What camera should you buy? The question that literally every cinematographer and photographer has pondered at some point. The question that in my opinion is asked far too often! Why? The answer is absolutely different for nearly everyone. There are some pretty important reasons as to why it’s different for everyone, too.
Aviv Vana at Big League Film School has organized a panel of Summit Cinematographers (CineSummit) to discuss what camera THEY would buy and why.
The portfolio’s and resume’s of these filmmakers is extensive and somewhat intimidating, yet their answers echo the same concepts that many feel and preach already. This doesn’t devalue this video at all—on the contrary, it amplifies it.
One of the biggest takeaways from the video is credited to Manuel Claro (the cinematographer on the films Melancholia, Nymphomaniac and the Top Five). He says that when we evaluate cameras nowadays, we tend to associate resolution with value. Instead, we should be focused on color, highlight roll off and dynamic range.
Indeed, qualities such as this give our audience what they need to be engaged in the stories being told. Is that not the most important function of the camera? Specs that are associated with the colors captured and the latitude of the shadows and highlights tended to be more valued than anything else.
This makes sense! If a DP is searching for a camera to gracefully recreate the light and color of reality (which most are) they will of course abandon ultra resolutions. Andrew Shulkind goes so far as to say that he makes an effort to soften an image when shooting at such high resolutions.
Personally, I find that interesting and compelling images are created when color is pushed beyond what we perceive as, “reality.” Manuel Claro says that he looks for cameras that duplicate reality. If you look at Melancholia and Nymphomaniac, you see that, while these colors were captured accurately with a focus on reality, the palette only exists in their specific universes.
A perfect example of this struggle that the budget cinematographer faces is the Canon 5D Mk. III. The camera allows you to capture accurate, realistic color– the problem arises when you try to push the palette beyond it's original capture. Or if you try to pull more latitude out out of the shadows or highlights. Noise City.
Finding a camera that allows you to create a world with familiar tones, and then gives you the ability to push beyond. That is what I look for in a camera.
Watch this video, then comment and tell me what you look for.
What Camera Should I Buy? 4 Top DPs & Their Camera Choices
The CineSummit is a gathering of world-class cinematographers who reveal how you can create superior looking films over a 2 day event.
Read more about it at their website.
(cover photo credit: snap from the video)