Entry level DSLR + lens(es) for ~$1000

Hi there,

I've been casually film-making for a couple of years, but I'm about to start properly studying film and kind of stepping my game up (in terms of seriousness of productions, etc). Anyway, I've used friends DSLR's before (mostly the Canon 550D), without any real knowledge of the technical side of them - but I liked the result. So I kind of figure I should properly get my own equipment, as it's kind of annoying for both of us for me to constantly be borrowing stuff.

Being a student, I don't have a hell of a lot to spend, and am looking at trying to spend around $1000NZD ($850 usd - pushing upward if justifiable). I'd like one solid lens (I did find using stock photography lenses sufficient, but I'd like a more suitable lens) to start off with, obviously getting more in due time. I also have a rather rubbish tripod which I'd like to replace, but before that I need to get a somewhere near decent mic + steadicam. I was initially looking at the Canon 650D, but recently, my readings and youtube viewings have lead me to really want the Nikon d5200. However, this is top of my budget, and using stock lenses - not giving me much to play with in terms of other equipment.

Any thoughts, advice, etc, given my budget?

Thanks in advance
First, I'd hold off on the Steadicam/Glidecam/stabilizer. Those take hours and hours of practice, and while they're neat and all, you should focus on learning the camera and lenses (and sound!) first.

As for a lens, or a few lenses... depending on your shooting style, you might want to consider primes. You can get a single zoom lens as a workhorse, and that's a smart purchase if you tend to shoot in more fast-paced, uncontrollable situations. If you're focusing on narrative and you are taking time with each and every shot, then primes may be the right choice.

For a general zoom, you'll want to make sure you get a constant aperture lens. Kit lenses that come with camera bodies are rarely (if ever) constant aperture, usually f/3.5-5.6, so there's light loss when zooming from widest to longest. There's no one zoom that will do it all, either. You can stay on the wider side and sacrifice having longer focal lengths, or stay on the longer end and work without a wide angle, or you can dwell in the middle and not have very wide or very long.

Tamron makes some great, affordable, constant-aperture zooms. I actually use the 28-75mm f/2.8 and find it to be a very capable lens, but I keep a wider zoom (Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8) alongside it. The 17-50mm f/2.8 is also a great range, and can get you most of what you need, but having a limited telephoto range my be frustrating. A second lens to cover the 85mm, 100mm, and longer range would be wise.

Primes may seem intimidating, but they can actually force you to learn about lenses and focal length. Need to switch from 35mm to 50mm? You have to change lenses. A typical starter set for film making includes 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm. Look into vintage primes (old glass: Nikon, Yashica, Zeiss) and you can put together a pretty impressive set of primes within your budget. Older Nikons will mount on current Nikon DSLRs, but often the use of vintage primes requires adapter rings. Look into what is required to put whichever vintage mount on the camera you have/plan to buy... some adapters include a glass element inside, and this leads to light loss and the loss of infinity focus. Check before you buy, and make sure that the pairing requires only a simple adapter ring, or no adapter at all. I use Yashica primes on a T2i, and the adapter ring is very simple.

Again, this is not for fast-paced production, though it can be a fun challenge to try and make a complete short film with a single prime, since you have to move the camera to get either a wider or tighter frame. The one thing to note about most vintage glass: it will not talk to your camera, so you'll be working completely manual on focus and aperture. That's not necessarily a bad thing, either.
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$1000 won't get you very far if you need to buy everything.

The best camera out there is the GH2. You'll need to figure what single lens to buy with depending on your tastes (wide, normal, long). Try to get the fastest one you can. And after hacking it, you'll need some kick-ass card and that's usually around 200$.

For sound, there are a few topics on this forum that list some no-budget options. The Tascam and NTG-2 would make a good start and it's half your budget (new, you can buy used and save some bucks for a boom pole).

As you can see, there is no room in your budget for no steadicam.. I would suggest keeping your tripod and then buy a new one. You can use the tripod as a make-shit handheld rig.
Well, i should clarify, despite wanting more equipment, the only vital thing for me is a camera and lens(es), the school has decent equipment to lend us. So i do have about $1000 to drop on that, but in an ideal world id spend a little less and get more of my own stuff.

Thanks for the good replies, Everyone. I'm on my phone currently, so ill research what you've all said later.

In response to rayw, my computer is relatively fast (for a laptop). It is 8gb ram, and an i7, 3612qm processor (2.1gHz - 3.1gHz)
Do NOT get a Nikon for video. They have a mind of their own when it comes to video. The firmware is really quirky. Supposedly the ae-lock will keep your exposure locked when shooting video in manual, but my experience with my D5100 tells me otherwise.

