On budget filming gear for every kind of filmmaker

Nowadays there are a lot of possibilities for filmmakers who want to create professional images with reasonable budget gear, so I thought to write an article with some advice to put together a camera+lenses set up (so I will not talk about a tripod, nd filters, sliders etc.) without spending thousands Euros or Dollars.

Under € 1000 — The Minimalistic Filmmaker: a compact camera is enough.

In the last years, the compact cameras market has risen a lot and you can easily find some little gems that can help you to produce interesting video stuff.
I have a Panasonic LX100 that I use as a B-Camera in my works and though I was at first skeptical, I found out it does its work very well and in some situations, I think I could use as the main camera.
Compact cameras have a mounted on the lens (a zoom lens most of the time), so you won’t have to buy lenses set.

There are some good quality compact cameras on the market right now, for example, the Sony RX100 V or Panasonic LX100, the first one is more expansive but it has a feature like Log color profile (very important if you want more control while grading your footage), while the second one is less expansive but with a Leica Summilux 24–75 lens mounted on.

Here a sample of what you can do with a Sony RX100 V (especially in slow motion.)

and here’s a video filmed with a Panasonic LX100

My personal pick

Sony RX100 V and Panasonic LX100 are both good cameras but if I had to give advice I’d say Leica D-Lux 6. There are not too many filmmakers using Leica cameras but recently I read an interesting article by Noam Kroll in which Leica D-Lux 6 is analyzed in depth.

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Leica D-Lux 6

If you think a compact camera can be used only for YouTube videos or v-logs, check out the works of the fashion filmmaker Ruslan Pelykh like this below

€ 1000+ — Thinking out of the box: filming with Olympus.

Olympus cameras are not so popular on filmmaking scene, but the Olympus Om-D Em-5 mark II could make change the mind to more than one filmmaker out there.

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Olympus OM-D EM-5

Here you can find a deep analysis of this camera, but we can easily understand how five-axis stabilization is the highlight, but also the ‘flat’ picture profile can be interesting for more control when you grade your videos.

Lenses set

There a lot of options for you, especially if you’re open to using adapted lens through focal reducers or adapters. I will give only two suggestions: native lenses and vintage lenses.

Here is my advice:

Olympus Zuiko 12mm f2 (24mm full frame equivalent)
Panasonic H-X025E f1.4 (50mm full frame equivalent)
Olympus Zuiko 45mm f1.8 (85mm full frame equivalent)

Plus:
Olympus Zuiko 17mm f1.8 (34mm full frame equivalent)

All-around lens:
Olympus Zuiko 12–40 f2.8 (24–80mm full frame equivalent)

Here’s my advice:

Canon FD 28mm f2.8
Canon FD 50mm f1.4 / Helios 44–2 58mm f2 / Pentax SMC M 50mm f/1.4
Jupiter 9 85mm f2

On the field

At last a sample of what the Olympus Om-D Em-5 mark II can do

and here a BTS that demonstrates the huge potential of five-axis stabilization

Under € 2000 — Pro on a budget with Panasonic

The GH series has been (and still is) very popular among filmmakers, from the surprising GH2 to the solid GH3 (used by Leonardo D’Alessandri for his masterpiece Watchtower of Turkey), from the GH4 to the most recent GH5

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Panasonic GH4

I know, there’s also GH5s, but it costs more than € 2000, so the GH5 is still worth buying. The chance to film on 10-bit Log internally is a must for every filmmaker and that’s one of the reasons you should consider to buy it, while color science, ergonomics etc are an aspect that often involves personal taste.

Lenses set:

There are a lot of options for you, especially if you have a Metabones Speedbooster, that permits you to use lenses from Canon, Nikon etc.
I will give advice only on native lenses and vintage lenses:

Here’s my advice:

Samyang 12mm T2.2 (24mm full frame equivalent)
Panasonic H-X025E f1.4 (50mm full frame equivalent)
Olympus Zuiko 45mm f1.8 (85mm full frame equivalent)

All-around lens: Panasonic Lumix G/Leica 12–60

Here’s my advice:

Canon FD 28mm f2.8
Canon FD 50mm f1.4 / Helios 44–2 58mm f2 / Pentax SMC M 50mm f/1.4
Jupiter 9 85mm f2

On the field:

And that’s it. I wanted to remain under € 2000 for cameras, but I know there other great pieces of gear like Sony A7s, Sony FS5 or Blackmagic Ursa Mini Pro.
I deliberately didn’t talk about Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera because the old model is going out of the market (but still a very good camera), while the new one is not still released, but seems to be a very interesting camera.

Written by

Filmmaker, colorist, and motion graphic designer with a keen interest in short documentaries and brand films. My works at www.michelangelotorres.net

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