The 10 Best Digital Video Cameras for Filmmaking in 2021
We ranked our top ten picks for the best digital video cameras for filmmaking here in 2021! Let’s see the results.
Despite a pandemic slowing down industries across the world, the digital camera game is as robust and fierce as ever. In the past year, we’ve seen major technological breakthroughs, as well as plenty of big updates and completely new cameras added to the fold.
But, which one is right for you? That question is going to come down to several questions in regards to your favorite manufacturer, skill set, and price point. However, we have you covered as we break down the top ten best cameras for filmmaking in 2021. Let’s dive in!
1. Fujifilm X-T4
Just announced a year ago, Fujifilm’s much requested follow up to their Fujifilm X-T3 hasn’t disappointed. The X-T4 kept all the elements that made the X-T3 outstanding, with its 26.1-megapixel sensor, 4K video up to 60fps, and beautiful F-Log recording. However, the X-T4 also boasts additions and improvements for In-Body Image Stabilization (IBIS), High Frame Rate (HFR) recording, a flip-out LCD touchscreen, better audio, and double the battery life.
We’ve included the Fujifilm X-T4 first on our list because of its robust features and highly-competitive price point, currently at $1,699 (or $2,099 with a 18-55mm kit lens). This is a nice mirrorless camera option for those starting off in digital filmmaking or videography.
- 26.1MP APS-C X-Trans BSI CMOS 4 Sensor
- X-Processor 4 image processor
- 5-axis in-body image stabilization
- DCI/UHD 4K at 60 fps, full HD at 240fps
- 425-point hybrid AF system
- 3.69m-Dot 0.75x OLED EVF
- 3.0″ 1.62m-Dot vari-angle touchscreen
- Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity
- Film simulation modes
2. Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K
Because the industry has moved so fast since its announcement and release, it might feel like the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K is old news at this point (I mean, where’s our BMPCC8K, right?). But, nothing can be further from the truth. As we covered in our full hands-on review, the BMPCC6K is a filmmaking behemoth packed into a hand-held bundle that’s still insanely cheap for what you’re getting.
With 6K video recording at up to 50fps, a Super 35-sized HDR sensor, and a more compatible EF-mount, the BMPCC6K is the perfect upgrade to its 4K counterpart and should be a staple of the digital video community for a few years to come—which is saying something with how fast the industry advances.
- Active Canon EF/EF-S mount
- Super 35-sized HDR sensor
- Record 6K 6144 x 3456 up to 50fps
- Dual native 400 & 3200 ISO to 25,600
- 5″ 1920 x 1080 touchscreen display
- Record up to 120fps windowed HD
- CFast 2.0 & SD/UHS-II card slots
- External recording via USB type-C
- 13-stop dynamic range, 3D LUT support
- Includes DaVinci Resolve Studio license
If you’re interested in the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K, here are some additional articles to check out covering everything from lenses to presets to how to handle it in the cold.
3. Nikon Z6 II
At a similar price point as the Fujifilm X-T4 and the BMPCC6K, we have the lone Nikon offering on our list with the Nikon Z6 II. A recent follow up to the Z6, the Z6 II is another quality and highly capable camera that offers many of the same specs (like 4K at up to 30fps with 10-bit HDMI output), but with its own distinctive Nikon flair.
If you’re a fan of Nikon cameras or lenses, this is the camera for you. And, I encourage anyone looking at cameras around this sub-$3,000 price threshold (which has been argued is the current threshold for non-cinema cameras on the market) to at least check this one out, as well. You might just fall in love with its N-Log and HLG (HDR) support and well-designed aesthetic and ergonomics.
