Best Cameras for Filmmaking on a Budget in 2021

The last couple of years has been extremely giving to aspiring filmmakers who were able to thrive and make a mark for themselves in the era of good quality yet affordable filmmaking cameras. There are Best Cameras for Filmmaking on a Budget available from almost every renowned brand, but it can be easy to get distracted by the glamour and marketing hype surrounding some of the greatest and latest additions in camera technology.

The good news is that owing to those innovations, the selection of affordable cameras has only widened, putting something for every kind of filmmaker.  Some of the cheaper 4K filming cameras could fall short in the stabilization department, and you have to trade off the freedom the varying movements and position for 4K quality.

We understand that total budget is subjective to every person’s preference and where they wish to use the cameras. There are certain cameras that are better suited to particular situations than the rest. Taking many factors into account, we set a budget of all cameras at about $1,400 for its body and at least its kit lens. Alongside setting a maximum budget, we also listed some other criteria we expect the camera to meet.

Criteria to choose best camera for filmmaking on a budget:

  • Price below $1,400 with kit lens
  • Functioning autofocus system
  • Minimum 1080p resolution
  • Minimum slow motion frame rate – 60FPS in 1080p

Now let’s get down to business.

Best Cameras for Filmmaking on a Budget in 2021 (Overview)

Image

Product

Features

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Sony Alpha a6400

Sony Alpha a6400

1. 0.02 sec AF with object tracking and real-time AF

2. Maximum 11FPS continuous shooting

3. 24. 2MP APS-C sensor

Panasonic LUMIX G85

Panasonic LUMIX G85

1. 16 MP micro Four-Thirds sensor

2. Mirrorless interchangeable lens camera

3. 4K QFHD video recording

Sony ZV-1

Sony ZV-1

1. Real Time Eye-AF3

2. Real-time AF tracking

3. No 4k recording limit

DJI Pocket 2

DJI Pocket 2

1. 64MP photo and 4K video

2. 140 minutes of battery life

3. Weighs only 116 g

Panasonic LUMIX GH4

Panasonic LUMIX GH4

1. Operating temperature: 32-degree F to 104-degree F

2. High speed 49 area auto focusing

3. 4K 24p cinematic video

Best Cameras for Filmmaking on a Budget in 2021(Review)

1. Sony Alpha a6400 – Winner (B07MTWVN3M)

Sony Alpha a6400

After the discontinuation of Sony a6500, the Sony a6400 was introduced to the market, and it’s one worthy successor. It has pretty much the same features as the a6500 plus some of Sony’s latest technology. 

The Sony a6400 packs incredible power inside its small compact body, coming with a bunch of amazing video features. You get an upgraded weather-sealed body which protects effectively against rough climate. For the video specs, this model can shoot in 1080p up to 120FPS and in 4K up to 30FPS. At this price point, this is still the sole camera with an APS-C sensor capable of shooting in 120FPS.

As with all other Sony camera, the a6400 boasts a stellar autofocus speed and accuracy. We really like the newest versions as they come with state-of-the-art technology. Apart from that, the classic Sony combo of 425 contrast-detection points and 425 phase-detection was improved with the inclusion of real-time autofocus tracking for video mode.

PROS

  • Maximum 120FPS shooting speed at 1080p – the only one on this list
  • Amazing ISO range
  • No 4k recording limit
  • Clear UHD 4K video at 24 and 30 FPS

CONS

  • No in-built image stabilization
  • Repetition of the Sony NP-FW50 battery

2. Panasonic LUMIX G85 – Runner-Up (B01M050N05)

Panasonic LUMIX G85

Next up on our list of best camera for filmmaking on a budget is the Panasonic G85. There was a rather neck-to-neck competition between this and the Sony a6400 for top place, but we finally decided on placing this as the runner-up, and we will soon explain why.

The G85 works around the shortcomings of the older Panasonic Lumix products, giving you a nice mix of better, improved features but still not without cons. You get a high-quality, sturdy weather sealer body with the G85, and the ergonomics are rather impressive. We really enjoyed the autofocus system, not to mention the insane built-in image stabilization.

However, the Sony phase-detect autofocus system takes the lead in best autofocus system least. It also lacks in performance in low light. Still, you can definitely rely on the G85 to produce some stunning visual pieces.

PROS

  • Incredible built-in image stabilization
  • 4K UHD video and a maximum of 60FPS at 1080p
  • Wide variety of available lenses
  • Decent autofocus system

CONS

  • No variable frame rate like its predecessor, GH4
  • Smaller sensor than the Sony a6400

3. Sony ZV-1 (B08965JV8D)

Sony ZV-1

Sony’s brand new 1” sensor point-and-shoot camera ZV-1 is a big step up from many of the precious RX series cameras. Here are some of the biggest improvements that earned this camera a spot on today’s list.

  • Side flip-out screen – a first from Sony.
  • In-built ND filter
  • No limit on 4K recording VS the 30 minutes limit on the Panasonic G85
  • An in-built hot-shoe to connect an external microphone
  • Fixes the rolling shutter issue faced in the Sony APS-C camera
  • Built-in time-lapse mode

Packing such excellent improvement, the Sony ZV-1 has rightfully become one of the most powerful budget filmmaking cameras Sony evert produced. It features an almost identical camera to Sony’s newer and much pricier APS-C came, a6600. The menu system is the same, so is the powerful auto focus with real-time eye AF tracking as well as object tracking.

