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Find the right camera for you

Corey Ellis
June 1, 2016 by Corey Ellis Alum

So, you’re a beginner filmmaker looking to purchase a new camera? You’ve come to the right corner of the interwebs! Hit play to get help from Mr. Sunny, a totally legit business owner, as he overviews five entry-level cameras to guide you in making the right decision, followed by a recap and recommendations just below the video.

Smartphones

If you’re just starting out, sometimes it feels like you need a new setup to even begin shooting. But because of the high video quality built into modern smartphones, the only filmmaking gear you need could be sitting there right in your pocket. Smartphones are capable of creating ever-increasingly sharp images thanks to higher resolutions. That means you can shoot, edit, and publish your work without ever touching a dedicated camera or computer — or dishing out the dollars to buy new equipment.

Tip: Y’know how we just said you can edit videos with your camera? Our mobile-editing app Cameo was created just for that purpose. You can snip and splice your videos together, use gorgeous filters, and add hand-curated music directly in the app, and then immediately share them on Vimeo.

Even another tip!: We have a whole series of videos dedicated to shooting great video using only your mobile device. Give them a watch!

Point and Shoot

Perhaps you feel like you’re ready from an upgrade from your phone. Or maybe you keep running out of space. Or you’re tired of draining your battery. Understandable! The next step up is a point and shoot, which is a relatively cheap camera package, all things considered. 

Unlike your phone, you’re not limited to internal memory or battery. And with a point and shoot, your filmmaking scope changes with the addition of a decent optical zoom. This upgrade brings with it better image quality too. Some modern point and shoots are even beginning to compete with higher-end cameras because of increasingly larger sensor sizes and higher resolutions. But unlike those cameras, you can still keep this one in your pocket!

Tip: Looking for a particular model? We recommend the popular Sony RX100 models, the Panasonic Lumix DMC‑LX100, and the Olympus Stylus TOUGH TG-4. The price range varies, but these models can cost anywhere from about $300-$900.

Action Cams

Actions cams are the newest editions to the camera market. These high-quality, tiny camera packages are relatively cheap, and can be used to capture otherwise impossible shots because of their eensy size. You can mount them to anything: a surfboard, kite, helmet, car, cat, etc. But like your phone, you’re pretty much locked into one wide-angled image. One thing that really sets them apart, however, is that these small cameras are waterproof, and their durability is why they’re used on all sorts of projects, from blockbusting films to everyday home videos.

Tip: Action cams are great for documenting, well, action. They’re really amazing at it, actually. But on the other hand, if your project requires more range of zoom and greater control over your image, you might want to consider getting a point and shoot to get more bangerang for your buck. Some modern point and shoots are even equipped with waterproofing — so think about what your story most requires when deciding between action cams and point and shoots.

We’re fond of the GoPro HERO Models or the Sony HDR Action Cams, which cost anywhere from $200-$500.

Camcorders

Smartphones are really good at documenting everyday life. Camcorders just happen to do it a bit better. These cameras are equipped with optical zooms that allow you to toggle between a wide angle and a super-telephoto image, making them impressively versatile life-documenting cameras. On a tripod, camcorders become great sideline cameras for recording sports and capturing events that require a large range of zoom. With a great battery life and economical recording formats, these cameras offer some of the longest record times of any cameras for beginner filmmakers.

Tip: If you’re considering a consumer camera for a project that would require a higher quality image and bigger sensor, consider moving up to a DSLR or Prosumer Camera Package.

In terms of camcorder models, we’re sweet on the Panasonic HC-V770K and the Canon VIXIA HF G models. You can get a solid one for $400, but these can cost you $1500 and upwards.

DSLR

With advancements in sensor technology and faster media, modern DSLR and mirrorless cameras are beginning to rival the performance of higher end cinema packages. Features like interchangeable lenses and large sensors make DSLRs are a great choice for an intermediate filmmaker seeking a boost in image quality. These versatile cameras also serve a bonus purpose, as they’re outstanding photographic machines as well.

Tip: DSLR’s are amazing machines, but they’re less automated and more expensive than other beginner camera options, so you may want to experiment with a few other types before jumping straight to DSLR.  

For some specific types we like, peruse the selection of Canon Rebel Ts, the Sony Alpha a6300, and the Panasonic DMC-GH models. There’s a whopping price range to be had with DSLR and mirrorless cameras, and these recommendations will go for anywhere from $400-$3000.

With any new camera purchase, consider renting or borrowing a friend’s first to make sure it’s the right option for you. Read reviews and view sample footage to help finalize your decision. Then, get out there, practice filming, and upload all your amazing videos for the world to see. Even if you’re just starting out, sharing your videos on Vimeo will let you partake in an incredible community, get inspired by your peers, and see your progress over time.

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p>Happy hunting!

9 Comments

Keri Komarniski

That was hilarious! Thanks for the laughs and info!

Films for Ipod

I'm about to finish film school and they hadn't answered this question as good as you guys.
MANY MANY THANKS!!

João Gouveia Plus

What a funny way to learn. Best simple and informative video EVER !!! Nice team you have :)

Vera Belyavskaya

Thank you so much! Your articles are really helpful and fun! =)

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