Stop Motion Tutorial Part 2
6 Best DSLR Stop Motion Cameras
Stop motion cameras are the only thing you should not compromise with. Your camera should be professional and able to perform at the highest level. If you want to become a stop motion animator it will be your most important tool, and the quality of your work will greatly depend on it. This chapter of the tutorial will deal with choosing a perfect camera for your budget and which requirements it should meet. We have made a list of six professional stop motion cameras in different price ranges. From the absolute best, to affordable options for beginners.
Stop motion is an art. It’s a performance, a play in which you manipulate the characters, the sets, the camera and everything else. You capture the mood, the setting, movement and emotions and turn them into a film. To do so you will need a camera. It could be any camera. A web cam, any smartphone, an old analog camera, or a camcorder, but if you want professional results, you will need professional equipment. Professionals today use DSLR cameras almost exclusively. They are considered the best you can get. DSLR (digital single-lens reflex camera) are cameras that combine mechanisms of a single lens reflex camera and a digital imaging sensor. They use interchangeable lenses for higher adjustability, and offer numerous tweaks and features which makes photography a science and an art combined. Almost all of them come with a live view feature, which makes it easier to monitor your work while taking photos, and they are compatible with stop motion software such as Dragonframe.
We have chosen six high quality cameras perfect for stop motion, each in a different price range and each with slightly different performance, pros and cons. If you are just starting, we can recommend trying simple photography with any camera that you have available (because any will do for basic stop motion), but if you desire to become a professional, you should definitely consider trying out one of these. As for which company to choose, Canon and Nikon are the absolute best when it comes to DSLR stop motion cameras. Their products are extremely high quality, they produce perfect images, they are endurable and made from premium materials. They also offer numerous tutorials and user manuals which will get you animating in no time.
Canon’s 5D cameras are probably the most used models in the professional photography industry. Since the original EOS D5, through the following marks I, II, III and the fourth, newest one, it has remained the go to choice for professional photographers (and stop motion animators). Mark IV is one of the best DSLR cameras today. With 30.4 megapixels, a continuous shooting speed of 7fps, and a 3.2 inch touchscreen, it is capable of creating the best images imaginable today. It has an extended ISO range which enables it to perform brilliantly in and setting, lighting or weather. This DSLR is a serious investment (they cost around $3500), but it’s definitely worth it if you plan to do stop motion seriously.
It has a polycarbonate and magnesium alloy construction, and it’s completely sealed for any dust, water or impurities. The camera feels compact, sturdy and it’s perfectly capable of withstanding endless hours of tough professional handling. It weighs 800 grams making it easy to operate. For a beginner, though, this might be a bit too much. It provides a live view through its USB connection. The size of the live view is 960 x 640 which makes stop motion using it a much simpler task. Mark IV is also able to capture incredible still and 4K videos suitable for post-processing, retouching and cropping. This is a high tech professional tool, capable of performing on the absolute highest professional level, hence it takes a professional to use all the features properly. Surely, with time and practice you will be able to master it, but it might be better to start with something simpler and cheaper. As you go along, however, this is definitely one of the best stop motion cameras overall. For more information on Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, technical specifications, customer reviews and prices click here.
The D810 is Nikon’s best value for money camera (at around $2800). Built to last and to endure the stop motion animator’s routine of a thousand photos per day, this DSLR is an amazing, well rounded choice when it comes to stop motion cameras. It has 36.3 megapixels, a 3.2 inch display and a shooting speed of 5fps. The best thing about this camera is the image quality, in its price range, no other camera can match it.
Among numerous valuable feature of the D810 are for example the sensor and processing engine which allow a non-expansion sensitivity setting of ISO 64, that allows you to open up the aperture just a little more in bright conditions, or extend the exposure time a bit more without having to use a neutral density filter. Its autofocus system is superb, its weather and dirt proof, so it can be used just about anywhere. Overall, cheaper than the Canon EOS D5 IV, a bit simpler to operate, just as endurable, and it will enable you to do professional quality photos. For more information on Nikon D810, technical specifications, customer reviews and prices click here.
20.9MP, 3.2-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, and a whopping maximum continuous shooting speed of 10 fps make this camera the best option for dynamic photography. While it might not be as important when it comes to stop motion cameras, all the other features and capabilities of D500 are more than perfect for high quality stop motion animation. The relatively lower pixel count is more than compensated by amazing sensitivity performance and other features, and the quality of capturing details is extraordinary. This camera also has a brilliant auto focus system (153-point Multi-CAM 20K with 99 cross-type points). A professional, endurable, high performing stop motion camera worthy of its price (around $1900). For more information on Nikon D500, technical specifications, customer reviews and prices click here.
24.2MP, 3.2-inch screen, 51-point AF, and amazing resolution. The specifications are sufficient for making high quality animation, and the price is what makes the D7200 really interesting. At around $1300 (including a lense), this is one of the most affordable stop motion cameras overall, and it also feels like a more expensive DSLR.
It is a model that has well deserved its spot in the upper half of Nikons range (at a lower half price). It weighs 765g and it’s made from magnesium alloy, it’s easy to handle and to operate, it requires less technical knowledge and experience in photography than most other professional models. It features an automatic white balance system, which regulates and adapts to different lighting and light changes, which is a key feature of stop motion cameras. For more information on Nikon D7200, technical specifications, customer reviews and prices click here.
24.2MP, 45-point AF, 3-inch touchscreen, and a 6fps max continuous shooting speed. At around $800 this is the perfect camera for beginners. That doesn’t mean that you will not be able to produce professional films as with the more expensive stop motion cameras, but that the T7i is missing tweaks and advanced features of the aforementioned models. It offers easy to understand interface and touch screen controls, the (for stop motion) quintessential live view, high quality, high resolution images, it’s easy to handle and it will endure harsh conditions. It has a 600 shot battery life (it might not be as crucial since it will hopefully stand still during shooting), which might come in handy if you decide to animate something on the go. It also features Nikon’s graphical guide mode that can make understanding how to use the camera to its full capacity much easier for new users. All in all, a well rounded, affordable stop motion camera perfect for first time animators. For more information on Canon EOS Rebel T7i, technical specifications, customer reviews and prices click here.
Cheap doesn’t always have to be low quality, and the D3300 is the perfect example. When compared to almost all other professional cameras, its price (at around $400) seems unreal. Stop motion cameras can be even cheaper, of course, you could just use your old smartphone, but if you want professional result at a ridiculously low price, this is by far the best choice. Regardless of its price, it’s still a high performing camera, with 24.2M, 11-point AF, and a 3 inch screen. On the downside, it’s not as user friendly as some more expensive models, which makes it a bit harder to understand for novices, but with patience and practice it can perform as if it were ten times more expensive. For more information on Nikon D3300, technical specifications, customer reviews and prices click here.
Stop motion is all about patience. You are going to spend hours and hours shooting a single character, moving him millimeter by millimeter and making him come to life. During the process, you will have to make sure that two things are perfect the whole time. Firstly, that you have even, uniform light, and secondly, that your camera stays in one place and that it can’t move. If the light changes, or if the camera moves, the whole scene will be ruined and you will have to start over (unless you’re into new media). Securing your camera may sound like a simple process, but it can be a pain. You could, of course, just put it on a box and keep it there, but the minute you have to change the angle you will wish you had a tripod. They are a must have tool for any stop motion animator. They are easy to adjust and move around, they fix and assemble easily, and, what’s most important, they are immovable. As to which tripod you should get, it doesn’t really matter as long as it’s sturdy, made from high quality materials and it doesn’t tilt.
Things you should know about DSLR stop motion cameras
Adaptability: one of their most useful features. You are able to change lenses and choose between a wide spectrum ranging between wide angle to long focal lengths, depending on what result you are trying to achieve. This definitely makes them much worthier. Lenses can be bought separately and the options are endless.
A wide ISO range: ISO, or sensitivity to light, is one of the most important features of any camera. It basically sets the quantity of light needed for the exposure (the lower the number the more light will be needed, and higher ISO increases your cameras sensitivity to light, hence less light is required). DSLR cameras offer a lot of ISO settings, which makes them adoptable (and high performing) in almost all conditions.
Manual Control: these are professional cameras, meant for professionals, which are expected to be able to operate them perfectly. This might sound hard, but the truth is that it gives you a lot more options, and once you have mastered it, you will be able to achieve the highest possible image quality.
We hope you found this chapter useful, and that it will help you understand the importance of using a professional camera for stop motion. As for which camera to choose, if you are just starting, and you have a low budget, go for a cheaper option at start. And if you plan on doing stop motion seriously, and you can afford one of the more expensive cameras listed at the top, we can definitely recommend it. They are worth their price. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via our contact page. Any feedback is greatly appreciated!
If you found this part of the stop motion tutorial helpful, please share it! Thanks and good luck getting your first pro camera!