Best Budget Filmmaking Camera

Don’t squander your entire budget on a high-priced camera! Let’s look at the top video and filmmaking cameras on a budget.

If you listen to any renowned independent filmmaker or auteur director speak, you will hear them talk about their inherent love of film. You’ll also likely hear anecdotes about growing up with a low-cost camera in their hands, as well as war stories of filming their first shorts or features on a shoestring budget with the lowest camera they could find.

And, yes, there are a lot of excellent cameras on the market right now, with new technological developments virtually every day. (For example, Sony recently introduced the Alpha 1, a 50MP 8K video behemoth.) However, the goal of videography and filmmaking is not simply to have the maximum pixel count or technology. Simply put, it is to tell a compelling story. The quality of your story is not always determined by the equipment you use.

So, whatever your film and video demands are, instead of blowing your entire budget on a new $5,000+ movie camera, here are 10 budget filmmaking cameras.

Best Budget Filmmaking Camera

1. Sony a6400

In a typical situation, I would have placed the Sony a6500 in this position on the list; but, the a6500 was only recently taken off the market. Having said that, the Sony a6400 is an equally capable camera that shares nearly all of its capabilities with its predecessor. In addition to this, given that it is a more recent model of Sony camera, you will have access to some of Sony’s most cutting-edge technology. The most notable distinction is that it does not come equipped with the 5-axis image stabilization that is available on the Sony a6500.

The Sony a6400 is a small and compact camera that comes loaded with a ton of video functions, just like its predecessor, the Sony a5100. Having said that, you do receive a more advanced weather-sealed body that is significantly more resilient than the Sony a5100 or the Sony a6100. In terms of its video capabilities, the Sony a6400 can record in 4K at up to 30 frames per second and in 1080p at up to 120 frames per second. The Sony a6400 is still one of the only APS-C sensor cameras available at this price point that is capable of shooting at a frame rate of 120 frames per second.

The Sony ZV-1 does, in fact, come equipped with a High Frame Rate (HFR) mode, which enables users to record video at exceptionally high frame rates, including 240 FPS and even 960 FPS, although the sensor area is much reduced in this model.

The rapidity and precision of the autofocus system are one of the most notable benefits of this camera, as it is of other Sony cameras. The fact that the a6400 is a more recent model of Sony camera means that it comes equipped with the most recent autofocus technology, which is a definite plus. The Sony a6400 takes advantage of the tried-and-true Sony combination of 425 phase-detection and 425 contrast-detection points and improves upon it by adding real-time autofocus tracking in video mode. The combination of phase-detection and contrast-detection points allows the camera to more accurately focus on moving subjects.

One more advantageous feature of this camera that distinguishes it from the Sony a6100 is that it comes with a whole collection of photo profiles produced by Sony. This includes the HLG (HDR), S-Log2, and S-Log3 image profiles, each of which will provide you with a greater dynamic range and make it simpler for you to color grade your film in post-production, should you decide to do so.

There are unavoidable drawbacks associated with the use of this camera. It is unfortunate that this camera continues to use the infamously subpar Sony NP-FW50 battery, as a result of which the battery life is not the greatest it could be. It is also difficult to view the LCD screen when there is a lot of light around, and unlike the now-defunct Sony a6500 and the Panasonic cameras discussed in this article, it does not include an integrated image stabilization system.

Despite this, it is still one of the best cameras for filmmaking because it has features that are particular to video, the ability to autofocus, and excellent performance in low light.

2. Sony a6100

The Sony a6100 might be seen as a more affordable alternative to the Sony a6400. Consequently, if you like what you see with the Sony a6400, but you want to save some money for a lens or other camera accessories that you require, this could be a suitable option for you.

The two cameras are extremely comparable to one another, with the exception of a few tiny distinctions. It is essential to comprehend that all of the Sony Alpha APS-C cameras use the same APS-C sensor. As a result, the image quality, video quality, and video frame rates will all be the same.

This also means that despite the fact that it is the most affordable model, the Sony a6100 nevertheless utilizes the same cutting-edge autofocus mechanism as its more expensive counterparts, the Sony a6400 and the flagship Sony a6600. The sole distinction between these three models is that the Sony a6600, the top-of-the-line model, features eye autofocus when recording video, whilst the Sony a6100 and the Sony a6400 do not.

The body of the Sony a6100 is constructed out of plastic, it does not have any form of weather protection, and it does not include photo profiles. These are the key drawbacks when compared to the Sony a6400. When it comes to the art of filmmaking, the most significant deficiency among these shortcomings is likely the absence of picture profiles.

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If you’re having trouble deciding between the Sony a6100 and the Sony a6400, the following comparison will highlight the primary distinctions between the two cameras in terms of their features and specifications.

