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The best camera for video in 2021: if you're baffled by the choices, we can help!

Best camera for video
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you ask an expert about the best camera for video, you'll get a different answer every time! That's because there are so many ways to shoot video these days, and so many new genres – like streaming, vlogging, content creation and independent filmmaking. 

We suggest think about what you want to create, how much equipment you want to lug around, how much you want to spend and how much you want to learn about video jargon and technicalities.

We’re here to walk you through all the many different options available, and we’ll also give you links to buying guides for all these varying cameras that shoot video in very different ways.

You can either read through our guide to find the category that seems to suit you best, or if you know that already you can jump straight to that section to find out more.

Getting started in video can be pretty daunting, simply because of all the new techniques and jargon that come wit hit.. If you already know a bit about stills photography, that will help. Video is a whole new field, though, with a whole new language, so we will try to defuse some of the jargon as we go along and explain it in regular everyday terms.

The bottom line is that video doesn’t have to be difficult. So don’t get put off by the accessories, the technical terms, the complex-sounding techniques and the daunting levels of work that pro videographers and cinematographers have to put in to make their films. You can start shooting video at any level, and work as far up the ladder as you want to go.

So let’s take a look at all the different types of video you might want to get involved in, the equipment you might need and where to go next.

• See also: Best VHS to DVD converters

Best camera for video in 2021

Camera phones

Some experts might sniff at the idea of using a camera phone for video, but they are actually rather good. The best camera phones shoot 4K video, the new standard, they have really effective image stabilization for 'run and gun shooting' and have apps for editing video on the spot. If you shoot video for social media, a camera phone has an instant advantage, as you can share video directly and the device you capture the video on is also the type that will be used to watch it! We've picked one of our favorites below, but there are plenty more to choose from.

• Read more: Best camera phones

(Image credit: Amy Davies / Digital Camera World)

Apple iPhone 12 Pro

New photo features make the iPhone 12 Pro a force to be reckoned with

Specifications
Release date: October 2020
Rear cameras: 12MP 13mm f/2.4, 12MP 26mm f/1.6, 12MP 52mm f/2
Front camera: 12MP, f/2.2 TrueDepth camera
Dual OIS: Yes
Weight: 189 g
Dimensions: 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.4 mm
Storage: 128/256/512GB
Reasons to buy
+Triple-camera unit+New Apple ProRAW file format+LiDAR scanner+5G
Reasons to avoid
-'Only' 12MP camera sensors

The iPhone 12 Pro is one of the best camera phones currently available, featuring an impressive triple camera unit, including an ultra wide f/2.4 camera, a wide f/1.6 camera and a telephoto f/2 camera. Meanwhile, the front-facing TrueDepth camera features a 12MP sensor as well. There are plenty of new features on the iPhone 12 Pro, such as a LiDAR scanner – which will mean faster focusing in low light situations. The iPhone 12 Pro will also be able to use the new Apple ProRAW file format, which means users will be able to combine the great computational photography effects Apple is known for with the power of RAW files. Combined with the addition of 5G and the new Ceramic Shield display that has a 4x better drop performance, you just can't go wrong with the new iPhone 12 Pro!

In full: iPhone 12 Pro review

Action cameras

Action cams (action cameras) are the simplest way to get into video. There’s almost nothing to know. Apart from a handful of basic settings for the video resolution and frame rate, you just press a button to record and press again to stop. What action cams lack in finesse they make up for in immediacy, impact and their bulletproof go-anywhere attitude. The video quality is often better than you’d expect, too. We’ve got a dedicated buying guide to the best action cams, but here’s one of our favorites.

• Read more: Best action cameras

(Image credit: GoPro)

GoPro Hero9 Black

The ultimate action camera – and now better value

Specifications
Weight: 158g
Waterproof: 10m
5K video: up to 30fps
4K video: up to 60fps
1080: up to 240fps
720: up to 240fps
Stills resolution: 20MP
Battery life: 1-3hrs estimate
Reasons to buy
+Front-facing screen+20MP photos  +14.7 MP grabs from video
Reasons to avoid
-Larger physical size than other GoPros-5K video takes up a lot of memory

The very best action camera around is, accordingly, the best one for video. GoPro’s latest flagship is the first to feature a vlogging-style front-facing screen, and the 5K video resolution is another big reason why this is the one to go for. The new sensor also enables you to get 14.7MP grabs from 5K video, as well as take 20MP stills, giving you hybrid flexibility. It’s also got a a larger 2.27-inch display than the GoPro Hero8 Black, super-smooth Hypersmooth 3.0 video stabilization, TimeWarp 3.0 for handheld time-lapses, a travel case, and an upcoming Max Lens Mod accessory that will bring GoPro Max-style features like 360º horizon lock and an ultra-wide 155º Max SuperView mode. 

