We can learn a lot from professional cinematographers.
With lenses, speed, accuracy, and silence matter. Lynch generally uses a set of fast Zeiss ZF-series primes ranging from an 18mm to 100mm, which on the 7D run the full-frame equivalent of about 28mm to 160mm.
“I use Arsat 35mm and 80mm f/2.8 tilt-shift lenses for special shots and for interesting lens flares,” he adds. Cinematographers traditionally record sound with an external audio recorder. “I think every DSLR has horrible sound. I wouldn’t recommend using the audio, except for syncing purposes,” says Lynch. “For outboard sound I use either a Zoom H4n or a Zoom R16 depending on how many audio tracks I need.” And he uses Sanken COS-11D wired lavalier microphones, a Lectrosonics wireless system, or a Sennheiser 416 boom mic.
But shooting with a DSLR isn’t about the sound—it’s about the picture. Iron Man cinematographer Matthew Libatique shot an indie feature using one. He had so little light at some locations that he thought it was obviously the right choice, thanks to the ability to crank up the ISO.
Still, most cinematographers find traditional motion-picture cameras much easier to handle, so they’re putting their DSLRs to other uses on movie sets. Mauro Fiore, for example, says, “I used the Nikon D700 on the set of the A-Team for color reference.” He uses it to shoot stills to send the film lab for color correction of dailies, the day’s work on motion-picture film.
Denis Moran, who recently shot second-unit camera for Marvel Studio’s Tron, slated for 2011, voiced a worry shared by many other cinematographers: “It will get you into places you couldn’t otherwise shoot. But, just because you can handhold it doesn’t mean you should. My concern is we’ll see more bad cinematography from inexperienced operators.”