I'm just starting out, what camera should I buy?

This is the most frequently asked question I get by far. So what should it be? A GoPro, a RED Epic? The answer is….there is no answer.

I myself started with two camcorders – a Panasonic camera and a Canon Hi8 – I used what I had available to me. So the question really should be what do you have at your disposal?

Personally, I always recommend having two cameras to capture a wedding ceremony and speeches, this is the only way to make sure you’re capturing everything you need. The other question is: who do you aspire to? Whose videos do you like? There is no harm being inspired by others, it’s where we have all been at certain stages. In fact we still are. It’s great to be inspired by others no matter what level you are.

So what cameras do you already have? Can you achieve the look you want with what you have? I have always loved two ideas of wedding videography, the film look (don’t we all!) and the long lens. After filming a dozen or so wedding I realised this because with the inbuilt zoom facility on these camcorders I was almost always shooting at the far end of the zoom range. So I must have thought this was my more natural range. So I when I could afford new cameras I made sure that I got lenses that fitted my style. So, cameras came and went and, for a while, I even went down the route of the semi-broadcast range of cameras, as that was the only real option available to me at the time. These were expensive, bulky cameras that were technically good but had tiny sensors, like my previous camcorders. So, looking back, this turned out to be an expensive side step and then, everything changed with the advent of DSLRs.

Once I had the funds and eventually got enough courage, I turned to the Canon DSLR range and bought lenses that were longer so I could get a shallower depth of field and better achieve the look I wanted. Creamy backgrounds were more achievable now and I could get people interacting with each other and be far enough away that I remained unnoticed for the most part.

Why Canon? I went with Canon as they were a familiar brand to me. I had grown up with Canon cameras in my family home as my father was a keen amateur photographer and enjoyed taking photos and, later on, video with a high-end camcorder. I also knew that Canon glass was the best around, especially the ‘L’ series lenses. So it seemed right to invest in a Canon 600D and 5Dmkii.

Why was this move revolutionary? For me, visually, this elevated my videography to another level. I managed to get the ‘film look’ I wanted. There were many, many disadvantages to owning these cameras though. They were not and never will be ‘video’ cameras. Yes they could shoot video, and a decent quality at the time, but the features that I had become accustomed to, were missing: histograms, audio metering, autofocus and even peaking were all missing from these DSLR cameras. Even the ergonomics and a decent view-finder were missing, so I had to adapt things to make them feel more comfortable and so added cages around the cameras and purchased third-party EVFs. The whole thing was very expensive and time consuming. However, looking at the image it produced when things were in focus and properly exposed, they beat all the other cameras I owned hands down.

Today? I have to say that today I am a bit of a camera brand hog, or so Richard Shelton labels me. I own a Canon C100mkii, a Panasonic GH2, a Panasonic GH4, 2 x GoPros, 2 x Canon 5D mkiii’s (although we keep them for our photography side of the business) and a Sony A7sii. Alongside, I have a plethora of native lenses for all the cameras.

So, why these cameras? They all have killer features that can help me become a better videographer. Unlimited record time on the GH cameras, as well as on the C100mkii. The beautiful low light image and full frame sensor on the A7sii. The ‘corporate’ happy C100mkii. They each have their purpose and at the time of writing this my favourite combination to take to a wedding:

A Camera: Sony A7sii with the Samyang 85mm T1.5 - I also use the Samyang 14mm f2.8 autofocus lens for some steadicam shots. B Camera - Panasonic GH4 with the Sigma 18-35mm f1.8 - I also use the Voightlander 25mm f0.95 on occasion. C Camera - Panasonic GH2 with a 7-14mm f4 lens - to be placed at the back of a room/church

So, as you you can tell, maybe I am a ‘camera brand hog’, and at one time they have all been my A Camera. Also, by using such a broad range of cameras, I’ve learnt all their foibles. Their pluses and minuses; their killer apps and their downward splats.

Of course, my cameras usage will evolve in the future, as I too evolve as a filmmaker. In fact, you have to evolve, because if you don’t. you probably wont make it over the three year hump that is the wedding trade. The kit purchasing list will only stop if you do.

And what about lens choice? That will be the subject of my next blog post.