Today we're going to look at 4 great cameras for filmmakers on a budget. Making a film can be extremely time consuming, not to mention expensive. There's also the struggle of getting people, particularly actors, to show up. When you're on a budget and can't afford to pay your actors and others on the set it becomes an even bigger dilemma. The least you could do for getting that help is to get great footage for everyone involved. These cameras can not only help you fill that bill, but they work nicely for those with a small budget.
We'll start with the GoPro Hero 4 Black. The great thing about GoPros are how versatile they are. They're easy to use when you just don't have the room for a larger camera and need a particular shot. Car shots, bike shots, even attaching them to a drone allows a ton of possibilities in your footage. Even if you have a higher quality camera, there's no reason not to have a GoPro in your arsenal.
The GoPro 4's processor is twice as fast as previous versions which makes it possible to shoot at a 4k resolution at 30fps. Shooting a fast scene or wanting to do some slow-motion clips and worried about how smooth it'll be? That's not a problem for the GoPro Hero 4. Just drop the resolution down to 1080p and capture 120fps.
For what you spend on the camera, it also comes with a waterproof housing that will allow you to shoot down to 131 feet deep in water, a skeleton door for greater audio when full water protection isn't needed, a flat and curved adhesive mount, quick-release buckles and a three-way pivot arm for mounting the camera on a helmet. For charging you get a Mini-USB cable to charge your GoPro via computer or a USB wall adapter.
There are a few drawbacks to using a GoPro Hero 4 Black though that should be mentioned. Video is shot in H.264 only. You're also stuck with a fixed lens which makes it difficult to play with the depth of field and other options you'd have with a DSLR. Finally, the interface is a bit more limited than what you'd get with a higher end camera. With all that said though, the GoPro Hero 4 Black shoots some great footage for those on a budget, and it's also a great option for those who'd like a bit more versatility than what they might have with a higher quality camera. Not to mention it's much cheaper to replace if you're shooting some extreme footage that could result in damage to your equipment.
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The Canon T5i is a great camera for both videos and pictures, and priced nicely for filmmakers on a budget. It also includes a few advancements over its now discontinued predecessor, the Canon T4i, including different kit lens options. Continuous shooting has also seen a significant improvement over the T4i. It looks like Canon has also tweaked their color settings a bit compared to the older model, making them a bit more consistent than they had been in the past.
Other enhancements include a new finish and grip, and a 360-degree rotation mode dial. The live view preview allows real-time shooting with creative filters as an added bonus. There's a nice flip out LCD screen and it handles higher ISO fairly well. Finally, unlike the GoPro there's a nice selection of lenses available although you'll lose some of the versatility because of its size when trying to get tight, creative shots if that's your thing. Like the GoPro, it records in H.264 only unless it's hacked.
With these features though, there are some drawbacks. Modern options like GPS and wireless are missing. There's also been complaints about how the AF (auto focus) works and the difficulties of using it, particularly with its visibility. There's also been findings of some aliasing and moire in some photos and video taken with the camera which isn't a fun issue to deal with. The saving grace that people have mentioned is Canon's straightforward interface which make it easy to use. For the price, it might be a desirable tradeoff.
The other tradeoff one has to consider with a camera similar to this is the price itself. As we said, the price of the camera is cheap for those on a budget and looking to shoot a film with good footage. What most people fail to consider though is the price of the lenses that they might want to try with the camera. Granted, the T5i comes with a lens to get you started if you choose to purchase the kit, and more can be purchased later. While purchasing extra lenses can run up the cost, these lenses can be used on other Canon cameras too if or when you decide to upgrade the camera body. This can be a blessing or a downside depending on how you want to look at it.
Amazon Canon EOS Rebel T5i Digital SLR with 18-55mm STM Lens Price - $649 & Free Shipping
The Nikon D5300 offers a bunch of great features and images far sharper than most cameras in its class. It's also the only camera on this list without a low-pass filter, meaning the moire effect that we mentioned happens with the Canon T5i won't happen on the Nikon D5300. Extras also include an interval timer shooting and a quiet shutter which is once again rare in this class of cameras.
