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If you’re starting a video content channel, livestreaming, or looking to create your first film, step one is getting a good camera to capture it all. The best cameras for video also happen to take great photos at the same time.
While your smartphone’s camera has plenty of high-tech features, it probably can’t compare to the amount of settings and options that a designated DSLR-type camera has. These cameras are carefully constructed for outstanding photo and video quality that a phone just can’t match, and are your best bet for a professional looking final product. The key to the right camera is narrowing down your specific needs, and not spending more money on unnecessary extras that you’re unlikely to use.
What Are the Best Cameras for Video?
Here are all the things you should consider before buying a new camera to record video, from its resolution to its battery life.
Resolution: It’s best to go for something that can film at least 4K video in 1080p. The standard resolution for online video is always evolving, but 4K UHD looks great no matter what, and will for some time still. A camera with around 20MP resolution, and a processor that can handle 30-120fps should also be more than enough to get the job done depending on what project you’re planning.
Ports: If your camera will be mostly in a stationary setup, such as for recording video in the same spot every time, an audio input makes it easy to connect mics or headphones. An HDMI port feeds data to your computer fast, which is ideal for photos and videos you’ll be loading into an editing application. It’s also perfect for playing back a video on your TV, showing friends and family your fresh footage in real-time.
Battery: For filming out in the field during extended shoots, battery life is crucial. With a reliably long-lasting battery, you won’t need to constantly be keeping an eye on your camera’s charge, or have a session cut unexpectedly short by a battery that ran out before you were done. A spare is always great to have, though it’s an added expense, so if you’re headed outside or traveling, make sure your camera’s battery can keep up.
Features: Every camera’s going to have some helpful extras packed in, and when used right, these can really improve the ease and outcome of everything you take. Things like image stabilization are a big assist to steady your shot, while Auto-Focus utilizes a multi-point system to detect faces and balance everything out in a matter of milliseconds. Stacking multiple exposures into one shot, capturing a time lapse, or nailing that perfect slo-mo sequence are all possible, along with literally hundreds of other options that’ll keep you experimenting and learning for a lifetime.
Screen: The small built-in screen is going to be a massive advantage, almost acting as your production assistant. Though nearly all DSLRs and digital cameras nowadays have one, they’re not all created equally. A screen that has the ability to flip up, down, out and all-around can be hugely beneficial when trying to capture shots at odd angles, and letting the subject see themselves in-frame during recording.
Zoom: If you’re not planning on using a separate zoom lens, make sure the camera’s got a good built-in zoom capability. Optical is best, since it’s simply magnifying the image and little quality is lost. Digital zoom can get you even closer, but may produce some blurriness, though they’ve gotten significantly better in recent years.
WiFi/Bluetooth: For fast and frequent uploads right from your camera to your content channel, built-in WiFi can remove the step of transferring everything to your computer first. It may seem like a novelty, but it speeds up the process significantly, especially if you’re frequently posting multiple times a day, or swapping files between friends. Bluetooth can also cut the cord(s) and let you wirelessly transfer files and connect to your other devices for added abilities as well.
Lighting: In an indoor studio, lighting can be set to a certain controlled consistency throughout all your videos, but taking things outside is when it can become unpredictable. That’s where having a camera with intuitive auto-sensing abilities saves time and cuts down the stress of striving for the perfect conditions. Even at night, the right camera with low-light abilities can still keep colors sharp and your subject brightly balanced.
File Format: If you plan to heavily tweak your photos and videos in an editing platform after filming, consider a camera that can handle RAW format. Though the file size is seriously larger than a JPEG, all the data and details of your photo (including things like colors and shadows) are perfectly preserved and professional looking for you to alter afterwards.
While they’re built to outshine phones in terms of professional photography and filming, it doesn’t have to be a choice of one or the other. Some modern cameras connect up to smartphones and utilize both, allowing you to instantaneously gain a whole extra screen, or command it remotely through the accompanying app.
All of these are solid workhorses, but if you’ll be filming at different locations, a lighter camera will be way easier to carry, and an included strap is a must too. Take a minute to figure out what you’ll need, then dive in to these four favorites for filming and taking photos.
1. Canon EOS Rebel T8i EF-S 18-55mm
Canon’s EOS Rebel has been a leader among DSLRs for multiple years and generations of cameras. The T8i features the familiar photography tools that made it great, with additional high quality new video options too.
The EOS interface is well-built and quick to pick up with practice, especially if you’re graduating from a smartphone camera and are familiar with a few ins and outs of basic photography. The T8i’s handy Quick Control Dial gives you access to instant adjustments for your exposure, without even needing to look away from your shot.
This lightweight three-pound camera can handle high-speed continuous shooting of up to 7fps, with little to no lag, even with fast subjects in mid-motion. Its 24.1 Megapixel CMOS (APS-C) sensor retains real-life detail and resolution, despite shooting in low light conditions, and the 45-Point auto-focus system (along with face and eye detection) processes incredibly fast, and can be switched on or off with the touch of a button. If you’re looking for an LCD screen that can flip to all different angles, the T8i delivers, with the 3-inch Vari-Angle Touchscreen too.
The camera was designed for use with the EOS Utility Webcam Software, records video in 4K, and has a video capture resolution of 2160p. Plus there’s built-in Bluetooth and WiFi when you’re ready to upload or send to a different device. You can even choose to flip it vertically to film, just like you would with a phone.
An external mic can be connected via the designated port, and as with all the EOS Rebels, it’s fully compatible with all Canon EF or EFS lenses.
2. Nikon D780 w/AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm
The D780 is ready to shoot in 24.5MP, 4k UHD, uncropped, and at 1080p video at 120fps. It performs extraordinarily well in low light conditions, retaining its sharpness and detail even in dark settings with its ISOs up to 51,200. The 10-bit N-Log preserves a smoother color palette of detail across your shot, keeping contrast in check throughout an entire video.
It includes a 10-bit HDMI output, and a 51-point auto-focus integrates with a 273-point phase detection for both photos and videos. Plenty of editing options and effects can be done right on screen, including stacking multiple exposures, and this can also record in RAW format for more editing later in your software of choice.
This also really shines when it comes to slow-motion shots. The shutter speeds can go super slow, perfect for lengthy exposures or creating a timelapse of the stars and sky.
3. Sony Alpha a6400 Mirrorless Camera
At under 2 pounds, this mighty little Sony has plenty of features. It’s light enough to travel with, allows for interchangeable lenses, and still packs plenty of settings needed to shoot photo and video like a pro — particularly in low light.
It’s mirrorless with a 3x optical zoom, and an optical sensor res of 24.2MP, with speeds of 120fps. The new tilt-sensitive 3-inch LCD screen (no more 4-way directional pad) responds quickly to touch, while Auto-focus recognizes a subject right away — in just .02 seconds.
Real-Time Tracking follows a moving subject around the frame effortlessly. There’s also the especially neat Auto ISO feature, which snaps three pics in close succession and combines them into one image. The silent shutter is a nice touch too, as is the built-in WiFi to share images instantly.
4. Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 6K
It may not be as prevalent as the giants of the industry like Canon and Nikon, but the BlackMagic still has a lot to offer. This is ready to capture video in up to 6K at 50fps, with 21.2MP, and can be used in low light thanks to its 25600 IPO. The fixed screen is big and bright, at five inches, and makes it a good choice for brand-new indie content creators as well as those who hate working with a tiny screen.
Bluetooth comes built-in with this camera, and there’s also an HDMI output. At under 2 pounds, it’s nicely light compared to its competitors, so you can easily take it with you on vacations or store it in your pack on a commute for recording video at a moment’s notice.