BEST CAMERA FOR FILMMAKING ON A BUDGET

By Scott Thompson

Table of Contents

The most important Ingredient for any film

IS NOT THE CAMERA.

It’s the story. 

No camera can ever take the place of a great story. So when making a movie “ on a budget “ focus on the story and the rest will fall into place.

Remember the Blair Witch Project ? 

Apparently most of the movie was shot on a consumer camcorder from circuit city .The movie went on to gross 194 million dollars. (nytimes link)

A common problem with newby content creators and filmmakers is thinking that they need the top of the line equipment to make great compositions. 

I’ve got Good news for budget filmmakers… 

Although top level equipment can help , it is not a dead end. Nowadays there are many great cameras to get started on with features sufficient to make your first project.

In this Article we first will go over general guidelines to follow when shopping for a FIlmmaking camera. Secondly we will look at important features, and specs that you may want to have in your camera. Lastly we look at our top choices in various price ranges. You may click links on the table of contents to skip ahead if you wish.

3 SIMPLE GUIDELINES TO FOLLOW WHEN SHOPPING FOR A FILMMAKING CAMERA :

  1. FIGURE OUT YOUR BUDGET : 

Before shopping for a filmmaking camera , it’s important to put a dollar amount on what you want to spend. 

Keep in mind that purchasing does not end with the camera. To be able to shoot and film there usually are other things you will need before you can begin. 

Accessories like A LENS, MEMORY CARDS & BATTERIES are a few essentials that will add to your cost. 

Most camera bodies don’t come with these additions. So keep that in mind.

  1. WHAT FEATURES ARE IMPORTANT TO YOU? : 

Every camera has different specs and it’s important to hone in what features are most important to you. 

For example : If you are looking to shoot slow motion video you may want to pick a camera that can shoot in a higher framerate. If you are into high quality imagery , you may want to pick a camera with a high resolution and high dynamic range capability. 

  1. WHAT KIND OF PROJECTS WILL YOU BE MAKING? :

Before buying a camera consider the kind of filming you are doing. Are you making a documentary? Commercial Work? Youtube or Vlogging? The project type will dictate what kind of camera you need as well. 

IMPORTANT CAMERA SPECS FOR CINEMATOGRAPHY

There are 2 important VISUAL SPECS you should understand when shopping for a camera for filmmaking. They usually drive the price up on equipment. 

Dynamic Range & Resolution

These Specs are important details to understand. While these are topics you can dive deep into, we will just give you a brief overview of each. 

  • DYNAMIC RANGE

Ever watch a Hollywood blockbuster and wondered why the image is so clear ? It almost seems like the actors and actresses are really right in front of you.

That’s because of dynamic range.

In short it is a measurement of the stops of light in an image. The higher the Dynamic range, the more shades of light we can see . It is an important measurement when it comes to cinematography. Many of the professional cinema cameras have around 15-17 stops of dynamic range.

  • RESOLUTION

Understanding resolution is basic knowledge when looking for a camera . 

Most cameras will shoot in HD1080 resolution. Higher resolutions are used frequently like 2k and 4k. Resolution is an important factor for your project. If your videos will only be viewed on cell phones perhaps 1080 resolution will be sufficient. 

Most professional videos are filmed in 4k – 6k . If you plan on showing your film on larger screens you will need more resolution.

Now that we have some basics understood, let’s take a look at filmmaking cameras at different price points.

BEST CAMERA FOR FILMMAKING UNDER $500

For budgets under $500 , there are limited options…

You won’t get the latest and greatest specs , but you can still make amazing films with these cameras.  Like stated earlier …. Your story is your greatest asset.

LUMIX G7

The Lumix G7 is the best overall budget camera for filmmakers . It creates amazing visuals using panasonic’s film-like color science. You can buy the lens combo that gets you 2 lenses and the body for under $500. 

