When it comes to the ever growing competitive market of Mirrorless and Dslr cameras, it's hard to pick the right one when there are so many out there with different qualities, specs, and price points.
One of the most frequent questions I get from my friends and viewers on my YouTube channel is "What camera should I buy?"
The answer to this will vary depending on the type of filmmaker you are (Documentary, short films, features, commercial etc) and the price you are willing to spend.
If you are like me and want to own a camera that can be versatile in most of those situations, not break your bank, and still give you stunning high quality images then this post is for you.
I have compiled my top 5 picks for cameras that can give you cinematic images at the best price in their category.
If the options I will list below still seem a bit out of your reach for now, check out my Beginner's Filmmaking Guide to cameras under $900.
I'm going to cut to the chase and list my top 5 picks in this chart below and then go into detail about each camera body and what it has to offer.
1 - SONY A7s II
I personally and arguably think that there is nothing out there that can beat the Sony A7s II in terms of price and what it has to offer.
The GH5 and GH5s come pretty close as we will soon see and do offer a challenging price but still lack a few key elements that I am not willing to give up.
I have switched from Canon to Sony soon as they announced the first A7s and later upgraded to the A7s II when that came out. I have shot endless projects with both, from music videos to documentaries and short films. The A7s II body has yet to let me down.
Here's some technical jargon:
12.2MP Full-Frame Exmor CMOS Sensor
BIONZ X Image Processor
Internal UHD 4K30 & 1080p120 Recording
S-Log3 Gamma and Display Assist Function
5-Axis SteadyShot INSIDE Stabilization
0.5" 2.36M-Dot XGA OLED Tru-Finder EVF
3.0" 1,228.8k-Dot Tilting LCD Monitor
Up to 5 fps Shooting and ISO 409600
Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity with NFC
The A7S II offers internal 4K video recording, uncompressed 14-bit RAW, 5-axis image stabilization, High-speed AF while maintaining its legendary low-light capability.
This last part is what makes me loyal to the A7s series. The low light is absolutely incredible.
To me this means freedom.
Freedom to vlog at night and capture meaningful moments.
Freedom to tell stories in dark conditions when lighting equipment isn't accessible.
Freedom and peace of mind in knowing that not everything you will shoot after dawn will look like it was shot on a potato.
Another HUGE advantage this camera has is its glorious full frame sensor. This is where Sony's competitors such as the Panasonic GH5 comes short. I am personally a huge fan of full 35mm sensors since it can pack in more light that can deliver better results as well as a wider and more long term choice of lenses.
Another great thing this camera offers is its color science and the option of shooting in Sony's log format Slog3. The dynamic range on this camera is already pretty high for being below the cinema camera market and with the addition of Slog3 I am able to pull and control the image even more when color grading. When grading with the right LUTs you can get some impressive results with just a few clicks.
For these reasons, the Sony A7s II sits on top of my list as best camera for its value and price point.
If you don't believe me, here's a great review from Linus Tech Tips:
You can buy the Sony A7s mkII here:
2 - PANASONIC GH5
The GH5 is a very interesting and well-priced camera that can shoot 4K footage internally with Panasonic's log picture profile: V-Log. The GH5 is a huge improvement over the GH4 and even has some advantages over my beloved A7s II. The menu system and the layout of the buttons and dials make a lot more sense to me and feel much more accessible and intuitive.
Here's some specs for you:
Professional photo and 4K video performance in a durable magnesium alloy body.
20.3MP Micro Four Thirds sensor with no low pass filter.
4K video: internal recording at 4k60/50P (4:2:0 8bit) & 4k30/25P/24P (4:2:2 10bit).
Variable video frame rates 4K: max. 60Fps & FHD: max. 180Fps.Full size Type A HDMI terminal with cable lock included & twin SD Card slots UHS-II U3 Compatible.
5-Axis photo/video Dual I.S.. 2.0 up to 5 Stops with compatible LUMIX MFT lenses, plus In-body stabilization Support for classic non-O.I.S. lenses.
One of the immediate draw backs for me for this camera however is the micro 4/3 sensor.
The rolling shutter is much better than most other mirrorless and DSLR cameras in its category and even performs better than the A7s.
Another great plus this camera has is its slow motion. It is buttery smooth and some of the best
slow mo I've played with in a camera that is not a much more expensive cinema camera.
If you are a vlogger or are usually filming yourself then I cannot stress how convenient the flip out LCD touch screen is. The A7s's screens articulate vertically to some degree which is a great option for low angel shots but its not quite like having a fully articulating screen that can extended to the side of the camera and flipped to face yourself if you are in front of the camera.
sensitivity, this is still an amazing camera body that is well worth the price.
Aside from the micro 4/3 sensor and the slightly below A7s low light
Here is a great review from DSLR Video Shooter:
You can buy the Panasonic GH5 here:
3 - SONY A7s (I)
If the A7s II is a bit too pricy then I would look into its predecessor, the A7s. It still has a lot of the perks and great options as the A7s II and could still do 4K externally when paired with something like the Atoms Shogun.
I personally love this camera for the shooting possibilities it offers and the low light capability that allows you to shoot in situations where very little lighting is required while still giving you impressive results on a small budget.
This is why this body still currently stands the test of time in my opinion and can still outrank most other cameras on the market, I'm looking at you Canon!
12.2MP Full-Frame Exmor CMOS Sensor
BIONZ X Image Processor
Gapless On-Chip Lens Design
3.0" 921.6k-Dot Tilting LCD Monitor
XGA 2.36M-Dot OLED Electronic Viewfinder
Full HD Recording in XAVC S
4:2:2 UHD 4K Output via HDMI
Full Pixel Read-Out, S-Log2 Gamma
Expandable Sensitivity: ISO 50-409600
Fast Intelligent 25-Point AF System
Aside from the lack of internal 4K, one of the massive draw backs when comparing it to the newer A7s II is not having the 5 axis sensor stabilization that I have grown to love for run and gun hand held shots in the newer model.
