Movies That Prove Camera Gear Doesn’t Matter!

How these movies use entry level cameras and demolish the myth that big cameras make big hits!

The timeless adage, “It’s not the car you drive but the driver behind the wheel,” finds a compelling parallel in the world of filmmaking. Challenging the widespread assumption that the quality of a film is directly proportional to the size and cost of the camera used to shoot it, the movies featured in this article serve as powerful evidence that the truth is often quite the opposite.

Hardcore Henry (2015)

Hardcore Henry, a 2015 debut feature by Ilya Naishuller, stands out for its innovative filming technique, being entirely captured from the protagonist’s first-person viewpoint. What truly makes this film standout was it was shot on a GoPro 3. Uniquely, the film utilized a specialized harness fixed to the cameraman’s face, enabling a truly immersive experience. This rig was worn by thirteen different individuals, including stuntmen, cinematographers, and Naishuller himself, depending on the requirements of each scene, showcasing the versatility and potential of using unconventional filming equipment. The movie’s budget was 2 million and the box office was 16.8 million proving the huge success of this creative decision.

The Creator (2023)

The Creator is a futuristic film centered around a nuclear explosion in Los Angeles that triggers a war against artificial intelligence. Cinematographers Greig Fraser and Oren Soffer opted for an unconventional choice in their camera selection for this $80 million dollar project, deciding on the Fx3, a model available at consumer electronics retailers like Best Buy. This marked a pioneering moment as the film became the first to use a consumer-grade camera for shooting on IMAX. The decision to utilize the Fx3 stemmed from the desire to adhere to the film’s budget while accommodating the logistical demands of filming across 80 different global locations. Moreover, the Fx3’s exceptional performance in low-light conditions was crucial for capturing the film’s numerous night scenes, highlighting the camera’s versatility and the cinematography team’s innovative approach to filmmaking.

The Possession of Hannah Grace (2018)

The Possession of Hannah Grace, a 2018 horror movie centered around an exorcism gone awry, was captured through the lens of cinematographer Lennert Hillege using the surprisingly modest α7S II mirrorless digital camera from Sony. Despite its status as an entry-level full-frame camera readily available at consumer electronics stores like Best Buy, the α7S II stands out for its exceptional low-light performance and user-friendly operation. Glenn’s preference for a camera that combined portability with exceptional performance in low lighting conditions, as well as his ambition to bring a fresh visual style to the film, guided the selection of the α7S II for shooting. Opting for this camera facilitated a distinctive mix of full-frame visual quality and element of anamorphic style.

Unsane (2018)

Unsane, a 2018 American psychological horror film, tells the harrowing tale of a woman’s ordeal inside a mental health institution. With a modest budget of $1.5 million, the film impressively grossed $14.3 million at the box office. The film’s low production costs can be attributed to the innovative decision to shoot entirely on an iPhone 7 Plus. Cinematographer Steven Soderbergh chose the iPhone for a specific reason: he contends that traditional filmmaking processes are inefficient, particularly because of the extensive time required to set up shots. In a conversation with Intervene, he expressed his frustration: “Part of the pain in the ass about making films is how much time it takes between creative impulse and the execution.” The significant success of “Unsane” underscores the notion that the quality of filmmaking equipment does not dictate the success of a movie.

These films serve as remarkable demonstrations of what can be achieved in filmmaking. They illustrate that through ingenuity and expertise, it’s possible to produce a compelling movie without extravagant expenses. Additionally, they highlight the intriguing notion that selecting a camera with fewer features can, paradoxically, open up greater creative liberties, allowing for the exploration of distinctive shots and viewpoints.

About the Author

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Madison Payne

Madison Payne, currently a senior at the University of Texas at Austin, is pursuing a degree in Film Studies, with aspirations to excel as a cinematographer and editor. Madison has a keen interest in the realms of unscripted television and documentaries.