If you’re looking to make professional videos or films, you need a professional video camera. This purchase will likely be the single most important thing in your filmmaking kit. But how to choose among the hundreds of options? Since you will likely be spending hundreds, if not thousands, on a high quality video camera, we have compiled this guide to the best professional video camera for you. 

What makes a good professional video camera? Your camera should be able to shoot in 1080p and possibly 4K. Additionally, it’s important to consider sensor size, portability, video and audio quality, durability, and battery life. A high quality video camera will also give you direct access to control audio and video settings in specialized ways that consumer models aren’t capable of.

The 10 Best Professional Video Cameras - Overview

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Our guide below details what makes each video camera we chose special and has options for all budgets and needs. Note: we included a buying guide below that outlines the criteria we used to compile our list and may explain any confusing terms. 

The Canon XA11 is our best overall pick because it delivers professional high quality video in a compact and lightweight body. It is great for handheld shooting with its detachable (and very comfortable!) handle. Whether you’re looking to make professional films, commercials, or documentaries, this camera has all the features you’ll need. 

The XA11 records in Full HD in both the MP4 and AVCHD formats, and files can be stored directly to memory cards housed in the dual SDXC card slots.

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There is a 3-inch OLED touch screen that is responsive and does not lag. It provides up to 600% dynamic range, and will excel under any lighting conditions, as well as having a 20X optical zoom lens. 

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This is a best professional video camera even for those with no prior knowledge of video cameras. The reliable touch screen with all its attached features is easy to pick up, play with, and learn thanks to the intuitive interface. We are confident that this camera will give you professional high-quality videos. It provides great quality in a small body. 

The Blackmagic Pocket 4K is ideal for professional filmmakers and anyone looking to improve the quality of their cinematography. There sturdy outer body is composed of a carbon fiber and polycarbonate composite, which keeps it lightweight. 

It uses a Four Thirds sensor and the Micro Four Thirds lens mount that Panasonic’s Lumix G range and Olympus’ PEN and OMD ranges use, so any lenses you have for those cameras will be functional for the PCC 4K. The screen size is huge and far bigger than what you’ll find on most other compact cameras. 

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There are numerous connectivity options, including a 3.5mm stereo input and headphone jack, a mini-XLR audio input, and a full-size HDMI Type-A output. There are two internal storage slots, for both SD UHS-II cards and CFast cards. Alternatively, for storage, you can connect the USB port for external recording to a portable hard drive.  Most importantly, it has superb video quality, especially in low-light settings, and RAW video performance. The sensor has a native 4K resolution and uses the entire image sensor, so there  is no annoying cropping to consider. Bonus: this camera comes with a free copy of Davinci Resolve (link), a world class editing software to go with your new top-notch professional cinema camera.

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The BlackMagic is most suited to filmmakers who want a quality cinema camera as small as a mirrorless camera. There is no other camera like it on the market, and its creative capabilities when mastered will give you a true tool to achieve the professionalism you want in your videos.

Note: despite its name, it will not fit in most sized pockets. Pack spare batteries for longer shoots.

The LUMIX is Panasonic’s flagship mirrorless camera and highly specialized for videos. It captures 4k/60p footage with zero crop and has built-in Wi-Fi, along with NFC and Bluetooth. It even captures 10-bit 4:2:2 internal recording. In case you’re unfamiliar with bit depth, 10-bit if the highest and best grade you can get, and upgrading bit depth captures higher-quality video and improves color rendering and dynamic range. If you’d like to learn more about bit depth, you can do so here.

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It comes with 5-axis in-body image stabilization, so this is a good pick if you’re especially worried about shaky footage or want stable shots while you shoot without a tripod. It has an updated depth of focus system which offers 225 focus points.  The LUMIX GH5 is well suited to videographers as it comes with an array of features more often found on ultra high end video gear. 

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This camera is a great choice for videographers and is fully encased in a durable magnesium alloy body. It’s shocking the quality and features that come packed inside this camera, given its price. We came across several videographers who said the LUMIX is comparable in quality to other cameras 3-4x its price.

Why is the Alpha A6600 great for travelers? Three reasons: it’s light, has amazing 5-axis IBIS (in-body image stabilization), and is great in low light situations. So you will be able to capture great videos and photos on the fly and in all lighting conditions, without being burdened by a heavy camera. 

Its Real-Time Eye is also a big draw for travelers making vlogs or Youtubers in general as it keeps you in sharp focus as you move around the frame without another person standing behind the camera. You will be able to create well-tracked videos on your own, without another camera operator. It shoots in 4K video and you can flip the screen 180 degrees so you can monitor yourself while you’re on camera. 

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Other features: An external mic and headphone jacks are available for professional audio monitoring. The new Z battery lasts 800 shots. It has great autofocus.

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This is the best choice if you’re a traveler, especially if you’re making vlogs. It’s also very popular among Youtubers because of its tracking feature. 

This superzoom camera has the most powerful zoom lens ever put on a Nikon COOLPIX camera. It has a truly spectacular 125x 24-3000mm optical zoom. It shoots beautiful 4K videos in a variety of resolution and framerate settings. 

