I was always asked: Is it worth it to buy a DSLR camera for filmmaking ? In this tutorial, I’m going to show you the pros and cons of shooting video with DSLR !
Coming up !
Should you buy a DSLR for video ?
If you’re new to filmmaking, then you might ask these question: What is the best and cheapest camera for filmmaking ? Is it really worth it to spend thousands of dollars buying a DSLR just for shooting video ? Two years ago, I was also asking these question, but I think I figured it out ! It all depends on what project you’re shooting. Sure you will need a DSLR if you pursue the high quality results. You’ll even need a cinema camera ! But you’re just starting out as a filmmaker, so it’s totally okay to not have a huge camera on your shoulder.
Everything related to filmmaking will cost a lot of money, so it’s necessary to do some research before buying any gear. In this tutorial, I will show you the DSLR’s pros and cons so that you can find out if buying a DSLR for video is the right decision.
Differences between DSLR and cinema camera
Have you ever wondered why a cinema camera can cost a lot of money ? Why would people spend $3000 on a professional camera for filmmaking ? Does that mean you can’t get great videos from a cheap DSLR ? First of all, let’s take a look at the difference between a DSLR and a professional cinema camera.
Inside a DSLR(digital-single-lens-reflex) there is a mirror that reflects the light coming from the lens and sends it through a prism and finally to the viewfinder. This is how you can see what you’re shooting through the lens. When you hit the shutter button, the mirror inside the camera flips up and then sends the light coming through the lens directly to the image sensor. That’s how you take a picture ! When you switch to the “video mode” the mirror inside the camera will flip up and keep sending the light directly to the sensor. So you’re now able to record everything. That’s how a DSLR film videos.
Shooting video on a DSLR is quite simple and easy. You don’t have to spend a lot of time setting it up. The video quality is pretty awesome. Some advance-level DSLRs even have 4K ability. But when it comes to dynamic range and low-light capability, a cinema camera will definitely provide better results, giving you more detail and flexibilities in editing process.
DSLR’s image sensor
There are two type of DSLR, full frame sensor and APS-C(crop sensor). the most obvious difference between them is the field of view. If a Full frame DSLR and a Crop sensor DSLR take a video from the same distance with the same lens. Then the crop sensor will capture a tighter field of view than the full frame sensor.
When shooting videos, a bigger sensor(full frame) camera will also produce better low-light performance, meaning you’re able to shoot at higher ISO and get better video quality ! So if you have a bigger budget, I would recommend upgrading to the full frame sensor camera.
DSLR’s frame rate and shutter speed
When it comes to filmmaking, frame rate and shutter speed will affect the entire video. There is a rule called 180 degree rule. That means whatever your frame rate is, you just double that. For example, if you’re shooting at 30fps, then you should set your shutter speed to 1/60. The shutter speed will dictate the motion blur in your videos. The 180 degree rule gives us the motion blur that we’re used to seeing in film. So it’s necessary to set your shutter speed at 180 degree.
Unfortunately, a DSLR camera isn’t designed for video in the first place, so sometimes you can’t really shoot at 180 degree. For example, when shooting at 60fps, then we must double the shutter speed which will be “1/120” But a DSLR camera usually doesn’t have the exact 1/120. I think the closest shutter speed you can get is “1/125” which will break the 180 degree rule. It’s not a big issue, but we’d still want to follow the 180 degree rule. On a professional cinema camera, you’re able to follow the 180° shutter rule no matter what frame rate you’re shooting.
DSLR’s low light performance
Shooting video in low-light has never been so easy. There are so many things we have to worry about when it comes to low-light videography. The biggest problem is the ISO-performance. Not gonna lie… on a crop sensor DSLR, the maximum ISO you can use is probably 1600. If you shoot above ISO-1600, your footage will be very grainy. I think this is one of the biggest reasons why people would want to upgrade to the full frame. A full frame DSLR can really give you much better ISO-performance. For example, the Canon 6D II(full frame) has approximately the same amount of noise at ISO 6400 as the Canon T7i(crop sensor) at ISO 800 !
DSLR’s dynamic range
When you’re taking a video on a digital camera, the scene will always be either overexposed for the background or underexposed for the subjects. That’s because the camera’s sensor is not like our human eye. Dynamic range describes the ratio between the maximum and minimum light intensities. The more the dynamic range, the more detail and information are going to be captured in the highlights and shadows, which will make your videos look more real and cinematic.
For example, when shooting in a scenes that is so high in contrast, it’s very hard to capture both highlights and shadows. As you can see, the room is exposed properly, but the view outside the windows is completely gone. Or the view outside is exposed properly but the room is pure black. This always happens on our digital camera. That’s why we need HDR(high dynamic range) !!!
Well… a professional camera normally has 15 stops of dynamic range while a DSLR has only 10 stops of dynamic range. This is the biggest reason why you really need to have a cinema camera for shooting movies. But these days digital cameras are getting better and better. Lots of DSLR are now able to capture more dynamic range than ever.
This blog post explained everything you need to know about buying a HDR video camera !
DSLR’s autofocus system
Some DSLR cameras have really great autofocus system. You can literally leave your camera there and let it do all the work for you. But if you’re serious about filmmaking, you should always stick to “manual focus” Like I said before, we don’t want to let our camera touch any setting for us. Even though the autofocus is very fast and accurate, we’d still want to pull the focus manually. So it doesn’t really matter if the autofocus is good or not.
DSLR’s color profile(picture style)
If you want to make your videos look cinematic, then you have to pay attention to the “color profiles” Each DSLR has their own color profiles(picture styles). When shooting in a standard color profile, it’s just like you’re filming all the time with an Instagram filter put on the entire footage. So those videos you get from a standard profile are gonna be contrasty and a bit saturated, which is great for general use. But once you put a color profile into your footage, you can NEVER remove that ! It will be a big problem while color grading your footage.
That’s why filmmakers would want to shoot everything in “Log” Shooting in Log profile will give you a lot of flexibilities in editing-process. The Log footage actually looks very desaturated, no contrast, flat and terrible, but you can always bring those settings back in post. Well… you might be asking: why would you go through all that extra work filming in Log, and then bring those color back ? Because if you film in Log, you don’t have a preset on your videos, which basically means you can color grade your footage in millions of ways ! Log profile can also give you more detail and dynamic range in the highlight and shadow areas.
Log profile used to be available only on cinema cameras. But it’s widely available in consumer grade cameras these days. So filming videos on a DSLR has become a lot more professional than ever !
standard vs Log
DSLR for filmmaking ?
Should you buy a DSLR for filmmaking ? I think you’ve already known the answer ! YES, it’s definitely worth it to buy a DSLR just for video shooting. A professional Hollywood camera can cost 50000 dollars which no one can afford that, so I think buying a DSLR is still the best and most affordable way to go !