Videomaker – Learn video production and editing, camera reviews › Forums › Cameras and Camcorders › Professional Camcorders › deciding between xf100, AC90 and Mark III for first low budget feature › Hi dswiftoc – if you want
Hi dswiftoc – if you want your audience to have the familiar experience of watching movies with with film-like shallow depth of field you probably want to avoid small sensor camcorders such as the $2499 XF100 or the $1725 AC90.
Even though there has been some very nice work done with the XF100, for example, you'll notice that it has the deep focus "camcorder" look – even when it might have been nice to focus on the actress' face in closeup:
And for film-like dynamic range and the ability to color your picture in post, you probably want to avoid 8 bit 4:2:0 color space cameras such as the $2999 5D Mark III or even the $5499 Canon C100 "Cinema" EOS camera.
Instead, in your price range, coming from the T4i, I would get the $1995 Blackmagic Cinema Camera with the EF mount (for compatibility with your existing Canon lenses).
The BMCC is also the only EF mount camera you can buy right now below $3000 that comes out of the box shooting uncompressed RAW – which is how they shoot digital in Hollywood (e.g., Les Miserables (Arri Alexa shooting Arri RAW) and The Social Network (RED MX shooting RED RAW)).
The camera comes bundled (for free) with a full $945 version of DaVinci Resolve, which is the standard color grading software used on many Hollywood features.
Here is a narrative example of what this camera can do (please note the use of selective focus – otherwise known as "shallow depth of field"):
Why does Hollywood use RAW for digital storytelling instead of the compressed codecs in consumer DSLRs and even pro video camcorders? If you're trying to tell a story, you will probably want to set the mood with lighting and color – or you may want to use chromakey for special effects – which means color correction or keying in post.
Twelve bit 4:2:2 uncompressed RAW holds up extremely well to manipulation in post. You can "grade" it (correct its color) without banding, blocking or other artifacts. If you screw up your white balance on the set, you can fix it. If you need to shoot green screen, you won't get the artifacting around the edges of your actors that can ruin keys shot with compressed codecs.
The 8 bit 4:2:0 Quicktime .MOV from stock Canon DSLRs, on the other hand, can "break down" when you try to grade or key in post. Same thing for the 8 bit 4:2:0 AVCHD .MTS from the AC90 or even the compressed 4:2:2 MPEG-2 from the XF100.
If you want the highest video image quality for the money, the 2.5K BMCC will give it to you. I shoot with its little brother, the $995 Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera with lossless CinemaDNG RAW, and in 40 years of shooting Super 8, 16mm, tape and digital, it produces the most Hollywood-like images I have seen from a camera that is accessible to independent shooters.
Here is what this little 1.9K camera can do, shooting RAW:
One more thought – in addition to hiring a pro for sound, you may want to use the money you're saving on the camera to hire a professional colorist to grade your picture. It will be worth the money when you see the results on the screen.
If you look past some of the language he uses (there's a little too much swearing for my taste), this is a nuts and bolts look at what it takes to make and distribute an inexpensive indie movie that actually makes money.
Hope this is helpful and good luck with your project!