Best Camera for Filmmaking on a Budget

If you are looking for the best camera for filmmaking on a budget, the most important factors to consider are video quality, frame rate, and sensor size.  I’ve researched several cameras for filmmaking with these features and found the five best ones on the market.

As an amateur filmmaker, I didn’t let the lack of proper equipment and money stop me from making movies. Sure, it’s great to shoot using professional film cameras such as Arri and Red. But what’s the point of having one if you can’t use and maximize all its features?

My film professor in university once said that it’s not about the equipment you have. Instead, it’s about the person behind the film. No matter what kind of equipment you use, you can create a fantastic movie as long as you have passion and skill.

With these in mind, I’ve looked into several online sources to determine the five best budget cameras for filmmaking. I’ve also read multiple reviews from customers and professionals to gather each camera’s pros and cons.

All cameras on this list cost less than $2,000 with included lens kit. Each camera also has at least 1080p resolution for a sharp video quality.

Read on to learn the best budget cameras for filmmaking, ideal for both students or amateurs.

What Type of Camera Should I Buy for Filmmaking?

Before diving into my best picks, I would first discuss the camera types you can use in filmmaking.

The kind of camera you should buy depends on the type of content you want to film and your budget.

However, the most common cameras for filmmaking on a budget are DSLRs, mirrorless, and compact stills.

Below, we discussed each type to help you decide which one’s best for your needs and budget.

DSLRs and Mirrorless Cameras

These two are the go-to cameras for filmmakers on a budget.

Nikon D5600 Digital SLR Camera

DSLRs use a mirror inside the body to reflect images into an optical viewfinder.

Fujifilma X-T30 Mirrorless Digital Camera

In contrast, mirrorless cameras don’t have a mirror. Instead, it captures images straight to the sensor at the back of the camera, which proceeds to an electronic viewfinder.

Nonetheless, both DSLRs and mirrorless cameras offer high-quality, sharp footage and shallow focus shots.

Videos are in high-resolution, owing to their advanced sensors, interchangeable lenses,  and manual camera settings.

Cinema Cameras

Canon C100 Mark II Cinema EOS Camera

This type of camera delivers exceptional, professional-level sharpness, even in low light.

A cinema camera only shoots video instead of photographs, which is suitable for serious filmmaking. It also records in professional video formats that offer more control in post-production.

Compact Still Cameras

Panasonic Lumix 4K Point and Shoot Camera

Also known as point-and-shoot cameras, compact still cameras have built-in zoom lenses. They allow you to shoot videos without adding accessories, making them ideal for travel and family use.

However, their video resolution isn’t as good as DSLRs or mirrorless cameras. This is because they have smaller sensors.

Action Cameras

GoPro HERO9 Action Camera

An action camera is small, lightweight with a shockproof body to withstand rough shooting conditions. This type of camera is excellent for outdoor use, like sports and travel videos. It can also capture photos, albeit at a lower quality than DSLR and mirrorless models.

A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites in 2022

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Dimensions: 3.07 x 5.47 x 4.13 inches
  • Model Name: Panasonic LUMIX GH4
  • Special Feature: Lightweight
View On Amazon →Read Our Review
  • Dimensions: 7.01 x 3.37 x 3.78 inches
  • Model Name: Canon EOS 80D Digital SLR Camera Body
  • Special Feature: Image-stabilization
View On Amazon →Read Our Review
  • Dimensions: 4.15 x 2.36 x 1.7 inches
  • Model Name: Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 4K
  • Special Feature: Portable,Lightweight
View On Amazon →Read Our Review
  • Dimensions: 4.9 x 1.18 x 1.5 inches
  • Model Name: Sony ZV-1 Camera for Content Creators and Vloggers
  • Special Feature: BIONZ X Image Processor
View On Amazon →Read Our Review
  • Dimensions: 4.9 x 1.18 x 1.5 inches
  • Item Weight: 4.13 Ounces
  • Special Feature: Glamour Effects
View On Amazon →Read Our Review

5 Best Camera for Filmmaking on a Budget

Panasonic Lumix GH4 – Best Overall Camera for Filmmaking on a Budget

Panasonic Lumix GH4 Professional 4K Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera

We chose the Panasonic GH4 as the best overall budget camera for filmmaking due to its value for money.

