camera-dept Good Starting Cameras For a Broke High Schooler?

So, I'm thinking of starting a mini production company thing with a bunch of people from my school next year, but I wanna have some good recording equipment to start out with. Currently I have my dad's old JVC GZ-EX355BU Camcorder (idk that's the model number) and my mom's old Canon EOS Rebel T2i. Whether or not those are good...I don't know. If they are, I'd love to know, but if there are better options please send some suggestions. Advice on other equipment such as lighting, microphones (?), etc. is welcome too, but I'll probably end up making another thread about that. Thanks!
 
Do you have a budget in mind to buy your camera? Are you willing to buy used or are you looking for new?

One thing to keep in mind is that when you buy a camera for video work, you need to consider the whole camera system. Lenses are probably the most important factor. Do you own many lenses or are you going to be buying lenses too? If you are using the Rebel, then do you want to stay in the EOS family of lenses? There are other factors in considering the camera system like battery type and weight. Do you own a tripod and will it support the weight of a new camera or will you need to buy a new tripod as well?

The title of the thread says you are broke. What do you want to accomplish with a new camera? Instead of spending money on a camera, would you consider focusing your time and $ on telling some good stories with the equipment you have?
 
You have a good point with that last paragraph. I’m not like, broke broke, but I’m buying a computer soon and I probably won’t have much money to spend on film stuff after that. But I think it would be good to try and spend on things to make the story better rather than a camera. I guess video quality doesn’t matter as much when you’re just making films with friends, it’s the story that counts.

The Rebel, for its age, still has really good video quality, so I’ll probably stick with that. I only have one other lens for it (I think it’s a macro) so I might buy a couple more, and I definitely need to find a good tripod. Thanks for all the help!
 
You have a good point with that last paragraph. I’m not like, broke broke, but I’m buying a computer soon and I probably won’t have much money to spend on film stuff after that. But I think it would be good to try and spend on things to make the story better rather than a camera. I guess video quality doesn’t matter as much when you’re just making films with friends, it’s the story that counts.

The Rebel, for its age, still has really good video quality, so I’ll probably stick with that. I only have one other lens for it (I think it’s a macro) so I might buy a couple more, and I definitely need to find a good tripod. Thanks for all the help!
In combination with magic lantern the canon eos-m can be a real beast. if you don't mind the decoding time and complected grading and the risk of corrupt SD.

 
Last edited:

sfoster

Staff Member
Moderator
The t2i is very dated - poor color bit depth, no auto focus, and most importantly very poor low light performance.
The thing about t2i is you can't really use practical lights.. just like normal table lamps and stuff, they aren't bright enough for a t2i

It performs well in the sunlight though.
If any of you kids have a iphone 12 or 13 theyre way more modern and i just checked amazon for you - you can get a stabilizer (steadycam) for an iphone that is USED/GOOD condition on amazon for only $80

Again look at the USED option not the band new ones for $160

It would be wonderful if all a good film took was story and actors but having made short films for a few years now, basically the only feedback people ever give is "that one shot was cool!" so i have to believe that is really all most people even care about lol.

You can also do things like put someone on a skateboard, wheelchair, rolling computer chair, etc and just push them and it looks like a very smooth dolly shot. And you can have people run with actors or just walk around using that stabilizer and its a nice shot.
 
Last edited:
You have a good point with that last paragraph. I’m not like, broke broke, but I’m buying a computer soon and I probably won’t have much money to spend on film stuff after that. But I think it would be good to try and spend on things to make the story better rather than a camera. I guess video quality doesn’t matter as much when you’re just making films with friends, it’s the story that counts.
Okay. Believe me when I say I'm not trying to talk you out of buying a camera, but you should consider what other places your money can go to improve the quality of your film work. You mentioned buying a tripod, I think a quality tripod is an important tool for filmmakers. Make sure you look for a tripod designed for video, not still photography. You generally want a fluid head which allows for smooth pans and tilts.

You mentioned buying a new computer. That can be an incredible game changer if you are planning to edit and color your own work. A solid computer can improve your post process and save you tons of time and headaches. A new computer isn't something most filmmakers consider when upping their kit, but again it can be a game changer for your workflow. It's unlikely to result in better films though, keep that in mind.

