Affordable Options for All Budgets

Elroy Mariano

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One of the greatest benefits of ever-improving technology is the fact that now the average person can afford to buy a professional-quality video camera — and you can get it delivered to your doorstep in just a few days thanks to Amazon Prime’s two-day shipping.

We’ve rounded up a list of cameras perfect for filmmakers of all levels, from beginner to expert, that will fit all budgets, from $200 to $2,000. There are DSLRs, camcorders, and more — in fact, you might already have one of these recommended cameras in your pocket (spoiler: it’s an iPhone). Whether you’re an aspiring or up-and-coming YouTuber or an experienced documentarian, check out this list of professional-level cameras for your filmmaking needs.

Perhaps the best option on this list for the indie filmmaker, this compact cinema camera comes packed with professional features in a small, portable body. With this model, you’ll get a 4/3 image sensor with 4096 x 2160 resolution and an MFT lens mount. The professional specs also include 4K DKI video recording at 60 fps; 13-stop Dynamic Range; carbon fiber composite build; Black magic operating system; 5″ touchscreen LCD; and four built-in microphones. These feature-quality digital images produce precise skin tones, organic colors, and the MFT mount allows you to use super compact, lightweight, and affordable lenses, making it ultra portable. The conveniently placed back panel controls allow you to quickly change shooting speed with the high frame rate button, zoom into the image with the magnifying glass, access setup menus, and quickly play back shots for review. You’ll also get DaVinci Resolve Studio for editing, color correction, audio post, and VFX.

“This camera is amazing. For the price, you won’t find a better cinema camera. The picture quality that comes from this is far superior to anything else available at this price. If you are looking to up your game in videography, and autofocus isn’t a requirement then this is the camera for you. You won’t get a better picture for the price,” writes user Lincoln Horsley.

One note, from user Mo: “I love the quality of raw footage, the only thing I don’t like is the battery life on this thing is very short, however, a NP-F970 battery will keep recording time more than 1.5 hours. I put a battery plate on the cage and use the 12v power input then the recording time became good.”

Writes user Winbush, “I wanted something to record 4k 60fps for my youtube channel and this camera was way more than I expected. Shooting Blackmagic raw has been great and having Resolve included with the camera and sweetened the deal.” And, writes Omar Roshdi, “Coupled with a 0.64x XL metabones speedbooster, the crop factor is 1.21 and you get extra one stop and one step of light. Slam on it Rokinon Cine DS full frame primes and you have got yourself a 4k/60 Fps RAW/Prores capable workhouse of 13 stops of dynamic range all in a very compact design which is capable of shooting in 17:9 aspect ratio. That’s a lower crop factor than an Alexa which gets you more background compression and let’s in more light for better low light capability and giving more depth and blurrier backgrounds. THAT’S INSANE!”

Price: $250

The Canon Vixia comes in a wide range, from this cheap option perfect for beginners or the high-end HF G60. The lightweight, portable HF R800 is a great intro doc camera for middle to high school-aged kids to learn on. A bright 3-inch touch panel LCD screen is clearly visible, even outdoors in the sun, with rich, natural color reproduction. A 57x advanced zoom combined with the SuperRange optical image stabilizer helps correct camera shake quickly, and a high-res HD CMOS image sensor provides full HD video, and it can turn into a high-quality webcam using HDMI output. Other beginner-friendly features include backlight correction, slow and fast recording options, and removable SD cards with quick sharing.

Amazon user David L writes, “Its setup and user options interface is basically a simplified version of the G30 I already have, it records in the SAME 1080/60p format (and has most of the same video quality-level options). It uses the CMO sensor (or a version of it), so low-light quality was fairly crisp…except with dreaded red/pink lighting, then the fuzziness starts to come through…but again, we are talking very dark bars/stages here. Autofocus works well too, it doesn’t spend a lot of time wandering around trying to focus. And damn, the sound quality was also extremely good, comparable to the G30 I have, but requiring a lot less work to get it setup for this kind of audio recording. For this gig, it was a static tripod camera, and it work exactly how I needed it to. It’s so light and affordable, I might just buy another one, rather than get a GoPro for almost $100-$200 more.”

Price: $1300

Key features on this affordable update to the DSLR include a 32.5 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, DIGIC 8 image processor, UHD 4K 30p and full HD 120p video recording, and 3″ 1.04m-dot vari-angle touchscreen LCD for sharp, stunning results. Two multi-controller buttons on the back of the camera make it easy to control customizable camera functions while looking through the optical viewfinder. It also comes with built-in wifi and Bluetooth, enabling fast and easy file transfer to compatible smart devices using the Camera Connect app, direct sharing to various web services, remote shooting options and more.

