best camera for filmmaking

Best Camera for Filmmaking on a Budget

Creating a stunning and beautiful connection between audio and video isn't reserved only for acclaimed filmmakers with fancy and expensive equipment anymore. Nowadays, even young filmmakers, film students, and vloggers have the means of creating awe-inspiring works of motion picture art, thanks to the budget-friendly equipment.

The truth is that creating a high-quality 4K video has never been easier, thanks to cell phones, camcorders, and budget-friendly cameras. But with so many options on the market, purchasing a high-quality product without breaking a bank can be challenging. With that in mind, we rounded up some of the best budget-friendly cameras for filmmaking and comprised an in-depth buyer's guide to help you choose a suitable product. Here are our top picks:

Our top pick

Canon EOS Rebel SL2 DSLR Camera with...

Canon EOS Rebel SL2

  • Outstanding video performance
  • Sharp Autofocus
  • Great ISO range
Second best

Nikon Z7 FX-Format Mirrorless Camera...

Nikon Z7

  • 4K video
  • Outstanding footage quality
  • Great AF
The most affordable

KODAK PIXPRO Astro Zoom AZ421-WH 16MP...

KODAK PIXPRO AZ421

  • 42x optical zoom
  • Great image quality
  • Great image quality

Best budget cameras for filmmaking:

KODAK PIXPRO AZ421-WH 16MP Digital Camera

Sale
KODAK PIXPRO Astro Zoom AZ421-WH 16MP...
  • Powerful 16. 1-Megapixel CCD sensor gives you room to enlarge, zoom and crop to...
  • 42x optical zoom and a 24mm wide angle lens Moves you closer to the subject and...

The KODAK AZ421 is, undeniably, one of the best budget cameras for filmmaking, which contributed to its increasing popularity among amateur videographers, and astrophotographers. It's quite comfortable to say that it amassed quite a fanbase, thanks to its affordable price point.

To start things on the right foot, the AZ421 comes equipped with a 16MP sensor, while most cameras at this price point offer only 12MP. While we agree that 12MP is more than enough, provided the right sensor, it's nice to have a few more. Pair it with a 42x optical zoom that's fully native to the camera, and you'll be able to photograph the moon.

As for the video, the camera's limited to a 720p format, which is sub-par to the current standards. However, with 16MP and 24mm lens, the 720p resolution standards are fully satisfied, providing you with unparalleled image quality. Sure, competitive models might offer 1080p resolutions, but at that price point, the image quality isn't as nice as it should be. And some would rather have incredible 720p video over lousy 1080p.

The camera's equipped with a 3-inch LCD viewfinder, a lithium-ion battery that lasts for 10 hours on one charge, outstanding facial recognition, and a plethora of other useful functions. We would gladly recommend KODAK PIXPRO AZ421 to anyone looking for the best budget camera that scores some high points.

The Good

  • 42x native optical zoom
  • Affordable
  • 10-hour battery life
  • Outstanding image quality

The Bad

  • Only 720p
  • Poor-quality battery

Canon PowerShot SX620

Canon PowerShot SX620 Digital Camera...
  • Powerful 25x Optical Zoom with Intelligent IS helps optimize image stabilization...
  • Built in Wi Fi* and NFC** allows for easy sharing and transferring of images and...

Despite its minuet size, the SX620 is still a capable little camera that easily allows vloggers and Youtubers to create good-looking content. It's equipped with a 20.2MP, ½.3- inch sensor that's powered by a DIGIC4 image processor, offering vibrant colors, smooth graduation, and crisp details, even in less-than-ideal lighting conditions.

The lens has a 35-mm-equivalent focal range, sitting anywhere between 25-625mm, giving both the sensor and the processor an incredible amount of detail to process into an image. It's great for a wide variety of filming styles, from landscapes, to capturing vlogging material and video streaming content. The 25x native optical zoom works great; the same cannot be said for the digital 4x zoom. It degrades the image and video quality severely, making the footage grainy.

Considering its size, the camera offers incredibly detailed 1080p resolution capabilities with highly defined colors and tones. Unfortunately, it's limited to 30fps, which removes any slow-motion capabilities. The on-camera microphone records average audio since it's susceptible to ambient noise. It's certainly something to consider if you're going to use the camera for vlogging; you'll need to reduce ambient noise.

With its Wi-Fi connectivity, outstanding image quality, and relatively good video quality, the SX620 does an excellent job for everyday vlogging and content streaming.

