As a beginner/amateur filmmaker, one of the biggest challenges you’ll face is finding the right equipment for your project, without burning a massive hole in your pocket.
You simply don’t have the same level of funding that Hollywood movies have, and this can be a problem if you’re trying to go for that professional, polished look.
Most “entry level” film cameras start in the ranges of £1000-£5000, so those sorts of cameras will be off-limits for this article; in this article we’re going to be focusing on cheap, but worthwhile, alternatives for amateur filmmakers.
Without further ado, let’s get stuck in…
When most amateur filmmaker first decide they’re going to actually make their own film, the first thing they’ll do is go hunting online or in stores for a fancy new camera, possibly flushing hundreds of pounds down the drain.
But so many people forget that one of the greatest alternatives to a traditional video camera is resting right in their pocket.
Most mobile phones nowadays have a considerably better-quality image than most top-of-the-line industry cameras just 10 years ago.
From the ability to shoot in 4K, 60fps (frames-per-second), to the amount of portability and versatility you get with a phone camera as opposed to a standard video camera, phone cameras suddenly seem like an amazing alternative.
Of course, they can’t quite fully compare; at the end of the day, your phone’s primary use is to make and receive calls and texts, and not to shoot the next Citizen Kane. (Well today at least, I am sure this change!)
Specialist video cameras have so many more customisation options such as aperture, white balance, and the ability to be attached to other devices such as gimbles and dollys, that they are the superior option if you can afford one.
But if you’re really that tight on cash, then just work with what’s already at your disposal, and go with your phone camera!
A favourite among many beginner filmmakers is the compact camera, mainly because it is exactly what it says on the tin: compact!
What is a compact camera?
Compact cameras are small, lightweight, and can be easily transported, but maintain a high level of quality of functionality. Most new compact cameras have the ability to shoot in at least full HD 1080p, with some even reaching resolutions as high as 2.7K and 4K UHD!
Most compact cameras also come with specialist features built into the camera itself; extras such as a wide angles lens or a fisheye lens, which would usually be additional items that would need to be manually attached to the camera, come already fitted, sparing you the time and energy doing that yourself.
If you’re interested in picking a compact camera up for yourself, here are a few we recommend which are between £100 and £400.
These links will take you to Amazon but of course any good camera store will stock these.
- Canon PowerShot SX620 HS Superzoom
- Sony DSC-HX99 Compact Digital 18.2 MP Camera
- YinFun Digital Vlogging Camera (180 Degree Flip Screen)
So called “Package” Camcorders have become more and more popular in recent years.
What are package camcorders?
Package camcorders are essentially non-name brand camcorders that come bundled in with everything a beginner could ever need. This usually includes a USB microphone, stabiliser/gimble, lens hood, and carry case.
These bundles are very well-priced, usually going for somewhere between £150-200, which is amazing for the amount of stuff you get thrown in.
Now you’re probably assuming that the reason why these bundles are so cheap is because the quality of the camera, and all the additional pieces of equipment, are not of a very high quality. Well for the most part, this isn’t the case.
The majority of the camcorders, themselves, within these package camcorder bundles, are actually pretty spectacular. Most of them are capable of shooting in 2.7K (some even at 4K) and some at 60fps.
The camera’s also come with a lot of cool features, such as:
- rotating touch screens.
- infrared/night vision.
- remote controls for hands-free usage.
However, the same can’t be said for a lot of the add-ons.
The microphones are decent enough for beginners, but you can quite easily find better ones out there at an affordable rate.
The same goes for the lens hoods, which are simply flimsy bits of plastic in these package camcorder bundles; the stabilisers are usually pretty great though.
These packaged camcorders are honestly worth it solely for the camera, but if you think that the add-ons that come bundled in will be useful to you (even if they’re not the most amazing quality on the planet), then this could be the perfect option for you.
Here are a few we recommend. These links will take you to Amazon.
If you think that those huge bundles are full of random add-ons that you’ll never actually use or want to use, then just go for a traditional camcorder.
Buying a camcorder on its own will not only mean that you save money by not wasting it on items you won’t use, but you’re also more likely to find a better-quality camcorder; as that is the only item you’re buying, not 1 of 5, there will be more focus on making sure that product is the best it can be.
If you end up wanting to purchase a microphone, or anything like that on top, then these camcorders allow you to fix these on at a later date, but they’re by no means a necessity.
Here are some brilliant camcorders you should take a look at. These links will take you to Amazon, but these camcorders are in all good camera stores.
- Sony HDR-CX405 9.2 MP Full HD Camcorder
- ORDRO AX60 4K Video Camera
- Sony HDR-CX625 Full HD Compact Camcorder
Well…That’s a Wrap!
Well, that was a brief list of some of the best options out there for filmmakers on a budget when it comes to choosing the right camera!
There really is no one superior option, and it all comes down to personal preference, so we advise to always go for whichever you feel would suit you best!