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Selecting a camera for filmmaking can be difficult. As independent filmmakers, it can be daunting to see the large variety of options available. Sometimes the differences between cameras can be so minute it’s difficult to know what you’re looking at.
To make this process easier, we’ve selected 10 of the best Digital Video Cameras for filmmaking available in 2020. If you’re looking for a camera for video, this list will help dramatically.
If you’re new to filmmaking, you may be a bit vague on the differences between cameras for video and stills. In the next section, I will briefly explain these, however, if you already know how these cameras differ, feel free to skip to our list of the ten best video cameras.
Why a Dedicated Video Camera vs. a Photography Camera with Video Features?
Many DSLRs and mirrorless cameras have the option to record great video, often with 4k capabilities, so you may be wondering what the benefit of having a dedicated video camera is.
There are various differences between cameras, but a large strength of video cameras is in their codecs. Using regular DSLRs, you can typically take photos in RAW. Essentially this is the highest quality format to capture photos and retains the most information.
When moving to video, RAW capabilities are often lost. However, in many of these cameras designed for video you can shoot in ProRes and RAW formats, allowing you to have a higher dynamic range.
Some of these cameras have impressive features that uniquely help video, such as internal stabilization, mini XLR input, and the ability to embed custom LUTS. All that to say, if you are a dedicated filmmaker, a camera specifically designed for video can offer you plenty to work with.
The 10 Best Digital Video Cameras
Many cameras can capture amazing video, so selecting the top 10 is difficult. Additionally, many of these cameras vary from mirrorless to dedicated cinema cameras.
Therefore, selecting the best one for you requires understanding the projects you will be working on and your resources. While some of these cameras are amazing, the ultimate look and feel of any film project depend on a lot more than the camera itself.
That said, any camera from the following list will help you capture high-quality and professional-grade footage.
1. Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera 4k (BMPCC4K)
Sensor Size: 4/3” (18.96 x 10 mm)
Highest Video Resolution: 4k (RAW and ProRes)
Pros: The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4k is one of the most popular digital video cameras for filmmakers. It has an impressive 13 stops of dynamic range and can shoot in ProRes in 4k at up to 60 FPS and RAW in 4k at up to 80 FPS.
Cons: This camera is quite light and not ergonomic, requiring a rig and external method to stabilize your footage. It also has a very limited battery life and is easy to underexpose.
Where to buy: We found this great deal on Adorama, which includes a spare battery and a 64 GB SDXC memory card that you usually pay for only the body.
2. Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6k (BMPCC6K)
Sensor Size: Super 35 (23.1 x 12.99 mm)
Highest Video Resolution: 6k (RAW and ProRes)
Pros: In many respects, the Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera 6k is similar to the BMPCC4k. It has 13 stops of dynamic range and can capture even higher resolution footage (6k RAW at up to 50 FPS). For independent filmmakers, Black Magic Cinema Cameras are a great option.
Cons: The BMPCC6k shares many of the same weaknesses as its little brother. It is not very ergonomic, requires external stabilization, and has a short battery life. Another nitpicky problem is that the HDMI output is only in 1080p.
Where to buy: We found this awesome deal on Adorama that besides the basic battery also includes a SmallRig cage, an HDMI and USB-cable clamp, and mount for Samsung SSD-drive (you’d want that extra storage for shooting 6K RAW).
3. Panasonic GH5S
Sensor Size: Micro Four Thirds (17.3 x 13 mm)
Highest Video Resolution: 4k (MP4)
Pros: The Panasonic GH5S is a mirrorless MFT camera designed with a focus on video. It has impressive low-light capabilities with a native ISO range of up to 51200 and a 10.28MP MOS sensor. Though unable to shoot RAW, it can work with V-Log L modes to increase dynamic range.
Cons: Unlike the Panasonic GH5, the GH5S does not have dual stabilization. This means you will need external stabilization to achieve buttery smooth shots unless you use a native lens with O.I.S. (luckily, there are plenty of great native lenses available). This camera also lacks RAW and ProRes capabilities in many dedicated video cameras.
Where to buy: We found this great deal on Adorama that includes the RØDE Pro On-Camera microphone, and an environment-friendly rechargeable battery pack for around the same price as the camera body usually costs by itself. That’s an instant rebate around $700.
4. Ursa Mini Pro G2
Sensor Size: Super35 (25.34 x 14.25 mm)
Highest Video Resolution: 4.6k (RAW and ProRes)
Pros: The Ursa Mini Pro G2 is a powerful cinema camera that packs a lot into a small body. It can record in RAW and ProRes but also offers compressed formats if that better suits your workflow. The Ursa Mini Pro G2 also features built-in ND filters to assist you with exposing properly. This camera produces great color and has an incredibly dynamic range of 15.
Cons: The Ursa Mini Pro G2 struggles at high ISOs. Going above 1600 will lead to some noise and compromise footage.
Where to buy: We found this great deal on Adorama that includes an Angelbird 256GB memory card.
