Filmmaking is an art with a certain amount of science thrown in. Before you can begin crafting your masterpiece, you need a good filmmaking camera, which is the primary tool that will bring your vision to life. With film cameras sometimes costing $10,000 or more, that can put off a lot of beginner filmmakers looking to invest in a good quality cinema camera. We have tested, reviewed, and used dozens of the best cheap cameras for filming ourselves. Below is our guide to the best camera for filmmaking on a budget, organized into price bracket from most to least expensive.
If you’re enthusiastic about filmmaking and looking for a cheap cinema camera, we have the best cameras for filmmaking on any budget below.
10 Best Cameras for Filmmaking on a Budget - Overview
The video market is constantly evolving with new models that are smaller and more portable than ever before thought possible. When considering our guide to the best cameras for filmmaking, keep in mind the top criteria we used, image quality, lens mounting and of course, budget. Read our buyer’s guide at the end of this article to learn more about these criteria.
This camera will definitely raise the quality of your video to a cinematic standard. It features a super-35mm 4.6K HDR sensor, along with an extraordinary dynamic range of 15 stops and 300 fps frame rate. It has the features and controls of a traditional broadcast camera, at a fraction of the cost.
Dual CFast and SD UHS-II card recorders are available, enabling you to control filmmaking at up to 300 frames per second effortlessly. There’s even a USB-C expansion port so you can record directly to SSD disks or flash drives for extended recording times.
There is a large fold out touch screen control panel at the side of your URSA Mini Pro 4.6K camera that allows for easy control over shooting. You don’t need to take your eyes off from the action and can control everything at your fingertips. There is a backlit feedback LCD panel that displays all the critical controls intuitively.
Generation 4 Color Science:
This camera’s special color science combined with the super wide color gamut will display incredibly accurate skin tones and vibrant colors. You will have stunning cinematic images.
Built-in ND (neutral density) filters help you to control the light entering the lens to precisely match real-life colors, or to achieve whatever color scheme you’d like. Read more about ND filters here to learn more. There is also an interchangeable lens mount.
Note: Blackmagic purchases come with Davinci Resolve, a top notch editing software. If you’re looking for a professional editing software, this is a great bonus to an already amazing camera.
Also, this camera comes naked so budget out for necessary accessories. When taking into account new accessories like lenses, shoulder mounts, battery plates, and storage, a fully decked out shooting rig will likely cost between $7,000 or $8,000. While this may seem redundant when buying a camera at this cost, it beats kitting out other cameras of comparable quality by a long shot.
This is a superb quality camera in a compact camera. It is highly customizable and has incredibly high-quality image resolution. When looking for a good camera for filmmaking on a budget, whether for commercials, documentaries, or feature films, it’s hard to beat this model.
This Nikon comes with a 105mm lens, but if you’re buying just the body it is less than $3000. The D850 offers incredible detail and an impressively fast autofocus.
Image quality is a game changer. There are 45.7 megapixels of extraordinary resolution and great dynamic range.The D850 can make 4k time lapse movies, 4k Ultra HD video recording, and slow motion up to 120 FPS at 1080p.
There is a tilting touchscreen that is responsive and intuitive like an iPhone screen. The battery performance is also outstanding.
The lens has internal focus and manual focus override. Aperture range is f/1.4 to f/16 and maximum focus distance is 3.3 feet (1 meter) from focal plan.
This camera and lens are amazing quality and will give you high resolution videos and photos. The touchscreen and autofocus are especially impressive. If you have the budget, this camera will definitely elevate your filmmaking and image quality.
This camera is a sophisticated movie-making machine, capturing full HD movies at different frame rates. It can even capture still images during movie shooting.
The newly designed 506 megapixel full-frame CMOS gives ultra-high resolution images. In addition, LPF (low-pass filter) effect cancellation takes full advantage of this resolving power, which helps it to deliver even higher resolution images.
There is a 61-point high density reticular AF which includes up to 41 cross-type AF points. AF point is essentially a point where the camera can focus on. Generally speaking, the more, the better. There is also a 50.6 megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor.
You can use the EOS utility webcam beta software for Windows and Mac and turn this camera into a high-quality webcam.
The Intelligent Viewfinder II makes it easy to shoot and change camera settings without looking away from the viewfinder. It displays about 100% of the composition, and can show settings like shooting mode, white balance, AF operation, recording format, and more. Multiple views are customizable and easy to configure through the EOS 5DS R’s intuitive user interface.
This Canon is the best camera for filmmaking on a budget under $2000. It will give great resolution and capture beautiful full HD movies. Its special features include an incredible viewfinder and webcam convertibility.
