Cheap DSLRs from Ebay

A project log for Bullet Movies

Using red, green, and blue LEDs to capture short movies of very fast objects

ted-yapoTed Yapo 06/18/2017 at 18:023 Comments

In 2003, I bought a Canon EOS 10D for over $1k. This 6.3 MP "prosumer" DSLR has been "my camera" ever since - for the past few years I have been hoping the shutter would die to justify buying a more modern body.

For some of the images I want to take, I'd like to have multiple cameras capturing the scene from multiple angles during the three exposures. This is how the original "bullet time" effect in The Matrix was filmed. I can't afford as many cameras as they used, but I was really pleased to find working examples of the "consumer" version, the EOS 300D, for around $60 on ebay, so I bought 3 of them, enough that each microsecond exposure could be captured from a different viewpoint.

In fact, with the RGB exposure scheme, this will result in nine total high-speed exposures, three from each viewpoint. If a "normal" exposure is taken of the scene both before and after the event, a total of 15 exposures will be available to stitch into animations. This should allow some creative flexibility.

I'm incorporating three shutter control jacks into the controller prototype, so that each of the camera exposures can be synchronized to the rest of the sequence. These "consumer" cameras use a common 2.5mm stereo jack for the remote - no need to source the custom connector used on the higher-end Canons.

A big advantage to using cheap cameras like this is that I won't be too upset if I accidentally shoot one (or more likely, it gets hit by a ricochet). They're essentially consumables.

As for lenses, I already had an older "nifty fifty" 50mm f/1.8, so I bought one of the updated ones, which I had been wanting anyway. The third lens is a Yongnuo 50mm f/1.8, which at $55 is a bargain, and seems to compare favorably with the Canon lenses. The Yongnuo is supposedly about half a stop brighter wide open, too, although I haven't compared them directly (yet). I have a small supply of UV filters which should offer some protection for the lenses - they're worth more than the bodies.

I think it's really neat that you can pick up a working DSLR today at "impulse buy" prices.


Yann Guidon / YGDES wrote 06/19/2017 at 02:14 point

So you're going Wachovski now ? :-D

  Are you sure? yes | no

Thomas wrote 06/18/2017 at 18:53 point

Not a bad camera for experiments. I checked the price for used EOS 300D in working condition, it's about the same here.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Ted Yapo wrote 06/19/2017 at 00:11 point

It's missing some of the features on the 10D (like mirror lockup), but supposedly there's hacked firmware that adds back some of these features.  I'm tempted, but I don't want to get too distracted from the project.

I have no idea how much life is left in these bodies, but I guess you never do.

  Are you sure? yes | no