For true, professional videography, only the best cinema cameras will do. From filmmaking and broadcasting to commercial work and high end content creation, cine cameras are built for pure pro performance.
While most cameras 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 do the things that dedicated cine cams can.
Whether it's the avalanche of controls, the mounts for professional cine lenses, the inputs for industry audio connections, the in-built ND filters, or the array of bitrates and output options, these are the tools to turn to when you need the best kit.
These days, 'best' doesn't automatically mean 'most expensive' either. 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…
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…
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 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.
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.
Still current in the range although now getting a bit long in tooth, the Canon EOS C100 Mark II is a real cinema camera that takes Canon EF lenses at a shockingly affordable price. It actually uses the same CMOS sensor as its big brother, the far more expensive C300. The Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology provides fast and accurate autofocusing and has face detection AF. The C300 Mark II also has an additional microphone on the camera body for recording sound when the top handle is removed. It also supports GPS, built-in wireless functionality, HDMI output that supports timecode and Canon Log LUT. But it’s HD only.
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 hands on review
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.
In 2020, 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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