Comparing Affordable Cameras and Camera Rigs


The Fab Five

Since Word Wizards, Inc. often deals with new technology, we definitely know how it changes quickly, especially in the realm of video production. While the video production community in DC is incredibly talented and forms an amazingly supportive community, we are also dependent on the equipment we use. It’s not easy to keep track of the latest cameras and camera technology  with so many different camera models to choose from at a variety of prices. Recently, TIVA held a panel at Henninger Media to give people an inside look at some of the different models on the market, and some advice from five very experienced cameramen and DPs who use them every day. This fab five consisted of Jim Ball, Nate Clapp, Alex Ibrahim, Don Lampasone , and Alex Guckert.


Lens is Main Priority

They brought a wide variety of models with them for display. These included models like the Canon 7D DSLR, a basic model that retails for $1,500 all the way up to the Sony F3 35mm digital camera, shown at the top of the article, that costs $14,000. While the panelists said you should look at camera models depending on your needs, they all agreed the lens should be the main investment with the actual camera more of an afterthought. If possible you should try to get a lens that will last and is flexible enough to work with a variety of different camera models. While new camera models come out every couple of years because of new tech, lens tend to stay the same. Sanyo and Rokinon are companies that make cheap and mildly reliable lenses. Another option is Zeiss, who sell very nice but more expensive lenses.

DSLR vs. Cinema Cameras

The conversation then moved onto a debate between digital single-lens reflex cameras, a.k.a. DSLRs, and movie cameras. DSLRs are able to take both still photography as well as video with the cinema very comparable to more dedicated video. Many in the video industry like SLRs because they have these dual capabilities and are often able to pay for themselves quickly  because they’re so versatile. One concern about DSLRs is that you often have to shoot and then darken the image yourself because of the exposure. However, if your shooting in low light, then DSLRs excel because of their low light sensors. In fact another reason DSLRs are so well liked is because they tend to have larger, more powerful light sensors that give a narrower depth of field, making it easier to isolate the subject and give it a more “filmatic” look. The bottom line is that you should get a camera that suits your needs and fits your work, whether you’re shooting documentaries and “talking heads” footage, or something more action oriented.

Black magic camera

Standout cameras

There were four cameras that were standouts to the panelists and were especially liked for their capabilities. One was the Canon C100, a cinema camera that at $5,500 is moderately priced and is well liked for its compatibility and powerful super-35mm sensor. As far as DSLRs go, one of the top picks was the Black Magic 2.5K, shown above, that goes for about $3,000—although it should be noted that you need a .5-millimeter lens to really make the camera shine.

The Sony FS-700, is a very well liked and versatile camera that may be a bit on the pricier side at $7,500, but has some great qualities, like beautiful slow-motion capture, does action scenes well, and will record it so the footage is ready to edit immediately after you’re done shooting. The fourth and final pick was the Sony F3, which at $14,000 is not a small investment. But the camera is considered to be very versatile and comes with a PL-mount adaptor that makes it compatible with any PL-mount cinematic lense.

DC Camera

Try Before You Buy

Of course, you really should get the one that can best handle the type of work you do, and its good to keep in mind that accessories will often outlast the camera, so go for quality. A good way to test out a camera before you make that big splurge is to rent one and use it on a production to really get a feel for the model. This not only saves you the frustration of buying a model and finding out you hate it, it allows you to try out several different models in a cost-effective way. Camera Rental places, like DC Camera. are great places from which to rent and ask questions. Most cameras are good for renting and shouldn’t be too complicated to someone with at least a little camera experience. There are some cameras, such as the Red Epic Cameras, which cost upwards of $50,000 and is not the kind of model you should just rent unless you have experience with it. When you finally are ready to pluck down your hard-earned cash for the big buy, a used camera can be a smart way to go, since people may be eager to unload the “three” model if the “five” just came out.

The Little Camera That Could

go pro

Built for Adventure

While cameras are great at capturing a story for film and showcasing someone’s vision, they are not usually known for their durability and tend to be pretty fragile machines. It’s tough to take them under water, on a bike or car, or just any place where you’d be moving a lot and need something light and compact to get extreme footage. That was until the founding of GoPro and the introduction of their line of small, compact and reasonably-priced cameras that allow movie makers to go places they have never gone before. Over the last decade the GoPro has become the number one selling camera in the world, adored by both athletes as well documentary filmmakers for its versatility.

