Every day there is a new camera to hit the market. The technology is ever changing. One thing to know when you buy a camera is that in the near future there will be a better camera option for less money then you paid. Think about what you are going to use the camera for and how often before making a purpose. If you are planning on making a movie sometime in the next year you might want to wait to make the purchase. If you want a camera now so you can practice and learn how to film then look for something in your budget. Do not fall into buying the most expensive camera because you want to make a movie with it as soon as you get good at filming or as soon as your script is finished. There are a lot of really nice cameras on the market in the $1000 range that work great and are perfect for practicing. This would probably include your cell phone.
If you are buying a camera because you want to film a movie keep in mind every cinematographer has a camera kit and you can usually negotiate their equipment into their fee. The truth is they are more likely to take your gig if they are being paid to use their equipment. Also think about renting a camera for a short or practice before you buy because it's a lot cheaper and you get the opportunity to try the equipment before making a huge investment.
Editors Note: We feel very strongly that every film person should own a decent camera. If you are a writer or director you should own a nice DSLR camera most likely a Canon 5D. If you are a cinematographer that is a different arguement. The fact that you are on this page reading camera reviews means this note is probably for you.
You wouldn't go to school without a pencil. You wouldn't pay for college classes without buying the text book. If you are a film maker then you should own a camera. The standard, tried and true camera that every film maker should have is the Canon 5D. It's like a high school kid owning a decent car that none of the kids are going to make fun off. If you show up to school in a used Honda Accord no one is going to say anything. You have a basic nice car that will get you from point A to B without issue. No one is going to avoid being seen with you because of it. You know you always have the right tool for the job. Even in a few years if you take care of it, it's still going to do it's job with quality and reliability.
With all that being said. You don't need a Lamborghini. If you have a hot date for the weekend just go rent one. You don't need it sitting around collecting dust depreciating in value. If there is a boys trip, then one of your friends can drive or use their camera. There is still a good chance they want you to drive the Honda. It's comfortable on a road trip and gets great gas mileage. The Canon 5D makes great video is the point. It's never going out of style. Buy an expensive camera and it will be outdated in a year. Who knows what format 4K video compression will be next year when you submit it. On the flip side of the coin even if you buy a Lamborghini you still might want to own a Honda also. All reputable DP's have a Canon 5D as part of their kit.
Panasonic GH4 - Top Pick
This is our pick for best video camera to use in 2017. There are a lot of reasons but the main thing we want you to know is that unlike other DSLR camera's, this one was designed with 4k HD video in mind. It's a lot quicker and less quirky to use on set. This is still not an ideal camera for documentary film makers or run and gun style shoots. The bottom line on this camera is that you get quality 4K video for less then a top of the link DSLR camera. Let's remember that the most popular DSLR camera's like the ones from Canon and Nikon don't film in 4K.
|Panasonic GH4||Mirrorless||4K||$1499.99||Check Price|
|Canon 5d Mark ii||DSLR||1080P||$3499.00||Check Price|
|Red Dragon Camera||Video||5K||$9,500.00||Check Price|
|Canon c100 Mark II||Video||1080P||$5,499.00||Check Price|
|Sony a7s II||DSLR||4K||$2,922.17||Check Price|
|Black Magic URSA||Video||4.6K||$2,995.00||Check Price|
Before we begin, our recommendation is film with 4K with an iPhone and buy a Canon 5D as your first camera.
There are two cameras we recommend all filmmakers own. One is an iphone because you always have it with you. A lot of you might be android owners but there is something to be said about always having a great camera with you. For most of us it's probably all you need. The main drawback with a phone camera is the telephoto. Which leads us to our other recommendation.
Get yourself a canon 5D. There are cheaper cameras even in the Canon family but this is the camera all serious film people should own. The Canon 7D is really beautiful for video if you want amazing 1080P but then owning a camera you are going to look like the serious one on the film set taking behind the scene photos. Trust me it's always appreciated by the production to have someone on set shooting photos. Just be careful of the diva actress who things she should be paid extra for still's while on set.
What we are saying is the Canon 5D is always going to give you the most utility. It is capable of doing everything. The quality is amazing and it's a work horse.
1. Panazonic GH4 – Best Video Camera
The first camera on our list is the amazing Panasonic LUMIX GH4 DMC-GH4GC-K 16.05MP Digital Single Lens Mirrorless Camera with 4K Cinematic Video.
The reason we love this camera is value. For the price you can't touch the video quality. This little technology juggernaut films 4K video that will rival the 4K stream from Netflix on your 4K smart T.V. There is a wow factor to the video quality. A good basic lens that capture the majority of your shots is the LUMIX G Vario Lens, 14-45mm, F3.5-5.6 ASPH., Micro Four Thirds, MEGA Optical I.S. - H-FS014045. This lens is designed to go together and will get you some nice image stabilization. There are much better lens out there but this is a good basic lens to start with. The link is the international version with no warranty but you save money.
