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I've asked this on numerous forums, but I'm trying to get the widest opinion possible.

Working freelance dop/camera at my age, I feel the need to own the camera to obtain most of my jobs. Sucks, but oh well.
A lot more people rely on the DOP/Camera op to own their own gear than spending extra on rental. Which is fine. I need a camera anyways.

I'm in need of a professional cinema camera that wont let me down and will last me years to come.
I shoot music videos, commercials, and films., a lot of times smaller productions where I'm working solo with limited resources.

Some things with big budgets and great lighting, sometimes very low budget with limited lighting.

 

I have a budget, but I can break it if its worth it.

Being young still, it would be the biggest expense. Other may think I'm crazy. But I need it for business. To make money and not just own a camera to be a big shot.

 

Sony F5 + R5 - $35,000

Sony F55 - $28,500

Scarlet + Dragon + Motion Mount - $35,00

Epic + Motion Mount - $35,500

*Epic + Dragon + Motion Mount - $45,000

*Arri Alexa HD - $50-65,000

 

*WAY over my budget, but may be worth it?

The Sony F55 seems to be the cheapest. Has great features (Global Shutter), but no raw, unless paired with R5 recorder bringing it to about $37,000.

In a way, these cameras are almost the same price. Give or take a few. Id love to get the cheapest one and get accessories for it, which id still need.

 

PROS:

Sony F5 + R5 - high frame rates, raw

Sony F55 - Cheapest, global shutter, high frame rates

Scarlet + Dragon + motion mount - High DR, global shutter, raw, most popular choice

Epic + Motion Mount - High frame rates, global shutter, raw, most popular choice

Epic + Dragon + Motion Mount - High frame rates, High DR, global shutter, raw, most popular choice

Arri Alexa - Best overall image?, raw?, high frame rates?

 

CONS:

Sony F5 + R5 - No global shutter, not as well known :mellow:

Sony F55 - No Raw, not as well known :mellow:

Scarlet + Dragon + motion mount - Noise, Limited frame rates, many user problems <_<

Epic + Motion Mount - Noise, many user problems <_<

Epic + Dragon + Motion Mount - Noise, many user problems, High in price! :(

Arri Alexa - unknown about arriraw, no global shutter, HIGHEST in price :angry:

 

 

Id get the Sony, F55 or F5 + R5, but it isnt that well known. Isnt as in demand as I hoped for.

If its all quiet and not used for cinema as much as broadcast, Id probably want to go a different route like RED as they are well known and used in cinema primarily. But performance is a let down.

Edited by MichaelFrymus

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Arri Amira maybe?

 

Don't forget all the accessories.

 

And depending on where you are, you may loose a good deal of money on all this stuff.

 

Might be smarter to just go with a low-cost camera for the smaller shoots, and then make friends with rental houses, or other owner/ops who already put up that kind of money. That's what I did. I only own a Pocket Camera, and a DSLR anymore; but I can get an Epic or an Alexa in about a day for a pretty low price from people who already spent that money.

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I'd also check out the Arri Amira - if you don't need RAW it gets you Alexa quality for a lot less.

 

Also in the sony stable is FS700 + RAW recorder. I believe thats to cheapest sony way to get 4K Raw, thats an option I'm considering right now. Since I need a high frame rate camera and the option to spread the cost: buy the camera now and the RAW recorder later - is tempting.

 

Otherwise, I've heard very good things about the F55, a friend of mine intercut an F55 and Alexa on a project and they were able to get a very close match.

 

Really depends on your clients as well and if they are going to demand a particular camera system. In that case Amira might be the best.

 

I'm a bit fan of the Cannon C300, it has its limitations, but for music video and TV stuff its easy to deal with in post and gives a great image.

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I think the F5 & F55 Raw is not practical for your kind of stuff as it takes too much space (about 500gb for one hour of footage), Red have much smarter way to compress the Raw files, and the size and wight of the camera body are also a bonus.

 

What about getting a Scarlet Dargon instead of an Epic? It should be around 25-28K including all necessary accessories.

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What are your potential clients asking for? What good is it to lock yourself into any specific equipment if you don't have clients who will ultimately help you pay it off?

