Three Great Cameras For Guerrilla Filmmaking
by Chris Poindexter
Of all the questions filmmakers still get, so many still revolve around what camera to use. Lately there have been a lot of questions about HD and 4K.
The question about HD vs 4K is the easiest. Unless you have a valid technical reason to shoot 4K, skip it. Storage, editing and grading 4K is beyond the scope of most low-budget productions and it’s not going to help you sell your film. HD is not going anywhere soon, regardless of the fact that corporate media is trying to make the transition seem inevitable. It’s not and as long as HD/2K look good projected on the big screen never underestimate the staying power of good enough.
That brings us to our cameras. For documentaries and low-budget features there are some awesome cameras available at really reasonable prices. All of these cameras deliver a great image and come in a form factor that won’t attract a lot of attention of you’re filming in a public place. My criteria included an external mic jack, ND filters and image stabilization so you can shoot fast without a lot of equipment and then scoot. They also have to be reasonably priced, no need going into debt for one piece of equipment. Here are my three current favorites.
I honestly can’t tell if Sony intended the RX-10 to be a still camera or video camera because the video feature set is everything a guerrillafilmmaker could ever want in a DSLR form factor. The RX-10 is built around a 20.2 megapixel, 1″ Exmor R, CMOS sensor that features backside-illuminated technology to enhance its low-light capabilities. In front of that is a Zeiss 24-200 f/2.8 lens that maintains f/2.8 through the entire zoom range. It’s got a mic jack for external audio and will shoot in 60 or 24 fps. More film goodies include a button to declick the lens…amazing…and built-in ND filters and optical image stabilization. And, oh yeah, it takes pretty decent still pictures as well.
This camera was made for guerrillafilmmaking with an astonishing set of video features.
Boasting a surprisingly rich feature set I’ve seen in a compact camcorder, the Sony NX-30 is a guerrilla filmmakers dream. My only criticism is the 1/2.88″ ExmorR CMOS image sensor is a smidge undersized but the camera delivers excellent video and astonishing image stabilization. Dual XLR inputs are linked to pro level audio controls and it’s got a 10x zoom lens because being able to shoot from a distance is a great quality to have.
The most expensive camera in our lineup and that actually looks like a noticeable video camera. Not ideal for guerrilla shooting but still not likely to attract a lot of attention unless you shoot in one place for a long time. The AX2000 has three 1/3 inch CMOS sensors and offers a variety of shooting modes. It’s got dual XLR inputs and a wide angle 20x zoom lens. You get more manual control of the AX2000, which is important to some. The lens has focus, zoom and an aperture ring for those who want to work by hand. It’s also got electronic peaking, but you have to hunt through the menu to find it.
If your feature involves more sit-down style interviews, you’ll want a little bigger camera over something tiny like the NX30. Plus the 20x zoom lens will let you get long shots from the other side of the security fence.
All of these are excellent cameras in their own right and you can’t really go wrong with any of them. For maximum stealth go with either the RX-10 or NX30 and for maximum control pick a camera like the AX2000.