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The best DSLRs for video in 2021: create fantastic content with a reflex camera

Best DSLRs for video - Canon EOS 6D Mark II
(Image credit: Canon)

All the best DSLRs today shoot video, but some are far better suited to it than others. Although it’s mirrorless cameras which have been grabbing all the headlines lately, DSLRs are still excellent choices for creating video content - and they’re often cheaper too. You also get a much wider choice of lenses and accessories for DSLRs, so as an overall system it remains a sensible video option.

One of the reasons for that is that although there’s plenty of choice still on the market, there have been relatively new releases in recent months and years. Older tech comes at a significant price saving, but it should still give you everything you need for creating excellent movies in a variety of different scenarios.

But it’s not simply a case of picking the best DSLR and running with that. Although the best DSLRs in that guide are all fantastic, the guide hasn't been written with video in mind, meaning that they won’t always be wholly suitable for this type of work. When thinking about the best DSLR for video you should think about the following features:

Resolution
4K is usually the “standard” specification that most videographers and vloggers look for. However,  whether you actually need such a high resolution is up for debate - and very much depends on what you shoot and where you show it. Many of the DSLRs listed here shoot at 4K, but some use a crop that renders it almost unusable in some circumstances. If you don’t absolutely need 4K, you can take advantage of a price saving in many cases by checking the Full HD features.

LCD screen
The movement of the camera’s screen is particularly important for video. At the very least you will normally want a tilting screen, but ideally it should be fully articulating or face forwards - especially if you intend to record pieces to camera for vlogging.

Autofocus
Although many videographers often use manual focus, having a good autofocus system on board is also incredibly useful for flexibility. With DSLRs, you’ll be shooting video with Live View, which has an impact on autofocusing. When looking at specifications list, be sure to check what kind of Live View focusing it offers, as this is usually different from that which is offered when capturing stills through the viewfinder.

Frame rates
A variety of different frame rates will give you lots of options when recording video. 24fps will give you a cinematic look, 30fps is a common rate used as a good “all round” option, 60fps is excellent for creating super smooth footage and once you get higher than that you’ll be looking at slow motion (see our separate guide to the best slow motion cameras). 120fps can be used to create those effects, so it’s something to look out for if it’s what you want to capture.

The best DSLRs for video in 2021

(Image credit: Canon)

Best beginner DSLR for video

Specifications
Sensor: APS-C
Megapixels: 24.1
Max video resolution: 4K (inc. 1.7x crop)
Frame rates: 24, 25fps (4K), 60, 50, 30fps (Full HD)
Lens mount: EF/EF-S
Screen: 3-inch 1040k-dot vari-angle touchscreen
Autofocus: Dual Pixel CMOS AF
User level: Beginner
Reasons to buy
+Great value+Fully articulating screen
Reasons to avoid
-4K crop-No slow-mo

If you’re just starting out with making video content, then you’ll probably have a restricted budget. For that reason, the Canon EOS 250D is an excellent option for beginners. You get a decent degree of video specs, in a very wallet-friendly model. 

4K video is available - but with a fairly big crop (on top of the already cropped sensor), but at up to 60fps available in Full HD, you’ve got enough flexibility for recording vlogs. 

Speaking of which, the fact that the screen fully articulates makes recording pieces to camera super easy, while the relatively small size of the camera makes it well-suited to travel, too.

(Image credit: Canon)

Best APS-C DSLR for video

Specifications
Sensor: APS-C
Megapixels: 32.5
Max video resolution: 4K
Frame rates: 30, 25fps (4K), 120, 100, 60, 50, 30, 25fps (Full HD)
Lens mount: EF/EF-S
Screen: 3-inch 1040k-dot vari-angle touchscreen
Autofocus: Dual Pixel CMOS AF
User level: Intermediate
Reasons to buy
+Uncropped 4K+Fully articulating screen+Range of frame rates
Reasons to avoid
-APS-C sensor 

There’s a lot to like about the Canon EOS 90D if you’re looking for a video-centric DSLR. With uncropped 4K video and a range of frame rates - particularly in full HD - this is an ideal mid-level DSLR. 

The fully-articulating touchscreen makes it ideal for capturing all sorts of angles, including presenting to camera, while the Dual Pixel CMOS AF puts in a good performance when shooting video. Another bonus is the headphone and microphone connectors too, allowing you to get serious about sound.

If you’re somebody that shoots stills as well as video, the 90D is a fantastic all-rounder, with its high-resolution sensor being well-suited to both types of content. 