Although it’s a mirrorless camera, we appreciate how the GH4 looks and feels like a DSLR. It has a solid weather-sealed magnesium body that makes it easier to grasp when shooting videos.

The GH4 offers exceptional 4K resolution at 24/30 frames per second (FPS). It also provides good low light performance and a fast autofocus (AF) speed.

Besides 4K video, this compact mirrorless camera also includes focus peaking, zebra settings, and other image tweaking adjustments. These features make shooting footage simpler.

Moreover, the GH4 allows you to choose between various frame rates, bit rates, and codecs for your clips. If you want to achieve slow-motion video, you can slow frame rates up to 96 FPS at 1080p resolution.

Finally, the GH4 uses a micro four-thirds sensor. This sensor size has a 2x crop factor compared to full-frame cameras. Thus, the sensor absorbs less light, which is not ideal in low-light shooting.

But depending on your needs, the GH4’s sensor size could either be a disadvantage or an advantage. The most significant benefit is it’s smaller and lighter than full-frame cameras. 

The Panasonic Lumix GH4 is a great all-around filmmaking camera. It only costs less than $700 for the camera body. It is one of the best Panasonic cameras today.

Technical Specs

  • Sensor Type: CMOS 
  • Sensor Size: Four Thirds (17.3 x 13 mm)
  • ISO: Auto, 200-25600
  • Resolutions: 4096 x 2160 (24p), 3840 x 2160 (24p, 25p, 30p), 1920 x 1080 (24p, 25p, 30p, 50p, 60p), 1280 x 720 (24p, 25p, 30p), 640 x 480 (25p, 30p)
  • Lens Mount: Micro Four Thirds
  • Video Format: MPEG-4, AVCHD
  • Microphone: Stereo
  • Speaker: Mono
  • Storage: SD/SDHC/SDXC
  • Connectivity: USB 2.0, micro-HDMI, microphone and headphone port, built-in Wi-Fi Direct

Canon EOS 80D – Best DSLR Camera for Filmmaking on a Budget

Canon EOS 80D Digital SLR Camera

If you are looking for the best budget filmmaking camera, consider the Canon 80D.

Unlike other cameras, this enthusiast-level DSLR from Canon lacks 4K video resolution. However, it can shoot 1080p video at 60 FPS, ideal for both hobbyist and enthusiast filmmakers.

It also offers continuous focusing on video mode. It uses a Dual Pixel phase-detection autofocus system and a 45-point hybrid cross-type one. These make it easier to film moving subjects and low-light scenes.

Besides being a great camera for filmmaking, the 80D also offers great image quality. So if you are also interested in still photography, consider getting this one.

Additionally, this APS-C sensor camera has a 3-inch articulating touchscreen that makes controls accessible. Meanwhile, its weather-sealed body resists dust and moisture when shooting.

Furthermore, the 80D allows you to connect an external microphone for excellent sound quality. You might find this feature useful if you need to capture audio for your videos.

Lastly, the 80D is compatible with most Canon EF lenses. You can choose from hundreds of affordable lenses to achieve a distinct Canon footage look on your film.

At a package costing as low as $800, the Canon EOS 80D is one of the best cameras for filmmaking on a budget. It also offers very good value

Technical Specs

  • Sensor Type: CMOS
  • Sensor Size: APS-C (22.5 x 15 mm)
  • ISO: Auto, 100-16000 (expands to 25600)
  • Resolutions: 1920 x 1080 (60p, 30p, 24p), 1280 x 720 (60p, 30p)
  • Lens Mount: Canon EF/EF-S
  • Video Format: MPEG-4, H.264
  • Microphone: Stereo
  • Speaker: Mono
  • Storage: SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-I support)
  • Connectivity: USB 2.0, mini-HDMI, microphone and headphone port, built-in Wi-Fi with NFC

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K – Best Cinema Camera for Filmmaking on a Budget

Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 4K

If you want pro features at an affordable price, the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera might suit your needs.

The BMPCC allows you to shoot RAW and ProRes at 4K resolution. These files retain a significant amount of detail, giving you amazing footage. On the flip side, they are huge files and fill up your storage cards fast.

For your audio needs, the BMPCC 4K includes a mini-XLR input. This allows you to connect professional microphones while filming.

Moreover, the BMPCC 4K has a combi-polycarbonate/fiberglass body that feels sturdy and well-weighted. It’s easy to carry around and set up, unlike other professional film cameras.