Video features & Benefits:

  • 4K – HIgh resolution Imagery 
  • 1080 60FPS – Can do slow motion
  • TIMELAPSES – Integrate Timelapse into your videos
  • SENSOR SIZE (MICRO 4/3) Micro 4/3 is small and compact : Benefit is that it’s easy to transport
  • GREAT LOW LIGHT CAPABILITIES 
  • Decent autofocus

SONY ALPHA A6000

A great alternative camera to the G7 is the A6000 from Sony. Many indie filmmakers have used the A6000 to create great videos

Video features & Benefits:

  • APSC SENSOR
  • FULL 1080 MAX RESOLUTION HD 
  • 24,30,60 FRAMES PER SECOND ( SLOW MO RECORDING)
  • E MOUNT FOR LENSES

HERO8 BLACK 

The Hero8 Black is great for those shooting in hard to reach places. It also is a great first person view style perfective. Great for action scenes.

It’s made by gopro. It can attach to cars , windows and many hard to reach areas. This can give your films some super unique camera angles and perspectives.

The Hero8 Black also does some pretty amazing hyperlapses . Hyperlapses can add a nice touch to your film. 

Video features & Benefits:

  • 4K AT 60FPS – Shoot slow motion in 4k
  • WATERPROOF UP TO 33 FEET
  • TIME WARP 2.0
  • BUILD IN MIC AND INPUT FOR EXTERNAL MIC 

CANON M50

The M50 is a lightweight camera great for run and gun shooting. It can shoot 4k at 24 frames per second. For the price is a great budget camera for filmmaking.

Video features & Benefits:

  • 4K MAX RESOLUTION
  • 1080 P AT 60FPS  (SLOW MOTION RECORDING)
  • DUAL PIXEL AUTOFOCUS
  • CANON AWARD WINNING COLOR SCIENCE

You can also attach a speedbooster to the M50 to give it a full frame EOS look.

BEST CAMERA FOR FILMMAKING UNDER $1000

For the best cameras under $1000 we chose the original Black Magic Pocket Camera, The SOny A6100, and the FujiFIlm XT-30. These cameras offer better 4k and higher dynamic ranges.

ORIGINAL BLACKMAGIC CINEMA CAMERA MICRO 4/3 MOUNT

Black Magic Design has been making cinema level products for years now. They are leading the way for low priced powerful cameras at a fraction of the cost of other professional cinema cameras. Although the original is many years old it still can hold its own and is great for  filmmakers on a budget.

We chose the Black Magic Micro 4/3 as our top pick for Best camera under $1000

Video features & Benefits:

  • COMES WITH FULL DAVINCI RESOLVE EDITING SOFTWARE
  • 4K RECORDING 
  • RECORDS TO SD CARDS
  • ULTRA PORTABLE DESIGN
  • PRORES RECORDING ( ADVANCED CODEC )
  • 11.9 STOPS OF DYNAMIC RANGE

SONY A6100

Sony has always been a brand that catered to consumers wants and needs. The 6000 series was powerful and compact. These cameras are great for content creation and filmmaking projects.

Video features & Benefits:

  • ADVANCED AUTOFOCUS
  • 4K UP TO 30FPS
  • SMALL AND COMPACT BODY
  • APS-C SENSOR
  • GREAT AUTOFOCUS

FUJIFILM X-T30

The Fujifilm X-T30 is a compact sleek style video camera. Small and powerful . This is another great camera for filmmaking , priced under $1000.

Video features & Benefits:

  • 4K recording
  • 10 bit output via HDMI
  • Small compact size

BEST CAMERA FOR FILMMAKING UNDER $1500

This price range really is the “best bang for your buck” . These cameras are on everyone’s list of must haves.

BLACK MAGIC POCKET CINEMA CAMERA 4K

The winner for the best budget camera for filmmaking under $1500 is the Black Magic Pocket Cinema camera 4k. 

For making hollywood level visuals , look no further at this incredible price. Black magic most recently has released consumer priced products that compete with the big companies. To get specs similar to this camera, it might cost you 3-6 thousand more.

One of the main features of this camera that separates it from most hybrid cameras (camera/video Mirrorless DSLRs) is the high dynamic range. It gives to video clips a very hollywood look. 

The camera also comes with a free editing software that is one of the best in the business.