PROS

  • The HFR mode which allows recording at very high slow motion frame rates
  • Better ergonomics overall
  • In-built ND filter for better filming in bright conditions
  • Sony’s new color science

CONS

  • Not the best low light performance
  • Not an interchangeable lens camera

4. DJI Pocket 2 (B08J7FL57P)

DJI Pocket 2

DJI’s newest addition to its line of pocket gimbal, the DJI Pocket 2 is undoubtedly one of the most affordable and best 4K video cameras out there.

You will be able to shoot in 2K or 4K at up to 60FPS, and this is a big deal considering no other full sized cameras on this list can do this. For the slow-motion side, the dedicated slow-motion mode allows you to record up to 240FPS in 1080p HD. The only camera that could compare with this spec is the Sony ZV-1, and that is priced double of the DJI Pocket 2.

There’s also an inclusion of 20mm equivalent lens plus the DJI Matrix Stereo for clear audio output.

PROS

  • Pocket sized
  • Large 1./1.7” sensor
  • Great 2K, 4K, and slow motion frame rates
  • Three-axis stabilization for sublimely smooth footage

CONS

  • Not weatherproof
  • Can’t record at a stretch in a single shot

5. Panasonic LUMIX GH4 (B00I9GYG8O)

Panasonic LUMIX GH4

The first thing you will notice when you open the box of your brand new Panasonic GH4 is how well made it is. It might be just another mirrorless camera, but the appearance resembles a classic, more expensive DSLR. The heavy-duty weather-sealed magnesium body feels great to the touch.

The extra bulk is slightly helpful when shooting as the camera is easier to handle. One of the biggest pluses of this model is how the screen can articular fully, making it easily maneuverable. Don’t be fooled by its Micro Four-Thirds specification, this camera is capable of doing some professional video work. It can record in Cinema 4K at 24FPS and in Ultra HD 4K at 30/24FPS.

PROS

  • A+ body and camera feel
  • Battery life is very impressive for a mirrorless camera
  • Fully articulating screen
  • Large range of formats for shooting.

CONS

  • Poor low light performance
  • Slow motion frame only reaches 96FPS.

Buying Guide

There are certain things to keep in mind while shopping for your dream budget filmmaking camera. Don’t just jump at the first camera that catches your eye; instead look around and compare the value of your top picks. This way, you’ll be making a better, well informed decision.

Video Recording Modes

If you want a high quality video, the standard minimum requirement is for it to be 1080p HD – It’s as simple as that. A lot of camera offer 4K UHD these days, so we checked out both. Additional bits to keep a look out for include various picture profiles as well as 4K 60FPS and more.

How does the FPS fare against the competing system? Is there any camera that stands out the most? Is the image stabilization optimized? If yes, how much?

Sensor Performance

The sensor can be termed as the camera’s driving force. Making a better choice about what is under your camera’s hood is key. For this one, size actually matters.

The area of the sensor determines the amount of light it can capture (mostly image quality) but be aware that two sensors of the same size may differ in capability. 

ISO Range/Performance

ISO Range is to a filmmaking camera is what film speed is to SLR camera. Pixel size is comparable to the grain size. The clarity and quality of an image show this.

You will need higher ISO settings when shooting in lower light conditions, in the evening, or indoors. This comes with a price tag, though, and you will be giving up quality and clarity of the footage for your desired shots.

Screen Resolution and Flexibility

Since you will be shooting by taking a view of the screen majority of the times, the viewing experience is a big factor. A screen capable of tilts is definitely a plus when shooting in congested spaces.

Screen resolution is necessary to judge the focus of the footage as well as the total screen brightness is crucial when shooting under bright light, like shooting in daytime.

Ease of Use

The device should ideally be easy to navigate and intuitive through the menus so you can effortlessly find everything during shooting. There are a bunch of potential problems one can face on shoots. A few Four-Thirds and mirrorless cameras feature smaller bodies and the attachment of a larger lens can mess up the camera’s balance, not to mention how awkward using it gets. 

If you have larger hands, a camera with a small body might not be the easiest tool to maneuver on cold days and long shoots.

Range of Lenses

How is the availability of glass for the camera, both secondhand and new? What is the price of the available native lenses, and what else is the market offering which will save you some coins?

We all add out personal flair to whatever we shoot, but we still need the proper tools to implement our ideas.

You will need a variety of lenses in your collection to do the most, and vintage class can bring you some much needed monetary relief while mixing in some unique characteristics that modern lenses can’t. Off-brand glasses can be bought too; there are legit alternatives to the producer’s native glass. Prior to investing in a body/lens kit, make sure you can obtain your needed lenses at an affordable price.

Value for Money

After all the calculation, you need to analyze how much utility your choice will provide. Can you find better for any less, or are the extra bucks going to have a real contribution when shooting?

Battery Life

You need to rely heavily on your battery backup on long shooting days. We took a look at which cameras conserve and use the battery and which just continually keep eating away at it.

Shooting in 4K, constantly using the screen to check footage, using Wi-Fi, etc, will consume into your available shoot time.

Final Thoughts

The 1,400 question for today was: Which low budget filmmaking camera has the best body and lens kit? We have found some of the best camera for filmmaking the market makes within this range, and we are hopeful you will be satisfied with whichever option you opt for.

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