×
Back to IndieWire

Best Cameras for Filmmakers: Affordable Options for All Budgets

This selection of cameras fits budgets from $200 to $2,000 and is perfect for all experience levels, from beginner to expert.

cameraman record movie with digital camera make clip in media production on dark background (banner size)

Yanukit - stock.adobe.com

All products and services featured by IndieWire are independently selected by IndieWire editors. However, IndieWire may receive a commission on orders placed through its retail links, and the retailer may receive certain auditable data for accounting purposes.

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. Finding the perfect camera that gets the job done can be a bit daunting. With so many options to choose from, and tons of customer reviews to sort through, it’s easy to get confused — which is exactly where we come in. We’ve rounded up a list of cameras that are perfect for filmmakers of all levels, from beginner to expert, with a budget ranging from $200 to $2,000. And the best part? You can get these cameras delivered to your doorstep in just a few days thanks to Amazon Prime’s two-day shipping.

If you’re not already subscribed to Amazon Prime, the membership will cost you $12.99 a month but you get a lot of bang for your buck. Among the perks: free and fast shipping on pretty much every item in Amazon’s massive digital storefront. The subscription includes access to Prime Video, where you can watch countless movies and TV series, which is especially great if it helps to get your creative juices flowing. You can also pay for channel add-ons to your Prime Membership including HBO Max for $14.99 a month, Paramount+ for $4.99 a month, or Showtime for $10.99 a month (Showtime is also offering a free 30-day trial for new users).

Featured on our list are DSLRs, camcorders, and more from the likes of Sony, Cannon, Panasonic and other brands. 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 below of professional-level cameras for your filmmaking needs:

Sony A6400 Mirrorless Camera

Choosing the right camera sometimes means finding that perfect balance of functionality that works for video and still photography. Enter the Sony A6400 — a multi-functional option that’s great for 4K recording, and comes equipped with 24.2 MP Exmor CMOS sensor (more than 84 perfect sensory), a lightning fast autofocus speed of 0.02 seconds, advanced real-time Eye-AF and real-time object tracking autofocus with wide 425-phase/425 contrast detection autofocus points, three high-speed continuous shooting settings of up to 11pfs. It also features a 180-degree tillable LCD touchscreen with 921k-dots of high resolution, making video or photo selfie-style shooting super easy. Another cool screen capability: the Touch Shutter, which instantly focuses on the subject and releases a shutter with just one touch. If you want to record in XAVC S format, you’ll need a 2 SDHC/SDXC memory card (Class 10 or higher). Inside the box, you’ll find a rechargeable battery (NP-FW50), AC adaptor (ac-uud12), shoulder strap, body cap, accessory shoe cap, eyepiece cup, and micro USB cable.

Writes user OS: “This camera is definitely an upgrade from my a6000. But that was not my reason to buy it. I was considering the FDR-AX700 camcorder but when I saw the video recording capabilities of the a6400, it seemed like the right choice, mainly because it is much less expensive than the AX700 and smaller. But what really convinced me was that it does not shut down after only a few minutes of recording as the other alpha models and it has no recording [length] limit. Other great new features are the upgraded eye autofocus and the ability to power it directly via the micro USB port. Finally, image quality is [definitely] better than the a6000. I can finally use ISO higher than 1600 knowing my images will look good. And lastly, I really like the silent shutter. It is something I really need sometimes and now I have it.”

Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 4K

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.

Canon VIXIA HF R800 Portable Video Camera 

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.”

Canon 90D DSLR Digital Camera Bundle

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.

Writes user Fabianiam, “I love DSLRs so I was happy that Canon released this model. My previous camera is a 7D ( the very old one) so the only thing I could say is that the 7D feels more solid, it’s a bit heavier and bulkier which makes the 90D feel more like a toy. That is until you actually use it and realize what it’s capable of. Great quality in both video and photo, I am very happy with this purchase.”

Canon XA11 HD Camcorder

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 user writes, “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.”

Panasonic Lumix G95 20.3 Megapixel Mirrorless Camera

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.

Writes one Amazon user, “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!”

Sony a7 III Full-Frame Mirrorless Camera

The most expensive 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.”

GoPro HERO8 Black Waterproof Action Camera

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. ”

Fujifilm X-T30 Mirrorless Digital Camera

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.”

Apple iPhone 12

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 12X digital zoom, while the iPhone 11 is relegated to 6X.

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Shop and tagged , , , ,


Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox