Let’s take a look at some of the most expensive pieces of camera gear in the world and find out if they’re worth their exorbitant price tags.
Top image: Christopher Nolan with IMAX camera via IMDb
Film gear is never cheap, as most filmmakers and video producers know all too well. Early in your career, you’ll buy a few pieces of gear that will allow you to complete projects and get your reel together. Then, when you find some success, you’ll begin adding crew members and working with a production team. At this point in your career, you’ll be renting your gear.
If you’re fortunate enough to work within the studio system, then you’ll see a level of drool-worthy, astronomically priced gear that very few filmmakers ever will. Just for kicks, let’s daydream about working with some of the most expensive gear in the world.
Panavision Film Cameras
Camera: $120,000+ (rumored)
Lenses: $500,000 for full set (35, 40, 50, 60, 75, and 100mm)
Image via Panavision
We’ll start things off with quite possibly the coolest A and B cameras in the world, which were nicknamed “Death Star” and “Millennium Falcon.” These two cameras were developed by Panavision specifically for director J.J. Abrams and cinematographer Dan Mindel, who used them to capture the latest installment of the Star Wars franchise, The Force Awakens.
Video via Star Wars
Panavision also worked with Mindel and first assistant Serge Nofield to develop custom anamorphic lenses, now known as the Retro C Series, just for the film. These lenses helped capture images much like those captured by the lenses used on 1977’s Star Wars. With these cameras and lenses being custom built, we’re looking at a total price tag in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Of course, for studios the size of Lucasfilm and Disney, this probably wasn’t too big of a budget hit.
Rental: $12,000 – $16,000 (per week)
Director Christopher Nolan on location for Inception via Gawking Geeks
In the 1950s and 60s, directors, producers, and cinematographers wanted to introduce large formats to the public, so multi-projector setups like Cinerama, VistaVision and CinemaScope were born. However, filmmakers William C. Shaw, Graeme Ferguson, Robert Kerr, and Roman Kroitor wanted a single projector/camera setup for large formats, so they introduced the world to IMAX.
IMAX cameras are being used consistently on major motion pictures such as The Dark Knight and Interstellar. To get your hands on one of these bad boys, you’ll need to have a budget of up to $16,000 a week just for the camera rental. To purchase one, you’re looking at just north of half a million, which makes the IMAX camera one of the most expensive cameras in the world.
Rental: $10,500 (weekly)
Purchase: $100,000 – $200,000 (depending on configuration)
Image via High Speed Worx
Vision Research began developing and manufacturing high-speed cameras back in 1992. With a line of cameras called the Phantom series, of which the Phantom Flex4K is the crown jewel, Vision Research has seen its products used extensively for live sports broadcasting and wildlife programming.
Video via High Speed Worx
Pictorvision Camera Array
Purchase: $250,000 – $350,000 (estimated)
Image via Pictorvision
When it comes to camera arrays, there’s probably no company out there putting together rigs quite like Pictorvision. Their Eclipse Camera Array was used recently for 2015’s Jupiter Ascending, as the VFX team needed high-resolution background plates through downtown Chicago.
The Eclipse array consists of six RED EPICS that can capture a 140-degree horizontal and 60-degree vertical image at 12K resolution. The cameras rest inside a gimbal system that can be mounted to a crane or helicopter. The entire setup is run by a seventh RED EPIC which is essentially used as the controller.
With a single RED EPIC going for roughly $24,000 – $30,000, you can easily determine that the price tag for this piece of equipment is, well… it ain’t cheap.
ARRI ALEXA 65
Purchase: $150,000+ (body only)
The ARRI ALEXA is the go-to camera for big-time filmmakers all over the world. One of the reasons this line of cameras is used above most others is the fact that it comes closer than any other digital camera to replicating the look and feel of film stock.
Video via 20th Century Fox UK
In 2015, ARRI introduced its newest camera — the ALEXA 65. Currently, this camera is only available as a rental. Because of this, only major Hollywood productions have been able to use it. One particular film that utilized this camera to perfection was The Revenant, shot by Emmanuel Lubezki.
Leica APO-Telyt-R 1600mm
Rental: don’t get your hopes up
Image via Apo Telyt
There’s “expensive,” like the gear listed above. And then there’s Leica’s APO-Telyt-R 1:5.6/1600mm telephoto lens, priced at a cool two million bucks and custom-made for Sheikh Saud Bin Mohammed Al-Thani of Qatar. Your only chance of getting anywhere near this piece of equipment is to view the prototype on display in the German factory where it was made.
What’s your definitive piece of dream gear? Let us know in the comments below!