10 Best Video Cameras With Great Continuous Autofocus

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When it comes to shooting video, the rule of thumb is to always avoid using autofocus. As a videographer, you want to retain control over all aspects of your project and don’t want to relinquish control.

That said, autofocus technology has made major strides in recent years. Whether you’re in a pinch and can’t find the time to continually monitor your focus, or want to quickly rack focus between subjects you might consider giving in and using autofocus.

When it comes to autofocus, not all cameras are created equal. That’s why we’ve selected 10 cameras that all come with powerful and dependable autofocusing technology.

Always remember, that what you’re looking for in a video camera is the continuous autofocus capabilities, i.e. the ability to continuously track your subject while recording. This can be coupled with something like eye tracking.

You might read a review of a hybrid mirrorless camera online, that says it has great autofocus. And while this might be true for stills, it doesn’t mean that it is good for video also. A camera like the Panasonic S1 is a good example of this.

Below you can read a quick summary of what continuous autofocus technologies are available, what works best, and why.

Not All Autofocus Technologies Are Created Equal

Without going too in-depth into the subject there are three major types of autofocusing technology: Laser (or time of flight), contrast-based, and phase detection. All three technologies have their strengths and are suited to different circumstances.

Time of flight or laser autofocus is primarily used in phone cameras. This works like sonar, where the camera emits a beam of light that reflects off the subject. An internal processor measures the time it takes the light to return and calculates the distance to the subject.

Contrast based autofocus works similarly to how you probably hunt for focus. The camera analyzes the contrast along edges in the picture. If there is high contrast the subject is closer to being in focus and vice versa.

This allows the camera to find the optimum lens distance to bring your subject into focus but can take longer relative to the other technologies.

Phase detection autofocus works in stereo. A bit of incoming light is split and redirected to autofocusing photodiodes. A signal is generated, and by comparing the phase of each signal a microprocessor computes how much, and in which direction to move the lens.

This is a very fast autofocusing method and has seen major innovations recently such as Canon’s dual pixel autofocus.

If you want a more in-depth explanation of these technologies, look here.

So let’s take a look at some cameras! We start with cameras below $1000, before we move into the prosumer range (approximately around the $5000 mark), and finally into the professional cinema camera range (approximately $10.000-$15.000).

1. Canon M50 with kit lens and microphone

Autofocus Technology: Dual pixel phase detection, eye detection

Sensor Resolution: 24.1 Megapixels

Video Resolution: 4k, UHD up to 24fps

Pros: The Canon M50 is a dependable and versatile option that will meet the needs of many photographers. It is a small portable camera highly capable of both still photography and video shooting 4k video in UHD up to 24fps.

Canon’s dual pixel autofocus technology is a powerful tool in experienced and novice hands alike.

Cons: The battery life of the Canon M50 is a limiting factor. Be prepared to invest in a backup battery pack.

Buying options: We found this great deal on Adorama which includes a 15-45mm lens, the Rode VideoMic Go, and a 32Gb SD Card.

2. Canon 80D body

Autofocus Technology: 45-point cross-type, and dual pixel phase detection

Sensor Resolution: 24.2 Megapixels

Video Resolution: FHD 1080p

Pros: The Canon 80D is a robust camera capable of both still photography and video. Cross type focus points improve the precision and versatility of the autofocus, which can be good for stills but weaker when it comes to video.

Cons: When pushing the limits of the Canon 80D in low light situations the autofocus can be less dependable. This camera also has poorer video resolution than other alternatives such as the Canon M50, and so might be better suited for still photography.

Buying options: Check the current price on Adorama for the body only. You need to buy your lenses separately.

Sony A6600 Mirrorless Camera with 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 lens $1798

Autofocus Technology: 425 point phase detection, eye autofocus

Sensor Resolution: 24.2 Megapixels

Video Resolution: 4k up to 120fps

Pros: The Sony A6600 is a dependable and versatile camera that can capture high resolution stills and videos alike. This camera can shoot video in 4k up to 120fps perfect for high resolution slow motion video. With over 400 focus points there is dense and broad focusing coverage across the image. 

Cons: This camera is on the weaker side when it comes to Sony’s in-body stabilization. Stability issues could be a problem compared to other Sony cameras. Also, the A6600 only has a single memory card slot, unlike the Sony A7R III.

Buying options: There are several options available on Adorama. For starting out we recommend this one that includes the excellent and versatile 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 lens.

3. Canon 5D Mark IV with EF 24-105mm f/4 $3399

Autofocus Technology: 61 point, and dual pixel phase detection 

Sensor Resolution: 30.4 Megapixels

Video Resolution: 4k UHD 2160p

Pros: The Canon 5D Mark IV is a powerful high resolution camera for both video and still photography. Canon’s dual pixel autofocus gives you a capable and dependable built in focusing mode that can rack quickly between subjects.

Cons: Unlike some other models on the market today, the Canon 5D Mark IV does not have eye detection autofocus. Battery life is another drawback, albeit with a simple solution of buying an extra battery pack.

Buying options: There are different kits available on Adorama. We recommend you start with the 24-105mm f/4 lens which is a versatile lens that covers a lot of ground.

Sony A7R III with 24-70mm f/4 $3396

Autofocus Technology: 399 point phase detection, 425 point contrast, eye detection

Sensor Resolution: 42.4 Megapixels

Video Resolution: FHD 1080p

Pros: The Sony A7R III is a powerful camera especially capable of still photography. Fast phase detection or contrast-based autofocus should suit your needs in many situations.