Another thing to know about this camera. While you can pick this up for under $1K on amazon. You are buying what they term a gray market item. It does not have a US warranty. There is nothing wrong with doing that and you might want to because the saving makes sense if you need 4K video now. In a year there are going to be hundred new 4K cameras that kick this camera's butt. The other thing we recommend is buying the camera (body only). Then add some nice lens. Again we are a fan of rental. You can rent some very nice lens very cheap and make sure they meet your needs before you spend a ton of money. Start with a nice prime lens. This is a beautiful camera and Panasonic has a long reputation of being first to market with HD video options for Pro-summer.
We have used this camera in a sound stage with optimum lighting conditions. The video is incredible. It does look as good as any 4K video we have seen on our smart Television.
Keep in mind the storage requirements for 4K is a lot larger than other HD video formats.
Another thing to think about before you buy this camera is the lens. I know we keep bringing this up but there are a ton of options. If you already own good Canon or Nikon glass then you can get a metabones adapter. Keep in mind how the lens work with image stabilization and if you need a speed booster. It gets complicated.
Panasonic LUMIX G Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH Power OIS Lens
If you are using this camera for video then this lens is simply amazing. With the 1.2 aperture you can get some amazing depth of field video. There are tons of video online using this lens on GH4 if you want to see what the camera is capable of do yourself a favor and do a search for this lens on YouTube. You will take one look and agree that this camera is the best deal on the market. You will also realize the importance of spending money on some really nice quality glass.
Panasonic GH5 - Announced March 31
With technology as soon as you buy the next generation comes out. This was announced at CES and amazon has it listed with a release date of March 31, 2017. Keep in mind it's going to cost twice as much. Word is that it's still a 3/4 sensor but it has 20.3 MP mega pixels. The first thing that comes to mind is it worth the extra money for more resolution on an already flawless image. 10 Bit internal recording 30 FPS and then firmware updates will roll out over the summer. So in english the camera at release will not be full featured until the firmware updates come out.
- This is one of the most affordable
- OcuSync Transmission System
- 4k Video Recording
- Easily controllable Indoor and Outdoor
- Ultra Portability (Easily fits inside a Pocket)
- About 23 Minutes of Battery Life
- Unstable in Strong Winds
- Must required a SmartPhone to Control
- Records in both
2. Sony A7SII – Best Low Light Camera
If your looking for something to low light conditions this is the camera you need.
This camera is known for it's great low light 4K Video. This is a mirrorless full frame camera. 12.2 megapixels. High 50Mbps bit-rate for Full HD Movies. The claim to fame is that it's first full frame 4K camera. Battery gets you about 60 minutes of 4K video.
Auto Focus is not loved by most owners. Also not the most comfortable camera to hold for long periods of time. A lot of owners complain about the battery life. Noise when past 10,000 ISO. You can judge if that is impressive or a flaw.
One of the best videographers at reviewing these cameras is Philip Bloom. George Lucas has hired him to come to Skywalker Ranch to help film 2nd Camera on a Canon 5D on Red Tails. There was an interesting post he did on his blog about filming the Northern Light Aurora in Norway. Thinking about one of the most amazing low light conditions to test a camera nothing tops that. He talks about all the gear he used and has pictures and video to check out.
In general we aren't the biggest fans of Sony. Just past experience dealing with them and some of their products over the years has soured us. There are some complaints about Sony's inability to honor warranty claims. It's amazing to think about the cost of a company to provide quality service compared to the damage it can do. They serviced our old XBR television years ago because there was a court case and recall. So that's all that really has to be said for you to draw your own opinion. This is a camera worth the investment if low light filming is your main need.
- Great in low light conditions
- First Full Frame 4K
- 4k Video Recording
- 60 minute battery life
- LCD View finder
- Camera sensor gets dirty easy
2. Black Magic URSA – Most Popular Camera
Indie filmmakers everywhere love this camera and for the price can you blame them?
Super-35mm CMOS Sensor plus the EF mount so it works great with all those Canon lens that most of us have laying around. Compressed and uncompressed raw video. Dual CFast 2.0 Memory Card Slots. Weights 5 pounds. Battery and lens is not included.
The image out of this camera is gorgeous. Owners love it and see a lot of value in the price tag. When people talk about Pro-sumer cameras they got this one right with the SDI ports allowing for pro playback. One of the features that is loved is the big clear LCD monitor making it perfect for focus pulling. The native EF mount is another nice touch allowing for the ability to ditch the speed boaster. You will love not having the heavy lens on this compact camera.
One complaint is the low light performance but real cinematographers take their time to light shows properly so that's a non issue for more professional settings. If you are a run and gun Filmer then this isn't your camera. If you want great video at a decent price then seriously look at this amazing camera.
Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 4.6K
One of the main selling points of the URSA is the price so I hate to break it to you that you probably want the new pro version that was just released. Like most technology once you buy the new model is about to come out. The new version has a lot of improvements and all the issues have been addressed. The problem is the price tag $5995 is considerable more expensive. 15 stops of dynamic range. Also an amazing optional High Resolution Viewfinder OLED HD is going to cost you some additional coin. Don't forget the amazing lens your going to need to go with this camera.
- 4K Raw ProRes
- 12 Stops
- Professional Audio Built In
- Includes DaVinci Resolve
- Flickering Blacks Reported
- Hot Pixels Reported
- 800 ISO noise
- No HDMI