Filmmaking is generally seen as a capital-intensive endeavour. The reason for this is quite reasonable. To make a decent film, you have to get a whole lot of moving parts right. From the logistics to planning, execution, and, of course, the proper gear for the job.
Thanks to the precedent set by huge movie companies with hundreds of millions in their budget, it is easy to get discouraged from even trying.
But we're here to tell you that you don't have to spend a fraction of that to make a more than decent movie of your own.
Sure, the gear you choose to work with is highly important, and you'd be better off with as high a budget as possible, but thankfully, there are also a handful of really affordable cameras out there that you can work with to achieve mind-blowing results.
And what's more? No one will even be able to tell whether they were shot on a six-figure device or on your compact, pocketable cinema camera.
Whether you're making films for YouTube, streaming platforms, or even a big screen, you'd be remiss to underestimate the power of the entries on our list below. We've made sure to carefully select devices based on a combination of affordability and video capabilities. But we’ve ensured that that they offer the greatest degree of each, without sacrificing one for the other.
Now that you know what our goals are and how we arrived at these final results, without further ado, we present you the seven best cameras for filmmaking on a budget.
- The 7 Best Cameras for Filmmaking on a Budget
- What to Consider When Buying
- Filmmaking on a Budget—FAQ
The 7 Best Cameras for Filmmaking on a Budget
1. Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K
Kicking off our list of the best budget cameras for filmmaking is this quite fascinating pocket camera with immense abilities—the Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera, quite popular among veteran filmmakers, but may be unfamiliar to people just getting into filmmaking.
Its build is so nifty-looking, you might dismiss the device at first sight as a toy for kids. But make no mistake about it—this camera is capable of delivering some stunning film work.
It has been employed by a host of serious filmmakers in the past, and its popularity has only grown.
Apart from its attractive pocket design, the Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera also offers a full-sized sensor, 4K DKI video recording at 60 frames per second, and 5" touchscreen LCD.
It is also, again, too easy to dismiss cameras like this, not only thanks to the compact build as mentioned earlier, but also due to its remarkably affordable price tag.
Doing both has drawbacks, though. Its price should be seen as a huge advantage (it is, in fact, one of the reasons it ends up at the very top of our list). When you have a sleek camera at this price, you consider it a plus and not a negative.
It also features a solid carbon fibre composite build, and four built-in microphones, which contributes to its overall amazing audio capabilities. And as we all know, for a great video, the audio is almost as important as the picture quality.
Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K
2. Fujifilm X-T4
The Fujifilm X-T4 is another camera for your consideration with immense filmmaking capabilities at a really affordable price. It has everything you'd need in any filmmaking gear, along with good low light capability and a 5-axis in-body image stabilization (IBIS).
All this lends it a much-needed steadiness for serious filmmaking. It also boasts unique technologies, such as its image manipulation feature.
Other notable features and specifications include 15 frames-per-second continuous shooting, a vari-angle touchscreen LCD for finding the best angles for a shot, external microphone and headphone port (which is valuable for filmmakers), and a fast shutter speed of 1/8000s.
The Fujifilm XT4 is, of course, perfect for taking normal shots, too, and for giving that extra mechanical support needed for ordinary high-quality low light photography. For connectivity, you have the full built-in wireless, Bluetooth, and NFC options.
Having personally tested the camera ourselves multiple times, our conclusion remains that the X-T4 is one of the best APS-C cameras from Fujifilm so far—which is saying something given the company's impressive reputation in this sphere.
It is also a truly impressive camera for filmmakers on a budget.
3. Sony Alpha a6400 or Sony Alpha a6600 (for built-in image stabilization)
The Sony Alpha 6400 and 6600 are both great cameras worthy of serving as your go-to gear as a filmmaker, especially if you happen to be on the lookout for the highest bang-for-your-buck out there.
The Sony Alpha A6600 was introduced in August 2019 as the latest in the A6 line, with the 6400 released in January 2019. And just like their closeness in age, the differences between them are quite subtle, but when it comes to filmmaking, the most important new feature of the A6600 is its built-in image stabilization.
