Best cameras for filmmaking on a budget - header

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Filmmaking is exciting but choosing the right camera for filmmaking can be a daunting task. While filmmaking comes in different levels – events, interviews, wildlife filming, personal projects, and so on – all will require you to have a relatively pleasant camera.

A lot of people into filmmaking are yet to get their ideas off the ground because they believe they need the most expensive cameras. Yes, you get what you pay for and the performance and functionality of cameras increase as the price increases.

But there are quality budget filmmaking cameras on the market that come with sophisticated features that can deliver movie-grade footage with minimal editing/tweaking.

I poured countless hours into researching the best cameras for filmmaking on a budget that are available on the market today. And I was impressed with the performance of the budget cameras I tested. I’ve narrowed down the cameras to just seven to bring you the very best of the best filmmaking cameras, or as the French would say, the crème de la crème.

Below, you’ll find a brief overview of the cameras, their pros and cons, and then a buying guide to help you select a camera that meets your unique situation and needs.

The 7 Best Budget Cameras for Filmmaking for 2021

Panasonic Lumix G85 4K Digital Camera0

Panasonic LUMIX G85 4K Digital Camera, 12-60mm Power O.I.S. Lens, 16 Megapixel Mirrorless Camera, 5 Axis In-Body Dual Image Stabilization, 3-Inch Tilt and Touch LCD, DMC-G85MK (Black)

$697.99  in stock
9 new from $697.99
4 used from $642.15
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as of March 1, 2021 3:18 am

The Lumix G85 is a mirrorless camera that comes with a DSLR-like body design and also has a very good build quality. The body of the G85 is weather sealed and the camera has nice ergonomics making it very easy to handle.

What stands out about this camera is the amazing autofocus system and the incredible in-body image stabilization. The image stabilization of this camera is just unreal. You can go online and search for footage taken with this camera and I bet you’ll be as impressed as I am. It’d be as if the footage was taken on a tripod!

I noticed that the SD card slot of the G85 is located on the side instead of down near the battery compartment as it used to be in earlier Lumix cameras. And the advantage of this s that filmmakers can remove the SD card without removing the battery even when using a tripod.

The main drawback of this camera is that it has no variable frame rate. You are limited to shooting in either 24 FPS, 30 FPS, or 60 FPS. The lack of a headphone jack may also be unappealing to some users. But if you can get over these, you’ll be getting an incredible filmmaking camera with unreal image stabilization and autofocus system.

 Quick Specifications

  • Type: Mirrorless camera
  • Dimensions: 2.93 x 5.06 x 3.5 in / 7.4 x 12.9 x 8.9 cm
  • Weight :  1.11 lbs / 503 g
  • Resolution: 16 megapixels
  • Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds
  • Video: 4K QFHD

Pros

  • Stunning autofocus system.
  • Unreal image stabilization.
  • Fully weather sealed. This is not a common feature in cameras belonging to this price range.
  • Good low light performance.
  • The position of the SD card slot on the side allows you to switch SD cards easily without removing the battery even when using a tripod.
  • Wide variety of lenses available.

Cons

  • Lack of variable frame rate.
  • No headphone jack.

Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless Vlogging Camera

Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless Vlogging Camera Kit with EF-M 15-45mm Lens, Black

$649.00  in stock
7 new from $649.00
10 used from $599.00
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as of March 1, 2021 3:18 am

Cameras belonging to Canon’s M-series are well-known for their fairly large APS-C sensors, excellent colors as well as good dual pixel autofocus. And the M50 is no exception. Filmmakers will have no problem finding lenses for their type of filmography as Canon offers one of the best selection of native lenses for filmmakers today.

The portability of the M50 is one of the reasons behind its popularity as it is very easy to store and transport. Journalists and vloggers will especially like the minimal form factor of this camera. When it comes to video quality, the M50 can shoot videos in 4k and full HD. However, the dual pixel autofocus is disabled in 4k and the image will be heavily cropped. You are also able to shoot up to 60FPS but the resolution drops to 720p.