I believe that the better strategy, particularly for a newcomer, is to sell YOURSELF and your skills first and foremost. You don't need to tell anyone if you have a camera or don't have a camera. That is entirely immaterial. What you do is sell yourself as a cameraman for whatever project you're after and when YOU determine what format and equipment is most applicable for THAT production, go rent it yourself from a rental house or pirate owner then rent it back to the production as if you owned it…with a slight increase in price. You put that profit away in a special account that will accumulate until the point when you want to buy something of your own.

This isn't like the days of film cameras where the technology was pretty stable and all that really changed was film stocks. Today's electronic cameras are almost constantly being one-upped by something new within months. Investing in one specific camera today risks obsolescence before you have the chance to pay it off. And having a specific camera also limits what work you're willing and able to do. You're more likely to only want to take jobs that use THAT camera so that you can pay it off and ignore paying jobs that won't use it. Turning down work because of equipment could severely limit your potential career advancement.

And if someone asks "What camera do you have?" simply shrug them off and just ask them what the project needs and tell them you have it. You getting work or not should have nothing whatsoever to do with the box you own at home.

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If you can wait, AJA Cion coming soon. 4K 444 ProRes w 4K ajaraw to Kipro option. Global shutter. 12 stops. W accessories and media it's probably under $20K. I know I've got a pre-order in the second it's available. Will the professional market embrace it? That remains to be seen but given the rep AJA has with the KiPro, I'd say it's likely it'll find a home on bigger sets.

 

I was set on an F55 myself till I read the specs on this model. Now it's a waiting game to see if itll be out before the next feature I shoot in the fall. That's the only drawback so far. AJA is a little vague about the release date.

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What are your clients (or potential clients) asking for? Red has so much buzz here in Australia that a LOT of producers who know nothing about cameras ask for them constantly. 4K and raw - gotta have those! (never mind that they haven't set budget aside for a 1st AC or lights!).

 

You need to specifically target your local market.

 

When I was making this decision for myself, it came down to the Red Scarlet or the Sony F3 (now F5) - in the end I opted for the Sony for it's superior highlight latitude and more pleasing skin tones, but part of me seriously regrets that decision for the work I could more easily have won thanks to the buzz about 'Red' and '4K'.

 

Given that these cameras are all hugely capable of making great images, your focus should absolutely be on what your local producers want to shoot with - that's what will net you the most work.

 

I don't know what market you're working in Michael, but if it's anything like a lot of the world - Red still probably has the superior hype in your local 'indie' industry. On that front I reckon Scarlet Dragon (forget the motion mount) is the most likely thing to help you get work - it's 'Red' it shoots '4K' and importantly - the Dragon sensor seems to address pretty much all of the MX sensor's relative shortcomings (noisy shadows, limited highlight latitude, iffy skin-tones at times) - so I think it'd offer you a LOT of advantages, with very few shortcomings.

 

The F5(5) is a great camera, and packed full of fantastic features, but you probably stand a good chance of ending up like me - having to show people your showreel constantly to convince/educate them that the Sony's images are "actually really good". ("Baby Alexa" is a good term to bandy about when trying to convince people of a Sony CineAlta's worth).

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sony raw takes lots of space and the camera is a lot longer than red cameras if you are using raw recorder. for purposes where the camera lenght is extremely critical (for example octacopter shoots, some remote heads, etc.) the epic is much more versatile.

I'd say the sony has much better color reproduction and maybe less noise (haven't shoot with the F5/55 myself but I handle lots of material shot with the cameras and also epic material)

 

one big thing with the sonys is the possibility to change lens mounts without tools and recalibration. may be a big feature for low budget shoots

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Just to add, just did a shoot with the FS700 4K with an Odyssey; It was amazing. It was just a corporate shoot; but I was thoroughly impressed, and with the e mount you can save some cash on glass.

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Having invested in my own kit, I cannot stress how small a part of the investment the camera is.

 

Think of how much everything else costs first.

 

Eg....

 

Lenses

Matte Box

Follow Focus

Tripod head

Legs

Cases

 

The above can set you back another $25,000 without much effort at all... way more if you're getting nice lenses.

 

If you're thinking of hiring lenses in "per job", why not buy lenses and hire a camera instead? Lenses don't date.