This particular package, which is $100 more than the list price for the body alone, also comes with a variety of extra accessories, so in addition to the Canon EOS 90D DSLR camera body you’ll get a 64 GB SanDisk memory card and high-speed memory card reader, backpack camera case, TTL flash with zoom function, red eye reduction, wireless shutter release remote, hand grip strap, professional 50″ tripod, camera monopod, and AC/DC travel charger. There’s also a replacement battery grip to offer extended battery (it accepts two batteries, doubling battery life) and a more comfortable grip when shooting in the vertical orientation, plus the original LP-E6 battery pack, Canon original LC-E6 charger, and replacement spare generic LP-E6 battery. The caveat: DSLRs are all about the lenses, and that’s where this can get expensive.

Price: $1300

This solid camcorder option perfect for ENG, event coverage, and independent and documentary filmmaking comes with Canon DIGIC DV 4 image processor, advanced HD CMOS pro image sensor, and a versatile 20x HD optical zoom lens with a focal length range of 26.8–576mm to produce full HD content. Easy controls include 3″ OLED touch panel view screen, manual camera controls, HDMI and composite output. Two XLR terminals means sophisticated and convenient audio recording on two separate channels, and the 5-axis image stabilization system keeps recorded video reliably stable.

In addition to the camera itself, the bundle from this seller also includes a 64 GB memory card and wallet, SD card USB reader, 160 LED video light, BP-820 lithium-ion battery pack and charger, 58mm UV filter, soft padded carrying case, lens cleaning solution, blower brush, microfiber cloth, lens tissue paper, and cotton swabs.

One Amazon customer writes in a review, “I wanted upgrade to my older Canon camcorder. This is just what I wanted the 5 axis stabilization works wonderfully. The ease of the Dual card really makes getting into my editing program much better.” Writes x8xid82, “Hands down has changed everything about how I film. Able to get a great cinematic look.”

Price: $998

There are so many flavors and price ranges of the Lumix, and this option is a great choice if you’re looking to spend less than a grand. Perfect for vlogging and YouTube, this DSLM comes with 12-60mm F3.5-5.6 micro four thirds lens, 5-Axis Dual I.S. 2, 4K 24p 30p video, pre-installed V-Log L, and 3-inch flip-out touchscreen.

One Amazon user writes, “I’m a pro video-photographer and this camera is an astoundingly capable value. Recommended.”

Writes another, “The flexible screen can be easily adjusted to almost any format you want. You can make the screen face outwards or to the back. What I really like about this is that it felt very sturdy/stable, regardless of where you put the screen at. The menu system on this camera is clear and direct. I didn’t feel overwhelmed when scattering through the menu. Very organized and not at all intimidating. Really appreciate the three buttons on top camera for adjusting the white balance, ISO setting, and exposure compensation. Also, each one has a different texture so, over time, you’ll memories which button you’re pressing without even looking at it. The small details matter in the long run. You can customize almost any of the camera controls you want. I didn’t toy with this feature because it’s really based on those who already have a system when shooting professionally. The autofocus is extremely fast and accurate. 4k (30, 25, and 24fps) shoots work like a charm, and yes unlimited recording is allowed! I’ve heard they’re selling a version in Europe that will only allow 30 minutes per shoot. This could be wrong but it’s something you should know if it’s right (Also, you can film in 1080 60fps).”

Price: $1,828

The most expensive option on this list, the a7 mirrorless digital camera features include24MP full-frame Exmor R BSI CMOS sensor, BIONZ X image processor and front-end LSI, 693-point hybrid AF system, and UHD 4K30p video with HLG and S-Log3 gammas. The fast hybrid autofocus system includes a combination of 693 phase-detection points, which cover approximately 93% of the frame, along with 425 contrast-detection areas for reliable and quick autofocus and subject tracking performance. Built-in wifi means you can instantly share imagery to mobile devices so you can immediately share to social networks, or send files via email or to cloud storage sites. Using NFC (near field communication), a linked mobile device can also display a live view image on its screen and remotely control the camera’s shutter.

This particular bundle includes the camera, a Sony NP-FZ100 rechargeable lithium-ion battery, Sony AC adapter, micro-USB cable, Sony ALC-B1EM body cap for E-mount cameras, accessory shoe cap, eyepiece cup, and shoulder strap, plus two-piece Transcend 32GB SD card, deluxe camera gadget bag, 50” tripod, and microfiber cleaning cloth.