On the bright side, the dual pixel autofocus is downright amazing when shooting in 1080 full HD. Battery life is good, especially when you are using the eco mode. And the articulating touchscreen LCD is a nice touch and the adequate manual controls will easily please experience filmmakers without overwhelming beginners.

 Quick Specifications

  • Type: Mirrorless camera
  • Dimensions: 4.57 x 3.46 x 2.32 in / 11.6 x 8.8 x 5.9 cm
  • Weight :  0.86 lbs / 390 g
  • Resolution: 24.1 megapixels
  • Sensor size: APS-C CMOS sensor
  • Video: 4K UHD

Pros

  • Minimal form factor.
  • Fairly large APS-C sensor confers good performance in low light conditions.
  • Easy to use. Provides great 1080p footage.
  • Captures great colors.
  • Stunning autofocus system especially in 1080p mode.

Cons

  • Recording limit of 30 minutes when shooting in 4k.
  • SD card slot not easily accessible, especially when using a tripod as it’s at the bottom of the camera.

Fujifilm X-E3 Mirrorless CameraOur Top Pick

Fujifilm X-E3 Mirrorless Digital Camera w/XF18-55mm Lens Kit - Silver

$999.98  in stock
3 new from $998.99
1 used from $1,068.00
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as of March 1, 2021 3:18 am

The Fujifilm X-E3 is a 24MP mid-level APS-C mirrorless camera with some great features that will come in handy for filmmaking. This camera is very compact and portable due to the removal of the four-way controller and built-in flash that’s usually in Fujifilm’s X series. And this makes this camera easy to deploy, store, and transport.

You’ll find a clip-on flash in the package though so you don’t have to worry about getting a flash. Thanks to the 24-megapixel X-Trans CMOS III image sensor, this camera has been shown to perform well in low light situations.

The X-E3 can record videos in both full HD and 4k, although there is a 15-minute limit when recording in 4k. I like that this camera also supports clean HDMI output with HDMI Rec Control. And this allows you to record longer clips with both audio and video by using an external HDMI recorder. I must also mention that the XE3 comes with a microphone jack.

 Quick Specifications

  • Type: Mirrorless camera
  • Dimensions: 4.78 x 2.91 x 1.68 in / 12.1 x 7.4 x 4.3 cm
  • Weight :  0.74 lbs / 337 g
  • Resolution: 24 megapixels
  • Sensor size: APS-C
  • Video: 4K

Pros

  • Super compact and stylish.
  • User-friendly interface.
  • Good autofocus system.
  • Microphone jack and good battery life.
  • Very good overall performance.

Cons

  • Limited 4k video.

Sony Alpha a6400 Mirrorless Camera

Sony Alpha a6400 Mirrorless Camera: Compact APS-C Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera with Real-Time Eye Auto Focus, 4K Video, Flip Screen & 16-50mm Lens - E Mount Compatible Cameras - ILCE-6400L/B

$998.00  in stock
4 new from $998.00
9 used from $949.98
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as of March 1, 2021 3:18 am

It’s only a matter of time before a Sony product makes an appearance on this list. The brand is always dropping something new and the Sony a6400 is one of their newest entries in mid-range mirrorless cameras. Starting with the appearance of this camera, the a6400 is very small and compact and offers you the convenience you’d get from a portable camera. I also like the weather-sealed body which is not common in cameras in this price range.

When it comes to videography, the a6400 can record in 4k up to 30 FPS and full 1080p HD up to 120 FPS. The APS-C sensor of this camera s responsible for its impressive performance in low light situations. As you’d expect from a Sony camera, the a6400 has a fast and accurate autofocus system. The fact that this camera is still relatively new means it comes with most of Sony’s updated technology. And there is also a selection of log profiles that any advanced filmmaker could appreciate.

