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Best camera for a documentary?


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#1 Adam Symes

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Posted 14 February 2014 - 11:52 PM

Hi, I am a filmmaker by trade and intend to shoot a cinema documentary next month and I am investigating a good camera to use.

Preferably it would be cinema quality off the bat, so no up-res prior to DCP.

Any suggestions would be hugely appreciated.

Adam


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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 15 February 2014 - 12:01 AM

I think that all depends on what kind of money you're wanting to spend either on rentals or purchases, as well as what type of shooting you're planning on doing. There are many differing forms of documentary-- and there is a huge environmental factor-- which means no single camera system is the best to pick.


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#3 Adam Symes

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Posted 15 February 2014 - 12:33 AM

That's a fair assessment of the situation. Expenses - minimal if possible. Focus; Feature Film Mockumentary, just seeking aspects of perspectives.

Frankly I'd love a 2k camera, but without looking at RED, Arri, the upcoming 2.5k blackmagic I'm not too sure.


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#4 Freya Black

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Posted 15 February 2014 - 04:44 AM

 the upcoming 2.5k blackmagic I'm not too sure.

 

This camera has been around for a while now.

 

Freya


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#5 Sabyasachi Patra

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Posted 15 February 2014 - 09:02 AM

There is no single God among cameras. You need to choose as per need and budget. If you are looking at fast set up times, less of frankenstein rigs, low light sensitivity then you should go for Canon C300/C100. However, they are 1080p and not 2k. 

 

I had wanted to pick up the blackmagic version 1.0 but you can't shoot fine patterns. No idea about the quality of the BMC pocket camera. It is cheap though. The BMC needs rigs and a pre-amp like a juicedLink so that you can record audio. If you have the budget for double sound then that won't be an issue. It would be good if you rent/borrow and test the cameras before deciding the camera based on your needs.  


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#6 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 15 February 2014 - 12:10 PM

There are very few 2K cameras out there-- most are 1080p. For 2K you're looking at the Black Magic Cinema Camera (2.5K)-- though I would personally go with the 4K or the Pocket- both are shipping and I prefer the flexibility of the pocket camera. Of course the audio on them suck-- but if you're doing double system it's of little worry.

 

For a mockumentary I would almost be inclined to dust off a EX1 or something similar and I'd keep it at 1080 since we tend to associate that more with docs than super high res, for now.

 

I would avoid the C canons like plague-- the design is pretty horrible whenever I'm using one it just drains me.

 

Sony F3 may also be a cheaper option to rent these days, or one of the FS series-- though again you'll need a rig and an evf if you're doing hand held.

 

There's the new Panasonic GH4K which is a 4K system but should be pretty affordable when it comes out and gives the option of pro i/o with an attachment in a dslr.

 

you could also go with a vDSLR-- they are all pretty similar. Canon is the "go to" though I have a soft spot for the GH2 and the Nikon D800.


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#7 Adam Symes

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Posted 16 February 2014 - 01:32 PM

I have and shoot on a D800 quite a lot, I also have access to a Digital Bolex, but the issues getting lenses for it are a bit much.

This is a feature film mockumentary I am shooting in college and will definitely end up on the cinema screen so I am unsure about using 1920x1080 if it will be blown up for a 2K image.

Am I making sense/over thinking it?

I am leaning towards the C300, but haven't heard much feedback from them at all until now. if shooting 1080 were ok for cinema screen I'd be all over it.. What do you guys think?


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#8 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 16 February 2014 - 02:18 PM

If you are going to end up with a product that will definitely be projected onto a big screen, why even debate it?  Set aside the money in your budget for rental of a 2K camera and go with it.  If you find that the overall production is going to suffer due to the amount of money you need to spend on camera rental - and all the post equipment if you use a RED - you may need to re-evaluate how realistic it is to utilize a 2K camera for the production.

 

I would also budget for S16 on paper and compare the figures with digital camera rentals, etc.  You'd be surprised how nice a 2K scan of a standard 16mm negative looks when projected on a big screen.


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#9 Adam Symes

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Posted 16 February 2014 - 03:25 PM

Hi Bill,

 

thanks for your frankness, it may have been the slap across the back of the head I needed. Freya Black set me straight on the availability of the BMCC and it has taken a lot of my attention since reading that.

I feel like the Mockumentary we are shooting will aim to be shot on the BMCC with the film within the film being shot on the Digital Bolex 2K raw for the instant acknowledgement of a different source. I know this can be achieved with ease in post, but the more 'in camera' differences we can achieve, the better.


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#10 Robin R Probyn

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Posted 16 February 2014 - 08:00 PM

Hey you guys need to get out more.. :) not one mention of the Sony F5..!!  this is the best choice by far.. EX3.. C300.. RED.. BMCC..FS..  talk about sabotage a production before it even starts !


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#11 Adam Symes

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Posted 17 February 2014 - 06:43 PM

Sure the EX3 isn't high enough quality? A lot of those cameras are good ideas, tough on budget though :/


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#12 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 17 February 2014 - 06:45 PM

I have a soft spot for the EX series cameras having shot quite a bit with them-- last time I had an EX3 was in a massive rave paint party. It's not 2K; though you have to ask if you really need 2K.


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#13 Raphael Van Sitteren

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Posted 17 February 2014 - 07:20 PM

I think the first question you have to ask yourself (in term of image) do I need (can I afford....in terms of feasability not budget) a large sensor or not ?

BMCC is being sort of in the middle between large sensors and EX1/ EX3 type of cameras.

 

It all depends on the subject and the type of shooting you're about to face. 

