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Cameras for beginner filmmakers

The 5 Best Video Cameras for Beginning Filmmakers

When it comes to the best video cameras for beginning filmmakers, the vast amount of options is staggering. While having so much amazing technology available can be fun, it can also be a little overwhelming. Where do you begin? How do you know you’re making the right choice? Is this really the best budget video camera for filmmaking?

To cut through the noise and help you make an informed, clarified decision that kickstarts your filmmaking journey, we’ve put together a list of the 5 best video cameras for beginning filmmakers!

Things to consider

Before we get started on identifying good video cameras for beginning filmmakers, there are several key factors you should take into consideration when making your choice.

Price

If there’s one thing you take away from this article, let it be this: the most expensive camera does not equate to the best films and videos you can produce. When you’re just getting started and on the hunt for the best DSLR camera for beginners, you don’t want to spend ALL of your money. You’re looking at affordable video cameras for filmmaking, not the most expensive.

Interface and controls

You want to ensure your camera is relatively simple and easy to get to grips with. Some cameras may feature a lot of buttons and menus that can become quite confusing and a little daunting! Simple is best, at this stage.

Manual mode

While auto modes are very convenient and get the job done without you having to do much at all, it’s really important that you can shoot manually. Knowing all of your settings and understanding every part of your camera will make you a better filmmaker in the long run.

Image quality

Simple—in short, whatever camera you opt for, you want it to be great in what it does! Image quality will always be important, no matter if you’re a beginner or a seasoned professional. Of course, the quality benchmark does naturally move depending on your skillset.

Lens options

Having the option to change lenses is a big deal when it comes to picking the right camera. Understanding different ways of framing and knowing how to utilize different focal ranges will help make you a much better filmmaker. From wide to telephoto, lenses are almost as important as the camera body itself.

Affordable video cameras 

So, now you know what to look for, let’s take a look at 5 affordable video cameras for filmmaking. Any of these cameras are a great entry point for beginner filmmakers, some of which I’ve used personally myself.

Panasonic Lumix GH5

Panasonic Lumix GH5
Max resolution4K
Lens mount / interchangeable?Micro Four Thirds / yes
SensorMFT
Megapixels20.3MP
Screen size3.2 inches, vari angle LCD
Max FPS180fps (1080p HD)
Manual modeYes
Media/Memory card slotDual SD/SDHC/SDXC

ProsCons
Incredible stabilizationNot the best when it comes to low-light
Brilliant video specsAutofocus can struggle
Small but durableGetting old (not really)

For starters, this is my personal favorite. I’ll still be using this camera in five years. Ten, even. It’s that good. So, what makes the GH5 the best budget video camera for filmmaking? 

Firstly, the 5-axis in-body stabilization system is phenomenal, practically removing the need for a gimbal. Nine times out of ten, I’m happy to go handheld with this. Secondly, it’s incredibly small which makes it light and relatively easy to get around. The size is quite surprising considering how much of a punch it packs.

Furthermore, there’s 4K up to 60p, 10 bit 4:2:2 internal recording at 1080p (when in 4K you’ll need an external monitor to get that 10 bit), as well as the ability to shoot 1080p up to 180fps. That’s 7.5x slow motion. There’s also a dual card slot for recording to SDXC and SDHC cards like the OWC Atlas S Pro, with multiple recording modes ranging from 24Mbps AVCHD to 4:2:2 10-bit MOV/MP4. Many more little things which have all been incorporated with filmmakers in mind. This is a video camera that can easily satisfy professionals while being user-friendly and simple enough to make a great fit for beginner filmmakers too.

Sony A6400

Sony A6400
Max resolution4K
Lens mount / interchangeable?Sony E / yes
SensorAPS-C CMOS
Megapixels24.2MP
Screen size3 inches, tilting LCD
Max FPS120fps
Manual modeYes
Media/Memory card slotSingle SD/SDHC/SDXC

ProsCons
Tilting screen is good for vloggingMenu can take a while to get to grips with
Solid battery life4K image is cropped
Fantastic autofocusNo in-body stabilization

Much like the GH5, the Sony A6400 has been around for a while now, but continues to hold its own as one of the best video cameras for beginning filmmakers. 

This camera offers up a tilting LCD that’s perfect for vloggers, long battery life, weather-sealed body, and an incredibly impressive autofocus that continues to prove itself as the best in the industry. The A6400 is a very attractive option for those on the hunt for affordable video cameras for filmmaking.

For internal video capture, the A6400 features XAVC S UHD 4K/HD and AVCHD modes with a single SD card slot for recording to pro SDHC and SDXC cards like the OWC Atlas S Pro.

Another thing you’ll want to consider is that as you progress and upgrade in your filmmaking career, having an A6400 means you’ll already be in the “Sony family” of lenses—opening up plenty of options for you further down the line.