(Image credit: Nikon)

Best full-frame DSLR for video

Specifications
Sensor: Full-frame
Megapixels: 45.7
Max video resolution: 4K
Frame rates: 30, 25, 24fps (4K), 60, 50, 30, 25, 24fps (Full HD), 30p x 4, 25p x 4, 24p x5 (Slow Mo)
Lens mount: F
Screen: 3.2-inch 2359k-dot tilting touchscreen
Autofocus: Contrast-detect
User level: Advanced
Reasons to buy
+Pro build+Excellent all-rounder+No 4K crop+Variety of frame rates
Reasons to avoid
-Screen only tilts

The Nikon D850 has been the DSLR to beat for several years, and with its blend of high-resolution sensor, excellent handling and range of features, it’s arguably still the king of the sector. 

For video users, you get uncropped 4K and a diverse range of frame rates in both 4K and Full HD resolutions. Unlike many professional/advanced-level full-frame DSLRs, the screen tilts. Although that’s not super-handy for vlogging, it’s very helpful for recording from other awkward angles.

This is a DSLR which is ideal for those who are photographers first, and want to put all of their expertise into video - regularly switching between the two types of content. Other useful high-end video features include advanced sound controls, along with a headphone and microphone connection.

(Image credit: Nikon)

Best affordable full-frame DSLR for video

Specifications
Sensor: Full-frame
Megapixels: 24.5
Max video resolution: 4K
Frame rates: 30, 25, 24fps (4K), 120, 100, 60, 50, 30, 25, 24fps (Full HD)
Lens mount: F
Screen: 3.2-inch, 2359k-dot tilting touchscreen
Autofocus: Hybrid phase-detection/contrast detection
User level: Intermediate
Reasons to buy
+Good value+No 4K crop+Variety of frame rates
Reasons to avoid
-Screen only tilts

Using a full-frame DSLR for video makes a lot of sense, but if you’re keen not to overspend, the D780 is a good intermediate option that gives you a lot of value for money.

You get uncropped 4K here, with a range of frame rates if you step down to Full HD - including slow motion recording. Once again, we’ve got a tilting screen - rather than fully articulating - so it’s best suited to video content creators rather than vloggers. 

There’s a range of professional video specs that might also come in handy such as N-Log recording, Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG) and Timecode output. Microphone and headphone sockets round out the spec sheet to make this appealing to serious movie shooters

(Image credit: Canon)

Great full-frame DSLR for occasional video

Specifications
Sensor: Full-frame
Megapixels: 26.2
Max video resolution: Full HD
Frame rates: 60, 50, 30, 25, 24fps
Lens mount: EF
Screen: 3-inch 1040k-dot vari-angle touchscreen
Autofocus: Dual Pixel CMOS AF
User level: Intermediate
Reasons to buy
+Good all rounder+Full frame sensor+Fully articulating screen
Reasons to avoid
-No 4K

If you’re really after a full-frame DSLR for your video, but you don’t want to spend a huge amount, the Canon EOS 6D Mark II is a good “entry-level” full-framer that suits those who create occasional videos.

The biggest downside here is the lack of 4K shooting, something which will be a deal-breaker for some but less so for others. Otherwise, you get a good degree of frame rates and the Dual Pixel CMOS AF works well, too. A vari-angle touchscreen makes it easy to capture awkward angles too. 

Primarily, this is a camera for stills photographers, but if video is a secondary concern it’s certainly worth thinking about.

(Image credit: Canon)

Best Canon full-frame DSLR for video

Specifications
Sensor: Full-frame
Megapixels: 30.4
Max video resolution: 4K (inc. 1.74x crop)
Frame rates: 30, 25, 24fps (4K), 60, 50, 30, 25,24fps (Full HD), 120, 100fps (HD)
Lens mount: EF
Screen: 3.2-inch 1620k-dot fixed touchscreen
Autofocus: Dual Pixel CMOS AF
User level: Expert
Reasons to buy
+Professional camera+Great handling 
Reasons to avoid
-4K crop-Fixed screen

It was the 5D series that started the trend for video in DSLRs, the legacy of which we can still see today in modern DSLRs and even mirrorless cameras. 

If you’re keen to stick with the Canon brand, then the 5D Mark IV is a fantastic option that will suit advanced shooters and video makers. There’s 4K (albeit subject to a crop), and a great range of different frame rates - though you will have to drop down to 720p HD to record slow-motion.

Other useful video features include microphone and headphone sockets, time-lapse video recording, HDR Movie and the ability to record in Canon Log Gamma. 

On the downside however, the screen is fixed in place, making it less suitable to unusual angles, and totally unsuitable for vlogging / presenting to camera.

