4 Best Cameras for Filmmaking on a Budget

4 Best Cameras for Filmmaking on a Budget

 

 


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It is easier than ever these days to shoot high-quality video, even if you don’t have a fancy setup. The cameras in smartphones are even starting to shoot in 4K! Whether you’re a filmmaker looking to up your production quality, an event videographer looking for a great all-in-one solution, or a vlogger with high standards, there are certain features to look for when shopping for your next camera.

Today we are going to look at seven of these key features. We will explain why each element is important and then present a few great cameras to consider. Every camera on this list sells for less than $2,500. While that may not seem low, that is indeed on the lower end of the spectrum when it comes to professional video cameras.

Before we get into tech talk, let’s look at some components you should consider factoring in:

4K Resolution

4K technology has been around for years, though most people still do not have 4K screens at home. Even though it’s unlikely that what you will be shooting will be viewed in 4K, having 4K capabilities can still be a game changer for your filmmaking. For instance, shooting in 4K opens up a world of possibilities when editing. Higher resolution gives the editor the ability to zoom, crop, and pan shots with outstanding clarity. If you’re filming a wedding or any other fast-paced event, chances are you won’t always have time to properly set up your shot, and that’s where this capability really shines. With 4K, you can get a great general shot and then take care of setting your frame in post.

Auto-Focus Efficiency

Most modern cameras are going to have autofocus capabilities. What sets them apart is the speed of the AF motor, how many AF points the camera has, and how the camera interacts with it’s AF sensor. A camera with a lower quality AF will shift the focus back and forth and alter the exposure until the shot is right. With a high-quality AF, the camera will track it’s subjects without you even noticing the change in focus. Magic.

Internal Stabilization

If you’re looking for smoother shots, internal stabilization is a life-saver. This feature will auto-correct any shakiness that may occur in your footage as a result of excess hand motion.

Full Frame Sensor

If you can’t control the lighting of the environment you are shooting in, get a camera with a full-frame sensor. Having a larger sensor allows the camera to record with more depth, and this allows for greater clarity in low-light scenarios. A full-frame camera also does not crop your shot. For example, a 50mm lens with full-frame gives you a true 50mm image angle.

Raw Recording

This feature allows you to film without digitally compressing your footage. Yes, this leads to much larger file sizes, but you will retain much higher quality. Using uncompressed and unaffected footage gives you more versatility in post when it comes to ISO, color grading, and white balance.

Log-Format Recording

If your camera lacks Raw recording, look for one with Log capabilities. Log is a filter that automatically reduces brightness while increasing darkness in a shot. This leads to greater retention of exposure information and gives you more flexibility to shift tone in post.

High Frame Rate

For those looking to shoot in slow motion, a high frame rate option is a must. Most cameras will shift to a lower resolution when shooting at 50fps or more, while a camera with good HFR capabilities will retain full sensor resolution.

Okay, now that we’re a little more familiar with modern features, time for the fun part. Let’s look at some cameras:

 

Color Grading

Once you get your new camera, you’ll want some resources for color grading your footage to make it pop. Check out our list of 266 Free Cinematic LUTs for Video Editors or our own 10 FREE VIDEO LUTs we created.

Also, if you’re creating music videos, check out our detailed steps on How To Make A Music Video By Yourself. If you’re not sure about what to create, take a look at our list of 11 Types of Marketing Videos You Need to Know.


For vloggers out there who want a great handheld, check out the Sony A6500. This camera is tiny, which is awesome for traveling. It’s the perfect size for sticking on a gimbal. If you’re not using a stabilizer, the internal stabilization works great. 

With a smooth autofocus, the a6500 shoots in 4K, handles up to 120fps, and even records using a log picture profile. This is a whole lot of tech for such a small package!

Features

  • 24.2 MP Exmor® CMOS image sensor
  • 425 phase-detection AF points with High-density Tracking AF Technology
  • Fast Hybrid AF for stills and movies
  • Huge buffer for up to 307 images (around 36 seconds) in continuous shooting
  • In-body 5-axis image stabilization
  • Intuitive Touch Focus even with your eye to the viewfinder
  • 4K movie recording
  • High-durability shutter tested to approx. 200,000 release cycles with low vibration
  • Lock-on AF
  • AF in Focus Magnifier
  • Slow and Quick Motion
  • Dust and moisture resistance
  • Silent Shooting
  • One-touch remote/One-touch sharing


This Nikon is a great versatile shooter. To start, it has a 153-point AF system. Pair that smoothness with 4K resolution and the new Expeed 5 processing engine and it’s easy to get an awesome, clear shot. Slow motion works in HD. Nikon’s 10-bit, N-Log Format looks great. The only setback is the lack of internal stabilization. However, this can be addressed with a gimbal and stabilization in post.

Features

  • 20.7MP APS-C (DX-format) sensor
  • 153 point AF module with 99 cross-type points
  • 180,000 pixel RGB sensor for metering and subject recognition
  • AF point joystick
  • 10 fps shooting for up to 200 shots (lossless compressed 14-bit Raw to XQD card)
  • 4K (UHD) video from 1.5x crop of sensor
  • 100% coverage viewfinder with 1.0x magnification
  • 2.36M-dot tilting touchscreen display
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity with NFC for setup
  • USB 3.0 connector
  • Anti-flicker option for working under artificial lighting


For the filmmaker who wants that major budget picture with an indie price tag, check out the Blackmagic Pocket 4K. Unlike the other cameras on this list, this will record Raw. In the world of film, this is invaluable in the post production stages for it’s editability when it comes to colorization and white balance.

When it comes to high frame rates, it will shoot in 4K at 50fps and 1080p at 100fps. The autofocus and exposure features are top notch. The only thing that could make this rig better would be a full frame sensor.

Features

  • 4/3 image sensor with 4096 x 2160 resolution
  • MFT lens mount
  • Shoots in 4K at 50fps and 1080p at 100fps
  • High-resolution cinematic digital film sensor
  • Compatible with cinema and photographic lenses
  • Dual Gain ISO for Exceptional Low Light Performance
  • Multiple Resolutions and Frame Rates
  • Uses SD Cards, UHS‑II or CFast 2.0 Media
  • Blackmagic Raw


This is in many ways, the big brother to the A6500. The Sony A7III takes the same software and couples it with a full frame sensor, making it a great camera for event videographers working in low light conditions. At an ISO of 3200, shots remain clear and become only minimally grainy at 6400. Set at normal speed, 4K looks stunning. While shooting at 120fps, resolution shifts to 1080p.

Pair all of this with Sony’s fantastic autofocus and stabilization functions, and you’ve got a killer go-to for weddings, banquets, concerts, and more.

 

Features

  • 24.2MP 35-mm full-frame CMOS sensor with back-illuminated design
  • Sensitivity range up to ISO 51200 (expandable to ISO 50-204800 for stills)
  • Fast Hybrid AF with 693 phase-detection and 425 contrast-detection AF points
  • High-speed continuous shooting of up to 10fps with AF/AE tracking
  • 4K HDRmovie recording capability
  • Entirely enhanced image processing system
  • Focal-plane phase-detection AF supports A-mount lenses
  • Enhanced operability for continuous shooting
  • Anti-flicker shooting
  • Touch screen LCD for easy instant focus operation
  • Location Information Link via Bluetooth

You really can’t go wrong with any of these cameras for your video work. However, you should keep in mind that there will always be positives and negatives to whatever you purchase. The best thing to do is establish what type of project(s) you will be doing the most, and determine what camera will best serve you.