I'm actually going pick up a Canon T3i(600D) body soon and start amassing some Canon glass, then put my D5100 and Nikon lenses up for sale.
What are you reasons for that conclusion?

Concerning the Nikon? Obviously it's IMHO, but I've never liked the workflow and layout of the cameras. Some elements on screen don't seem logical to me.

Nikon have never be renowned as good video cameras, they've never even been known to produce them! So they're hardly experts in the field, whereas Canon and Panasonic both make cameras at a reasonably professional level (for video) on top of their SLR range.

Let me point out I have never particularly researched Nikons in depth
So finally back to a computer..
Hmm, okay, I am leaning back toward the Canon 650D/600D (T4i/T3i) now. Interesting that y'all don't recommend the Nikon, though, as a lot of other threads here dp. However, the Canon (at least in NZ) is signifantly cheaper, and gives me more to play with in terms of lenses and a mic.

So I'm currently thinking along the lines of
Canon 650D
Mic system (which I haven't done enough research on, but assume I'll be spending about $200-$300)

I'm not quite sure what direction to go in terms of lenses. Primes seem ok, but I do like the option of having some zoom (plus I need more lenses if I go down the primes route?). A few things I've read said the stock 18-55mm is sufficient (it comes relatively cheaply with the kit here), although you make a good point about the lack of constant aperture. I would mostly be shooting shorts, narrative stuff, and probably not that high action. I don't have a heap to spend on lenses, really, so I'm probably looking for 1-3 to do a general job, for around $300-$400 at the very most (and that is really stretching my budget).
My preliminary plans for my new setup(camera and lens wise) come in at $750-$800. Hoping to get $600-$700 out of my Nikon gear. The final set up I want I want to have will be around $1400-$1500.

(round 1)
T3i body
- 50mm f/1.8
- 35mm f/2.0

(round 2)
- 28mm f/1.8
- 85mm f/1.8
The two mentioned above seem really good, but ultimately out of my price range.
I was thinking of using the kit zoom lens, but I am quite concerned about the lack of constant aperture.. So I was thinking something fairly general like this http://www.ebay.com/itm/Tamron-SP-A...14743726?pt=Camera_Lenses&hash=item257d3a02ae (I really know nothing about lenses, so this may be a bad call) and maybe a prime or two to compliment it?

If it helps, my shots are often moving, and I like to be really close (only when it makes sense of course - but I like the idea of a macro lens, something like this - http://www.ebay.com/itm/Canon-EOS-E...95733780?pt=Camera_Lenses&hash=item3f24867f14 - which seems too cheap..). But I do like big wide shots too - I use them fairly infrequently, but I like contrasting them with close ups and extreme close ups.

Edit; just read up on macro extension rings, and they should suffice (for now, at least) for any extreme close up stuff I want.
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Concerning the Nikon? Obviously it's IMHO, but I've never liked the workflow and layout of the cameras. Some elements on screen don't seem logical to me.

Nikon have never be renowned as good video cameras, they've never even been known to produce them! So they're hardly experts in the field, whereas Canon and Panasonic both make cameras at a reasonably professional level (for video) on top of their SLR range.

Let me point out I have never particularly researched Nikons in depth

Hi cheeseandchallenge - before you make your decision, you should have up to date information. What MileCreations and others have said about Nikon video was true until the release of the Nikon D5200. The D5200 has almost no moire and better resolution than most of the Canons (see Andrew Reid's eoshd review here).

Please see this side-by-side with the $3300(US) Canon 5D Mark III:


With the $2800(US) Nikon D800 (please watch at 1080p):


With the $1300(US) Panasonic GH3:


Not bad for a camera body you can get for $659(AUS - posts to NZ).


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I know it sounds a little cliched, but I'd like to avoid getting the body off ebay for warranty reasons (and I have bought tech overseas before, when it goes wrong, it is definitely much more hassle sorting out warranties). I have looked at a few aus retailers, and I can get it for a decent price, but by the time shipping + exchange is accounted for, it is pushing my budget. I do like the camera, but I think I can get better lenses + easier service etc. by buying a cheaper canon..

Edit: actually, just started researching vintage lenses. I think at these prices, I may consider the Nikon + $200ish on vintage lenses. I don't know a lot about them, in terms of adapters (quality) and whatnot. Anything I should be looking out for?
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