So about two weeks ago a good friend of mine said he was getting ready to shoot a documentary, and then after that, a feature film. I’ve worked with him before using my own Canon 1D MkIV and he loved the footage the camera produced. So while he was thinking of going for that camera, he asked my opinion on what else he should be looking for. Needless to say, my answer to his question was not a short one. I’m posting it here in hopes that it could be of some help to anyone new to the DSLR video world and looking to build a solid camera setup. And while I know Nikon has some excellent DSLR cameras for shooting video, I myself have worked mostly with Canon - and with amazing results. I also think that Canon is really embracing the use of shooting video with their “photo” cameras and in doing so, I think they really do excel in the video arena. ACF: Awesome Camera Factoid 5D Mk II $2,500.00 (price is only for the body - no lens) Video: This is a full-framed camera. ACF: When ever the word "frame" is used when talking about these cameras, it's referring to the size of the sensor that captures the image that the lens creates. Being that the 5D is a full framed camera, the sensor captures the entire image the lens creates rather than cropping it a bit. This makes wide angle lenses look VERY wide since it’s not cropping anything the lens is sending to the sensor. And due to "awesome camera science" this also means that its depth of field is the most shallow. While this looks pretty awesome, it's damn near frustrating keeping what you want in focus - especially when you're shooting in the field (ala documentary). The 5D's sensor also created a slightly richer and higher contrast image than the 60D and does just slightly better in low light than the 60D. Audio: The camera comes equipped with audio controls making it possible to run audio into the camera. This keeps you from needing to sync audio from a separate digital recorder. Video with the 5D Video 1 Video 2 1D Mk IV $5,000.00 (body only) Video: This is a 1.3x crop sensor. Basically the sensor is just a bit smaller than the 5D's sensor. And actually, the 1D’s sensor creates a DOF (depth of field) that most closely resembles what you get with 35mm film. But what you are really getting by paying double than the 5D are two things. The first being the actual construction of the 1D. Its made of an extremely durable magnesium alloy. The two 1D's that I own have taken a number of falls over the last year a half and still work perfectly. And the second reason for the price, and this is the reason I went for the camera, is it's ability to shoot in very low light and still look amazing. It does this by being able to shoot at extremely high ISO's with out adding much to any grain to the image. ACF: ISO is really a term for how sensitive a type of film stock was to light, but it's been brought over to the digital world. Now you can set the sensor to different ISO settings the same way an AC would switch out different film stocks with different ISO settings. Almost all cameras can be set to a high ISO (640, 800, 1250) allowing you to shoot with less light, but not all can get the image without adding a considerable amount of grain to the image. When we first bought the cameras, we were shooting a cross-country documentary that gave us very little control over lighting. So when we were shooting at night with nothing more than a street lamp to light the subject, these cameras worked great! This movie was shot with the 1D with out any lighting what so ever. Nocturne And here is an example of something that's much more documentary feeling: Slurpee Unity Tour And here is something I shot with it in a more studio type setting. Leap Year And another example: LoveMakers Audio: The camera has an audio input jack like the 5D, but it does NOT have audio controls. What it does have is "Auto Gain Control". Or in other words, "Sh**ty Sound". The camera tries it's best to adjust the levels of the audio according to how loud or quiet the noise is. What this results in, is hearing the hiss of the background noise rise and lower every time somebody stops talking. To work with that problem, we always use a separate digital audio recorder, such as the Zoom H4n. With productions that take place on set or in a controlled environment while using a slate, it's no problem. But when shooting on location documentary style, it's much more of a pain. This will result in hours of syncing audio in post. Also you run the risk of forgetting to hit record on the audio device when shooting run n' gun. (something that would happen on our cross country shoots more times than I liked) 60D $1,000.00 (body only) Video: Now this camera I'm not as familiar with, but reading up on it, it sounds pretty damn good. Especially for the price. The camera's sensor is a bit smaller than the 1D's. This means it's DOF will be the deepest of all 3 of these cameras. So that means keeping your subject in focus will be a lot easier. Don't worry though, you'll still have the cinematic look with the back ground blurry and your subject in focus. It can shoot at about the same level of lighting as the 5D. Which is just a bit lower than the 1D. Another bonus that the 60D has that no other camera does, is that it's LCD on the back can flip out. So if you had to grab the camera in a hurry to get a shot without it attached to your shoulder rig, you still have an easy way to see the image if your holding the camera, say below you at an odd angle. While this video is not that flashy, it gives a good example of the depth of field of the camera. Some Old Ford Audio: It has the same audio controls as the 5D. This makes it great for capturing sound while shooting in a documentary setting. --Summary It's hard to say exactly what camera to get. If you're shooting mainly "on set" productions, I'd go with either the 1D or the 5D. But if you're going to be shooting in the field as well, then the 60D would be great! You really need to figure out what's most important. If you want the ease of shooting with out spending hours syncing sound in post, then I say the 5D or the 60D is your best bet. From there, if you're thinking you want to get those super “indy” shots with a crazy shallow DOF, then I'd say the 5D. But if you don't want to worry about missing a shot because it wasn’t focused perfectly and ended up being fuzzy, then I'd say go with the 60D. If money isn't an option and it's more important that all your shots look amazing - even in low light. And you have no problem having to sync your audio later in post, then the 1D MkIV is your camera. Decisions, decisions.... Coming up next... lenses!