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Best Camera Package for Young DP?


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#1 Daniel Garee

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Posted 26 September 2011 - 11:17 PM

I'm 26 and have a few credits under my name. The last as camera operator for a feature shot on the RED. Now I'm planning to move to LA to try and launch a career there but was wondering if a purchasing a camera package would be beneficial before I headed there. I'm still learning mind you and need to find more projects to improve my lighting but cameras and exposure I'm quite comfortable with. 35mm and 16mm are my preferred formats but it seems so many producers want digital.

Should I even invest in a system or is putting that money (I obviously don't have much) into something else a better idea?

Any comments I know will be helpful. Thanks so much.

Dan
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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 26 September 2011 - 11:31 PM

A bank account comes to mind.

Seriously, cameras, and especially digital cameras, are quite often a loosing investment. Unless you have a way to pay it off very quickly, that money is much better spent on food and shelter between the jobs.
If you needed to buy things, you should buy the things that every shoot will want/need-- lights. Not big lights, but those little "this is my special secret sauce light," lights which you can bring out, or a simple kit like a small Arri Softbank for those gigs when you only need 3 lights for an interview (or 4 or whatever).

If you are dead-set on buying a camera, I'd recommend keeping it cheap. For a long time the HVX was a mainstay (as was the DVX) and the HVX is still kind of a good investment for some shoots, if you can get it cheap enough. Same can be said for the EX series of cameras (which I own). A lot of people want the DSLRs now, they seem to have replaced Lens Adapters, and for the price they may be worthwhile. But, and this is it, don't forget you can't just buy the camera. Tripod, Monitors, Lenses, Matte Boxes, ways to dump the footage on set ect all add up and add up very quickly and the big problem with Video is each year there's a new "hot," camera it seems which everyone wants.
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#3 Jason Hinkle (RIP)

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Posted 27 September 2011 - 01:31 AM

I'd say go for a DSLR because you can use that to shoot as much as you want and improve your lighting craft. Still photography is a great way to practice lighting & composition as well so you get both. With a t3i at $850 for example you break even at around 6 months mark (vs renting). You could definitely use that or similar camera for indie projects.

Check out http://www.lensrentals.com/ camera section and you can get an idea of rental prices for pro camera packages. You can do some calculations based on how much you're working & earning and see what would make the most sense. Unless you're working a lot, the value of your camera might depreciate before you're able to hit the break-even mark. So it doesn't always make sense to buy.

16mm cameras are going for super cheap on eBay these days but of course you have to pay for processing!
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#4 Marcus Joseph

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Posted 27 September 2011 - 08:50 AM

Maybe something like the Sony PMW-F3 with S-Log, which would go for about 20 grand or 25 grand with a bit of a good setup. The Red/Arri setups (Epic/Alexa) are at least base 60 thousand. But weirdly enough if you were to do a few big wedding jobs you'd be more likely to make your money back on the product (F3 or SLR packages) than most jobs in the industry, which is weird enough.

If you're shooting a lot of commercials, you could make a fair bit per day, but also renting your equipment to the production company would also work a bit. But if you won't be working all that regularly it might not be worth it in the long run. I personally prefer rentals to adapt to current technologies and think it's better off that the production/rental companies just take charge of it all.
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#5 Daniel Garee

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Posted 28 September 2011 - 09:26 AM

Thanks so much for all the advice.
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#6 Bern Caughey

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Posted 28 September 2011 - 11:42 AM

I'm for owning a system if only for it's educational value, but as you don't seem to have a pressing need, so hold off a little bit on purchasing any camera until Canon, & RED, have made their announcements. Canon has an event in NY on October 26th regarding the EOS system, & another on November 3rd at Paramount Studios. RED will also be making an announcement on November 3rd.

Even if these new products don't fit your need it's likely many others will ditch their current systems, & you could buy used at a discount.

Edited by Bern Caughey, 28 September 2011 - 11:46 AM.

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#7 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 28 September 2011 - 10:29 PM

The choice of which camera to USE comes from your client, not from what you happen to have laying around the house. So instead of buying any camera, instead, work on getting clients and then RENT what you need on a per-job basis. At least at first. If you find that you're working for the same people all the time and using the same camera, THEN consider purchasing but ONLY if you think you'll continue to get enough work to pay it off.

What you SHOULD consider purchasing at some point is a lighting and grip package. But again, what's in that depends largely on what you will be working on. Buying random lights and grip gear may not be in your best interest at all.

So again, get the jobs FIRST and RENT as you need things until you find some kind of consistency in the gear you use. If you go out and buy XYZ camera, you'll likely find yourself taking ONLY those jobs that agree to use your camera just so you can pay it off and justify the purchase. That's a silly way to approach a career, to let your gear guide the way. Instead, look for clients and/or projects that interest you and that you're qualified for and then figure the gear out afterward.
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