Is it even possible that you can replace an expensive movie camera with a DSLR to shoot movies? Wouldn’t it be mindblowing if you can shoot videos with DSLRs that look as good as any filmmaking camera! Well, the thought is not too far fetched. Let’s dig right in to find out.
So the first Question – Are DSLRs good for filmmaking?
As a videographer, DSLR is among the options you will undoubtedly ponder to make filmmaking affordable and handy. Mostly videographers find themselves torn between camcorders, mirrorless, and DSLR cameras.
Fortunately, DSLRs do become a viable choice when it comes to filmmaking. So, let’s check why?
What are DSLRs?
DSLR is the abbreviation of Digital Single Lens Reflex. Unlike their predecessors, SLRs that used a 35 mm film, DSLRs use a fixed, digital sensor hence the D. They do use single-lens that does framing, perform focusing, and takes a photograph or coverage.
The reflex part means that its mirror plays the role of either splitting or directing the light that comes through the lens towards its optical viewfinder.
Thanks to their designs, photographers and videographers experience a true-to-life image to a greater extent. As the name suggests, some of its characteristics are a mirror, interchangeable lenses, and single-lens reflex technology. The mirror ensures that the light coming from the lens gets to the viewfinder; hence, the videographer sees the lens.
What are the requirements of a Basic Filmmaking Camera?
Today, Digital streaming or movie screens opt for a minimum of 4K resolution – Full HD. Unlike videography, cinematography relies on manually operating the camera controls as it offers more creative control.
They need a range of interchangeable lens and filter options and advanced audio interfaces. Also, observe its image quality under motion. For visual effects (VFX), pixel depth is of utmost importance, especially for tracking and shooting green screens. The Camera should hold excellent pixel information for VFX. If it is compatible with all the other supporting equipment ( like tripods, mounts, etc.) and fulfills all these needs, any camera is good to go.
Interestingly, DSLRs get a tick on all of this. But are they perfect for moviemaking? Let’s check.
Are DSLRs Really Good for Cinematography?
There are several reasons why one would consider DSLR cameras an excellent choice when filming. Let’s take a look at them.
1. Great image quality
Clarity when it comes to filming is a necessity to ensure that the video covers all the details. Luckily, DSLRs have image sensors that ensure the image quality is top-notch. They are large enough to capture enough megapixels and, consequently, give the image high quality ( 2K onwards). You can rest assured that the dynamic range, contrast, and color will be perfect.
DSLRs have an incredible characteristic, which is having interchangeable lenses and filters. Therefore, you can choose different lens attachments depending on the occasion since the camera body can handle a variety.
Sometimes, you don’t realize that the lens you settled for leaves a lot to be desired until you start using your camera.
If it is a DSLR, one would say that you get a second chance because you can exchange it with a better one. Consequently, you get a better reach for objects that are relatively far or manages to fit a lot in the frame, depending on the lens that you choose.
That versatility, for instance, choosing to settle for either a zoom or fisheye lens, comes in handy when filming different scenes or if you need various looks. All you have to do is to understand the most suitable focal length.
3. Manual Focus
Time is of the essence when it comes to filming, and DSLRs have what it takes to handle problems that could arise from any delay. They have a great autofocus feature allowing you to shoot as fast as possible without compromising the quality. But most filmmakers don’t prefer that as focusing is also a part of subtle storytelling. You have the manual option to control your focus.
Besides, since you will be dealing with moving objects, the importance of subtracting tracking and continuous performance is indisputable. It is rare to come across a camera that focuses faster than a DSLR.
4. Perfect for Low Light
It will ensure that you get to shoot anywhere regardless of the lighting condition as long as the setup has adequate lighting. After all, light is indispensable when it comes to photography and videography. Its features, such as filter and flash, plays a huge role when working with low light.
5. Lack of Lag
Since DSLRs use reflex technology, lag is not part of its vocabulary. After all, its mirror directs light from the lens directly to the viewfinder. You get more time to capture the scene, given the fact you don’t need to spend much time focusing on your subject. As a result, there is no delay between the exact set and the time of capture.
6. Ample storage
DSLRs storage is a memory card with a high storage capacity. Therefore, you can put to rest the issue of worrying about whether you will use up all the film in the middle of filming.
