Education

November 1, 2016

Get Reel: Top 3 Digital Cameras for Shooting High-Calibre Video

Updated September 22nd, 2018.

Unless you’ve been trapped under an ice sheet in the Antarctic for the past decade, you’ve likely noticed a huge rise in the prevalence of video and its effectiveness in communicating all types of information. With an abundance of powerful cameras on the market, shooting high-quality, professional grade video has never been more accessible. Overwhelmed trying to navigate the undulating sea of choices available to you? We consulted our top cinematographers and Stocksy’s own Head of Video to whittle all of the options down to our three favourites. Whether you’re a novice or a pro, our round-up offers options in a wide range of price tags and functionality so you can choose the camera that fits your project, budget and style.

We’ve also added a handy glossary if some of the following terminology sounds like it’s being transmitted to NASA from one of Jupiter’s moons.


Best Beginner Video Mirrorless Camera

Sony A6500

Announced just a few weeks ago, the A6500 is Sony’s top-of-the-line APS-C camera with image quality that is close to its bigger, full-frame siblings. It holds tonnes of dynamic range with S-Log2, boasts some of the best video autofocus available today and now that it has built-in sensor stabilization, it is the most affordable way to get professional looking 4K video.

A6500 Strengths

  • Great range when shooting S-Log2
  • Very good low-light performance
  • In camera stabilization
  • Can use LCD or EVF to compose and focus
  • Excellent autofocus in video mode
  • Peaking, Zebras, and focus magnification while recording
  • Nearly any lens can be adapted to mount onto the camera

A6500 Weaknesses

  • Poor battery life (45-60 minutes per battery)
  • Awful record button placement
  • No headphone jack
  • Substantial additional crop when shooting 4K/30P and 1080/120P

Price tag: $1500+

Beginner Video Camera Runners-up

Black Magic Pocket Camera, GoPro Hero 5, Panasonic GH4, iPhone 7 Plus


Intermediate Mirrorless Digital Video Camera

Sony A7RII / A7SII

The breakneck speed with which Sony has been releasing cameras can make it hard to keep up, but at the moment these two little powerhouse cameras are the best under $5k value.

The A7R II is Sony’s flagship stills camera which also shoots excellent 1080P and 4K video with lots of dynamic range. The A7SII adds slow motion in 4K and better full-frame performance but at the cost of compromised autofocus and 12MP stills. The built-in stabilizer is incredibly effective for hand-held footage, or while shooting from a vehicle.

A7R II Strengths

  • Up to 12.3 stops of latitude when shooting S-Log2
  • Great low-light performance
  • Can use LCD or excellent EVF to compose and focus
  • Sharp image with no moire or aliasing with the A7RII in cropped mode and A7SII in full frame
  • Peaking, Zebras, and focus magnification while recording
  • Nearly any lens can be adapted to mount onto the camera
  • Excellent built in image stabilization

A7R II Weaknesses

  • Poor battery life (45-60 minutes per battery)
  • Flawed record button placement
  • S-Log3 is more than the 8-bit video codec can handle

Price tag: $3500+

Intermediate Digital Video Camera Runners-up

Blackmagic Cinema Camera, Blackmagic URSA Mini


Professional Digital Video Camera

Red Epic

Now you’re getting into Hollywood territory. Red started with the goal of making digital video cameras that could really compete with film at an accessible price point. A starting price of $24,000 may not sound realistic to a lot of shooters, but before Red came around, 1080p cinema cameras were in the $100,000+ range. Red set a new bar for quality in 2007 – one that independent filmmakers previously could not get a hold of and they continue to push the limits today.

The best place to start with a Red camera is to use someone else’s—either rent, borrow or hire a DP who owns one to get a feel for it. Its dynamic range, colours and image quality are in an entirely separate class from other digital video camera listed and is definitely the Everest of camera aspirations.

Red Epic Strengths

  • World-class image quality with 16.5+ stops of dynamic range
  • Captures in raw for ultimate flexibility in post
  • Shoots up to 6K

Red Epic Weaknesses

  • Relatively heavy and requires larger camera support
  • In addition to the body price, storage and accessories are pricey too

Price tag: $24k+

Runners-up

Sony FS5, Sony FS7, Canon C300 II, Canon C500


Time to Get in The Game

The world of filmmaking is constantly evolving with new, more advanced gear coming out at a lightspeed pace. With all the options offered in the current market, it’s all too easy to start on the filmmaking path. Whether you begin with an introductory level camera or jump right up to renting or owning one of the bigwigs, high-quality cameras are readily available to make your wildest visions come to life in cinema-worthy motion picture. Go make some magic!


Glossary

APS-C

APS-C is an image sensor size of 25.1×16.7 mm with an aspect ratio of 3:2—considerably smaller than 35mm standard film which measures 36×24mm. Because of this, devices with APS-C sensors are known as “cropped frame.” Compared to a full-frame sensor, image quality is lower, particularly when shooting with little light.

Full Frame

The term full frame is DSLR shorthand for an image sensor format which is the same size as 35mm negative (36×24mm) film. They tend to be more expensive when compared to APS-C cameras.

S-LOG2

Ok, without going down a mathematical rabbit hole, S-Log2 is a type of *Log gamma (don’t ask) that allows the camera to capture a much greater dynamic range of light than possible when shooting with conventional television gamma. So basically, you can capture a wide range of light and minimize dark spots and blow out.

*LOG GAMMA

I said, don’t ask. But if you’re really ready to kill some time nerding out, read this article.

STANDARD, HD AND 4K RESOLUTION

Basically the number of pixels that are packed into a display dictates what resolution you are playing with. 4K resolution, also called 4K or Ultra HD, refers to a horizontal resolution of 4,000 pixels and vertical resolution of 2,000 pixels..

High Definition (HD) is a step down from 4K resolution and is usually in 720p or 1080p format.

Standard definition is anything lower than HD.

LCD

Liquid crystal display. Shows you a digital rendering of the picture you just took!

EFV

Electronic Viewfinder. Shows you the picture you’re about to take on your little screen rather than using an optical viewfinder.

PEAKING

A feature that highlights areas in focus, enabling rapid image capture.

ZEBRAS

A feature that overlays a striped pattern, indicating when an element is close to being over-exposed.


For more digital video goodness, check out our interviews with a couple of videographers making cinematic magic at Stocksy, Foster Addington and Sean Horton.


More Great Videos From Stocksy

Education

Why Ungraded Stock Footage?

If you’ve ever watched a car chase scene in a Hollywood production — that 3-minute clip was likely shot over the course of days, weeks, or even months and you’d never know — because ungraded. See how ungraded footage can help you create pro video projects.

Read More

Education

Everyday Bodies

As our imagery and messaging move toward body diversity and inclusivity, there are steps we can take to better champion body positivity in the media. Here are a few ideas...

Read More