They're both one of your best options when it comes to budget filmmaking and capturing in low light. They both feature impressive AF (which the company claims to be the world's fastest at 0.02 seconds), both shoot continuously at 11 frames per second, and offer real-time AF tracking.
Among other highlights present in both products, we have the great battery life, lock dials, compatibility with mics and headphones (which obviously comes in handy for filmmaking), and a decent viewfinder.
Of course, there's also the 4k 60 frames-per-second video and 120 frames-per-second high-speed video.
In terms of physical properties, the A6400 weighs about 403g, while the A6600 weighs 503g, with a thickness of 69mm, as opposed to the 50mm of the A6400, both of which are about average.
Sony Alpha a6400 and Sony Alpha a6600
4. Canon 90D
Canon 90D is without a doubt one of the best APS-C cameras out there, beloved by both traditional Canon users and even folks who weren’t previously a fan of the brand.
If you’re looking for what makes this camera so special, you'll likely find it in its convenient price relative to its numerous functionalities, its 32.5 megapixel native resolution, and also in the fact that it is a continuation of an already impressive line of products, which includes the Canon 80D and 7D Mark II.
At any rate, the 90D manages to take all the strengths of these cameras, and add significant improvements and novel features, include the major bump in native resolution.
Oh, and even with its increased resolution, it is still able to shoot continuously at 11 frames per second.
In terms of being a budget filmmaking camera, the 90D is just as perfect as they come. It, unsurprisingly, shoots 4K, has an external microphone and headphone port for better audio, and features a vlogging-friendly top LCD display.
The 90D also has a great low light autofocus, a 100% viewfinder coverage, sharp ISO range of 100-25600 (expandable to 51200), and a generally tough, solid build.
Physically, it weighs about 701g with a 77mm thickness, which again emphasises the toughness and fortitude we talked about earlier.
Finally, other impressive features of the Canon worth mentioning include its great battery life at a stunning 1300 shots; its dual pixel autofocus, built-in wireless and Bluetooth connectivity, articulating screen, and weather sealed exterior.
5. Panasonic GH5
The Panasonic Lumix is a solid series in the camera world with enough respect to warrant buying a product based on trust alone.
If you were to do so with the GH5, you would really have nothing to be afraid of in terms of quality, affordability, and longevity.
The GH5 is a pro mirrorless camera with a CMOS Sensor of 20.2 megapixels, and a host of other incredible highlights. Most important of these, though, is its video capabilities in this context.
It does everything you'd want your video camera to do, and then some. It shoots in 4K, has a great image stabilization, a fully articulated screen, and a solid 180 frames-per-second high-speed video capacity.
This product got a significant level of hype from Panasonic prior to its release, and, speaking from experience, it is safe to say that the GH5 is a camera that very much lived up to these great expectations.
Physically, it features a sleek, compact exterior almost like a rugged Canon. It is a full 725g in weight and 87mm in thickness, both of which are just above average in its class of pro mirrorless cameras.
Other impressive attributes of the GH5 that you're likely to find interesting are its 3680k dot electronic viewfinder, 12.0 frames-per-second continuous shooting, built-in electronic viewfinder, and a fast shutter speed at 1/8000s.
All in all, the GH5 is a great camera with endless impressive features, but of course its ultimate attraction here remains its high-quality video capacity. It also sports an advanced “Depth From Defocus” (or DFD) technology—an autofocus system for interpreting scene and increasing autofocus.
6. DJI Osmo Pocket
The DJI Osmo Pocket is fast becoming one of the most popular compact digital video cameras, successfully displacing a lot of already-established devices that serve a similar purpose. What makes the Osmo Pocket so special, though?
Well, we have the portability, of course, the three-axis gimbal stabilization, an HDMI capability, and, most importantly, the dedicated vlogging and video features.
