What Video Camera Should You Buy? – The Complete Guide to What Video Camera To Buy

MattBusiness, Filmmaking, Video Production2 Comments

video camera

So, you’re wondering what video camera to buy?

It’s a question that a lot of people ask themselves. Maybe this is a first-time camera purchase. Or maybe you’ve been in the game for a while and you’re looking to trade-up or grow your camera collection.

Either way, we have the questions here in the ‘So You Want to Buy a Camera?’ guide.

This is a detailed guide to the many different types of cameras on the market today. You’ll find whatever you’re looking for, no matter what your budget is. Either skip to a price range using the buttons just below, or read through from the start to grow your knowledge.

Note: This was originally a thread on the Filmmakers subreddit on Reddit. I thought it would be a great service to offer this here as a post on Filmmaking Lifestyle. I’ve also added to entries and jazzed it up with photos, videos and more. I’ve included reference to the original writers where necessary, as well as a link.

This is currently a work in progress. If you would like to add a camera or see edits/corrections that need to be addressed, let us know in the comments at the end of the article.


Video Camera – Price Options

What’s your price range?


Price Range: $0 – $500

Cellphone/Mobile Phone (Free-$700, depending on plan):

It might sound stupid but most people now have a smartphone of some kind, recent phones record h.264 at least 720p, and 1080p.

The main selling point of the phone camera is that it’s always with you, wherever you go, therefore it can be used to capture the moments when no other cameras are available to you.

Even with it’s drawbacks, the camera can provide surprisingly good imagery with some careful planning and forethought for lighting conditions.

Lighting is essential to capturing good video, especially with the tiny (1mm) sensors in phone cameras.

Some phones, like the Nokia 1020, are built specifically with the camera in mind. Some of the more recent Android phones even shoot 4K. Make sure to do research before buying a phone.

With that said, if you need a camera, don’t buy a phone just for the camera. Buy a camera for the same price.

Pros:

  • A diverse ‘App’ ecosystem. Some even allow you to easily capture timelapses, or edit video in the phone itself.
  • Easy sharing options for social media, or upload online before deleting if storage space is an issue.
  • Some phones allow for capture up to 120fps.
  • Tons of variety.
  • Always accessible

Cons:

  • High noise in low light settings.
  • Poor stabilization for handheld shots. Some phones now have a built-in stabilizer.
  • Lacks customization or control (though 3rd party apps help to mitigate this).
  • Internal microphone easily captures unwanted noise, but again, this varies by phone.
  • Rolling shutter.
  • Non-expandable limited storage depending on the phone.
  • Fixed aperture/ fixed focal length/digital-zoom only
  • Temptation to shoot vertical video (Just don’t do it!)

added by: crpearce and kaidumo

Point-and-shoot/Small camcorder (~$100-300)

[Recommended brands: Canon/Nikon/Panasonic/Sony/JVC]

Most of these cameras will have a fixed lens, swappable small batteries and record to SD media.

Most record in the H.264 codec at 720/1080p video, the bitrate at which these cameras record video is not very high, therefore the quality of these cameras will be very low, and they will usually have little to no customizable options or settings.

The sensors in these cameras are very small, and the maximum aperture of the fixed lenses will not be very wide, therefore the ability to create shallow depth of field for cinematic purposes is almost impossible.

Pros:

  • Extremely easy to use. Turn on and record.
  • Inexpensive, good for beginners.
  • Small, good battery life.

Cons:

  • Usually poor video quality
  • Zero flexibility in post
  • No user settings or colour adjustment
  • Usually no inputs for audio or video

added by: mezzanine224

GoPro Hero4 / Session (~$250 – $400)video camera

Notable for their extreme durability and versatility, these cameras are shock-proof, water-proof, and pint-sized, allowing them to be mounted nearly anywhere.

They sport a fixed fisheye lens (f/2.8), internal (replaceable) battery, and shoot to microSD cards.

The top-end model (the “Black” edition) is capable of 4K at 30p/24p, 1080p at 120fps, and 720p at 240fps. This model also sports Wi-Fi, allowing it to be controlled from a Wi-Fi-enabled device like a phone or tablet, and comes with a Wi-Fi remote.

Can shoot in “Protune” mode, which uses a flat profile to allow for optimal colour grading in post.

The latest model also has “superview”, which allows for an even wider field of view. The Black edition (H3) can shoot 240fps in SVGA resolution. The GoPro website offers a free video editor to use with their camera.

