You definitely don’t need the most expensive camera to create a great film. What’s most important is the story. Just take a look at the 2023 movie The Creator which used the Sony FX3, to shoot 95% of the film. Although the Sony FX3 is way outside the budget of this article, the camera is essentially a high end consumer camera and much cheaper than the typical camera used in Hollywood.
What’s nice is that because of the constant innovations in the camera market, there is a huge selection of great budget cameras to choose from.
Here are the best cameras for filmmaking on a budget in 2024 with more detailed information below.
- Panasonic G85: Great value price point that comes with every feature you would need.
- Sony a6400: Easily one of the best performing low light cameras for under $1,000.
- DJI Pocket 2: A filmmaking powerhouse that fits in your pocket. Low-light performance is so-so, but the small size is great.
For each of the cameras, I included affiliate links to either Amazon, Adorama, or eBay. By using these affiliate links, you support the ongoing maintence of this website.
To help make it easier for you, I try to keep these links as updated as possible, but make sure to shop around as there are so many great camera deals now.
Another great option is buying pre-owned as you save money while extending the life of a camera. I understand buying used isn’t for everyone, but I’ve only had postive experiences buying used from small businesses and individuals on eBay. As long as their seller rating is high, you should be good and many sellers also accept returns if you’re not satisfied.
Typically you can find this camera at under $700. Considering the price point, the Panasonic G85 is the best value for all the features it comes with. Its autofocus system is very good significantly outperforming the older Panasonic GH4. It has a flip-articulating screen that gives you the ability to capture footage easily from weird angles, and it has above-average in-body image stabilization which makes it possible to capture smooth footage without a gimbal. On the build quality side, the camera has a solid magnesium body that is fully weather-sealed; a feature that is not usually found in cameras in this price range.
What’s also cool with micro four-thirds cameras like the G85 is that you get access to a variety of different micro four-third lenses from manufacturers like Panasonic, Olympus, Sigma, and Tamron. Because of the smaller lens size, and bigger selection, the lenses will be cheaper than an APS-C camera like the Sony a6400.
At the same time, the biggest downside of this is the micro four-third sensor size. Since it’s smaller, you’re not going to get the same low-light capabilities as a camera with an APS-C sensor. It also doesn’t have a headphone socket, but that’s not as big of a deal.
If you can get over the so-so low-light performance, this camera truly is a powerhouse.
- Good autofocus, although not as fast as the Sony a6400.
- Really good 5-axis image stabilization.
- Fully weather-sealed which is hard to find in a camera at this price range.
- Flip articulating LCD screen.
- A wide variety of compatible micro four third lenses from Panasonic, Olympus, Sigma, Tamron, and more.
- The low-light performance is not the best.
- The maximum slow motion frame rate is 60 FPS.
- Autofocus is not as good as the Sony a6400.
2. Sony a6400
Notes From The Field: I used the Sony a6500 to film most of my award-winning short film Spirit of Matsu. Although the Sony a6400 is slightly different from the Sony a6500, the video frame rates and the sensor are the same, so you’ll get a good idea of what the quality of the video looks like.
The Sony a6400 is one of the more expensive cameras in this article coming in at just under $1,000. However, it’s a great camera if you’re planning to shoot in low light conditions or want the best autofocus. Like the other Sony cameras in this series, the Sony a6400 features an APS-C sensor that offers arguably the best low light capabilities in this price range. The autofocus technology also shines with its combination of 425 phase-detection and 425 contrast-detection points enhancing its real-time autofocus tracking when recording video.
The camera has an upgraded, weather-sealed body and it can record 4k up to 30 FPS and 1080p up to 120 FPS. Remember, the Panasonic G85 can only record up to 60 FPS. From personal experience creating my short film Spirit of Matsu, the 4k is crisp and slow motion frame rates up to 120 FPS are good enough.
The biggest downside with this camera is the lack of in-body image stabilization and its LCD screen. Yes, it is possible to capture smooth handheld footage when using the slow motion frame rates, but it’s difficult if you’re shooting handheld in 4k. The LCD screen is very limited especially when compared to the articulating screen of the Panasonic G85. The screen of the Sony a6400, can only flip up 180 degrees, but it doesn’t articulate to the side and tends to get washed out in sunlight.
Again each camera has trade offs. Need the best low-light and autofocus, this is the camera. However, if image stabilization is important, then the Sony a6400 is of course not the best choice.
- One of the best low light cameras you can find in this price range.
- Slow motion frame rates of 1080p at up to 120 FPS.
- Quick and accurate autofocus with its 425 phase-detection and contrast-detection autofocus points
- No built-in image stabilization versus the 5-axis image stabilization in the Panasonic G85.