First, let's talk about its size, which is no doubt one of the most impressive things about it, along with its performance and affordability. The Osmo Pocket is very compact. It is in fact generally regarded as the smallest stabilized handheld camera the company has ever designed.
It shoots 4K resolution at 30 frames per second, and has a flexible flip that makes shooting selfies ridiculously comfortable. It is also capable of producing highly detailed photos thanks to its 1/2.3-inch sensor and a three-axis gimbal stabilization.
And in case all of these aren't impressive enough, the Osmo Pocket also shoots great time-lapse videos, has a Story Mode and NightShot feature for low light, and is compatible with practically any android or iOS device out there.
All in all, with this small machine, you get to shoot a smooth, stable, highly-detailed video pretty much anywhere and anytime you feel like recording.
DJI Osmo Pocket
7. Canon SL3 (EOS 250D)
Rounding off our list of the best cameras for filmmaking on a budget is the Canon SL3, which is also popularly referred to as the EOS 250D. It is an entry-level DSLR camera with a 24 megapixel APS-C sensor, 449g light frame, and stunning video capability.
The EOS 250D is also noteworthy for its high performance and ruggedness. With a battery life of 1070 shots, you know you're covered when it comes to dependability. You can shoot outdoors or away from an outlet for as long as you want without having to worry about changing batteries every other minute.
As with every other entry on the list, with the Canon SL3, you also get to shoot in 4K should you choose to (although many budget filmmakers consider it overkill where a simple 1080p would do for smoother post processing).
Still, the SL3 gives great quality either way, along with built-in wireless and Bluetooth connectivity, fully-articulated screen, optical built-in viewfinder, and flash sync port.
Physically, it has a compact, traditional-looking exterior, along with a tight grip that is almost a given among Canon cameras of this class.
Other noteworthy features of the SL3 (250D) that earned it a place on the list are its max ISO of 25600, expandable to 51200, selfie-compatible LCD screen, high video bit rate of 120 megabytes per seconds, and an external microphone port for even better audio.
Canon SL3 (EOS 250D)
What to Consider When Buying
For those who are quite adept at choosing cameras to fit a purpose, our list is more than comprehensive enough to ensure you're able to make the most optimal decision. For those who aren't quite as familiar, though, here is a handy guide on what to look out for while you shop:
This is an absolute no-brainer. If you want to make great movies, obviously you want a great camera with an outstanding video quality.
Well, all the entries on our list fulfil this criteria to a more than satisfactory extent. They all provide high-quality pictures and 4K resolution capability.
Now, speaking of 4K, another important thing to keep in mind is whether or not to shoot in it. Shooting in 4K is great, but also causes a good deal of extra spending thanks to the size and the post-processing peculiarities that come with it. Unless you are presenting your films on monitors that support 4k, you may want to record in 1080p instead.
And then, of course, there is the decision of which to go for between 4K at 30 frames per second and 4K at 60 frames per second. To be honest, either is great, and it all depends on you.
Ease of Use
The ease of use of your camera is another important quality to consider. Of course, "ease of use" is a tricky term, thanks to the fact that it can refer to quite a number of things.
For example, when you talk about ease of use, you could be talking about the compactness and portability of the camera, which makes it easier to lug around, especially during times when you're going to be moving around a lot.
And then there's the ease of use on the technical side of things. This is with regards to the features and flexibility of the camera, whether or not there is a learning curve, and the customizations available.
All of these are important factors to consider.
Low Light Performance
It's easy to take a look at most finished videos that we find inspiring and assume that everything will run just as smoothly when we’re making ours. This is usually false.
Not all shooting conditions are the same. There will come a time when you'll have to shoot in low light and make the best of the situation you're given.
Now, your manual expertise surely comes into play when shooting in low light, but at the same time, the gear you're working with also matters a lot.
For what it's worth, this factor was greatly taken into consideration when compiling our list, and all entries here are among the best in their classes when it comes to low light photography.
