Musing: On Buying the Best Camera

Posted on by Larry

[This article was first published in the October, 2010, issue of
Larry’s Monthly Final Cut Studio Newsletter. Click here to subscribe.]

There are two questions I get asked constantly:

* What is the best camera?
* What is the best hardware?

This article has a discussion on how to pick the best hardware, but for a moment, I want to talk about getting the best camera.

First, and this is the most important thing to keep in mind, there is NO best camera. There is only the camera that best meets your requirements. To spend time searching for the “best camera” is an exercise in driving yourself nuts.

If you had all the money in the world, you could not find a single camera that provides every conceivable function, format, or feature that exists in the market. It doesn’t exist – even if you wanted it to. It never will.

Which means that searching for the best camera is an exercise in determining what’s important to you and the trade-offs you are willing to accept to get those features most important to you.

While this list is by no means inclusive, here are some questions that can help you make sure you make the right decision. (This list is only partly tongue-in-cheek…)

  1. Are you buying this camera as a fashion statement, a political statement, or for actual shooting?
  2. Have you checked to be sure your editing software fully supports this camera?
  3. How much money can you AFFORD to spend, as opposed to what you WANT to spend?
  4. Assume you will need to replace this camera after two years – can you still afford to buy it?
  5. Do your clients care what camera you buy?
  6. Will your clients pay you extra if you buy it?
  7. Have you budgeted to buy more storage to support this camera?
  8. Have you budgeted for the accessories you will need in order to make the camera actually useful?
  9. If interchangeable lenses are important to you, have you budgeted to buy additional lenses?
  10. Do you regularly hire enough people on your crew to run the camera you are thinking of buying?
  11. Does the video format this camera shoots support the types of projects you want to use it for?
  12. If you plan to do 3D or multicam work, can you afford to buy at least two cameras so your shots match?

I’m sure there are other practical questions that you can suggest as well. But all too often we get hung up in picking the right technology when we really need to take a step back and consider that we are also running a business.

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