Tips for Those Upgrading from DSLR

Recently, I came to the conclusion that to get where I wanted to be, I had to invest in a new camera. There were loads of options, but I knew that I wanted something with a larger form factor. Although some of the mirrorless cameras like the A7S were appealing to me, I felt that for the larger productions I was aiming for, I would need a camera to match up. You may well be in that situation, you may just be looking for advice for the future, either way consider using these tips when making your decision.

Make sure to do your research.

The research stage is one of the most important stages when picking a camera. It seems like an obvious one, but I bring it up because so many people make snap decisions about the camera that they buy, in fact, I’ve even been one of them. It was a long time ago, but I decided to go for a Canon XH-A1 instead of getting a DSLR. I did so because I didn’t do enough research to make an accurate decision on what I wanted.

In order to do some good research, the best advice I can give is to hit the web. What’s so great about the online filmmaking community is that there are thousands of people who are willing to share their experiences. There are some very authoritative sources like Phillip Bloom, Dave Dugdale, and No Film School who have reviews and articles that can help you make your decision. This isn’t a foolproof way of doing things, first hand experience would of course be best, but sources like these are thorough and reliable.

Finding out as much as you can, might put you off of your chosen camera, it might put you onto a new one, or it might confirm what you already thought. Either way it can’t hurt to be informed.

Make sure it fits your needs.

Just because someone says a camera is great, it doesn’t mean that it will work for you. For example, RED cameras are outstanding, but they might not be ideal for event coverage. Say you were looking to do something like event coverage, you would probably want something that is light, with small lenses, and does well in low light. These assets would work really well because you only get one chance at your shot, meaning you have to be light and mobile. Say you were shooting a commercial and you had more time, then you might want to consider something like a RED.

I would always recommend sitting down and working out the kind of work that you either do the most, or are looking to move into. Check the specs of your camera, see how it might work with your current setup and see if anyone else has used it for the same purpose.

Don’t rely on a camera that hasn’t been released yet.

My experience of this is fairly well documented, but I pre-ordered a Black Magic 4K and had a very bad experience. I don’t mean to sound pessimistic, I’m just not sure how wise it is to pin your hopes on a camera that you can’t access and hasn’t been tested yet.

In a way, this piece of advice goes hand in hand with the advice above. You should really know as much as you can about the camera that you’re looking to invest in, and a pre-production isn’t really solid enough for you to rely on. I like to know other people’s opinion, especially if I can’t get my hands on the camera itself.

The other reason that I offer this advice is that camera companies want your money and will do whatever they can to convince you to buy from them. The test videos that they put out are made to paint their cameras in a very flattering light. They may put out beautiful footage with an unreleased camera, but you have to remember that they are the experts on that camera. They know the camera back to front, they most likely have an extremely skilled person using the camera, and there are loads of other factors that contribute to the look of the video. The skilled team behind the camera that light, shoot, edit and colour the test videos have a big part to play in the test footage. Don’t make the assumption that by buying a camera, you will get the exact same results; I’ve seen great things done with cheap cameras and terrible things done with great ones.

Don’t start using the camera right away.

This is obviously for people that have already bought the camera, but it’s important nonetheless. If you’ve moved from a DSLR you may not be used to any other type of camera. In all likelihood, you won’t be prepared to use the camera right away. When I bought the FS7, I bought the great course from Doug Jenner and practiced a lot to make sure I was getting the best possible results.

There are so many learning resources that you can utilise and these, combined with a lot of practice, will mean that you are prepared to use your new camera.