This Canon is cited by many documentary makers as their camera of choice. Why? It’s 20x optical zoom and 5-axis image stabilization combine to provide you with a device that you can point and shoot at on the fly, and still get stable high quality images. The side mounted grip is easy to hold and comfortable throughout any long shoots or interviews, and can rotate into nine separate positions. It has a touch screen where you can easily control the camera’s settings, as well as standard Canon features like twin CF card slots and great high definition.
Wifi is available to easily transfer files, and there is even a remote control you can use to control stop, start, zoom, focus, and white balance. Great if you’re interviewing subjects and don’t want to stand behind the camera, but still want control over its functions.
Image quality is excellent. Sound quality with built-in microphones is also excellent. You can record audio to a 4-channel system, so you can use both internal mics and the XLR inputs. This would be particularly useful if you used the internal mics to catch ambient sound and the lavalier setup to record your subject.
This is the camera for you if you’re a documentary filmmaker or maybe an aspiring newscaster looking for a go-to camera. You will be able to take it anywhere and shoot stable and high quality images on the fly with ease. It is sturdy and robust and also has a great built-in sound system.
The mirrorless a7R III offers incredible detail and accurate AF/AE tracking. High speed subjects can be shot at up to 10fps. The Exmor R CMOS sensor collects more light. Image processing is sped up to 1.8x by the updated BIONZ X processing engine. In low light, you can get top quality ISO capability at 6400-16000. There is a fantastic autofocus.
This Sony mirrorless camera is small and lightweight, something you won’t find in DSLR cameras. It is easy and comfortable to hold. Build quality is excellent and usable even in light rain. When combined with lens, this is an overall compact system you’ll be able to carry with you easily.
Stunning HD Video
The a7R III records clear 4K video, and can shoot 10 fps or 8 fps with live view.
Other features include GPS location tagging via bluetooth, Dual SD card slots, and IBIS and hybrid stabilization for sharp images. Battery life is good and you likely won’t need more than one battery per day.
If you’re looking for a compact filmmaking camera, look no further. This Sony model delivers high quality images with built-in stabilization and has a great battery life.
*Note: The camera body itself is less than $2,000, but this link comes with a high quality and versatile 12-60mm Leica lens.
PANASONIC LUMIX GH5S is no simple digital camera. This is our choice for the best camera for filmmaking on a budget under 2000 because it will give you professional feeling filmmaking experience with its 10.2 megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor, an extraordinary photoreceptive surface for videos. It also has an ultra-wide dynamic range and Dual Native ISO, which will give you ultra-sensitive videos with very little noise or grain.
The body is precisely engineered using a durable magnesium alloy, which can endure up to -10 degrees. It is also splash and dust proof with every dial, button, and join weather sealed.
The interchangeable lens systems allows for 4K anamorphic videos. Anamorphic (read more here) allows for cinematic shooting in a widescreen format.
4:2:2 10 Bit recording:
The C4K/4K technology, along with the GH5s feature, enables you to record 4K resolution videos. Simultaneously, you can also feed the 4:2:2 8-bit as the real-time image output via your HDMI port. Both these features are fantastic to have for a professional filmmaker.
Filmmaking Made Easier:
Apart from all the features mentioned above, another technological advancement, the Bluetooth 4.2/Wi-Fi 5GHz technology, makes filmmaking much more convenient. You can use the LUMIX app to control the shutter, start/stop the video, and much more.
This camera will give you professional quality images and is durable to weather and wear. Make sure to get a tripod for stabilization, especially if you are doing interviews. The battery life is solid and has great low light capability.
This is one of the best cameras for filmmaking on a budget because of its immense high quality and 4/3 image sensors. You can capture the video at a resolution of 4096×2160 utilizing the MFT type lens mount. MFT type lenses are better able to shoot videos at a Hollywood cinematic level with its digital film imaging technology.
Sleek and Lightweight Design:
This Blackmagic uses lightweight and compact lenses that enable you to take the camera anywhere you want. It not only makes the camera portable but also increases the affordability range for many filmmakers looking for a budget cinema camera.
There are so many high-end internal components which are packed precisely into this Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema. Apart from just being elegant in its design, the camera is very easy to hold and control.
The camera utilizes a carbon fiber and polycarbonate material as the construction material, making filmmaking tasks very accessible and convenient.
Convenient Operations for Filmmaking:
The back panel controls are readily available, which adds convenience and comfort while recording. You can change the shooting seed, zoom in/out, and adjust the frame rates, access the setup menu, and much more at your fingertip.
