The best camera for one filmmaker isn’t necessarily the best video camera for another filmmaker. It really depends on the type of work you plan on doing. For example, a filmmaker looking to shoot music videos, wedding videos or commercials for clients may prioritize a camera that can shoot slow motion in HD (i.e. faster frame rates to be slowed down later on). However, this feature may be of little importance to a documentary filmmaker planning to shoot their footage in 24p from start to finish.
Of course, frame rate isn’t the only consideration to take into account. You need to ask yourself as assortment of other questions as well. Do you plan to exhibit theatrically, through broadcast TV or online? What data-rate and resolution do you require? Do you have any lenses that are adaptable to one brand over another? Does the size of the camera matter to you? Do you like the color output of one camera over another? Do you prefer the ergonomics of one camera over another? Will you be recording sound in camera or through a double system? These are only a few of the many questions you need to ask yourself before you choose a camera.
Below, we’ve included a list of recommend cameras. However, we’re not listing them from “best to worst”. We’re listing them in three different price groups. Each camera within the group serves it’s own set of purposes.
At the end of each group we provide notes that go into a little more detail with regards to each camera. Also, over the next couple of days you’ll be able to click the links of each camera to learn more about each camera in more detail. You’ll be able to see sample footage and read about the camera’s specs.
Large Sensor Video Cameras ($3,000 – $20,000)
Red Scarlet X – $10,000 (body only) or $15,500 for PL version
Canon C300 – $16,000
Sony NEX-FS100 – $5000
Black Magic Cinema Camera – $2995
Notes: The two big players in this category are the Red Scarlet and the Canon C300. At first glance the Canon may appear more expensive, but the Scarlet can quickly surpass the Canon C300’s price range when you add the necessary ad-ons to make the camera operational (memory cards, batteries, screens, power supply etc). Take just the memory cards for example. Each 128gb SSD card costs $1800. The point being, is that the Red Scarlet X can quickly turn into a $20,000 to $25,000 camera.
DSLR video cameras ($500 – $4000)
Canon 5D Mark III – $3500
Canon 5D Mark II – $2100
Canon 7D– $1300
Nikon D7000 – $1000
Canon 60D – $900
Canon t3i = $600
Canon t2i – $500
Notes: The Canon 5D Mark II and Mark III are very interesting options for those that have the budget for these higher end DSLRs. The main benefit to upgrading to the 5D from the 7D is that the 5D series has a much larger sensor size. That being said, the 7D is a fantastic camera and it can shoot 60fps (meaning you can shoot slow motion footage), which the Canon 5D Mark II can’t do (Although the Canon 5D Mark III can shoot 60fps in 720p). So if you’re planning on doing slow motion work in your videos then the 7D or 5D Mark III is a better choice for you.
Canon 60D and the Nikon D7000 are also great options for those looking to do video work. They have similar specs to the Canon t2i, t3i and Canon 7D.
The canon t2i and t3i are also great cameras. There is very little difference between them. the biggest difference is that the t3i has an articulated LCD screen making it a bit easier to shoot room high or low angles.
Small consumer camcorders (Less than $500)
Canon Vixia HF S21 – $500
GoPro – $300
Notes: There are countless options to choose from in this category, but we choose the Canon Vixia HF S21 because it’s a great all around camera. We’ve also added the GoPro to this list since it’s focus on durability has made it a great camera of choice for doing action videography where you need your camera to withstand the elements (surfing, skateboarding, skiing etc).
Lights Film School Online plans on keeping this page up to date with new camera additions through the year. So check back for updates!