It’s not the camera you use, but it’s how you use it. A lot of beginner filmmakers get discouraged if they don’t have the most expensive, most technically complicated camera on the market. They think they need a bunch of expensive equipment if they want to make a great film. They think, “If I get this camera, my film will look amazing and therefore be amazing.” If only that were the case.
I’ve seen films made with top of the line equipment that came out horrible. Likewise, I’ve seen films made with bottom tier equipment that came out excellently. It really comes down to your vision and your ability to use the camera in creative and imaginative ways.
Yes, you do need equipment. This does mean you have to spend money, but getting a top of the line camera does not mean you’re going to make a top of the line film. A great, festival level film can be made on a mid-priced DSLR camera. With the right lighting and the right camera movement, you can make anything down to an HD Mini DV camcorder look great. I will say, however, an HD camera is probably necessary. However, this doesn’t mean you need to shell out thousands of dollars on one. I bought a camera this past spring that only cost $200 and filmed HD1080 and had an option to film in 24p. No one thought I used a cheaper camera on the film I made with it, but I did. I had access to more expensive cameras, but the camera I ended up using had its benefits. The main benefit was that it could film one long continuous take until the SD card filled up. This was important because my film was composed of all long takes.
It wasn’t the camera, however, that made the film. It was how I used it. Even a low end camera can churn out great results if you use a dolly or a slider, or even a tripod. When you’re starting out and don’t have a massive budget, don’t hesitate to get a cheap HD camera. If you have the skill, it’s going to look great. Just watch out for lighting and camera movement, and of course audio. Having a Director of Photography is really helpful in these situations. If not, however, you can definitely do it yourself. Believe in your vision and make your film!