When I graduated college in 2009, the question about what camera is best was such a simple question. Mostly, you had two types of choices: 1) You could get a camera that didn’t have a great image (shot on tape) but had more professional features or 2) Get a camera with a film-like look but with a completely new workflow. In my case, I decided to go with the better looking camera – Canon 7D. Overall, I feel this has been one of the best career decisions I’ve made.
Currently, there are many camera options to choose from. This tends to complicate things for film students. For most students, they don’t have the money to spend $13,000 on a Sony F3 or even a Canon C100 for $6500. So, at a high-level, I recommend DSLRs for anyone getting into video production.
With a DSLR, you immediately get to see the impacts of things like shutter, iris, iso and white balance. Furthermore, just having the camera in your hands allows you to get used to capturing images while in the field. When working with a DSLR, you still get a chance to see what settings make a difference and how this influences the overall look you are trying to achieve. Working with a DSLR gives a young film student the chance to solve problems. I can guarantee that with a DSLR you will mess things up, but this will give you an opportunity to learn and immediately apply things while filming. All in all, it doesn’t matter how much you read online or watch on YouTube. It is most important to get out in the field with a camera and start to learn.
Although I strongly recommend a DSLR at first, there are other options available for film students. The Canon XF100 gives you all of the professional features (other than SDI) that you want for only $2,895. For an additional $500 you get the SDI function with with the Canon XF105. Even Philip Bloom uses it and the results speak for itself.
If you’re not really comfortable making an investment, you can always rent. Even if you don’t live near a rental house, there are a few places online where you can rent all kinds of gear. Borrowlenses.com is one of these sites and has a little bit of everything. To really go into all the newest cameras check out Philip Bloom’s article on them http://philipbloom.net/2012/12/01/conundrum/.
Ultimately, the best camera you can have is the one on you – the worst camera is the one that is sitting on a shelf. If you have a camera and you’re filming, then you are headed in the right direction. As a student, it’s important to shoot as much as you can. Get shots for a purpose, build a demo reel and start building your career.