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Is it worth buying a cinema camera to capture social content?

Here are four important questions you need to ask yourself


Phones on fire, burning down the road.

"But being the only social creators in a room of film people, we started thinking about how necessary it is to have a high-end camera when you’re shooting for a platform like TikTok instead of the big screen."

We recently attended Canon Cinema Day with Director of Photography, Matthew Irving at Samy's Los Angeles, and were blown away by the capabilities of the company’s new cameras and lenses. It was also nice to meet the DP of one of our favorite movies, Groove ;) But being the only social creators in a room of film people, we started thinking about how necessary it is to have a high-end camera when you’re shooting for a platform like TikTok instead of the big screen.

Mobile devices are meant to deliver good results in a range of common situations. So if you’re a content creator who focuses mainly on speaking to the camera in well lit places, your phone is probably going to work fine throughout your career. If your content happens in environments that are outside of the average, a better camera could become a key investment. But before you drop money on new gear, ask yourself these questions:

Has your phone been overheating?

Phone cameras have pretty impressive specs that rival some cinema cameras - but they have to push the technology pretty far to achieve them. This results in the device overheating. When this happens, the recording quality can dramatically drop. Or the device can stop working all together. Overheating is most likely to occur when you’re shooting in 4K at maximum color depth - something you’ll want to do if you’re creating content where color matters, like travel, food and art.

Do you regularly shoot in low light situations?

If you’re shooting in low light with a cinema camera, you can easily open the lens aperture to let more light in or switch to a different lens that’s optimized for darker conditions. But phones don’t give you these options. The device will automatically increase the camera’s light sensitivity. This can result in grainy digital noise and lower color depth. This is why sunsets look amazing on your phone but the footage immediately after the sun goes down looks not so great. Some devices also don’t do a great job at switching between low and regular lighting. This can make shooting live events a bit of a nightmare. Every time stage lighting changes, the image will be completely blown out.

Do you need to shoot details?

Accurately capturing details of subjects like artwork, food, or products can be a challenge on a phone, especially when trying to shoot them close up. You can spend hours lighting the perfect shot and still not have it come out clear. This is due to the optics on your phone. The lens isn’t big enough to let in a lot of light so it’s hard for the camera to capture the level of digital information needed to reproduce details.

Are you working with an editor?

If you’re using Capcut or a simple editing tool, videos you shoot on your phone work as well as any other kind of footage. But if you work with an editor, camera clips can be problematic. They can be hard to transfer from the phone to the editing system, often requiring multiple steps, versus simply plugging a camera into the computer. Cinema cameras also attach a code to the clips which makes it easier for the editor to organize footage and swap out shots. Most importantly, higher quality footage gives the editor more options to correct color, stabilize and make other creative choices.

Bottom line: Let your content drive your equipment purchase, not vice versa.

Still not sure which way to go? No problem. One of the things we do at 2113 Labs is help clients find the intersection of production quality and budget, so that you can produce videos that engage your audience and have the budget to share them at an effective cadence.

Daniel Quentin Zuber

Co-Founder of 2113 Labs and influencer in trance music, cyberpunk, and vaporwave culture on Instagram and TikTok @therealquentinz

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