Pros:

  • Easy to use.
  • Relatively Inexpensive.
  • Waterproof/Shockproof.
  • Small enough to fit anywhere.
  • Excellent, easy time-lapse and slow motion functions.

Cons:

  • Video quality suffers under poor lighting conditions.
  • Settings difficult to change at first with only three buttons (helped with free W-Fi app addon, and time).
  • Battery life isn’t optimal.
  • Poor-quality audio without a microphone. Use of a microphone add-on means sacrificing the waterproof nature of the camera.
  • Full-auto exposure only, although shooting with ND filters will help negate the high-speed look
  • The mobile/tablet app “viewfinder” has a few seconds delay, and does not show the image during recording in most resolution/framerate combinations.

added by: /u/kaidumo / amended for 2015

Sony RX100 ($450)

One of the best point-and-shoot photo camera ever made, Sony’s RX100 boasts superb video quality as well, with several limitations.

It features true HD 1080p recording at 60fps, fully manual controls (including focus) and a fixed Carl Zeiss zoom lens. Ideal for slow-motion.

Pros:

  • Extremely compact.
  • 60p at 1080.
  • Fully manual controls.

Cons:

  • Fixed lens.
  • No other frame rates available (24p, 30p).
  • No filter thread on lens.

added by: VoyagerVideo

Price Range: $500 – $1500

Canon T5i/700D (~$700)

The second model up in the Canon DSLR line, more expensive than the beginner’s 1000/1100D series, the 700D provides basic, decent video functionality.

1080p is stellar for the price. Swivel screen, perfect for videographers who need extreme high or low angle shots, the ability to install Magic Lantern.

APS-C sensor is much bigger than a GoPro or point-and-shoot, depth of field is similar to that of a cinema camera (with the right lenses).

Great for beginner short filmmakers and those creating low-level online content.

A videographer’s camera, with the ability to get cinematic looking shots, ideal for weddings and events. However the limited record time is not the best for longer running shots (concerts/speeches, etc).

Pros:

  • Large sensor size is almost identical to 35mm film.
  • Swivel Screen.
  • Built in wireless flash trigger.
  • Ability for Magic Lantern to be installed.
  • Can be used for photography.

Cons:

  • Requires removable Canon lenses, can be expensive (and addictive) to buy
  • Poor battery life requires many batteries.
  • Not weather sealed like the more expensive models
  • No pro audio inputs, nearly worthless onboard mic.
  • Moire, line skipping, relatively low resolution image (resolves less than 1080)

added by: sayrith

BlackMagic Pocket Cinema Camera ($995)

Incredible value for money but with a lot of drawbacks.

A smaller, more portable and consumer-oriented version of Blackmagic’s professional cinema cameras (listed below), the BMPCC’s big selling points are its 13 stops of dynamic range, Micro Four Thirds mount, and ability to shoot lossless compressed RAW at 1080p and Apple ProRes 422 for just under $1000.

Super 16 sensor size.

It uses SD cards, which are less expensive than CF cards, and has a built-in stereo microphone in addition to a 3.5mm microphone jack for external audio input and another one for audio output for headphone monitoring.

Pros:

  • Most affordable continuous RAW-shooting camera in the market at the moment. (Jan. ’14)
  • Small, easily portable.
  • 13 stops of Dynamic Range.
  • High-quality for the cost.
  • Takes Nikon batteries, which are cheaper.
  • Log ProRes

Cons:

  • External microphone is a must; the internal one sounds poor.
  • Terrible battery life, a charge lasts up to one hour at most, and requires longer to charge.
  • Smaller size MAY mean that it is taken less seriously if used for clients in a professional setting.
  • Sensor size causes a crop factor of 2.88X. This means lenses will need a speedbooster or even wider-angle lenses for wider shots.
  • Once lenses are attached, the camera no longer actually fits in a pocket unless it’s a pancake lens, or a huge pocket.
  • Shooting RAW on SD uses up memory very quickly. It will require many, many SD cards.
  • Smaller size and lightweight means shakier footage if shooting handheld. Using a rig is almost a must, especially considering the crop factor.
  • The display is very hard to see, especially in sunny conditions.
  • Lack of card space/recording time indicator.
  • Doesn’t shoot faster than 30fps.
  • There are current issues that Blackmagic has promised to fix with firmware updates, such as the inability to format a card in-camera. These may no longer exist at the time you read this.

added by: kaidumo

Canon Vixia HF G10 (~$1100)

Consumer camcorder. Basically the Canon XA10 without XLR inputs and a handle, smaller internal memory, and no infrared for about half the price.

