Looking for that perfect cinematic camera but trying to stay within a budget? Check out these 7 cameras that won’t break the bank.
Cover image via SITTHs.
It’s a conundrum that many people run into when deciding to buy their first camera: you want a camera that will last a while and capture great video, but you don’t have $2,000 to spend. Whether you’re a starving artist trying to expand your horizons or just looking to take up a new hobby, don’t worry: there’s a camera out there for you.
My first camera was a Canon 60D, which I purchased for around $800. I learned the basics of cinematography on that camera and eventually used it for paying gigs until I upgraded. With the recent renaissance of affordable DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, you can afford a great camera, even if all you have is a piggy bank stuffed with tips from delivering Chinese food. That last part may only apply to me, but nevertheless, here are seven cameras that will get you started in the wonderful world of filmmaking.
1. Canon 70D
Image via Canon.
Canon is usually the first name people think of when looking at cameras for the first time. It’s a household name, and the 70D is one of its flagship cameras. With a powerful auto-focus feature and an easy-to-use interface, this camera is perfect for the beginning filmmaker.
- 20.2 MP APS-C CMOS sensor and DIGIC 5+
- 19 point cross-type AF System
- Up to 7 fps shooting
- ISO 100-12800, expandable to 25600
- Dual-Pixel CMOS AF for fast focus in live view and video
- 3″ articulating touch panel LCD screen with 1,040,000 dots
- Built-in flash with integrated speedlite transmitter and hot shoe
- Intelligent viewfinder with electronic overlay
- 1080 (30, 25, 24 fps) and 720 (60, 50 fps) HD video (H.264/MPEG-4/MOV)
2. Blackmagic Pocket Cinema
Image via Blackmagic Design.
Even though we’ve been waiting for the successor to this camera for a very long time, the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema camera is still one of the best deals on the market for someone focused on creating video — with no interest in capturing stills. This tiny monster truly packs a punch, with the ability to shoot in RAW and Apple Pro Res. (If you don’t know what shooting in RAW means, it gives you a wider range of color correction options when you’re editing in post-production.) This camera also features the Blackmagic interface, which (in my opinion) is one of the best on the market. If you are truly looking for a reasonably priced camera that offers unadulterated cinematic quality, this little beast is for you.
Unfortunately, this camera does not come with a lens, but there is a plethora of cheap lenses available for $200.
- Super 16mm-sized Image Sensor
- Active Micro Four Thirds Lens Mount
- 13 Stops of Dynamic Range
- Records Full HD 1920×1080 CinemaDNG RAW
- Apple ProRes 422 (HQ) at 220 Mbps
- Portable Design (5″ Long and 12.5 oz)
- 3.5″ LCD Display with 800×480 Resolution
- Uses SDXC and SDHC Memory Cards
- EN-EL20 Compatible Rechargeable Battery
- HDMI, LANC, 3.5mm Audio Input and Output
3. Panasonic Lumix GH4
Image via Panasonic.
One of Panasonic’s key cameras, the GH4, is a great choice for beginners and professionals alike. It is one of the few 4K cameras on this list under $1,000, which ups the camera’s value tenfold. Every time I have worked with the GH4, I have consistently captured good video.
- Capture 4K cinematic video (4096×2160) plus 4K QFHD video (3840×2160)
- Produce detailed images with exceptional moire suppression
- High-speed, 49-area auto focusing, perfect for hybrid
- Tough magnesium alloy body and exceptional shutter life
Price (Body Only): $995
4. Fujifilm X-T1
Image via Fujifilm.
Fujifilm is probably not one of the first brand names you think of when considering digital cameras, but to their credit, they have trailblazed their way onto the affordable camera scene. One of these cameras, the X-T1, is slowly becoming a first choice among frugal filmmakers looking for a great B camera. This camera includes a 18-55mm lens, which is a great tool for learning how to master close and wide shots.
- 16.3MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS II Sensor
- EXR Processor II
- 0.5″ 2,360k-Dot 0.77x OLED Viewfinder
- 3.0″ 1,040k-Dot Tilting LCD Monitor
- Full HD 1080p Video Recording at 60 fps
- Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity
- Weather-Resistant Body Construction
- Continuous Shooting up to 8 fps
- Includes EF-X8 Shoe-Mount Flash Unit
- Fujinon XF18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS Lens
5. Sony A6300
Image via Sony.
Now, this might be biased, as I am a die-hard Sony fanboy, but their Alpha series contains some of the best mirrorless cameras in the business, and the Sony a6300 is no exception. It may be on the lower end compared to the others in the series, but the A6300 can hold its own. One of the best aspects of this camera is its 24 MP sensor — along with its incredible low-light capability. If you are an on-the-go shooter without access to lighting equipment, I recommend this camera.
- 24.2MP APS-C Exmor CMOS Sensor
- BIONZ X Image Processor
- XGA Tru-Finder 2.36m-Dot OLED EVF
- 3.0″ 921.6k-Dot Tilting LCD Monitor
- Internal UHD 4K30 & 1080p120 Recording
- S-Log3 Gamma and Display Assist Function
- Built-In Wi-Fi with NFC
- 4D FOCUS with 425 Phase-Detect Points
- Up to 11 fps Shooting and ISO 51200
- Sony 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS Zoom Lens
6. Fujifilm X-T20
Image via Fujifilm.
Another member of the Fujifilm digital family, the X-T20 is an upgraded version of the X-T1 with some impressive features. With 4K capability, a touch-sensitive LCD screen, and a 16-50 mm lens (included), this camera is the Goldilocks of the group in my opinion — everything’s just right.
- Sensor: 24 MP APS-C X-Trans III CMOS
- Lens system: X-mount
- Weatherproof: No
- Internal Stabilisation: None
- Autofocus: Hybrid with up to 325 points (7×13 and 13×25 grids selectable)
- Continuous shooting: 8 fps and 5 fps, up to 14fps with electronic shutter (AF-S and AF-C)
- ISO Sensitivity: 200 – 12800 ISO (pull 100, push 25600 to 51200)
- Shutter Speeds: 1/4000 to 30 seconds, up to 1/32000s with electronic shutter
- Viewfinder: 0.39in OLED with 2,360k dots, approx. 100% FOV coverage, 17.5mm eyepoint, 0.62x magnification and 54fps refresh rate
- Rear monitor: Tilting 3″ touch sensitive LCD (1.04M dots)
- Movie recording: 4K up to 30fps, Full HD up to 60fps
7. Canon 7D
Image via Canon.
If you’re looking for an affordable camera that can still use Canon’s EF lenses without an adapter, then this is the camera for you. Since the release of the 7D Mark II, the price of this camera has dropped dramatically, even though it still captures great video. It may only record in 1080p, but when paired with a quality EF lens, this thing can pack a punch.
- 18MP APS-C CMOS sensor
- 8 frames per second continuous shooting
- 1080p HD video recording with manual controls
- 3.0 inch Clear View II LCD screen with 920,000 dots
- 19-point AF system (all cross-type)
- 100% viewfinder coverage
- 63-zone metering system
- Built-in wireless flash control
- 18.0-megapixel CMOS Sensor and Dual DIGIC 4 Image Processors for high image quality and speed
Price (Body Only): $850
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