One year ago I purchased a C100 Mark II to replace my aging Canon 5D Mark III and my under-performing GH4. (Maybe under-performing is a little harsh but in a setting where I needed speed and capability, getting the GH4 rigged and running simply took too much time and effort).
So the following are some thoughts on my purchase, some considerations for the future, and some advice for some people who are planning a camera purchase right now.
Did I Choose Correctly?
One year ago I had some money to spend before the end of the fiscal year (tax reasons) and I knew I was going to buy a camera. Let's just get to the point and say my top choices were a C100 Mark II or a BlackMagic Ursa Mini 4.6K which was not shipping at the time. (I think I've detailed in some other posts my dislike for Sony color).
I'm glad I purchased the C100 Mark II and the reasons are two-fold:
1. It's a fantastic camera and I've put it through it's paces in run and gun doc work, corporate interviews, industrials, music videos, and narrative work and it's come through on every occasion.
2. The Ursa Mini 4.6K is definitely a beast but there was clearly a quality control issue with the first batch which led to many disgruntled users.
I'm always certain when purchasing a camera that it will make it's money back and in the case of the C100 Mark II it's done so 10 times already. While the Ursa Mini 4.6K certainly has a higher profile and some beefier resolution and codec options, odds are that I wouldn't have been able to work as quickly or with as much natural light as I was able too with the Mark II.
I never once had an issue with only being able to shoot and deliver 4K and I was able to use the Mark II on a tripod or monopod at one moment and then quickly slap it on the DJI Ronin for some silky smooth B-roll.
As the year went on, I noticed a change in the scope of my work. Whereas many of my jobs are based on speed, getting things shot in and about an open and sometimes busy business, more of my work later in the year became about quality. There was more time to light and set-up and while I do enjoy getting in and out quickly sometimes, having more time to really the get right shot, the shot that you would be proud to have on your reel, is something that interested me.
I could see the benefit of having a camera like the Ursa Mini 4.6K in these situations where I could shoot at higher resolutions and with a better codec like a ProRes 4444 or even a raw workflow. Having about 4 more stops of dynamic range doesn't hurt either.
As I think more about the future of where my small business is headed I know I don't want to own too much gear or too many cameras (although renting in my area is not easy). I'm definitely thinking about future purchases with a serious consideration on future-proofing.
While the C100 Mark II will continue to have a place in my arsenal for all future doc and corporate work, I'm certainly considering my next camera purchase to be either a BlackMagic Ursa Mini 4.6K or a C300 Mark II (the C300 would make my C100 a good B-cam). There is a big price difference between the two, however, which I would need to negotiate.
Like many of my fellow filmmakers, including some reading this article, I've certainly given thought about buying into the RED ecosphere, but I don't think the salary of my jobs could currently warrant that investment.
*On a complete sidenote, I've also noticed this new trend where people post jobs for a DP and then demand that they also come with a RED or Alexa. This is a troubling trend for many reasons that I think my warrant a look at in another blog post.*
This is just some advice from a guy who freelances for a living. I don't do any high profile shit and I'm not an expert on anything. I grind out a living everyday shooting and editing a number of different types of videos (mostly corporate and commercial) and while I've used a large number of cameras that are out there, I'm not expert on any them except the ones I own.
You want to buy into a camera system right now, have a few thousand to spend, don't know what to buy?
Step One - Evaluate what type of videos you will be making and what environments you will be working in.
Smaller, low profile camera like a GH4 (or a GH5 coming soon), Sony A7 or A6000 series, a Canon 70D or 5DMarkIV, can be great for low budget work that doesn't need broadcast specs and where synced audio or high quality audio is not necessary.
If you're getting into corporate video, documentary, or reality TV work, you probably want to invest a cinema camera - Canon 100 Mark II, C300, C300 Mark II, Sony FS5 or FS7 or FS7 Mark II.
For narrative work truly any of these cameras could be the one depending on your ability to shape light, but the cheapest internal raw shooter you could buy is probably the Ursa Mini and Mini 4.6K right now.
Step Two - know what's important to you in a camera because all the little extras add up.
I'll make this simple. Just because a camera is a lower cost doesn't mean it works at that price. I bough the C100 Mark II because it does. The only thing extra I needed to buy was an SD card. It has built in ND, two XLR inputs for audio, sick battery life (8 hours off one battery), an LCD and EVF, one push auto-focus, wi-fi, waveforms, focus peaking, LUT viewing, log shooting, and some other shit.
Slap on a lens, attach the top handle, put in a card, turn on. Shoot. I get great video and audio out of it and that's all that I'm really looking for. So what camera are you leaning towards buying?
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