With so many cameras on the market today, how do you know which one is right for your film?

Here’s the simple answer. Pick the one that gives you the best look, that you have access to, and that costs you the least. The look verses the cost is the universal problem that everyone struggles with in this industry because usually the more expensive the camera, the better the look. On your first film just be happy to get a camera. Wait until a later film to worry about the format.

High Definition or HD Cameras

There are many HD cameras out there today that give you a good image quality, but there are some that are sort of the industry standard for independent film that you should consider.

Panasonic Cameras

Panasonic makes a wide variety of HD cameras from the Varicam all the way to the smaller prosumer cameras. My personal preference for shooting an independent film with Panasonic Cameras is the Varicam, but that does not mean you have to use it. It is the most expensive Panasonic to rent but the best image they offer.

Sony Cameras

Sony also makes a wide variety of HD cameras from the CineAlta down to prosumer cameras. Of these my personal preference is the CineAlta, once again the most expensive of the Sony cameras to rent, but the best image they offer.

2K, 4K and beyond cameras

There are quite a few different types of these cameras out there for high end movies now, but most of the independent filmmakers and, myself included, are using the Red camera for this resolution. So obviously, my suggestion to you for this type of camera is the Red.


Any camera system you use needs to have a defined workflow for post production. Make sure your editor has a clear plan laid out on how to acquire the footage and how to manage all the footage before you start shooting.


There are many cameras out there that look great that I may not have listed. Remember, the story is the most important thing and then the look. It is possible to shoot a great film without the most expensive camera.

35mm and 16mm Film Cameras

In my opinion there is nothing quite like the look of film and it is still the greatest medium to film on. Most larger movies are still shot on 35mm film but for your purposes this may be out of reach. Do not be discouraged if you cannot shoot on film. For your first film you probably shouldn’t anyway. There are a lot of different film cameras out there but for your purposes I will just list the main two companies you would  probably deal with.


Panavision is a camera rental house that rents their own camera systems  and lenses to filmmakers.

They have a wide variety of 35mm Panavision Brand Camera bodies and lenses that can suit anything you want to film. They also carry all the additional pieces needed for any part that fits every camera they own.


Arri is a 35mm and 16mm film camera company that sells cameras to individuals. You will find that a lot of DP’s own a 435 Camera, one of the work horses of the industry in 35mm. They also make a 16mmSR3 that is their 16mm camera and is used on sets quite often.


Remember that if you shoot on film, you will need to ask your DP their film stock preference and order that stock. This film stock is not something you can buy at your local camera store.


New cameras come out all the time. Ask your DP what he prefers to shoot on as he may be more up to date on the newest systems. Also remember this, the glass is more important than the camera.


If you do shoot on film remember that just like film in your still camera, you need to send motion picture film to a lab to be developed and no, they do not take this at the one hour photo mart. Check your area for a professional motion picture film processing lab.


Almost all camera systems take a different type of tape or tapeless format. Make sure you check the camera you are using in order to match up the recording medium.

Content sponsored and created by Studio Smithy, Inc. A Film and Commercial Production Company.

Studio Smithy, Inc. is a Commercial, Film, Direct Response, Production Services, Product Shot and Television Production Company