Best Camera I’ve Ever Used For Natural and Available Light by Dean Peterson


Hey, I’m Dean Peterson, a filmmaker from Brooklyn, NY.  I made the film INCREDIBLY SMALL and I’m about to shoot my second feature film WHAT CHILDREN DO.

When we shot my first film, we shot it on the SONY EX1 camera and we used old Nikon prime lenses with a Letus adapter, which gave it a really great image.  The old Nikon lenses mixed with the spinning glass and the Letus adapter gave it this smooth, creamy, filmic feel, which we really liked.  We chose that camera partly because my DP owned it, but also partly because back in 2009 when we shot the movie, DSLR cameras were not really a mainstay of the industry yet.  The Canon 5D hadn’t even been out for a year and films like TINY FURNITURE, which opened the door for using these DSLRS, hadn’t even come out yet.  So we had limited options.  Back then people were still using the traditional camcorders like the HVX’s a lot.  We just used what we had.

The change we made from the first movie until we made the second is incredible in terms of cameras.  Now you can go to Best Buy and purchase a $700 DSLR that shoots 4K and you can shoot in pitch black, whereas back then is simply wasn’t the case.  There was still a lot of limitations.  It was a completely different landscape back then (2009 and prior).

The decision of what were going to shoot on this time was a lot more involved and we had a lot more options and research to do.  We talked about what we wanted the image to look like for this film and we also talked about process.  We are going to be a very small, nimble crew and we’re going to be shooting very quickly and we didn’t want to deal with a lot of peripheral accessories that you needed to add on to the camera.  We didn’t want a camera that necessitated a huge camera department.  We wanted to be as agile and adaptable as we possibly could.

My DP Darren and I had shot a film on the Black Magic (cinema camera) and we really liked how that looked.  We liked that the Pocket cinema camera is small and looks great, but you have to add all this stuff to the camera.  The battery kind of “sucks.”  You have to have an external power source.  It’s hard to do hand-held stuff with such a small camera, so you end up putting it in a cage and a shoulder rig.  So by the end of adding all this stuff and complications, it’s kind of as big and as expensive as all these other cameras.

The camera that we finally decided to shoot on was the Canon C300.  I shot a music video on it before and I loved the way it looks.  I feel like it takes all of the barriers out of the way when you’re shooting.  I feel like it’s easy to get a great image quality out of it.  The ‘Low-Light’ is incredible.  You can go into locations and not need to light them too much, which is a big part of how we are going to shoot this movie – we are going to go into a lot of rooms and businesses and try to use as much natural/available light as possible.   The Canon C300 is the best kind of camera I’ve ever used for that kind of shooting.

I do find myself going online and falling to the hysteria of camera culture that exists on there.  And it’s always these camera comparison tests of like guys shooting the side of their house or the blowing of leaves in their back yard to show the muddled compression of one camera versus another.  At that point, I find it good to step back and  just remind yourself that at the end of the day we’re supposed to be storytellers.  These cameras, tools and technology that we use are just supposed to be there in service of telling a story and not as a cool toy to have.  Even thought I do find it shockingly easy to get swept up in the debate of how many stops of dynamic range something has, what is the best codec, what bitrates this kind of camera has, it is always best to remind myself that at the end of the day these are not the most important things.  It is definitely important, but it’s not the most important consideration when you’re making a movie.


Dean Peterson is a filmmaker in Brooklyn.  His current project “WHAT CHILDREN DO,” is currently on Kickstarter.



Check out Dean Peterson’s Next Movie “WHAT CHILDREN DO”

Dean Peterson’s first movie “INCREDIBLY SMALL”

Product Links mentioned in this video:

Canon EOS C300

Sony EX1

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera

** Camera Equipment Used To Film This Video

Panasonic GH3

Metabones Speedbooster

Rokinon 50mm Cine Lens


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