- 24.5MP FX-format BSI CMOS sensor
- Dual EXPEED 6 image processors
- UHD 4K at up to 30fps
- N-Log & 10-bit HDMI out
- 273-point phase-detect AF system
- 3.6m-Dot OLED electronic viewfinder
- 3.2″ 2.1m-Dot tilting touchscreen LCD
- 5-axis in-body vibration reduction
- Dual memory card slots
4. Sony a7S III
One of the biggest camera announcements of 2020, Sony’s long-anticipated follow up to its popular a7S II has done no less than surpass expectations in every regard. The Sony a7S III fits in perfectly with the brand’s line of digital mirrorless and cinema camera offerings, at a strong price point ($3,500) and with tremendous recording capability at 4K up to 120fps.
Of course, you won’t be wrong to also check out the Sony a7R IV, which similarly turned heads with its recent release. But, we’re going to recommend the a7S III here just based on the camera’s popularity and familiarity to so many in the digital photo and video communities.
- 12MP full-frame Exmor R BSI CMOS sensor
- UHD 4K up to 120p video, 10-bit 4:2:2 internal
- 16-bit RAW output, HLG & S-Log3 Gammas
- 759-point fast hybrid AF
- 9.44m-Dot QXGA OLED EVF
- 3.0″ 1.44m-Dot vari-angle touchscreen
- 5-axis SteadyShot image stabilization
- Dual CFexpress type A/SD card slots
5. Panasonic Lumix S1H
Moving up from the $2,000 range, we take a look at the fantastic cameras offered by Panasonic with their Lumix S1H. As you can read in our initial write-up, the S1H is most definitely a camera designed with the modern video professional in mind. With capabilities to shoot 6K video at up to 24fps (along with a respectable 4:2:2 10-bit DCI 4K), the S1H isn’t to be confused with the more dual-purpose focused Lumix S1.
Overall, while the S1H does come at a higher price than say the BMPCC6K, for fans of other Panasonic cameras—like the uber-popular Lumix GH4 and GH5—the S1H will be one of the best options outside of the pure cinema cameras that we’ll get to later on our list.
- 24.2MP full-frame CMOS sensor
- 6K up to 24fps video
- 4:2:2 10-bit DCI 4K/UHD 4K
- V-Log, dual native ISO
- 5.76m-Dot 0.78x-magnification OLED LVF
- 3.2″ 2.33m-Dot tilt/free-angle touch-LCD
- Contrast-detect 225-area DFD AF system
- 5-axis sensor-shift image stabilization
6. Canon EOS R5
Alright, moving on to the big names on our list, the Canon EOS R5 has almost single-handedly ushered in a new age of 8K the moment it came out in March, 2020. It’s an audacious camera that pushes everything we thought was possible for something so small and affordable, with its 8K RAW recording capabilities at up to 30fps (and 4K at up to 120fps).
However, as expectations have fallen back to earth, we’ve been forced to ask ourselves: “Is the Canon R5 actually a good camera for filmmakers?” The answer is: It simply depends on what you’re looking for. The R5 certainly packs a major punch in terms of pixel count, and Canon is no slouch when it comes to color science and video-focused features, but it might not be for everyone, either.
- 45MP full-frame CMOS sensor
- DIGIC X image processor
- 8K RAW up to 30fps
- 4K at up to 120 fps (10-bit internal video)
- Sensor-shift 5-axis image stabilization
- Dual pixel CMOS AF II with 1053 points
- 3.2″ vari-angle touchscreen LCD
- Subject tracking with deep learning
- CFexpress & SD UHS-II memory card slots
7. Sony Alpha 1
In more recent news, and perhaps as an answer to Canon’s EOS R5, Sony has also announced an 8K mirrorless offering of its own with the Sony Alpha 1 (stylized as the Sony a1). While this camera is technically yet to come out, it’s due to hit stores March 2021, so we’ll include it on our list as it’ll definitely be one of the hottest options on the market for years to come.
But, what makes this Sony a1 stand out? It is, indeed, similar to the Canon R5 with 8K video up to 30fps and 4K up to 120p. For one, the a1 promises to actually capture its 8K video at 8.6K and oversample it to 8K, along with the usual run of Sony color science and S-Cinetone recording. The biggest initial downside appears to be the price, though. So, pre-order if you’re a fan, if not, you can wait until the release and the first hands-on reviews before making your investment.
