What is the best HD camera to shoot a movie?

Anonymous (not verified)

I'm looking for a HD camera but theres so many models I dunno what to buy. I heard about the Canon XLH1 and the new Sony HVR-A1U. Which HD camera should I buy?

tpainter's picture
Last seen: 15 years 4 months ago
Joined: 12/23/2002 - 4:25am
There is a 500 rebate going on right now for the HVR-A1U - that makes that choice a little sweeter. I looked at one recently at was surprised at how tiny the thing is. You might want to look at the Sony HDR-FX1 and the Panasonic HVX200 as well. The sony models are the most affordable.

dv.com has a shootout of some of the cameras mentioned.

birdcat's picture
Last seen: 5 years 7 months ago
Joined: 10/21/2005 - 10:09am

Heck - Go for the Red One! (Even though it's also a one chip camera).

Seriously though (although the Red is always a good choice), Sony's PMW-EX1 and it's big brother the PMW-EX3 have gotten some very good press.

Bruce Paul 7Squared Productions http://www.7squared.com

Rob Grauert's picture
Last seen: 4 years 2 months ago
Joined: 02/16/2008 - 10:47pm

1) RED is NOT always a good choice. If you have no experience working with 35mm film or a camera that has a 35mm image sensor, then RED will not be easy to use. DOF is way shallow, and with the 2K and 4K resolutions, you will definitely see if something is just out of focus.

2) There is no best camera.

H. Wolfgang Porter's picture
Last seen: 2 years 2 weeks ago
Joined: 12/11/2008 - 7:54pm
Plus Member Moderator

Not to mention, the RED crashes on occasion and it is EXPENSIVE! $17-19k just for the body. You'll need 35mm lenses, rails, mattebox, follow focus, etc., etc., etc. You'll blow your budget just renting the damn thing. Great camera mind you, just have the money written into the budget for it. Oh, and don't forget the insurance!

The EX1/3 run at $6-$8k+. With the EX1 you'll get the camera, 1 8GB SxS card and 1 battery. If I recall the batteries are cheaper than the cards. Good luck trying to shoot a flick with 1 8GB card.

From your initial choices, you sound like you're looking for something in the less than $5k range. But seriously, before you scramble your brain trying to figure out what camera to get, have you asked yourself these questions?:

1. What kind of film am I going to shoot? You'd be surprised how the choice of a camera can make or break the look of your intended film. Having a camera with a few controls over the way the image looks can influence your creativity just as much as one that has too many for you to have time to learn how to use. Take a good look at your script during the breakdown process to get a real feel for the visual look you're going for. I've seen the imagery of both cameras you mentioned and they have a hard 'TV' look to them. Depending on the type of film your planning, that may work for you. All the different brands have subtle or glaring differences between them in imagery.

2. How much money am I willing to spend? Despite what the 'Indy whizbang hey-gang-let's make a movie' yahoos try infer, getting a camera for your project(s) is a serious business. Not only do you get the camera, but you'll need support gear. The basics are; Tripod, extra batteries, tape or solid state cards or portable harddrive(s), lens filters (at minimum 1 UV), camera bag and a cleaning kit. Other important supplemental items are; at least 1 shotgun mic and a lavalier mic and headphones (not those goofy i-pod style weenies either). All those need to be factored into the cost of the camera because you're going to need them.

3. What's my final delivery format? If it's straight to tape, that's fairly simple (but tape is going away rapidly.) You're other choices are DVD (also getting ready to be phased out, but will last a while longer), straight to internet (growing more common each day), digital projection (your edit goes to a harddrive and is run through a computer connected to a digital projector) and perish forbid, film. Each format has it's unique quirks you'll have to deal with to make your footage look and sound its best. And of course, each format (most specifically film) has their monetary issues as well.

4. There are many more but this is the last one worth mentioning now, Who's going to shoot this flick, me or someone else? If it's you, take serious stock of your current skills and knowledge about cameras. Just because digital cameras are more prevalent these days doesn't meant anyone can pick one up and make a masterpiece. Yeah, sometimes some jackass gets lucky but don't count on you being the one. If you find yourself lacking in some important areas, don't let your ego cause you to blow a ton of cash and then you can't do the work. So if you aren't going to be the one shooting the project then you'll have to get someone who can. Unless your bro' has some usable to serious chops shooting, can pick up a camera and after a day or two can have a working knowledge of the camera controls, is reliable and is willing to work within your budget it would be best to keep him out of it. You'll have to do a serious search for someone to use the gear you have on hand if they don't have their own.

I know that once you have a positive lock on those questions you'll be able to make a much better decision on what kind of camera to buy. Some of the posters have given you some links to support the search. Use'em.

H.Wolfgang Porter, Composite Media Producer Dreaded Enterprises Unlimited, Inc. www.dreadedenterprises.com

birdcat's picture
Last seen: 5 years 7 months ago
Joined: 10/21/2005 - 10:09am

<p class="post">

>1) RED is NOT always a good choice. If you have no
experience working with 35mm film or a camera that has a 35mm image
sensor, then RED will not be easy to use.

>DOF is way shallow, and with
the 2K and 4K resolutions, you will definitely see if something is just
out of focus.

>2) There is no best camera.

Sorry - I was trying to be a bit facetious (I gotta stop that at times) but the Red One is still a great choice based on certain criteria - Like experience and a high budget. I have yet to hold one but would love to given the chance. I have read of many Hollywood professionals renting one for a time before they were going to use it just to get used to the new workflows, gimmicks, glitches, etc...

Yes it is expensive but not any more so than any other Hollywood class camera (cheaper than many).

As for depth of field, this has been in professional video for a very long time and pro productions want this (think of how many folks use the built in or otherwise neutral density filters just so they can open up the apertures to get some DOF). People talk all the time about "film look" and think 24p will get it for them - I think DOF is far more important in this area than frame rates.

And FWIW, if I won Powerball, I'd probably go for the EX3 (even over the Red One for the time being) as I have read so many good things about it - Yes it is expensive (probably starting in the 20K range when you configure properly with batteries, cards, lenses, etc...) but I'd love to own one.

Bruce Paul 7Squared Productions http://www.7squared.com

Pablo's picture
Last seen: 5 years 2 months ago
Joined: 07/02/2009 - 6:28am

I have a similar issue.. I want to buy a camera for making documentaries and I cannot decide among the SONY HVR-A1 or V1. The Z5 I think is my perfect but I must do a real effort to buy it... The A1 is right for my budget but the lack of true 24p and 30p makes me doubt. I don't know if buying the comsumer CAnon HV40 will be better and later buy the Z5.

I will appreciate your comments as I am just an amateur learning from the basics.