I’m pleasantly surprised by how much of my filmmaking can be accomplished by using a DSLR camera for documentary shooting. It’s one of the most crucial tools in my current documentary, The Palette Project. While even our primary camera, a Panasonic HPX250 is a smaller camera than I ever thought I would use, the DSLR is becoming quite a workhorse.
Right now, we’re shooting with Canon bodies, and it’s true that the 5D mark iii and the D70 have been game changes. Relying on DSLR cameras on shoots with a focus puller can be tricky, but like any tool, it’s how you use it. It shoots excellent interview footage, and when we shot off the coast of New Zealand on a 35 foot sailboat with very limited space and rocking waters, this was our go-to camera.
I’m considering adding a Panasonic GH4 to the mix. It’s not the 4K that is putting it into contention, but wrath the features that make several stages of shooting more manageable, both in production and in post. Timecode generator, TC out and an available accessory to add four channel XLR outs. Also, unlike any Canon camera currently on the market (and not using Magic Lantern), it offers the ability to turn on peaking in the EVF – allowing you to confirm focus, which can often be difficult no matter how good the viewfinder is. That peaking feature can often save you the trouble of rigging a DSLR or even mirror less camera and connecting a field monitor… which is a useful tool on set, but can slow things down in the field.
Frankly, I hope Canon will choose to catch up in this area when it comes to video features. Their customer service is unbelievable and their lenses and support system is legendary. I’m still not crazy about the mounting system on Panasonic units, and adapting my collection of f-mount lenses to the micro 4/3 mount causes serious vignetting. But as I’m fond of saying. You use the tools you have and mold them to your passion for storytelling.
I’m currently in production on The Palette Project, the story of visually impaired athletes around the world and their hopes and dreams, told through the lens of a photographer losing his eyesight himself. Consider making a tax deductible contribution here.