Why use completely expensive cameras nowadays?

This is a question I make myself that I don't see being discussed and I think should be.

Why use a $300,000 to 500,000 or more Arri Alexa, Red, Sony Alta or Panasonic camera, even if the latter cost a bit less, if the prospect for the next 10 years is quite likely that the film won't be seen in a film theater with a gigantic screen? Not to speak of a TV film or series, that will be screened in 65" LED screen, or even using a projector, which actually very few people will screen in a too large screen.

Let's start with a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro, which can start at around $3,000 for body, battery grip and EVF


There are other cameras similar to this one in capabilities, some more sophisticated/expensive, some less sophisticated/affordable. All of them of course you need to use with high quality lenses to get superb results. But even the lenses are becoming more affordable, once again when considering how large the screen size will be.

The problem seems to me who's putting the limits you have to get to for this I call a "new reality". Why should we adjust to them or why shouldn't we force other limits to be accepted.

What I'm pointing at, as you might guess, is having more independent film making. All over the world.

We now watch, through Netflix, films and series coming from everywhere. The last two years Oscars have Asian or Mexican directors getting the prizes or being finalists. How many more are out there?

The limit seems to be a technical one, and I wonder if we should allow things to continue to be so.
 

Maura B.

The Last Black Unicorn
Staff member
It truly depends what exactly are you planning to do with that camera. If you need to come with a specific quality, then you need to use those expensive cameras. If you are ok with Full HD or 4k and you value talent more than the quality of your tools, then you can shoot with a few thousand dollars camera :) There were even good movies scenes shoot with iphones and no one noticed the difference
 
You seem to miss my point, or you just disagree with it.

My main point is centered on your phrase: "If you are ok with Full HD or 4k and you value talent more than the quality of your tools". Who mentioned full HD (1080p) or 4K? I started with a 6K camera, similar in price and capability to other 6K or even 8K affordable cameras that are already on the market.

My point is that with the present and next ten year conditions, or maybe never again, the screen we will need for screening films will be much smaller. This argument was even presented by Christopher Nolan not long ago, and he was even including film theater screen on his comment on why going over 2K instead of higher rates?

I'm not talking about iPhones, because I even disregard them in flexibility and compromises, compared with the camera I proposed: Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro. Others might propose their favorite ones, and what I think should be disregarded are these cameras improvements versus those of the expensive cameras I mentioned.

Shooting raw and using SSDs to store the very large files, is going very fast to get to the last frontier we did have with those industrial cameras. Well, I say that difference is vanishing fast, and we should consider seriously, professionally, even set where and what are the limitations that really care, if valid and important. We are talking about film budgets here.

Comparison tests, now not as common has they were recently, should start again, and involve producers in that too. If they continue to demand that their productions should be shot in Arri Alexa, why not look for producers that get more flexible and look at films coming or being started with different shooting instruments?

We already went through such situation less than 15 years ago, when the producers demands were to shoot in 35mm film and the maximum HD resolution we had was 1080p. So it should be a familiar fight for many, and people coming in should learn what are the patterns that are demanded now.
 

Maura B.

The Last Black Unicorn
Staff member
Yes, it seems that we agree on the same point, but we have expressed it differently. My point was that technology offers affordable options for filmmakers who have low budgets to create amazing projects. The Blackmagic you presented is affordable, but I've seen many projects made using photography cameras such as Nikon Z6 II or Sony A7 III, which are even more accessible for many. Sure, it would be ridiculous to compare these entry cameras with gear that costs $300k or even $500k, but fortunately, not all projects required budgets this big.
 
The question I'm rising , considering comparison tests that were made some time ago, comparing several cameras going from $3,000 to 15,000 with Arri Alexa were far from ridiculous, as you suggest.
Low budget prime lenses have got even better, and I believe new tests should be carried out.
Of course such tests should be carried on by serious cameramen, and independent filmmakers should work together to get attention from producers that until now have demanded these expensive cameras, without seeing comparison results, and how important they were. Cameras and lenses, of course.
More important: how important they are for the projection conditions we have now and will have for many more years., that you do not seem to comment anything on your answer.
Or do you really believe we will have movie theaters in the next 10 years. I believe not.
 

Maura B.