@sfoster mentioned an image stabilizer. That's a piece of gear that can up your filmmaking game, allowing you to tell your stories in interesting ways.

I own quite a bit of gear. I can tell you that a good camera can enhance your filmmaking, if you know/learn how to use it. The main point I want to make to you and others that might read this thread is that there is a world of gear that supports the camera system: lenses, storage media, cases, image stabilizers, monitors, etc., etc. In general, once you've chosen a camera, you will also be locking yourself into many of the accessories that work with the camera you've chosen. It's an important thing to consider if you are going to start investing in video gear. Then you have start thinking about lighting and grip equipment... :)
 
The best camera for a bunch of high-schoolers wanting to start making their own short films is the camera that you already have at your disposal.

Camera support is important: a solid tripod with a good fluid head will handle much of what you need at this point, so don’t get distracted by shiny things like gimbals just yet.

Don’t worry about low-light performance. Cameras want light, and learning how properly to light for video is the skill you need to develop first. LED technology is at the point where you can get a lot of quality output for a fraction of what it cost 20 or even 10 years ago.

SOUND. This is the big killer. Audiences are much more forgiving for slightly soft or slightly over/underexposed images than they are for bad sound in a film. You said it‘s you and your friends, and I’d suggest you all talk and see if one of them may be interested in learning and focusing on sound. A basic recorder and boom mic kit (and headphones) can go a long way, but you need to have someone dedicated to handling sound in order to get the best out of it. If nobody in your group is at all interested in learning this aspect of filmmaking, perhaps you have another friend who might be, and who would love to join the crew.

And yes, a good computer is important. If you’re shooting on the T2i, 1080pHD doesn’t take a whole lot of horse power, but you want to make sure your computer is relevant for a few years anyway (I’m just about to replace my 2017 iMac, which is still doing an admirable job with FCPX and 4K ProRes). Get something that can allow you to move up if you end up getting to the point where a newer and better camera makes sense. And if you’re shooting on a newer iPhone with FilmicPro and ProRes, you do need the power to handle it in post.
 
Yeah, sound was another thing I was concerned about. I'll probably be able to find someone who'd be down for that. As for the computer, I'm looking at one that has 8 gigs of RAM, which isn't necessarily a ton so I'll probably spend the extra $70 to upgrade it to 16, and it's got a bunch of other neato stuff that would probably work fine. I think it'll be alright to just stick with the T2i like all of you have said since I already have it and just focus more on other aspects of improving the quality of my films.
 
Yeah, sound was another thing I was concerned about. I'll probably be able to find someone who'd be down for that. As for the computer, I'm looking at one that has 8 gigs of RAM, which isn't necessarily a ton so I'll probably spend the extra $70 to upgrade it to 16, and it's got a bunch of other neato stuff that would probably work fine. I think it'll be alright to just stick with the T2i like all of you have said since I already have it and just focus more on other aspects of improving the quality of my films.
8GB won’t do it. 16GB might, but you need to consider first which editing platform you’re wanting to use. There are some good, free NLEs out there. DaVinci Resolve has a free version (Mac and PC), HitFilm is decent (also Mac and PC).

There are also some inexpensive options, but… avoid Premiere Elements as it is utter garbage. And Pinnacle Studio is no winner, either.

But figure out which direction you want to take with the software, then build your computer to match (and pay attention to RAM specs on the software, then be sure to go above the minimum).
 
Ah, that's really good to know. Both DaVinci and HitFilm both look really good, and I'll probably go with the free version of DaVinci for a while and save up to get Hitfilm or DaVinci studio. If for some reason I can't do that, I get all the adobe products for free from my school so I'll at least have that as a last resort even though it's not as good.
 
…I get all the adobe products for free from my school so I'll at least have that as a last resort even though it's not as good.
Premiere Elements is total garbage. That’s the cheap-o, consumer-level version. Personally, I can’t stand Premeire Pro either, but I know a lot of editors who use it as their daily driver. The fact that you get Adobe (Creative Cloud, I assume?) for free through your school changes the entire equation here.

It’s free. Use it.

And if you’re going to save up to buy something… don’t spend money on HitFilm. For what it is, the free version is pretty capable, but when it comes to purchase, go with DaVinci or Final Cut Pro if you want something other than Adobe. Again, plan for this in which computer you get (FCPX is Mac-only, obviously).
 