The viewfinder is larger and it sports a higher-resolution LCD than the older model, along with an improved body design. It also contains a stereo microphone and has GPS and Wi-Fi capabilities. Nikon also included a new version of it's Expeed image processor to allow for the possibility of 1080/60p video, better battery life, and an extra stop of ISO sensitivity. For in camera effects, it has a few including toy camera and HDR painting. It handles low light footage extremely well which is great when you're trying to produce dramatic photos and video.
For the cons, the AF is said to be a bit slow and looks at such a wide area that it can sometimes be off. Personally though if you're going to be shooting a film, you probably should be manually focusing to get the exact shot you want. Video recording length is limited to 20 Minutes at 60fps. Again though, when shooting a movie you'll likely be stopping between takes, etc. so it shouldn't be an issue for most people.
Finally, the other tradeoff is the same as that of the Canon T5i with the lenses and needing to purchase them, either with the kit when you buy the camera or separately after purchasing the camera body itself. Again, this can be a bonus as you move up in cameras as you can use the lenses on the new one, or it can be a detriment if you're trying to keep costs down from the get go. The other drawback is the Nikon D5300 uses Nikon lenses only.
Amazon Nikon D5300 with 18-55mm Auto Focus-S DX NIKKOR Zoom Lens Price - $696.95 & Free Shipping
The Panasonic GH4 comes with a bit higher price than the other cameras but it's well worth the cost for what you get. It has added a bunch of new features with its core video shooting fanbase in mind. It's also a nice update from the GH3. The Panasonic Lumix GH4 now comes with the ability to shoot 4k video, a newly designed autofocus system with improved continuous-shooting performance, and a wide range of video frame rates, bit rates, audio formats, and file formats that it's now capable of shooting. It's the first prosumer camera to offer Cinema 4K along with Quad HD 4K. Its EVF and LCD are also higher-resolution than the previous Panasonic GH3.
Like the GH3 it has Wi-Fi connectivity which can now use NFC and QR codes for a quicker pairing of devices. The Panasonic GH4 also has an upgraded All-I codec in addition to interframe compression. Do note though that it doesn't support All-I for either 4K standard. Another feature added to the GH4 that wasn't available in the GH3 is its support of multinational video standards in one camera. The Panasonic GH4's other new features include color and audio reference signals, a 15-step master pedestal setting, and Zebra.
Like the other cameras mentioned, there are some cons that might also be considered pros. The Panasonic Lumix GH4 comes with an MFT lens mount. The nice thing about an MFT mount is that it offers more lens compatibility. On the downside, with an MFT mount you're losing two things, image stabilization and camera control of the iris which may lead you to prefer an EF camera instead. So it's a tradeoff between versatility with the lenses and stabilization and camera control. Plus, as with the other two cameras in our list, there's the extra cost of lenses. On top of the lens cost, there's also a few other accessories required to shoot the best-quality 4k. These accessories include a HDMI connector and a UHS Class 3 (U3)-rated SD. On the bright side, they're not required to shoot with the camera and can be purchased later as your finances grow.
Amazon Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 4K with 15mm Pancake Lens Kit Price - $1,399.99 & Free Shipping
Wrapping it up
All four of the cameras listed shoot beautiful video, but each also comes with tradeoffs which can be expected when shooting a film on a budget. If price is the main factor, then the GoPro Hero 4 Black is the way to go. While you lose some of the versatility with lenses, you also gain the advantage of a small compact camera that can take a beating in a large array of situations.
If you're okay with shelling out a bit more for lens versatility, one of the other choices may be the way to go. Remember lenses can usually be used as you upgrade the camera in a particular line. The Panasonic GH4 offers the most versatility with lenses although you also lose a bit of control in the other areas. The Canon and Nikon lenses usually require that the upgrade be within the same line of cameras. If you go the route of dealing with lenses though, you can usually get away without having a large selection in the beginning by going with one good prime lens and one zoom. There's also a bunch of shops that usually rent out lenses for cheap if a particular one is needed for the day.
If you have a bit of room to play with your budget, the best case scenario would be a camera with the ability to change out lenses and a few basic lenses to start, and a GoPro to go along with it for the more action involved shoots where damaging the camera is a large possibility. This offers the best range of control and options in all situations. Not to mention, if you can get your hands on a drone you can get some great aerial footage using the GoPro to really enhance anything you shoot. And who doesn't love a crane/aerial shot?