It’s no secret that cameras are central to filmmaking. No matter your genre, budget or narrative, every filmmaker wants to tell a story. The difficulty is, choosing which camera is best for you can sometimes seem near impossible! We’ve compiled the following short guide to help all limited-budget filmmakers get the best shooting bang for their buck!
1 – DSLRs and mirrorless cameras
Still cameras with interchangeable lenses like the Canon 80D SLR are the best bet for quality footage on a budget. The super-versatile cameras are great for beginner filmmakers as they can also shoot still photography and will likely get a lot of use. For super tight budgets, check out the Canon 700D or the EOS M3.
Best for: creative projects on a budget
2 – Basic Camcorders
DSLRs can be cumbersome and camcorders are much lighter and easier to carry around. Their built in microphones also tend to be superior to those on still cameras with video modes. There’s a seemingly endless range of models you can find for a similar variety of prices. Cheaper options like the Panasonic V180 have great built in microphones while more expensive models like the Panasonic V770 give you the option to attach an external mic. The Canon LEGRIA G40 will provide you with a rich array of manual controls to help ensure you get the shot you want.
Best for: News, documentaries and events as well as videos for online use
3 – Prosumer Camcorders
While more basic camcorders may not give you the best image result, professional models like the Canon XA30 will give you amazing quality while also allowing more creative control.
Best for: News and documentaries
4 – Professional Camcorders
Professional camcorders offer incredible creative controls which are quick and easy to use once you’re familiar with the camera. The creative controls allow your shots to be more precise and finished which helps in post-production. The Canon XC10 is a great starting point if you have the budget to go upmarket with professional camcorders.
Best for: Documentaries and events such as weddings where you need to set up and make adjustments quickly.
5 – Interchangeable lens video cameras
These sensor cameras have the advantages of both pro camcorders and still cameras. The interchangeable lenses give you a range of opportunities for footage finish and many of them offer pro sound features that give better results in post. The Canon EOS C100 records up to 1080p HD while the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera offers users both 2.5K and 4K quality options at a good price.
Best for: Serious filmmakers, news and documentary filmmakers with larger budgets
6 – Smartphones and Tablets
Smartphones and tablets give you the opportunity to shoot and edit on the same device. With the right accessories, most modern mobile devices can make great cameras. iPads and iPhones are not only amongst the most used cameras worldwide in everyday life, but are also able to record feature film quality footage which make mobile devices some of the best cameras to learn on.
Best for: Home video and schools
7 – Compact Still Cameras
Lots of compact cameras like the Panasonic ZS60 can shoot HD footage. These cameras are ideal for filmmakers on the go as their size allows them to travel anywhere. Like DSLRs, you’ll get a lot of use from a compact still camera but invest in a camcorder or video DSLR if the main pupose of your camera is for filmmaking.
Best for: Journalists and documentary makers who need discreet cameras.
8 – Action cameras
Cameras like the GoPro HERO4 will let you monitor the image with a wireless monitor to get the best action shots. For a more affordable option try the GoPro Hero Session.
Best for: sports and action shots; news and documentaries
Features to look for when buying a camera
When buying any camera, it’s important to research the functions on offer. Is it easy to use and compact? How many features does it let you adjust whilst filming? How is the sound and can you attach an external mic? How is the image quality? A plethora of review websites will give specs and the low-down of each model and we insist you use the camera before you buy one! Borrow from a friend or colleague if on offer or even have a thorough in-store play. Finally, YouTube naturally offers a variety of channels dedicated to camera reviews so there’s nothing you CAN’T learn before investing in the right camera to take your filmmaking to the next level.