Choosing the right camera that shoots the right format and has the right look for your production is probably something you never thought of.  Typically you would leave the choice up to the video production company that you’ve selected to do your production for you.  However knowing your options can put you in the front seat of the conversation with your vender and who doesn’t want some knowledge about what they are paying for.

Video camera equipment are similar to cars in range.  You can buy a camera for as little as $500 to cameras in the 6-figure range.  Production companies usually have a range of cameras in their inventory and can often rent out a camera specifically for your production if they don’t own it.

When you get an estimate for your video needs, there is usually a line item that tells you what camera the video production company will be using and how much it adds to your overall production in quality and in cost.   By having a little knowledge here, you can have an educated conversation about the camera selection and if it’s too much camera or too little for what you are going after.

Let’s talk about your video first.  Are you planning on shooting a video that will only live on the web? Will it be shown at an event? Will you use it for television broadcast? Will you use it for years to come and need it future proof? Is cinematic quality more important to you than price? These are some of the questions to think about.

 

For most of our clients, we start with a standard HD camera that creates very cinematic look and we upgrade or downgrade it based on their need and budget.

Here is an example of what is available to the clients.

For most web based video production, a Canon C100 or C300 can be a great option.

This camera takes advantage of interchangeable lenses and a large sensor, which gives it a great look and is very flexible.  These cameras are small but pack a lot of punch.

canon c100

canon c100

DSLR cameras are another option but have limitations.  These however can be a great substitute for lower budget videos.  DSLRs where designed to be used for photography, but the Canon 5D mark ii blew people away and became the standard for video production in 2008.  In fact, television episodes such as HOUSE were shot on the canon 5d with great lenses.  If you need to cut cost, this is the option to go with although in some cases, the limitations will hold you back.  For example, these cameras are not intended to record audio, so a separate recorder is needed for audio.

Canon 5k Mark 3

canon 5d mark 3

 

4K (Ultra HD) VS. HD VS. SD

Video format is an important question.  Let’s forget about Standard definition.  It’s 2013 and everything should be in HD.  If you are getting an upgrade charge from you video production vender to go HD, you should rethink your options.

Another example is a client looking to create a 60 second spot for theatrical preview to be shown in theaters.  The above cameras are not enough here.  We need to upgrade to 4K.  4K is getting a lot of buzz these days.

Good options for 4K cameras are the Red Epic and the Sony F55 at least for now in 2013.  They also provide slow-motion recording not available in less expensive cameras.  Now you may thing to yourself, of course I want this.  It’s better.  But it will raise your budget.   Typically these cameras can rent for as much as $1500 per day not including lenses and accessories that is needed to make them work properly.  This can be 3 times the price of what you may pay for the basic camera options.

These cameras can cost upwards of $50000 where as the lower end camera that can be great option for you production are near the $10,000 mark.

red epic 5k

Red Epic 5K

 

Here is the chart of the resolution between these SD to HD to Ultra HD (4K)

CAMERA COMPARISON CHART

Comparison Chart

 

Some other names in cameras you may want to know are the Sony EX1, Panasonic HDX900 and the industry workhorse Panasonic HVX200.  These cameras are great for reality content, events and long format recording situations.  They are in the few hundred-dollar range for a one day rental and can be a great and inexpensive solution.  They do however lack the cinematic look that DSLR, Red and the Canon C series camera bring to the table, but can be much more versatile.

panasonic hvx200

HVX200

Although choosing a camera should be a choice a production company makes for you, having a little knowledge on what is available and what it means for your video and pocket book can save you a lot of headache.

About the Author: Saj Adibs is a director of photography at the leading Chicago video production company with a decade of knowledge in digital cinematography.