Like the other Blackmagic on this list, the Resolve editing software is included, which is one of the best editing softwares available. This camera has incredible image quality and versatility. We recommend stocking up on batteries for longer shoots.
This Sony has a resolution of 20.1 megapixels, which not only provides you with crystal clear images but with a reduced grain/noise surface. This camera shows colors with a sharp display that will take your videography to the next level.
This RX100 has a 200mm zoom lens along with an ultra-speed autofocus. There is also real-time tracking artificial intelligence.
Boosted Image Stabilization:
Active image stabilization helps achieve perfect shots even while walking. Capture smooth 4K video on the move.
External Mic Support:
External mic jack is available to capture all sounds. The microphone allows for a 3.5mm input for professional sound capture.
You will probably want to spend money on a real battery charger to counter short battery life, so budget accordingly. This is a great travel camera due to its compact size. It also has superb zoom and image stabilization for filmmaking.
The 16 megapixel micro four thirds sensor has a 10 percent boost in detail and resolution over other models of the same specifications. It can capture 4K video at 3840×2160, as well as record up to 30fps. 4K Post Focus allows you to set your desired focus points after the photo has been taken.
Mirrorless Lens Camera:
With 12 60millimeter lenses, you are able to shoot lighter and faster with this mirrorless camera at nearly half the bulk of most DSLRs. The mirrorless feature makes the camera lighter in weight and more comfortable to carry than most products with its shooting ability.
This premium Dual-image stabilization technology has a five-axis stabilization feature that works for photos and videos (including 4K). You can record steady 4K handheld shots even in lowlight conditions.
Live ViewFinder & Flip Display:
The integrated eye-level display along with the OLED viewfinder and rear-touch 3 inch LCD display allows for optimal viewing angles.
This camera has amazing image stabilization and of course a 4K video quality. These two qualities combined will give your videos a very cinematic look. It is a lightweight and portable camera that comes with a convenient viewfinder and customizable settings.
The Pansonic LUMIX G7KS gives DSLR image quality without the bulk and weight of traditional DSLRs. There are three unique 4K ultra HD video modes. The 16 megapixel sensor provides high ISO performance. Auto focus is fast and accurate.
This camera has numerous dials, levers, and buttons. All functions are easy to reach and intuitively placed. It also has a superb grip. Build material is plastic, but the overall build quality is good.
For a camera under $800, the LUMIX will shoot great quality 4K videos and is easy to use. You can use the money you save to invest in a good quality lens. It’s the best camera you’ll find on the market for filmmaking on a budget under $800.
Buyer's Guide - Best Camera for Filmmaking on a Budget
So how did we compile our list? The following are the most important things to consider when purchasing a filmmaking camera.
The sensor is really important in determining the quality of the video footage. In the simplest terms, the sensor is a solid-state device that captures the light required to form a digital image. A better sensor means a better image.
Sensors are especially important if you’re filming in low-light setting as a small sensor won’t pick up as much detail and light.
The power of the lens will give you a lot of creative control over the scenes you’re shooting. You will have so much more versatility in capturing things far and wide with a good zoom lens. Alternatively, invest in some good lens that are compatible with your video camera to achieve different looks and feels.
Shaky footage is a dead giveaway of unprofessional filmmaking, unless that’s the aesthetic you are trying to achieve on purpose. All good video cameras have some in-built image stabilization, with some remarkably better than others.
Bit rate refers to the rate video or audio is encoded and is a useful way to compare two cameras with the same resolution. Cameras with higher bit rates will produce better-looking videos. This is especially important if you’re filming for the big screen, in which case you should definitely spring for 10-bit.
Bit rate is determined by how much of a file is compressed. Highly compressed footage takes up less space but is lower quality. Less compressed footage is good for quality and aesthetics, but takes up much more space.
Memory and Storage
It’s important to consider how much footage your camera can hold, especially if you plan on shooting for long periods of time. Usually more in-built storage means a more expensive camera, but then you need to buy less external storage cards. While it isn’t THE most important thing in terms of creating professional looking footage, it is something to consider if you’re deciding between two cameras of equal quality.
Some of the cameras we reviewed have great internal microphone systems. But in general, you want to get some external microphones going to best capture sound. It’s good to look at the camera’s native sound capability as well as the ports it has to connect external mics to.
Compatibility to accessories
Don’t buy a good quality video camera and expect that all your accessories will automatically be compatible. While some cameras have universal ports, it’s important to consider what ports your new camera has and what accessories you may need to use the camera to its fullest ability.
So that’s it. Hopefully you know enough to make an informed decision on how to choose the best camera for filmmaking on a budget for you. If you have any suggestions or questions, feel free to email us and let us know your thoughts.
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