Thoughts on getting a DSLR Camera for filmmaking

This month, I considered getting a DSLR camera. That is, a Digital Single Lens Reflex, or in English, a stills camera.

There’s been a huge growth in popularity with them recently, because they are starting to record video too, in High Definition. The quality of the lenses and optics is well above what we’re used to in camcorder circles, but they’re far from perfect replacements.

When I first thought about getting one, I popped into PC world, as they have a reasonable selection, and they’re out on display, rather than in locked display cases in Jessops. To my surprise, the Camera expert in PC world appeared to have a clue about filmmaking in general, but since he wasn’t a member and wasn’t interested in joining OVFM, he can’t have been that good!

My first look at their selection confirmed what I’d expected – Lots of lovely lenses to choose from, and reasonable prices too! (for lenses).  However when I started to investigate about sound, it all started to unravel. Of course they have a separate mic socket, so you can plug in an external mic, but as far as monitoring that sound through headphones, forget it! There is talk of future models having headphone sockets, but nothing reasonable right now.

There are workarounds – You can buy a Beachtek or Juicedlink box (a sort of professional mic adapter with XLR sockets) that comes with a headphone socket, but that’s relatively big, and well over £250!

The other alternative is to get a separate audio recorder for £100+, and then sync your audio in the edit. But that’s a lot of fuss, and you need a clapperboard or something like that for every single take, which is simply impractical for the ‘run and gun’ filming that we do for documentaries or anything non scripted.

So my conclusion was not yet and save your money. My guess is that something ought to come out that’s under £1000, and is camcorder shape, with proper sound capability but with DSLR internals and lenses. How hard can that be?

On the subject of DSLRs, I saw a great example of what frustrates me with some student films the other day.

The story involved the suspense of a coke can on a spin dryer where it wobbled left and then wobbled right a few times, and then eventually dropped off the side to be caught by the hero. It won some competition or other, and I thought that although it was beautifully shot, where was the filmmakers’ skill? With the incredible quality of equipment available to the layman, anyone can make a beautiful sequence of pictures, but it clearly still requires skill, not equipment, to make a great film. It seems that people are still very hung up on equipment, and forgetting about the story they’re meant to be telling.


It reminds me of the time when home computer desktop publishing first came out. Everyone started making their own flyers and leaflets, with dreadful clipart everywhere, and every word was a different colour, and they looked hideous! The designers were crying out that they would be put out of business, but they weren’t – because it takes skill and talent to design a leaflet, not just the equipment.


Another year has gone by, and our AGM is back again! I’d just like to re-iterate the regular committee situation, in that we all stand down, and put ourselves up for re-election. It’s not as if we all vote ourselves in automatically! Every year, there’s a concerted effort to encourage members to volunteer for the committee, and to get involved. All you have to do is get a nominator and a seconder, and you get to stand in the election! And being on the committee is great fun! We have a really significant club here, and all ideas are genuinely considered, and as a committee member, you’ll have the opportunity to make a change that may shape the club for the next 50 years or more! We do need nominations though, as at least one committee member is standing down, so we need people to step up and offer their support. If you think you know someone who would be good, please check with them before you nominate them!!


After around 35 years (or a long time, anyway) of editing our club magazine, The Viewfinder, Peter has asked to step down as editor. We’re so very grateful to him for all his hard work over the years, keeping us informed and chasing people for articles.

So now we’re looking to you, dear club member, to volunteer to make the Viewfinder. Any assistance you need will be given – we can supply you with the software if you’d like, and any training needed too! So if you’ve ever fancied having your name in print, or helping the club in a significant way, please get in touch with me.

Often, people don’t volunteer because they think someone else will do it, and it ends up with nobody volunteering. This is important – The Viewfinder doesn’t edit itself, so if you think you can help in any way at all, get in touch SOON!!

2 Replies to “Thoughts on getting a DSLR Camera for filmmaking”

  1. Oddly enough Chris, next article from me is ‘The Power of DSLR’ session at Raindance last night – lots of general stuff, but also lots of pros and cons regarding the DSLR world so it may well interest you. The monitoring of sound for example, was also dealt with.

  2. Hi Chris

    If you use final cut pro x for post it will sync audio from an external recorder at the click of a mouse, most of the issues seem to be from a lack of autofocus with dslr’s, i use both a canon 5D mk II and a 7D as well as an HD hero and have no problems syncing audio with all three and a Zoom H4n digital audio recorder.

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