say, post production magic? I know stop motion films are shot with dozens of the exact same camera (paranorman was shot with 63 5D cameras). But I am not sure if the same is true for live action filming. Seems like the black magic cinema cameras attempts to cover both needs with it's size and ability to add on and make it practically as huge as a commercial production camera. A well rounder sounds like a great way to go here.

    As far as the comment about 5D being very easy to beat for a lot cheaper. Can I get some elaboration on that? Perhaps the black magic isn't a great value camera at it's price point as there are several videos on youtube comparing it to the 5D with a (magic lantern) video hack and the 5D picture seems to be superior.

  8. #8


    Time lapse videos are made with DSLR's using still images and stitching them together.

  9. #9


    Responses to your questions below:

    Point 1:
    How many do you need for the task at hand? What will budget permit?

    I need 2849 lens, Fuzzymuffin needs only 10, There is never a rule which dictates how many you "should have" only how many do you need.

    Point 2:
    In a way...You should buy cheap for now.
    You are a student, you are learning and this all new to you.

    I'd even suggest buying a second hand DV tape based camera, one which has full blown manual controls, all the manual dials and features you need to "learn" how to video. Yes you can always buy far nicer kit but surely the time to make that leap is after film school when you know what you want/need to achieve results.

    Point 3:
    I've used multiple cameras of different models but I have generally kept them to roughly the same spec, sensor size, type of camera. If I go from a 10 usb web camera to a 600 camera, You've got those differences, If I go from a 600 to a 2000 you'll have differences still, Whether that's capture resolution, framerates, sensor size, what type of lens can be fitted ect

    But...Excluding the cheap rubbish webcam. In the hands of an experienced artist, if you are using the tool correctly you can produce great results, Price does not = Talent, Experience, Creativity, ever. You are absolutely right that you need to practice with the kit but I'd caution you against buying the best you can afford right now, Why not buy it after you have the experience/knowledge?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    London, England


    Sorry Rembrant Bob. I never suggested yr Misses wasn't strong. Indeed I never mentioned you either.
    - So, it seems yr misses is quite capable of handling a heavy camera, but I'm not sure that applies to many girls entering Media School. . . . . + Not understanding: how she can lift that 16mm camera, if I can't lift the lenses . . . . er? How do you know what weight I can lift, perchance?

    Most folks desire something that is neat, balanced and easy to view the screen. That is what they might expect for serious amount of money. Some level of Auto-control and Stab would be quite useful, too.
    By contrast, despite its technical competence,(in the right hands), the BlackMagic is really a system camera as you must know, which may need another LCD when used with rails, a DSLR lens, Matte and other things like focus-wheels* are attached, then there is the external battery and SSD .

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