For filmmakers, the best movie camera is a piece of equipment that has the handling, technology, lens mounts, and other accessories necessary to tell a story. From low-budget action cameras to professional-grade full-frame cameras, there’s an option for every filmmaker.
Best Cinema Cameras
- Sony HDR-CX625: Beginner-friendly cinema camera that records 1080p videos in full HD and has 30x zoom
- Blackmagic Design URSA Mini Pro G2: Cinema camera with Super 35mm sensor, 15 stops of dynamic range, and 4.6K resolution
- Blackmagic Design Micro Studio Camera 4K: Compact cinema camera ideal for studio settings
- Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K: Budget-friendly cinema camera with a micro four-thirds sensor, a mini-XLR input, and up to 120 fps shooting capabilities
- Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K: Cinema camera with 6K RAW video capabilities, Super 35mm sensor, and Canon EF lens compatibility
- Canon EOS C100 Mark II: Budget-friendly cinema camera with Super 35 mm sensor, Canon EF lens mount, fast and accurate autofocusing, and XLR audio inputs
- Canon EOS C200B: Cinema camera with a Super 35mm sensor, Canon EF lens mount, continuous autofocus, and ergonomic design
- Canon XA10: Cinema camera with smooth image stabilization and a touch-and-track feature
- Nikon Z6: Cinema camera that’s compatible with most Nikkor lenses and shoots 6K time-lapse, 4K video, and still images
- Canon EOS C300 Mark II: Cinema camera with superior dynamic range, 4K resolution, and EF or LP lens mount
- Panasonic AU-EVA1 5.7K: Netflix-approved cinema camera that’s lightweight, works with a gimbal, and has a detachable screen
- Red Digital Cinema DSMC2 Camera BRAIN: High-end lightweight cinema camera with Super 35mm sensor, 16.5 stops of dynamic range, and 6K resolution
- Sony PXW-FS5 MII: Cinema camera with Clear Image Zoom technology and capable of handling fast-moving action and 4K video shooting. It is also the best camera on the market with slow-motion recording.
- Canon T4i: Budget-friendly video camera with many lens options
- Canon EOS 70D: Video camera with excellent autofocus, Canon EF lens mount, and Wi-Fi connectivity
- Canon EOS Rebel SL3: Low-budget DSLR camera with 4K recording, image stabilization, time-lapse mode, and APS-C sensor
- Nikon D780: DSLR that produces professional-quality 4K video and has phase detection, autofocus and face detection
Best Mirrorless Cameras
- Canon EOS M50: Video camera with large APS-C sensors, rich color, and dual-pixel autofocus
- Panasonic G7: Beginner-friendly mirrorless camera with 4K and full HD capabilities
- Panasonic Lumix G85: Budget-friendly mirrorless camera with image stabilization, 4K recording at 30 fps, and streamlined panning and tilting capabilities
- Sony Alpha A6100: Low-budget mirrorless camera with 180-degree tilt screen and external microphone compatibility
- Sony Alpha A6400: Midrange mirrorless camera that has shark 4K resolution, several log profiles, and a tracking focus mode
- Fujifilm X-T3: Mirrorless camera with 4K slow motion and ultra-fast autofocus
- Fujifilm X-T30: Compact mirrorless camera that’s ideal for low light conditions, face recognition, and autofocus
- Fujifilm X-T4: Versatile mirrorless camera with still and video capabilities, five-axis stabilization, and an articulating monitor
- Panasonic Lumix S1H: Netflix-approved mirrorless camera with full-frame sensor, 6K video capture, and high-quality photography capabilities
- Panasonic Lumix GH5: Compact mirrorless camera with video and still image capabilities, making it ideal in low light conditions
- Sigma fp Mirrorless Digital Camera: Smallest and most lightweight full-frame mirrorless camera with 4K video recording, electronic image stabilization, and face detection
- Sony A6600: Mirrorless camera that’s ideal for YouTube and one-person crews thanks to Real-Time Tracking autofocus
- Sony A7S III: Mirrorless camera with a 12-megapixel, full-frame sensor, high-quality 4K video, and sensor-shift stabilization
- Sony Alpha a7 III: Midrange full-frame mirrorless camera with video recording up to 60 fps, five-axis image stabilization, and many compatible E-mount lenses