3. Panasonic G85

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The Panasonic G85 is the next entry on our list, and it is yet another fantastic and budget-friendly video camera for filmmakers. It’s fairly comparable to the Panasonic GH4, and if what you’ve heard about that camera has piqued your interest, then this is another option to take into consideration.

Having said that, there are still certain benefits and drawbacks associated with using either of these cameras, so without further ado, let’s dive into the specifics.

The GH4 and the G85 are visually and physically comparable in many ways, and this is the first thing you will notice about the G85. You receive the same attractive heavy-duty weather-sealed body as the GH4, as well as similar ergonomics, which contributed to the GH4’s widespread adoption.

The focusing technology of the Panasonic G85 is significantly more advanced than that of the Panasonic GH4, and it boasts unrivaled in-body image stabilization as the most significant improvement.

Even while it does not have the greatest autofocus system on this list—the phase-detector autofocus technology that Sony uses is noticeably superior—at least you can rely on it in the majority of scenarios.

The image stabilization within the body of the camera is very remarkable. I have seen many samples of handheld footage shot by other filmmakers that seem like it was filmed on a gimbal.

As I’ve mentioned before, there are several drawbacks associated with using this camera.

The fact that this camera does not support a changing frame rate is easily the most disappointing aspect of it. You have the ability to select several variable frame rates all the way up to 96 FPS with the GH4. However, you are only given the option to shoot in 24 frames per second, 30 frames per second, or 60 frames per second while using the G85. Additionally, there is no connector for headphones, and the battery life is not as good as that of the Panasonic GH4.

Despite this, it is still one of the best cameras for filmmaking, particularly if you are looking for a camera that has image stabilization built-in.

4. Sony ZV-1

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The Sony ZV-1 is Sony’s newest 1″ sensor point-and-shoot camera, and it improves on many of the flaws that were present in the older Sony RX Series cameras as well as the older Sony APS-C cameras, such as the Sony a5100 that we were just discussing.

The following are only some of the significant enhancements that they made. When developing this camera, it appears that Sony paid close attention to the feedback provided by their community and made every effort to incorporate as many improvements as they could. The Sony ZV-1 is now one of the most powerful and budget-friendly filmmaking cameras that Sony has to offer. It also comes complete with everything you need to begin shooting right out of the box.

In terms of its technical specifications, the camera is almost identical to Sony’s most recent APS-C sensor camera, the Sony a6600, which sells for a far higher price. It utilizes the same menu system, strong video autofocus, real-time eye autofocus tracking, and object tracking features as its predecessor. It also comes with the most recent color science from Sony, which gives your videos a better look overall.

I believe that one of the most impressive aspects of this camera is the fact that it comes equipped with the well-known High Frame Rate (HFR) option that is available in the Sony RX series of cameras. Because of this, you will be able to record at exceptionally high frame rates for slow motion, including 240 FPS, 480 FPS, and even 960 FPS in 1080p resolution.

The most astonishing thing is that Sony was able to price this camera at less than one thousand dollars, which is where the focus should be.

You would think that with all of these new capabilities and enhancements, Sony would have priced it at a minimum of around $1,000, which is what other cameras in Sony’s RX series have typically been listed at over the course of their product histories.

5. Fujifilm X-T200

It wasn’t until one of you suggested that I look into this camera that I became aware of the Fujifilm X-T200. After taking a look at it, I have to say that this really is an outstanding budget filmmaking camera.

It is pretty incredible how much Fujifilm was able to pack into such a small camera, especially when one considers that it can typically be purchased for a price that is lower than that of the Panasonic GH4, Panasonic G85, and Sony a6400, all of which are considered to be relatively inexpensive cameras. They are also the most significant competitors of the X-T200.

To begin, let’s go over some of the highlights of this camera and see how it compares to the two Panasonic cameras and the Sony a6400 in terms of its capabilities. The sensor size is the most noticeable distinction between the Panasonic cameras and the Fujifilm X-T200. The X-T200 has an APS-C sensor, whilst the Panasonic G85 and Panasonic GH4 both have Micro Four Thirds sensors. The Fujifilm X-T200 is the clear winner in this comparison.

This difference in sensor size will provide you with the best performance in low light circumstances, and you’ll be able to shoot at higher ISOs without having to worry about introducing an excessive amount of grain into your video clip. This benefit is similar to the one provided by the Sony a6400.

The Fujifilm X-T200 does admirably well in the video department as well. Even while it is not as powerful as the Panasonic cameras or the Sony a6400, it nevertheless provides you with a versatile range of video capabilities that you can use to make a stunning movie. In terms of video frame rates, it is capable of recording in Ultra High Definition 4K at up to 30 frames per second (FPS), and the greatest part is that there is no additional 4K crop in either 24 FPS or 30 FPS, as is the case with the Sony a6400 (1.2x 4k crop in 30 FPS).