The Good

  • Pocket-sized
  • 1080p @ 30fps
  • Great Image Stabilization
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

The Bad

  • Low-quality on-camera audio
  • No RAW format

Canon EOS Rebel SL2

Canon EOS Rebel SL2 DSLR Camera with...
  • 242 Megapixel CMOS (APS C) Sensor
  • Fast & Accurate Dual Pixel CMOS AF with Phase detection

The Canon Rebel SL2 comes as a perfect blend of features, specifications, and affordability. And while it's not the most affordable product on our list, it's undoubtedly the most capable when it comes to filmmaking on the budget.

The Rebel SL2 is an entry-level DSLR camera for photography and videography that features a 24MP sensor with FHD capabilities. It records 1080p footage at 60fps, which allows you to add some slow-motion effects while editing. Sure, the 4K is missing, but given the camera's budget-friendly nature, that's entirely expected. Still, the footage it provides in 1080p outperforms other competitive models in its price bracket.

The video is super-sharp, the colors are on the spot and well saturated, while the Dual Pixel Hybrid Autofocus smoothly tracks movable objects as you film. ISO performance is also quite good, ranging from 100 to 25600, with a default range of 3200. We recommend you leave it on AutoISO and forget about the setting – it will autocorrect any lighting issues without mistakes. 

Canon equipped this camera with vlogging features, including a fully articulated 3-inch flip screen, which provides a live view of your video session. Couple that with a great onboard microphone, and you've good one of the best budget cameras for filmmaking.

The Good

  • Flip screen for vlogging
  • Outstanding video performance
  • Sharp Autofocus
  • Lightweight and compact

The Bad

  • Optical viewfinder

NIKON Z7

Sale
Nikon Z7 FX-Format Mirrorless Camera...
  • New larger Z mount for revolutionary optical performance
  • Nikon-designed 45.7MP backside Illuminated image sensor with no optical low pass...

The Nikon Z7 would be our top choice, were it not for its hefty price point, which is quite justified with its 4K video capabilities. It's Nikon's first full-frame mirrorless camera that allowed the company entry into the full-frame mirrorless camera market.

The Z7 is genuinely a tremendous outdoor filmmaking camera since it's both water and dust resistant, allowing you to film in the rainy outdoors. But it's the specification that sets it apart from the rest. The product comes equipped with a 45.7MP sensor, a sharp full-width EVF coverage, and an outstanding ISO performance range of 64-25600, or 32-102400.

These specifications make the camera suitable for gloomy outdoors and low-light environments, as it's capable of producing sharp footage without graining or noise. The 4K matrices look as they should, despite the somewhat limiting 30fps. That means that, while you are capable of capturing stunningly looking footage, it omits any type of slow-motion capture. Still, the output is crystal clear, with authentic and bold colors and a zero-crop full-width frame.

The Z7 allows you to produce video footage in RAW format, enabling you extensive editing options afterward, but at the cost of massive file sizes. The downside is using an XQD card slot, which may be limiting, considering that there are faster cards out there that are usable on multiple devices.

The Good

  • 4K Video
  • Fantastic performance and footage quality
  • Great AF options
  • Excellent build quality

The Bad

  • No 60fps
  • Single QXD card slot
  • Pricey

Sony a5100

Sony a5100 16-50mm Interchangeable Lens...
  • Ultra-fast auto focus with 179 AF points and 6Fps
  • Capture life in high resolution with 24MP APS-C sensor.Lens compatibility Sony...

Sitting at an entry-to-intermediate price range of products on our list, the Sony a5100 offers excellent performance for its price and its size. However, it also comes with certain limitations, which, arguably, could be justified by the price/performance ratio.

To clarify, the camera has a 24MP APS-C sensor that captures FHD 1080P at 60fps, a feat of strength for some of the larger cameras on our list. Additionally, it offers ISO performance that matches more expensive models and superb continuous Autofocus. And to top things off, the a5100 is compatible with a wide range of lenses, providing you with more versatility.

The issues we have with this camera aren't in concerns with the video quality, despite the record limit of 29 minutes and 59 seconds. Our issues are with the limiting workflow surrounding this model. The a5100 lacks a quick function menu, which prevents any type of quick access during shooting. Additionally, the compact design conflicts with larger lenses.

Namely, due to the device's low weight, mounting larger lenses causes balancing issues, leading to fatigue if you are shooting by hand. Or it can even tip the device if it isn't adequately mounted on a tripod. We recommend the a5100 as one of the best budget cameras for filmmaking, because of its price/performance ratio, despite its limited functionality.