 GoPro Origins

The company’s founder, Nick Woodman, first got the idea when he was enjoying his passion for surfing 10 years ago. He wanted to capture video of himself and his friends on the waves but couldn’t with any current camera. So he built a limited-use wrist-mount camera and the tech became a hit with the surfing crowd. It wasn’t until he was enjoying his other hobby, racing cars, that he strapped on a GoPro to the roll bar of his car and realized the vast consumer appeal. Since then, the company has been turning out models year after year with the latest being the GoPro HD Hero3: Black Edition,  1080P video and still camera that can be controlled via a wi-fi remote.

helmet gopro

The Value of Fan Feedback

Not surprisingly the product has a loyal following, with users often posting videos and multi-media of their latest exploits on the company’s website and Facebook page. They want to show off what they capture with their cameras, and it is that word-of-mouth that makes these exciting and unique video clips popular. The company pays close attention to see how the average customer is using its  product and uses that as a way to anticipate what people would want. While the GoPros may not have the high resolution that many professional cameras do, they more than make up for it in other ways, such as cost.


Famous For Their Versatility

GoPros are relatively cheap, with the most expensive model costing a very moderate $400. This helps open up the camera to film hobbyists and weekend movie makers who want to dabble in the video realm but can’t really fully invest themselves in it. This is most definitely a good thing, because fresh ideas, and video that may not have been possible before, are popping up. We can, however, say from personal experience that many people in the professional video production community have made GoPros part of their arsenal. Companies have strapped them to the outside of cars, attached them to balloons and flying drones and put them on surf boards. For more information on GoPros, check out this recent article on Mashable



The iPhone 5 First Look – Features, Not Fluff

Most articles about the new iPhone 5 seem to focus on how the new mobile device will stack up against its competitors, or how it will impact Apple’s stock price. On a different note, today, I will explore some of the new features of the iPhone 5 for what they are. The iPhone 5 marks the first full iPhone version upgrade since the passing of Apple’s founder, Steve Jobs. Its time to open the wrapper and see what technological wizardry Apple has come up with this time.

Horizontal profile of the iPhone 5

Trim The Fat

The first feature of notice is the impressive but non-intrusive redesign of the iPhone’s physical profile. The iPhone 5 is reported as being 12% smaller in volume, 18% thinner, and 20% lighter. Apple has always made its goal to design simple, elegant technology, and it seems that they have continued with this tradition once again. If only I could shave off the weight like the iPhone can…

Jared lost weight!
The iPhone 5 lost weight, so did Jared, why cant I?

The comfortable and familiar horizontal width of the iPhone has stayed the same, keeping your hands happy. However, the vertical height is slightly longer in this iteration. iPhone 5 has achieved a a perfect balance of compact ergonomics while extending the vertical length of the screen to a full 4-inches. Did someone say screen, like… retina screen? That seems to be the perfect place to proceed with my analysis.

Click here for details about the design of iPhone 5

Feast Your Eyes

The iPhone 5 retina display

Retina display makes colors brighter, pictures more expressive, movies more life like,  yada, yada… The new iPhone is obviously designed for premium quality visual stimulation, boasting a stellar 1136-by-640 resolution. The new screen is designed to play HD movies without annoying letterboxing, solving one of my long time grievances with the iPhone line. Despite these improvements and changes, the iPhone 5 looks almost exactly like the iPhone 4S when seen from the front, which, depending on who you ask, could be a good thing or a bad thing.

Finally Faster – LTE and the Legend of 4G

Comedian Louis C.K. does a bit about how impatient we are with mobile devices that I find hilarious, “Just give it a second!”. I wont go there for now… but the point is that a large group of people just like myself were tired of our 4G friends who use other devices gloating about how fast they can surf the web, download apps, and watch streaming videos. The updated LTE capabilities of the iPhone 5 mean that the new iPhone now can operate on the fastest available mobile networks.

Don’t ignore that the wireless capabilities also got a speed boost. With the new Dual-band 802.11n capabilities, Wi-Fi data transfer rates on the iPhone 5 can reach up to 150 Mbps! That’s bloody fast… Speaking of fast, lets move on to the heavy-duty brain of iPhone 5, the incredible A6 microchip.

One Chip To Rule Them All – The A6

The One Ring

Complaints about the speed of previous iPhone models was not just limited to internet limitations. It seems that we have become so accustomed to lightning fast computing devices that mere milliseconds of waiting time are too much to bear anymore. With iPhone 5, noone should ever have to complain about a slow smartphone ever again.