 

Run and gun situations all by yourself don't call for large sensor as you'll struggle with focus all the time and end up throwing most of the material away.

On the other side, controlable and settled situations, repeatable actions, an assistant, would allow you to spend more time polishing the image. 

 

Your subjects dictate that choice more or less.

 

2K is not a big step up from 1080p so I wouldn't base my choice on that criteria.

 

If you don't go for large sensors then EX1 and EX3 are the way to go, very good cameras, sturdy workflow and many creative options.

I prefer the EX1 ergonomics but it's just me, the EX3 has TC IN though.

You can record on an external recorder (Ninja / Blackmagic Shuttle / Soud Device) to enjoy 4:2:2 recording, which will give you a bit of room for grading.

 

If you go for large sensors, then you have to ask yourself another question : is sensitivity relevant ?

 

BMCC is not really good regarding sensitivity so if you shoot in low light conditions, don't ever consider it. 

If you still lean for the BMCC after this, consider all the rig addition that is involved with this camera (and the battery issues...)

 

The Sony F5 is 2000 ISO without any gain, and you can easily push it 6400 without any problem if necessary, so if sensitivity is important, best choice !

The Sony F55 is a but less sensitive 1250 due to global shutter, but has a better color rendition... but you said budget has to be reasonable so maybe stick with the F5.

 

The C300 is not as good as the F5 in terms of sensitivity, dynamic range and color reproduction...and the form factor is a bit weird (some people get used to it... I did anyway).

But it's a bit cheaper than the F5, medias and batteries are also less expensive, smaller and easier to handle in post production, it's also a key factor to take into account if you need to travel a lot. 

You'll have an inferior image compared to the F5 (but still very good looking...) but will travel lighter, and eat better food with all the money you saved.

 

If I had to chose a documentary camera with a large sensor now I'd go for the F5 but it would depend on the conditions of the shooting I mentioned all along this post.

 

Life is all about choices anyway... ask yourself the good questions and when you have made your decision don't look back and just make the best out of the tool you chose !


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#14 Sabyasachi Patra

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Posted 18 February 2014 - 01:13 AM

 

This camera has been around for a while now.

 

Freya

Sharing a hilarious take on BMC 


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#15 Sabyasachi Patra

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Posted 18 February 2014 - 01:31 AM

Amused to hear specs of Sony cameras being rolled off and C300 trashed. I have been shooting with C300 in low light situations and can vouch for it. I shoot in c-log and pretty happy with it. You get 12 stops of dynamic range at any given point. Except documentaries and events, most of the people shoot in controlled conditions. So wonder why one can't make the 12 stops of dynamic range work for them? 

 

By the way, the implementation of dynamic range is different for different companies, so reeling off specs have no use, except perhaps for arguing in internet forums. 


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#16 Raphael Van Sitteren

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Posted 18 February 2014 - 05:07 AM

My comment is not based on specs but on testing the 2 beasts.

When you compare side by side a C300 and a Sony F5 (both in log), there is an obvious difference.

The F5 responds better in terms of color, sensitivity, and dynamic range, that's a pure fact.

MP me, I can send you the link of the test I've done if you're interested.

 

I needed to compare those 2 cameras for shooting a sequence of a documentary shot in extremely low light situation (litterally one candle light at some point) and we ended up shooting with the F5, and I must say it was the best choice for that situation and this camera really amazed me.

 

I'm not gonna bash the C300. I've done my share of shooting with that camera and I also like it.

I got over it's weird form and the not so logic function buttons, and I made some really great looking images with it, and will continue using it when the projects demands that sort of camera, lighter and more "run and gun" but with a large sensor.

 

The F5 is a newer generation, from a key video company, and is a bit more expensive, it's fair to expect a better product, right ?


Edited by Raphael Van Sitteren, 18 February 2014 - 05:08 AM.

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#17 Freya Black

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Posted 18 February 2014 - 07:09 AM

Hey you guys need to get out more.. :) not one mention of the Sony F5..!!  this is the best choice by far.. EX3.. C300.. RED.. BMCC..FS..  talk about sabotage a production before it even starts !

 

Yup F5 definitely worth a look as it can shoot 2K directly to SxS cards.

 

If you are prepared to sacrifice the 5% resolution going down to 1080p then you might want to look at the Sony F3 too which is now available for good prices second hand.

 

The Amira is based on the Alexa sensor and can shoot 2K in it's higher modes. Not a cheap option tho!

 

The Red cameras can shoot 2K but it's not their strong point.

 

Freya


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#18 Freya Black

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Posted 18 February 2014 - 08:33 AM

I have and shoot on a D800 quite a lot, I also have access to a Digital Bolex, but the issues getting lenses for it are a bit much.
 

 

Doesn't the bolex have a c-mount?

You can certainly get a c-mount to Nikon converter (I have one!)

Theres possibly c-mount to M42 out there too and there is certainly Nikon to M42.

 

Dunno, what kind of lenses did you want to use? I guess that's the important question.

 

C-mount has a very shallow mount so I imagine there are a ton of options.

 

Freya


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#19 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 18 February 2014 - 08:40 AM

I'm not sure how the rolling shutter on the F5 compares to the F3. F3 is... ungreat.


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#20 Freya Black

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Posted 18 February 2014 - 08:43 AM

I'm not sure how the rolling shutter on the F5 compares to the F3. F3 is... ungreat.

 

but now it's very cheap second hand for obvious reasons! Sometimes can be had for not much more than an EX3.

 

F5 is also rolling shutter of course. Not sure how they compare in that regard.

 

Freya


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