• Read full GoPro Hero9 review

Camera drones

Imagine an action cam attached to a flying machine you can control from the ground and where, with most models, you can actually look through the camera’s ‘eyes’ as you’re flying it using an app on your smartphone. And with the latest automated flight controls, you can be up and flying in an afternoon even if you’re a complete novice. For this reason, we think the DJI Mini 2 is the best camera drone to get started with, but it's by no means the only choice.

• Read more: Best camera drones

(Image credit: DJI)

07. DJI Mini 2

The best drone for the beginner

Specifications
Weight: 249g
Dimensions (folded): 38×81×58mm
Controller: Yes
Video resolution: 4K 30fps (1080P@60fps)
Camera resolution: 12MP
Battery life: 31 minutes (2250mAh)
Max Range: 10km / 6.2 miles
Max Speed: 57kph / 35.7mph
Reasons to buy
+Very portable+Registration-free in USA, China and more+Easy-to-fly+Raw photos
Reasons to avoid
-Limited tracking features

DJI defined compact quality camera drones as something which could appeal to and be understood by everyday consumers with the Mavic in 2016, but price and, more recently, weight limits kept some consumers away. Drones over 250g (or operating them) now require registration and a small fee in most countries. The Mavic Mini solved the weight issue in 2019, but the latest Mini 2 has taken that already miraculous design and souped it up so it can now attract more serious users too.It feels strong, and the camera is mounted on a 3-axis gimbal that absorbs nearly all twists and turns in flight, and can be tilted smoothly. Control is simple, via the excellent new remote – the range is no longer a worry (unlike with the predecessor) and the controller’s battery can even top your phone up too. The DJI Fly App has good safety features and is clear and easy to read, without being overbearing. 

• See full DJI Mini 2 reviewDJI Mavic Mini vs Mini 2

360 cameras

This is another variation on the action cam design that takes video into whole new areas. 360 cameras are essentially two 180-degree cameras fixed back to back that film simultaneously – and the camera merges both sets of images in real-time to produce seamless 36-degree ‘spherical’ footage. It’s amazing and disorientating at the same time. It doesn’t matter where you point the camera (!) because it captures everything around you. Viewers can look around the full 360 scene in 360 viewers (YouTube can do this), or you can edit the video to produce a regular ‘flat’ movie where you can pan the camera and control where it’s pointing as you edit the movie. Our favorite right now for new users is the Insta360 One X2, which can fit in a shirt pocket, but there are lots of alternatives too. 

• Read more: Best 360 cameras

(Image credit: Insta360 )

Insta360 One X2

A clever and endlessly creative 360 camera with easy AI editing

Specifications
Weight: 149g
Dimensions: 462x113x29.8mm
Waterproof: 10m
Stills resolution: 18.5MP
Video resolution: 5.7K
Memory: MicroSD
Mount: Tripod socket
Battery life: 80 minutes
Reasons to buy
+Creates great-looking, dynamic clips+Endless creativity, easy AI editing+Excellent colour and detail+‘SteadyCam’ and ‘MultiView’ modes
Reasons to avoid
-Requires the latest phones-Editing takes time-Overkill for most users

A seriously impressive action camera that uses its 360º lenses not only for virtual reality, but for a plethora of creative editing modes for widescreen videos, the One X2 consistently produces exquisite videos and photos. It takes time and patience to master, and its processing-intensive app demands the latest phones, but for filmmakers wanting to try something different the One X2 cannot be ignored.

Read more: Insta360 One X2 review

Streaming

This is a relatively new way to shoot and share video, but it's really catching on. 'Streaming', whether it's to Facebook or YouTube or some other video sharing platform, is sharing video live, as you shoot it, whether that's out in the field or in front of your computer hooked up to a camera. Things are changing quickly, as camera makers realize the popularity of streaming and add streaming features or updates to their cameras. Streaming from a phone is the simplest solution, but if you want a proper camera, we've a suggestion below – but it's only one of many.

• Read more: Best cameras for streaming

(Image credit: Canon)

Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III

Best YouTube camera for livestreaming

Specifications
Type: Compact
Sensor: 1-inch CMOS
Megapixels: 20.2MP
Lens: 24-100mm f/1.8-2.8
Screen: 3-inch tilting touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots
Viewfinder: Electronic
Max video resolution: 4K
Mic input: Yes
Headphone port: No
Reasons to buy
+Easy live streaming to YouTube+Microphone input
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-4K clips capped at 10 minutes

One of the biggest bugbears vloggers and video makers have with Canon is the crop factor when shooting 4K on many of its cameras, but the G7 X Mark III bucks the trend – thank goodness. This high-end compact packs a similar body and an identical lens to the G7 X Mark II, but includes a new sensor and no 4K crop.

It was also the first camera of its kind with a microphone input – vital if you want clean audio, not to mention the ability to livestream straight to YouTube. This means that even if you’ve got an expensive cinema camera, if you also have a G7 X Mark III you can create a fuss-free live setup without any expensive capture cards and a PC.

With its flip-out screen, the G7 X III also gives vloggers a clear view of themselves when they shoot, and thanks to its 20.1MP 1-inch stacked CMOS sensor and Digic 8 processor it’s also able to capture great stills, so your custom thumbnails can pop nicely.

See also: Best cameras for streaming

Vlogging

Vlogging is definitely the New Big Thing in video, and it’s now wildly popular amongst a new generation of photographers and videographers – the current buzzword is ‘independent content creators’, and the most talented and successful of these have become household names amongst their fans. If you're just starting out, we think the Fujifilm X-S10 has the perfect set of features, including in-body stabilization for jittery first-timers! There are lots more besides, though including the tiny and rather good Panasonic Lumix G100.

• Read more: Best cameras for vlogging

(Image credit: Fujifilm)

Fujifilm X-S10

It's brilliant at vlogging, great at stills, and we think the best all round

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: APS-C
Megapixels: 26.1MP
Lens mount: Fujifilm X
Screen: 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1.04m dots
Viewfinder: EVF, 2,360k dots
Max continuous shooting speed: 30/8fps
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Intermediate/Expert
Reasons to buy
+Small size & excellent build quality+Vari-angle touchscreen+In-body image stabilisation
Reasons to avoid
-Not the cheapest

We had the cheaper X-T200 in our list of the best vlogging cameras for some time, but we've decided to swap it out for the newer X-S10 (not least because the X-T200 seems to be having some supply issues right now). The Fujifilm X-S10 doesn't have the external exposure controls of the higher-level X-series cameras, but it's clear this is no 'amateur' camera. as its build quality and handling stand out straight away. The swap to a conventional mode dial might disappoint Fujifilm fans, but the excellent finish, build quality and handling and the inclusion of IBIS (in-body stabilisation) gives this camera a very broad appeal, especially in this price sector, to produce perhaps the best combination of performance, quality and value in the APS-C mirrorless camera market right now. It even has a vari-angle rear screen and this, combined with the X-S10's in-body-stabilisation and 4K video, makes it a great vlogging camera.

Read more: Fujifilm X-S10 review

Filmmaking

Vlogging is a perfectly respectable occupation, but if you produce work for clients and customers you may need to step up a gear with your equipment. These days, every camera worth its salt comes with 4K video, and even if you or your clients don’t need 4K video right now, you’ll almost certainly need it very soon. Shooting 4K also gives you a bit more editing/cropping leeway later on, as well as future-proofing your footage (until 8K becomes the Next Big Thing, but that’s going to take a while!). 

• Read more: Best 4K cameras for filmmaking

(Image credit: Fujifilm)

1. Fujifilm X-T4

More affordable than full frame for 4K video, and at least as powerful

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: APS-C
Megapixels: 26.1MP
Lens mount: Fujifilm X
Screen: 3in articulating touchscreen, 1,620k dots
Viewfinder: EVF, 3.69 million dots
Max continuous shooting speed: 30/15fps
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Expert/professional
Reasons to buy
+6.5-stop in-body stabilisation+4K video at up to 60/50p+High-speed shooting
Reasons to avoid
-New and expensive

The world's attention seems focused on full frame cameras right now, but the X-T4 is a much cheaper proposition while also boasting very advanced 4K video capabilities. These include the capacity to shoot 4K video at up to 60p, for a smooth 2x slow motion effect. Not only that, it can also capture the slightly wider Cinema 4K format at the same speeds. There's more. Most 4K cameras capture 8-bit video internally to memory cards, but the X-T4 can capture higher-quality 10-bit video internally and, if you connect an external recorder, it can save video at a higher 4:2:2 colour sampling quality. The big step forward with the X-T4, however, is the new in-body stabilisation, which can reduce or eliminate the need for a gimbal, especially when used alongside the digital image stabilisation system. For all-round size, performance, power and price, the X-T4 is hard to beat.

Read more: Fujifilm X-T4 review

Best video editing sofware for vloggers and filmmakers

Camcorders

With all this talk of action cams and mirrorless cameras, you might be wondering what happened to the good old camcorder with its long-zoom lens and torpedo-like shape. In fact, camcorders are still going strong. You can still get amateur-orientated camcorders like those from the old videotape days, but there’s also a strong market for pro camcorders, often with interchangeable lenses. In fact, the camcorder ‘shape’ is considered by many pro videographers, especially those in the broadcast/news industry, to be better for shoulder-mounted use and general handling. 