The downsides to this camera are the slightly above average battery life, no built-in image stabilization, and the LCD screen can be difficult to read in bright light. But the incredible autofocus system, video features, and impressive low light performance make it one of the best cameras for filmmaking on a budget.

 Quick Specifications

  • Type: Mirrorless camera
  • Dimensions: 4.72 x 2.64 x 2.36 in / 12 x 6.7 x 6 cm
  • Weight :  0.89 lbs / 403 g
  • Resolution: 24.2 megapixels
  • Sensor size: APS-C
  • Video: 4K

Pros

  • Small and compact.
  • Impressive low light performance.
  • Slow motion frame rate of 1080p at up to 120 FPS.
  • Great autofocus system.
  • A selection of log profiles that any advanced filmmaker could appreciate.
  • No recording limit when shooting in 4k.

Cons

  • No built-in image stabilization system.
  • Battery life isn’t the best.
  • Additional crop when recording in 4k.

Panasonic Lumix G7 4K Digital Camera

Panasonic LUMIX G7 4K Digital Camera, with LUMIX G VARIO 14-42mm Mega O.I.S. Lens, 16 Megapixel Mirrorless Camera, 3-Inch LCD, DMC-G7KK (Black)

$799.99
$497.99
 in stock
7 new from $497.99
1 used from $458.15
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as of March 1, 2021 3:18 am

The Panasonic Lumix G7 is one of the best value beginner cameras for low budget filmmaking. With its slim body, sharp edges, and comfortable grip, the Panasonic Lumix G7 packs the design of an SLR into a lighter, more compact camera body.

This camera comes with a 16-megapixel sensor featuring a next-generation intelligent image processor that produces video and photos free from artifacts that degrade image quality. The G7 is a good alternative if you can’t afford the G85 above.

When it comes to filming, the G7 can record sharp 1080p Full HD video at up to 60fps (this is 2x slow motion). It can also record in 4k UHD (Ultra HD). The G7 also performs well in low light situations and the eye-level electronic viewfinder makes this camera more convenient than an SLR.

Unlike the G85 above, the G7 doesn’t have a weather-sealed body and built-in image stabilization system. There’s also the lack of a headphone port. If you can get past these, this camera is very good for filmmaking.

 Quick Specifications

  • Type: Mirrorless camera
  • Dimensions: 4.92 x 3.39 x 3.03 in / 12.5 x 8.6 x 7.7 cm
  • Weight :  0.9 lbs / 410 g
  • Resolution: 16 megapixels
  • Sensor size: APS-C
  • Video: 4K

Pros

  • Slim and compact profile.
  • Easy to handle and use.
  • 4k HUD video.
  • Good low light performance.

Cons

  • No weather sealing.
  • No headphone jack and built-in image stabilization.

DJI Pocket 2 Creator Combo

DJI Pocket 2 Creator Combo - 3 Axis Gimbal Stabilizer with 4K Camera, 1/1.7” CMOS, 64MP Photo, Pocket-Sized, ActiveTrack 3.0, Glamour Effects, YouTube TikTok Video Vlog, for Android and iPhone, Black

$493.99  in stock
6 used from $449.87
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as of March 1, 2021 3:18 am

The DJI Pocket 2 is a combination of a lightweight gimbal stabilizer and a 4K camera that’s very portable and can be easily carried around. It is an all-in-one unit that features an impressive image stabilization system to smooth out your movements. The Pocket 2 is actually DJI’s latest pocket gimbal and is an upgrade to the previous release.

I like that the Pocket 2 can record 4k videos at up to 60 FPS which is just amazing. There’s also a dedicated slow-motion mode on this pocket gimbal that allows you to shoot up to 240 FPS in 1080p. The new 20mm equivalent lens is a solution to the issue experienced by users from the previous model’s 26mm lens.

