Buying a camera is a big decision, but it makes sense if you intend to use the camera pretty much everyday. If there’s times when the camera isn’t used, then renting could be best for you. When you hire your camera, you can choose the most up to date model. You can try different cameras and lenses, expanding your knowledge and experience. If you buy a camera, it’s up to you whether you insure it. You’ll definitely need insurance if you rent.
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself if you’re struggling to decide whether to buy or hire:
- What is your budget?
- How often will you use the camera?
- Will you use the camera for other commercial work such as corporate video or events?
- Do you want to use it for photography as well as video?
- Must the camera work with lenses or accessories you already own?
- Do you live close to a rental house, or will you need to travel / use a courier?
Another major decision when buying or renting a camera is what lenses to choose. You need a lens or several lenses that cover focal lengths from wide to telephoto.
- Wide angle: 14 to 35mm
- Mid-range: 50 to 70mm (similar to human vision)
- Telephoto: 80 to 300mm
- Showing off: 300mm upwards
So a 24-105mm zoom lens would be a good choice. You’ll also find zoom lenses covering parts of the focal range. For example an 18-55mm lens covers wide to mid-range, whereas a 55-250mm covers mid to telephoto.
A prime lens has a single focal length that doesn’t change. So a prime can be 24mm or 50mm or 80mm. Prime lenses are sold in kits covering the focal range. Prime lenses are usually very high quality, even a single lens can be expensive. You might want to consider renting primes for a major project.
Recommended Camera Accessories
There’s a few essential camera accessories you’re going to need when working with the recommended cameras. Whether you’re buying or hiring, the camera body is only one part of the financial picture. You need to consider lenses, batteries and the recording media such as memory cards or SSD.
If you’re buying you might find your camera comes in a bundle with a few goodies. Other essentials include a tripod, camera bag, rain cover and cleaning kit. When you rent a camera, you can specify certain accessories.
If you’re buying a shoulder mount, grip, matte box and follow focus, make sure it’s a generic system and not specific to one camera. Otherwise you’ll need to buy new accessories when you update your camera.
To give your pictures that cinematic look, you need to choose the right camera supports and rigs for full control over exposure and focus.
You might also want to consider buying a lighting kit. Most semi-pro lights are what I call ‘interview kits’. Useful for lighting medium and close-up shots, not so useful for large areas or groups of characters.
Cameras are usually supplied with one battery. That’s inadequate if you’re shooting for several hours. Use the chart in the user manual as a guide to how many batteries you need. For example, if a battery lasts for three hours, you might buy two extra. You also need to consider how long your batteries take to charge. With some cameras you can buy larger batteries that last longer.
It’s possible to use V-lock and Anton Bauer batteries with cameras that don’t have a battery plate. Mount the battery plate on rails and connect it to the DC power input. It’s also a counterweight when you’re handholding the camera.
You’ll need a battery charger with those batteries. Look for chargers that take more than one battery at a time.
Camera media is the card or solid state drive you use for recording. Most cameras use memory cards, but some cameras and most external recorders use SSDs. I’ve provided links to the best media from each camera in the Recommended Cameras resource.
The most obvious type of support is the tripod. You might be a fan of the moving shot (who isn’t?), but don’t under-estimate the power of a locked-off camera simply observing the scene.
When you want to get involved in the action and give the movie a gritty, realistic look, then a shoulder mount is always a good choice. If you want to glide smoothly through a scene, consider a gimbal. There are size and weight limits with a handheld gimbal, so you’ll want to take that into consideration. Larger cameras will require something like an Easyrig to support the weight.
Matte Box and Filters
It’s important to control and restrict light entering the lens. For this you’ll need a matte box with filter holders. The matte box is a hood with adjustable flags to shield the lens from unwanted light. Filter holders enable you to slot glass filters in front of the lens.
Neutral density (ND) filters act as sunglasses for the lens. They give you more flexibility for controlling exposure. Other useful filters include graduated ND and polarising filters.
It’s essential to keep your lenses free of dust and greasy marks. I always recommend buying a cleaning kit. Remove dust and grit with an air blower and soft brush. A cloth with optical cleaning fluid will remove greasy marks. Make sure all the grit have been removed before you use a cloth, otherwise you can scratch the lens.
Use a separate cloth to clean the lens barrel and the camera body.
Action cams such as GoPros come with waterproof cases, but your main cameras won’t be waterproof. If you’re shooting in rain or snow, you need a raincover. I suggest buying one that’s generic, rather than made for your camera. Then it’ll fit your future cameras.
When you’re out and about with your camera, lenses and other accessories, you need a handy bag. I personally prefer a backpack over a shoulder bag, it makes life easier when walking to a location.
Camera bags come with a variety of zip pockets and a main compartment with adjustable dividers. Buy a padded wallet for storing your memory cards or SSDs. If you use glass filters, buy a padded soft case for storing them.
Terms used in this Article
- Solid State Drive. These are hard drives without the spinning discs, so they’re not limited to a particular size or shape.
- V-Lock / Anton Bauer:
- two different systems for attaching professional batteries to your camera. Each requires a different battery plate. Anton Bauer is also known as Gold Mount.
- stabilises camera movements to give smoother handheld shots.
- ND filter:
- Neutral density filter. It reduces the amount of light entering the lens, without changing the colour of the light.
- Graduated ND filter:
- One half of the glass filter is neutral density, the other half is clear. The transition between the halves can be gradual or abrupt. Mainly used to reduce the brightness of the sky, without affecting the rest of the image.
- Polarising filter:
- adjustable filter that removes reflections and glare from highly reflective surfaces such as glass and water. Also removes the effects of atmospheric perspective, which makes distant objects look blue.