Best 4K Camera for Filmmakers on a Budget 2020 - A Detailed Review
Whether using a mirrorless or DSLR camera, there’s no doubt that the demand for 4K content is rising. So, how exactly do you meet such needs? Should you go for an insanely expensive device?
Well, as it turns out, there are quite a few options available at your disposal. To help you zero in on the best one of them, we’ve reviewed them on the basis of:
As you know, features dictate power and power dictates reliability. Read on to find out more.
Table of Contents
- Best 4K Camera for Filmmakers on a Budget 2020 - A Detailed Review
- 10 Best 4K Camera for Filmmaking Reviews – Updated Charts
- The best 4K camera for filmmaking in 2020
- 1. Nikon D850 DSLR Camera (FX-Format)
- 2. Canon C300 EOS 4K Camera
- 3. Sony Alpha a6500 Digital Camera (Mirrorless)
- 4. Nikon D500 DX-Format DSLR Camera – Best Value for Money
- 5. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR
- 6. Panasonic Lumix GH5 Mirrorless Camera
- 7. Fujifilm X-H1 Digital Camera
- 8. Sony a7R III Full-frame Camera 42.MP
- 9. Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5S with 10.2 Megapixel Sensors
- 10. Sony PXWZ100 Handheld XDCAM Camcorder
- The Buying Guide
- Final Thoughts
10 Best 4K Camera for Filmmaking Reviews – Updated Charts
Not a fan of reading some detailed reviews? Below are some quick charts for your reference.
The best 4K camera for filmmaking in 2020
1. Nikon D850 DSLR Camera (FX-Format)
This high-end camera from Nikon is one of the highly reputed ones to-date. Its resolution stands at 45.7 megapixels meaning it’s quite powerful.
On top of that, it provides you with a superb dynamic range. Therefore, unlike other 4K cameras on the markets, it enjoys an unlimited recording time.
Heading out for a long day of shooting? This could be the best camera to bring with you. It won’t let you down as long as you know how to use its settings.
Most importantly, it’s reasonably priced. It goes for an under 4,000 price tag which is lower than some bigger units that offer a similar level of performance.
Its tiny body makes it ideal for all-day use. And above all, this unit comes with a 9FPS capacity. This gives you the freedom to capture awesome shots at full resolution.
And the best part is, you can fully bank on the D850 for continuous shooting. That said, we tend to think its FPS might not be so great at capturing fast action scenes.
However, you can rely on it to capture most day-to-day events with no major qualms. For that reason, we’d recommend it for weddings as well as commercial videos when quality is needed.
Another thing we liked is its user-friendliness. It has a tilting touchscreen, for instance, which enables you to shoot at your comfort.
Last but not least, this piece of equipment boasts an outstanding battery life. And with a total pixel of 46.89 million, this is your go-to monster for all those UHD video recording challenges.
2. Canon C300 EOS 4K Camera
Filmmaking is such a demanding field and the last thing you want to put up with is a malfunctioning camera. With clients constantly demanding for high-quality footage, the C300 Mark II is the gold standard.
The unit comes with a dual pixel CMOS AF. This features a super 35mm CMOS sensor. And thanks to that, this piece of equipment can capture ultra-high-definition content.
On top of that, you can rely on this monstrous camera to enjoy faster and accurate autofocusing. That’s in addition to the C300 offering a decent 14 stops of dynamic range.
3. Sony Alpha a6500 Digital Camera (Mirrorless)
With an incredible ability to cope with light sensitivity, the a6500 represents a budget-friendly choice for filmmakers. It’s powered by a 24.2MP APS-C sensor which gives you a great resolution power.
The unit further boasts a wide 425 phase detection. In fact, it also boasts a built-in (in body) image stabilization. That’s the power you need to enjoy steady lens at all times.
Another wonderful feature of this unit is that it’s pretty silent. Indeed, it has built-in noise reduction features.
For continuous shooting, you can comfortably use this unit for 11FPS continuous shooting. That’s just good enough to record most moderate action events.
In other words, we’d vouch for this camera model is one of the most versatile ones on sale. And the fact that it is mirrorless means that it’s also pretty light in weight.
Moving on, the piece of equipment is loved by many because of its ability to deliver 4K content. And the icing on the cake is that the camera captures the 4K content directly.
As such, there’s no need for cropping or pixel binning while using it
4. Nikon D500 DX-Format DSLR Camera – Best Value for Money
Armed with a 20.9MP DX-format sensor, the D500 boasts the unique ability to combine power with speed. And to make this a reality, the unit packs an Expeed 5 image processor.
This flexibility means you can take some nice shots and have them ready to use in a matter of seconds.
For even better user-experience, this unit provides you with a 3.2-inch monitor. This monitor gives you all the freedom you need to control the quality of your shots.
It’s also worth keeping in mind the fact that this LCD screen is tiltable. You can, therefore, freely adjust your view. This is a great feature especially when you’re required to shoot as part of a crew.
