If you are a film student or just a photography enthusiast, the selection of your camera would highly influence the output of your photography. The camera industry has responded befittingly to the need of the cinematographers by offering state-of-the-art technologies and features. The DSLR cameras a couple of decades ago were the only advanced options for catering to the needs of the cinematographers or those who are into learning the art
. The sophisticated cinema camera equipment is specifically designed for doing pro video or photography work. You will get to experience the next level of high-speed frame rates and resolution and things much beyond that.
The professional cinema enthusiasts and the novice learners in the subject field will be pleased to know about the availability of so many options. You can think about buying cinema cameras as a package which could cater to your needs for years to come.
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Top 10 Cinema Cameras
Things are moving quite fast within the cinema camera industry. One option relevant in the recent past might not find its place today. Keeping that thing in mind, the following are the top 10 cinema cameras as of today where you can easily pick one that suits your needs:
Canon VIXIA HD HF G20 Camcorder with CMOS Pro
It is a consumer camcorder with excellent features and functionalities which will be suitable for the needs of filmmakers. You may call it a subset of the Canon XA10 model where this one comes with smaller internal memory, no XLR inputs, no handle, and no infrared feature.
You may live without these features as you get it for almost half the price as compared to that advanced model of Canon.
There are many of the same features of the better model where you will be thoroughly impressed with its reliability and durability. Almost everything is automatic with this variant where things could be done by just employing the fast switch.
- Easy to use features
- Quite reasonable sharp image quality
- Image stabilization is found to be excellent
- Superior battery life of more than 5 hours
- A couple of SDXC card slots with 64GB memory support
- Softened image at the full telephoto setting
- The small sensor of 1/3-inch
Video Credit: B&H Photo Video
Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera with MFT lens Mount
The short filmmakers would get this one with incredible value for money. It is a compact size portable model that mimics some of the best features of the advanced cameras from the brand. The unique selling point of this cam is its dynamic range with 13 stops. There is also a Micro Four Thirds (MFT) mount and the great ability to film compressed RAW at 1080P.
You will also get the much popular and widely used Apple ProRes 422 file format for making it much easier for the editors. The sensor size is super 16 and unbeatable for the price. This employs the SD cards which are much versatile and even cheaper than the CF cards.
There is also a built-in feature of the stereo microphone on top of a 3.5mm jack. This could easily be maximized for the external audio input. Another option is also there with the output for the headphone monitoring.
- 13 stops with dynamic range
- Uses cheaper Nikon batteries with optimal performance
- Log ProRes and continuous RAW options
- Record movie to the SD card
- 5-inch excellent LCD
- RAW shoot on SD card eats up memory much quickly
Canon EOS Rebel T5i EF – S 18 – 55 IS STM
This is a very exciting option for cinema camera buffs. It is one of the higher-end models of Canon within the range. You will get it with a 1080P HD option at a stellar price along with quite a decent video functionality on offer. The screen is capable of swiveling and is ideal for users who require considerably low or high-angle shots.
The APS-C sensor of this camera is found to be quite bigger as compared with a GoPro or the point-and-shoot cinema camera. The depth of field is quite brilliant as well.
This camera is ideal for beginners who are into short filmmaking and those who require to create online content. This practical use of this equipment has shown to provide users with cinematic shots which could be perfect to be used for filming at weddings, concerts, and other events.
- Sensor size as good as 35mm lens
- Both for still photography and filmmaking
- Swivel screen
- Built-in wireless type flash trigger
- 3-inch LCD touch screen
- Poor battery life
Video Credit: Peyton
Sony RX100 20.2 MP Compact Digital Cinema Camera
The Sony brand is second to none for decades when it comes to producing the best cameras to support different needs. The RX100 model is one of the finest options in the cinema camera category. You will get this one to produce the best video quality along with some of its limitations as well. It offers HD 1080P at 60 FPS.
The controls are manual including the focus and then there is also a fixed Carl Zeiss lens for zooming. When it comes to trying slow motion and other filming options, you will find this model to be ideal and the most optimized equipment.
The 20.2 megapixels are more than enough for those who are new to filmmaking. If you are a YouTuber then this is one of the finest options you have within your grasp. You get a good range of features at a very competitive price.
- Excellent lithium battery timing
- Manual controls option
- 36x zoom option with full D 1080P and 60 FPS
- Burst mode shots
- Ultra-slim design with aluminum body
- Fixed lens
- Single frame rate option
Canon EOS 70D DSLR Cinema Camera
Among many other suitable options for short filmmakers within the Canon brand, this one is quite a viable option with all its immaculate features.
This camera is the best compromise between the top tier and lower-end cameras from canon. This has been the ultimate choice of many YouTubers for its ability to suit their needs. It can operate using regular and inexpensive SD cards.