Last edited:
I was leaning more towards DaVinci, so that’s nice to hear. I have a lot of prior experience with Premiere, and I think that would be fine to begin with and then see where it takes me and when I feel like upgrading it, if I do.
 

Alcove Audio

Business Member
indieBIZ
As bizarre as it sounds, your best investments are in accessories.

You mentioned buying a tripod, I think a quality tripod is an important tool for filmmakers

I don't know if a tripod would be considered an accessory, but get quality. If you do purchase a quality tripod it will last you through many cameras. Things as mundane as C-stands will last you for decades.

SOUND. This is the big killer. Audiences are much more forgiving for slightly soft or slightly over/underexposed images than they are for bad sound in a film. You said it‘s you and your friends, and I’d suggest you all talk and see if one of them may be interested in learning and focusing on sound. A basic recorder and boom mic kit (and headphones) can go a long way, but you need to have someone dedicated to handling sound in order to get the best out of it. If nobody in your group is at all interested in learning this aspect of filmmaking, perhaps you have another friend who might be, and who would love to join the crew.

I obviously second this strongly.

Your project will only look as good as it sounds, because
"Sound is half of the experience"

If your film looks terrible but has great sound, people might just think it's your aesthetic.
If your film looks great and has bad sound, people will think you're an amateur.
Sound is the first indicator to the industry that you know what you're doing.
 
My vote is the T2i and Resolve. You can shoot a feature film with the T2i and Magic Lantern makes it a decent starter cinema camera. Resolve is a powerhouse. You'll get editing, VFX, sound mixing and industry leading color all in one program. I'd spend the money to make sure the computer can handle it. 16GB RAM will run it if you're willing to use a version like 16 or 17. The cool part is that all the old versions are available on the website for download.

If you're really creative, you can shoot a feature with that camera and any software/computer specs. I did a T2i feature in 2011 that I posted on a single core desktop with 2GB of RAM. I had to create a workflow for that, but it was possible. I created really low quality files (less than standard def) that let me edit in Sony Vegas 9. Then I broke the movie up into 7 reels and brought those into After Effects CS4 where I swapped out the low quality files for the camera originals. By using After Effects for the online, I could use plugins like Colorista to do the grade. I did the sound mix in Vegas and when that was done, brought in my online renders from AE and exported a master.

Cumbersome? Yes! But it let me make a movie with the equipment I had.
 
I was looking at the thread about that yesterday, I watched the trailer and it looked AMAZING!!! I was surprised that a camera almost as old as me could be used to shoot scenes that looked that good. I still have a lot of learning to do, but I hope that I'll be able to get good enough to make something even remotely as good as that.
 
I was looking at the thread about that yesterday, I watched the trailer and it looked AMAZING!!! I was surprised that a camera almost as old as me could be used to shoot scenes that looked that good. I still have a lot of learning to do, but I hope that I'll be able to get good enough to make something even remotely as good as that.
If you follow a basic protocol for each shot, you'll do well with it. I always set the ISO first. For that film with that lens, outdoors was ISO 200 and indoors was ISO 800. Scenes in a parking garage were treated as indoors most of the time. So set your ISO first, this is like choosing a film speed (ASA) in the old days.
Next, f-stop. With indoor dialogue scenes, try to keep that number as low as possible. On our kit lens, this varied between 3.5 - 5.6. For outdoors action, we would use a higher number like 19 if we didn't have an ND filter that day. Basically, if you don't have ND, your f-stop will be your main method of adjusting exposure.
Third, white balance. This is crucial on these cameras since you can't really fix a bad white balance in post with these 8bit files. Without Magic Lantern, you'll light your scene, set the exposure like I mentioned above, and hold up a piece of white paper (we used the back of the script). Take a still photo off it, then you'll go into the camera's menu and load that image to set the white balance. If you have Magic Lantern (highly recommend that you do), you can dial it in to perfection. Outside will be 5200-5600 and inside will be between 3200 and 4000 if you don't have daylight balanced lights.

In summary: Set the ISO based on inside vs outside, use ND and set the f-stop for correct exposure, then white balance the shot. Don't mess with the shutter speed. Leave that at 1/50 if you're shooting 23.976 fps
 
Top