5 Best Cameras for Filmmaking on a Budget
Black Magic Pocket Cinema 4k Camera - Editor’s Choice
Atop our list of best cameras for filmmaking on a budget is the Black Magic Pocket Cinema 4K Camera (BM4K). The name alone says a lot about this gadget. It is a dedicated recording tool with features specifically made for shooting high-quality video.
Unlike most budget cameras, the BM4K allows you to record in 4K resolution as much as you want. You get up to 50fps at 4K, and for a higher frame rate of 100fps, you can record at 1080p. This gives you the freedom to add slow-motion effects while editing.
One other thing I love about this pocket cinema cam is its compactness and easy-to-use menu system. You can make quick changes to ISO, recording speed, and resolution while recording. Unfortunately, though, the high-end settings of the camera cause the battery to last only about 60 minutes. You would have to purchase extra batteries if you’ll be recording long sessions.
Sony ZV-1 - Best Point-and-Shoot Camera for Filmmaking on a budget
- Video AF system uses real-time eye autofocus tracking and object tracking to keep the subject of shots clear in every shot.
- A high frame rate of up to 960fps means you can slow down videos shot on the go without tampering with quality.
- Built-in hot shoe connecting an external microphone and side flip-out screen make this great for spot shoots like interviews.
When it comes to cameras you can use on the go; point-and-shoot cameras take the lead. The Sony ZV-1, which is a point-and-shoot camera, is one of the best cameras for filmmaking on a budget for beginners.
This videography tool comes with no 4K recording limit at up to 60fps. And for higher frame rates like 240fps, 480fps, and even 960fps, it records at 1080p. But, that’s not all; alongside the incredible slow-mo recording capacity, this camera has excellent autofocus.
The auto-settings that come with this gadget as a compact camera allow videographers to get high-quality shots which gets even better with post-production editing. The only drag to this is that, like most other compact cams, the lens isn’t interchangeable.
Nikon D5600 - Best DSLR for Filmmaking on a budget
DSLRs are still some of the most trusted digital cameras for filmmaking. And because mirrorless cameras are now getting hype, some excellent DSLRs now sell at budget prices.
Nikon D5600 is a high-grade DSLR that sells for a budget price and is an excellent option for filmmaking. It comes with a 24.2MP CMOS sensor which records 1080p at up to 60fps. The lens is also interchangeable with a wide range of great Nikon lenses available on the market.
With WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, the D5600 is a prime device for streaming online. So, if you’re a vlogger, this camera is one to consider for professional-level shoots without breaking the bank.
Canon EOS RP - Best Mirrorless for Filmmaking on a budget
The Canon EOS RP is the priciest camera on our list of best cameras for filmmaking on a budget. But the points this camera loses in terms of pricing make up for the superb video recording qualities.
With a full-frame 26.2MP CMOS mirrorless sensor, Canon’s EOS RP delivers UltraHD 4k video feed that’s crispy clear. This is the dream for filmmakers to record videos with high resolution and high quality.
This camera is lightweight and great for quick shots, with an impressive autofocus system and a high frame rate of 60fps recording at 1080p resolution.
GoPro Hero 9 - Best Action Camera for Filmmaking on a budget
Last on our list of budget cameras to buy for filmmaking is the Action Cam, GoPro Hero 9. The GoPro line of mini-cameras is popular among adventure videographers. They are made to function under rough conditions and deliver excellent video feed.
The Hero 9, the latest release from GoPro, boasts an impressive 23.6MP lens that can shoot 5K videos up to 30fps. While higher frame rates 60fps records at 4k, and 240fps at 1080p. That’s a guarantee of about 8x slo-mo of action-filled video recording.
This camera records RAW, which allows for better editing. You also get excellent HyperSmooth 3.0 in-body stabilization to even out shaking and vibration while recording. In addition, the whole device is weather-proofed and water-resistant, priming it for extreme conditions of use.
