NOTE: This article originally appears on Dollarfootage.com (our stock video project).
Please view it there at this link: ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Are you looking at starting to make films and thinking “What is the absolute best bang-for-buck DSLR camera I can buy to get started?” If so, that’s what I would like to tell you about in this short article.
Note: Keep in mind that this is merely my opinion and I am sure other people’s opinions will differ. I will just tell you what I know and then you can choose to use that information however you like.
Prices explained: I’m going to do these prices in USD and they are mostly going to be either estimates or current prices I can find online as of September 2016. Yes, the prices will vary depending which country you are in and the current exchange rate,
but keep in mind that although the prices may change slightly, I am writing this from the point of view of what is the best compared with other similar-priced options, so it shouldn’t matter if the prices differ as the other options will likely also adjust accordingly.
Best Budget Camera Body (the physical camera, with no lens)
For camera body, I recommend buying a good condition second-hand camera. The reason for this is that you can probably save anywhere from 30-60% compared with new and generally people take very good care of their cameras once you get above the lowest end level.
First Choice: Canon 60D (used)
Buy on Amazon here: Canon EOS 60D
Reasons for this choice:
It’s an insanely good camera, seriously.
Firstly there are newer ‘upgraded’ versions of this camera (the 70D and 80D, which I will list below) The reason that I say not to buy the 70D or 80D is because I personally don’t believe the extra $$ you spend will be quite worth the differences between them, new or used. If you are looking for bang-for-buck, THIS IS IT!
I bought the actual camera in the images above in early 2016 for around $500AUD ($350USDapprox) and it was absolutely immaculate with a super low shutter count* under 5000! (*Shutter count is the total number of times a photo or video has been taken on the device) What is a low shutter count? I would personally say anything under 12000 to be a low shutter count, under 5000 is super low. Again, just my opinion..
Bang for buck and large range of lens choice
This camera will give you amazing quality video for the price. You will also have the advantage of this being part of the canon EOS range which means all EF and EF-S lenses will work great with it.
The 60D is what’s called a crop-sensor camera. This in basic terms means the aspect ration is X1.6 VS a full frame camera like the Canon 6D or Canon 5D. So if you attach a lens that is for example 20mm focal length, the actual focal length on this camera will be; 20mm X 1.6 = 32mm actual focal length. I recommend watching youtube videos on the subject if you want more info. In fact, if you don’t understand something you should just type the question into youtube and you will likely get an answer. Which brings me to my next point…
This camera is super popular
Why is this a good thing? Because the more popular a camera is, the more people are using it, which means the more people are producing youtube tutorials and blogs about how to use it, do cool things and troubleshoot issues. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve found an answer to something by just typing my question into Youtube or google. I strongly advise and beginner film maker to Youtube everything.
Once you’ve set up your basic settings for filming, this camera is super user friendly. If you are looking for a professional film look I would recommend checking out this video. It uses SD cards which are my personal preferred method of storage as they can store a lot of GB and are also very cheap and most computers and laptops have an SD card drive which makes it super easy to get footage off the camera. You can of course also connect the camera to a computer via usb and get the footage off that way.
Another cool feature this camera has -which even the much more expensive full frame 5D and 6D don’t have- is a tilting screen. The 60D however has the Vari-angle 3.0-inch Clear View LCD monitor. This monitor is super handy for self filming like V-logs and if the camera needs to be either very close to the ground or held high above your head for a shot (eg: at a music concert)
It has a pop-up flash. I never used it since obviously for film you don’t need it and I don’t like the look of photo’s with flash.. but hey, it does have one!
I personally like Canon camera’s. For whatever reason people’s skin tones just seems to look ‘right’ on a Canon DSLR. While I personally like and almost exclusively use their products, I also acknowledge that other brands have some great choices too. The first that come to mind are the Sony A7 range.
You can shoot Slow-Motion
60D can shoot up to 60 Frames per second. This means that you can slow it down to the standard 24FPS and the video will have a slow motion effect (slowing 2.5 times). Super handy and looks very nice.
