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For filmmakers looking at an intermediate camera but not wanting to go over $1000, there are plenty of DSLRs available in the 500-1000 range. However, figuring out which of these cameras is best, especially in 2020, can be tough.
Because DSLRs are often rated for photography, some of the features most useful for us filmmakers can be glossed over. Therefore, I’ve taken it upon myself to make a list of the five best DSLRs available for filmmakers under 1000 dollars.
If you’re a filmmaker looking at cameras in the 500-1000 dollar price range, this article is for you. Obviously choosing a camera is a personal choice, and options exist outside of DSLRs. However, this category of cameras is a hugely popular choice for independent filmmakers due to it’s accessibility and manual controls.
It should be noted that some of these cameras push the upper limit of that range without including lenses. If you are in need of a full package, make sure to consider audio, lenses, and accessories as well. Luckily for you, FilmDaft has articles on all those topics as well.
Canon EOS Rebel SL3
Starting our list is the Canon EOS Rebel SL3. The Canon Rebel line is widely popular among independent and low-budget filmmakers and is often used in schools and instructional settings as well. The SL3, however, is on the higher end of this line.
This camera has every feature you need to make a film and some pretty impressive features that you may not expect from a Rebel camera. Among these includes the SLR3’s 24.2 megapixel sensor.
The Rebel SL3 is also able to record video in 4K at 24p. For a camera at it’s price, getting 4K recording is huge. However, you cannot record 1080p at 24 frames per second, only 25. This can be frustrating as sometimes 4K is intensive to edit and takes up large amounts of space.
Some of the other great features for filmmakers of the Rebel SL3 are its Dual Pixel autofocus. Canon is well known for its autofocus technologies, and that is definitely a huge plus for this camera.
There have been some mixed opinions for the autofocus on the SL3. In 4K the autofocus can be a bit more unpredictable than its predecessors, however, it is still quite usable in most situations. For the price, the SL3 is a very tough camera to beat.
|4K Recording |
|Low Light |
No 1080p at 24 fps
Canon EOS 7D Mark II
The next camera on our list is the Canon 7D Mark II. This camera has been on the market for some time and now is available for a good price in the resale. It has a 20.2 MP APS-C CMOS sensor and features Canon’s Dual Pixel Autofocus technology.
Unfortunately, this camera does not have 4K capabilities. For many filmmakers that may not be a make or break detail, though it certainly can be limiting. Another missing feature is an articulating screen. This can easily be solved with an external monitor and is not necessary, but would be nice.
With an external microphone input, it is easy to attach an external microphone and this camera can be a great option for many users. Given its age though, there are some more modern features missing.
If you can find a used 7D Mark II floating around at a good price, it is a great camera with good autofocus and great color. However, be wary that much technology has changed in the time and you may end up missing options such as 4K.
|Have to buy used |
|No 4K |
No articulating screen
Check availability and price on Adorama.
Up next is the Nikon D5600. This is a great camera with a 24.2 megapixel CMOS sensor and an articulating touchscreen. Some handy features include wireless connectivity and BlueTooth sharing which can be very handy for filmmakers on the go.
This camera can record in 1080p up to 60 frames per second, but does not feature 4K video. It has pretty decent autofocus that can work full time during recording and an audio input to attach an external microphone.
The D5600 has quite a good range for low light, with an ISO sensitivity range from 100-25600, however it is only really usable to about 3200. In a pinch this camera will work, but be sure to pay attention to lightning conditions when things start getting dark.
Overall, this is a great camera for the price. Though it lacks features such as 4K video, it makes up for those with low light performance. The only other thing working against this camera is the Nikon mount, which can make it a bit tough to find good deals on cheap cinema lenses.
However, if you’re a Nikon user or looking outside of Canon cameras, the D5600 is a great one to consider.
|Pretty good low light |
|Nikon Lens Mount |
I found this great deal on Adorama that includes two lenses and lots of accessories.
Canon EOS Rebel T7i
The Canon EOS Rebel T7i is another one of the higher end Rebel cameras put out by Canon. However, there are some big differences to note between the T7i and the SL3 discussed earlier.
The T7i features a larger sensor, 24.2 megapixels, which helps its color and low light performance. Both cameras also have in-camera stabilization for video which is awesome.
However, while the Rebel T7i gives you the benefits of a larger sensor it does not have 4K video. For some this may be a fair trade, so it’s important to know what would best suit your filmmaking process.
Another huge benefit of the Rebel T7i over the SL3 is the autofocus. Canon’s dual-pixel autofocus technology is again employed in this camera and with great results.
Paired with an articulating screen, the T7i is definitely the right camera for certain filmmakers. It’s definitely worth a look and is popular with good reason.
|24.2-megapixel sensor |
Check the current price on Adorama.
Canon EOS 80D
The final camera on our list is the Canon 80D. At the top of our price range, the Canon 80D is a very popular camera for independent filmmakers and with good reason.
This camera features a 24.2 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, performs well in low light, and has remarkable autofocus. With a 45-point autofocus system, the Canon 80D is able to achieve very natural and smooth focus transitions. For a crew of one, this is a super helpful feature.
The Dual Pixel autofocus system works well even in low-light, something not a lot of cameras can boast about. If you don’t use autofocus, the touch to focus system can still let you utilize this technology in a seamless way.
While all the cameras I looked at have an audio input, the Canon 80D also has a headphone input. For DSLRs, audio monitoring is a rare feature. This can really help you make sure what you’re capturing is of appropriate quality.
Unfortunately the Canon 80D doesn’t have 4K video or image stabilization. While neither of these are the end of the world, they certainly are a drawback.
If you’re a run and gun filmmaker, or tend to shoot projects without a crew, the Canon 80D is a great choice. Audio monitoring, autofocus, and good low light performance make this a camera that is portable and versatile. It is definitely a recommend.
|No 4K |
No In-Body Image Stabilization
Check the current price on Adorama.
If your price range maxes out at $1000, these are some of the best cameras you can get for filmmaking in 2020. Depending on the type of filmmaking you’re doing, and your budget, the best choice for you may vary.
With all these cameras and the right know-how, you will definitely be able to produce some quality films. Did any of these cameras excite you? Do you already have one of them? Let us know in the comment section below!
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.