Where to start ...Take 2


Messed up the message I posted. Struggling to come to grips with this new style message board....the brave world of Web 3.0...

I will answer the replies to "Where to start" take one as they come in. Hopefuly this new take thread will take over to keep it all in place. Wow, i messed this thread up royally.

To re-cap. I'm an aspiring newb. Long story behind all this, but then I guess there always is for those who hang in there and go the distance.

I used to be a professional photographer - about 14 years spent doing that. So no stranger to the pro world of photography. Dabbled in video work but never really got the chance to make the change from stills to video. Life events and all out of photography. Never lost the desire to be a Cinematographer though...thats what I really wanted to do. So anyway, I had this idea of doing an underwater doco on aquarium fish from the big freshwater lakes of Africa. I was really serious. I had the money for a DigiBeta Cam, just needed to find a housing for one and off I would go, or so I thought. 

Common sense prevailed and I at least had enough sense to realise that I couldnt just turn up in Africa with a DigiBeta Cam. So off I went to do a recce. And another and was enormously complicated to get permits etc and among my many trips I decided I really needed to be living there full time to do this. I was going to do this thing - I had no training in this work and was relying on my knowledge of stills work thinking some of that knowledge would bleed over to this work. Long story short, my wife and I decided it would be fun to take the family off to Africa and live there for 5 years while I worked on my film. Got the permits to live there, got title deeds to land to build a house on for the family to live in by the edge of the Lake etc. I went ahead to start building a house - never did that before either but its not that hard, I just bought lots of books on building (this was pre Internet days - 1998) while the family stayed behind in civilization.

More Life events. House half built and its getting close for packing the house up at home and the family moving over. All of a sudden its all too real for the wife and she gets cold feet. She pulls out. Says NO.....WHAT!!!! Get left with no choice but commute to work......a half way around the world commute ! I did 6 months on, 3 months off. 6 Months in Africa, 3 months at home with the family...trying to get this pig flying. Well those of you reading this with enough life experience know whats coming next. Yep, I tried to carry on, gone for long periods.....ended up divorced. As it goes in the western world - she got the house and the kids and i got the plot and half built house in Africa. I think I got the lemon and she got the sweet...but C'est La Vie ! I decided to stay on in Africa. I couldnt carry on with making a film so I tried turning the place into a fishing camp. Finally crashed and burned end of 2003. Broke. Stone motherless broke by end of 2003. It was a valiant effort but in the end I was too under capitalized after the divorce and I never really  got back on my feet.....surely not enough to start a new business (had to try to do something with what I had - which was land by a big beautiful lake) So end of 2003 I pushed the eject button. Went to UK to work for year to build up some money so I could come back and try again. I did that. I found a job in UK, London in fact. I managed to save 11,000 Pounds in 12 months! That took effort. I saved and scrimped every penny I could, focused on getting back to Africa.

So anyway, I got back to Africa. I started an entirely new business that took off like a rocket and I did very well. Its 20 years later and I'm 20 years older. I now want to go back to making my doco. Everything has changed. The old ways are gone. The brave new online world is the way forward. Got to grapple with all that as well as figuring out how to go about shooting this thing.

So that brings me to cameras. I know enough to know I dont know anything. I surely dont want to go in over my head, but then again the only way to achieve in life is to bite off more then you can chew and chew like mad!

Given my back ground (although I haven't worked as a photographer for 20 years now) I am a Lens man. I love lenses. Even though I am no longer professionally employed in photography I still collect lenses. I have a huge stack of lenses here - mostly 35mm stills, but I also bought a few S16 lenses, longing for the day I could get back to filming my doco. With that in mind, I see that Zeiss Digiprimes can be bought for around 8K USD for a set. There is a reason that a 150K set of lenses can be bought for 8K USD today - 2/3" coverage. So looking around for a camera I see that the Sony F23 is a 2/3" sensor and a hell of a good camera. Big, heavy but HUGE quality for 2/3 inch. Mated to Digiprimes I think this is about the best I could get for the money. The other nice thing is, the F35 camera is the exact same body - just different internals. So an underwater housing could house either the F23 (for use with Digiprimes) OR the F35 for S35 shooting ( not sure what lens for that body - Angenieux Optimo?)

The F23 and F35 are old cameras for sure. But they were once world leaders in thier class. Just because there is late tech out now does not take away that once these cameras were the top of the heap. That quality does not go away.  I read forums were users are passionate about the F35 camera. It has its own "look". I am very interested in this aspect. 

This lead to the F65 camera research. 4K, 16 Bit RAW. Everything I read screams quality signal recorded. Thick heavy footage that can be pushed in post. I am attracted to this. Plus have you seen the prices for the F65 lately ? They are in the 5 to 10K range. 5K for a heavily used F65 and around 10K for a lightly used great condition F65. That has to be an opportunity for a little guy like me starting out. These cameras were 100K a few years ago. The F23/F35 were over 200K 10 years ago. Today an F23 is about 2 to 3K

The camera will never be leaving the Lake environs. So big and heavy is not much of an issue to me. I have local workers, so carrying loads etc is no problem. Given the remote area I live in and the cost to fly things in and out, with these cameras being so cheap my strategy would be to just buy another body rather then get an existing one fixed when it breaks down. The F23/35 are OLD cameras now, so i expect they will break as I go along. Fine.....just buy another body and keep going..they are cheap enough now. The F65 is a beast..or so I read. Big, heavy...needs a crew...i read. But the image quality...that 16 bit RAW linear capture.....from a very high end Sony that just a few years ago was 100K. 

This is what I am throwing around. 

I have mentioned all this once or twice in the last year or so and keep being told, go RED. I just dont know. For some reason, RED doesn't feel right to me.

Am I getting all this wrong? I know, its the story not the equipment. But then again, how a camera "Paints" is also a part of it all. And those Digiprimes.......

So a very very long winded post to get to the bottom line. What I have tried to do here is give you a sense of my commitment to this. I am still hanging in there with this dream 20 years and a lot of life events and struggles later. I expect to spend around 40 to 50K to get the camera, lenes and underwater housing. Thats a very tight budget.

Thats where I am right now. I just dont know if I am going about this the right way or if I am making a major blunder in chasing up the Sony's

I am determined to get this film shot. I never stopped thinking about it these last 20 years. I am going to do this. So much to do, so much to learn along the way.

If you got this far, thanks