7. Long battery life
If you are filming in remote areas or any other place where getting a source of power may prove to be difficult, DSLRs are a life-saver. After all, you don’t have to use its digital screen throughout. Consequently, the camera uses less power hence extending its battery life.
8. Real-time processing
With DSLRs, you don’t have to wait for days or weeks to know whether what you filmed is worth viewing. On the contrary, you get to view the coverage immediately after filming it. That brings a lot of conveniences saving you much time and money if reshooting is necessary.
9. Pocket-friendly price
You don’t have to break the bank to get a DSLR that does a great job. Therefore, it remains a good choice for a beginner or even an expert working within a tight budget. The number of options available in the market today has seen the cost reduce to favorable prices.
10. Easy to maintain
Due to infrequent updates when it comes to DLSRs, it goes without saying that replacements are seldom. In case of an upgrade, you don’t have to throw away the entire camera. Instead, you can look for the new model’s lens, replace it, and take your filmmaking to a whole new level.
11. More control
Control is also essential when shooting and DSLRs offer that with their manual controls. It places the power of how your images will look eventually in your hands.
You also get to modify various aspects.
For instance, you get to improve color replication by altering the white balance. If you are shooting in low light, you can quickly shift to slow shutter speeds.
As much as the big size may seem disadvantageous since it brings bulkiness, looking at the bigger picture, it is a lesser evil. It does more good than harm since it allows it to accommodate a large sensor resulting in high-quality images.
In addition to that, the large sensors play a huge role when filming in low light. But they are not as bulky as an ARRI ALEXA or RED EPIC cameras. They are easily portable. Also, it becomes quite useful in shooting hand-helds.
The majority of the DSLRs have a hot-shoe. The electrified mount, usually on the camera’s top, comes in handy when using external flashes. Equally important, it will accommodate a wide array of accessories, including wireless triggers and microphones. Since they have also been in existence for a substantial amount of time, finding their accessories is also a breeze.
Filming is not the end-game, which means your camera will need to connect with various devices during and once filmmaking is over. DSLRs have that covered since they have multiple ports. You can attach different adapters, external monitors, wired flashes, trigger systems, microphones, and GPS modules with ease.
15. Excellent Launchpad for Newbies
DSLRs are an excellent option to learn filmmaking before moving to the big guns. Since it provides almost everything you need to shoot videos or movies, these cameras are the first choice for beginners to learn the tricks of the trade.
Can you shoot a full movie with a DSLR?
From small indie products to big-budget Hollywood blockbusters, shooting a full movie with a DSLR is not new. The practice has been in existence since 2008, ever since the emergence of Nixon D90 ( Check on Amazon).
Its beginning was quite humble since it was filming in 720p, but that has changed with time due to advancements seen in DSLRs available in the market today. As a matter of fact, some of them are capable of filming HD videos.
Some filmmakers have used DSLRs partially, while others have stuck to them from the beginning to the end of their films. Part of the production of films such as Drive, Rush, and Black Swan happened thanks to DSLRs.
On the other hand, the entire production of a film like Love Is Now was done using Nikon D810. However, unexpected given the stature of NBC, DP Alex Buono did a Saturday Night Live intro utilizing a pair of DSLRs.
Bob Nicolas did a coverage dubbed Perya using a Canon 7D DSLR. Egypt / Lebanon Montage by Khalid Mohtaseb, Near Sighted by Renaud Duval, and The Second Vision by Martin Lang were shot using DSLRs as well.
Using other various Canon DSLRs, the likes of Solitude by Robin Risser, Nocturne by Vincent Laforet, Hecq Vs. Exillion – Spheres of Fury by Tim Chris, Re-enacting the making of Mao’s China by Dan Chung, and Year in my backpack by Guy Jackson came into existence.
To get the best results when shooting using DSLRs, go for a tripod. It improves the film quality of your footage. Nevertheless, be keen on where you place it since you will be shooting from a single location throughout the filming.
You now have the answers that you have been looking for. Are DSLRs good for filming? Yes. Why are DSLRs good for filming? The reasons are endless, ranging from high quality to a lot of control and resources. You are also aware that it is possible to shoot a full movie with a DSLR backed by examples.