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The X-T200 can record in 1080p at up to 120 frames per second, which is superior to the 96 frames per second found in the Panasonic GH4 and the 60 frames per second found in the Panasonic G85.

In addition, you have access to all of Fujifilm’s iconic film imitation modes, just like you would with any other camera from the brand. This is a fantastic cinematic feature to have because it will give you the ability to simulate 11 different classic film looks from Fujifilm film stock such as Provia, Velvia, and Classic Chrome without the need to apply LUTs to your footage. This makes it a great feature to have if you want to make movies.

There are some drawbacks to using the Fujifilm X-T200, but this can be said of any camera. The fact that this camera only features electronic image stabilization, as opposed to the 5-axis image stabilization found in Panasonic cameras, and the fact that there is a 15-minute recording restriction when filming in 4K are the two greatest drawbacks associated with this camera (versus 30 min recording limit in the Panasonic G85)

6. DJI Pocket 2

The DJI Pocket 2 is DJI’s newest pocket gimbal, and it improves upon many of the features of the prior model, both those that were popular and those that were not. The most recent updates have made this one of the most affordable and capable 4K video cameras on the market.

This cinematic short film about making Lunar New Years Dinner and this cinematic test with footage captured during my road trip across Washington State and Oregon were both put together by me to give you a sense of how well the DJI Pocket 2 operates.

It is a no-brainer to purchase the latest version of the DJI Pocket Gimbal given that the price of the base model of the DJI Pocket 2 and the original DJI Pocket Gimbal are so comparable.

If you already own this camera, it may be worthwhile to consider upgrading to the Osmo Pocket 2 because it has twice the slow-motion frame rate, has a larger sensor, and has an upgraded autofocus mechanism. If you do not currently own this camera, it may not be worthwhile to upgrade.

Now, let’s delve a little more into the features included with the DJI Pocket 2 that you may purchase.

For video frame rates, you have the ability to shoot in 4k or 2k at up to 60 FPS, which is quite fantastic and makes it the only camera in this post other than the iPhone that can do this. You also have the option of shooting in 1080p at up to 120 FPS.

When it comes to shooting in slow motion, there is a setting that is specifically designed for that purpose, and it lets you capture up to 240 frames per second in 1080p resolution. The Sony ZV-1 is the only other camera that we are aware of that offers high frame rate options, such as 240 FPS, but it costs twice as much.

The fact that DJI paid attention to user comments and made adjustments to eliminate flaws in earlier models is the feature of this camera that stands out as the most positive. The broader lens and the increased audio quality are, in my opinion, two of the most noteworthy changes made to the device.

A lens with a focal length comparable to 20 millimeters is now included in the package with the camera. This is a significant improvement as many vloggers felt that the old 26mm lens was a little bit too constrained for vlogging purposes. When it comes to focal lengths, you now have a lens that is considerably more versatile thanks to the addition of a 20mm lens as well as two additional zoom options (4x and 8x).

In terms of audio, DJI has included what they call DJI Matrix Stereo in the Pocket Gimbal. This is a collection of four separate microphones that are mounted on the handle, and they will record sound in a way that is dynamic depending on the direction that you are shooting in or whether you are zooming in or out. It is an original approach to the problem of audio, and one that merits a second study, especially considering how essential audio is to the production of movies.

When it comes to the value proposition of this camera as a whole, the answer truly depends on what it is that you’re trying to accomplish. This can be a wonderful option for you if what you’re looking for is something that is a miniature filmmaking powerhouse that is readily portable and can fit in your pocket.

However, this camera does not allow you to change lenses, and it is not as simple to use for photography, so if those are characteristics that are important to you, you should probably look into purchasing another camera instead.

Be sure to check out my DJI Pocket 2 Review if you’re interested in learning more about this camera as well as my first-hand experience with filmmaking if you’re seeking additional information. In this essay, I discuss why I believe the camera is worth the money, and I also include ten of my go-to recommendations for maximizing the capabilities of this particular camera.

7. Panasonic GH4

When you take the Panasonic GH4 out of its packaging for the first time, you will be blown away by how well it is constructed. Even though it is yet another mirrorless camera, it has the appearance and handling of a “traditional DSLR” that is far more expensive. It has a sturdy magnesium body that is protected from the elements and has a nice feel in your palm.

When it comes to filming, the additional mass makes it easier to handle during the shooting process, particularly in comparison to the smaller cameras that we have covered.

One of the most advantageous features of the construction of the camera is that the screen fully articulates, allowing you to easily manipulate it into a range of various positions. This is one of the nicest elements of the camera.

Despite the fact that this is a camera designed for the Micro Four Thirds format, you should not be fooled into thinking that it is incapable of producing professional-quality films.

