While nearly all cameras on the market can shoot video, it often feels like a last-minute feature tacked on with no real thought going into the feature’s usability, effectiveness and quality.
So, Head On has assembled a list of cameras with outstanding video capabilities that will suit any practitioner. No matter the project, no matter the environment, no matter the conditions – We’ve got your back!
The videographer who sometimes takes photos
Sony Alpha 7S III
Video credit: Sony Australia
This camera was a bit of a revelation when it hit stores. It was a significant price jump from the previous model, ‘Sony Alpha 7S II’, which prompted the question:
How much better can it really be?
A lot better, as it turns out!
This camera is designed specifically for videographers, and every feature feels like it’s made to anticipate a moviemaker’s next move.
The 7S III doesn’t shoot in 6K or 8K resolution like some of its rivals. However, it’s the only compact, affordable camera on the market that can shoot 4K at 60p full frame with no crop, no limitations on recording time and with all the advanced AF functions still working.
This is a reliable video-machine, and if it suits your needs, then it’s undoubtedly the best camera on the market for you.
The photographer who sometimes takes videos
Nikon Z 6II
Video credit: Nikon Europe
Versatility is the name of the game when it comes to the Nikon Z 6II. It has an impressive range of autofocus options, video capabilities, low light performance, not to mention buffer and frames per second…everything you want in a hybrid still and video camera.
Another great feature? Dual card slots. One slot accepts CFExpress (Type B) and XQD cards. The other slot accepts standard SD cards. So, you have the option to use whichever format you prefer, or use both slots and separate your video and still files. A great option for someone who is constantly jumping between formats.
The phone addict
iPhone 13 Pro
Video credit: Apple
In terms of accessibility and versatility, nothing will beat the good ol’ iPhone.
And the specs on these newer devices are nothing to sniff at.
The iPhone 13 Pro boasts: 6.1” Super Retina XDR display with ProMotion, Telephoto, Wide, ultra-wide lenses and Dolby Vision HDR video recording up to 4K at 60 fps.
But what makes the 13 Pro particularly special is the new Cinematic mode in 1080p at 30 fps, very powerful for something that can fit in your pocket.
PS. Go for the 13 Pro, not the 13 Pro Max – it’s a big price jump between the two for only a slightly bigger screen and a couple more hours’ of battery life.
The action star
Video credit: GoPro
Skydiving? Suba-diving? Getting shot at? You could probably drop this thing in a volcano and you would still get a decent-looking video.
GoPro’s, while seeming a bit cliché now, still perform the best at what they are designed to do. These are set-it and forget-it machines, you simply press the button to start recording, strap it to your head, jump off a cliff, and then press the same button to stop recording.
While the camera functions are limited to a handful of basic settings for the video resolution and frame rate, if you are looking for a tough compact camera that won’t let you down – GoPro is still the go-to.
Sony Alpha 7C
Video credit: Sony Australia
Hard to be an influencer when you look grainy and out-of-focus – hey, if it was easy, everyone would do it!
Good thing Sony has created a camera with the vlogger specifically in mind. The Alpha 7C is one of the smallest full-frame cameras on the market, which makes it optimal for handheld shooting.
Its side-opening vari-angle monitor can be easily viewed in all positions (a must for self-recording). It has impressively clear sound recording and Sony’s clear image zoom means you can use single-focus lenses as zoom lenses, with up to 2x zoom magnification. Big things come in small packages!
Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera Pro 6K
Video credit: Blackmagic Design
The only criticism of the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera Pro 6K is the name – a bit long, isn’t it?
But moving past this gripe, this is a quality camera at a great price point that holds its own in the world of cinema cameras.
A big plus? Well, it’s in the incredibly long name, it shoots at 6K which really expands your options when it comes to post-production, giving you the flexibility to crop, zoom and motion-track footage without sacrificing image quality. Hence the title of the documentarian – you can shoot things quickly and efficiently on the day, and then have the freedom in post-production to create something cinematic, great for small-budget projects with limited shooting days.
Not to mention, the look of this camera is something special. Instead of focusing on making something sleek and sexy, the Balckmagic is chunky and solid with a retro twist – it feels like a serious camera without weighing you down.
Alexa mini LF
Video credit: ARRI
Alright, now we are getting serious.
If we told you to picture a video camera this is probably what you would imagine. And for good reason, world-class cinematographers from Roger Deakins (1917, Blade Runner 2049, Skyfall, No Country for Old Men) to Ari Wegner (Power of the Dog) have shot some of their biggest projects on this camera. It’s about as cinematic as it gets.
There isn’t much I can say about the Alexa mini LF that hasn’t been already said or isn’t self-explanatory by the movies it created. The Alexa mini LF is the camera of modern cinema.
So yeah, if you have a spare $60,000 USD lying around, then buy this.
The bargain hunter
Panasonic Lumix GH5
Video credit: Panasonic Australia
Now to the other end of the spectrum, the Panasonic Lumix GH5 is a favourite of indie filmmakers. This camera is known for its impressive reliability and usability at a competitive price point.
The GH5 impressive 4K footage is shot using the full width of the sensor and has no time restrictions. And it doesn’t get lazy on the still side either, shooting photos in 6K and being complimented for its performance in resolution and sharpness.
Where the GH5 really corners the market is its longevity. Not only will it last you a long time, with its sturdy design, but its battery life is unparalleled – you can record in 4k continuously for 2 hours!
The high flyer
DJI Mavic Air 2
Video credit: DJI
For those just getting into drones, the quality of the camera may be the last thing on your mind, keeping the damn thing in the air rather than in a tree feels a bit more pressing.
But DJI gives you the best of both worlds, a user-friendly drone with superb video quality. This compact machine can shoot 4K video that can be controlled on the fly (literally) through its specialised app. Another handy feature is DJI smart-flight modes such as ActiveTrack, which directs the drone to autonomously follow and film a subject while also avoiding obstacles.
It folds up to around 10cm and has a competitive battery life making it incredibly versatile and easy to use – now you just need to learn how to fly it.
Video credit: MyFootage.com
Okay, this one is a bit of a joke, but ain’t she a beaut?
If the Alexa created cinema today, then the Mitchell created cinema. Period.
This mammoth machine, weighing around 230kg, allowed cinematographers to control composition, framing and mise-en-scène like never before. It gave filmmakers autonomy, without which there would be no such thing as an auteur.
Look, if it’s good enough for Orson Wells, it’s good enough for me.
Feeling inspired? Want some advice on how to get the most out of your video camera?
Join us on Wednesday, 10 August for our special Spotlight Session Moving images with Hugh Hamilton, where this internationally successful photographer will help you embrace movement in your photographic practice.