There is no better time to be a student filmmaker! Camera technology has been advancing by leaps and bounds and at a furious pace. Even smart phones have superb cameras with video capabilities that are astonishing. The newest iPhones shoots 1080p up to 60 frames per second with an f/2.2 lens and up to 240frames per second at 720p all with video stabilization.
I will admit I love camera gear and making lists like this is fun, but I want to state the obvious because often many filmmakers ignore the obvious and get hung up on the tools over the story. Great stories do not need to be filmed with a $100,000 camera, a crew of hundreds and a budget in the millions. Story, acting, lighting, sound, costume (and craft services) are integral to making your film a success. However, without a camera you wouldn’t be able to capture your film, so I have compiled a list of cameras in the lower end of the budget range for students — no Red Epics or ARRI Alexas here.
Interchangeable lens cameras – DSLRs and Mirrorless cameras
Offering a lot of bang for the buck and a beautiful image when paired with a great lens, these cameras have been used on productions that have won Oscars and Sundance awards. They have the flexibility of giving you different looks by accepting different lenses and allowing you to have the much sought after shallow depth of field. Don’t overlook third party lenses for these cameras, some lenses being produced by Sigma, Tokina and other manufacturers are nearly as good if not better at a much lower price. As these are primarily still cameras the audio that these cameras record is not great. I suggest looking into either getting a better microphone to attach the 3.5mm jack or recording the audio externally using higher quality XLR microphones and a portable recorder.