Recommended Cameras for Film Production
Welcome to Recommended Cameras for Film Production. This page is here to help you select the right camera to buy or hire for your next project. While I can give you an idea of how a camera will perform based on its specs, I recommend you try before you commit. Put the camera through its paces to get a feel for its performance and ergonomics. View the clips on a large display to check the image quality.
If you already own a camera that’s not mentioned in this resource, check its user manual to see how it compares. If you think there’s a camera I should include, please get in touch.↓ Jump to camera lists
If you want to know how I chose the cameras in this list, check out The Best Fiction Camera Specs.
If you’re about to buy or rent a camera, take a look at my Buying or Hiring a Camera for Film Production article.
Film Production Priorities
It’s easy to get lost in all the techie stuff. So, we all need to be reminded that story is the main priority in everything we do. When we shoot fiction, it’s a visual narrative, a drama where characters bring our hopes, fears and desires to life.
So when you’re squinting at the technical details in the camera entries below, ask yourself the really important questions:
‘Can I use this camera to tell the story I want to tell?’
‘Will it help me achieve the look I want?’
‘Can I create beautiful, memorable images?’
‘Can I capture the movement and the drama?’
When you’re inexperienced, you’ll take a leap of faith. Online reviews and other filmmaker’s opinions can help, of course. But you do need to try cameras for yourself. Make a list of all the essential qualities and features and test them on as many cameras as possible. A professional cinematographer trusts their own eyes and intuition as well as other people’s opinion. That kind of self-reliance is where you should be heading.
I’ve made image quality the main priority. Other features such as slow motion or low-light performance are important too, so they’re also highlighted.
As a cinematographer, you want to create the images you seen in your head. Shooting in a format that supports high dynamic range and a wide colour gamut is how you do it. Raw is best, but shooting Log and recording in a high quality codec, such as ProRes, will also work for you. As well as great pictures, shooting this way gives more options during the colour grade and makes it easier for visual effects artists to work with your shots.
I also recommend external recorder as a way of getting better image quality out of mirrorless cameras and video cameras. They can also provide superior on-screen tools.
Recommended Camera Classes
I’ve split the cameras into four different classes. Each has its own price range, features and requirements. They are:
- Mirrorless Cameras – stills cameras that also shoot video
- Video Cameras – workhorse cameras mainly used for broadcast and corporate productions
- Budget Cinema Cameras – cinema quality images for no or low-budget productions
- High-end Cinema Cameras – with greater funding comes the choice of more awesome cameras
Interestingly the cheapest camera of the lot can be found in Budget Cinema Cameras. I won’t spoil the surprise.
I’ve described each class below. You’ll find the list of cameras at the end of the article. These are not camera reviews. But you can compare cameras and find one that suits your needs.
Mirrorless cameras are rapidly becoming a desirable alternative to DSLRs for shooting video. They do the same job while being lighter and less bulky. While cheaper than dedicated video cameras, they're lacking in pro features. The cameras described below don’t meet my minimum spec, so pair them with an external recorder for best results.
Choose a mirrorless camera if photography is just as important as video.
The main advantage of a mirrorless camera is the high quality photography. It might be your preferred choice if you already have a set of lenses from the same manufacturer. Just be aware that mirrorless cameras have different mounts, so you might need an adaptor.
They're the right size and weight if you want to mount a camera on a gimbal, a cable cam or one of the larger drones. If you need to shoot actors in a moving car, they'll be easier to mount than a larger camera.
The sensors in most of these cameras has a 3:2 shape. When shooting video, you won't be making full use of the sensor’s area. The Lumix GH5S sensor is smaller and more square than the rest, but you can shoot with anamorphic lenses.
Like DSLRs, you can experience rolling shutter artefacts, also known as the jelly-cam effect.
The batteries in mirrorless cameras have a shorter life. A small body means smaller batteries. Using a battery grip is one option and you can connect more powerful batteries to the DC port.
If you need to sync the camera with a sound mixer, you'll need to write timecode to one of the audio tracks. The exception is Panasonic's GH range, where the flash sync port takes timecode data.
Mirrorless cameras can overheat while shooting video. If you see a temperature warning, stop shooting and allow the camera and memory card to cool down.
For all these cameras I've recommended the Ninja models from Atomos. The Ninja V is more compact and records Raw. The Ninja Inferno has a larger, brighter screen and better audio connectors. While the Inferno records HDR images, it doesn't record Raw. The HDMI port makes both models ideal for mirrorless cameras.
When recording Raw from the Nikon Z6, be aware the Ninja V only records ProRes Raw. At the time of writing Final Cut Pro X is the only editing app that can handle it. The Atomos Shogun family also record Raw in CinemaDNG.