DJI incorporated what they call “DJI Matrix Stereo” in the Pocket 2 for audio. The DJI Matrix Stereo is a set of four different microphones on the handle. These microphones will dynamically record sound depending on the direction you’re shooting in or if you’re zooming in or out. And this solves many of the issues associated with audio in filmmaking.

I must also mention the 3-axis gimbal that allows you to effortlessly record smooth cinematic footage. If you are looking for a tiny filmmaking powerhouse that you can easily carry about (the pocket 2 can fit into your pocket), then the Pocket 2 is what you’ve been looking for.

 Quick Specifications

  • Type: Camera-and-gimbal system
  • Dimensions: 5 x 1.5 x 1.1 in / 12.5 x 3.8 x 3 cm
  • Weight :  0.26 lbs / 117 g
  • Resolution: 64MP and 16MP photo modes
  • Sensor size: 1/1.7” CMOS sensor
  • Video: 4K

Pros

  • Affordable, compact, and all-in-one filmmaking powerhouse.
  • Larger sensor improves low light performance and footage quality.
  • 4k UHD. Can even record slow motion in 4k up to 60 FPS.
  • Image stabilization.
  • DJI Matrix Stereo.

Cons

  • No weatherproofing,
  • Users must connect their smartphones to the pocket gimbal, then complete DJI’s mandatory registration process before using the camera.
  • Unchangeable lens. Also, you can record for long periods in a single shot.

Sony FDRAX53/B 4K Camcorder

Sony FDRAX53/B 4K HD Video Recording Camcorder (Black)

$998.00  in stock
12 new from $998.00
8 used from $793.36
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as of March 1, 2021 3:18 am

Camcorders are specifically designed for taking pictures and the Sony FDRAX53/B 4K HD Video Recording Camcorder is no exception. This camcorder comes with a 16.6 MP sensor which is responsible for the sharp colors and good low light performance of this camcorder.

The Balanced Optical SteadyShot (B.O.S.S.) image stabilizer on this camcorder is simply phenomenal for handheld shooting and even works better when shooting in HD mode. You can walk while shooting at wide-angle, or zoom in all the way while standing still, and get usable to great footage — no tripod necessary.

This camcorder can record videos in either 4k or full 1080p HD. Like most camcorders, the FDRAX53/B has built-in lenses with an optical magnification of 20x. This is suitable for long-distance photography as it allows you to easily zoom in on any subject you are shooting. While it’s easy to use this camcorder, the small touch screen, and menu structure can be frustrating at times.

 Quick Specifications

  • Type: Camcorder
  • Dimensions: 2.8 x 3 x 0.6 in / 7.3 x 8 x 1.61 cm
  • Weight :  1.2 lbs / 553 g
  • Resolution: 16 megapixels
  • Sensor size: 1/2.5 type (0.28 in) back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS Sensor
  • Video: 4K

Pros

  • Lightweight and travel-friendly.
  • Amazing image stabilization.
  • Good low light performance.
  • Good optical zoom.
  • Easy to use.

Cons

  • The display is small and very glare-prone.
  • Not enough manual controls.

Best Budget Cameras for Filmmaking – The Guide

Now that you know the best camera for filmmaking on a budget available on the market today, the next thing is to take through an extensive buying guide. Here, you’ll learn all you need to know about filmmaking cameras so you’ll be able to make an informed decision when buying one. Here we go.

What Types of Cameras are Available to Film on a Budget?

You can use a mirrorless camera, a camcorder, or pocket gimbal for filmmaking. Many people usually ask me which type of camera is the best. But the truth is that the type of camera you’ll choose will depend on your unique situation and needs. The choice isn’t a clear-cut as it was a few years ago due to the advancement in technology used in the different types of cameras.

Mirrorless cameras are similar to DSLRs in the sense that they have interchangeable lenses. However, they differ from DSLRs by not having a reflex mirror. The lack of reflex mirrors makes mirrorless cameras more compact and portable. Mirrorless cameras in the mid-range series have features that make them suitable for filmmaking.