It has a huge range of controls that experiences videographers will be able to utilize. Novice filmmaking need not be intimidated though as the menu is really intuitive and easy to learn. There are many ports including a mini HDMI, USB, headphone jack, and a shoe mount you can attach accessories like microphones and flashes to.

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Wi-Fi image transfer is available via the free Snapbridge app, which is an easy way to transfer images on the go. 

Although it’s got a bulky design, it isn’t really heavy and it’s easy to grip and hold for long periods of time. It captures good photos in optimal lighting, but does struggle slightly in dimmer settings. To counteract this, Nikon added a remarkably powerful flash that a good job of countering the low light issue. 

Bonus: Amazing for astrophotography. Point it at the night sky and see with perfect clarity the stars, moon, even Saturn’s rings.

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If zoom is important to you, the COOLPIX P1000 is for you. Maybe that means going to sporting events and using the camera to get front-row tickets, or anything travel related where you know you’ll be at a crowded event and you want a good close-up. If you’ve seen crowded travel photos of Rome or Venice, you’ll know that you need a camera with a great zoom to capture the sights. 

The Sony RX100 VII is of course a compact camera that fits in your pocket. Despite its small size, this model offers the most comprehensive video features of any compact camera. It’s also great for still photography, so you get a good one-size-fits-all device. This is also a great choice for traveling. 

There is artificial intelligence that tracks subjects and keeps them sharp in video and still photography modes. Sony’s Real Time Eye found in the A6600 mirrorless camera is also here in the RX100 VII. 

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You can record 4K video, which also uses active mode image stabilization. There is also an external mic input that enables professional audio capture.

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This is the camera for you if you need a small compact camera that doesn’t give up anything in terms of quality or features. You will be able to take high quality photos and videos wherever you go with this model. 

The Fujifilm X-T4 hides numerous features within its charming analogue exterior. It has 5-axis In-body Image Stabilization, which provides incredible stable shots for those wanting it for stills photography. Its Face and Eye detection AF are really great for portraits. 

It’s also a great stabilization system for videographers who want to make handheld films without a gimbal or tripod. It records in 10-bit 4K video, and Full HD is available. 

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It has a solid build and its magnesium alloy is weather-resistant. Improvements from previous models include a bigger battery and improved autofocus.

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This is the camera for you if you’re primarily interested in taking great stills, but also want something that can make high quality videos if you’d like. The high quality IBIS system will allow you to take great handheld shots. The X-T4 offers great quality photos and videos and a host of features, all packed in a charming exterior. 

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. 

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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. 

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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. 

If you’re looking for a high quality video camera under $300, look no further than the Canon VIXIA HF R800. Despite it’s inexpensive price tag, this model comes with a range of impressive features that beginning videographers are sure to appreciate. 

There is a SuperRange Optical Image Stabilizer that helps to correct camera shake and does a good job of doing this. There’s also a 57x zoom that allows you to take dynamic videos without disrupting any action. The touch LCD screen is fairly responsive and the menu is very intuitive. 

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Canon’s high resolution CMOS HD sensor gives you great Full HD videos, even in low light. It also allows users to connect via Wifi to any smartphone, so you can control the device remotely through your phone. There’s an optional NFC feature that lets you use and share your videos quickly via WiFi. 

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Canons are well known to make some of the best camcorders available, and in this price range, it’s hard to find another video camera that you can use to make professional and high quality films as well as this one. 

This one is for the adventurers who want to make great quality videos. GoPro is the industry standard for travel videography, and for good reason. Though it’s small, this GoPro can record 4K at 60 fps. It offers 4K, 2.7K, 1440p and 1080p resolutions and you can live stream 1080p. 

This GoPro has great video stabilization to the point where you might not even consider getting a gimbal. It has a TimeWrap 2.0 feature that lets you take time-lapse videos in motion, which turn out really great and add heightened drama and scale if you’re snowboarding, surfing, or filming any adventure sports. 

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There is a built-in directional mic that delivers pretty solid audio, but you can also add an external mic to its 3.5mm mic port. You can control it with 14 voice commands that are really useful when you’re in the middle of doing something. 

This GoPro is waterproof to 33 feet and WiFi enabled, so you can transfer videos with ease. 

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This is the camera for you if you want a high quality video camera you can take with you on adventures. It’s durable and has a host of features like voice commands and time-lapse to make it easier to capture your adrenaline shots in impressive and creative ways. If you’re an adventurer looking for a waterproof camera, this is the best professional video camera for you. 

Buyer's Guide - Best Professional Video Camera

So how did we compile our list? The following are the most important things to consider when purchasing a professional video camera. 

Sensor

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.

 

Zoom Lens

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. 

 

Stabilization 

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 

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. 

 

Sound

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.  

Conclusion

So that’s it. Hopefully you know enough about how to choose the best professional video camera for you to make an informed decision with our list of the best professional camcorders available. If you have any suggestions or questions, feel free to email us and let us know your thoughts. 

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If you liked this article, be sure to check out our guide to the best point-and-shoot cameras under $300 and the best cinematography certificate programs.