Video features & Benefits:

  • 4K RECORDING
  • 2K 120 FPS SLOWMOTION
  • AMAZING LOWLIGHT (DUAL NATIVE ISO)
  • HIGH DYNAMIC RANGE 13 STOPS
  • RAW VIDEO RECORDING
  • SENSOR : MICRO 4/3
  • SMALL AND COMPACT

PANASONIC GH5

The Panasonic Gh5 was a camera way ahead of its time. It is small and compact, yet packed with huge features. This camera is high in dynamic range and can shoot up to 6k in 4 x 3 format. A versatile filmmaking tool.

  • 4K 60 FPS RECORDING
  • 10-11 STOPS OF DYNAMIC RANGE
  • SENSOR MICRO 4/3
  • SMALL AND COMPACT

CANON C100

Sometimes you want a camera with alittle size. Something you can hold sturdy. 

For most of this article we chose small run and gun style filming cameras. 

The C100 is our pick if you’re looking for a larger body to shoot on. Although this camera is a few generations older. It still delivers specs that compete in todays marketplace.

Video features & Benefits:

  • APS-C SIZE SENSOR
  • 1080P RECORDING
  • 12 STOPS DYNAMIC RANGE
  • CANON -LOG RECORDING

BEST CAMERA FOR FILMMAKING UNDER $2000

With 2000 dollars to play with, you can really get something very professional. Cameras in this price range can deliver top quality professional grade footage.

BLACK MAGIC POCKET CINEMA CAMERA 6K

The winner of the under $2000 dollar category goes once again to Black Magic Design. This camera was recently reduced in price. The competition does not get even close to this camera for the price . It gets compared to cameras 10x its cost. Not only is is 6k but it shoots in raw formats  . This is an advanced hollywood level feature.

Video features & Benefits:

  • 6K RAW RECORDING
  • 120 FPS 2K RECORDING
  • DUAL ISO FOR AMAZING LOW LIGHT
  • SUPER 35 SENSOR
  • 13 STOPS OF DYNAMIC RANGE

PANASONIC GH5S

The panasonic GH5 was a revolutionary camera. The “s” version came out shortly later and delivered some video upgrades to its earlier counterpart. Some enhancements were the low light ability and dynamic range. 

Video features & Benefits:

  • 4K RESOLUTION RECORDING
  • 60FPS SLOW MOTION
  • INCREDIBLE HIGH QUALITY VIDEO
  • CAN RECORD PRORES 422 WITH EXTERNAL RECORDER.
  • SMALL AND COMPACT
  • LARGER SENSOR THAN THE GH5
  • BETTER LOW LIGHT THAN GH5
  • HIGHER DYNAMIC RANGE THAN GH5

SONY A7III

Sony makes mostly consumer products. They know how to create features that people love. The A7III is one of the top video cameras among Youtube content creators and filmmakers.

It creates amazing images in many different lighting situations.

Video features & Benefits:

  • 4K RESOLUTION ( FROM 6K OVERSAMPLED)
  • IN BODY STABILIZATION
  • GREAT AUTO FOCUS 
  • GREAT LOW LIGHT PERFORMANCE

OTHER THINGS YOU WILL NEED FOR FILMMAKING:

EDITING SOFTWARE

Much of the Magic happens in the editing process. Your clips are just the ingredients for your masterpiece. Here is a great example of a cinematic video shot on an iphone . If you put in the time into your edit, you can make mediocre footage look incredible. Divinci Resolve is hollywood level editing software and it offers a FREE version. If you are a filmmaker on a budget, this is an amazing time to be creating.

LENSES  – In this article we go over different cameras for filmmaking on a budget. Once you decide on the camera that’s right for you, you’ll need to get a few lenses. 

A GREAT STORY TO TELL

A stated earlier, the most important ingredient to your video project is your storyline. Many creatives get stuck at this stage in the process. 

CONCLUSION

It’s a great time to be a filmmaker. There are many great budget cameras out there that are great for content creation and filmmaking. In this Ultimate guide we explored cameras under $500, $1000, $1500 and $2000. Whatever your budget range, remember it isn’t your gear that makes your project amazing….it’s your creativity.

Some of the greatest works of art were made on a tight budget. 

Now go create!

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