“Use a real camera next time!” A comment I received over three years ago when one of my short films (which was filmed on a DSLR) was Staff Picked on Vimeo. Now, I’m still facing the same snobbery attitude towards DSLR cameras. Personally, the camera systems have been an extremely important part of my career so far and I am hugely grateful for that.
I’ve always highlighted the importance of knowing the limitations of any camera you’re operating. Everybody knows that DSLRs have a bag full of problems but they also have copious amounts of positive aspects as well. On one of my documentary productions, I remember it took me a good forty minutes to climb up a building in Jerusalem to get a wide shot of the city. But it wasn’t until i got back to my apartment afterwards to look over the footage that I knew that I wouldn’t be able to use any of the clips. The roof tops were tiled and the camera took a brain fart during the panning shots and moire was present. As this piece was going to be broadcast on US television it was game over. Lesson learnt.
On a documentary trip to Egypt, I know that I wouldn’t have got 70% of the shots with anything larger than a stripped down DSLR, especially during a large protest that I was in at the tail end of the revolution. On a previous trip to Kazakhstan, the Canon 5D Mark II was pushed to the extremes at times, especially during shooting temperatures of -17 Degrees Celsius. I have a Domke grab bag and tripod and I’m in and out of the transport constantly. Off camera audio is a nightmare but you perfect your drills and your skills become sharper. My clients, particularly my US clients continue to be impressed with what the cameras and I can achieve in the field. It works for me and I’m happy to continue using the cameras for my productions.
It got a bit silly for me last year when a huge amount of camera bodies were competitively released at the same time. I was still scratching my head as to what to upgrade to for the company. I ended up investing in a Mark III and with the improvement in image and recent RAW recording option; I still feel it was the best decision for me. I may dream of Arri and Red, inbuilt ND filters, XLR inputs and higher frame rates but I make do with what I have and continue to get the best possible results from the camera through good lens investment and improved camera operator skill. I receive quite a lot of emails asking me what camera body I would recommend. I’ve filmed on various amounts of camera bodies in the past from RED to Sony. Canon DSLRs combined with high quality glass have been my choice so far mainly due to affordability, practicality, budget constraints and above all image quality. Find an affordable camera system that works for you and your area of work, stick with it, film more whilst knowing the limitations which will subsequently sharpen your skills. Above all, learn by doing.
My portfolio can be viewed here