The A6 is a monster and masterpiece of microchip technology. Faster processing and graphic response often come at the expense of your battery life. Not so with the A6, it is designed to deliver breakneck speed while maintaining an impeccable battery life. These improvements in efficiency and raw power sooth many of the most common complaints about older iPhone models, how much faster can these things get?

Sounds Like Progress

Out with ear buds, in with EarPods! EarPods are a long awaited upgrade to the included earphones that come with a new iPhone. As an audio snob I have a simple but effective rule, don’t believe it until you hear it. That being said, I can’t wait to get my hands on a pair of these to see if the claims of comfort, stability, and clarity live up to the hype. Until then I will just say that when it comes to subtle innovation, this was a big move that some of my fellow bloggers out there have missed as important.

Apple Ear Pods

Face it, ear buds sucked… They hurt after awhile, they sound bad after a few loud songs, and they generally feel cheap and sound cheaper. Hopefully EarPods will do my snooty ears justice, we will just have to see about that…

While were on the subject of sound, I would like to add that they have revamped the microphone system on the iPhone 5 as well. In an attempt not to butcher the technological blah of how these microphones are better than before, here is a quote directly off the Apple website.

“It’s designed with three microphones: one on the front, one on the back, and one on the bottom. The front and back mics work together to achieve beamforming — a technique that helps iPhone focus on sound from the desired location for clearer audio. New noise-canceling technology reduces background noise.”

Sounds interesting, pun intended… I have always thought that the sound quality of iPhone calls was better than your average smart phone, so we shall see if this offers improvement or not.

iSpy iSight

iPhone 5 Panorama

One of the seemingly most important features of any smartphone is the ever increasing camera capabilities. It seems that along this trend, the iPhone 5’s beefed up still and HD video cameras do not disappoint. Lets face it, the new panorama capability is way cool. I know that there has been an app that does this for ages, but now its a fully integrate feature of the phone and works instantly and seamlessly with the swipe of your touch.

The camera is apparently faster, clearer, and more stable. Upgrades that allow it to satisfy the urgent needs of all the gadget lovers out there who must own the best camera phone in the world or they will cease to exist.

The HD video capabilities is no longer limited to the back, allowing you to chat in face time HD for the first time. I still don’t think its possible to record from both cameras at once but I guess I am the only one that wants that feature…

Connect the Dots – Introducing The Lightning Connector

The long awaited “lightning connector” has arrived with mixed feelings from Apple enthusiasts and critics. I am not sure how I feel about it, but it seems that the old 30-pin connectors just couldn’t keep up with how thin the iPhone 5 has become. That’s like buying a new pair of skinny jeans after shedding 20 pounds. The question is, does Levy’s want you to loose weight for your health, or so you have to buy new jeans, belts, and other waist dependent accessories?

Either way its seems pretty cool, I cant find much on their site about how functionally different it is from the old connector, but hey, it looks cool and its reversible.

Where Am I?

My personal favorite new iPhone 5 feature is all in the maps and navigation. Google maps on iPhone was a horrible mistake, biz 101, never partner with your rival, it generally doesn’t end well… I almost perished on the road many times because of the weak interface, shoty click through directions, and generally poor functionality of iPhone map system of the past. It reads the directions to you, enough said!

Click to find out how Apple Maps will save us all

Apple Gets Siri-ous

I am very excited to play around with the improved Siri features on the iPhone 5. Last time Siri proved to be a bit lack luster, she still wont tell me how to play a B minor fith chord like in the commercial. Apparently she cant handle more requests, provided better results and works faster and perkier than before. This is going to be one thing that needs to be tried before opinions are formed.

Click here for more about Siri

iOS 6

I could write an entire article about iOS 6 I will just refer you to Apple for now on this one… I will add one point of warning however… When I upgraded my iPhone 4 to iOS 5 last year, it slowed way down. If you are not going to upgrade you phone, don’t be shocked if your old phone starts to drag.

Learn more about iOS6 on Apple’s website


iCloud on the iPhone 5 seems to be getting closer to a complete cloud based entertainment and lifestyle solution. I never really got the iCloud bug but hey maybe thats just me. Anyway there some really cool new features here, including shared photo streams, find my iPhone, and iCloud tabs.

As always, refer to the source for details  about iCloud

Additional Features

Here are some more cool features to explore within the new iPhone 5!

That should keep you satisfied for now. Check back to our blog for our expert revie once we get our hands on the new iPhone 5. By the looks of the lines it could be a while!