Pros:

  • Easy to use, reliable, has a fast “everything automatic” switch.
  • Reasonably sharp image, fairly good image stabilization.
  • Good battery life with an extended life battery (>300 minutes in practice), acceptable with standard battery (~120 minutes in practice).
  • Two SDXC card slots supporting 64GB cards stores a lot of footage.

Cons:

  • Small 1/3″ sensor, your depth of field is going to be very deep.
  • Image softens at full telephoto.
  • It’s a lot of money for what you get.

added by: tikkun

Canon 70D ($1200)

Bigger brother to the 600/700D series, and just slightly below the upper tiers of the 7D and 5D.

Successor to the online filmmaking favourite, the 60D, choice of Pro-YouTubers since it’s release.

Shoots on inexpensive SD cards, HDMI output, APS-C Sensor.

Only partially weather sealed. Like the 700D (above), but with a slightly better build quality, more video functionality and features.

Pros:

  • 3″ flip out swivel screen.
  • Shoots on SD cards, less expensive than CF cards (7D/5D)
  • 720p 60fps for slow motion.
  • Manually control kelvin unlike t2i/t3i.
  • Magic Lantern compatible.
  • Nearly Super35 (cine standard) sized sensor.

Cons:

  • Designed for stills, buttons are small.
  • No sensor under the viewfinder, so when you are taking photos, the LCD screen is always on (unless you turn it off). Can drain battery faster.
  • Canon APS-C camera (1100D, 550D, 600D, 60D, 7D) all have the same sensor and so all share similar image quality, moire and ISO performance.

Nikon D7000 ($1,200)

Nikon’s take at a mid-range video DSLR. Has the ability to plug in an external mic (3.5mm) and the auto gain controls are actually workable. You can put 2 SD cards in at the same time. Favours well lit conditions.

Pros:

  • Nice range of Nikon lenses.
  • Weather proof.
  • Can use 2 SD cards at the same time.
  • Very good low light performance.

Cons:

  • While in Live View you can’t change the aperture in manual movie mode.
  • Doesn’t like high contrast, back light situations. (Can get muddy easily).
  • Data rate averages at about 20mbps

Price Range: $1,500 – $5,000

Canon 7D Mk II (~$1,500)

Smaller and cheaper than the 5D. The buttons are a little more user friendly for video work as well.

Has 1080p60 that you can conform for slow motion, and has a higher quality HDMI output for external monitors (always HD).

The camera is great for shorts, music videos, commercials, and web.

Pros:

  • Large sensor size is almost identical to 35mm film.
  • Weather proofed body.
  • HD output over HDMI while recording unlike the 5D/60D/T3i/etc.

Cons:

  • Can overheat fairly easily, even indoors. Improved with firmware update.
  • No pro audio inputs, nearly worthless onboard mic.
  • No clean HDMI output.
  • Moire, line skipping, fairly low resolution image (resolves less than 1080)

added by: mezzanine224

Sony NEX-VG20 (~$1,600)

Essentially it’s a DSLR in a camcorder body. Shoots 1920*1080 video at 60p and 24p and 16MP stills.

Pros:

  • Nearly Super35 sized sensor.
  • Interchangeable lenses.
  • Body size and shape is ideal for video work compared to DSLRs.
  • Built-in 4-Mic Array.

Cons:

  • Only supports Sony E-Mount lenses (many adapters are available).
  • No XLR Input.
  • More expensive than a DSLR with the same specs.

added by ev149

Panasonic GH4 (~$1690)

One of the most popular mirrorless cameras of recent times and used by filmmakers worldwide, the GH4 shoots internal 4k and can shoot at bitrates of up to 200Mbps.

It has a micro 4/3 sensor (1.89 crop factor), 3″ LCD, and touch screen control. You can adapt most popular lenses to fit the camera body.

Pros:

  • Internal 4k video recording
  • 1080 24p, 1080 60i out of the box.
  • Less aliasing and moire than similarly priced cameras.
  • Crop mode (crops imaging area of sensor to the center 1920×1080 pixels, effectively a digital zoom without a resolution drop).
  • Selectable recording codec
  • 4:2:2 10-bit HDMI output (for external recording)
  • Live onscreen histogram.

