Canon EOS 7D: A new lens on the scene

Director Mike Figgis believes this ordinary camera will change the way movies are made. He tells Steve Rose why it's the best bit of kit since the invention of 16mm film

When Jean-Luc Godard declared that all you need to make a movie is "a girl and a gun", he wasn't being entirely truthful. Above all, you need a camera, which has often been more of a sticking point than the other two. While professional-quality stills cameras have always been affordable, even in the digital age – movie cameras are traditionally the sort of equipment you hire, or remortgage your house to buy. But that's all about to change, thanks to – of all things – a stills camera.

Canon's EOS 7D, released last year, looks no different to any other digital SLR camera you'd take your artful holiday snaps on, but the camera's video function – traditionally an afterthought on stills cameras – is good enough to shoot a proper movie with.

According to film-maker and photographer Mike Figgis, the 7D is "one of the major breakthroughs in cinematic technology of the last 100 years". Figgis, a longtime digital film-making evangelist, used the 7D to shoot the film elements controversially added into his current production of Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia for the English National Opera. "I shot and edited it on my laptop," says Figgis, "but the real test was when we went to the ENO and put it on the big screen with a high-quality projector... I don't think I've ever been so wowed since I first shot on 16mm."

Digital video is nothing new, of course, and the subtraction of film stock and processing expenses has already lowered the cost of film-making dramatically. But until now you've had the choice of either making low-budget films with a consumer digital camera – like, say Festen or Paranormal Activity – or getting a high-end professional camera like a RED One, starting price: about £15,000. The Canon costs just over £1,000 but delivers a Full HD image (a resolution of 1,080 lines). The real revolution, though, is that thanks to a relatively huge sensor inside the camera, the 7D's images don't look like video, says Figgis. "If you use the right lenses you can completely emulate the shallow depth of field that a cinema lens gives you, which everybody, whether or not they know anything about film, recognises instinctively as looking like cinema. Whereas with video you always have this horrific, massive depth of field where everything's in focus."

Figgis traditionally works in 16mm, but is now planning to shoot his next feature on a 7D. Others have already done so. Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan, for example, was mostly shot on Super 16mm film, but a 7D was used to shoot some scenes on the subway. Did you spot the difference? For the current generation, the size and price of the Canon is a godsend, says Richard Lonsdale, a British film-maker whose debut short film, Spring, was shot on a 7D, and recently played at the Sundance and Berlin Film Festivals: "It was super-cheap to make, maybe £8,000, including paying everyone. Making it in 16mm probably would have cost about £4,000 more, so nobody would have got paid." Like Crazy, the big winner at this year's Sundance, was also shot entirely on a 7D.

Before you set off with your girl, gun and Canon to launch your own movie career, there are still a few more ingredients you might need to become an auteur; chiefly, skill. Nevertheless, competitors like Nikon and Sony are now chasing Canon, so even better-value products are doubtless to come. "I can't think of a reason why you wouldn't want to shoot on this equipment," Figgis sums up. "It's so easy to use and the result is incredible."

Mike Figgis's Lucrezia Borgia airs on Sky Arts tonight at 7.30pm

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Ashdown Group: Reporting & Analytics Supervisor - Buckinghamshire - £36,000

    £34000 - £36000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Analytics & Reporting Tea...

    Ashdown Group: Product Manager - Lancashire - £34,000

    £30000 - £34000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Product Manager...

    Ashdown Group: IT Manager - Surrey - £60,000

    £45000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Infrastructure Manager - ...

    Ashdown Group: Graduate Developer - Surrey - £25,000

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Graduate Developer - Croy...

    Day In a Page

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future