(Image credit: Nikon)

Best beginner Nikon DSLR for video

Specifications
Sensor: APS-C
Megapixels: 20.9
Max video resolution: 4K (inc. 1.5x crop)
Frame rates: 30, 25, 24fps (4K), 60, 50, 30, 25, 24p (Full HD)
Lens mount: F
Screen: 3.2-inch 922k-dot tilting touchscreen
Autofocus: Contrast-detect AF Live View
User level: Beginner / Intermediate
Reasons to buy
+Tilting screen+Good all-rounder for beginners 
Reasons to avoid
-4K crop-Limited frame rates

This all-rounder is ideal for those who like to record both stills and video, especially photographers who are just starting to experiment with video content. 

With its APS-C sized sensor and 4K crop applied, its best performance comes from Full HD video recording which you can capture up to 60fps. The screen tilts, making awkward angles helpful - though it should be noted that it doesn’t face all the way forward, so vlogging/presenting is harder to achieve. 

In Live View mode, the D7500 uses contrast-detect AF. Although this is slower than shooting through the viewfinder, so long as your subject isn’t particularly erratic it’s still a decent performer.

(Image credit: Nikon)

Best APS-C Nikon DSLR for video

Specifications
Sensor: APS-C
Megapixels: 20.9
Max video resolution: 4K (inc. 1.5x crop)
Frame rates: 30, 25, 24fps (4K), 60, 50, 30, 25, 24fps (Full HD)
Lens mount: F
Screen: 3.2-inch, 2359k-dot tilting touchscreen
Autofocus: Contrast-detect AF
User level: Intermediate
Reasons to buy
+Great all rounder +Good value
Reasons to avoid
-4K crop-Screen only tilts

The D500 is another excellent all-rounder that is well suited to photographers who are just starting to dabble in video content creation. With it being a few years old, you can also pick it up for a great price now - making it ideal for upgraders with a limited budget.

4K is offered (with a crop), so it’s Full HD you’re probably likely to use more often - with which you get a decent range of frame rates to make use of. The screen is another tilting device, which is useful for some awkward angles, but less appealing for vloggers and presenters. 

Other useful features include a built-in interval timer, a time-lapse recording function and headphone / microphone sockets. 

(Image credit: Canon)

Best professional DSLR for video

Specifications
Sensor: Full-frame
Megapixels: 20.1
Max video resolution: “5.5k” RAW
Frame rates: 60, 50, 30, 25, 24fps (4K RAW), 60, 50, 30, 25, 24fps (4K DCI), 60, 50, 30, 24fps (4K UHD), 120, 100, 60, 50, 30, 25, 24fps (Full HD)
Lens mount: EF
Screen: 3.2inch, 2100k-dot Touchscreen
Autofocus: Dual Pixel CMOS AF
User level: Expert
Reasons to buy
+Uncropped 5.5K RAW video+Variety of 4K options+Slow-mo options
Reasons to avoid
-Fixed screen-High price

The Canon 1DX Mark III has a huge wealth of video features - but you’ll likely need huge wealth if you want to buy one. 

If money is no object it’s the camera to go for, thanks to specifications such as uncropped 4K video at up to 60fps. You can even go one step further and produce 4K RAW (also known as 5.5K).

Smooth focusing is provided thanks to Dual Pixel CMOS AF (though it’s to be noted that this is not available in uncropped 4K/RAW at 60/50p), while there’s also a host of manual focusing controls, such as focus peaking, that professionals crave. 

If video is at the forefront of your mind, the 1DX Mark III is an excellent choice - but the fixed screen is a disappointment considering the rest of the otherwise high-end specs.

Best DSLR for video - Nikon D6

(Image credit: Nikon)

Best professional Nikon DSLR for video

Specifications
Sensor: Full-frame
Megapixels: 20.8
Max video resolution: 4K (inc. 1.7x crop)
Frame rates: 30, 25, 24fps (4K), 60, 50, 30, 25, 24fps (Full HD)
Lens mount: F
Screen: 3.2-inch 2359k-dot touchscreen
Autofocus: Contrast-detect
User level: Advanced
Reasons to buy
+Great handling +Great in low light 
Reasons to avoid
-4K crop-No slow mo-Price

Nikon’s flagship DSLR is a good choice for professionals who mainly shoot stills, but also want a capable video camera. 

Unfortunately, especially considering the price tag, 4K video comes with a crop, but Full HD gives you a good range of frame rates to work with. 

Autofocusing via Live View is also a bit of a let down here, especially again in comparison to its stellar performance through the viewfinder. If you’re primarily a stills shooter, it’ll be less of an issue, but it is a disappointment for a flagship. 

Putting those issues aside, there are some useful other features, such as focus peaking, zebras and time coding - so as long as you’re happy with manual focusing it can still be a very good tool for professionals. A fixed screen makes it less appealing to vloggers / presenters, but for that type of user, the D6 is likely be overkill anyway.

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