What are the best budget cinema cameras for making movies?
Making movies that are good enough to project at a digital cinema has never been easier. In the past you would need an expensive film camera and have to pay for film stock and developing to make a movie. Low-cost digital cameras are now good enough to create films for cinemas and digital distribution. There are many digital cinema cameras available but most are expensive and not for the beginner filmmaker. However, there are some low cost cameras that are available that will film your movie masterpiece just fine. All of the cameras mentioned here will also need other attachments such as a lens, microphone and extra batteries. So also consider these when budgeting for your camera.
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Original Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera
The original Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera has been available for a few years now but it is still worth considering if you wish to make a film for cinema. It has a maximum resolution of 1080p and will film at 24, 25 and 30 frames a second. So if you want to film slow motion action it might not be the best camera for you. It also has a maximum ISO of 1600 so isn’t the greatest camera for low-light shooting.
Battery power is not great but you can solve this by using an external battery pack plugged into the camera. You will also need to use an external audio recorder as the preamps in the camera are not great. But don’t let all that negativity distract you. You can pick this camera up for under $500 and it has many features to offer the low budget filmmaker. This camera has even seen use on blockbuster films like The Avengers: Age of Ultron because the quality is that good. It can film in RAW or ProRes with 12-bit log, which is perfect for colour grading.
It is light, small and compact and measures just 128mm x 66mm x 38mm. This makes it perfect for mobile filmmaking on location. It has 13 stops of dynamic range and produces beautiful cinematic videos. These are easily up scaled to 4K with Davinci Resolve‘s up scaling algorithms. It has a Micro Four Thirds lens mount and the beauty of this is that with the right lens adaptor you can put various lenses on to it. It also uses cheap SD cards for storage, so you will have no problems storing your media. The original BMPCC is for videographers who want a classic, cinematic, expensive look, without the expense.
Price: $830.00 £637.00 €702.00
Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K
The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K is a fantastic camera for the low budget filmmaker who wants to make a movie for the cinema. This camera sells at just $1300 so it is a bargain for movie production. You can record in either 4K Blackmagic RAW files or the Apple ProRes codec for quality low compression video files. You can store these files on SD, Cfast 2.0 memory cards or to an external hard drive.
It offers dual native ISO for less noise when you are filming in low-light, which makes it ideal for night-time shoots. It will also film up to 120 frames a second if you wish to film slow motion video. It has a 5-inch touch screen to view your shots and you can also use this to set up the camera’s many settings with the easy navigation controls. Battery life is not great but Blackmagic has now released a battery pack that slots on to the bottom of the camera to give you more filming time. Other features include a phantom powered mini XLR port for attaching professional microphones and a clean HDMI output for monitors or external recorders.
Image quality is stunning and will not disappoint the beginner filmmaker with 13 stops of dynamic range. The BMPCC4K’s Micro Four Thirds sensor offers a 1.9 times crop factor and with the right adaptors you can fit various lenses on to it. There is also a 6K version of this camera available with an Active EF mount if you want to use Canon’s many lenses that are available. I think the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K is a great camera for the beginner filmmaker and will give you beautiful cinematic images at an affordable price. It even comes with a free version of the Davinci Resolve editing and post-production software. So there is nothing to stop you from making your movie masterpiece.
Price: $1295.00 £993.00 €1095.00
Z Cam E2C 4K Cine Camera MFT
The Z Cam E2C 4K Cine Camera MFT is another great low-cost cinema camera for making digital cinema movies. It sells at just $800 so it is ideal for the beginner filmmaker. It has a Micro Four Thirds lens mount and sensor with 11.5 stops of dynamic range, which means you can fit various lenses on to it for filmmaking. It records to standard SDXC cards using the H.264 or H.265 codec up to a resolution of UHD 3840 x 2160 10-bit at 30 frames a second.
It has various powering options that include Canon LP-E6 batteries or you can plug it into an external power supply with its DC 12V power socket. An included Ethernet port will allow for you to live stream to the Internet if you need too. There is no viewing screen with this camera, so you will need to add an external portable screen to view your image. You can buy these easily enough but do add another expense to buying the camera.
It does have a 3.5mm microphone socket for adding microphones, but there is no phantom power, or XLR input for adding professional microphones to the camera. It has Auto and Manual ISO settings up to 25600 ISO, so won’t let you down for low-light filmmaking. This camera may not be as user-friendly as the Blackmagic pocket cinema camera 4K but it is a quality low-cost professional cinema camera for digital filmmaking.
Price: $799.00 £650.00 €675.00
The Panasonic GH5 has been available for a while now but it is still worth considering if you are on a tight budget and are looking for a quality camera for making digital movies. It shoots at 10-bit 4:2:2 150mbs 4K at 24, 25 or 30 frames per second and up to 180 frames per second in 1080 HD. It also has added features like a histogram, peaking and zebras to help you balance the image of your shots. It has a Micro Four Thirds lens mount and like the other cameras in this review will fit various lenses with the right adaptors.
For an extra $400 you can add the DMW-XLR1 microphone adaptor, which fits on to the hot shoe mount of the camera. This will allow you to add professional XLR microphones with phantom power for quality audio recordings. It has an adjustable angle viewing screen, which makes it ideal for filming low or high angle shots. It records its H.264 media to standard SD cards and there are two slots on the camera for holding SD cards.
It does include image stabilisation and this does a good job of removing the shake out of your video recordings. It is also good in low-light with a maximum ISO of 12800. Battery life is good and will keep you going for much longer than most other film cameras but if you need more power you can always invest in the optional DMW-BGGH5 external battery pack. At a $1000 this camera is still worth considering for the cash strapped filmmaker.
Price: $1495.00 £1150.00 €1265.00
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