Best Camera 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. For example, the cameras in smartphones are even starting to shoot in 4K! That’s why if 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. So, if you’re looking for the best camera for filmmaking on a budget, these are some good options.

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

4K Resolution

Firstly, let’s talk about 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.

AutoFocus

Secondly, let’s discuss aut-focus, since 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

Thirdly, let’s talk about IS, or 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

Fourthly, pay attention to the camera’s sensor size. 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

Fifthly, an important factor to discuss about cameras is whether it can film Raw footage. 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

Sixthly, 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

Seventhly, 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:

Sony A6500 

Sony A6500 - best camera for filmmaking on a budget

Our first option for best camera for filmmaking on a budget is the Sony A6500. This camera is tiny, which is awesome for traveling and it’s great for handheld. It’s also 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

Nikon D500 

Nikon D500 - best camera for filmmaking on a budget

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

Blackmagic Pocket 4k 

BMPCC - best camera for filmmaking on a budget

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. This is a major reason it’s one of our options for best camera for filmmaking on a budget.

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

Sony A7III 

Sony a7iii - best camera for filmmaking on a budget

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

In conclusion, when trying to find the best camera for filmmaking on a budget, 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.

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.

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