Best documentary cameras


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Filming a documentary can be tough, often requiring a great deal of planning and improvisation. One way of overcoming this long grueling path is by acquiring versatile, reliable gear. Panasonic HC-X1000 Pro, Sony PXW-FS7, Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5S, Canon EOS C100, Blackmagic Design BMPCC Pocket Cinema 4K, and Canon XF-100 are among the recommended ones. Would the cost influence your choice? I would choose a video camera that works best in low light conditions and with an autofocus capability!


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Price is always a factor for me, but the camera I'd choose would depend on what type of documentary I was making. I think autofocus is pretty standard now, but I wouldn't worry about it as much if I was making a documentary where people were talking directly to the camera. I'd use a tripod for stabilization. I'd also want a camera that I could control with a remote or my phone because it would allow me to disappear into the background and create a feeling of privacy for the speaker. I find that some people feel intimidated if there's a videographer behind the camera the whole time that the person is talking, especially if the topic is sensitive. If I was shooting a documentary with lots of movement like ballet, sports, or race car driving, than I'd want the best autofocus and tracking capabilities that I could afford.


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The expense matters more to me when I'm outright buying the camera, but a lot of times you can rent the necessary equipment at a more affordable price. So, it doesn't carry that much influence for me. Instead, I tend to stick with what I know, which is one of the action cams from the GoPro brand. Documentaries are tricky because you have to be quick to capture the content. These aren't scripted shows. Unless the documentary is about a specific entertainment niche, then you're probably dealing with real people who have no acting experience. So, reenacted scenes tend to feel stilted and look bad. I know my GoPro camera inside and out. I know how to use it to get the best shot in any circumstance. There was a documentary on Netflix a year or two ago that was shot with a Hero6 Black. The documentary was called Lucha. It can be done.


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Cost and the levels of experience determine the kind of equipment to purchase. At times, it is cheaper to rent rather than purchase. The best part is that there high-quality cameras and equally lower price points!

Paul Stevens

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@ePIC The only bad part about shooting a documentary with an action cam is that it doesn't look like a reel film. It doesn't look cinematographic and that matters to many audience members. I think they're great for YouTube, but not for the big screen. There are plenty of excellent documentaries on YouTube, so that's no slight from me.

If I had a big budget, I'd go for one of the RED digital cinema cameras. They produce a magnificent picture that looks professional for less than the big studio versions.

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