Recommended Film Production Cameras

Recommended Cameras for Film Production - Indigo Film School

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.

If you want to know how I chose the cameras in this list, check out How I Choose the Recommended Film Production Cameras below.

If you’re about to buy or rent a camera, take a look at my Buying or Hiring Film Production Gear article.

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
  • Broadcast Cameras – workhorse cameras mainly used for factual TV and corporate productions
  • Budget Cinema Cameras – cinema quality images for no or low-budget productions
  • 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.

 Jump to camera lists


How I Choose the Recommended Film Production Cameras

Recommended Cameras for Film Production - Indigo Film School

The cameras in the lists below are chosen by me. So when I say these are the best cameras for indie fiction production, it’s purely my opinion. This is my minimum spec. If a modern camera doesn’t meet it, I won’t use it.

Have I made any exceptions? Yes! While a minimum of 4K resolution is one of my criteria, I’ve included Arri cameras that are 3.2K. I would recommend these cameras if you intend to distribute in 2K, but would suggest you use higher resolution cameras for 4K distribution.

Sensor Resolution

The camera must have a resolution of 4K or higher. 4K refers to the number of horizontal photosites on your camera’s sensor. There are two types of 4K. UHD is television 4K and has a resolution of 3840 x 2160 photosites. DCI is cinema 4K and has a resolution of 4096 x 2160.

Colour Resolution

Cameras split colour and brightness into three colour channels. If there is no compression on these channels, then they are represented as 4:4:4. When resolution is halved on two of the colour channels, the number will be 4:2:2. The recording format must be a minimum of 4:2:2 at 10-bits per channel. 10-bit 4:4:4 is even better, but Raw at 12-bit 4:4:4 is the best.

Dynamic Range and Colour Gamut

Your camera must be capable of shooting with a High Dynamic Range. This means it either shoots Raw or the format supports Log. High Dynamic Range is usually abbreviated to HDR.

The camera must be capable of shooting Wide Colour Gamut images. Again you’ll need to shoot in either Raw or Log to make the most of this.

Compression

If your camera doesn’t record or output Raw, it must record to a format with Intra-frame compression. Choose this instead of LongGOP.

Another indication of image quality is the bitrate. It’s measured in Mbps (megabits per second). Make sure your camera has a bitrate of 100 Mbps or more for the decent quality. If your camera uses a variable bitrate, then the bitrate will be shown as a range. Make sure the bottom of the range isn’t less than 100 Mbps.

Syncing Pictures and Sound

When shooting fiction, it’s common practice to record sound on a separate device. So the pictures and sound need syncing in post. You can use a portable timecode generator to write the same timecode to the camera and sound recorder. Some cameras have dedicated timecode connectors, while others require you to record timecode onto one of the audio tracks.

External Recorders for Film Production Cameras

For many of the cameras on the list, I’ve recommended you also use an external recorder. This is for two reasons:

  1. The camera doesn’t quit meet the minimum spec, but using an external recorder takes it across the finish line.
  2. The camera does meet the minimum spec, but using an external recorder will make it even better. For example, give you the option to record Raw, when it isn’t available in the cameras.

Camera Features to Consider

Here are a couple of things I haven’t made the priority when choosing the recommended film production cameras. But they are still important and depending on your next project, they might be essential.

Low Light Performance

If you’re shooting fiction, you should be using lights. Not only are they used to illuminate the scene, they are storytelling tools that set the mood and give the picture depth. But if you find yourself in a low-light situation, you want a camera that will perform well and not produce too much sensor noise.

In general the way camera sensors handle noise has improved greatly. You should also look our for cameras that has dual native ISO. Where a camera has this feature, I’ve detailed it in the Native ISO field.

Slow Motion

Many cinematographers like the option of being able to shoot in slow motion. To do this you shoot at a higher frame rate than normal. For a film, you typically shoot at 24 fps (frames per second). But if you wanted a shot to play at half the speed, you would shoot double the frame rate, so 48 fps. For each camera I’ve listed, check out the section called Recording Formats. There I’ve included the Maximum Frame Rate at Best Resolution.

If you need to shoot at a faster frame rate, you would either need to consider a different camera, or make a compromise such as reducing the resolution or the quality.


Film Production Priorities

I realise this is a lot of techie info to throw at you, especially if you’re a beginner. And that’s the thinking behind this resource. It gives you the info you need to make good decisions about the cameras you want to hire or buy.

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?’

Make a list of all the essential qualities and features you need for your project and try as many cameras as possible.


Camera Lists

- list+

Arri Alexa Mini

Arri Alexa Mini - Recommended Cameras, Indigo Film School

A small form factor makes this a very light and flexible Alexa camera. Ideal for indie productions.

Arri Amira

ARRI Amira - cinema camera Indigo Film School

Built for handheld shooting and ease of use, the Amira has the same sensor as the Alexa cameras.

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K

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.

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K - Recommended Film Production Cameras

A fantastic 6K camera at a great price. If you already own Canon EF lenses, I’d recommend you give this camera serious consideration. It’s ideal for shooting movies and delivering in 4K.

Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro G2

Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro G2 - 4.6K cinema camera

A great 4.6K cinema camera with many video camera features. If you already own Canon lenses, this could be the camera for you.

Canon C200

Canon C200 - cinema camera

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.

Canon C300 Mark II

Canon C300 Mark II - 4K broadcast video camera

Aimed at broadcast work rather than indie filmmaking. You’ll probably find the C200 (in Budget Cinema Cameras, below) more appealing.

Canon C700 FF

Canon C700 - cinema camera Indigo Film School

The C700 will give you good quality pictures when shooting 4K because of the 5.9K over-sampling. It’s unfortunate you need to rent the Codex CDX-36150 as well for Raw recording.

Canon EOS R

Canon EOS R - Mirrorless Camera for video

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.

FujiFilm X-T3

Fujifilm X-T3 - mirrorless camera for video

The X-T3 offers quality and performance at a decent price. Good selection of X Mount lenses available.

- list+

Arri Alexa Mini

Arri Alexa Mini - Recommended Cameras, Indigo Film School

A small form factor makes this a very light and flexible Alexa camera. Ideal for indie productions.

Arri Amira

ARRI Amira - cinema camera Indigo Film School

Built for handheld shooting and ease of use, the Amira has the same sensor as the Alexa cameras.

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K

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.

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K - Recommended Film Production Cameras

A fantastic 6K camera at a great price. If you already own Canon EF lenses, I’d recommend you give this camera serious consideration. It’s ideal for shooting movies and delivering in 4K.

Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro G2

Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro G2 - 4.6K cinema camera

A great 4.6K cinema camera with many video camera features. If you already own Canon lenses, this could be the camera for you.

Canon C200

Canon C200 - cinema camera

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.

Canon C300 Mark II

Canon C300 Mark II - 4K broadcast video camera

Aimed at broadcast work rather than indie filmmaking. You’ll probably find the C200 (in Budget Cinema Cameras, below) more appealing.

Canon C700 FF

Canon C700 - cinema camera Indigo Film School

The C700 will give you good quality pictures when shooting 4K because of the 5.9K over-sampling. It’s unfortunate you need to rent the Codex CDX-36150 as well for Raw recording.

Canon EOS R

Canon EOS R - Mirrorless Camera for video

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.

FujiFilm X-T3

Fujifilm X-T3 - mirrorless camera for video

The X-T3 offers quality and performance at a decent price. Good selection of X Mount lenses available.



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