Assembling a VFX Camera Kit

Date: 24.Nov 2013 | Reading Time: 4 minutes, 23 seconds

I don’t have my own camera kit specifically for VFX yet. Usually when I am on set, I either rent or get equipment from the production that is hiring me. Now I am about to build my own camera kit and to stay halfway reasonable I want to stay around €6000, though I can go over that amount to get a better kit if need be. And it looks like I might have to.

I thought I’d ask you guys for opinions on what to get and if I maybe can switch around a few things to get the most bang for my buck. Also, writing it all down is more for my benefit really, as it allows me to think through things better.

The goal is to build a kit that works well in four different situations:

  • Professional:
    • Set photography (making reference photos, shooting textures, making set HDRis, etc.)
    • Panorama photography (HDRi and normal panoramas)
  • Personal:
    • Since I am a rather new dad (boy, 10 months) I will use the camera for child photography. He is already a speedy little guy and I only see this getting more intense as time moves on.
    • Also, we own three ferrets who are even speedier.

So all things considered, I am looking to build a kit that serves well for kid and animal photography as well as on set photography.

The List

So far my list looks like this (all prices are not yet researched for cheapness but mostly straight off of Amazon):

Cameras:

  • Canon 7D ~€1200
  • Canon 5D Mark III ~€2600
  • Canon 5D Mark II ~€2300

I am itching for the full frame sensor. Getting the older MK2 doesn’t seem to make much sense as it was still rather expensive when I looked.

The 7D I am unsure about. Yes, it is cheaper, but also not a full frame sensor. However, I could use the saved money to get more/better glass.

Another added benefit of the less then full frame sensor is that is allows me to capture a higher resolution panorama with the 8mm Sigma at the cost of needing one or two more shots to get a full 360° panorama. So higher res, but slower workflow.

Lenses:

The options are:

  • Sigma 8mm Fisheye ~€750
  • Canon 50mm F1.2 (~€1400) or F1.4 (~€300)
  • Canon 70-200mm f2,8 ~€1000 (without image stabilization) or -2000 (with image stabilization)
  • Canon 70-200mm ~€1000 (or I go f4 with image stabilization)
  • Canon 20mm f2.8 ~€450
  • Canon EF 16-35mm 1:2,8L II USM ~€1300
  • Sigma 35 mm f/1,4 DG HSM ~€800
  • Canon EF 35mm 1:1,4 L USM ~€1300
  • Canon 24-70mm f2.8 ~€2000
  • Canon Extender EF 2x III ~€480

I am only sure about the 8mm Sigma and pretty sure I want to get a 70-200mm, but inbetween I am torn. Get a 50mm prime or a 24-70mm zoom? Maybe a 35mm? 85mm?

I do like the added quality and speed of a prime lens. For my main use case, which will be professional panorama photography, I think I’m going to go 8mm (standard, quick on-set pano HDR), 20mm (high-res on-set HDR pano) and 50mm (for those gigapanos and child photography).

The 70-200mm will be used for capturing textures and general on-set photography. Still not sure if I want the added quality of the f2.8 or if the f4 with image stabilization is good enough. It is a 1000 bucks difference after all.

Mounts and Tripods:

  • Nodal Ninja with RD16 €449
  • Manfrotto 055CXPRO4 or 190CXPRO4 ~€200 (not sure, both cost about the same. I am open for other less pricey brands as well)
  • I already have a ball head

This setup is pretty fixed. I like the Nodal Ninja and I have a ball head. I am open for a less expensive tripod, but given the quality of Manfrotto, €200 isn’t too bad, really.

Remotes:

  • Promote ~€380
  • Canon tc-80n3 ~€140

I’m unsure about the MK3’s bracketing as it only offers 1EV steps at maximum. The Promote would allow me to control that better, but it is double of the “simple” (and already rather pricey) Canon remote.

All the other stuff one needs and that sucks money away:

  • Sandisk Compact Flash Extreme 32GB 60MB/s (I really don’t see the point of going faster then 60 MB/s I’m not planning to do much video with it) ~€75 a pop about three or four of these
  • Pelican card case ~€40
  • DELOCK Card Reader-FireWire ~€50
  • Hama Lenspen ~€12
  • Peli 1510 Carry On Case ~€300 or a nice huge backpack that can fit all of this gear. I’m open for suggestions here.
  • a ruler of known length for matchmoving purposes
  • greyball 18% grey
  • Spyder Cube (was thinking of taking this instead of the grey ball as it is easier to get then 18% grey paint p lus it is very portable) ~€50
  • LightCraft Variable ND Fader ND MKII ~€100
  • B+W Cirkular Polarizer Käsemann F-Pro MRC DH 77mm ~€120
  • Leatherman Wave ~€70
  • X-Rite MSCCPP Passport ColorChecker ~€70
  • Leica D2 Laser measure ~€110
  • Bosch auto levelling laser cross ~€50
  • Canon battery packs LP-E6 ~€50
  • Suunto Pm-5 Clinometer ~€150
  • various self printed lens charts and tracking markers
  • tapes a whole bunch of them

Software

  • Aperture (which I already have)
  • ptGUI (which I also already have)

Quite the list, eh?

I think the stuff at the bottom is pretty much locked in (and already a hefty 1300 bucks price tag), but I am pretty uncertain how to balance the stuff at the top, especially lenses.

Any ideas?