The Good

  • Relatively affordable
  • Great continuous AF
  • 180° tilting touchscreen LCD
  • 1080p @ 60fps

The Bad

  • No quick function
  • No external audio
  • Limited battery life

Panasonic G85

Panasonic LUMIX G85 4K Digital Camera,...
  • Fine Detail Performance: 16 megapixel micro four thirds sensor with no low pass...
  • Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera: With 12 60 millimeter lens, Shoot...

Panasonic's G85 (or G80 in Europe) is one of the most feature-packed budget-friendly cameras for filmmaking, which provides the best value for the money. It's well-built, shoots 4K video, and offers outstanding in-body image stabilization, allowing more comfortable handheld shooting.

The G85 is beginner-oriented, but it's also a camera you can build on by adding different lenses and accessories, enabling it for more professional use. It shoots 4K video at 30fps and FHD 1080p at 60fps for slow motion. Unfortunately, it features an MFT (Micro Four Thirds) sensor that works well in natural light but doesn't perform as well in low-light conditions.

The articulating screen it's equipped with makes the G85 useful for vloggers, though it's a bit slow with the facial Autofocus. Despite that, the video looks quite crispy and punchy on both the 4K and 1080p resolutions. In a sense, it combines the best video features of camcorders and DSLR cameras. Couple that with MFT sensor and interchangeable lenses for bigger creative potential, and you get one of the best cameras for filmmaking on a budget.

The Good

  • Reasonably priced
  • Hight-quality 1080p footage
  • Records in 4K @ 30fps

The Bad

  • Slow Autofocus

Canon EOS M50

Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless Vlogging Camera...
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF for fast, accurate autofocus that helps you get the photo you...
  • 241 Megapixel APS C CMOS sensor and the DIGIC 8 Image Processor delivers...

The Canon M50 is one of the best possible options if you're looking for an outstanding 1080p camera with a tight budget. It's relatively lightweight and compact, considering it houses a 24MP APS-C sensor, which came with a cost – no weather sealing.

When it comes to video performance, the M50 underperforms in the 4K department but wins at 1080p. The 4K footage is recorded at 30fps, which is reasonable, given the price point. However, its hindered by a massive 1.7 crop factor and omits the dual pixel AF function, making it useless in most situations.

But the M50's 1080p performance is where this camera really shines. The FHD 1080p is captured at 60fps, enabling you to make slow-motion takes with a full sensor read. It also supports dual pixel AF, which makes the 1080p great for recording moving objects. The colors in both photography and video mode are outstandingly accurate, saving you the hassle of color grading during the edit.

Cannon spent some time thinking about vloggers, streaming content creators, and videographers and added an articulated flip touchscreen LCD. Coupled with a microphone port, these functions make the camera straightforward to use in most situations. Unless it's raining.

The Good

  • Accurate colors and tones
  • 1080p @ 60fps
  • External audio port

The Bad

  • Underperforming 4K video
  • No weather sealing

Blackmagic Design Pocket Camera 4K

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Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Camera Body...
  • New 20.4 megapixel live MOS sensor
  • New TruePic VIII dual quad core image processor, auto focus points phase...

With Pocket Cinema Camera 4K, the Blackmagic created a lightweight professional cinematic camera that comes at a relatively affordable price. Feeling the camera in hands, you'll notice a form factor that's significantly longer than other cameras from the same price bracket. And there's a good reason for it.

Don't be fooled by the size of the 8MP MFT sensor; the BM4K is quite capable of utilizing its full potential. It provides a 4096x2160 resolution video at 60 fps in RAW video format that allows for extensive editing of your video footage. Thanks to the 13 stop Dynamic Range, and base ISO at 100 – 800, the camera features outstanding low-light performance.

If by any chance, you opt for shooting slow-motion video, the 1080p resolutions offer up to 120fps, with exceptional 12-bit color grading. Coupled with the 13EV/Stops, it captures great details in both the overcast conditions and highlighted environments. Unfortunately, the AF system is somewhat slow, regardless of resolution, which generally isn't a problem if you use a follow focus for cinematic shooting.

The longer form factor we mentioned above actually houses a massive 5-inch touchscreen LCD, which also serves as a control panel and a viewfinder. Add a broader lens, and you've got a monster camera capable of capturing the most stunning video footage.

The Good

  • 8MP Dual ISO MTF Sensor
  • Exceptional video capabilities
  • Impressive Dynamic Range
  • 4K @ 60fps; 1080p @ 120fps

The Bad

  • Poor Auto Focus

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II

Sale
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Camera Body...
  • New 20.4 megapixel live MOS sensor
  • New TruePic VIII dual quad core image processor, auto focus points phase...