It comes with APS-C Sensor and HDMI output. The equipment is magic lantern compatible. The build quality is reasonably good but it is partially weather sealed only.
You wouldn’t find the sensor option given under the viewfinder. So, the LCD screen would always remain open when capturing photos. This tends to drain the battery much faster.
- 720P option at 60 FPS
- Excellent for slow option
- 3-inch swivel screen with flip out option
- Manually control kelvin option
- Capable of shooting on economical SD cards
- No sensor option under the viewfinder option
Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera with EF Mount
This camera could easily act as your pro camera giving a cinematic experience. The critics rightly described this equipment as the sensor in the can. At its reasonable price for the features provided, it gives gorgeous image quality. You will get this one with three different delivery formats.
Those all are suitable for the much-needed pro-level post-production workflow. It is further added with the potential to deliver RAW (lossless) CINEMA DNG output.
This would put any video shooter into a unique weight class as compared with most of the other cameras in the league.
- 5K image resolution
- DN x HD or ProRes delivery format
- Can deliver RAW 12Bit sequences
- Dynamic range with 13 stops
- 5-inch built-in LCD
- 30P framerate limit
GoPro Hero4 Cinema Camera
This specific camera is liked by cinematographers for its extreme versatility and durability. It comes out to be waterproof and shockproof. The pint-sized model is capable to be mounted virtually anywhere. The equipment is supported with a fisheye lens of a fixed type. It supports micro SD cards and replaceable internal batteries.
You can use this camera to get 4K resolutions at 30P/ 24P, 720P at 240 FPS, and 1080P at 120 FPS. It is Wi-Fi enabled which will allow you to operate it using a Wi-Fi-enabled device which could be your tablet or smartphone.
On top of that, you will get this one with a Wi-Fi remote as well. If we dig further into its operations and functionality then you will find it capable of shooting in the Protune mode that employs a flat profile which allows for the ideal color grading.
- Convenient to use
- Compact size
- Shockproof and waterproof
- Slow-motion and easy time-lapse functions
- Wi-Fi supported
- Comprising performance in low light conditions
Sony a7S 12.2 MP E-mount Cinema Camera
This sensational camera from Sony is commercially available since 2014 and it is still one of the finest available options for filmmakers.
It is a mirrorless system camera that comes with a full-size image sensor. The mirrorless system allowed this one to come with a smaller size housing with full- size small format sensor along with the interchangeable lens option.
The image resolution is much effective with the 12.2 MP option. It employs the BIONZ X image processor to process the required image data.
The manufacturer has facilitated this equipment with the 12 million low pixel number which supports the current optimal noise class with high ISO values.
- Optimized for poor light conditions
- Point and shoot style body
- Small, lightweight, and portable
- Ideal ISO performance till 400K
- 4K recording through HDMI
- Poor battery life
Canon XF100 Pro Camcorder with HD 10x Video Lens
This is a high-end model from Canon that offers some serious film shooting options. Surprisingly, this professional-level cinema camera comes at a reasonable price when compared with its features. It is full-featured camera equipment with a fairly compact design.
Those users who are into documentary making, small crew single camera video production, and other similar video work will find this one to be extremely productive. The hassle as compared with the other conventional DSLR cameras will be a lot less.
The camera enthusiasts will like it for its extremely shallow depth of field. It has full automatic shooting modes. You will have the option to switch to the auto mode from the manual mode in those chaotic environments. The ND filters are built-in which takes the video making to next level.
- Good range of resolutions and bitrates
- Slow-motion and fast motion
- Codec will be broadcast ready
- Excellent image quality under unusual or harsh lighting
- 2 x XLR ports with ideal preamps
- Single-lens option only
Nikon D7000 16.2 MP Digital SLR Cinema Camera
This one from Nikon is a mid-range video DSLR camera that the cinematographers would love to have. The equipment comes with the option to plug in the external mic of 3.5mm. There are productive auto gain controls that are quite workable.
You can use it with a couple of SD cards at the same time. If you have plans to shoot in low light conditions then this camera wouldn’t disappoint you at all.
However, this camera during its operations may get muddy quickly with the images as it doesn’t support too much high contrast. On top of that, the rate of data averages nearly 20 Mbps.
- Compatible with a couple of SD cards simultaneously
- Excellent performance in low light conditions
- Superior range of Nikon compatible lenses
- Full-time autofocus
- No aperture change option in manual movie mode
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Cinema Cameras
Does the size of the sensor in the cinema camera matter?
Yes, it influences many characteristics of the image. It includes view angle at a certain focal length, lens compatibility, and depth of field view.