Cons:

  • Will need an adapter to use Canon or Nikon lenses. If you use electronically controlled Canon lenses, you have to set the aperture on a Canon body before putting it on your GH2. Or get an adapter with a built in iris.
  • Smaller sensor results in a ~2x crop, meaning slightly deeper DOF and fewer wide angle options (maybe not a con to everybody).
  • Much worse shoulder means it’s important to protect highlights.
  • Slower sensor refresh rate; rolling shutter is slightly worse than Canon DSLRs.
  • Menu layout is somewhat illogical.
  • Not weather sealed.

Canon XF100 (~$2900)

Relatively low cost broadcast-ready camcorder. Full featured and compact.

Good for budget on-the-go video work, documentary, and tiny-crew single-camera production.

Less hassle than a DSLR setup at the expense of DSLR’s super-shallow depth of field.

Easy to switch between manual and full automatic shooting modes in chaotic environments. Built in ND filters, too.

Pros:

  • Good range of bitrates and resolutions with support for slow and fast motion, interval recording, and frame recording when in 24p mode. Up to 60p at 720, 60i at 1080.
  • 4:2:2 50Mbps codec and Canon processor create smooth, natural skin tones and texture even under harsh or unusual lighting.
  • Codec is broadcast ready!
  • Two XLR ports with excellent preamps and independent controls. Built in stereo mics are above-average for on-camera microphones.

Cons:

  • Single lens.
  • Smaller sensor (1/3″) means deeper depth of field than is currently in vogue.
  • Compatible CF cards are costly per GB and the camera does not (to my knowledge) support off-board recording, limiting recording time at higher bitrates.

added by: LemonFrosted

Arri 16S (used $1000-$5000)

First built in 1952, this is the first 16mm camera to feature a registration pin.

Although the days of film are mostly behind us, if you’re truly interested in learning about the process or are determined to shoot your project on celluloid, you can now pick up a camera like this for the same price as a modern digital video camera (don’t forget to budget for film stock!)

Best found second hand on eBay, or from a specialist.

Pros:

  • Very portable for a high quality 16mm camera.
  • The three lens turret is great for fast swapping between fast primes and a zoom lens.
  • Accepts 100′ spools of any ASA and can be built up with a 400′ magazine.
  • Can be used with a crystal sync motor or variable speed motor.
  • Can be powered by a variety of sources.

Cons:

  • Heavy compared to modern day video cameras.
  • Very expensive film stock and processing costs.
  • Short shooting time unless you upgrade to 400′ magazine.
  • This is an MOS (no sound) camera, unless you can wrap it in blankets or get it far away from your microphone.
  • People may think it’s a prop camera…

Recommended only for those with gray hair and a dusty film school degree/or a handlebar moustache and a fixie bike

added by: surprisepinkmist

Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera 2.5K (~$2000)

This camera is ideally suited to act as a professional quality, cinema camera for any DSLR shooter looking to move into using a dedicated video camera.

At $2000, its price point is right up there with higher-end DSLRs and is significantly cheaper than the ubiquitous and venerable 5D mkIII.

A controversial entrant: cinema camera shooters don’t like it because it isn’t quite as nice (or feature rich) as models that cost ten times as much.

And DSLR shooters don’t like it because it lacks a lot of the qualities that make DSLRs so attractive (except the price tag). When considering this fact, one must realize that they won’t be getting a DSLR, and for the price, don’t expect to get an Arri Alexa either.

It has been rightly described as a “sensor in a can,” reflecting the bare bones design and lack of extra features. That being said, at the price point, it delivers absolutely gorgeous image quality, with three delivery formats that are ideal for a professional grade post-production workflow.

Combined with the ability to deliver lossless raw cinemaDNG footage, this definitely puts a shooter into an entirely different weight class from most DSLRs.

Pros:

