Best Camera for Filmmaking on a Budget in 2021 (March Reviews)

Jason Loomis
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Filmmaking has evolved a lot over the years. When I first started out, you had to lug around huge, cumbersome camcorders. Today I can shoot with just a smartphone or a small digital video camera.

An intermediate stage between those two extremes is a small digital camera better known as an “action camera.” These cameras are not designed for professional filmmaking, but can produce respectable video if used properly.

My main concern is taking good video while still being able to use my hands for other things like carrying equipment and working with the talent.

Below you’ll find reviews of the best action cameras in 2021, along with a recommended camcorder for filmmakers on a budget.

NameCategoryProduct
Fujifilm X-T30 Mirrorless Digital CameraBest OverallFujifilm X-T30 Mirrorless Digital Camera
DJI Osmo PocketBudget PickDJI Osmo Pocket
Sony Alpha a6300 Mirrorless Digital CameraUpgrade PickSony Alpha a6300 Mirrorless Digital Camera

1. Fujifilm X-T30 Mirrorless Digital Camera

Our rating: 9 / 10

Fujifilm X-T30 Mirrorless Digital Camera

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Pros:

  • Excellent image quality (both RAW and JPG)
  • Tack sharp images
  • Easy to use
  • Great for beginners
  • Fun and nostalgic

Cons:

  • Lack of exposure controls
  • No in-camera Raw development

The Fujifilm X-T30 is the best camera for photography enthusiasts who want to transition into videography on a mid-range budget. Its compact size, image quality, and compositional toolset makes it ideal for short indie films. While the lack of exposure controls or in-camera Raw development options means that it isn’t quite a match for similar DSLRs.

2. Sony Alpha a6300 Mirrorless Digital Camera

Our rating: 9 / 10

Sony Alpha a6300 Mirrorless Digital Camera

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Pros:

  • An absolute joy to use for filmmaking
  • Light and compact with a good range of lenses available
  • Efficient image stabilization
  • Can be used as a fantastic point-and-shoot camera
  • Smoother, faster autofocus that other cameras in its class
  • Excellent image quality both stills and video, even at high ISOs
  • 4K recording is a feature found in the a6300; can also shoot at 60fps and a 30fps for slow-mo
  • This camera has an external mic input
  • Facial recognition
  • Plenty of unique picture profiles for different shooting needs

Cons:

  • 4K recording drop-frame
  • No touch screen
  • Image stabilization doesn’t work in video mode
  • Sometimes loses autofocus, even in good light
  • LCD screen doesn’t tilt

Review:

  • 4K recording drop-frame
  • No touch screen
  • Image stabilization doesn’t work in video mode
  • Sometimes loses autofocus, even in good light
  • LCD screen doesn’t tilt
  • Takes a while to get used to
  • Adjustments take time … may be faster to rotate the lens ring
  • Battery dies quickly

3. DJI Osmo Pocket

Our rating: 8 / 10

DJI Osmo Pocket

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Pros:

  • Handheld, 3-Axis Gimbal can be used with an iOS or Android device
  • Snapshots can be taken while recording at 360 degrees
  • Aperture is f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8
  • You can tilt and pan
  • It comes with a power, shutter, record, and back button
  • 4K video recording and 12 megapixel photos

Cons:

  • You’ll need to take the disc out and use your own SD card to store photos
  • With the “superior battery” it will only last for around 30 minutes
  • You may have a difficult time getting it to recognize the app

(Certified Refurbished)

4. Panasonic Lumix G85 4K Digital Camera

Our rating: 8 / 10

Panasonic Lumix G85 4K Digital Camera

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Pros:

  • 4K Video Recording
  • Up to 60 minutes of video recording to SD card
  • Lightweight
  • Stylish, yet compact

Cons:

  • TV/movie recording is limited to 24 fps
  • Menu functions take some getting used to
  • No built-in flash

Panasonic’s Lumix G85 is a must-have in any videographer’s arsenal.

The price is right, it’s stylish, slim, and has excellent features.

It has built-in Wi-Fi so you can transfer your videos to your smartphone for editing, back to the camera for storage, or upload them to social media.

5. GoPro Hero7 Black — Waterproof Action Camera

Our rating: 8 / 10

GoPro Hero7 Black — Waterproof Action Camera

Check Price on Amazon

Pros:

  • Great design – addition of a touchscreen design
  • The stabilization is exceptional – we’ll cover this feature later
  • Continuous video recording with audio quality superb
  • It’s not the lightest of cameras, but its size is not what makes it intimidating
  • It’s more expensive than previous versions, but you get a lot of improvements for the money
  • It will be compatible with older accessories, such as the Karma Grip

Cons:

  • You need a good SD card with top-notch write speeds
  • Be careful of the GoPro package if you’re planning on using it around water – even if it’s waterproof
  • Video quality limited by lens choice
  • Does not have an internal mic

First off, we need to explain that this is a camera that is designed for thrilling action scenarios. If you need a camera for beautiful vistas and scenic moments, then look out for our recommendation after.

The GoPro Hero 7 Black is the upgrade that has everyone talking. The new touchscreen design is a very welcomed change that will make things far more streamlined for users.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the cheapest camera for filmmaking?

The Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera with URSA Viewfinder is the most affordable indie-level cinema camera available to the average filmmaker. It’s also the highest rated on Amazon with exceptional ratings all around from both amateurs and professionals alike. Budget filmmakers are going to have a field day with this little gem.

What is the best camera for beginner filmmakers?

If you want to take videography or filmmaking seriously, the best camera for you is nothing at all. But if you want to make a film as a hobby, you still don’t need to spend big bucks on high-end gear. You can get by with something much simpler, like a cell phone.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying a cell phone is the be-all and end-all of cinematic cameras. But they’re providing great image stabilization technology, 4K/UHD recording for high resolution projects and an easy streaming platform. And they’re practically free.

What lens is best for filming?

Many people complain that smart phone cameras are not good for film. But if you understand how it works, you can learn to get that professional film look. Any camera will take a great video if the subject is properly lit and has a good face angle.

Get your lighting and angles right, and you will be amazed how clear and sharp the video will become. Don’t get caught without a light source. If you stand outside of your home or location, and it’s dark, use your phone to illuminate your subject.

Try pointing a light source directly at the subject, but use a lens hood to direct light away from the lens. You can also try to shoot close to your subject. This way you can get the background out of focus, which is the key to professional looking video.

What is the best camera for indie filmmaking?

There are three important pieces to the puzzle of choosing a camera for indie filmmaking:

{1}. Camera for filmmaking: Typically should record HD resolution. Ability to record with good audio is also helpful.
{2}. Audio recording: It’s really hard to add good audio in post-production: try to get good audio on the shoot and/or consider an external mic solution.
{3}. Connectivity: You need to be able to get the footage from your camera to your computer. This can be via SD card, or a separate HDM card to USB cable, or an SD card to HDMI converter.

Conclusion

Our Recommendation

NameCategoryProduct
Fujifilm X-T30 Mirrorless Digital CameraBest OverallFujifilm X-T30 Mirrorless Digital Camera
DJI Osmo PocketBudget PickDJI Osmo Pocket
Sony Alpha a6300 Mirrorless Digital CameraUpgrade PickSony Alpha a6300 Mirrorless Digital Camera