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If you're thinking of hiring lenses in "per job", why not buy lenses and hire a camera instead? Lenses don't date.

Amen. I have never understood why people rent lenses either unless they either 1) are just a filmmaker on a single project 2) want to use a lens they cant afford or 3) a pro who is too cheap to invest in it because they would rather "bill it to production." To hell with group #3. :D

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It's not being cheap. Can you afford a set of s4s, Ultra Primes or Master Primes? Productions usually rent everything.

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It's not being cheap. Can you afford a set of s4s, Ultra Primes or Master Primes? Productions usually rent everything.

If you cannot afford it then you fall into group #2. Why defensive? Group #3 are people who CAN afford it but chose to be cheap and make others pay for things they should provide. I heard that Guillermo Navarro likes shooting his own camera. I suppose he is not cheap.

 

Edit: It gets really old hearing people say "production" pays for this and "production" pays for that like production is not some person who is taking money out of their pocket. "Production" is not a money tree so might want to brace yourself for the coming shake-out in the industry because the days of getting anything you want at the expense of "production" are coming near an end.

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Michael faces the all too common problem most of us have encountered regarding ownership of gear. I think that the problem that many filmmakers have is reconciling the art vs commerce nature of the arrangement between themselves and their crew. Filmmakers who are self producing are operating from 2 diametrically opposed principles. They want a great looking film and they want it for next to nothing. They care only about the result and care nothing about the process or how they get there. I just left a 3 week feature with names attached because the director/producer followed this trainwreck of thought.

 

A filmmaker wouldn't expect the caterer to pay for all the food that the crew eats. Asking the DP for a free camera or lenses is no different than asking them to include a few miles of film stock in their day rate. Or to pay for the processing of the film. It's NO different. Can a filmmaker or DP donate a camera? Absolutely! But it's hugely arrogant to expect this as if you're entitled to it. Personally I love it when this subject comes up in an interview and I find out whether I'm being hired for my skill, experience, speed and talent or because I have a great deal on an Epic or an Alexa. Tell me it's the latter and I'm out the door. Cause thats someone with little regard for the position of the DP. Generally they have no respect for the job title at all and that's not someone I want to spend a month working for.

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A filmmaker wouldn't expect the caterer to pay for all the food that the crew eats.

Michael, I think this is a controversial subject and it isn't one that can be glossed over with just one viewpoint. Yes, this is a Cinematography site so i am sure your viewpoint will garner more agreement and consensus but that doesn't make it correct.

 

I think it is a false analogy to compare lending a digital camera to a production as the same as giving film stock. Film stock is finite and expendable whereas digital cameras are not (in the functional sense.) Even if you count "wear and tear" then this argument can lead to expecting consumers to pay mechanics extra for their tools "wear and tear" because it costs them out of pocket.

 

I think what turns me off about hiring crew (or more or less anything in this world) is the "tiered fees" and "hidden costs." Most people do not have a problem being fair to you but they want to get the true rate when they ask you. Saying "oh, i'll take $1200/week" but then you layer on more than twice that in the stuff that you require will quickly piss off an indie filmmaker. Saying upfront "I need $3,600/ week for my department" will garner you more respect although maybe a denial still, depending on the budget.

 

You can come back with the "anyone in this business should know that these costs are...blah...blah." But I find that common sense isn't so common and assuming things will end in you being frustrated in the end. I think crew members would do better to factor in all of their costs (including their time) and quote flat pricing to the potential client after hearing the needs of the project. Then they can compare to others and decide what they want to do.

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On most non-union, off the radar shoots the crews operate on day rates. If there are kit rentals, we often do the same 3 day week, 9 day month approach to it. Anything less, and we're actually investing in your film. There's a give and take there and you negotiate but it should be fairly close to fair market value.

 

"Flat rates" are all too often just a way for filmmakers to offer an obscenely low day rate because when you break down a flat rate, it's usually so low that there's no real payment made for the gear period. This is where the disconnect lies. But as long as the flat rate is a total that when broken down is a competitive day rate plus a standard rental kit fee, there's no problem.

 

Michael's looking at close to a $50K investment. You do that with a hope of a return. Not to give it away repeatedly just to get work.

