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08 Mar2016

Best Video Camera for Independent Filmmakers

The expense of film and film cameras were once a major stumbling block for aspiring independent filmmaker. Now, thanks to the rapidly evolving development digital imaging, the problem for the independent filmmaker is choosing between the many great camera options available to them.

Let’s be clear – there is no single “best” camera that’s the right choice for every independent filmmaker. Every camera has its own relative strengths and weaknesses. And there are many factors that can go into the final choice that each filmmaker will make. In the end, the vision of the filmmaker and their skills in planning, composing, and editing their film are the key elements to success.

But a reliable and versatile camera can make it much easier for the independent filmmaker to realize their vision. To that end, we’ve considered many factors when deciding upon our recommendation for the best camera for the budding independent producer.

Innovation Sets the Stage

When Canon introduced the EOS 5D Mark II it kicked off a revolution in digital videography. With a price point of around $2500, it was budget priced compared to the digital cinema cameras of the day. But while still at heart a still camera, it brought impressive video chops to the table as well. In fact, it was such a capable camera that filmmakers began to use it to shoot select footage for big-budget action movies and network television programs.

And the budget price made it a real vehicle for innovation. Independent shooters with limited budgets made the Mark II a favorite.  They could pick up a 5D Mark II and a few lenses, and then start experimenting, often with startlingly good results. The 5D Mark II set the stage for Canon to build upon its strengths and create our choice for the best video camera for independent filmmakers.

The Canon 5D Mark III

The tried-and-true reliability, easy-to-use design, versatility, and overall performance of the Canon 5D Mark III made it our choice as the best camera for aspiring independent filmmaker. It may not be the latest and greatest, but its value is exceptional, and its compact form factor makes it an obvious choice for the independent that’s on the go and doesn’t want to schlep around more gear than necessary.

Specs-wise, the 5D Mark III has the goods. The full-frame CMOS boasts a 22.3-megapixel resolution, backed up by a powerful Digic 5 processor, and will give you all the 1080p capabilities you’ll ever need, even 60 fps capture. All things considered, it’s a powerful piece of hardware that’ll give you the tools you need to create footage that’s crisp and clean, in a variety of settings.

Built To Go Where You Need To Go

The 5D Mark III boasts a tough magnesium alloy body, and the textured finish makes it easy to keep a firm grip on it when doing a handheld shot. And while it’s not waterproof, it’ll handle the occasional splash of moisture with no problem.  Visibility on the 3.2” LCD screen is excellent even in sunny conditions, so you can take pains with your framing and focus even when the sun is beating down. It’s also a great advantage for playback if you need to check a shot – you can even compare shots side-by-side simultaneously. If you’ve got an external monitor, plug it into the mini-HDMI output. You can only stream 720P while you’re shooting, but that’s sufficient for the purposes of monitoring your takes.

Canon also added a headphone jack to the Mark III, which is a nice touch; since it lets you monitor audio levels while shooting if you’re not capturing the audio on a separate device

Function Above All

A strong design is important, but how the camera works for you is just as vital. Canon made some excellent refinements in the exterior control layout to the 5D Mark II when they created the Mark III. Exterior controls are logically laid out and easy to use. In fact, there’s obviously been a lot of care taken to ensure that frequently used controls are spaced enough that you won’t accidentally flip one when you mean to use another. You can also assign different functions to a handy- multi-function button – that’s great when you want to quickly switch between settings, say for example changing the ISO.

For versatility, the 5D Mark III accepts both Compact Flash and SD cards. And you can use the cards simultaneously, letting you capture a backup of your shots – that’s great for the filmmaker who’s shooting on a tight schedule and wants the security of backup footage.

Versatile Performance

What sets a DLSR video camera, like the 5D Mark III, apart from dedicated video cameras is their versatility. The full-frame sensor of the Mark III is combined with pixels designed to work well with very little light. That means the low-light performance of the Mark III is extremely good. That gives you the ability to capture great-looking footage in a variety of environments without the necessity of extensive lighting.

The Mark III also benefits from an amazingly good auto-focus system. The 61-point AF system works like a dream with the camera’s processor and is quicksilver-fast at locking in a sharp focus and holding it throughout any lighting conditions. That’s a great benefit when shooting fast-paced action scenes or athletes in motion.

Bottom Line

If you’re cutting your teeth as an independent filmmaker the EOS 5D Mark III has what you need to capture excellent footage for your creations. And more importantly, it’s a camera that lends itself to the demands of independent filmmaking. It’s compact, easy-to-use, and very affordable when compared to many of the alternatives. As a well-selling camera that’s been around for several years now, there are plenty of available accessories, and you can pick up camera bodies or different lenses at bargain prices if your do a little shopping around.

So, if your creative energy is devoted to developing your creative vision, and not spending all your time comparing specs in search of the ever-elusive “best,” you’ll have all of the cameras you need in the EOS 5D Mark III. Get one and get shooting!

– Video Caddy

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