DSLR video starter kit

DSLR video starter kit

I often get the same question from people who want to start making movies with a DSLR: “which camera should I buy?”. Here’s a list of great tools, to get a head start without spending too much (total cost approx. 800 euros).

Camera: Canon T3i/600D

The Canon T3i has a lot going for it: it's small, leightweight and has a swivel screen, and only full frame cameras like the Canon 5D Mark III beats in in the image quality department.

Canon T3i vs T4i
“Why not the newer 650D/T4i?”, you ask. First of all, it’s cheaper, and has essentially the same video-features as the latest model. Yes, the T4i has autofocus, but it doesn't work that well, and most of the time you’ll be focussing manually anyway ;-)

Canon T3i vs 7D

“Why not the 7D, it’s much more expensive so it must be better, right?” Actually no, the T3i is newer and has much better features for video, like the swivel screen, manual audio levels, and more importantly, the Magic Lantern software will run on it. This software hack will make your camera even more suitable for video work by adding features like focus peaking, magic zoom and zebras.

It’s lightweight, which may not seem so important to you right now, but becomes a real advantage once you move on to heavier zoom-lenses or start adding accessoiries like a follow focus or an external monitor.

Unique and very useful feature: 3x crop mode
The 600D has one more important trick up its sleeve, which no other Canon DSLR has: the movie crop mode. This feature allows you to digitally zoom in 3 times, without losing any of the image quality (in fact, it even improves the image quality). This way you can use your kit-lens as a normal 18-55 wide/portrait lens, or as a 55-165 medium tele-lens (in the crop mode), all without changing lenses! This feature also allows any close-focussing lens to get 3 times closer, effectively turning it into a macro video lens! Read more about this feature here.

Lenses: 18-55mm IS kit lens

When you buy a DSLR it often comes with cheap zoom lens, like the Canon EF-S 18-55 f3.5-5.6 IS. While a lot of people may argue about the quality of this lens, the only lens that is an upgrade to this kit lens will cost more than your camera body alone (i’m talking about the Canon 17-55 f2.8 IS USM). So let’s discuss the positive aspects of this lens: it has a very usable zoom range of 18mm (medium wide) to 55mm (medium tele/portrait) and includes Image Stabilisation which makes it a great walkaround/run ‘n gun lens while also allowing you to discover which focal lengths you use most often.

Lenses: 50mm f1.8

This lens, lovingly nicknamed the “nifty fifty” and “plastic fantastic”, has a lot going for it, but I’ll say it in one sentence: there is no lens available at this pricepoint (€99) that is so sharp, light-sensitive and lightweight as the Canon 50mm f1.8. Get it. It will allow you to do the things the kit-lens can’t do, like completely blur the background behind your subject and make beautiful images in near-darkness.

It does not have the zoom range of your kit lens (in fact, you can’t zoom with it at all!), or the image stabilisation, but that is why you can cover a great range of subjects and situations with just these two lenses. And once you discover what you miss in either lens, you can start saving up for more expensive lenses.

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