What is the game changer when the cinema camera is compared with the prosumer camera?
It is the latitude. You need to have one with 14 to 16 stops of latitude to make our equipment stand out from the other non-cinematic camera options.
Which file formats of the camera are better for editing?
ProRes and sometimes RAW is considered to be the ideal formats for editing as it provides editor wit better control over colors to provide desirable cinematic images.
What is the typical ISO rating for cinema cameras?
The typical ISO rating for cinema cameras is about 800. However, many latest models go much higher than this number.
Things to Consider when Buying Cinema Camera
There is a lot of confusion among people about the nature of the cinema cameras and how it differs from the other standard DSLRs. Is it something only for video recording and not stills? To make things simpler for you, just consider the following features and you will be having your best cinema camera in hand with no ambiguity:
The quality of the image is the most critical factor for any camera. It is more about the aesthetic quality as compared to any of the technical specifications. Image Signal Processor (ISP) acts as the backbone of the video camera while external light reaching through the sensor completes the entire nexus. This setting allows for capturing the video, recording it, and converting it into a current signal. It is the quality of the ISP algorithm for noise removal, linear correction, color interpolation, bad point repair, and white balance rectification that influence the quality of the image. In short, it is the potential or quality of the ISP that determines the output or the image quality.
Resolution is a very common and critical factor that a lot of people know about even when interacting with a regular camera. The number of pixels capable of being recorded by the camera is part of the image quality. But, this resolution deserves to be discussed separately from the above as it is more about the technical specification as compared to the aesthetic one. As a cinematographer, you must think that what kind or quality of images viewers would like to see now and a few years into the future. Then you could choose the resolution of your cinema camera accordingly. However, if you are a YouTuber and all your recorded stuff is going on YouTube then you probably don’t require anything more than 1080P which is standard HD.
Dynamic Range determines the potential of the cinema camera for handling the contrast. If the dynamic range is found to be too limited with your camera then you might be struggling with the clipping of the bright areas. It means that you will be losing considerable details while filming and sometimes, the darker areas tend to get lost within the noise of the image. If you have a wider dynamic range then it will provide you with better flexibility in grading. Therefore, for the cinematic camera, 14 stops of dynamic range are thought to be a better choice. 12 stops is the absolute minimum.
The earlier cinema cameras use to be ergonomically designed which could easily sit on your shoulder along with a useful handgrip. The grip was provided on the right side of the lens there was an Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) which provides a stabilizing contact of the third point. The cameras these days are more compact. There are some bulkier and boxy cameras available as well which requires supplementary accessories to make them operate in a real scenario.
Recording File Type
You need to check out that what is the particular file type and the codec that your camera support. You need to be considerate about your editing software and if it is compatible with the file format of your camera or not. If they are not compatible with each other then you must check that how much time will it take for making the necessary conversion or if there is an alternative solution or not. This is also the section where you would think about the compression ratios if that is supported by your camera or not. The hard disk space also needs to be considered here and how the compression ratio impacts the space on the hard drive.
The cinema camera enthusiasts already have a diverse collection of lenses or they may look to hire a few more lenses. The need is to ascertain that they can fit the amount of your new camera. The need is to find a lens mount that allows accommodating a wide variety of options for the still lens and as well as for some of the cinema lenses of low-end type.
The smaller Micro Four-Thirds (MFT) mount does have a wide variety of lens options. Few of the top-end cameras are known to have the PL mount which is capable of accommodating all of the high-end cinema lenses used in big movies. But, this could be a really expensive option so decide accordingly.
The International Standards Organization (ISO) scale decides the sensitivity of the camera to the light. The native ISO is the most crucial thing here which is the one at which the subject cinema equipment tends to be optimized in providing the best image quality and maximum possible detailing.
If you think that buying a nice cinema camera as per your needs is all that you need then you are wrong. You need to consider a lot of essential accessories to make your cinema camera work as a system. Some of the key accessories to consider here are batteries, charger, lenses, memory card, and memory card, reader. A stabilizing platform is also pivotal to make the camera work in all types of situations. It could well be an electronic gimbal or a shoulder rig. A tripod, matte box, EVF and follow focus are all important as well and this list could go on and on. However, you need to be very careful with the budget as these accessories could be expensive and some might be only optional.
Professional cinema cameras have a league of their own in the photography world. They have managed to make their niche just like the other pro SLR cameras. Their significant revolution started in the 90s and today the cinematographers around the world are facilitated with the most advanced equipment.
If you are looking to buy one then be sure to be as accurate as possible with your needs. It is because the camera and its supported equipment could be very expensive and may exhaust your budget.
The idea is to have a camera that offers excellent image quality and then having all the other features which could facilitate the best cinematography at an affordable price.