  • 2.5K resolution.
  • Can deliver in raw 12-bit cinemaDNG sequences, allowing for massive latitude with color grading (standard color space also available).
  • Delivery in ProRes or DNxHD in 4:2:2 chroma subsampling at 1080p resolution with a rec709 color space in “video” dynamic range or applies a very flat color profile to this footage in “film” dynamic range to allow for the most flexibility during the color grading process. These codecs are far more easy to use in NLE programs like Premier and FinalCut and those who are used to editing with h.264 and MPEG4 footage put out by most DSLRs should notice a considerable improvement in cache and render times. Additionally, these formats are not subject to the kinds of compression artifacting that DSLR footage often falls victim to, so footage shot in low-light conditions will look better.
  • 13 stops of dynamic range in “Film” mode.
  • Focus peaking and zebras.
  • Free copy of DaVinci Resolve.
  • Built-in 5″ LCD viewfinder display is much larger than your average DSLR LCD display. Makes seeing what you are shooting that much easier. Additionally, this can be set to display in both “Film” and “video” dynamic ranges.
  • HD-SDI external video output. This allows for compatibility with high-end EVFs and external monitors. The format outputted this way is 10-bit YUV 4:2:2 much like the ProRes and DNxHD formats this camera produces.
  • Records to 2.5″ SSDs. The recommended list includes capacities up to 480GB allowing for respectable record times even with raw. Additionally, on a byte-for-byte basis, these are cheaper than even CF cards and vastly cheaper than proprietary media like REDMags.
  • Flexible external power requirements, allowing for a wide variety of power solutions on top of the manufacturer recommended options.
  • EF and MFT mount models allow for the ability to shoot with many lenses.
  • Can record various forms of meta-data, including file names, project names, etc.
  • Durable aluminium body.

Cons:

  • ~Super 16 sized sensor.
  • Massive file sizes when shooting RAW.
  • Internal battery is small and cannot be replaced meaning an external solution is a necessity.
  • No XLR (though can record internally).
  • Odd form factor takes the worst ergonomics of DSLR’s and makes them even more cumbersome.
  • Only capable of framerates up to 30p.
  • Can be finicky about which SSDs it records to.
  • LCD glares and attracts fingerprints.
  • ProRes and DNxHD limited to 1080p.

added by: /u/Sloore

Sony NEX-FS100 (~$2,499)

A little outdated, but a stellar camera in it’s day. A camera that grew up with DSLRs and learned from their mistakes.

An affordable way to get the large sensor look without the compromises of a DSLR. Great low light performance, highlights clip better than most.

E-mount is easily adapted. 1080p up to 60fps, clean 4:2:2 HDMI out. The camera has its limitations but it’s a huge step up from shooting DSLR. AVCHD codec.

Pros:

  • Shares Exmor Super35 sensor with F3.
  • Video camera features and controls.
  • Small and light.
  • Clean 4:2:2 out via HDMI.
  • Lens adapters are available for EF, FD, Nikon, K, M42, MD, OCT19 and PL.

Cons:

  • No SDI
  • Requires adapter for lenses other than Sony E mounts.
  • Can have difficulty communicating with electronic lenses.

added by: davidhildreth and /u/DoubleLumber

Sony A7s (~$2,500)

The Sony A7s is a mirrorless system camera (DSLM) with full- size image sensor, which has been commercially available since April 2014.

Due to the mirrorless system, the camera housing is relatively small, despite the small-format full-size sensor and an interchangeable lens system. Sony is clearly targeting this camera to customers with an interest in video.

The Sony A7S has an effective image resolution of 12.2 megapixels and uses the image processor BIONZ X to process the image data.

Sony has equipped the camera with a deliberately low pixel number of 12 million in favor of the current best noise class at high ISO values ​​(up to ISO 409,600 – native 102,400).

It is optimized for low-light situations, and is less sensitive to light than other video cameras on the market.

The model has a fully electronic (and thus absolutely silent) trigger. It controls the XAVC-S video codecs with details, 120 frames per second video at 720p, SLog2 and other so-called Picture Profiles, as well as the possibility via the micro-HDMI output 4k – standing and moving pictures.

As opposed to HD videos, which can be recorded internally, if you want to record in 4K, a 4K video recorder is required for 4K video data.

The camera housing has an e-mount connector. As an autofocus system, a contrast autofocus with 25 measuring points is used.

With the integrated Wi-Fi function, the Alpha 7S can be remotely controlled via a smartphone or other mobile devices. The recordings can be transferred directly to mobile devices and suitable televisions.

The built-in monitor and the electronic viewfinder support live view with software loupe and focus peaking.

Pros:

  • Small, lightweight, point-and-shoot style body
  • Incredible ISO performance up to 400k
  • 4k video recording via HDMI out
  • Sony S-Log curve, great for color correction

Cons:

  • Small, short life batteries. Lots needed, or external power solution.
  • Poor highlight detail at higher ISOs
  • Consumer level built quality and features (no SDI/XLR etc)

Canon 5D Mk III (~$2,500)

The most popular DSLR used for video of all time. Simple to use with a great image quality and the ability for super shallow depth of field from it’s huge full-frame sensor.