User Nuri Yigit writes, “I like the whole package. I am a professional videographer and photographer. I used to use Canon Mark III but since last year I sold all my Canon equipments and start using Sony a7 III because it has a better video quality and it is really compact and affordable so I recommend everyone who is professional or amateur photographer and videographers. The best think about this camera that has slog and when you shoot videos on this camera you could do the color grading and make your videos really dreamy. Also this camera handles up to 10000 iso without any grain. So I give this camera five star[s] always.”

Price: $399

You know generally what you’re going to get with a GoPro, and the latest version of its affordable options comes with folding mounting fingers at the bottom of the camera that allow you to mount the camera directly without using a case or a frame, plus a redesigned battery door for quicker battery changes — not to mention the impact-resistant Gorilla Glass lens that has twice the impact resistance as the HERO7. You’ll also get improved versions of the Hypersmooth 2.0 stabilization; Time Warp 2.0 time lapse that automatically adjusts speed based on motion, scene detection and lighting; and Nightlapse night-mode time lapse. An optional Media Mod expands your accessory possibilities.

This bundle comes with the GoPro HERO8 action camera, two rechargeable batteries, a SanDisk Extreme 64GB U3 Video microSDHC memory card, and a card reader.

User RayRay writes, “The Hero 8 is a great camera (upgraded from a Hero 2, so go figure), and has a lot of built in features that work very well. GoPro app has been working just fine for myself so no complaints there. This bundle is a steal if you are in the market. Batteries are close to $40/pair, the SD card is $15 and the included card reader didn’t change my life but works very well and replaced the other I used to carry. Everything was as advertised, including GoPro brand batteries. Little homework will find you aftermarket batteries cheaper, but the Hero 8 currently requires brand name battery packs, as the aftermarket has a slow discharge rate and will not work with HyperSmooth setting. HyperSmooth 2.0 does work great and worth the jump from the 7 to a 8 model IMO. Battery life is decent and will last over an hour if everything isn’t set to highest specs, but with this bundle including a total of (3) batteries you will be hard pressed to run them all dead unless maybe taking 3-4 hours worth of video. The 64GB card works fast, and using 2.7K resolution/60fps allows over an hour of video. Also recommend looking on amazon for GoPro compatible mounts & bases. Bought a big bag full of misc pieces for $8 on a lightning deal and now have about anything you would need (head mount, chest mount, rollbar clamps, etc…). Definitely recommend this setup”

Price: $899

This mirrorless camera is perfect for content creators of all skill levels, from beginners to advanced amateurs to professionals. Using the 26.1MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS 4 sensor and X-Processor 4 Quad-Core CPU for advanced face detection and auto-focus tracking, you can record 10-bit, 4:2:2 DCI 4K video at 30 frames per second (or 120 frames per second at 1080p) through the camera’s HDMI port. You’ll also get a 3-inch touch LCD with two-way tilting, SR auto mode with 58 presets, and built-in wifi and Bluetooth that make it easy to use the FUJIFILM Camera Remote app for wirelessly controlling the camera or sharing images to smart devices.

Amazon user Steve M writes, “The X-T30 is, in my opinion, the best all-purpose camera under $1,000 right now. The X-T30’s still image quality, video quality, ease of use, and good portability all add up to a winning combination. The only major negative about this camera is the lack of in-body image stabilization (IBIS), which is a sacrifice needed for both cost and weight savings. Arguably the Sony A6400, which is the closest direct competitor, has slightly better autofocus and a more versatile front-facing flip screen, but if you like some of the Fuji-distinctive professional features like manual control dials, film simulation modes, and clean output of 10-bit 4:2:2 over HDMI, you can stop looking right now and just buy the X-T30. Is the X-T30 good enough to tempt you from your current system of lenses to the Fuji ecosystem? I made this exact decision almost two years ago. Getting the X-T20 in late 2017 and using it for a few months led me to sell my 2 Canon bodies, 2 flashes, and 6 lenses because I realized Canon would never give me un-cropped 4K video at a great price. Now, the X-T30 is a vastly superior camera to my beloved X-T20, so you might be next into the Fuji fold!”

Price: $754

Last but not least, you might already own a device that can give you professional-level video: The video quality of an iPhone is unmatched, allowing video recording in high-quality formats from 720p HD at 30 fps up to 4K at 60 fps, depending on the model of your device. The iPhone 11 Pro’s new telephoto lens can capture up to 6X digital zoom, while the iPhone 11 is relegated to 3X.

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