The Olympus E-M1 Mark II camera is an affordable option that's equally versatile, making it suitable for filmmakers' different needs. Owning this budget-friendly camera would allow you to take quality shoots with a wider variety of lenses while sporting an iconic 70's look.

Mark II features a 16MP sensor that delivers quality stills and videos with accurate and vibrant colors. For budget-friendly filmmaking, the camera captures 1080p footage at 60fps and 4K footage at 30fps. The 4K footage captured by handheld shooting looks stable and stunning, thanks to the 5-axis image stabilization that eliminates the need for bulky tripods.

Dynamic Range and ISO performance are great and work wonders in low-light settings. Coupled with the camera's water and dust resistance, it makes it perfect for shooting in gloomy and rainy conditions. Additionally, the body provides a substantial grip area, making it easy to hold in all the conditions mentioned above, including freezing temperatures down to -10°C.

On the back, the Mark II features an articulating LCD touchscreen. It allows focus adjustments while filming and footage live feed during vlogging and streaming. In the end, this camera is highly recommended to streaming content creators and YouTubers in the outdoor niches.

The Good

  • Lightweight and compact
  • Outstanding color tones
  • Great screen
  • Exceptional AF

The Bad

  • A bit pricey

Nikon D3500

Nikon D3500 W/ AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm...
  • A DSLR that's as easy to use as a point and shoot camera
  • Compact, comfortable design that's great for travel and special events

The D3500 is probably one of the most popular cameras on the market, thanks to its compact size, relatively good performance, and affordable price. It ships out with an 18-55mm lens, but for a few extra dollars, you can get it with both the 18-55mm and 70-300mm lens. That's quite a deal, considering its price point.

The camera's equipped with a 24MP APS-C sensor, whose performance excels at the given price range. Still, sacrifices had to be made to keep a reasonable price bracket, which is why the camera doesn't record in 4K. Nonetheless, its 1080p performance is outstanding, recording the footage at 60fps, which translates well for slow-motion capture.

Unfortunately, the downsides don't end with the omitted 4K; the camera features a nice but fixed screen. It doesn't flip and completely lacks any touch capabilities, which would add value to the product. Luckily, navigation is possible via numerous buttons the camera has.

Besides numerous downsides and the lack of 4K, Nikon D3500 features excellent compatibility with multiple lens types. It will fit anything, from cheaper, budget-friendly lenses to professional-grade filmmaking glass.

The Good

  • Still great value, even without 4K
  • Superb Autofocus
  • Good ergonomics
  • Wide range of available lenses
  • Decent video quality

The Bad

  • No 4K video
  • Lacks flip screen
  • More photography-oriented
  • No external audio

Buyer’s Guide

Filmmaking comes in levels, and more often than not, the productions get judged by their quality, in both technical and creative terms. That's why it's essential to get the best camera possible. However, depending on what type of content you wish to create, you might want to opt for a more specific model or type.

Therein lies the problem: when you're a beginner, it's sometimes unclear what is and what does what. This Buyer's Guide aims to help you to, regardless of your experience, find the best budget camera for filmmaking without damaging your budget. In it, we'll cover different best budget camera types and some general features budget-friendly cameras for filmmaking should have. So, without further ado, let’s get down to business:

Best types of budget cameras for filmmaking

DSLR and mirrorless cameras are the most popular choice with filmmakers on the budget, as they offer incredible versatility compared to specialist cameras. Both types excel in producing equally stunning stills and videos, despite their differences, which are explained below.

DSLR cameras – despite featuring an older, and somewhat outdated design, DSLR cameras are still preferred by professional artists for several reasons. They’re based on the design of the older, 19th-century cameras that used a traditional 35mm film. By design, they feature a reflex mirror that reflects the light that enters the lens to the prism and then to the optical viewfinder.  This technology, revolutionary at the time, allowed the users to preview the shoot using a viewfinder. With the press of the shutter button, the mirror flips up, allowing the light to hit the image sensor and capture your shot. The reflex mirror would always stay up in video mode, continuously feeding the light into the sensor.

The main advantages of modern DSLR cameras include longer battery life, the number of available accessories, and a substantial grip area due to their size.
Unfortunately, size is also a drawback. DSLR cameras are more massive since they house the reflex mirror and the accompanying mechanism. Also, the mirror stays up during video-mode, preventing the use of an optical viewfinder.

