If you’re an early-stage production team, you’re likely making a decent investment in gear. While adding things to your cart can be quite exciting, it’s important to slow down and make sure you’re making the right purchases. Here are a few tips to help you do that:
Look Beyond the Specs Tab
While “4K/60p” might be enough to sell an amateur, it’s not enough to sell you. Of course, you’re reading reviews and watching videos on YouTube, but make sure to take the reviewer into account. Something that works for a YouTuber won’t perform the same on set. Everything, from cameras to c-stands, has quirks—and it’s best to know those before buying. This goes for lenses more than anything; look at test charts, AbleCine tests, etc.
Think About Your Ecosystem
The obvious example of this is Canon vs. Nikon vs. MTF, etc., lenses. Make sure you’re buying things that will work with your current gear, your future gear, and any gear you might rent (for photo and video people, the Canon EF mount is the way to go). But this goes beyond lens mounts; apply the same principle to audio systems (if you might use a Sony FX9 in a few years, for example, buy a UWP wireless system now, not a G3 one). Consider how your gear will be able to expand. your HDMI-only client monitor will work fine for your A7s right now, but it won’t cut it for video village in the future, so it might be cheaper, in the long run, to go with HDMI+SDI for now.
Value Ruggedness, Reliability, and Usability
I can’t stress this enough; these three characteristics are often the ones you will notice most in the heat of the moment. The FS700 still holds a special place in my heart for continuing to turn on and operate, time after time. This tip is especially important for documentary crews or similar; your gear needs to work, even after there’s a heavy fog, a dropped camera, or a corrupted card. If you’re really pushing a camera, or a stabilizer, or anything else, those things will happen more often than you think. So test out the camera’s menu system before you buy it. Notice where the lens release button is located. Think about what kind of cards it takes. Be cautious of cameras with few buttons and large touchscreens (cough, Blackmagic). Buttons always work, touchscreens don’t.
Seriously, if there’s anything I’ve learned from using a million different cameras, it’s that weight makes a difference. Run-n-gun shooters will notice this more than anyone. After a long day, a lightweight camera can do almost as much as a good IS system.
You Don’t Need to Look Cool
As the title states, don’t buy something for the look (which happens often with matte boxes). Don’t use an FS7 if a C100 will do the job. It’s not about the gear or how you look with it, it’s about the product. Trust me, clients agree.
I hope these tips help. Take your time, do your research, and think into the future. If you’re buying something that’s going to be obsolete in a few years, look elsewhere. Oh, and choose the right retailer with great customer service. B&H is fantastic.