I saw a video today in which a cinematography expert compares the Iphone 7 camera with the Arri Alexa. For those of you who don’t know, the Arri Alexa is basically the most used and ‘famous’ camera currently in Hollywood and most productions coming out today are shot exactly on that. So, in the video the person puts an Iphone of top of the Arri Alexa, shoots the same footage with both devices, and then compares it.
I’m enraged by that. What exactly was his point? To show that the Iphone’s camera is worse than the Arri Alexa? Well, of course it is! One is a smartphone and costs 700 bucks, while the other is a professional film camera and costs up to 100 grand! There is no comparison to be made.
The video made me think, however. I have many friends who are afraid to shoot a short movie because they don’t have the right gear. Many people feel the need to have a professional camera, like a Canon or Nikon, before even attempting to shoot a short film. This brings me to my question: does gear truly matter?
When does it not matter?
Okay, listen. If you create films as a hobby, for fun, or as a necessity (say, a university wants you to send them something you have directed), there isn’t much significance what camera you shoot with. Of course, it’s awesome if the frame looks visually nice and is of high quality, but it doesn’t really make a huge difference in the case I’m talking about. If you shoot films as a hobby, focus on your directorial skills. If you need to shoot a movie for university auditions, focus on your directorial skills. The most important thing is that your production tells a story. If it does that, the camera it is shot on is just a bonus.
I’ve shot some amazing things on my Iphone. I have directed a couple of short films and the one I’m most proud of was actually shot on a crappy old camera that was neither 4K nor HD. When I needed to shoot a new film to send to universities, I borrowed a professional Canon camera from a friend, but I didn’t have to. I’m just a perfectionist in such situations, I wanted my movie to look as good as possible. It doesn’t really matter if you shoot on a Canon, an Arri Alexa, or an Iphone as long as the film itself is good. I wanted to make mine visually look a tad better, but that’s just me. I would never buy a camera simply for that. If I wasn’t able to borrow one, I’d shoot it on my Iphone. So should you.
Oh, and I have to say one more thing. If you have never worked with a professional HD camera before, using one might even limit you. Believe me, it’s a lot more complicated than it looks. You have to know exactly what to do, which setting to adjust and how, and what additional gear to use. Only then will you have a significant difference. Those things take a long time to figure out (really, believe me, I’m talking from experience) and may, probably will, slow down the process.
When should it matter?
When you are shooting a feature film. When you are shooting a wedding or a music video. Or when you are working with a professional crew. Not when you are doing it for fun.
I’ve heard people say that they think it’s pointless that big budget movies get shot on such expensive cameras. That is a ridiculous thing to say. The difference between an Arri Alexa or a RED Weapon and an Iphone or a Samsung smartphone camera is drastic. Here is a video that compares the two so you can see the difference yourselves.
Only when a professional filmmaker is shooting a big budget feature film would I say that it is absolutely necessary for them to use an expensive camera. I like movies sharp and visually appealing, as do everyone. In any other case, if you are an amateur filmmaker or just like doing that as a hobby, I wouldn’t advise it that you buy a 100000 dollar Arri Alexa.
So, does it matter?
After all this fancy talk, does gear matter? Of course it does. The camera a director is using and any other gear they add to it makes it possible that their movie is 1000 times more beautiful than something I shot on my phone an hour ago. However, fancy gear is not necessary unless you are a professional director. I, personally, am thinking of buying a professional camera soon. But that’s because I think I’ll need it and use it well.
So what should you take from this? If what is stopping you from making a movie is the lack of a great camera, do not worry! Shoot on a sucky camera, shoot on your phone! It doesn’t matter. What matters is that what you are shooting is well-directed and that you are telling a compelling story. The rest is just a bonus. Trust me on this. Go and create.
I know this article was a bit different, but did you enjoy it? Have you shot anything on a professional camera? What about on an Iphone camera? Share your thoughts in the comments section below, please! Don’t forget to LIKE and SHARE this article if you enjoyed it!
Thanks for reading,