How to Invest? Sony, Panasonic, Canon
As a student I have used all kinds of different gear and have been involved in multiple shoots but I wanted to get some advice before investing in my own gear. Hence the question:
You always hear "invest in the glass, cameras come and go." My understanding is that Sony has the e-mount all the way from little nex to fs series making it very easy to maintain gear continuity at any level. Panasonic doesn't have as wide variety but seems to really be listening to customers during development and providing tools at incredible price points (gh3 i.e.) Canon has a great lens lineup, not too friendly to the lower budget crowd when it comes to cameras. Also to throw in there, the mirror-less mounts are WAY more adaptable than an EOS mount. On that note, which would be the wisest investment route long term?
At the moment you're a student on a limited budget. Buy the best kit system that suits your current needs that you can afford and get out there and start shooting. You will learn a lot about what you need without yet investing in an expensive lens that doesn't suit your chosen genre of film making. You can then start saving for your first "quality" lens.
You might like to keep this in mind though. Canon make a great range of quality lenses but the limitation is the EOS system and getting the iris to function easily on other brands. That said Canon now has a wide range of camera systems that can use these lenses from HDSLR, through the C300 and soon to be released C100 and C500 (available with EF or PL mount). RED cameras can also carry the Canon EF mount. Cameras that go beyond these systems generally require a PL mount for fully fledged feature film making.
Zeiss CP lenses are specifically for film / video and the mount can be changed if you decide to change to different mount camera. They are also a lot more expensive than stills camera lenses though. Zeiss also make excellent stills lenses that are cost competitive with Canon L series and Nikon.
Nikon lenses overcome the non-manual iris of Canon EF and the iris can be de-clicked and fitted with adaptors to suit other lens mount cameras, including Canon EF, making them an excellent choice for video work. Their focus rotates the opposite direction to other brands though.
There are some great lenses for the 4/3 system cameras but these lenses may not cover the larger sensor area of some cameras.
Canon 60D, Panasonic GH3 or Sony NEX are all good reliable all round cameras that will get you started.
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Josiah - Phil has given some great advice on lenses. I differ with him a little on bodies. As an investment for the future, if I could afford it, I would not buy a camera body that doesn't have a headphone jack. Sound monitoring without a headphone jack is not something you want to have to deal with.
For Canon, that means the $3500 full frame 30 minute 5DMkIII or above. For NEX, that means the $1600 VG20 or above. For Panasonic/micro 4/3, that means the $1300 GH3 or above.
I also differ a little from Phil in that I would add Sony Alpha to the list of lenses/bodies to be considered and Nikon to the list of bodies considered.
There is a lot of high quality classic Minolta and modern Zeiss glass for the Alpha system, and the $2800 full frame 30 minute A99 is a solid still/video camera with a headphone jack.
The $2100 full frame 30 minute Nikon D600, along with Nikon lenses, should also be considered - even though it is more challenging to adapt Canon lenses to Nikon bodies than vice-versa.
Hope this is helpful, and not "too much information" :)
Good luck with your decision - and your career.
Hybrid Camera Revolution
Thanks, you guys have hit on a lot of things I've considered too, I think if I can narrow down the question it would be which lens mount would you recommend starting from scratch? New cameras are showing up faster than popcorn and are making it hard to decide on a route based on camera specs. I'm specifically looking for which systems you think would be most effective to start with long term? For example the point was made, don't get EF-S glass because it won't work later down the road.
Josiah - As a micro 4/3 guy, I have to admit I'm prejudiced. But I have Nikon, Canon FD, Canon EF-S, Konica AR, 4/3 and micro 4/3 lenses. With inexpensive adapters, all but the Canon EF-S are fully compatible in manual. With a $495 Redrock adapter, the Canon EF lenses work with micro 4/3 too. And my 4/3 and m4/3 lenses are great auto lenses.
I would buy into the mount that was the most flexible and most open. I've shot with NEX cameras, and I like them, but NEX hybrid still/video cameras are crippled by overheating and NEX camcorders are too expensive for me. So that leaves m4/3 and the GH3, which I have on pre-order.
Looking forward to the m4/3 mount BlackMagic Cinema camera too!
I have considered the GH2/GH3 route and to be honest I would prefer the GH3 over an NEX 7 for example, but the thing that unnerves me is that panasonic seems to top out with the AF100 using the 4/3 mount. Sony's E-mount on the other hand is used all the way through the nex, vg, and fs lines making it really easy to work at just about any price level with the same set of glass.
