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.

 Jump to camera lists

If you want to know how I chose the cameras in this list, check out the Best Fiction Camera Guide.

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

Camera Priorities

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. Some video cameras also require an external recorder for Raw. If you also use then as a field monitor, external recorders can provide superior on-screen tools for framing, focusing and exposure.

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
  • 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.

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Camera Lists

mirrorless cameras - info+

mirrorless cameras

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.

Advantages

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.

Challenges

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.

When you shoot video, ideally you'll have manual control of your focus to make fine adjustments and for pulling focus between different subjects in the frame. Mirrorless cameras use a 'focus by wire' system designed for photographers who mostly use autofocus. This is less useful for video shooters. With focus by wire, the lens is controlled electronically by the camera body, even when you turn the focus ring. There are no focus marks and no hard stops. When the camera is switched off the focus resets. If you want to use a follow focus rig with a mirrorless camera, you'll need a mechanical lens. If you can't find a mechanical lens to fit your mount, you'll need a lens adaptor.

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.

External Recorders

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.

mirrorless cameras - list+

mirrorless cameras

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.

Nikon Z6

Nikon Z6 - mirrorless camera for video

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.

Panasonic Lumix GH5S

Panasonic Lumix GH5S - mirrorless camera for video

While this has the smallest sensor of the mirrorless cameras, the option to shoot with anamorphic lenses might appeal to you.

Panasonic Lumix S1

Panasonic Lumix S1 - mirrorless camera for video

Good all round Full Frame camera from Panasonic. Option to shoot on XQD or SD cards.

video cameras - info+

video cameras

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.

Advantages

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.

Challenges

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.

External Recorders

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.

video cameras - list+

video cameras

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.

Panasonic EVA1

Film Production Camera - Indigo Film School

A good all round camera. The ability to switch to infrared mode opens the possibility for some groovy creative looks.

Sony FS5 Mark II

Film Production Camera - Indigo Film School

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.

Sony FS7 Mark II

Film Production Camera - Indigo Film School

Aimed at broadcast and corporate rather than indie filmmaking. Requires a hardware add-on for a Raw output.

budget cinema cams - info+

budget cinema cams

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.

Advantages

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.

The first generation Raw codecs (ARRIRAW, REDCODE) 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 field monitor is recommended.

Challenges

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.

budget cinema cams - list+

budget cinema cams

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.

Kinefinity MAVO 6K

Film Production Camera - Indigo Film School

A great 6K camera that’s been overshadowed by the Blackmagic Pocket Camera 6K. But Kinefinity are certainly not afraid to compete with more established camera companies.

Kinefinity TERRA 4K

Film Production Camera - Indigo Film School

Kinefinity are making waves with a modular system similar to RED. Great picture quality with decent slow motion, the TERRA is definitely worth a look.

cinema cameras - info+

cinema cameras

We all aspire to using the best cameras. There're a thousand and one things to consider when budgeting for a shoot, but if you can afford it, you'll want to hire a high-end cinema camera. But if it's financially difficult, I would advise you not to make sacrifices or cut corners in other areas. Check out some of the other great camera options on this page.

In this section you'll find what are generally considered to be the world's best cameras. Ones used on feature films, TV dramas, music promos and high-end documentaries. They all have a high dynamic range and wide colour gamut.

In the end, I put on my sensible head. Instead of going down the route of fantasy and wish fulfilment, I decided to omit the most expensive cameras. So you won't find the latest Alexa cameras, the RED Monstro or the Sony VENICE. All great cameras, but I felt cheaper options were more realistic for indie filmmakers.

As always if you think other cameras should be included, or you want to query any of the camera details, please get in touch.

About the Cameras

Apart from the MAVO LF, these cameras have been tried and tested on major productions. They're built to survive the rough and tumble of location shooting and work reliably in the most demanding situations.

Some of the cameras record proxy media in parallel with high quality Raw files. The proxy media is intended for real-time editing, whereas the best quality material is ideal for colour grading and visual effects.

While you'll find the camera with the highest resolution here, you'll also find two with the lowest. The older Arri cameras have a resolution of only 3.2K, but because of their reputation, they've been included.

Camera Hire

I've assumed you won't be buying a cinema cameras, so I've only included the hire costs. Another advantage of hiring is you'll have someone experienced to set it up for you. While professional cameras are relatively easy to use, some are modular and require extra hardware to be production ready. Some cameras require license keys to make certain features available.

Unless stated otherwise, the hire rates I've listed are for one day. I've included them to give you a rough idea of the costs. Once you add lenses and other accessories, the daily rate will obviously increase. Hiring over a weekend will be cheaper and the day to day cost is reduced if you hire for a week or longer.

The rental house is there to help you. So, talk to them about the resolution, video formats, how you want the camera rigged and lenses you want to use. If your budget is restrictive, they might be able to suggest ways you can save money, while still achieving the results you want. Don't be afraid to haggle and ask for a better deal. The worst that can happen is they say no.

Arri 3.2K Cameras

As you're probably aware, Arri's digital cinema cameras are renowned for their quality. There's a long list of celebrated cinematographers who only shoot with the Alexa. However, many of the older Alexa cameras have a 3.2K sensor. It's only the recent Alexa LF and Alexa 65 cameras that have exceeded 4K.

While Arri claims you can up-rez pictures from their 3.2K cameras to 4K, I would advise against it. Cinematographers happily shot with 3.2K cameras, because they knew the movies were destined for 2K distribution. Netflix insists all their content is shot in 4K or higher, which is why you don't find sub 4K Arri cameras on their Approved Camera list.

cinema cameras - list+

cinema cameras

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.

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.

Kinefinity MAVO LF

Film Production Camera - Indigo Film School

While it’s not as well known as the other cameras in this section. The MAVO LF has been praised for its image quality. Relatively cheap to rent.

Panasonic Varicam LT

Panasonic VariCam LT - cinema camera Indigo Film School

Dual native ISO is always welcome, as it improves performance in low light. It’s unfortunate you need to hire an Atomos device for Raw recording.

RED GEMINI 5K S35

Red Gemini - cinema camera

With its dual native ISO and large dynamic range, the 5K GEMINI is the star when it comes to low light performance.

RED HELIUM 8K S35

Red Helium - cinema camera

If you need to deliver 4K in the absolute best quality and your budget supports it, choose the 8K HELIUM camera.

Sony PMW-F55

Film Production Camera - Indigo Film School

It doesn’t have the same wow factor as other cinema cameras. You will need to consider the cost of hiring a recorder module if you want to shoot Raw.