The digital world is obsessed with the camera. What camera are you shooting on? What sensor does it have? Whereas old school directors of photography would test endless amounts of film stocks to ensure that light would react just the right way with those small strips of 35mm celluloid, today’s digital filmmakers run the camera’s themselves through the same gauntlet. Each camera is like its own unique film stock. Each handles light and contrast and color differently. So how do you choose which one is right for your project? As always, budget is a major factor.
For those of you looking to go viral, the iPhone is a viable option. Provided that the content of the piece is colloquial enough and doesn’t need the super-refined professional look, you should be able to use your phone to your heart’s content. The key to a successful video when willingly sacrificing image quality is to be certain that your story is killer.
iPhone aside, there are so many options to choose from that it would be impossible to cover them all. Canon, Nikon, Sony, RED, Panavision, Arri, BlackMagic—all these brands have cameras capable of shooting high quality video. I’ve had the most experience with different Canon products, so with a couple exceptions, I will stick with Canon (they aren’t paying me to write this and I have no official connection with the company. David Meerman Scott’s book on Real Time marketing encouraged me to let you know this and that my opinions are my own and not Canon’s or Sony’s or Arri’s &c.). I do provide links to the purchase screens of most of these cameras so that you can look over the specs if you feel like geeking out a little.
(1) Canon Vixia HF M500 – this little guy won’t break the bank and does still capture full HD video. Perfect for something along the lines of webinars or weekly update videos, this camera is designed to be used by just about anyone. Even though it’s full HD, it doesn’t have nearly the same look as some of the high quality cameras on this list (such as shallow depth of field, a large dynamic range). Rental rate from Rule: they don’t rent these; Price from B&H: $499.99 (after $50.00 savings)
(2) Canon 60D – Canon recently announced the 70D which replaces the 60D, but I haven’t had the chance to work with a 70D yet. The 60D is a quality little camera that offers a number of manual controls. One of the perks of the camera is its flexibly rotating LCD monitor. A light-weight camera, this would be a good starter for someone looking to make the jump into higher production valued productions. Rental rate from Rule: they don’t rent these either, but they do sell them; Price from B&H: $859.99 (after $200.00 savings)
(3) Canon 7D – running straight through the Canon lineup here, the 7D is another DSLR. As opposed to the 60D this takes CF memory cards. As with most of the Canon DSLRs it takes some pretty solid stills in addition to the video capabilities. If you’re serious about incorporating video in a meaningful way in-house, this is honestly the lowest quality camera I would consider investing in. Rental rate from Rule: $150/day; Price from B&H:$1,699.00
(4) Sony NEX FS-100 – the first and only Sony camera to make the list. This camera has a Super 35 CMOS censor, shoots pretty well in low light, and captures some nice images overall. Its ergonomics are a little weird especially if you’re going hand-held, but this is a solid machine. Rental rate from Rule: $250/day; Price from B&H: $4,499.00
(5) Canon 5D mkIII – the newest version of the 5D, the mark III is the next step in the Canon food chain. Good in low-light and not too bulky this camera can travel well and shoot without necessarily needing a bunch of lights (though lighting is always a plus). Rental rate from Rule: $150/day; Price from B&H: $4,099.00
(6) Canon C300 – now we get to some of the more serious cinema cameras. The C300 is designed exclusively to shoot video and provides a lot more information in the files it records which in turn allows for more manipulation of the image in the post-production process. For a camera like this, you’d probably want to rent it as needed unless you’re looking to become an in-house video production powerhouse. Rental rate from Rule: $400/day; Pricefrom B&H: $15,999.00 ($13,999.00 after savings).
I would be remiss if I didn’t include these next two cameras on the list. While I have not personally operated either of these cameras, I have seen them from a distance. There seemed to be a faint golden aura around them (not as strong as the golden aura around a 35mm film magazine, but still). That said, these two cameras would be used on a high-budget video—corporate film one might say—and should definitely be handled by professionals who have experience with the cameras.
(7) The RED Epic X – they shoot feature films on this camera. Enough said. Just for funsies the prices. Rental rate from Rule: $950/day. Price from RED (B&H doesn’t carry Red cameras) $46,885.00
(8) The Arri Alexa – the best in the business right now. Rental rate from Rule: $1200/day; Price: your first born child.
The most important thing to remember when it comes to making your corporate video (or corporate film) is that the tools do not make the cinematographer. Someone with talent will be able to produce quality images without having to resort to the most expensive camera on the marketplace.
-- by Joseph Baron