Cameras for Filmmakers: Undoubtedly, you’ve been scouring the net, trying to work out which camera is the right one for you. The issue is that no one wants to tell you a straightforward answer, especially when it involves filming.
After a conversation with a close friend of mine, who was also facing this issue, I decided I would try to help you guys out. As a young freelance filmmaker, I understand the struggle and have grown quite fond of the Sony A7 series. Due to its versatility in both outdoor and studio environments.
In this post, I will be outlining the most commonly sought after information that can help people, whilst also considering certain budgets.
Certain accessories which will allow you to specifically maximise your camera’s potential. I will also go over some tips & tricks that will inevitably be useful whilst shooting.
Sony A7 II vs. Sony A7s II?
So what does it boil down to? The Sony A7 II and Sony A7s II models were created in within the span of less than a year of each other. Both currently available for around £1,000 (with the Sony A7 II coming with a kit lens). They are cheap for the power they hold in those compact little bodies.
The first thing to consider is whether you plan on using the camera purely for videography, or if you’re also looking to take some gorgeous stills.
- Full-frame camera with 5-axis image stabilization
- Fast and effective, enhanced Fast Hybrid AF
Sony A7 II
A versatile camera, and the one that I personally use due to the nature of my shoots. Typically, I shoot dance and commercial streetwear videos for social media platforms. Therefore not needing 4K, whilst also taking a lot of stills in order to provide a more valuable package to clients.
Aside from my actual camera, I use no stabilisation kit. Therefore making the body of the Sony A7 II ideal. It hosts a sensor-shift within the body, eliminating small jitters and minor shakes when shooting.
For filming, the main thing you need to know is that the camera allows for filming using 1920 x 1080 up to 50/60 fps (frames-per-second) allowing slow-motion capabilities. Recording formats include MPEG-4, AVCHD and XAVC S (recommended).
Overall, the Sony A7 II has some of these qualities of life advantages compared to the Sony A7s II:
- High-resolution screen (1,230k dots vs. 921k dots)
- Higher resolution, allowing you to capture 90% more detail in photos (24 MP vs. 12.4 MP)
- Faster auto-focus (Phase Detection vs Contrast Detection)
- More focus points, allowing for more accurate auto-focus within the frame (117 vs. 25)
Sony A7s II
The famous Sony A7s II. A favourite of young freelance filmmakers across the world, due to its extreme low-light capabilities, lightweight, as well as its ability to shoot at 50/60 fps at 4K resolution and 120 fps capability (if shooting in 1080p) allowing for super slow-motion.
Just like the Sony A7s II, it also uses the MPEG-4, AVCHD and XAVC S formats. The main disadvantage of the camera is that it does not have a built-in image stabilizer, however, I will be recommending lenses later that provides a solution to this problem.
Overall, its advantages in terms of quality of life features over the Sony A7 II are:
- Better maximum light sensitivity, allowing for almost near darkness filming (409,600 ISO vs. 25,600 ISO, wow.)
- Smaller body
Lenses for Sony A7 II and Sony A7s II:
zoom and prime lenses. Each has different advantages and disadvantages, as well as purposes.
- SHARP DETAILS: 24 Mp full frame sensor to deliver...
- STEADY SHOOTING: 5-axis optical image stabilisation for...
The main advantages of using a zoom lens is that they are generally cheaper and there are many variations of zoom lenses for different purposes, such as wide zoom lenses (eg. 12-24mm or 16-35mm), telephoto zoom lenses (eg. 70-200mm, 100-400mm, or 150-600mm), or multi-purpose zoom lenses (such as 18-300mm and 24-105mm lenses).
However, prime lenses, on the other hand, have a fixed focal point (such as 18mm, 32mm or 50mm lenses) and tend to be more expensive, but have a wider aperture, allowing for a deeper depth of field, as well as better low-light capability by allowing more light into the sensor.
What you need ultimately depends on what you are shooting, as well as your budget. If you have a smaller budget, I personally recommended purchasing a multi-purpose lens (or using the kits lens that comes with the Sony A7 II) as it will give you a wide range of focal points and help you kick-start your freelance career.
Tips & Tricks
Here are some random tips and tricks that I recommend, which I have learned during my time as a freelancer:
- Set your camera to the right recording format of your country, with PAL (e.g. the UK) or NTSC (e.g. the US), and that your shutter speed is set to double the number that is your frame rate.Using the UK as an example, you would be filming at 25 or 50 fps due to PAL, and so, therefore, would have to set your shutter-speed as 1/50 or 1/100 (respectively) in order to avoid flickering lights from light sources and electric appliances in your shots. This is one of the biggest rookie mistakes in the industry.
- The lower your f-stop (e.g. f1.4), the deeper your depth-of-field, as well as the lighter is allowed into your lens. When shooting, you should always adjust your f-stop first, and ISO last, as your ISO is artificial, meaning that it produces lots of noise on-screen.
- Shoot on manual, not automatic. When shooting using automatic settings, not only will brightness and colours change with each shot, you will also have no control over how your shot looks whatsoever, making your films look amateur. Take some time out to learn how to control your camera, so that you can absolutely kill your shoots!
- Make sure you purchase a camera bag, in order to carry your camera and lenses as well as kit such as tripods
- Have a minimum of 3 batteries for your camera. I cannot stress this enough, as running out of battery life whilst on a shoot is a sure-fire way not to get hired again.
- I recommend purchasing the Powerextra 2 Pack NP-FW50 Battery and Dual LCD Battery., which on top of the battery that comes with your camera, you will also have an extra two batteries, as well as a double battery charger.
- Get two SD cards with sufficient space, as well as a fast processing speed to handle large files. A number of times that I have forgotten the main SD card in my computer at home, and been saved by my backup SD card in my camera bag is unbelievable.
- Keep that camera clean! Imagine getting home and reviewing your footage, only to realise that you have a massive smear across your lens because you didn’t clean it properly (I’ve been there). I personally recommend the Professional Camera Cleaning Kit, as it comes with a host of useful gadgets to clean every nook and cranny of your camera.
- If you plan to shoot outdoors, especially in London, a rain cover for your camera can be essential, as for just £7 you can stop your expensive setup from getting drenched. I personally fold up and carry this around with Zacro Camera Protector just in case.
If you found this page useful, make sure to save this in your bookmarks for future use, as well as share it with any friends or family who might benefit from the advice in this blog!
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