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I think it is a false analogy to compare lending a digital camera to a production as the same as giving film stock. Film stock is finite and expendable whereas digital cameras are not (in the functional sense.) Even if you count "wear and tear" then this argument can lead to expecting consumers to pay mechanics extra for their tools "wear and tear" because it costs them out of pocket.

 

 

I'm more than happy to provide the tools of my trade for free. That's why I arrive at every job with my lightmeter, my pan glass and my viewfinder. Anything else production wants, I'm happy to provide, but they are going to have to pay either me or the rental house for it. Asking me to provide hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment as 'tools of the trade' is stretching the definition in to the realms of insanity.

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Asking me to provide hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment as 'tools of the trade' is stretching the definition in to the realms of insanity.

Okay, so next time you go to a restaurant and order a burger, tell me that you would be okay with them charging you a price for the burger as a "base rate" and then tacking on the cost of the cook to make it, a fee for the dishwasher to wash the dishes, a fee to cover the depreciation of the grill, a fee to amortize the cost of their ventilation system (which can easily be up there with any camera), the cost of the permits and insurance they have to hold, on and on you get the drift. That is how ridiculous the notion is of non-flat rate pricing. The cost of gear is as irrelevant as the above scenario I gave you.

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When I get a burger, I don't expect the guy making them to have provided all the kitchen equipment himself.

 

Historically, the studios owned all the physical means of production, and crew were employees using that equipment. As the industry has shifted toward a self employed workforce, it has become rental houses that own the gear, with owner/operators in the lower budget end of the market. Someone has to pay for that equipment, and that is always going to be the production.

 

You talk about tools of the trade as if other industries are different. A mechanic might own his set of Snap-On wrenches, but he sure doesn't own the vehicle lifts and the servicing bays. A builder may own hand tools, but when he needs heavy plant he rents and passes the cost on. This is standard practice in just about every industry.

 

I find it staggering that you as a producer think that cameras and lights should be provided free of charge.

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Amen. I have never understood why people rent lenses either unless they either 1) are just a filmmaker on a single project 2) want to use a lens they cant afford or 3) a pro who is too cheap to invest in it because they would rather "bill it to production." To hell with group #3. :D

 

There are plenty of reasons to rent lenses:

 

to get the right focal length range and look for a project without making a huge investment

to be able to compare and test lenses in order to make that decision

to choose a lens size or weight that best suits the project

to make sure the lenses will all be properly collimated and in good condition

to access lenses immediately, without needing to spend time finding, purchasing, testing and possibly having to get them serviced

to have a back up if a lens is dropped or damaged

to try out different lenses

to access lenses that may be rare or otherwise hard to find

to use lenses that match a particular camera mount or format

to use specialty lenses like probes or macros or extreme telephotos or shift and tilts etc for specific shots

to access the knowledge bank and technical resources of rental house staff

to ensure that a production isn't dependent on a particular crew member for a vital part of the gear list

to ensure that questions of liability in case of damage and associated insurance are well understood

etc

 

Some of these reasons may be more obvious to working professionals than someone trying to make their first feature on a very low budget. Clearly there is no single lens set that suits every project, and on many productions the cost of time lost due to faulty or inappropriate gear or desperately sourcing replacements is not a risk worth taking.

 

I'm not sure who you mean by the "pros" who you believe should invest in lenses - DPs, camera assistants, directors? - but calling them cheap because they won't cover costs that are rightfully production costs is ludicrous.

 

The better restaurant analogy is if you were running a restaurant and expected the waiters to bring all the cutlery and crockery and the chefs to bring all their own pots, pans and ovens.

(Edit: as Stuart just said.)

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I find it staggering that you as a producer think that cameras and lights should be provided free of charge.

I don't think that. But I also dont hire DPs either. I dont know why anyone has a problem with flat rate pricing unless you are trying to deceive by making your rate sound more competitive than the next guy just to drop the bomb after you are hired.

 

You can talk all you want about this or that but you, or anyone else on this forum, have no excuse for being against being honest and straight forward about all of your fees and requirements up front. No different than labs who add hidden fees or use other underhanded tactics. And you are in charge of whatever quote you give so if you get ripped off, it is your own fault.

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