First Videography Camera
So I'm looking into purchasing my first camera. I was never particularly interested in photography until I was a cinematographer and director on a film I helped make in high school, and I'm looking into getting into it now. I want to get this camera primarily for video, but also for occasional stills. I want to get a nice camera and good lenses/equipment, but not completely break my budget, so I guess I have a few questions:
  • In general, are mirrorless cameras the better for video? (not just at a low price point, I want to grow into it)
  • I like the idea of shooting on full frame, but can't afford it right now. Can I just by full frame lenses and use them on a cropped sensor, and later migrate my setup to full frame later? Are there any trade-offs here?
  • Are Rokinon Cine lenses any good? They are very cheap for what they are offering and it sounds too good to be true...
  • Including a couple lenses, a tripod, and maybe even a steady-cam, what's the best camera I could/should get in the $1500-$2000 range?
So far in my search, I'm leaning towards the Sony a6000, but I'm concerned about having to switch to Canon or Nikon someday because of lens support/quality reasons.
Or maybe I'm just reading in to this too much... either way, any help is appreciated. :)

Jan 2, 2017
This is going to be a very detailed answer so bear with me.
Short answer: I suggest the a6300, GH4, or G85, depending on your needs. With remaining money, grab a few prime lenses (50mm and 18 or 22 or 35mm) and equipment. A tripod is necessary as well as an external audio device (never use in-camera audio for anything but syncing in post). Plenty of SD cards (at least 16 GB, preferably 32 if you're shooting a lot of 4K). Slider, gimbals, and other filming equipment goes a long ways and unless you're doing everything on the street, lighting is going to be important. Pick up some LEDs or cheap photography studio kits (sub $100) to get you started.
1. From my knowledge, the only real difference a mirrorless camera have with video is that they are generally lighter which is a large benefit to someone who plans on moving around a lot or has a heavy setup. However, in real world use, it's all about the user.
2. Full frame lenses work on crop but not the other way around. Yes, you can buy all full frame lenses but they are much more expensive and you won't see any real world benefit over decent quality crop frame lenses. Full frame is not necessary for most videographers and you will find that photographers will find more benefits out of switching. Also be wary that you can use a speedbooster to achieve most of the benefits from a full frame body, on a crop frame. I suggest the Metabones Speedbooster as, while expensive, can be a very useful tool in your arsenal. But do your research first. 3. I haven't used any Rokinon Cine lenses (was looking to buy one actually) but they look like very good lenses. The main things you'll find about them are: Soft focus on edges, especially apparent when shooting wide open and doing more macro shots. Vignetting is more visible compared to higher end counterparts. So you get what you pay for but they are very good lenses for the price and will generally get the job done. Focusing will be decent but always tack sharp at wide apertures. I don't think there is manual override if in autofocus mode, and the autofocusing is noisy during video (but you should be pulling focus manually during shots anyways.
I'm a Canon user and I am most likely going to buy GH4 or G85 (haven't decided yet) to add to my setup. I do both photography and videography using a Canon t3i and have done professional jobs using this camera. I preferably would love to stick to the Canon lineup and will probably invest into a 5d mii or iii in order to itch that full frame itch that I have. However, for someone who isn't already invested into one lineup and is not getting paid professionally, I suggest you get either the GH4 if you are looking at pure video quality and features, G85 if you want basically the same video quality as the GH4 minus some features but also adding more such as in body stabilization and better still photos, or the a6300 which is inbetween the price of the GH4 and G85 but has fantastic video and lowlight for the price while also being the smallest body of the two.
I will leave you to do most of the research between those three, but they are the kings of DSLR video at this price point. Keep in mind that, while their lens selection isn't as big as Canon, you can easily find adaptors for them, which is a worthy investment in the future. And also keep in mind that these are DSLRs. While DSLR video is certainly amazing, they aren't film cameras. If you really want a cinematic look and feel, you're going to have to go with something from like Sony's XD Cam series or Canon's lineup or even black magic. If you're trying to figure out what separates YouTube short films from the blockbuster cinemas, it's because of the equipment. No matter how great you can make that DSLR look, the feel of an actually cinematic camera can't be replicated 100%.
Someone else answered that you need a 4K camera but that is just not true. While you think 4K is become the new standard, I highly advise you to think again. It'll be another 10-20 years at least before 4K becomes the household staple. Full HD looks great to me, why should I trade out my already thin and trust flat screen? You can't visually tell the difference between 4K on mobile devices, and that's the truth. iPhones are a lower resolution to the new Samsungs and androids because it's already impossible to see a visually see a pixel on any Retina display. Not to mention what 4K can do to your workflow. If you don't have an SSD or you're working on a laptop that doesn't have decent specs, 4K will make it hell for you. You'll find yourself waiting to even scrub through videos, not even considering playing it back in full time at anything more than 1/4 quality. Also think about memory. If you're shooting a short film, you'll burn through a memory card a scene if you do more than a few takes. And your camera can over heat. So to the people who say "4K is the new standard" I say stop following the hype. Sure 4K is really beneficial but it's not for everybody.