As for the display, the Blackmagic Cinema Camera comes with a 5-inch LCD screen. It offers a sharp and bright image, making it easy to compose your frame.

The only downsides about the BMPCC 4K are the lack of built-in image stabilization and poor battery life. We don’t recommend it to beginners who like to film on-the-go. This camera shines the most on controlled conditions, such as studio shoots.

Overall, the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera is one of the best video cameras for budget. It costs less than $1305 for the body only. 

Technical Specs

  • Sensor Type: CMOS
  • Sensor Size: Four Thirds (17.3 x 13 mm)
  • ISO: 100-25,600 (Expanded)
  • Resolutions: 4096 x 2160 (60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, 24p), 4096 x 1712 (75p, 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, 24p), 2880 x 2160 (80p, 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, 24p), 2688 x 1512 (120p, 75p, 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, 24p)
  • Lens Mount: Micro Four Thirds
  • Video Format: Raw, ProRes 422HQ, ProRes 422, ProRes 422LT, ProRes 422 Proxy
  • Microphone: Stereo
  • Speaker: Mono
  • Storage: CFast, SD UHS-II
  • Connectivity: USB Type-C, HDMI, Mini XLR Mic/Line Level Input, Stereo Mic/Line Level Input, Stereo Headphone Output, Bluetooth Control

Sony ZV-1 – Best Point-and-Shoot Camera for Filmmaking on a Budget

Sony ZV-1 Digital Camera

The Sony ZV-1 shoots in 4K resolution up to 30 FPS and Full HD up to 120 FPS. It even allows high slow motion frame rates such as 240 FPS, 480 FPS, and 960 FPS in 1080p. With these, you can add dramatic effects to your videos.

This compact still camera from Sony has a fixed lens equivalent to a 24-70mm F1.8-2.8 lens. It’s great for everyday use, but it limits your options since it’s not interchangeable.

Additionally, this point-and-shoot camera offers powerful autofocus features. It has real-time eye autofocus tracking and object tracking capabilities, making it easy to fixate on the subject while shooting.

Moreover, the Sony ZV-1 includes a fully-articulating touchscreen LCD with an easy-to-learn menu system. It also includes an optional directional mic with a windscreen. These features are ideal for vloggers and those who shoot on-the-go.

However, this Sony camera only uses a 1-inch sensor, which performs poorly in dimly lit conditions. Keep this in mind if low light performance is important to you.

The battery life of this camera isn’t also good since it has a smaller body. Plus, it only charges via USB, so you can’t purchase another spare battery.

Nonetheless, consider the Sony ZV-1 if you want an excellent video camera at a pocketable design. At less than $800, the Sony ZV-1 offers value for your money.

Technical Specs

  • Sensor Type: BSI CMOS
  • Sensor Size: 1”
  • ISO: Auto, 100-12800
  • Resolutions: 4096 x 2160 (30p) 1920 x 1080 (120p, 30p)
  • Lens Mount: N/A; built-in lens
  • Video Format: NTSC/PAL AVCHD, XAVC S 4K
  • Microphone: Stereo
  • Speaker: Mono
  • Storage: SDXC/SDHC Memory Card (UHS-I U3 or higher)
  • Connectivity: USB 2.0, Micro HDMI, Multi-Interface Shoe, 3.5 mm Microphone Input, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Control

DJI Pocket 2 – Best Portable Camera for Filmmaking on a Budget

DJI Pocket 2 Creator Combo

The DJI Pocket 2 is a powerful portable camera capable of shooting 4K videos at 60 FPS. If you want to achieve slow-motion clips, this camera also shoots up to 240 FPS at 1080p.

It features a wide 20mm lens that captures more of the scene in front of you. This compact camera is ideal when shooting action and landscape subjects.

The DJI Pocket 2 also features hybrid AF capabilities. It uses both phase-detect autofocus and contrast-detect autofocus to fixate on the subject.

But perhaps the most impressive feature of the DJI Pocket 2 is its image stabilization. It delivers incredibly smooth footage, owing to its 3-axis motorized gimbal.

Besides the impressive video quality, the DJI Pocket 2 also provides high-quality audio. It comes with four directional mics to capture detailed sound.

However, the DJI Pocket 2 is not suitable for professional-level creative filmmaking. Instead, it is geared towards vloggers who need useful video features in a tiny package. 