A camcorder is a type of camera designed specifically for shooting videos. Camcorders also come in portable models and most of them have built-in zoom lenses as well as tilt-and-swivel screens. High-end camcorders usually come with good built-in microphones and professional XLR audio inputs. Overall, camcorders are good at what they are designed for – videography – and aren’t great for still photography.

There is also the camera-and-gimbal system of which the DJI Pocker 2 is an example. This type of camera combines a camera and a lightweight gimbal stabilizer.

How To Choose Your Camera for Filmmaking?

Video Quality and Available Resolutions

Any camera you want to use for filmmaking must have good video quality. And that’s why the cameras on this list can record videos in 4K and 1080p HD. The advantage of filming in 4K is that it gives you more freedom to move your frame around when editing. Simply put, there is more room for post-shooting processing with 4K.

The 4K mode of some of the cameras on this list has some limitations and this is not unusual for cameras in this price range. However, you’ll still be able to fully use the 1080p mode and still get nice footage.

Best cameras for filmmaking on a budget - guide

Frame Rate

The frame rate of a camera refers to the number of individual frames that make up each second of video you record, also referred to as FPS (frames per second.) And the most common frame rates in video are 24, 25, and 30 frames per second.

The FPS of a camera will determine whether you can take slow-motion footage with it. It’s an open secret that slow-motion footage is stunning/mesmerizing and can create a different kind of emotion in the image.

Since you may want/need to use slow-motion creatively at some point in your filming, it’s important to go for cameras that can capture them. For a camera to be able to film slow motion, it must be able to record footage in high FPS, with the minimum FPS required being 50-60 FPS.

Built-in Image Stabilization

Cameras that come with built-in image stabilization makes handheld shooting smooth and nice. Hand-shaking tends to occur during handheld shooting and this will reduce shooting quality if the camera has no built-in stabilization.

You’ll find cameras with built-in stabilization especially useful in situations where you have to move around and don’t have the luxury of setting up your shot. The built-in stabilization will allow you to get more creative with your shots as you move around since it takes the camera shaking out of your footage.

Auto-Focus

This is not the most important feature when it comes to filmmaking but having a camera with fast and accurate autofocus will make filmmaking easier for you. This is because the autofocus will assist you in shooting the highest quality image as well as help you track a subject.

ISO Performance & Low Light Performance

The sensitivity of your camera’s sensor to light is determined by the ISO sensitivity which is represented as a range. And it’s important to have cameras with a wide ISO range.  The general rule of thumb when dealing with ISOs is that brighter scenes require lower ISOs while dimmer conditions mean you need to use higher ISOs.

However, as you increase the ISO, there is a corresponding decrease in image quality as the image will become more grainy (said to contain more noise in photography lingo). So you should always use the smallest ISO you can get away with.

Battery Life

The battery life of a camera should also be taken into consideration though one might overlook the battery life of a camera if other features are more than satisfactory. Some cameras have an eco mode that’s essentially a “battery saver mode” and it helps extend how long the battery will last after charging. The cameras on this list have USB ports and support in-camera charging and this allows you to charge the battery when power levels are low.

Quality of Built-in Microphone

I think many filmmakers forget that audio can make or break a film. If you capture the scenery and the actions of your subjects accurately, they will just be a bunch of moving images without audio. It’s even worse if the audio is bad. Some cameras have high-quality built-in mics but the truth is that external microphones are better than your camera’s internal mic.

Whether you need an external mic will depend on what you are filming. Your camera’s internal mic, if it’s of high quality, may be all you need in some cases.

Final Thoughts

There are a number of quality budget cameras for filmmaking on the market. Some filmmakers have shot award-winning films/footage with some of the cameras on this list. No kidding. You have to consider the type of film you’ll be making and choose a camera that meets your needs.

The buying guide is there to help you make an informed decision when buying a camera. If you are still unsure of which camera to pick or have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me through the comment section. Happy filmmaking!

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