Filmmaking Tips filmmaking

Published on August 2nd, 2011 | by indietrent


Top 5 Cheapest and Most Affordable Cameras For Indie Filmmakers

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In this day and age filmmaking doesn’t have to be expensive. Lets face it, in the film industry equipment isn’t cheap. A single piece of equipment will often cost more money than the average person will make in an entire year. Although this may be bad for most of us, it isn’t the end of the world. With consumer quality video capturing devices becoming increasingly advanced each day, the options an independent filmmaker has at their disposal become wider. One of the advantages to being an independent filmmaker is that people understand that budget is often an issue and if your film doesn’t share the same picture quality as the latest huge budget Transformers film, don’t worry.

With the use of easily available cameras and equipment an indie filmmaker can get stunning images all for under $1000. Yes, you read that correctly. You have to remember, equipment doesn’t make the film. Movies are about telling a story and pieces of equipment are just the tools you use to get that story from the page and to the audience. The following cameras will allow you to capture great images that not only make your film look stunning but also allow you to save huge amounts of cash. In addition don’t forget to check out Our Guide for Affordable and Professional Audio Equipment!

1. Pentax K-x (Price Online: About $485)

The Pentax K-x is a camera that has captured my interest for some time now due to its low price tag. The DSLR independent filmmaking revolution has blown the lid off every aspect of independent filmmaking. DSLR cameras are often used in the production of web series, music videos, and have even been used to shoot the opening of Saturday Night Live. These types of cameras produce images that often rival traditional film based cameras by shooting at the same frame rate and producing a depth of field. The Pentax K-x is one of the these stunning cameras.

The Pentax K-x is equipped with features that appear on much more expensive cameras such as the ability to shoot high definition video at 24 frames per second.

  • Widescreen HD 720p video at 24 FPS
  • 12.4 megapixel
  • Interchangeable Lenses

Although the camera is a great buy it does have a few weaknesses. The camera does not support the use of an external microphone and is also prone to the “Jello” rolling shutter effect that occurs when the camera is moved while filming. However both can be overcome with a bit of ingenuity. To compensate for the lack of an external microphone users have purchased a field recorder to separately record their audio tracks. The Zoom H1 Handy Portable Digital Recorder is one of the most widely used field recorders. The recorder costs under $100 and can be easily attached to the body of the Pentax K-x allowing for professional quality audio to be recorded. In addition, the rolling shutter effect can easily be eliminated with the use of various stabilizers and specialized lenses.

Below is a video that was shot entirely on the Pentax K-x.


2. Canon T2i (Price Online: About $600)

The Canon T2i is one of the most popular cameras among both independent filmmakers and photographers alike. The camera owes much of its success to it’s brand and high quality. Canon is one of the most trusted camera manufacturers in the world and provides great support for each of their products including the Canon T2i. The Canon T2i is available at just about every electronics store and features a sensor that is able to capture great looking images in low light situations.

  • 18.0 Megapixel CMOS (APS-C) sensor and DIGIC 4 Image Processor
  • 1920 x 1080 Full HD video at frame rates of 24 (23.976), 25 or 30 (29.97) frames per second
  • External Microphone Support

The camera is a must buy for anyone looking to create either online videos or even feature length films. Shooting films on this type of camera has become an accepted practice and is occasionally encouraged by industry professionals. No longer do you need to go to film school to get access to high quality equipment.

The most significant disadvantage to the Canon T2i is the lack of autofocus while shooting video. When the camera is recording video it is up to the person operating the camera to make sure their subject is in focus. I guess it’s time to learn how to use the camera’s focus ring.

The video below was shot entirely on a Canon T2i.


3. Canon VIXIA HV30 (Price Online: About $650)

The difference between the Canon VIXIA HV3o and the first two cameras on this list is the fact that its primary purpose is actually to shoot video. The Canon VIXIA HV 30 does not support interchangeable lenses but this small drawback can easily be overcome with the use of various camera attachments and wide angle conversion lenses.

  • 24p Cinema Mode
  • Headphone Terminal
  • Microphone terminal with audio level control
  • Advanced Accessory Shoe terminal

Because the camera’s main purpose is to shoot video, it has many more features than you would find on a typical DSLR. One of the camera’s major selling points is its 24p Cinema Mode that automatically color corrects your video in-camera to provide a look that recreates film. The camera has a huge online community of filmmakers that create various films and complete challenges with the device. In addition to its picture quality the camera also features the ability to manually control audio levels. This is a huge strength for the camera, and allows users to manage the recording of audio on set eliminating the need to spend countless hours modifying terribly recorded audio in post production. Users can monitor the recorded audio using headphones via the camera’s headphone jack.

