When it comes to buying a camera — or any electronic knick-knack for that matter — we all know that the biggest determining factor is your budget. Only after you’ve worked out how much ching-ching you have to throw down, can you move onto the nitty-gritty of deciding the brand, style, tech specs, and more?
For most people, big purchases like this can be a tricky and sometimes stressful ordeal. To lighten the load, we’ve thrown together a list of the best five cameras for filmmaking each budget can buy (or at least our personal preference). We’ll be starting at the less expensive end of the spectrum and gradually working our way up.
Recommended Cameras for Different Budgets
1. Under $500
Sony Alpha A5000 for $449.99
If you’re a newbie filmmaker looking to migrate into the world of mirrorless cameras, then do yourself a favor and let the Sony Alpha A5000 take you there. This light, compact E-mount not only makes for a great entry-level device, but it’s also capable of serving up top-notch video quality despite its teeny, tiny smartphone-eqsue size.
Armed with a built-in stereo mic and super sensitive ISO, the Alpha A5000 does a good job of getting by without the support of external microphones and additional lighting, making it great for impromptu shots. And for anyone who regularly finds themselves having to juggle both performing and recording (vloggers, interviewers, I’m looking at you), you’ll be pleased to know that the A5000 also comes with One-Touch Remote, a special feature that allows you to control your camera remotely through your phone.
2. Under $1,000
Canon EOS Rebel T7i / EOS 800D for $749.99
Did you know that somewhere in the world, a new DSLR is released every 5 minutes? Okay, that is a lie. But still, there are a lot of new-and-improved models coming out all the time. And at this very precise point in time, the Canon EOS Rebel T7i the very best one.
Why? Well for starters, with its sophisticated 45-point autofocus system and Movie Electronic IS6 feature, this beast of a camera is capable of delivering the cleanest, crispest, most accurate footage for its price point. Secondly, it comes packed with 5x zoom, an impressive shutter speed of up to 1/4000, and a maximum ISO of 25600. Add to this it’s easy-to-use interface, touchscreen, and built-in WiFi and Bluetooth, and ladies and gent, we’re looking at one serious all-rounder.
3. Under $2,500
Panasonic Lumix GH5s C4K Mirrorless Camera for $2,499
Okay, now we’re starting to get into professional video territory. While the two cameras mentioned above straddle the line between photography and videography, you can make no mistake about which camp the Panasonic Lumix GH5s sits in. This puppy was made to make videos. Let’s unpack it, shall we?
To start with, the Lumix GH5s features a 10.28 multi-aspect sensor, shoots in both 4K and Full HD 1080/240p, and comes with an insanely advanced autofocus system. To assist in color grading and exposure control, it also comes pre-installed with HDR Hybrid Log Gamma and V-LogL Recording Function. Sounds fancy? Yep, well it is.
Considering everything you get in this workhorse, you’d expect it to weigh a ton and be bulky AF. But you would be wrong. It’s super compact — no bigger than your average DSLR — and what’s more it’s durable as all hell. Yessir, the GH5s is freeze, dust and splash-proof, so you can take it anywhere. The Swiss Alps. Splash Mountain. That desert where Jabba the Huts lives. Seriously, go nuts!
4. Under $5,000
FUN FACT: If a digital video camera and a traditional broadcast camcorder got together and had a baby, this would end product. A digital camera at its core, the Blackmagic’s URSA Mini Pro has been fitted out with a bunch of ergonomic broadcast controls along the side of its body so you can make all the settings adjustment you need without ever having to take your eye off the ball.
Ease of use aside, the URSA Mini Pro features in-built neutral density filters, an interchangeable lens mount (compatible EF, PL, B4 and F mount lenses), and a 4-inch, fold-out touchscreen for reviewing shots on the go. But the real kicker is its video quality. Armed with a 4.6K image sensor, the URSA Mini Pro is guaranteed to deliver footage capable of rivaling any feature film. Don’t believe me? Then just watch this behind the scenes video.
5. Under $10,000
Canon EOS C200 Digital Cinema Camera for $7,499
If you have a budget that can stretch even further than the Blackmagic’s URSA Mini Pro, then this would be our top pick. The EOS C200 is a solid production camera, equipped with 8.85 Megapixel Super 35mm sensor and capable of recording in 4K RAW, Full HD and Canon’s new format: Cinema Raw Light.
Canon touts the EOS C200 as a “ready-to-go” production camera and it’s easy to see why. It’s ergonomic handgrip and continuous AF and face detection AF is bound to make capturing fast-paced and unscripted video a hell-of-a-lot easier — (documentary makers, people who work in the real and/or fake news, I hope you’re listening).
As one could only expect of a pro camera like this, it comes fully compatible with all new and existing Canon EF mounts lenses and offers a wide range of connectivity options to make reviewing and sharing footage quick and easy.
The bottom line: while up there in price, the Canon EOS C200 offers all the features, versatility, and exceptional image quality you could want in a professional-grade camera.
But wait, there’s more…
If it turns out you’re aren’t able to afford any of the cameras mentioned here, don’t fret. You have the power to make great videos anytime you want. And no, I don’t mean that in a you-can-do-anything-if-you-just-believe-in-yourself kind of way. I mean it in a you-have-smartphone-in-your-pocket-and-can-always-use-that-instead kind of way. (I know, that was a lot of hyphens).
But seriously, smartphone cameras are pretty impressive these days. So much so that Steven Soderbergh just filmed an entire feature film on one. So if you can’t afford a professional video camera right this minute, then definitely don’t see it as a barrier kickstarting a project.
If you did see a recommended camera that’s making your drool for your next film, we hope you enjoy the experience!