The Last Black Unicorn
Staff member
We could have a movie theatre in the next 10 years, because people go to see a movie as a social event, otherwise, they could watch movies online. If the pandemic taught us anything is that yes, we can move anything online, but it is not the same thing. Online events are not the same thing as physical events. Online movies are not the same thing as actually going with your friends to see them. :) What might be different is how those movie theaters will look like.
As for the cameras, I believe their lifespan is until a new technology comes out. When 3D started with Avatar, it became a standard. Probably we will have VR cinemas with 360 headsets in the future, since that seems to be a thing now. In the pause between a new technology , you can use the same cameras. But once the trend changes, you need the new technology to keep up with the changes. It is a bit hard to estimate the timeline between changes, but I believe it would be safe to assume that you could use the same camera for 2 or 3 years
 

Olivia Perez

Active member
Hello, Carlos! You have chosen a lovely topic and I am happy to see such discussions here. When I am looking to purchase a new camera, I do not have the budget of a big studio because I am an independent person. Regardless, I am looking online for the best camera that money can buy for my budget. I am looking online for comparations, for reviews and feedback. What disturbs me is how little independent professionals do this. Most of the reviews and comparations are biased and sponsored by companies and they are not honest reviews.
Aside from this aspect, just like Maura said, I believe that you can only use a camera for a few years, regardless the price you pay for it. If you are a big studio, you need to keep up with anything new that is coming up. If you are like me, an independent artist, then you will use that camera for many years because your budget does not allow to change it so often. However, using a camera for 10 years is extremely less likely.....
 

Oskar Kuusk

New member
I have read your posts here and based on my own experience, the filmmaking industry is extremely competitive and it is challenging to come up with a movie in a world where your biggest competition are the biggest companies from Hollywood which have huge budgets. For small filmmakers, creativity is key because you have to work with what you have and what you have might be a $2000 camera with $500 lightning if you are lucky. And you can't change it every two years because it is too expensive to do so. And you can't use it for 10 years either because the quality it will produce won't keep up even with the minimum requirements of the market. I don't believe there is such thing as a camera that can be used for 10 years. Quality demand increases at an extremely fast pace, first it was Full HD, now it's 6k and yes VR is a real trend that will change the way we see and do movies. You mentioned the reviews, there are many youtubers that do reviews and yes many of them are bought because they receive for free expensive gear. There are some honest reviewers as well but you need to search for them
 
But I'm not talking about using a camera for 10 years. You can buy a new low budget, high quality camera every year or every two years. And quality demands for whom? If people stop going to film theaters for 5 more years, will the traditional industry be able to produce several hundred million dollars anymore?

Apparently those that criticized Netflix until quite recently, or still do, will have to swallow their words, because they seem to be the only ones that might be able to adapt faster to this new situation. And their demands for what cameras you used or are using on your film, if the screen quality is good, are quite different. Is it or is it not?

Better old style production companies run to imitate or learn from Netflix on how they do things.

So this is what I am debating. And I think it's more serious that you seem to consider or think of, because it would be a revolution on how things are done. Due to a new reality that we are forced to look at.
 
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Oskar Kuusk

New member
But I'm not talking about using a camera for 10 years. You can buy a new low budget, high quality camera every year or every two years. And quality demands for whom? If people stop going to film theaters for 5 more years, will the traditional industry be able to produce several hundred million dollars anymore?

Apparently those that criticized Netflix until quite recently, or still do, will have to swallow their words, because they seem to be the only ones that might be able to adapt faster to this new situation. And their demands for what cameras you used or are using on your film, if the screen quality is good, are quite different. Is it or is it not?

Better old style production companies run to imitate or learn from Netflix on how they do things.

So this is what I am debating. And I think it's more serious that you seem to consider or think of, because it would be a revolution on how things are done. Due to a new reality that we are forced to look at.
There is nothing new in Netflix. We have similar services in Estonia since 2007. They were not backed up by big companies so they were closed. Same business model - you pay a monthly membership and you watch online TV shows and movies. Netflix, HBO GO and Amazon just made it official, that's all. They are the competition of TV channels that aired TV shows and movies, not of cinemas.
 

nialmedia

Member
It is clear that trends are shifting and the industry is changing. The future is yet uncertain but I believe VR will become more popular and we will have more VR movies too
 
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