The video below was shot entirely on the Canon VIXIA HV30.


4. Nikon D90 (Price Online: About $900)

The Nikon D90 is very favorable among many because its ease of use and lightning quick start up times. The camera is equipped with Nikon‘s world famous DX-format CMOS sensor that allows the camera to interpret light in an efficient manner.

  • Movie capture at 24p in high definition
  • Short startup time
  • Image sensor cleaning

This camera is great but is definitely lacking in the sound department. The camera is incapable of recording video in stereo and does not feature a manual audio control nor does it support the capability to plug in an external microphone. The camera will create outstanding images but will definitely need a field recorder if you plan on creating anything even halfway decent. The Nikon D90‘s images are breathtaking and professional and with the use of other equipment you can create great looking videos.

The video below was shot entirely on the Nikon D90.


5. Sony HDR-CX360V (Price Online: About $800)

Sony is one of the most recognizable names when it comes to electronics and never disappoints when a new camera hits the shelves. The Sony HDR-CX360V is a great camera for casual indie filmmakers.

  • 1920×1080 Full HD 60p/24p Recording
  • Wide Angle G lens
  • 5.1ch Surround mic

The camera is a step up in terms of overall video quality and features full 1080 HD video. The camera’s main drawback is the use of uncommon video recording codecs. This may make editing a bit tricky.

The video below was shot entirely on the Sony HDR-CX360V.


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About the Author

Trent Barboza is a self proclaimed "Nerdster" and independent filmmaker who runs IndieGuyStudios. He has obsessed over independent art and geek culture for as long as he could remember and has subsequently become an Internet obsessed zombie fearing guy. Trent also runs the "Suburban Mafia" clothing line.

16 Responses to Top 5 Cheapest and Most Affordable Cameras For Indie Filmmakers

  1. Pingback: Looking for a Start-Up Film Camera? | Film Philly

  2. Some guy says:

    Great review man, thanks a lot! Especially for video examples.

  3. James says:

    Yea I agree, very nice round up of the cameras available for indie filmmakers and the video sample definitely helped. Much thanks!

  4. george says:

    Appreciate the examples!!!

  5. Shania says:

    Do you know what some of the Editing Software was?

  6. This is a wonderful compilation of reviews. Most of these camera’s I’ve read about before, but was unaware of the filming capacity. Now that I’m starting to study film, it’s a perfect start up guide. Thanks a lot! Do you happen to have an audio guide as well?

  7. Marrissa Whitley says:

    I really appreciate the reviews. I am a video editor, crossing over to film on a recent gig. I need an affordable way to pull off the look. Thanks so much!

  8. angela says:

    Such great information, Trent, thank you for compiling everything and including videos. If you could buy only one of them, and money (in this range) were not an issue, which camera would you most like to own?

    • indietrent says:

      Out of the camera’s on the list I’d have to go with the Nikon D90 due to the vast amount of accessories available for it, the camera’s ability to support various shooting modes, and the integrity of the brand. Keep your eyes peeled. I’ll be creating a newer list of camera’s pretty soon. Thanks for reading!

  9. Luis Caraza says:

    When is that new list coming out?

  10. will says:

    Thanks for the article. I’ve been scriptwriting a little while but have recently decided I want to start shooting my own stuff too. Been looking more into the vixia, and think I’m going for that one!

  11. Chad says:

    A few comments about the Canon Vixia HV30, is that it’s not much different than the HV20, which is another great choice. Bothof them record to miniDV tape, which means 1:1 transfer time to get it onto your computer for editing, but the longevity of tapes means you can easily keep the original footage without terabytes of storage. The HV20 *can* record to microSD.

    Neither the HV20 or HV30 have proper focus rings, but there is a great add-on manual focus ring for them.

    • Corbin says:

      hey, you said the Hv20 can record to MicroSD is this absolutely correct? I’ve heard nothing but the opposite and it means me buying it if it does but nobody’s saying anything about it and I don’t wanna buy it just to have no cassette tapes for it. where have you heard this?

  12. Willard says:

    Excellent. I shall begin my adult films industry……. now

  13. gadgets says:

    Simply wish to say your article is as amazing. The clarity in your put up is just cool and i could suppose you are knowledgeable in this subject. Fine together with your permission let me to snatch your feed to keep updated with drawing close post. Thanks a million and please continue the gratifying work.

  14. surprised Panasonic GH1 didn’t make it to the list.

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