And there is more – this camera provides you with a Touchscreen LCD. Of course, that’s even more user-friendliness in store for you.
When it comes to 4K video recording, the D500 stuns with its ability to deliver 30FPS. Yup, you’ve read that right. This unit can, therefore, be used to capturing high-quality footage even at fast action scenarios.
5. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR
If you have an idea the kind of quality Canon can deliver, I’m sure you won’t dare underestimate the 5D. This gentle giant presents you with a powerful 30.4MP sensor.
That’s just as powerful as you’ll ever need for all kinds of shooting challenges. So, if you’re a filmmaker looking for versatility, you can hardly go wrong with it.
It, however, offers a somewhat disappointing package when continuous shooting is involved. Ranking at 7 FPS, this unit is less desirable for fast action scenes.
If you’re planning to shoot a well-choreographed, slow-paced scene, this camera would dazzle you. However, if you’re shooting a high-paced dance session or some wildlife series or using cannon camera flash only at low light, this might disappoint.
That said, its 61-point AF system is quite incredible and versatile. In fact, it has 41 cross-points which provide it with an incredibly wide vertical coverage.
What’s more? This simple camera offers a remarkable ISO range of 100-32000. That can also be expanded to 50-102400.
In other words, no matter the lighting conditions, you can count on this unit to make things work.
The sweetest spot out of the 5D is that it comes with a highly user-friendly TouchScreen LCD monitor. This is an adjustable monitor which allows you to have an uninterrupted field of view.
The monitor is also large enough thanks to its wide display. So, for advanced filmmaking, we’d recommend this camera for the discerning photographer.
6. Panasonic Lumix GH5 Mirrorless Camera
If you’re on the market for a lightweight 4K camera for filming, this one from Panasonic might just be what you need.
It comes with a 20.3MP sensor which works so well since there’s no low pass filter included. While at it, the Lumix boasts a well-built body.
That’s all thanks to it having a durable magnesium alloy body. And all thanks to its 4K video recording power, you can always bank on it to deliver great quality results at all times.
Moving on, this cute unit boasts a variable video frame rate meter. For instance, you can use it either for FHD or UHD.
Across those two uses, you’ll be gifted with two very different FPSs. For instance, at 4K you’ll get 60FPS while at FHD you’ll get nothing short of 180FPS.
As you can see, this camera’s FPS is really quite high. For that reason, we’d recommend it for shooting in high action scenes. You can even use it for shooting wildlife documentaries.
It, however, isn’t waterproof and, therefore, may not be ideal for underwater shooting. Otherwise, it’s generally well made for all other uses.
And to make sure all your shots are of extremely high-quality, you’ll love the fact that it has an in-body stabilization. That’s a major plus as it can help you avoid those oops moments in the middle of a high profile shoot.
7. Fujifilm X-H1 Digital Camera
This is the friendliest camera you’ll ever find especially if you’re just sharpening your filmmaking skills. One thing we particularly like about it is that it comes with enhanced AF algorithms.
The algorithms are able to quickly view scenes and introduce the necessary adjustments. This works so seamlessly to an extent that you can comfortably record award-winning content even if you’re a rookie.
Backing up this powerful camera is a very well-built body. In fact, this body boasts 25% thicker magnesium casing as compared to what you’ll find on the Fujifilm X-T2.
And to crown it all up, this unit comes with a flicker reduction mode. That comes in handy when you need to record high-quality content under different conditions.
Another content of us: 10 Best Body Camera in Review – Updated List
8. Sony a7R III Full-frame Camera 42.MP
One way to tell that your camera is up to the task is by checking what kind of a sensor it comes with. The a7R presents you with a superb 42.4 MP, complete with a gapless on-chip lens design.
On top of that, it has a new front-end LSI which works hand in hand with a regularly updated Bionz X processing engine. That presents you with an optimal processing speed.
Moving on, this system comes with a hybrid AF system. This is powered by a superb 399 focal plan points. With 68% of these covering the image plan and 47% for contrast, this camera is a winner.
The only tiny issue we could raise with it is that at 10FPS it isn’t really a good choice for continuous shooting.
Fortunately, that weakness is well compensated by the fact that this entire unit is quiet. You only need to tap into either the mechanical or silent shudder mode for a remarkable experience.
Finally, the unit provides you with superb wireless connectivity thanks to its NFC and WiFi ready design.
9. Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5S with 10.2 Megapixel Sensors
Whenever the 4K anamorphic professional video quality comes calling, the Lumix DC-GH5S will be your best bet. This unit not only provides a great built-in lens but also has room for interchanging them.
This way, you can fine-tune it as per your unique needs. In addition, we liked the fact that this unit comes with dual SD card slots along with 4K HDR log gamma support.
On top of that, this lovely piece of equipment is known for supporting high-end recording features. These include the likes of 14bit RAW and multi-aspect capture.
And to ensure you never have to worry about storage, this unit supports a high-class SD memory card. This is the type that’s recommended for 4K filmmaking.