The 5D shoots basic H.264 video at 24/25fps 1080p and 720p60 that you can conform for slow motion, and has a high quality HDMI output for external monitors (always HD).

Low light sensitivity is fantastic with useable ISOs up to 6400.

The camera is great for shorts, music videos, commercials, and web content. Magic Lantern installation allows for far better video functionality (scopes/guides/meters/intervalometer etc.)

Pros:

  • Large full-frame sensor size is bigger than 35mm film.
  • Small, weather proofed, rugged magnesium-alloy body
  • One of the best stills cameras on the market (22mp raw)
  • HD output via HDMI for monitoring and external recording.
  • Better low light sensitivity than the 5Dm2
  • Reduced moire and rolling shutter (still much worse than non-DSLR’s)

Cons:

  • At this price, it’s getting close to competitive video cameras that will out perform it in certain areas.
  • Not designed for constant video use, possibility of overheating.
  • No pro audio inputs, nearly worthless onboard mic.
  • Bitrate and codec limitations aren’t great for post flexibility
  • Menus and buttons are designed for photos, can be awkward with video mode

added by: /u/DoubleLumber and /u/iduno8912

Panasonic HPX170 (~$3,100)

Little brother to the hugely popular HVX200, this camera boasts many improvements.

Records 480, 720, and 1080 video at 60i/30p/24p.

The camera shoots to Panasonic P2 cards which have dropped in price dramatically (~$380 for 16gb) and now has an SD card adapter. 3x 1/3″ CCDs = no moire or rolling shutter.

Great for events, weddings, sports, shorts, and music videos.

Pros:

  • XLR inputs, several video outputs.
  • Over and undercrank speeds
  • Buttons are user friendly for on the fly shooting.
  • Long battery life

Cons:

  • Small sensor, deep DoF (this could be a pro, depending on the use and type of shoot)
  • Codec (DVCPRO HD) is starting to show its age, but holds up well for most uses.
  • Not necessarily a con, but this is a video camera, and the footage will reflect this.

added by: mezzanine224

Blackmagic URSA Mini (~$4,995)

The Blackmagic URSA is a digital movie camera developed and manufactured by Blackmagic Design, released on August 8, 2014. It is the first camera to be user-upgradeable for additional equipment manufactured by Blackmagic and other third-party makers.

At the NAB Show in April 2014, Blackmagic Design announced the URSA digital movie camera, which was the first movie camera to be user-upgradeable for additional equipment, alongside the Studio Camera, the television-oriented version of the Cinema Camera.

In November, a firmware update maxed the frame rate to 80p and added a new 3:1 compression ratio for RAW files.

In April 2015, the URSA Mini was announced and all URSA models and variants received another update that upgraded the maximum frame rate for the windowed 1080p resolution to 150 fps and added support for Apple ProRes 444 XQ and updated the models with a second-generation sensor.

A B4 lens mount was added to the Mini in September. The 4.6K version of the Mini was then released in March 2016, controversially without global shutter. In August, a public beta of the redesigned Camera Utility 4.0 for URSA Mini was released.

The camera can come in both 4K and 4.6K specifications, with max resolutions being 4608 x 2592 for the 4.6K spec and 4000 x 2160 for the 4K.

All models and variants include DaVince Resolve.

The camera comprises two displays; the main 10.1″ flip-out TFT-LCD display that is controlled using physical buttons and a 5″ LCD capacitivetouchscreen that can show recording status and can be used to access features by another operator.

The camera records lossless CinemaDNG RAW, RAW 3:1 and 4:1 and Apple ProRes.

Pros:

  • 4.6k video with raw capability
  • Super 35 Blackmagic Sensor
  • SDI video out
  • Magnesium alloy body

Cons:

  • Untested, little to no footage as yet.

Price Range: $5,000 – $10,000

Canon C100 (~$4,999)

A solid compromise of cost and features. Has a significantly better image than DSLRs.

Built in XLRs and NDs make this a great run-and-gun camera, while fully customizable scene files & display settings allow plenty of personalization.

Super 35mm sensor, lightweight codec, long record times, and pro features.

If you’re using this camera on “proper” productions, SDI out and GenLock will be missed. Lack of 60p shooting is a bit frustrating, but at this price it’s forgiveable.

Camera feels intentionally limited as to not compete with the C300. But the images it produces and overall usability still make it a huge upgrade for anyone used to DSLRs.

