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The best cinema cameras in 2019

best cinema cameras
(Image credit: Canon)

Welcome to Digital Camera World's guide to the best cinema cameras. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or are looking to start creating video professionally, a lot hinges on the quality of the footage you capture. 

Everything from smartphones to DSLRs right through to mirrorless cameras can record decent quality footage at up to 4K, but if you want to go beyond best cameras for vlogging and beyond than the best cameras for filmmaking and want a high-end system for broadcast then you will need to look what cinema cameras can offer.

The best cinema camera to go for hinges heavily on your budget. Are you starting out? If so, then the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K is about as entry-level as cinema cameras get when it comes to price. With MFT lenses and the same UI as Blackmagic's premium line, this is a fantastic way to sharpen your teeth as a filmmaker or videographer. 

Climb to the upper end of our list, and you’re looking at a true workhorse in the Canon EOS C300 MK II. This is one of the most popular film cameras around, and the champion when it comes to dynamic range. Of course, you can go higher if you look at cameras from manufacturers like RED, and broadcasting options, but this list aims to give you a spread of accessible options you can pick up and start creating with at under $10,000 or £10,000.

Cinema cameras seldom ship with lenses as standard, and each entry in our list features specific mounting options, listed in the key features for your convenience. Additionally, some of the cameras here use CFast cards. These are incredibly quick, and capable of capturing high-quality RAW 4K footage, but are also very pricey.

Canon EOS C300 MK II

(Image credit: Canon)

1. Canon EOS C300 MK II

The best cinema camera with dream dynamic range and excellent autofocus

Sensor size: 24.6 x 13.8 mm | Sensor resolution: 4206 x 2340 (9.84 MP) | Card slots: CFast x 2, SDXC x 1 | Lens mount: EF or PL Lens Mount | Max shooting resolution: 4K | Display size: 4-inch | EVF: Yes

EF or PL lenses
Excellent dynamic range
Slow motion crop
No high framerate 4K capture

With an ideal array of ports, features and modes to help you capture excellent footage, the C300 MK II is a good few steps up from a DSLR that happens to shoot video. It’s able to handle low light video like a champ (up to roughly ISO 32000 before grain is noticeable), and unlike most consumer Canon cameras you won’t be grumping about its 4K capabilities – the C300 MK II captures UHD content at up to 410Mbps/10-bit.

Dynamic range is excellent at 15 stops, as too is its continuous autofocus – one thing the C300 MK II does share with its sub-£2000/$2000 siblings. In a break from tradition, it takes either EF or PL lenses, and the lens fitting can be swapped out at an approved service centre, so whether you’re a Canon or Nikon photography fan, your lenses can be used for pro video too. 

Sony PXW-FS5 MII

(Image credit: Panasonic)

2. Sony PXW-FS5 MII

The best cinema camera for capturing slow-mo footage

Sensor size: 24.6 x 13.8 mm | Sensor resolution: 4096 x 2160 (8.84 MP) | Card slots: XQD x 2 | Lens mount: Sony E Lens Mount | Max shooting resolution: 4K | Display size: 3.5-inch | EVF: Yes

Excellent slow motion credentials
BT.2020 colour space
Virtually identical to original FS5
AF inferior to Canon

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 four 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. 

Blackmagic Design URSA Mini Pro G2

(Image credit: Blackmagic)

3. Blackmagic Design URSA Mini Pro G2

This Blackmagic camera offers external recording and excellent dynamic range

Sensor size: 25.34 x 14.25 mm (Super35) | Sensor resolution: 4608 x 2592 (12MP) | Card slots: CFast x 2, SDXC x 2 | Lens mount: EF | Max shooting resolution: 4.6K | Display size: 4-inch | EVF: Optional extra

Excellent dynamic range
Convenient storage options
Built in ND filters
Bulky when loaded up

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 MKII (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 4K (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.

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K

(Image credit: Blackmagic)

4. Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K

The ultimate entry level or backup cinema camera

Sensor size: 18.96 x 10 mm | Sensor resolution: 4096 x 2160 (8.8MP) | Card slots: CFast x 1, SDXC x 1 | Lens mount: MFT | Max shooting resolution: 4K | Display size: 5-inch | EVF: No

Huge 16:9 display
Fantastic port array
Poor battery life
No continuous AF

If you want the most affordable cinema camera around, the Pocket Cinema Camera 4K is an incredibly capable package despite its price and size. The name mis-sells it – this isn’t going to fit in any pockets anytime soon, especially not when you whack a lens onto it – but it is very portable. With its MFT sensor and lens mount, it takes the same Micro Four Thirds lenses as the likes of the Panasonic GH5, featuring the same sensor as the GH5s, but the huge 5-inch 16:9 touch display around the back makes it perfect for video. 

With direct USB-C external recording to an SSD, 4K RAW shooting at up to 30fps, FHD recording at up to 120fps and 13-stops of dynamic range, this cinema camera delivers more than anything else in its price bracket, and it even features a mini XLR input and a full-size HDMI port too. If you can’t tell, we’re big fans – read our Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K review to find out more.

Panasonic AU-EVA1 5.7K

(Image credit: Sony)

5. Panasonic AU-EVA1 5.7K

This Netflix-ready cinema camera offers 5.7K capture

Sensor size: 24.89 x 18.66 mm | Sensor resolution: 6340 x 3232 (20.5 MP) | Card slots: SDXC x 2 | Lens mount: EF | Max shooting resolution: 4K | Display size: 3.5-inch | EVF: No

5.7K downsampling works well
Dual-native ISOs
Reflective screen
Mediocre AF

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 (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.

JVC GY-LS300

(Image credit: JVC)

6. JVC GY-LS300

MFT lens mount meets YouTube live streaming

Sensor size: 24.89 x 18.66 mm | Sensor resolution: 4512 x 3008 (13.5 MP) | Card slots: SDXC x 2 | Lens mount: MFT | Max shooting resolution: 4K | Display size: 3.5-inch | EVF: No

Livestreaming support
Affordable
Plastic frame
Mediocre screen

In 2019, the JVC LS300 is a much better camera than it was when it launched. Its hardware is relatively inexpensive given its functionality, and while its design is atypical when set alongside most of the film cameras in our list, it’s a serious contender for anyone looking to live stream, with direct output to services like YouTube. Capable of shooting 4K Ultra HD recording (150 Mbps, 24p/30p), it can constantly record to one SD card, and simultaneously record manually to the other, so you always have a backup. 

The camera also has a three-position ND filter – 1/4, 1/16 and 1/64, and includes a shotgun microphone in the box so that you can capture decent sound from the off. With its latest firmware upgrade adding JVC Log mode, it can deliver a filmic look, and it also has a lossless crop zoom feature that enables zoom functionality without detail loss when using prime lenses. All-in-all, it’s an excellent package that’s versatile without breaking the bank.

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