#1: Canon 10-18mm EF-S IS STM wide-angle lens.
When shooting video you will almost always at some point want -or need- a wide-angle lens. If you have a crop sensor Canon DSLR, then this is the lens you want. Firstly 10-18mm means it’s super wide (which =16-27mm when adjusted for the crop sensor). This is perfect for indoor and outdoor shooting. If you are planning to shoot scenery or real estate then it’s definitely worth your while having a wide angle lens.
It has ‘IS’
IS is just short for ‘image stabilization’. Not many Canon lenses have IS and most cost much more, so it’s great to see it on this awesome versatile lens. If you are shooting video, then IS will make your life SO MUCH EASIER! Just have a look at some youtube videos comparing the difference between IS and non-IS footage, the difference is very noticeable. Unless you plan to be shooting 100% of your video on a stationary tripod with no movement, then you will definitely be glad you have IS.
Note: This lens has an STM motor. This is slightly louder than the Canon USM motors. This would only be an issue if you are shooting with Auto-focus on, which if you are going for a cinematic look, or just a decent filmmaker in general, you probably shouldn’t be doing anyway. I never had my 60D in Auto mode so I can’t say how much of an issue it might be, but for me it was zero issue.
#2 – Canon 50mm STM F1.8 (‘nifty fifty’)
This is Canon’s most popular lens, and for good reason. It’s insanely cheap and offers fantastic quality images. The only downside for a filmmaker is that it doesn’t have IS. Even without IS I have still decided to include because the quality really is that good. Plus, since you’ll likely be using a crop sensor camera, that means the 50mm focal length becomes around an 80mm focal length (remember we need to X by 1.6 on crop sensor camera like the 60D). This means that it’s actually quite zoomed-in and therefor would be more difficult to get a steady shot handheld anyway. So, get out a tripod!
Another thing you get with this being a prime lens is the super-wide aperture. I’m not going to go into details about what aperture is, because there are 100 youtube videos you can watch for a better explanation but it basically translates to this: the lower the F-Stop (1.8 in this case) = the more natural light the camera allows in = the shallower possible depth of field (things in focus at one time) = The amount of background blur or ‘bokeh’ possible. Generally in film, when a subject is in crystal clear focus and the background is blurred is looks more professional, therefore this lens rocks for that!
Can you buy other lenses? Of course! Are other lenses better? Maybe, but not for the same price as these 2.
Another good option:
Canon EF-S 18-55mm IS II F3.5-5.6
I haven’t personally used this lens but I’ve seen it used in plenty of videos and the quality looks really great for the price. The reviews are also unanimously excellent.
It has the advantage of covering the entire spectrum from 18-55mm zoom lengths and of course one of it’s biggest features; Image Stabilization! If I could go back in time to a crop-sensor camera, I would almost certainly get this lens.
Manfrotto Compact Advanced Tripod with 3-way head
I don’t know exactly why, but when I first started film-making I was too much of a tight-ass to even buy a tripod! I wish I’d gotten one on day 1! For this, I’m only going to recommend 1 tripod as it covers everything I look for in a tripod; Low cost, good for video (nice grips), can be made compact for travel, good quality.
This tripod pack up so nice and small that I even travel with it on airplanes in my carry-on!! It’s just the perfect entry-level tripod and at such an amazing price you really can’t go wrong. It pans left to right, up and down and even tilts. I’ve filmed everything on this from v-logs, to professional films, stock video and more. It’s been used brutally in terrible environments like sand, ocean (yes really) and plenty of other harsh environments and still works great.
I hope this article has helped some of you aspiring film-makers. I tried to keep recommendations to an absolute minimum as there is just way too much advice out there and if you try to take it all in, you’ll end up taking no action. As a final word I would say just get started and know that if you out-grow your equipment you can always resell it online easily.
I would love to hear your questions, comments and thoughts in the comments section below. If you think I’ve missed anything please let me know. 2 Things I didn’t cover are light and sound because I didn’t want to overwhelm anyone but if you think I should include them let me know and I will.