For true, professional filmmaking, only the best cinema cameras will do. From filmmaking and broadcasting to commercial work and high end content creation, cine cameras are built for extended use with a wide range of accessories, microphones, recorders and lighting.
While many mirrorless on the market today have great video capabilities, the best cinema cameras are simply on a different level. Even the best mirrorless cameras, including the Canon EOS R5 with its 4K 120p and 8K video, simply don't have the connections, the cooling systems, the modular design, the in-built ND filters or even the same language of shutter angles and iris control that cinema cameras have.
These days, 'best' doesn't automatically mean 'most expensive' either. Cinema cameras are going through a period of very rapid change, as mirrorless cameras raise the bar, and customer expectations, for their professional cinema equivalents. Certainly there are big hitters like the Canon EOS C500 Mark II, which weighs in at $15,999 – though for that you're getting a full-frame 5.9K Cinema Raw Light monster that uses CFexpress storage.
However, a wave of nouveau cameras like the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K and the game-changing Canon EOS C70 offer premium video features in a body no larger (and with a similar price) to a high-end stills camera. And of course, the 8K Canon EOS R5 and 12K Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 12K are revolutionizing the way that filmmakers think about resolution.
Of course, you can easily frighten your bank manager if you look at cameras from manufacturers like Arri and Red – but this list aims to give you a spread of accessible options you can pick up for around the 10K threshold. So here are our current picks for the best cinema cameras on the market right now, from pricey pro cine cams to cost-friendly consumer cameras.
We've split them into two groups, with traditional big-hitting modular cinema cameras in the first group, and a new wave of more portable hybrid filmmaking cameras in the second.
You can think of the first list as 'A' cameras and the second as backup 'B' cameras. But that's in a professional filmmaking setup. Any of these 'B' cameras could be perfect for independent filmmakers or single-handed video shooters.
Best cinema camera in 2021
Full size cinema cameras
Sony’s recent A7S III mirrorless camera sent video shooters into a frenzy with its stunning 4K image quality, especially at high ISOs, incredible video AF, fast frame rates and very high-spec internal 10-bit codecs. The story here is that Sony has put the same sensor and all that clever tech into a compact cinema camera, the FX6, and actually improved on it in many ways. It has even better performance in low light, shoots at DCI 17:9 C4K instead of just 4K, and of course has XLR audio, built-in ND filters and all the usual handling benefits of a dedicated video camera. And at this price, it’s by far the best value full-frame cinema camera you can buy.
Read more: Sony FX6 review
The Mark II was our cinema camera of choice for a long time, but the Canon EOS C300 Mark III eclipses it in every way. The first camera to boast Canon's Dual Gain Output technology (basically dual native ISO), the result is It achieves remarkably clean low light picture quality, HDR acquisition and a whopping 16 stops of dynamic range. It can perform high-speed recording at up to 120fps in 4K at Super35, or 180fps in 2K at Super16, with internal recording options including 4K Cinema RAW Light at 10- or 12-bit, 2K RAW (in Super16) at 10- or 12-bit, and XF-AVC (MXF) at 4:2:2 10-bit ALL-I or LongGOP. And its modular design extends all the way to the lens mount, which can be changed between EF, PL or EF Cinema Lock without needing to send it to a service center. However, many of the same features are available in a cheaper, sleeker, more advanced camera…
If you really must have the bragging rights that comes with owning the highest-resolution video camera on the market, then the Blackmagic Ursa Mini Pro 12K is it. With a 79.6-megapixel CMOS sensor, it shoots 12K Blackmagic Raw files which give stunning quality with 14 stops of dynamic range and very filmic colours. Reduce it to a more reasonable 8K and 4K, and not only is the quality incredible, but you can shoot at fast frame rates that no other cameras can. But a camera is more than just its headline resolution and the Ursa Mini Pro 12K is based on the original Ursa Mini Pro launched almost four years ago and is starting to show its age. For example it has a Super35mm sensor, no IBIS, no codecs other than Raw, no continuous autofocus at all and certainly no phase-detection AF. It’s really a camera for experienced cinematographers shooting narrative drama such as feature films and VFX specialists rather than all-rounders.
Read more: Blackmagic Ursa Mini Pro 12K review
Blackmagic’s cinema cameras are an industry favourite, and the URSA Mini Pro is a shining example as to why its products get so much love from filmmakers. Despite costing significantly less than the Canon C300 II (at number 1), it delivers the same 15 stops of dynamic range, as well as up to 4.6K resolution shooting at a staggering 150fps when shooting RAW. The inbuilt ND filter at two, four or six stops is combined with IR compensation. Like the Pocket Cinema Camera 6K (number 4 in our list), the Mini Pro G2 can record directly to an SSD through its USB-C port, and it also features two SDXC cards and two CFast cards as well. Pick one up one of these excellent cinema cameras and you even get a free copy of DaVinci Resolve, Blackmagic’s excellent video editing suite, which now comes loaded with audio and graphics software to elevate your footage beyond simple edits and grading. A new flagship URSA Mini Pro 12K version of this camera has been announced that offers an incredible 12K resolution from its 80 megapixel sensor.