You didn't mention your intent as a director/cinematographer. Do you plan on making short films? Are you posting on YouTube and Vimeo? I assume the answer is yes. First off, does anyone actually stream in 4K? Didn't think so. Chances are, you're gonna be exporting your project in 1080p. And this is going to be the standard for almost all video platforms because at least half of your audience is going to be on a mobile device (including laptops) where they don't have a 4K display and mobile carriers don't even let them stream that high, and probably never will. You can only REALLY notice 4K on a big screen at least 22" or more. 2K is a much better resolution for everyone. *end of 4K rant*
All of the cameras I suggested have 4K capabilities and they all look great! The real perks of 4K is that you have plenty of room to crop in post and when downscaling to 1080p, the quality is amazing. However there's so much more to quality than pixels. The biggest one is bitrate and RAW video. None of these cameras shoot RAW natively but here's a comparison of the GH4 in 4K downscaled to Full HD vs a Canon miii RAW using the magic Lantern hack upscaled to Full HD (it actually can only be recorded at less than Full HD when shooting in RAW).
As you can see, the RAW video makes a huge difference between non RAW and is comparable to a 4K sensor. Also for fun, here's video of someone using a hacked t3i ($300) and shooting RAW at 480p (960 x 540 24fps) upscaled back to 1080p.
There are several limitations to RAW video and you'll never have full capability unless you buy higher end cameras.
Now this post is long enough already but here are a few other tips that you need to know getting into it videography:
Arguably the most important aspect of a video or film isn't the video itself but the audio. Bad audio will ruin a good picture faster than the other way around.
In terms of video, the most important aspect is lighting. Lighting will make and break your video quality. I suggest learning basic photography and mastering aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. These are all a part of the Exposure triangle and you'll need to find a balance between the three to properly expose your image. When lighting your image, be resourceful but also mindful of your scene. What you see in real life doesn't always translate into camera so always check your light meter and histogram and never just go off of the little LCD screen on the back of the camera. Here's a quick tutorial that shows how big of a difference lighting/composition makes:
Lastly: Lenses. They are about as cheap and expensive as you can get them. The first lens I suggest anyone get, is a 50mm prime. This is the lens that is on my camera 95% of the time and is probably as narrow as you'll need to go for most videos. It's the perfect focal length for interviews and close ups and can get the job done for wider shots too, although you'll need to move around a bit. Next I suggest some sort of wide lens. Now how wide is up to you and your type of shooting. But generally 18, 24, and 35 are popular focal lengths.
Now you'll notice I've said mostly primes and that's simply because it is cheaper in terms of aperture and quality to price ratio. It also forces you to move around and test different compositions vs standing in one place and just zooming in. I always suggest primes to people starting out and it makes the most sense.
I could write forever on this haha but if you have any other questions feel free to ask! I've worked with dirt cheap cameras to a $4000 song xd cam and up. I've also been on actual sets and live productions. I can can give you specific advice towards whatever field you're trying to go to. Cheers!

Dec 30, 2016
start by focusing on the output: If you're planning on making some good films, notice that nowadays we are quickly moving towards higher resolutions. grab a 4K jib and don't really worry about lenses. Don't invest in anything other than the actual camera body and maybe a single wide range 35-200 mm zoom lens, and fiddle with this set up and work hard on getting better while you save some cash to expand your extensions later as your experiences grow..
Dec 30, 2016
I can see where your coming from by just getting a 4k camera so you can be "future proof" but the cameras only half the picture. In order to get good video quality your going to want a good lens setup too..
If your wanting some really cheap lenses go vintage, get something like a helios 44-2 or a canon FD lens. Then get a cheap ish focal reducer on amazon or ebay for ~80$ and heres a bonus... the focal reducers will increase the f stop by 1 stop so a f 1.8 will become a f 1.4 if im correct...
Dec 31, 2016
Thank you so much for your thoughts! However, YoussefElZein, I do say I would have to agree with Shmexy, as I would rather buy a lower tier camera now, and some nice lenses, so in a few years, when when I outgrow my camera, I won't have to toss my old lenses for new ones. I'll just get a better camera capable of 4K later, when it becomes necessary.
But I think you make a good point about ditching the kit lenses and getting a good zoom. I'll look into something like that for sure.
And as far as "future proofing" my equipment, what I mean, is I want to make the right choice as far as brand and sensor sizes are concerned. I know I will have to replace equipment over time, that's a given. I just don't want to have to ditch a bunch of it because I'm dissatisfied with Canon, Nikon, Sony, etc. or have to get new lenses after switching to full frame.