Mirrorless cameras – as their name implies, mirrorless cameras lack a reflex mirror. Instead, the light that enters the lens goes directly into the image sensor and shows up on an LCD or a digital viewfinder. With a press of a shutter button, the light gets converted into electrons, which are then fed onto a storage unit, usually a memory card. Compared to DSLR cameras, they're less bulky, which makes them the go-to camera type for most YouTubers and vloggers. Also, the digital pixel processing featured in modern mirrorless cameras often outputs a better-quality video when it comes to Autofocus.  Unfortunately, mirrorless cameras usually have fewer accessories available, like interchangeable lenses, and feature a shorter battery life than DSLRs. However, they're easier to travel with and usually output better Autofocus in video mode.

Due to their autofocusing capabilities in video-mode, mirrorless cameras are often regarded as more suitable for filmmaking. However, we advise that you consider each product based on its merit – not all mirrorless cameras have incredible Autofocus, and not all DSLRs perform better in a low-light setting.

Lens type

The lens type you'll need significantly depends on what kind of videos and films you wish to produce. For most cameras, a 50mm prime lens works just fine, as it captures the faces in a natural way, without any distortion. We also recommend a 28mm wide-angle prime lens is also an excellent choice for budget filmmaking, and it's highly recommended to amateur filmmakers.

Keep in mind that some cameras have a vast selection of compatible lenses, while others don’t. While slightly more expensive upfront, purchasing a camera with better compatibility pays off in the long run. Getting a cheaper camera with a perfect lens might seem reasonable at first, but you'll be stuck later if you want to switch things up a bit.

Sensor Specs

The sensor is the heart of your best budget camera and its most critical piece. It's the part that's responsible for how good your video material looks. However, reading sensor specification might be confusing, especially to someone new to the filmmaking world. So, here's what you need to pay attention to:

  • Resolution – Resolution is crucial when you're picking out a new monitor, a TV, or displaying video. But when it comes to capturing video, the resolution is not as important as you think. For example, 8.5MP is just about enough to capture a 4K video. Unfortunately, people are mistakenly led to believe that a higher number of megapixels means a better-quality image. Sadly, it doesn't.
  • Size – Sensor size is much more important than resolution since it affects multiple factors, such as depth of field, low-light performance, and overall image/video quality. Larger sensors capture more details, which equals better-looking footage with less noise.

Video Specs

Video specifications are the essential pieces of information that you'll need to know since they reflect the quality of video you’ll be able to produce.

  • Video Formats – Video formats are crucial when it comes to video editing and post-processing. RAW and CinemaDNG are the most common formats that provide the most information, at the cost of massive file sizes. MOV and ProRes formats are also quite common, though they usually offer less data, which might be suitable if you're not heavy on video editing.
  • Video Formats – Video formats are crucial when it comes to video editing and post-processing. RAW and CinemaDNG are the most common formats that provide the most information, at the cost of massive file sizes. MOV and ProRes formats are also quite common, though they usually offer less data, which might be suitable if you're not heavy on video editing.
  • Bit Rates – Bit Rate affects the quality of your video material, or how much information does one second of your video contains. Not counting for video resolution and fps, bit rates mostly affect your video's color depth and range anywhere from 6bits to 14bits. And higher color depths give your footage a more realistic look and allow greater post-processing capabilities.
    Professional filmmakers usually rely on 10bit or 12bit colors, while amateur videographers usually opt for 8bit.

Video Performance

At last, the most significant bits. Video performance represents the most critical set of information about your best budget camera for filmmaking.

  • Dynamic Range – A higher dynamic range means that the camera is better at perceiving light. Cameras with higher ranges work better in both highlights and shadows, allowing you to adjust the light exposure further as needed. DR is measured in EV/Stops, and you should go for anything above 10EV for filmmaking. It pays to remember that the dynamic range and ISO are inversely proportional; increasing one decreases the other.
  • ISO Performance – In basic terms, the ISO setting will brighten or darken the captured video. A good ISO performance will help you capture video in darker environments without using an external light source. However, increasing ISO is a trade-off, as it increases noise. Generally, you wish to avoid using this setting unless absolutely necessary.
  • ISO Performance – In basic terms, the ISO setting will brighten or darken the captured video. A good ISO performance will help you capture video in darker environments without using an external light source. However, increasing ISO is a trade-off, as it increases noise. Generally, you wish to avoid using this setting unless absolutely necessary.

Conclusion

Despite the outstanding performance of the Nikon Z7, which is the priciest camera on our list, the Canon EOS Rebel SL2 remains our top choice. Sure, it doesn't produce 4K footage, but its outstanding 1080p performance and sharp Autofocus speak for themselves. For filmmakers on a tight budget, the KODAK PIXPRO AZ421 offers good performance at a surprisingly affordable price.  

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