Nikon D5600

Nikon D5600
Max resolution1080p (Full HD)
Lens mount / interchangeable?Nikon F (DX) / yes
SensorAPS-C CMOS
Megapixels24.2MP
Screen size3.2 inches
Max FPS60fps
Manual modeYes
Media/Memory card slotSingle SD/SDHC/SDXC

ProsCons
Great image qualityNo 4K
Touchscreen, tilting LCD
Solid autofocus

If the GH5 and A6400 both seem a little “too complicated” or a cut above what you’re looking for as a beginner, this one might be for you.

The Nikon D5600 is basic and it’s this simplicity that makes it one of the best video cameras for beginning filmmakers. It’s an easy go-to and one of my top recommendations for anyone looking to get started. It captures up to 59.94p FullHD with a single SD card slot for internal recording to pro SDHC and SDXC cards like the OWC Atlas S Pro. The combination of its price point, great image quality, and ease of use make it perfect. It won’t take you long to get to grips with and having access to the Nikon lens family (F mount) is a real win.

Despite the low price and simplicity, it still boasts fantastic image quality, good autofocus speed, and a fully tilting, articulate touchscreen!

Blackmagic Pocket Camera 4K

Blackmagic
Max resolution4K
Lens mount / interchangeable?Micro Four Thirds / yes
SensorMFT
Megapixels8.84MP
Screen size5 inches, touchscreen LCD
Max FPS120fps (at 2.6K)
Manual modeYes
Media/Memory card slot1x CFast and 1x SD/SDHC/SDXC

ProsCons
Shoots raw videoBattery life isn’t great
Comes with DaVinci ResolveNo in-body stabilization
Sharo 5” touchscreenNo continuous autofocus

The Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K is a pleasant surprise when it comes to affordable video cameras for filmmaking. Because of the updated model becoming available (BlackMagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K), the 4K can be picked up for a bargain price, considering what it’s capable of. It’s the epitome of the “best video camera for filmmaking on a budget.”

Selling points include the huge, sharp screen on the back so that you can really get a look at what you’re shooting (the 4K images are absolutely stunning). There’s a vast array of ports and connections, it can shoot raw video and, just like the GH5, it operates on an MFT system which means even with a lens fitted, it truly is a pocket cinema camera. Internal recording uses CFast 2.0 and SD/UHS-II card slots, with support for CFast media and SDHC and SDXC cards like the OWS Atlas S Pro series.

In addition, it also comes with a full version of DaVinci Resolve which is much appreciated and makes perfect sense. Once you’ve shot that beautiful 4K footage it’s only right that you go ahead and use some of the best color-grading software out there to edit it!

Canon EOS Rebel SL3 / EOS 250D

Canon EOS Rebel SL3 / EOS 250D
Max resolution4K
Lens mount / interchangeable?Canon EF-S / yes
SensorAPS-C CMOS
Megapixels24.1MP
Screen size3 inches
Max FPS60fps
Manual modeYes
Memory/Media card slotSingle SD/SDHC/SDXC

ProsCons
4K resolution 4K video includes cropping
Very small, lightweight bodyAF system is a little out of date
Great battery life

No list of best video cameras for beginning filmmakers is complete without a look at Canon, right? The EOS Rebel SL3 (or EOS 250D, depending on your location) is a solid option. 

It packs all the great features you’ve come to expect from Canon (including a very responsive LCD and 4K video option) into a very small, compact, and lightweight body. Internal recording uses a single SD card slot, which supports pro SDHC and SDXC cards like the OWC Atlas S Pro. While the 4K image is cropped and the autofocus system may be a little slower compared to other competitors mentioned here, it’s a great introduction to the world of Canon and chances are that once you buy into their world, you won’t want to leave. They’re one of the best, most reliable filmmaking brands—especially when it comes to some of their lens options.


Wrapping up

So, that’s our list of the top 5 best video cameras for beginning filmmakers. Truth is, we could have made this a top 10 or top 15 given how many brilliant, viable options there are out there on the market.

But if we’re being really picky and selective and searching for the very best video camera for filmmaking on a budget, these are the winners. Grab any of these five and we’re confident you’ll be a very happy customer. These affordable cameras are designed to offer you the perfect way into filmmaking, taking you from amateur to professional with an easy, manageable learning curve.

Header image by KAL VISUALS on Unsplash


Josh Edwards
the authorJosh Edwards
Josh Edwards is an accomplished filmmaker, industry writing veteran, and adventuring storyteller based in Indonesia (by way of the UK). He's passionate about travel filmmaking and documents adventures and stories through his films.
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2 Comments

  • The GH5 does have legs, especially if you have an Atomos recorder for 4:2:2 Pro Res recording. I wouldn’t upgrade to the GH6 unless I needed 4K/120 FPS, although I am impressed with it’s improved dynamic range.

  • I’m a GH4 owner, as is one of my twins. The other Twin bought a GH5 last year. The Lumix GH6 was released last month, and it is everything the GH5, GH5s, and GH5 II were not. I will probably have to upgrade… I have a serious case of G.A.S. — gear acquisition syndrome. I get it once or twice in a decade when I see a Shiny New Thing.

    Panasonic absolutely gets it when it comes to video.