DSLR camera for filmmaking

by karamela

When it is all said and done DSLR's are a great, cost effective way for amateur or even professional film makers to get quality shots with a very flexible, on the go device.

Ever since main stream photography manufacturers such as Nikon began producing Digital Single Lens Reflex camera's in the late 90's and early 2000's, professionals have questioned the validity of their use in high end applications. Nikon's first attempt at such a device was the D1 which was released to consumers in 1999. It boasted a measly 2.74 megapixel resolution and cost a whopping $6000.

Arri Alexa Film Camera - $70.000
Arri Alexa Film Camera - $70.000

Not a very appealing investment for professional photographers or high-end production houses seeing as the quality was no where near that of traditional film. Times have changed though and so have people's perceptions of the production tools they use as they become more and more powerful. Consumers no longer question the resolution or quality of the still images that these impressive machines churn out. Now they are wondering whether or not they are worthy purchasing as a substitute to video cameras for film. The answer is a resounding maybe. It really boils down to what you will be using the camera for and whether or not you will be able to compensate for the few short comings that these DSLR's carry.

Camera Rig
Camera Rig

Let's look at some of the positives first, since they always seem to be more enjoyable then the negatives.


The DSLR's today have much bigger sensors then most video camera's due to the fact that they are tailored towards taking great still images in low light. This will allow for a greater DOF or Depth of Field, which will in turn allow you the ability to keep those subjects on screen in focus while blurring the remaining objects in the background. Also take note that the better low light definition will transfer over from the stills to video, thus allowing much more versatility.


This section is hugely beneficial to professional and aspiring film makers alike. DSLR's use standard photography lenses, which are not only cheaper, but much easier to switch out on the go. This allows for greater versatility to conditions or shots on the road at a much more affordable price.

Samyang Cine lenses
Samyang Cine lenses
Zeiss Compact prime lenses
Zeiss Compact prime lenses


The size of these camera's provide several clear advantages, some of which you might not be so quick to think of. DSLR's are fairly small in comparison to professional digital video cameras today and depending on how often you will be moving from location to location this may be a pretty big factor. Since they are smaller and more portable, they are much easier to control and utilize in more compromising situations. Taking it a step further, they are much more inconspicuous and will allow the user to blend in to a cloud of people with ease. Filming events or situations with a lot of a people around is much easier when you look like a tourist or local merely taking pictures of your surroundings. 

Now let's take a look at some of the disadvantages to using these camera's over traditional ones.


The audio these devices record is nothing to write home about. Most professionals who have switched over have also gone ahead and invested in external recorders to help them out. These external recorders will provided a much cleaner and clearer output then you would get from the built in mic. While using external recording device, you will need to use Clapperboard or get Digital Clapper app for Android mobile devices to synchronize audio and video tracks back together. 

Digital Clapper - Android app
Digital Clapper - Android app


The small form factor leads to fantastic portability and the physical designs of these camera's are great for taking stills, but it can be difficult to hold them stable for extended periods of time. Investing in a shoulder harness or steady rig can easily remedy this problem and provide much smoother shots but also leads to more costs.

Digital interpretation

These camera's can capture a large amount of digital information in a short amount of time and this can invariably lead to some imaging issues. Certain patterns may create an unwanted display, but one has to remember that these camera's were built with still images as the primary focus. Image processing for video information will progress as the camera's do, but as of now they are less important than the primary function of the device.

When it is all said and done DSLR's are a great, cost effective way for amateur or even professional film makers to get quality shots with a very flexible, on the go device.

Updated: 11/19/2015, karamela
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