Camera features to consider in buying a budget camera for filmmaking
When purchasing a camera for filmmaking on a budget, it’s easy to be tempted to buy anything that falls within the price range. While you might not get the complete array of features that come with high-end cameras, there are particular features you should never compromise on when it comes to filmmaking.
These are the camera specifications that determine the quality of video you’ll get from any recording gadget:
A camera’s resolution has to do with the dimension of the frames making up the video. Nowadays, there are resolutions up to 8K, which are pretty pricey. But for the affordable cameras for filmmaking on a budget, the standard is 4K resolution.
Even though recording 4K means more video quality, not all devices support the image display. So, recording at Full HD 1080p isn’t so bad. But any camera that would deliver less than that is a no.
The sensor type of a camera is determined by the lens it carries. For most digital cameras, the lens is interchangeable, which means you can likely change the sensor type. But, even at that, the lens that would fit each particular camera is limited.
It’s a camera sensor that determines the depth of field and the sensitivity to light. Depending on the sensor type mounted on a camera body, it would affect the field of view, whether it’d be full or crop. Overall, full-frame sensors prove the most effective (1).
For the light sensitivity aspect of sensors, this is indicated by the ISO rating of the lens. The higher the ISO, the more precise the image it picks up in low-light conditions. You should look out for cameras with ISO 2000 and above.
Filmmaking often requires that the videographer move the camera around, especially with handheld cameras. However, moving around can cause the camera to shake, making the image distorted due to the impact on the lens.
However, with good in-body stabilization, the impact of shake or vibration is removed or minimized. Internal stabilization allows flexibility of shoot. And even though not all cameras come with stabilization, you can fix a lens that has stabilization, provided the lens is interchangeable.
A camera’s frame rate indicates the number of image frames compiled in making a video measured in frames per second (fps) (2). The faster a camera can capture images, the larger the recorded file. A high frame rate is beneficial for getting slow motion when editing.
The high frame rate starts from 100fps. With a higher frame rate, the resolution used is often reduced. Only high-end cameras can record a high frame rate at a larger resolution. The file at such a level is often too much for the camera to process.
Depending on the type of filmmaking you’re involved in, you would have to balance slow-mo from frame rate with image clarity of resolution. For budget filmmaking, 4K resolution at 50fps is great.
Effective autofocus is another feature that can’t be compromised in a video camera. This is the ability of a camera to focus on the subject of a shoot. Cameras with slow autofocus, you would have to set up to get the perfect positioning and exposure.
Different factors influence the autofocus of a camera; the sensor type, quality of the lens, and the number of AF points on the sensor. A camera with good autofocus maintains the exposure through the shot to ensure consistency in the footage. Alongside that, for the best result in a video shoot, the camera autofocus must be fast when subjects move.
Log picture profile
The log profile picture isn’t a very prominent feature in cameras. However, it plays an essential role in balancing different light exposure at various parts of a shot to produce even tone and color. This is especially useful in places where you don’t have control over lighting. Most cameras with good lenses come with this feature.
There are two ways footage captured through a camera lens is saved in drives or uploaded online. It can be as a compressed version or as a RAW file. RAW recording means the complete compilation of frames is captured.
Of course, this means the file is larger, but it also means it provides you with enough range to edit the video. For example, with RAW recording, you can modify your video’s ISO and white balance without tampering with quality.
Types of Cameras for Filmmaking on a Budget
Filmmaking on a budget means you don’t need to bother yourself with getting professional camcorders that go for tens of thousands of dollars. Especially if you’re just starting, you should just opt for any of the best cameras for filmmaking on a budget for beginners.
So, here are the camera types you can get for filmmaking on a budget;
Action cams are made to work in rough conditions. Want to go mountain biking, skydiving, skiing, surfing, or any sports under extreme conditions? Then, you need an action cam to be your travel diary. Through the rigors of your activities, an action cam would remain in position when attached properly.
You can attach the camera to your helmet, tie it to your head or neck, or hold it by hand. And you don’t have to worry; water, ice, or heat doesn’t spoil the camera, as it’s made weather-resistant. Action cameras are also shockproof and very durable.