• Read more: Best camcorders

(Image credit: Sony)

Sony FDR-AX43

Portable and affordable, this is a fantastic 4K camcorder

Specifications
Max recording resolution: 3,840 x 2,160px
Image sensor: Exmor R CMOS sensor
Total pixels: 8.29MP
Dimensions: 173 x 80.5 x 73mm
Weight: 625g
Reasons to buy
+4K HDR recording+Light and compact+5.1 channel microphone
Reasons to avoid
-No HDR-Low-light performance can be noisy

The FDR-AX43 may be compact but it doesn’t skimp on features. Fronted by a Carl Zeiss Vario Sonnar T lens, the AX43's niceties include a 10x optical zoom, 4K shooting (with super-down-sampling for 1080p displays), a low noise Exmor R CMOS sensor, and dual-video recording in XAVC S or AVCHD, plus easy to share MP4. For those who want convincing surround sound when playing back their footage into a home cinema or soundbar, there’s also a multichannel 5.1 microphone. Expect limitations in low light, but if you’re looking for an easy-to-manage but capable 4K shooter, then this model is a fantastic choice, and that balance between functionality, portability and price is why it our favorite 4K camcorder.

Cinema cameras

Now we’re into the big league. If you need a cinema camera you’re probably working on feature films and TV shows with a proper crew and actors, and you probably don’t need us to tell you which camera to buy. But for those who are interested in what’s available and what’s involved, we have a guide to the best cinema cameras right now, and even if these are outside your scope at the moment, if your video career takes off you might be using one of these sooner than you think. Just as a taster, here’s one of the best options on the market right now.

Best camera for video: Canon EOS C300 MK II

(Image credit: Canon)

Canon EOS C300 MK II

The best cinema camera with dream dynamic range and excellent AF

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+EF or PL lenses+Excellent dynamic range
Reasons to avoid
-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 or mirrorless camera 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. 

The best cine lenses

Laptops for video editing

This is nothing to do with choosing a camera, specifically, but video editing places pretty heavy demands on any computer. We've picked one of our favorite video editing laptops below, but there are many more, including Apple's stunningly efficient M1 MacBook Pro.

• Read more: Best laptops for video editing

(Image credit: Acer)

Acer ConceptD 7

Best for color grading

Specifications
CPU: Hexa-core Intel Core i7
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080
RAM: up to 32GB
Screen: 15.6-inch, 3840 x 2160 (UHD) IPS
Storage: 1TB SSD
SD card reader: No
Thunderbolt 3: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Beautifully calibrated screen+Not an RGB gaming light in sight
Reasons to avoid
-Very expensive-No SD card slot

If you’ve got a lot of cash to invest, the Acer ConceptD line is a series of laptops and desktops that have been fine-tuned for designers and editors. Specifically, the ConceptD 7-series laptop has gaming laptop power without any of the gaudy casing or attention-grabbing RGB lighting. It’s also quiet, staying cool without loud fans whirring/roaring away. 

Ideal for color grading, the Acer ConceptD 7’s 4K UHD display covers 100% of the Adobe RGB gamut, and its color fidelity is Pantone validated, with a color accuracy of Delta E <2. With the latest hexa-core i7 internals from Intel, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 graphics card and up to 32GB RAM, whether you’re processing out Full HD or 4K footage, Acer’s Concept D should make short work of it.

More video camera buying guides
Best action cams
Best camera drones
Best 360 cameras
Best cameras for YouTube
Best cameras for vlogging
Best 4K cameras for filmmaking
Best camcorders
Best cinema cameras
Best camera for streaming
Best home security camera
Best camera phone


Video accessories
Best laptops for video editing
Best video editing monitor
Best mouse for editing
Best keyboard for video editing
Best video accessories
Best microphones for vlogging
Best video tripods
Best gimbal stabilizers
Best camera sliders
Best on-camera monitors
Best LED light panels
Best reflectors
Best collapsible backdrops

Rod Lawton

Rod is the Group Reviews editor for Digital Camera World and across Future's entire photography portfolio, with decades of experience with cameras of all kinds. Previously he has been technique editor on N-Photo, Head of Testing for the photography division and Camera Channel editor on TechRadar. He has been writing about photography technique, photo editing and digital cameras since they first appeared, and before that began his career writing about film photography. He has used and reviewed practically every interchangeable lens camera launched in the past 20 years, from entry-level DSLRs to medium format cameras, together with lenses, tripods, gimbals, light meters, camera bags and more.