Over the course of the last decade DSLR cameras have made major inroads in the dominance of shoulder mounted or mobile camcorders for video production. DSLRs offer a number of advantages over camcorders, including full size sensors and the ability to use longer lenses made for stills photography.
For a long time Canon sat pretty on the top of the video DSLR pile with the 5D, the darling of film makers everywhere. More recently the other camera makers have caught up to a great extent, this article will examine seven of the best DSLR cameras for video.
Canon 5D mark iii
Firstly what for a long time was the preeminent video DSLR, now in its third incarnation. The camera is favoured for its ability to shoot in low level light, it’s 41 cross-type autofocus and general fantastic image quality. There are various other Canon DSLRs available of course, but the 5D leaves it’s stablemates standing as far as quality is concerned.
The main downside is the fact that the camera itself is showing its age a bit, having been released in 2012. It lacks some modern features like 4k and a flip out screen.
Panasonic Lumix GH4
The pretender to the 5D throne is the Lumix, which has increasingly become the DSLR of choice for video production companies over the last five years. A large part of this is because the Lumix is a mirrorless micro four thirds camera that shoots 4k at 24 and 30 fps.
Another big benefit is that the Lumix is unusual in that it can shoot videos longer than 29 minutes, 59 seconds. The Lumix is also very competitively priced compared to the Canon and is significantly lighter and smaller.
Sony Alpha a75 II
Strictly speaking not a DSLR, the Alpha is a mirrorless camera which provides incredible images at a more premium price. It has a full frame sensor and 169 autofocus points as well as 4k capabilities. One of the biggest benefits is the fact that the Alpha is mirrorless so is very light and small compared to other full frame cameras.
Low light capabilities are another big plus for the Alpha. This along with build in stabilisation and its compactness make this camera a real contender.
This Nikon has been a strong contender for the 5D’s crown for quite a while, it has similar specs to the Canon. These include 1080p /60fps video, 36 MP full frame sensor 51 autofocus points. It also includes an updated sensor with an expanded native ISO range and great features including time lapse and a strong LCD screen. The price is also very competitive.
Back in the reasonably priced end of the market is the Canon 80D. This camera is very popular for vloggers and the more entry level end of the video production market. The crop sensor does full HD at 60fps and has good, accurate autofocus. The 80D is really good for the Youtube crowd who don’t want to pony up a fortune for a 5D or a Sony Alpha. It’s excellent at most things as long as you don’t want 4k or full sensor action.
Over the course of a decade we at Hightower have used each of the cameras featured in this article. You can see the results of our effects in our showreel here. As far as figuring out which is our personal favorite, until 18 months ago we would have said the 5D. However the Lumix has really turned our heads – shooting 4k at the price bracket it sells at makes it very appealing to the more budget focused video productions we are involved in.