- It’s hard to use the LCD screen under a bright sun and it only flips up 90 degrees.
- The SD card slot is located on the bottom of the camera so it’s hard to access if you’re using a tripod or gimbal.
3. Sony ZV-E10
The Sony ZV-E10 has been specifically designed for vlogging in mind. In essence, the camera has combined popular features from the Sony a6xxx series cameras and their Sony ZV-1 range of cameras to create a vlogger-friendly camera with an APS-C sensor.
The sensor is the same as the Sony a6400. So in terms of video quality, frame rates, and autofocus capability nothing has changed. The Sony ZV-E10 can record crisp 4k video up to 30 FPS; for slow motion frame rates, it can record up to 120 FPS in 1080p. The ZV-E10 also doesn’t have in-body image stabilization, but it does feature an electronic stabilization that Sony calls its SteadyShot Active mode. The SteadyShot Active mode is much better than nothing, but it doesn’t work in 1080p and at 100 FPS and 120 FPS frame rates.
In addition to a good mix of different frame rates in 4k and 1080p, the ZV-E10 also has a flip LCD screen similar to that of the Panasonic G85.
Similar to the Sony a6400, the biggest negative with this camera is the lack of in-body image stabilization. If you’re ok with using the SteadyShot Active mode or don’t need stabilization, this is another powerful filmmaking camera option because of the APS-C sensor it has.
- Great low-light capabilities. Same sensor as the Sony a6400.
- Slow motion frame rates of 1080p at up to 120 FPS.
- Quick and accurate autofocus with its 425 phase-detection and contrast-detection autofocus points.
- Flip LCD screen.
- Lack of in-body image stabilization.
- Is not weather-sealed.
- No viewfinder.
The Canon EOS R50 is a compact, lightweight camera featuring sharp 4K image quality from its APS-C sensor, oversampled from 6K. At its price point, the camera offers excellent value for money under $1,000.
This camera can record uncropped 4K video up to 30 FPS, and it also supports Full HD slow-motion frame rates up to 120 fps. APS-C cameras are notoriously known for having some sort of crop factor, so the fact that the Canon EOS R50 doesn’t have a crop factor is a plus, in my opinion. The hybrid phase-detect autofocus system is also very good, as it’s a simplified version of the same autofocus system from Canon’s more expensive cameras.
There are two notable downsides to this camera. The first is the limited selection of native APS-C RF mount Canon lenses, and the second is the lack of in-body image stabilization. Yes, you can use full-frame RF mount Canon lenses, but they are usually more expensive, larger, and heavier, which might negate the purpose of buying this compact camera.
The absence of in-body image stabilization is unfortunate, but it is somewhat easier to compensate for. Most Canon RF lenses come with image stabilization, and the R50 does feature digital image stabilization, which is similar to the system found in the Sony ZV-E10.
- Great 4K image quality that is oversampled from 6K and full HD slow-motion frame rates up to 120 FPS.
- Above average hybrid phase-detect autofocus system.
- APS-C sensor so performs well in low light.
- No in-body image stabilization.
- A limited selection of native APS-C RF mount Canon lenses.
- Not weather sealed.
5. DJI Pocket 2
With the release of the DJI Pocket 3 in the fall of 2023, there has never been a better time to take a look at the DJI Pocket 2 if you’re on a budget. Although there have been many improvements made in the newest iteration of the camera, the DJI Pocket II is still an amazing tool for creating cinematic films.
The biggest downside of the DJI Pocket II is its small 1/1.7-inch sensor, so it doesn’t perform the best in low light. However, if you plan to shoot in well-lit conditions or you don’t mind so-so performance in low light, this camera does pack a punch.
The camera includes a flexible range of video resolutions and frame rates including 4K, 2K, and 1080p up to 240 FPS. Not to mention, the camera has 3-axis gimbal stabilization so you’re able to shoot incredibly smooth footage in 4K even if you’re running.
It’s hard to describe in writing just how good the gimbal stabilization is. For an example, just take a look at my DJI Pocket 2 Cinematic Test video below. I shot every clip for this test video handheld and in the opening scenes with my dog, Sushi at Cannon Beach, I was running while recording the footage.
- Great value, especially after the release of the newer DJI Pocket 3.
- 3-axis gimbal stabilization that allows you to capture incredibly smooth handheld footage.
- Good flexible selection of video resolution and frame rates including 4k, 2K, and 1080p up to 240 FPS.
- Small sensor size so it’s not very good in low light.
- Below average battery life, although that should be expected.
- Very difficult to get a shallow depth of field (bokeh0 with the lens.