- Panasonic HC-V160: Compact, budget-friendly camcorder with 38x zoom and full HD capabilities
- Canon XC10 4K: Professional camcorder with 4K and HD capabilities and a wide selection of shooting modes and frame rates
- JVC GY-LS300: Camcorder that’s ideal for livestreaming, offers 4K Ultra HD resolution, and can record simultaneous backups
- Panasonic HC-X1 4K Ultra HD: Professional camcorder with advanced image stabilization and live HDMI output
- Panasonic HC-X1000 Pro: Camcorder that strikes a balance between HD video shooting and cinema-quality 4K recording and has high-speed autofocus
- Sony AX700: Handheld camcorder that can handle both HDR and 4K footage and has adjustable autofocus tracking
- Sony PXW-Z90V: Camcorder with 12x optical zoom, fast phase focusing, and face detection
Other Top Cameras
- Canon PowerShot SX740 HS: Best point-and-shoot camera with excellent video quality and a 40x optical zoom lens
- GoPro Hero7 Black: Compact, budget-friendly video camera that shoots 4K video at 60 fps
- GoPro Hero8 Black: Ideal for shots with action sequences and time-lapse videos and offers 4K resolution
- iPhone SE: Excellent smartphone camera that has 4K video recording, cinematic video stabilization, and QuickTake video
- Sony RX100 VII: Compact camera with superior autofocus and 4K video capabilities in a travel-ready device
Research and Buying Tips
Before you invest in a movie camera, take the time to research your purchase. Ask yourself the following questions before making your decision.
What Is a Professional Video Camera?
- Action Cameras: Small, mountable, and durable
- Camcorders: Compact devices designed to record video
- Cinema Cameras: Produce the highest quality video
- DSLRs and Mirrorless Cameras: Can shoot video or photographs
What Are the Key Features of a Video Camera?
- Angle of View: The width of a scene a lens captures
- APS C Sensor: Refers to a discontinued film format
- Chroma Sub-Sampling: 4:2:2 is the minimum standard
- Codecs and Bit Rates:Interframe compression uses grouped frames and smaller files, while intraframe compression uses standalone frames and larger files
- Color Bit Depth: 10-bit is the minimum standard
- Depth of Field: Shallow depth of field offers a more cinematic look
- External Recording: Allows the highest quality recording capabilities
- Form Factor: Refers to the shape and size of the camera, which can make it harder or easier to use and transport
- Frame Rates: 24p is standard for movies, while 29.97p is standard for TV
- Global Shutter vs. Rolling Shutter: Global shutters capture all information simultaneously, while rolling shutters move across the sensor line
- Dynamic Range: Wider dynamic ranges offer a more cinematic look
- Lens Mount: Must work with the types of lenses you use
- Log Gamma: Creates flatter images with wider dynamic range
- Low Light Performance: Larger sensors often do better in low light
- Recording Formats: RAW files offer more flexibility for post-production editing
- Resolution: Higher resolution usually means higher quality images
- Sensor Size: Full frame and Super 35 are the most common options
How Can You Choose the Best Cinema Camera?
- Know Your Primary Use: Review your shot requirements to make sure the camera can meet your needs.
- Evaluate Your Needs and Budget: Compare features and costs to get the most for your money.
- Be Realistic: Consider buying a less advanced camera that meets your budget and upgrading later.
- Rent First: Look for retailers that allow rentals so you can test equipment before buying.
Can Video Cameras Take Photos and Vice Versa?
Most DSLRs and mirrorless cameras can take photos and video. Camcorders and cinema cameras can also do both, but the photo quality tends to be lower.
Why Should I Buy a Video Camera Instead of Using My Phone?
Most smartphones can shoot video. However, they lack important features like:
- Zoom lenses and accessories
- Cinematic image quality
- Good audio quality
- Sufficient battery life
Should I Buy a 4K Video Camera?
Most filmmakers use 4K movie cameras, which means investing in this type of equipment is a smart idea if you’re serious about film.
You can learn more about movie cameras and how you can improve your skills by applying to the Nashville Film Institute.