If this sounds like the type of camera that fits the filmmaking for your next adventure, then we’d recommend you get the GoPro Hero 9.
360 cams are very much like action cams. They are sturdy, compact, lightweight, and have good in-body stabilization to guarantee a clean video output when recording. What differentiates them is that 360 cameras can capture the whole surrounding using ultra-wide lenses placed back-to-back.
Compact cameras, which are primarily called point-and-shoot cameras, are fast-use gadgets that can capture images and record videos on the go without needing much setup. The settings for these cameras are preset. But, most significantly, the lens isn’t interchangeable.
There are different types of compact cameras distinguished by how much adjustment is allowed on the device. But often, most compact cams come with adjustable exposure settings. Point-and-shoot cameras are about the best affordable cameras for filmmaking on a budget.
Now to the more prominent digital cameras. DSLRs, which stands for Digital Single-lens Reflex cameras, are cameras that use a mirror to reflect light from a lens to the viewfinder. They often have interchangeable lenses and deliver high-quality images depending on lens quality and resolution.
Common lens types on DSLRs include APS-C and Full Frames. You can configure all of the settings on these camera types. And you need to get the balance right for good exposure when recording a video. In all, the good news is that a lot of quality DSLR prices have dropped to the budget filmmaking range.
Mirrorless cameras are now making hotcakes in the world of digital cameras. Top camera manufacturers are producing more high-quality mirrorless cameras. But several mirrorless models sell for a budget price.
Mirrorless cameras use an electronic viewfinder and eliminate the moving mirror found in DSLRs. This makes them quieter, more stable, and more lightweight. In addition, Mirrorless cameras have more straightforward controls and more reliable video modes. They generally deliver the best filmmaking experience but can be pretty pricey.
Cinema cameras, also called cine cameras, are the new wave of digital cameras explicitly designed. As a result, they are best for filmmaking and dedicated videography settings. They often come with RAW recording and a fast AF system. These are essential for recording high-quality videos at high resolution (4K or 6K) and high frame rate (50fps and above). They are also ergonomically built for handling and easy mounting.
Beginner filmmakers need to learn and practice their shooting and directing skills using budget-price cameras under $1000. As high-grade video equipment needs more maintenance, more technicality to get the best settings, and of course, cost more.
The type of camera to choose depends on the kind of filmmaking. In general, compact cameras, DSLRs, mirrorless cameras, and cinema cameras can function well in multiple areas of filmmaking.
When filmmaking on a budget, the most crucial camera specifications are sensor type and resolution, these are the two factors that directly affect the video quality obtained if all conditions are set constant.
To pick a camera for filmmaking on a budget, go for a camera that supports 4K resolution, and the sensor can pick up sharp images in recording condition. Then, you should now consider frame rate, autofocus, and internal stabilization.
Professional filmmakers use the same digital camera types used by filmmakers on a budget. They mostly use cine cameras, mirrorless cameras, and DSLRs. Professional filmmakers often opt for Professional Camcorders for bigger projects, which cost about $50,000 on average.
Searching for the best camera for filmmaking on a budget to buy isn’t a straightforward task. It’s not all about the price. You have to find the perfect gadget that offers the value you need for your money. And that’s why we’ve gone through our top camera for filmmaking on a budget. We then followed it with a series of factors to consider to help you make a more informed choice.
Overall, the Black Magic Pocket Cinema 4K Camera is a complete filmmaker’s dream at the budget level. It records RAW 4K video files at 50fps and with a good ISO range up to 3200. This makes it great for filming in place with low light, and it does well in handling.
What camera do you use for your filmmaking on a budget? What are the specifications you can’t compromise on because of funding?
- Stephen Shankland. (February 2008). Full-frame camera sensors: a tough technology. Retrieved https://www.cnet.com/tech/computing/full-frame-camera-sensors-a-tough-technology/
- Doug Brunner. (n.d.). Frame Rate: A Beginner’s Guide. TechSmith. Retrieved from https://www.techsmith.com/blog/frame-rate-beginners-guide/#what-is-frame-rate