For serious video shooters, the Panasonic Lumix BGH1 boxcam can make a lot of sense as it can be rigged up for a multitude of different uses. With the sensor technology and 10-bit recording of the popular Lumix GH5S, Varicam colour science and Dual Native ISO sensor as found in the high-end Panasonic camcorders, and a small modular body, it can be pressed into service for a huge range of high-quality productions. From documentary to full-on cinematic films, event coverage and live streaming, the BGH1 can be used for just about everything a professional filmmaker might need. But it’s definitely not a walk-around hybrid camera for people who like to shoot stills and video.
Read more: Panasonic Lumix BGH1 review
The Sony FS5 MII is virtually identical to its predecessor, with the same body. However, it comes pre-loaded with many of the paid firmware upgrades that unlocked advanced features of the original. It’s able to shoot 4K at up to 60p for example, with support for the BT.2020 colour space, elevating footage to broadcast standards. With its built-in electronic variable ND filter, variable lighting conditions aren’t a problem, and with 10 assignable buttons, you can also tune it to your shooting tastes. If you're a fan of slow-motion this is the camera for you; it offers up 180fps 1080p capture with no crop. With 14 stops of dynamic range, it’s no slouch – even though it can’t quite stack up to the C300 on that front. Finally, it supports Sony’s E mount lens system, so there’s plenty of glass around you can combine it with to capture sensational, cinematic results.
The Panasonic EVA1 is Netflix-approved, something you don’t usually find in such a small cinema camera. It’s just 1.2Kg without a lens, so is a great run and gun option, and even fits on a gimbal, especially if you’re shooting with a pancake lens. The 3.5-inch screen goes a step beyond articulating – you can detach it and reposition it depending on what you’re shooting, though outdoor viewability isn’t great. As for its 5.7K CMOS sensor, it oversamples to create excellent 4K results, and just like the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K (number 4), the EVA1 also has a dual native ISO, giving it two sweet spots, one at an ISO of 800, the other at 2500. This results in less grain and more dynamic range. With a compatible recorder such as the Atomos Shogun, the camera can output 5.7K RAW or 240fps at 2K resolution, so while the slow-motion capabilities might not be class-leading when working with the out-of-the-box kit, couple it with a few accessories and you can get stellar results that are ready for the big and small screen alike.
Portable cinema cameras
The Canon EOS C70 is like a remixed C300 Mark III. It packs the same Super35 sensor, Dual Gain Output, 16 stops of dynamic range and 4K 120fps / 2K 180fps performance into a compact form factor more like a traditional stills camera. It also packs a touchscreen that changes the game for Cinema EOS cameras, with touch control making it so much easier to maintain focus. For lone shooters, the C70 boasts the iTR AFX system from the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III, with head detection and spookily accurate autofocus. The only cinema camera to use Canon's RF mount, it opens up a world of cutting-edge optics – and not only can you still use EF lenses, but a new Canon speed booster enables you to use them with an extra f-stop and a full-frame angle of view! However, it doesn't record in RAW and there's no option to use PL lenses – for that, you'll need to step up to the C300.
The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K is a unique and specialised video camera with extraordinary specifications, design and value for money. It's not a big cinema camera in the classic style and you probably wouldn't use it as the main camera for a shoot, but as a portable second camera it's really rather extraordinary. It's styled like a compact rangefinder camera, but it's designed solely for video, not stills. The older Pocket Cinema Camera 4K used a Micro Four Thirds sensor and lens mount (and is still being sold), but this new model uses a larger Super 35mm sensor format and the Canon EF lens mount. Amazingly, it can capture 6K raw video at up to 60/50p. This camera does have limitations, including a fixed, non-tilting screen and no continuous autofocus, but technically it's quite extraordinary.
With the Lumix S1H, Panasonic has used its considerable video experience to bring many of its high-end VariCam features to the Lumix S range. The controls, the interface and certainly the hardware have been build for video and cinematography, and the fact it’s also a very serviceable 24MP stills camera is a bonus. It’s a truly compelling ‘bridge’ between conventional system cameras and higher end cine gear, especially for existing Panasonic videographers. It's designed like a stills camera rather than a cine camera, though, so the handling is compromised in that respect, but its specifications, performance and dedicated video-centric UI make this a strong challenger to more conventional cine camera designs.
Read more: Panasonic Lumix S1H review
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