The DJI Pocket 2 only costs less than $500, making it one of the best cameras for filmmaking on a budget.

  • Sensor Type: BSI CMOS
  • Sensor Size: 1/1.7”
  • ISO: 100-6400
  • Resolutions: 4096 x 2160 (60p, 50p, 48p, 30p, 25p, 24p) 1920 x 1080 (240p, 120p, 60p, 50p, 48p, 30p, 25p, 24p)
  • Lens Mount: N/A; built-in lens
  • Video Format: MP4 (MPEG-4 AVC/H.264)
  • Microphone: Directional
  • Speaker: Mono
  • Storage: SDHC/SDXC UHS-I
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi & Bluetooth Monitoring

How to Choose the Best Camera for Filmmaking?

With so many great options on the market, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when choosing the best affordable camera for filmmaking. To make the task easier, you should consider your needs.

Ask yourself if you require 4K resolution, auto-focus capabilities, or image stabilization. These features are nice to have, but you might not need them, depending on the type of content you’ll be shooting.

Below, we included the essential factors you should consider when buying a budget camera for filmmaking.

Video Recording Mode

If you want to achieve high-quality videos, consider the camera’s video recording modes. Choose a camera that is capable of shooting at least 1080p Full HD video for detailed clips.

Fortunately, most cameras today already offer 4K resolution. Shooting on 4K gives you clearer and sharper images. The extra pixels found on 4K video also allow you to crop or zoom clips through editing easily.

The only downside is that this resolution takes up more space on your storage cards. 4K video is also harder to process when editing.

Frame Rate

Besides resolution, you also have to consider the frame rate. The standard is 24 frames per second (FPS), which most motion picture films in the United States use. For those in the UK or PAL country, the standard is 25 FPS.

If you’re planning to shoot slow-motion videos, you need a camera that can shoot at higher frame rates. Depending on how slow you want, you can go for 60, 120, or 240 FPS.

Sensor Size

Another essential factor when buying a camera is the sensor size.

It determines the amount of light captured by your camera. The bigger the sensor, the more light can enter the camera. Thus, it results in greater image quality.

Sensor size also directly impacts lens compatibility, depth of field, and angle of view at a particular focal length.

The most common sensor sizes among budget cameras are full-frame, APS-C, and Micro Four Thirds.

Lens Compatibility

Before purchasing a camera, you must determine the type of lenses compatible with it.

Even if you only use one lens initially, you’ll need various lenses in the future as you enhance your skills.

Ask about the lens mount of the camera. You should also inquire about the native and third-party lenses available for that model.

Doing so will save you from buying another camera down the line.

Ease of Use

You want to purchase a camera with intuitive controls. These make it easier to navigate through menus when shooting.

Some cameras, such as Panasonic Lumix GH4, now come with a touchscreen display. Through this, you can quickly change settings without pressing several buttons.

Sound

Besides excellent video quality, a camera should also record decent audio.

Before buying a camera, check if it includes a microphone input.

Most cameras, like the Panasonic GH4 and Canon 80D, offer a standard 3.5mm microphone jack. You can connect external mics to the camera for high-quality sound.

But if you want to record professional-level audio, consider the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera. It features a mini-XLR mic input, which is essential for getting a clean and balanced sound.

Value for Money

With all these features in mind, you need to figure out how much you are willing to pay for a camera.

Is an upgrade in the model really worth your money? Or can you do better for less? 

For instance, we included the Panasonic GH4 on this list instead of its latest model, the GH5. On paper, the GH5 is better due to its upgraded and newer features. However, it’s also more expensive than the GH4. For that reason, the GH4 offers more value for your money since it includes most of the features found on the GH5.

We recommend taking your time when looking for cameras with the best features. Expensive cameras are not necessarily the right ones for your needs.

Conclusion

We hope this article helped you decide which camera to buy for filmmaking.

Our top budget choice is the Panasonic Lumix GH4. We love how it packs powerful features in a small, affordable package. It allows you to shoot in 4K resolution at 24/30 FPS and up to 96 FPS in Full HD. It also includes useful image tweaking settings that make it easier to compose your images.

Finally, the GH4 is suitable for most types of filmmaking, whether it’s for vlogging or creative purposes.

Click this link to purchase the Panasonic Lumix GH4.