This camera also has dependable eye detection autofocus. Sony’s internal image stabilization is a perk along with good battery life. As if that were not enough the A7R III also has double memory card slots so no need to worry about running out of room.

Cons: A drawback to this model is the lack of weatherproofing on the bottom of the casing. If you are going to be out shooting in poor weather this is something to consider.

Although a capable video camera in its own right, there are other cameras that could meet more of your needs if you will be shooting a lot of videos.

Buying options: We found this great deal on Adorama that includes the excellent Sony 24-70mm f/4 Vario-Tessar lens and a 64GB memory card.

Canon C100 Mark II $3399

Autofocus Technology: Dual pixel phase detection 

Sensor Resolution: 8.3 Megapixels

Video Resolution: 1080p HD

Pros: The Canon C100 Mark II is a professional cinema-grade camera. It is relatively easy to use, consistently capturing good image quality straight from the box. The dual pixel autofocus keeps things looking sharp even when shooting in very low light. 

Cons: The Canon C100 Mark II doesn’t film 4k video if that is the format you are planning to use.

Buying options: There are different bundles available on Adorama. We recommend you choose the bundle that includes the 24-105mm f/4 lens because it’s such a versatile tool and covers a lot of ground.

Canon C200 with Touch Screen LCD, Handle, and Grip $5499

Autofocus Technology: Dual pixel phase detection 

Sensor Resolution: 8.85 Megapixels

Video Resolution: 4k RAW, HD and UHD

Pros: The Canon C200 is another professional cinema grade camcorder with dual pixel autofocus. Able to shoot 4k video in HD and UHD or RAW output means this camera can meet all your needs as a videographer.

Cons: With the Canon C200 managing file size can become a problem. Having to switch out SD cards in the middle of a shoot can be a bit of a headache.

Buying options: There are several kit options available on Adorama. You can get the body only, or you can get a fully kitted version that comes with a lens, Touch screen LCD, handle, and grip.

There’s also the C200B that is a stripped-down version of the body without the built-in electronic viewfinder.

If you already own EF-glass we recommend the version that comes with a touch screen LCD, handle and grip.

4. Canon DX Mark III $6499

Autofocus Technology: 191 point dual pixel phase detection 

Sensor Resolution: 20.2 Megapixels

Video Resolution: 4k up to 60fps

Pros: The Canon DX Mark II is a very capable camera for amateurs and pros alike. This camera has a good dynamic range and fast autofocus with focus points distributed across the frame. For videographers, this is a powerful camera with the ability to shoot high-resolution 4k video at up to 60fps.

Cons: If price is a limiting factor, this camera is more expensive than alternatives such as comparable Sony models equipped with internal stabilization. However, depending on your needs as a photographer or videographer there are strengths of the Canon DX Mark II that can justify the higher price tag.

Buying options: Check the current price on Adorama – if you bundle the body with a lens or two from the start, you can often save a good amount of money compared to having to buy the lenses afterward.

Canon C100 Mark III $10999

Autofocus Technology: Dual pixel phase detection 

Video Resolution: 4k at up to 120fps RAW 

Pros: The Canon C100 Mark III is a dedicated cinema quality camcorder. This camera has internal raw recording functionality and can shoot 4k video at up to 120 frames per second for slow-motion recording.

It comes equipped with dual pixel autofocus making tracking your subjects and keeping them in focus is easier than ever.

Cons: None really.

Buying options: Check the current price on Adorama.

Sony FX9 $10998

Autofocus Technology: Fast Hybrid contrast and phase detection, face detection, 561 point phase detection

Video Resolution: 4k RAW, UHD, HD

Pros: The Sony FX9 is a professional cinema-grade camcorder. This camera boasts exceptional video quality, shooting high definition 4k capabilities.

The hybrid autofocus is a powerful tool that combines the precision of contrast-based autofocus with the speed of phase detection autofocus.

Cons: A camera like the Sony FX9 doesn’t come cheap. But it’s in the price range you’d expect from a camera in this league.

Buying options: There are several bundles available. But most people who buy a camera like this already own glass. Check the current price on Adorama.

Conclusion

So there you have it. These are our picks of the best cameras available when it comes to continuous autofocusing capability. Great strides have been made in improving autofocusing technology, and the capability of this tool will continue to be refined.

Though it’s often said to avoid autofocus, it is a tool that can be very useful depending on the situation. As the technology improves, so does the variety of shoots where you may employ autofocus. We hope you enjoyed this article, and as always we would love to hear your comments!


Cade Taylor is a filmmaker and writer based out of Los Angeles. Originally from Seattle, he continues to work as the Outreach Coordinator for the Bigfoot Script Challenge, where he helps connect up-and-coming writers with industry professionals. When he’s not working on his own projects, helping out with Bigfoot, or covering desks, Cade loves to share what he knows with other filmmakers and promote great content.

2 thoughts on “10 Best Video Cameras With Great Continuous Autofocus”

  1. I was going to get the C200 for the touchscreen, DPAF capabilities and face detection (which would match that of my 5DIV) but now I think the C70 is going to be getting my money instead (unless the C200 drops in price).

    Reply
    • Yeah, now I need to update this list AGAIN! 😀

      We’re really spoiled as filmmakers with all those cameras coming out all the time.

      Best, Jan

      Reply

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