The lightweight body, cheap media, long battery life, and built in NDs make it an attractive camera for those used to more “pro” cameras like the Red Scarlet or BMCC.

Pros:

  • Built in NDs, XLR, and feature buttons are laid out well for quick adjustments.
  • Dual slot recording. Can record simultaneously for an instant backup.
  • Canon C-Log shooting gives a nice flat image for grading. Great dynamic range straight out of the camera.
  • Clean HDMI out can be used with external recorders for ProRes 422 capture.
  • Long battery life. Can easily shoot for 10 hours on 2 batteries.
  • Good low-light shooting. Native 850 iso is a great place to start, but “clean enough” images can be captured at 20,000 ISO.
  • Proper timecode.
  • SD media is common and affordable.

Cons:

  • No 60p at any resolution.
  • AVCHD codec can breakdown under intense grading.
  • Lack of GenLock and SDI output can pull this camera out of the running on more professional shoots.
  • LCD and viewfinder are not very good. An external LCD monitor is very useful. A 3rd party eyecup is good for the evf.

added by /u/mezzanine224

Sony PXW-FS7 ($7,999)

One of the most popular value for money video cameras on the market today. Sony seem to have outdone their F5/F55 and FS700 models with their own smaller brother.

The FS7 has internal 12-bit, 4k raw recording in an amazingly small, durable body.

A serious (and cheaper) rival for the dominating Canon C300 in the documentary camera market.

[Details to be added]

Pros:

  • Fantastic 4k raw internal recording
  • Sony S-Log gamma curve for colour correction
  • Small, light camera body with a choice of lens mounts
  • Internal ND Filters
  • Pro XLR and SDI outputs
  • Slow-mo up to 180fps at lower resolutions

Cons:

  • Small body could easily get cramped with many accessories.

Sony NEX-FS700U ($7,999)

This camera is capable of massive high speed framerates (up to 960fps at reduced resolutions, 240fps at 1080p).

Limited to 1080p internally, but capable of 4K 12-bit RAW with the external 4K RAW module.

Massively overruled by it’s newer brother, the FS7 (see above), it’s now only really relevant for inexpensive slow motion shooting.

Pros:

  • 4K Sensor is incredibly sharp at 1080p.
  • Capable of 4K RAW with additional recording module.
  • 240fps burst at 1080p.
  • Relatively small and light.
  • Interchangeable lenses with many adapter options.

Cons:

  • RAW module is very expensive.
  • Lacks S-log of F5.
  • Requires adapter for most lenses.
  • 240fps limited to 8 or 9 second bursts with long buffer times.

added by /u/DoubleLumber


Price Range: $10,000 – $20,000

Red Scarlet Dragon (~$16,700 for body with lens mount)

High quality raw video recording up to 5k resolution. Same sensor as the Red Epic Dragon with very high dynamic range.

Available with EF, Nikon, and PL mounts.

Lots of resolution and frame rate options. High quality components, cinema quality image.

Great for shorts, commercials and music videos with a mid-level budget.

Pros:

  • 5k raw video recording
  • Adjustable compression ratio (Redcode
  • Extremely customisable modular system
  • Excellent build quality and far better reliability than previous models
  • Lightweight and small form factor make it easy to get into tough positions and use with gimbals and multi-copters.

Cons:

  • Data heavy at higher resolutions and lower compression, REDMag SSDs are very expensive.
  • Power hungry. You’ll want bricks on the back. RedVolts last around 25 minutes.
  • High frame rate options limited to the more expensive Epic Dragon
  • Needs many accessories before it’s “shootable.”

added by: mezzanine224

Canon C300 Mk II (~$15,999)

Lacks moire, aliasing, and rolling shutter, many of which plague its lower priced rivals.

Built in ND filters, and a great 4:4:4 (RGB) 12 or 10-bit XF-AVX codec with variable bitrates (Intra: 410 / 225 / 210 / 110 Mbps) and uses the compact h.264 wrapper.

Includes Canon log setting, which has a flat color and gamma curve for color correcting.

The low ISO performance is excellent with a range from 320 to 80,000, with base ISO at 850.

Physically, the camera has two XLR ports, a great LCD and viewfinder. Great doc camera and not a bad run-and-gun narrative camera.

Comes in both EF and PL mount.

Pros:

  • Picture quality (great skintones and flexible log recording).
  • Ergonomics. Rugged, durable and splash-proof. Lightweight at just 3 lbs.
  • Comes in both EF and PL mount.
  • Good battery life, great for documentary.

