There are some wonderful blogs that talk about cameras and gear, and this is not one of them. As much as I love shooting, I've never been a gear-head. I'd rather just get out there and film. But I'm about to make a profound change in the way I work (by way of a camera upgrade) and I think it's relevant to talk about why I have stuck with the same piece of equipment up to this point.
I film exclusively with a Canon EOS 7D, mounted on a fluid head, often with a monopod, and sometimes with a tripod. It's a great little machine – portable, rugged and discreet. It looks like the kind of thing you'd take snapshots with, and as a documentary cinematographer, this detail is invaluable. People are notorious for altering their behavior when they think they're being filmed, but the little 7D isn't particularly intimidating. Especially the way that I use it.
I love the look of the 7D. You can get a dreamy look with very little depth of field, and there is a "grain" to the image reminiscent of film.
Many years ago, in 2009, the 7D was Canon's most advanced camera, and one of the first with the capability to shoot video. This revolutionized digital film making, because it offered a video camera with manual controls and interchangeable lenses at a reasonable price. But a lot has changed since then. These days, the camera tends to get associated with entry-level videographers and less sophisticated productions. So I get some strange looks when people ask what I shoot on, and I tell them I use a 7D. I can see it in their faces. . . Why???
The answer is very simple. It's a great camera, and I'm very good at using it. There are plenty of video production companies that make it a point to have "state-of-the-art" cameras. But how many of them make it a point to learn how to conduct a more meaningful interview or craft a compelling story? It's not that hard to upgrade your camera, but being able to create powerful narratives requires skills that money can't buy. In fact, sticking to basic tools and learning to master them can be a highly effective way to foster creativity. 10,000 years ago, early humans painted the walls of caves using the most primitive and rudimentary materials. And yet the paintings are elegant and sublime, and still have the power to move us today.