How to Choose a Camera for Independent Films

Independent films have always always been a great way for filmmakers to break into mainstream Hollywood feature films. It's an excellent way to prove to executive producers that you can successfully tell a story. Everyone understands that independent films have low budgets, but in today's digital world, that is no excuse for the films not to look as great as their big budget counterparts. HD cameras are available to shoot with even the smallest budgets, and if your image isn't HD quality, then people will dismiss it as having a low production value (and won't give it a fair chance). So, how do you choose the right camera for your independent film? 

Renting vs Buying

The first thing you need to determine is how much you can afford to spend. The camera is your most important tool and will have the great amount of influence on how your final product looks. You can either buy a camera for your shoot or you can choose to rent one. Renting a camera is usually the more affordable option because rental houses typically charge you three daily rental rates for each week you have it. It's also a wise option because if you're having any camera problems on the shoot, then you can call up the rental house for a replacement.

Hiring a Owner/Operator

Another option you have is to hire a DP (Director of Photography) who owns his own camera. This is the generally more affordable option because it combines your labor and equipment rental costs. Plus, you get a really good feel on what the camera can do based on the DP's reel.

Camera Requirements

In addition to shooting HD, you want to use a camera that can employ interchangeable lenses. Different focal lengths have different effects on the depth of field in an image. Changing your lenses instead of sticking with a zoom lens will create a higher quality image and will add value to your production.

Great Cameras to Consider

If you don't have much money, then a great camera to use is the Canon 5D. It's a stills camera that is capable of shooting HD video. In fact, its video quality is so great that it's been used on hundreds of professional shoots that range from low budget movies to national commercials. 

If your production has some money, then you should consider shooting with the RED camera. Before the RED debuted, there used to be a large debate in the indie community over if you should shoot your movie on film or video. The RED ended that debate because it gives the film look without the high costs. In fact, this camera can shoot at resolutions much higher than standard HD. 

Shoot Tests

Making an independent film is a huge task and the camera you choose is a very important decision. You should take your time making your choice and shoot some tests with your prospective cameras to see what kind of images they produce.