Mirrorless camera rig or professional video camera?

Why do most filmmakers and videographers love to buy a mirrorless camera and then rigged it up until it is completely unrecognized? Because of the price? Simplicity? Variety of fieldwork? Or do we just like to have a lot of bothersome pieces of gear around the camera? Rigged up mirrorless camera is in most cases a lot heavier than a dedicated professional video camera.

Variety of fieldwork with mirrorless or DSLR

There are many aspects of work that bigger professional cameras aren’t so good at it. For example; person point of view, action shots, tight spaces, hidden locations, attaching to different objects, etc… This is where mirrorless and DSLRs shine at its best. That is the main reason why such cameras are a great piece of equipment. The quality of mirrorless and DSLRs is incomparably better than on GoPro or any other similar devices. You’ll see many times on professional film sets using some cheap B-roll camera such as a DSLR and mirrorless. They are easy to attach anywhere and cheap enough to have multiple of them to destroy on-set.

Mirrorless and DSLRs are now widely used on gimbal stabilizers. Why not, they are light, easy to set up and whole gear is agiler than the traditional steadicam with hand armor suit.

Price of mirrorless camera rig for video

Prices of mirrorless cameras aren’t that far from DSLR’s, and could even cost more than a traditional DSLR. And if you are using the camera also for photography, mirrorless or DSLR is a good choice. But, you won’t be able to do both types of work at the same time because of the settings and different style of shooting. And when we rig-up mirrorless or DSLR for creative interviews or shooting a movie, the rig can weight a lot and is expensive just about the same as a professional camera.

Why? Because of the rig costs:

  • Basic movie kit rig with shoulder mount can cost from $250 up to $1000 or more. And you need a rig kit to attach mics, amplifiers, follow focus, barn doors, screen, battery pack… etc
  • An external microphone can cost from $100 to $300 or more.
  • A good audio amplifier can cost from $200 to $800 or more.
  • External monitor screen can cost from $400 to $1000 or more.
  • Battery pack costs from $200 to $400 or more.
  • Various adapters to connect specific equipment from $100 to $300 or more.

When you calculate such rigs, you can already buy a good video camera in the price range of Sony FS5 or even FS7. Even the Canon C200. While these cameras are bulletproof and work whenever you take them from the bag. Rigged up mirrorless and DSLRs can turn up a nightmare if not done properly and can fell apart in a more run and gun situations. Also, you get much more tired carrying a rigged mirrorless camera around. Been there, done with that.

The last time I rigged Sony a7s was when I had to shoot a staged show with multiple cameras. Funny though, even if I have the Sony FS700, it was the Sony a7s that was the primary camera. It had to take in the audio and was powered by AC adapter. Because it has the APS-C setting and double digital zoom, I could shoot anything from very far away. While the FS700 as B-camera took the static wide shot.

Mirrorless camera versus professional video camera?

When to buy a mirrorless camera or a professional video camera for video production projects? There are many case scenarios where you’ll go nuts with the mirrorless setup. Because you’ll always have to buy different add-ons to meet the requirements. Not to mention, there will be some bugs or video quality problems too to be careful about. I personally really liked the Canon 5D Mark III while the HD quality was at its peak demand. Because I could also record in cDNG with a help of Magic Lantern, the quality of the footage was unbeatable. The battery lasted longer, the screen was decent to nail the focus, easy to hold, good weight balance if you used a heavy zoom lens and there were almost no problems in any case scenario. It only took time to change the ND filters. Even today, if HD would be a priority for work, I could use it with no problems. Now, I mostly use it for photography projects. On the other hand cameras such as Sony a7s or Panasonic GH5 need many add-ons to get the most from them. You need a good external monitor to for better focusing assistance, some kinda rig is needed to hold the monitor, audio recorder and to carry it around at ease. Also, battery packs are a must. Or bigger external battery addon. With such extra weights to the camera, you already need a shoulder mount.

A professional video camera has many features already built-in. Maybe even the shoulder mount, better screen monitor, and top handle. And they almost always have good battery life, good internal audio quality with a decent external microphone, internal ND filters and easier access to many settings. There are variables in some features but the main point of the video cameras is always there – reliability. You can always throw it out of the bag and do all of the basic stuff without worrying that something might not work.

Do you also find stressful working with mirrorless cameras?

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