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The camera is an excellent all-around tool for filmmaking, and it is able to record in Ultra HD 4K at 30/24 frames per second as well as Cinema 4K at 24 frames per second.

You also have the ability to film in slow motion at frame rates of up to 96 FPS at 1080p, which is fairly excellent quality for slow-motion video. This comes in handy if you want to incorporate some slow-motion action into what you’re shooting.

The problems with overheating that are common to Sony cameras are completely absent in the Panasonic GH4, in contrast to the Sony cameras that we have been discussing. Additionally, the battery life is much enhanced.

The autofocus system is the most significant drawback of the GH4 camera. The phase-detection focusing system that Sony cameras have is much superior to the contrast-based autofocus system that this camera employs.

This will be the primary factor that prevents you from purchasing this camera if you are a filmmaker who heavily relies on autofocus.

8. Nikon D3500

This is the only Nikon that made it onto this list, but it is an excellent choice for those of you who are on a tight budget.

The Nikon D3500 is widely considered to be among the very best combinations of camera body and lens package available at its price point. Because the bundle can typically be found for a price that is lower than $500 before tax, which is difficult to beat, let’s compare it to something else and see how it fares.

To begin, it is important to highlight the fact that the camera is equipped with a 24.2MP APS-C sensor, which is exceptional for a device in this price range.

The size is surprisingly manageable for a DSLR camera. The camera has a variety of buttons and dials, which is another feature that I truly enjoy about it. When compared to the Sony a5100, this makes navigating the menu system and changing the settings a great deal simpler.

The Nikon D3500 suffers from the same major drawback as the Sony a5100: it is unable to shoot in 4k resolution. It does go up to 60 frames per second at 1080p, but the ability to shoot in 4k has become much more of a standard these days, especially in this price bracket.

The disadvantages of filmmaking don’t stop there, though. The screen on this camera is another major drawback to using it. Because the screen does not flip out in any way and there is no capability for touch, it will be more difficult to video from a variety of angles.

It is unfortunate that Nikon did not at least add a screen that can be flipped out considering the majority of other cameras have screens that can be moved in some way.

One of the most notable aspects of this camera is the extensive selection of Nikon lenses that can be used with it. There is a lens available that is suitable for every filmmaker’s budget as well as their individual requirements. The sheer variety of new and used glass that is available is a benefit to any videographer, despite the fact that at first, it might not appear to be all that important.

9. Canon EOS M50

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If you want to enter into the Canon ecosystem but don’t want to break the bank, this entry-level Canon camera is a good choice for filming on a budget. Naturally, Canon has one of the best selections of native lenses available on the market for filmmakers, which means that it will not be difficult for you to locate lenses that are suited to the way that you operate.

When you combine that with Canon’s well-known color reproduction, you have a fantastic foundation upon which to build some cinematic footage.

At this price point, the most important question is how it stacks up against other cameras like the Panasonic GH4, Panasonic G85, and Sony a5100.

The camera has a very plastic-like construction, and this will be the first thing that you notice about it. The ergonomics are fine, but there is a conspicuous absence of buttons and knobs on the camera, which makes it a little more challenging to rapidly change the settings than it would be otherwise.

My favorite feature of the Panasonic cameras is the presence of two independent dials for adjusting the exposure. Therefore, you may alter the shutter speed with one dial, and the aperture with the other. Both dials are located on the back of the camera.

Because there is only one exposure dial on the Canon EOS M50, you will have to navigate the menu system in order to make adjustments to either the aperture or the shutter speed. However, it is a marginal improvement over the menu system of the Sony a5100.

The video capabilities of this camera are inferior to those of the Panasonic cameras and even, to some extent, those of the Sony a5100. This is the main flaw with this camera. In spite of the fact that the M50 can record in 4K resolution, the mode is notoriously difficult to work with, and the camera lacks in-body image stabilization.

It is only possible to use the camera’s subpar contrast autofocus technology when recording 4K video because the dual-pixel autofocus cannot be used in this mode. It is rather obvious that the autofocus is searching for the focal point while you are shooting in 4k, which makes the feature pretty much useless in my opinion.

I’m still confused as to why Canon felt it necessary to do this.

When shooting at slow motion frame rates, the M50 is not truly competitive with other cameras like the Sony a5100 or the Panasonic GH4. You are able to film at up to 60 frames per second with the M50, but the resolution is limited to 720p.

The one thing that the M50 has going for it is that its dual-pixel autofocus in 1080p is actually pretty good and performs better than the autofocus in Panasonic cameras. This is the only positive aspect of the camera. The quality of the video can also be considered usable.

Despite this, I believe it is very obvious that the Panasonic cameras are a superior option when compared to other options in this price range.

10. iPhone 13 Pro Max


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