For the rest of the mirrorless cameras, choose ProRes 422 as your codec for the best results. There is no advantage with ProRes 422 HQ, it will just use up your storage quicker.
While this has the smallest sensor of the mirrorless cameras, the option to shoot with anamorphic lenses might appeal to you.
Good all round Full Frame camera from Panasonic. Option to shoot on XQD or SD cards.
The option to output Raw to an external recorder is certainly attractive, but the poor quality internal audio might be a deal-breaker. Shoots on XQD cards.
The X-T3 offers quality and performance at a decent price. Good selection of X Mount lenses available.
If you already own EF and EF-S lenses, the EOS R might be the camera for you if you’re prepared to buy one of the adaptors.
These video cameras are all 4K cameras with interchangeable lenses. They're from established manufacturers such as Canon, Panasonic and Sony. Some meet my minimum spec without an external recorder, but some don't. You'll definitely need an external recorder to shoot Raw.
Video cameras are workhorses for broadcast and corporate video. Choose one of these if you do other work besides shooting fiction. They're ideal for weddings, events and web journalism.
Videographers often work on their own, so the cameras are easy to carry and quick to setup. But you can still take your time perfecting the shot.
Video cameras are packed with great features, such as HD filters and good quality sound and lots of handy buttons. The body is designed to be ergonomic and easy to use, that's why they're called run 'n' gun cameras.
Super35 cameras are ideal for shooting wide screen. You won't be wasting any of the sensor area. The sensor is either a 16:9 or 17:9 aspect ratio.
Video cameras are built mainly for factual productions. The internal video codecs are mostly excellent, but you'll need external recording if you want to shoot Raw.
It's a mixed bag when it comes to timecode syncing. Some have dedicated connections, while others require you to use one of the audio channels.
For all these cameras I've recommended Shogun models from Atomos. Both record Raw as either ProRes Raw or CinemaDNG.
The Shogun 7 is the newer model with a better display and Dolby Vision output via HDMI. Dolby Vision is supported by some HDR televisions and professional monitors.
Aimed at broadcast work rather than indie filmmaking. Requires an expensive hardware add-on for a Raw output. You’ll probably find the FS5 Mk II (below) more appealing.
If slow motion is your priority, then this could be the camera for you. It outputs 4K Raw at 120fps bursts to an external recorder.
A good all round camera. The ability to switch to IR mode opens the possibility for some groovy creative looks.
Aimed at broadcast work rather than indie filmmaking. You’ll probably find the C200 (in Budget Cinema Cameras, below) more appealing.
Hurray for budget cinema cameras, saviours of the independent filmmaker! 'But what do you mean by Budget?' you ask. Out of all the cameras listed, you'll find the cheapest one in this class, the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K. And some are a similar price to video cameras.
All these budget cinema cameras have a resolution of 4K or over and shoot Raw internally. If your budget won't stretch to a high-end cinema camera, but you refuse to compromise on quality, these are the cameras for you.
You can probably guess. The main reason I love budget cinema cameras is the fantastic image quality. As well as Raw, they also shoot in high quality video codecs, apart from the C200.
Some cameras in this class are small and light enough to be used on gimbals or the larger drones.
First generation of Raw files use image sequences. This means each frame is a separate file, something software struggles to play in realtime. Some of these cameras shoot with the latest codecs and these are a single file, which is easier to work with. The Blackmagic Cameras shoot in Blackmagic Raw (BRAW), while the C200 shoots Cinema Raw Light.
The high dynamic range and wide colour gamut means you'll have plenty of options during the colour grade. It also means your project will be future-proof if archived correctly.
External recorders aren't required for budget cinema cameras, but a good quality external monitor is recommended.
With the Kinefinity cameras, the body is simply the brain. You need to add hardware modules to make it production ready. If you opt for the Blackmagic Pocket 4K, you'll need extra power accessories to provide a decent battery life.
Not all the cameras have built-in ND filters. So a matte box with glass filters is essential for flexible exposure control.
The world’s cheapest 6K camera. Some commentators have expressed concerns about the sensor. You could try a test shoot, or rent the more expensive Full Frame version of the MAVO.
Although not as well known as other brands, Kinefinity are making waves in the indie film world. With a modular system similar to RED, great picture quality and decent slow motion, the TERRA is definitely worth a look.
For movie shooters the C200 beats the C300 Mark II. While it has all the features you’d expect from a broadcast camera, it also shoots Raw internally. Performs well in low light.
A great 4.6K cinema camera with many video camera features. If you already own Canon lenses, this could be the camera for you.
If you want a great cinema camera at a super low price, look no further. Takes Micro Four Thirds lenses, which are cheaper than Full Frame glass.
Lots of info about great movie cameras you'll want to hire. Including Arri Alexa, RED cameras, Sony VENICE and Panasonic Varicams.