Filmmaking is exciting but choosing the right camera for filmmaking can be a daunting task. While filmmaking comes on 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 who are 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.
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 a 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 as 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.
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 make 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.
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.
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.
There are a number of quality budget cameras for filmmaking on the market. You have to consider the type of film you’ll be making and choose a camera that meets your needs.
This 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!