This is another factor that becomes important when shooting in conditions that are less than optimal, or those that you could not even foresee entirely. An example of this is shooting an improvised scene outdoors in the woods.
You don't want to be left hanging with the perfect frame right in front of you because your camera ran out of battery.
Also, regardless of how strong your camera's battery pack is, shooting in 4K tends to really take its toll. Shooting 4K with a camera that has an already weak battery is obviously not the best option in this case.
Finally, a good rule of thumb is to go with a camera that gives a USB charging option. And, of course, always pack a pair of extra batteries in your kit.
Video Processing Capacities
For serious videography, especially those dealing with high-definition and ultra high-definition filmmaking—which is practically everyone nowadays—the size of your video processing ability matters a lot.
Ideally, you should go for a camera with a bit rate of no less than a 100 megabytes-per-second. A good number of the cameras on our list above perform way better than this, with a bit rate of about 150 megabytes-per-second or higher.
You never know when having a tilting screen is going to come in handy. It definitely does when you're shooting in confined spaces.
Not all devices offer tilting screens, of course, and that's fine. It isn't a deal breaker by any means, just an additional plus to look out for that may give the final push you need to make a final decision.
A few of the cameras on our list have tilting screens and are selfie-friendly for personal vlogs.
Filmmaking on a Budget—FAQ
DSLRs/Mirrorless Cameras - any Good?
A common question asked by filmmakers trying to get things done on a budget is usually along the line of wondering whether or not DSLRs and mirrorless cameras can get the same job done that videos cameras will.
The answer to this is yes. DSLRs are actually great for filmmaking. A lot of established filmmakers, in fact, usually opt to still have a Canon DSLR with them, or a simple Sony mirrorless, no matter how many million-dollar devices they have at their disposal.
Also, modern mirrorless and DSLRs, as mentioned above, are great for low light conditions.
4K, UHD, FHD?
As mentioned earlier, not all filmmakers will have to be shooting in 4K ultra high-definition. Still, at the very minimum, you should be able to get yourself a camera that shoots in 4K, and also has a solid 1080p full high-definition capability at a very convenient price.
4K shooting capability is now the standard for most cameras, and certainly all entries on our list abide by this standard.
Also, for those who are unclear as to the distinctions between the terms 4K and Ultra HD, usually 4K is defined at 4096 x 2160, while UHD is at 3840 x 2160. For most intents and purposes, they pass as the same thing.
What About Lenses? Do they Matter?
Oh yes, lenses. Good question! Well lenses are just as important for great videography as they are for great photography, which is why another thing you should ensure to be on the lookout for before making your final decision is lenses.
Among the questions you should be asking yourself are: Are there a good range of lenses available for these cameras? Can I get used lenses in good condition easily for this gear? Just how expensive are they?
You really don’t want to spend the whole time saving on a camera only to spend ten times that on lenses alone. And yes, this happens!
Well, regarding the entries on our list, the answer to these questions are generally in the positive. So, should you choose to go with any of them, you can consider yourself also covered on that front.
Filmmaking on a budget is a totally achievable goal. Thanks to the improvements in technology over the years, you can easily find yourself high-quality cameras to shoot your videos with and appear as professional as ever. Most of the best cameras you can employ for this task have been featured on our list above.
They all offer everything you'd want from a video camera, even though most of them are DSLRs, mirrorless, and compact cameras.
At the very top of our list is the Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K, which is not a typical DSLR or mirrorless camera, but a proper video camera created specifically for the purpose of helping you get incredible moving shots at truly impressive price.
Another outstanding device on the list with the right combination of affordability and compression features is the FUJIFILM X-T4. It not only has great low light capabilities, but also comes with a 5-axis in-body image stabilization system and strong AF.
We have also included at the end of our list an in-depth buying guide to help you get familiar with all the metrics we took into consideration before making our final compilations.
We also have a terminologies and features clarification, and a frequently asked questions section to help clarify any question you may have regarding filmmaking on a budget and how to make sure you get the best possible result with the least possible hassle.