5. Panasonic EVA1
Sensor Size: Super35
Highest Video Resolution: 5.7k (RAW SDI/BNC)
Pros: The Panasonic EVA1 is an extremely powerful camera with 14 stops of dynamic range and a 20.49 MP sensor. The V-Log and V-Gamut compatibility give this camera a wide color palette. This camera is also modular, letting it be mounted on gimbals if stripped down or built into a large rig.
Cons: A large con with this camera is the monitor. Especially if being used outside, you will want an external monitor. To record in RAW formats, you must use an external recorder.
Where to buy: We found this great bundle on Adorama that includes two Panasonic 8850mAh batteries that’ll last you a long time.
6. Panasonic S1H
Sensor Size: Full Frame (35.6 x 23.8 mm)
Highest Video Resolution: 6k (MOV/H.265)
Pros: The Panasonic S1H is a mirrorless camera designed for video. It has a full-frame 24.2MP sensor and 14 stops of dynamic range. It can also shoot RAW (DCI and UHD) with an external recorder. The ability to shoot V-Log will help you capture great color, and the camera is very ergonomic.
Cons: The Leica L mount can make finding native lenses difficult, especially if you are on a budget. This camera also has poor autofocus, so you will want to focus manually instead.
Where to buy: We found this awesome offer on Adorama, which includes an extra battery grip for the same price you usually pay for the body only.
7. Canon EOS C200
Sensor Size: Super35 (24.6 x 13.8mm)
Highest Video Resolution: 4k (RAW)
Pros: The Canon EOS C200 features a Super 35 CMOS sensor that models motion picture standards. It can record RAW footage internally and has 13 stops of dynamic range. The C200 has expanded audio controls with two XLR inputs and a 3.5mm jack. For filmmakers looking for a more stripped-down version, you can get the C200 B for your own build or gimbal work.
Cons: For slow-motion photography, this camera lacks 4K 120 FPS. The camera is a bit large, making run-and-gun filmmaking difficult. For higher quality productions, this camera lacks a 10-bit codec, to the frustration of many DOPs.
Where to buy: We found this great deal on Adorama that includes the 24-105mm lens, LCD monitor, handle unit, and grip.
8. Z CAM E2-F6
Sensor Size: Full-Frame (37.09 x 24.75 mm)
Highest Video Resolution: 4k (RAW)
Pros: The Z CAM E2-F6 has a full-frame sensor, 10-bit 4:2:2 color, and 15 stops of dynamic range. It can record RAW footage and ProRes when paired with an Atmos external recorder through a firmware update.
Cons: The native RAW format to shoot on is ZRAW which is not widely used and can be difficult and time-consuming to edit. Additionally, the firmware updates are not consistent and can cause some issues. This is a smaller company than some of the other products, and as a result, fewer resources are available.
Where to buy: The Z Cam E2-F6 is available as both an EF-mount version and a PL-mount version on Adorama.
9. Sony PXW-FS5M2 4k with Sony BP-U70 72-Wh Lithium-Ion Battery
Sensor Size: Super35
Highest Video Resolution: 4k (RAW external), 4k (XAVCHD internal)
Pros: The Sony PXW-FS5 records dual media cards and can record 4k HD at 120 FPS internally. With the aid of an external recorder, this camera can capture 4k RAW footage. It has a built-in variable ND filter and includes the popular S-Log picture profiles. It records 10-bit 4:2:2 image quality and up to 14 stops of dynamic range.
Cons: This is a great camera, but certain features are lacking. Though an external recorder can capture RAW footage, that is a consideration to make. The battery life is also short so that additional batteries may be needed. Paired with firmware updates, getting ready to shoot can be an involved process.
Where to buy: We found this great offer on Adorama that includes a free Sony BP-U70 72-Wh Lithium-Ion Battery.
10. Sony Alpha A7 III
Sensor Size: Full-Frame (1x Crop Factor)
Highest Video Resolution: UHD 4k (XAVC S/H.264 internally), UHD 4k (8 bit 4:2:2 externally)
Pros: The Sony A7iii mirrorless camera has a 24.2MP full-frame sensor and incredible low-light performance. It also has a very good autofocus system and 5-axis internal stabilization that, paired with a small form factor, helps greatly with run-and-gun filmmaking. Using the S-Log formats when recording video can let you achieve 14 stops of dynamic range.
Cons: This camera can’t record 4k at over 30 FPS. Sony lenses tend to be expensive, so consider acquiring a lens adapter. The in-camera menu is clunky, and an external monitor will be necessary to see what you’re shooting.
Where to buy: We found this great bundle on Adorama that includes a 64GB SDHC U3 memory card, spare battery, camera case, tripod, dual charger, remote shutter release, cleaning kit, and much more.
All these cameras are incredible at shooting video and are usable in many situations. The subtle difference between them allows you to pair the right camera to your preferences.
If you play on doing film and photography, then a mirrorless camera will be great for you. If you’re only a filmmaker, something like the BMPCC cameras may be the right choice.
Which of these cameras stood out to you? Let us know in the comments what your favorites are!
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.