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low budget cameras - Blackmagic, Canon 5D/C series,... pro and contras

Stefano Stroppa

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I just read an article (http://nofilmschool.com/2016/02/cameras-used-sundance-2016-filmmakers-why)

about the cameras used by DOP for the films at Sundance 2016, I notice there’re a bunch of film shot entirely or partially with BlackMagic, and cameras such as 7D, 5D Mark3 and C100.

I see there’s no Sony a7 series cameras being used.

What do you think you guys about the new Sony a6300 expected for march 2016?

could it live up to be a camera for low budget film, with external record? being the internal sampling 4:2:0? what could the market be for it?

or why would people prefer something like Black Magic and 5D Mark 3?

Someone out here who shoots with the Sony a7 series and prefer it over something like BlackMagic?

I’d love to hear any personal experience :) it’d be cool to open a discussion over these cameras

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Keep in mind that some of these movies were shot two years before they got to Sundance.


If the Sony A7S isn't being used much for whole features, I don't see why the even tinier A6300 would be more popular, there isn't any particular advantage to it over the A7S, it's just an APS-C camera instead of a FF35 camera. I suspect though that some people are using the Sony A7S for select low-light scenes in movies shot mainly on other cameras.


People probably use the Canon 5D because they've own it for a while.


You aren't limited to 4:2:0 with the BlackMagics.

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As far as I know, the Blackmagic cameras have supported deeper bit depths, even when production ProRes, and also have RAW modes. In the case of the Canon 5Ds, I think Magic Lantern is the reason for Canon popularity, also providing a RAW mode.


I Don't know where the Sony line stands on such things, but a quick review seems to indicate there is some firmware update that allows for RAW modes.


For me, after getting the GH-1, being impressed with that price/performance point, my 'requirement' for any thing new was deeper bit depth. I can live with 1920x1080 or obviously 2K, but I really did not like the use of 8 bits and lossy compression. Even if one did not make major color changes, getting the exposure 'right' or filming in certain conditions, led to more complexity to get something 'good' out.


Also, while I do like the ability to shoot at ISO 1600, shooting in absolute darkness has not been one of my goals... so the 'low light' response has not been a much of an issue for me. While it is a 'still' example, I shot the Daughter's wedding ceremony in the San Francisco City Hall. I shot mostly 1600 and didn't once feel a need to use the flash. The Wife on the other hand shot at 800 and did use flash occasionally, mainly as a security blanket... but in the olden days of Film we would have always had flash no matter what...

For the evening reception at a private home... I found that even at ISO 6400 it was 'not enough' so I used flash through out the evening, but still used 1600 to get more of the 'background' rather than having 'deer caught in the headlights' looks... That was with Nikons... but applicable to any other still camera these days...


In terms of price points, I think the Blackmagic series wins. The problem with DSLRs is that often a photographer will have a set of lenses that they don't want to buy over again for a 'new' camera. So that 'new' camera has to have some incredible advantage which would induce the photographer to buy their favorite set of lenses with the new mount requirements.


Since the Wife and I have been shooting Nikon for years... uh... where does the time go... we would have to invest not only the 2-3K or so for the 'new' camera but also about 10K for 'lenses' to match what we currently have...


I'm sure Canon users feel the same way...


As a note my first SLR (note the lack of D...) was a Minolta camera... but within a few years I moved to Nikon...



Edited by John E Clark
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In the world of super low budget filmmaking, you use the camera that you have. You can't really quibble about Blackmagic or C100 if you can only get your hands on a 5D. So I really wouldn't overthink this, you can bet that all the filmmakers used the best camera they had access to and just made their movie. The result is all that matters.

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