Looking for a camera that offers a fantastic color combination? This specific camera seems to take top honors as far as color science is concerned.
Compared to its other brother, the GH5, the GH5S seems to deliver warmer colors. But at the same time, the same batteries and accessories used in the GH5S still work with the GH5.
The icing on the cake, however, is that the GH5S’s batteries are meant to last slightly longer than in the GH5.
So, in our opinion, the GH5S is not just a great competitor but also the best piece of equipment from Panasonic yet. Once you get this, you’ll be proud to say that you’ve added a new tool to your arsenal.
10. Sony PXWZ100 Handheld XDCAM Camcorder
For those who look forward to shooting incredibly rich 1080p HD content, this piece of equipment provides a fantastic package.
You can confidently use it for either feature films, event videos, educational videos or even high-end photography.
Designed by Sony, one of the biggest names in this realm, this monster boasts phenomenon imagery at the 4K level.
Picture this – it presents you with two XQD memory card slots. That means you can enjoy all the versatility you need to work comfortably behind the scenes.
What about audio? This unit is renowned for its ability to capture great audio quality as well. This is captured at 24bit and 48kHz. That’s precisely the power you need to give the gurus a run for their money.
In case, you’re still skeptical, this unit from Sony presents you with up to 5 years of warranty. That way, you can rest of enjoying good value for your money even as you get busy capturing some awesome shots.
The Buying Guide
When it comes to 4K content, you know there’s no room for compromise. In that regard, we have compiled a brief buying guide below to help you make an informed choice.
IBIS is the acronym of In Body Stabilization. There are numerous benefits to investing in a camera with this feature. First off, this feature works with different kinds of lenses. Another thing is that IBIS saves you from the hassle of having to buy third-party lenses with built-in stabilization. Typically, cameras that have with this feature also help resolve matters in the event that the lens of choice lacks stabilization counter-parts. Think of ultra-bright, tilt-shift, and fisheye lenses and so forth.
Look Closely at the Bit Rate
The bit rate is the effective level of compression that’s applied to video content. In general, the higher the bitrate, the better the quality of images produced. On the flip side, a high bitrate also translates into the production of larger files. You can always go for a lower bitrate if you want reasonably good quality packed into small files.
Log modes are crucial since they help in the capture of “flat” videos. Besides that, these modes come in handy in producing wider brightness range which is superb for grading. That said, different camera manufacturers have their own unique log modes. For instance, Canon have C-Log while Sony has S-Log. Be sure to check the kind of log modes your camera comes with. If your camera doesn’t have these, it may not have the bragging rights required to dominate filmmaking.
What You Should Know About 4K Filming Cameras
What’s the difference between Cinema 4K and 4K UHD?
Simple, 4K UHD offers 3840x2160 pixels while Cinema 4K offers 4096x2160 pixels. Another major difference is that UHD provides you with an aspect ratio of 16:9 while Cinema 4K provides a 17:9 which is slightly wider. So, as you can see, what people commonly refer to as UHD is not quite 4,000 pixels wide. However, compared to FHD, UHD offers twice as much resolution (vertical and horizontal).
What’s bit depth in 4K cameras? You might be wondering. Well, all we’d like you to note for now is that almost all cameras reviewed above capture 8-bit videos. However, some high-end ones capture 10-bit content. Normally, the higher the bit depth, the greater the freedom and scope for post-recording editing.
Frames per Second (FPS)
What’s the best FPS to go for when choosing a camera for 4K filmmaking? Our general suggestion is that the best FPS for movies is at 24fps. You may need a higher FPS if you’re planning to shoot content for NTSC broadcast TV, though – 30fps. If you’re looking to shoot great content that can be viewed digitally, we’d recommend for going for around 30fps.
If you’ve been researching about the best 4K camera to buy in 2018, chances are that you’ve encountered that term. Well, our recommendation is that Pixel binning is an innovative method of combining the output from different photosites. This way, a higher-resolution sensor kicks in and is used to produce stable 4K content.
Just like Pixel Binning, oversampling is a technique that enables videos to be captured at an extremely high resolution (say 8K). Once that’s done, the content is downgraded to 4K quality. This way, one can provide higher quality content, especially in the event that the native sensor resolution of a camera is above 4K.
The Right Sensor Size for 4K Filmmaking
You probably already have a clue what sensors are. Most cameras come with APS-C sensor sizes. However, the best ones come with the super 35mm. In fact, the super 35mm is the recommended choice for cinematography. In general, super 35mm has a wider aspect ratio than APS-C.
Which One Is The Best?
The best pick is one that offers a bit of everything without compromising. In that case, the top position in this run-down belongs to the Nikon D500. It’s budget-friendly, powerful user-friendly and light in weight.
Whether you’re a beginner videographer or simply looking to upgrade your current quality, upgrading to 4K is such a good idea. Fortunately, as we’ve seen above, there are cameras at all budgets that you can use to turn this dream into a reality.