Yes, that's a tough one. As of now, when I need to move up, it will be to buy or rent the Blackmagic Cinema Camera with micro 4/3 mount. It was a big deal that Blackmagic chose micro 4/3 as its second mount after hearing from the user community. This gives m4/3 shooters an affordable upgrade path to RAW, ProRes and DNxHD.
And I'm still hoping that Panasonic plans an "AF200" to meet the FS100/FS700 challenge from Sony. A hacked GH2 and the stock GH3 should hold me over until then.
Hybrid Camera Revolution
P.S. - you can jump from micro 4/3 to NEX with a $25 adapter. Won't do any good with m4/3 system lenses lacking an aperture ring, but for manual and cine lenses (such as the SLR Magic HyperPrime Cine 12mm T1.6), it would be a good solution.
I have inexpensive Nikon/NEX, Canon FD/NEX and Konica AR/NEX adapters for those occasions when I need to rent an NEX camera (or if, Heaven forbid, I decide to switch from the GH3 to a Sony cam at some future date :)).
If I had to choose one or two lens mounts today that can fit almost anything, I'll choose Canon EF lenses (Not EF-S) and Leica R glass. Leica R over EF.
Both of these are made for highly demanding still camera resolutions and will work excellently for video. The downside is that these lenses are not built for video - which makes focusing tough at large apertures.
Hope this helps.
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I have had great success with used Nikon Nikkor manual glass. I have Canon bodies, but with a simple adapter and a little bit of math (to figure the crop factor) they look really good. In my opinion these lenses are the best quality for value there is out there. I have a 50mm that cost me $200 and a 35mm that cost me $300. They blow any EF-S series lens out of the water in my view.
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I don't usually like to tell people what to do (because they don't listen anyway) but hey, I'm in the mood, so take this for what it's worth.
Video equipment gets obsolete very rapidly. It is very difficult to "invest" in it with a longer time horizon than 2-3 years, if that.
There are two "equipment philosophies," both valid. One is to buy the hottest gear, spend a lot, & sell it rapidly (before it has depreciated too much) so you can buy the NEW latest-and-greatest next year. The other option, which you seem to be pursuing: "invest" in the most reasonable cost-performance-ratio equipment that you can find, keep it a long time, and accept that you will not get much for it, if anything, when you sell. This requires considerable research and no small amount of luck. I think if this is your path, you should be looking at video cameras, not DSLRs, because that market is more mature and stable. Video cameras are going to be a lot more useful to you, there are a TON of great video cameras out there, and they will still be useful several years from now, whereas the newest DSLRs (a year from now) will probably make the current crop look inadequate, imho.
If you decide on Option 2 then you should also try to save yourself a lot of money by getting to know somebody who is pursuing Option 1.
The "buy the glass" idea is good, but it really belongs to a different era, when lenses didn't offer all of this advanced automation, aberration correction, etc. and "glass" was more easily transferable between various PL-mount cameras. I don't think anyone can predict for certain which CAMERA manufacturer will have the winning hand in this market, five years from now, so investing in a lot of glass is problematic, and may even lock you into a path that is not optimal. I know too many people who feel "stuck" in a certain DSLR line, because they bought a lot of Nikkors (oops) years ago. Yes, there are adapters, but they don't generally offer the complete package of electronic connections that "native" glass will.
So my unsolicited advice is to buy a good, cheap, used (or even new) video camera for next to nothing, let the DSLR or 4K or whatever market sort itself out, and concentrate on the main thing: your skills, not the impossible task of predicting the unpredictable.
Good advice, to be honest I've found myself looking less and less at cameras altogether and thinking of saving that wad of cash and putting it into a miller, or a sachtler. Thinking there is that a solid tripod will outlast any camera on the market and even lots of the glass, plus it doesn't matter what camera I"m using, i'll always need a tripod.
I still have my first "good" tripod, and it still gets some use, to support a second camera or my timelapse unit.
You have to think hard about what makes the most sense for you. My first purchase, as a budding documentarian, was a Nagra tape recorder. Similar logic to yours, except that I didn't foresee video! But it was a good idea. I used the Nagra a lot more than I would've used a film camera at the time (film is expensive!), getting lots of pre-interview material, some of which made it into the doc. Plus, I could handle a lot more in post when I had my own audio deck.
You are coming along in an incredible time, for better and for worse. On the one hand, barriers to entry are way down, so a normal, non-trust-fund-endowed student can buy equipment that is incredibly capable. On the other hand, barriers to entry are way down, so ... so can everybody else. And one person with a cellphone camera in front of a cute kid or kitten might make more from YouTube than you will ever see in your life, but that's another story.