Cons:

  • No super slow-mo framerates (60fps max internal)
  • No internal raw recording
  • Uses expensive C-Fast cards

Price Range: $20,000+

If you’re looking to spend upwards of $20k then you’re either a rental house or you have money to burn, either way there are only a few real options of serious high-end digital cinema cameras.

(Seriously, though, at this price range we would almost always recommend renting rather than buying these cameras. Unless you’re sure you can make your money back, then it doesn’t make sense to purchase one.)

RED Epic Dragon ($24,000 for basic body – ~$40,000+ for basic kit)

This is RED’s flagship camera, and the big brother of the Mysterium Epic.

The sensor, menus, accessories, and build of the camera are identical to the original Epic (the lens mount and accessories are all interchangeable). The difference is in resolution and framerate.

The Epic can shoot at higher framerates and resolutions than the Scarlet.

Pros:

  • 6K Resolution, is the highest in it’s price range. (9x more pixels than HD)
  • High Dynamic range (~15 stops) is increased further using the HDRx utility included with camera.
  • Excellent build quality and far better reliability than previous models
  • Lightweight and small form factor make it easy to get into tough positions and use with gimbals and multi-copters.
  • Shoots up to 100fps @ 6K, 120fps @ 4K, 150fps @ 3K, and 300 fps @ 2K (cropped to anamorphic).
  • Selectable compression ratio from 1:1-18:1 (Redcode)

Cons:

  • Large file sizes at lower compression rates and higher framerates
  • Power hungry. You’ll want bricks on the back. Internal RedVolts last around 30 minutes.
  • Prohibitively expensive to buy. You can rent packages around $1500/day, which is still high for most budding filmmakers.
  • This is not a beginner camera. If you are shooting with an Epic Dragon you really need to know what you’re doing.

added by /u/strayangelfilms

Arri Alexa [Plus/M/XT/SXT/65/Mini] ($80,000-$130,000)

This camera is widely considered to be the best digital camera in the film industry.

Some of the industry’s staunchest advocates of film as a medium have been won over by the Alexa (Roger Deakins, for example).

Pros:

  • Arguably the best image quality of any camera available on the market.
  • Pleasing, smooth digital negative. Great highlight and shadow details
  • An amazing 15 stops of dynamic range at ISO 800, a measurement comparable only to actual film stock.
  • S35mm sensor which provides true 2.8K resolution (after De-Bayering) if using an ARRIRAW recorder or the new XT module.
  • Very simple functional system (minimal menus, buttons, etc.) creates one of the most ergonomically pleasing cameras on the market.
  • Available in 16:9 sensor and 4:3 sensor (for anamorphic recording)

Cons:

  • Significant size and weight. The Alexa XT body weighs in at 17.6lbs, so the Alexa Mini would be needed to fit into tighter spaces.
  • Very power hungry, needs heavy block batteries or high capacity v-lock/gold mount batteries
  • Higher resolutions and RAW recording are limited to newer models, will cost more.
  • This camera is extremely expensive and is intended for serious short film, television and movie use, not personal ownership. Rental of a base model kit (body and accessories, no lenses) starts at around $1500/day.

added by /u/strayangelfilms

Phantom Flex 4K (Starting from $110,000 – body only) [Highly Specialist Camera]

Improving on its Phantom Flex predecessor with up to 1,000 fps in 5-second bursts at 4K, 2,000 fps in 2K and 3,000 fps at 720p resolution — speeds that’ll net you almost three minutes of 4K video when played back at 24 fps

Pros:

  • Insane high-speed slow mo frame rates
  • Great image quality and 4k resolution

Cons:

  • The massively expensive cost for a one trick pony
  • A lot of high powered lights are needed to be able to expose for these frame rates

Imax Camera [65mm] (~$XXXX not available to buy)

The Imax format is world renowned for being incredible in size and visual impact. Not really a viable prospect for the majority of filmmakers.

Pros:

  • Instantly become Christopher Nolan (That’s what we’ve heard…)

Cons:

  • $12,000 – $16,000 a week to rent
  • Needs specialist technicians and assistants to operate
  • Huge size and extremely heavy
  • Unattainable and unnecesary to 90% of filmmakers

I hope you’ve found this guide on what video camera to buy helpful. Philip Bloom also has a great resource on what camera to buy, if you’re still looking for some reading material.

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