- 50MP full-frame Exmor RS BSI CMOS sensor
- 8K video up to 30fps
- 4K video up to 120p in 10-bit
- 4.3K 16-bit RAW video output, S-Cinetone
- 759-point fast hybrid AF, Real-time Eye AF
- 5-axis SteadyShot image stabilization
- 5 GHz MIMO Wi-Fi
- Dual CFexpress type A/SD card slots
8. Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 12K
Moving on to our cinema camera range, we can now venture into the wild world of 12K video with the Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 12K. Originally announced back in July 2020, the URSA Mini Pro 12K came as a bit of a surprise. Blackmagic already had a great documentary workhorse cinema camera with the URSA Mini Pro 4.6K G2. However, the industry loves to chase that pixel count and the URSA Mini Pro 12K doesn’t disappoint. (The only question remains: when and why do you actually need 12K?)
Still, this camera is a beast, with its 12K Super 35 HDR CMOS sensor, which records 12K up to 60fps, DCI 8K up to 120fps, and can still push 14-stops of dynamic range to make even the brightest or darkest of situations look cinematically beautiful. This space for high-end cinema cameras (perfect for docs and features) is suddenly crowded, even at the $10,000 price range.
- 12K Super35 HDR CMOS sensor
- 12K 17:9 up to 60fps
- 12K 2.4:1 up to 75fps
- DCI 8K up to 120fps
- 4K Super16 up to 220fps
- 14-stops dynamic range
- User-changeable PL lens mount
- 80MP/frame Blackmagic RAW
- Dual CFast or SD card recording
9. Canon C300 Mark III
The Canon C300 Mark II had long been considered the “gold standard” for high-quality documentary filmmaking. However, with the introduction of the C300 Mark III, Canon appears to have outdone itself with an even more powerful, versatile, and reliable option of one of its flagship cinema cameras.
With its Super 35mm DGO sensor, the C300 Mark III can push 4K video at up to 120fps while offering 16-stops of dynamic range, along with 4K DCI/UHD up to 120fps. However, the real crux to the C300 Mark III’s offering comes from the myriad of accessories, add-ons, and overall versatility of the camera to shoot for long periods of time and in a wide-variety of situations. It’s perfect for documentaries, along with corporate videos or short films.
- Super 35mm dual gain output (DGO) sensor
- 4K up to 120fps
- 2K crop up to 180fps HDR
- Cinema RAW light and XF-AVC H.264 codec
- EF lens mount, DIG!C DV7 image processor
- Dual pixel CMOS AF and face detection
- LM-V2 4.3″ LCD touchscreen monitor
- 12G-SDI and 4-channel audio recording
- 2 x CFexpress slots, Canon Log2 and 3
10. ARRI ALEXA Mini LF
Finally, we round out our list with the large-format ARRI ALEXA Mini LF, which represents the highest class of professional digital filmmaking. The ARRI brand has long been synonymous with high-end video production for everything from big-budget television spots to indie and blockbuster features. However, as we saw when first announced, the ALEXA Mini LF is unique in its design, which fits its large-format sensor snuggly into its ALEXA Mini body.
The overall result is a “large format, small camera” construction—a perfect camera for anyone looking to hit that Netflix-level UHD, while pushing native 4K in ARRIRAW at up to 60fps. For many, though, this camera will be a rental prospect as it still retails still at around $60,000 or more, depending on the gear you’ll need to handle it. Still, as far as high-end cinema cameras in 2021 go, this might be the ultimate option for your feature breakout.
- Large-format 4448 x 3096 sensor
- Native 4K recording in ARRIRAW & ProRes
- Large-format optimized LPL lens mount
- Open gate, 16:9 & 2.39:1 anamorphic mode
- Native 800 ASA, 14+ stops dynamic range
- Array of ARRIRAW & ProRes capture modes
- PL-to-LPL adapter included
Cover image by gnepphoto.
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