The best cinema cameras are designed for high-end professional video work. They are often used to shoot movies and TV programs but as the prices of 'industry standard' cine cameras drop, more and more videographers are choosing to use them. While the ability to shoot in 6K, 8K or even 12K is a welcome feature, the form factor, video codecs and connections a cine camera has are very important.
We've excluded Arri and Red cameras from our list due to the fact they sell seriously high-end bits of kit that are a little out of the price range for most commercial filmmakers. While many mirrorless cameras also offer very high-quality video, they are slightly different from cine cameras so they also haven't been included. For anyone looking for a stills camera that offers excellent video recording features, check out our guides on the best cameras for 4K video and the best cameras for video.
It's not on our list (yet) as we want to get our hands on one first, but DJI have recently announced the DJI Ronin 4D - an 8K or 6K cinema camera that is basically a flightless drone. It's the first cinema camera to include 4-axis stabilization which means it will absorb a lot of the movement from walking and running shots and it won't be so necessary to record sliding shots on a dolly. This latest release from DJI goes to show how varied cine cameras are becoming and we're pretty sure it'll find its way onto this list soon enough.
To make the guide easier to digest, we've split it into two sections that cover different types of cinema cameras. They are:
• Full size cinema cameras: What you would expect to see on a film or TV set, these cameras are pretty big once you add a lens, monitor, handle etc and have lots of connections ports and mounting points for professional needs.
• Portable cinema cameras: Pioneered by Blackmagic, these professional-grade cameras may be smaller than a 'proper' cine cam but they are still mighty. Canon and Sony have also jumped on the bandwagon and released their own versions of a pint-sized cine cam.
Mirrorless vs cinema cameras
So what makes a cinema camera a cinema camera? Some argue it's when it's clearly designed to capture video rather than stills while others could argue it comes down to size, the lens mount it has and whether or not it has capabilities of shooting in raw or ProRes.
• New form factors: The Sigma fp and the new Sigma fp L are both very interesting indeed in this context. They are both stills/video hybrids, but both have a modular form factor and a cine-focused interface that qualifies them for this guide.
• 8K isn't everything: Obviously the 8K capture of the Canon EOS R5 and Sony A1 have made the headlines, but they are both stills cameras that can shoot video and not purpose-made cine cameras. For that, there's the Canon EOS C70 or the Sony FX3.
• Cinematography vs filmmaking vs vlogging: If you're looking for the best camera for vlogging you might find the cameras on this list a bit overkill. Not only are most of them very expensive but they require a lot of technical knowledge in order to get the best out of them. If you're looking for more of an all-round camera, our guides on the best mirrorless cameras or best camera for video will be more helpful.
In this guide, we're sticking to cameras designed for professional film and tv production. There is one section for your top-end, high spec, modular cinema cameras and one for the more portable cinema cameras capable of 4K and 6K.
You can think of the first list as 'A' cameras and the second as backup 'B' cameras if you were in a professional filmmaking environment. However, any of these 'B' cameras could be ideal for independent filmmakers or single-handed video shooters who have moved beyond vlogging and are ready to put time and effort into their filmmaking.
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 a Canon C300 II, 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 (below), 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.
The Z cam E2 offers features that top-end brands such as Arri and Red cameras offer such as its own raw codec known as Z Raw and ProRes. It can shoot DCI and UHD 4K at 160fps for slow-motion shots as well as full HD at 240fps for super slow-motion recording. It's able to shoot 10-bit ProRes 4:2:2 as well as H.265 and H.264 codecs so you can compress your footage but maintain the quality. It has 13 stops of dynamic range using ZLog or 16 stops of dynamic range in WDR mode and is compatible with lots of lenses due to its popular Micro Four Thirds mount. The camera can easily be controlled by an app on your smartphone and use it to enable a live view feature via Wifi or a USB cable - a welcome feature considering it has no screen. It's powered by a Sony L series battery which unfortunately is not included, you can however connect it to an AC adapter and power it from the mains. For the money, you get a lot of professional features that you won't get on other cameras, especially for less than £2000/$2761.
For serious video shooters, the Panasonic Lumix BSH1 boxcam can make a lot of sense as it can be rigged up for a multitude of different uses. It has a 24.2-megapixel full-frame sensor with Dual Native ISO technology, 14+ stops of dynamic range and an OLPH (Optical Low Pass Filter) which helps to suppress moire and false colors and make it excellent in low light. It's capable of recording 6K 24p or 4K 60p 10 bit when using an image area equivalent to Super 35mm. If you're using the entire 35mm sensor area, it can shoot 4K 30p 10-bit 4.2.2 in H.264.
With live streaming growing increasingly popular, the BS1H is capable of transmitting high-quality footage to social streaming platforms over a wired LAN collection. It can stream 4K 60p video in H.265 which means the bit rate is halved and the image quality is kept the same. The lack of a screen may be off-putting but its modular system means you can easily attach an external recorder such as the Atmos Ninja V which will also make it capable of outputting 12-bit raw video.
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 (below), 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.
Read more: Canon EOS C70 review
The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro is an evolution of the original 6K model which adds features missing from the first, including in-built ND filters. First of all, though, you have to get used to the handling from the odd size and large shape of the Super35mm Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro – which is certainly far from being pocket size. And the lack of continuous autofocus, image stabilization or any auto-exposure can be an issue for some. It’s definitely not a run and gun camera. But if you use it as a tool for considered, cinematic shooting then it’s a bit of a steal as it produces rich, detailed files in raw or ProRes from its dual native ISO sensor.
The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K looks great value for money today and it's an intriguing alternative for Olympus or Panasonic users who've already invested in MFT lenses. It has some disadvantages, such as no continuous AF and a fixed screen, but this is a cinema camera not a vlogging camera. It always comes back to bang for buck with the Pocket Cinema Camera 4K. When you consider the fact you have a mini XLR audio input as well as USB-C storage support for recording to hard drives, a full sized HDMI port and dual card slots, the Pocket Cinema Camera 4K leapfrogs the competition in almost every video-centric area. Consider that the camera also ships with a full licence for Davinci Resolve, an excellent bit of pro video-editing software that normally costs $295/£239, the Pocket Cinema 4K is quite a bargain.
Read more: Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K review
We suspect the Sony FX3 is what the Sony A7S III should have been all along. Although it's part of the Sony FX cinema camera family, it's clearly a derivate of the Alpha line, and looks like a bridge between Sony’s Alpha mirrorless cameras and its box-shape cinema camera. Despite its Alpha appearance, the FX3 is an out-and-out movie camera, complete with Sony’s Cinetone-S color science, a detachable handle with XLR audio input, integrated mounting points and a movie-specific control layout unlike anything on Sony’s existing Alpha models. It's still very new and we haven't been able to test a sample yet, but as soon as we do we have a feeling this camera will be climbing much higher in this list.
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