I own both the A7s and the A7s II and this is a BIG noticeable difference when switching between the two. It is also very noticeable when using the cameras on a gimbal or on a slider. The 5 axis stabilization can help smooth out some of the minor bumps or motor vibrations that a gimbal might have.
When shooting some of my first documentaries with the first A7s the shakiness was a major concern I had to take into account when grabbing quick B roll and hand held shots. Aside from the 4K, this feature alone made it worth it for me to upgrade to the A7s II.
As in with all other items on my lists, the links to buy the mentioned camera is always updated for the best deal so if the A7s II is a bit out of reach for now, the A7s is a great alternative.
The tech and specs are great but that matters little when the right master is behind the tool. Speaking of which, here is a fantastic review by Philip Bloom:
You can buy the Sony A7s here:
4 - CANON 5D mkIV
The Canon 5D mk IV is the camera I wish I could love. It has a lot of the upgrades that Canon users have been waiting for a long time but for the price and timing on the market I feel hesitant to rank this incredible camera body any higher.
The 5D series has a long legacy, especially for stills and is one of the Canon bodies that made shooting video on a DSLR camera popular.
Before jumping into all the details, my most important take away from shooting with this body is two fold: Nothing beats the aesthetic the Canon sensors have and not many cameras come close to the quality and control you have over your still photography.
I know that saying the sensor has a look to it might sound odd but from my experience it has a beautiful and much more organic feel to it especially when comparing it to the much sharper looking Sony sensors (no, more sharpness in this case is not a good thing, to me at least).
Sometimes Sony cameras, especially when paired with the very sharp Zeiss/Sony lens line up can feel Ultra sharp which come closer to a Nation Geographic Video feel rather than the Film look that we are so accustomed to.
This is without getting into the actual color science of the sensors and how they behave on skin tones.
Ok now that I have this rant out of me, here are the specs:
30.4MP Full-Frame CMOS Sensor
DIGIC 6+ Image Processor
3.2" 1.62m-Dot Touchscreen LCD Monitor
DCI 4K Video at 30 fps; 8.8MP Still Grab
61-Point High Density Reticular AF
Native ISO 32000, Expanded to ISO 102400
Dual Pixel RAW; AF Area Select Button
Dual Pixel CMOS AF and Movie Servo AF
7 fps Shooting; CF & SD Card Slots
Built-In GPS and Wi-Fi with NFC
Another great advantage this camera has over all other bodies in this list is the incredible autofocus technology. Most Filmmakers shy away from auto focus and you should too when filming a scene from your story since you want to have manual control over what your audience's eyes are focusing on. There are however a few exception where auto focus becomes vitally important:
If you are a vlogger or film yourself for YouTube video then you know how annoying it can be to set the focus, especially when filming by yourself. Having High Density Reticular AF and Dual Pixel CMOS AF Systems allows you to always be in focus without worrying about constantly having to check it. The system the Canon 5D mk IV offers for autofocus might even be over kill for that but it is an amazing option to have especially when shooting stuff for Documentary work or gimbal shots where you don't have a wireless follow focus system.
The biggest cons of this camera for me are the ability to only do 4K in cropped sensor mode and the codec of the 4K itself. It uses MJPEG codec at 500/Mbps which is a pretty antiquated way of compressing and storing video data and creates very large files.
This is why for the price it's a hard choice between the excellent focus technology and sensor look and the limitations it has yet to work out.
Here's another review from Linus Tech Tips:
You can buy the Canon 5D mk IV here:
5 - CANON c200
This next camera is quite the price jump and it caters to slightly higher low to mid budget productions as well as studio uses.
Right away, it has all the features and ports that most DSLR and Mirrorless camera body users wish they had.
The continuous AF (Autofocus) function for all autofocus lenses the Canon C200 offers is really incredible. It uses a new Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology with a new AF Lock setting that lets you change the framing while holding the focus on the desired part of your composition. This is great for filmmakers with smaller crews, YouTubers and vloggers and scenes that have moving subjects.
Before talking about more of my feelings on this camera, here are the specs:
Super 35mm CMOS Sensor
Dual Pixel CMOS AF Technology
Dual DIGIC DV 6 Processors
4K DCI and UHD, 1920 x 1080
59.94/50/29.97/25/24/23.98p & 120p in HD
Canon RAW Light, MP4, MP4 Sub-Recording
Rotating 4" LCD Monitor, Camera Grip
Integrated EVF, 2 x XLR Audio Inputs
1 x CFast Card, 2 x SD Card Slots
SDI, HDMI, Ethernet Connectors
The Canon C200 was a much needed improvement in the C100 line up and sits in a comfortable price range when comparing it to the C300 line up. Again, this is not your typical run and gun camera and is a bit pricy for not being fully a Cinema Camera but it comes pretty close.
Aside from the price, another con for this camera is its size and weight. Its not terrible considering all the options and functions it carries with it and the removable top handle and monitor can help it be less cumbersome but it is still quite big when comparing it to the other bodies on this list.
This camera feels like it was made for a specific type of filmmaker and that is not a bad thing.
I can see the being used for small productions as well as certain studio uses and it is a great workhorse that doesn't require that many more add ons.
Ryan Connolly from Film Riot made a great review of the C200:
You can buy the Canon C200 here:
I hope you found this article useful and I hope that I have helped your decision in buying your next camera.
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