Top 7 Digital Movie Cameras

June 12, 2021 | blogs

Top Digital Movie Cameras

Guerrilla cinematographers and early professionals often face a general problem when starting or taking a new assignment: selecting the best possible digital movie camera. With all the cine camera alternatives available in the marketplace and their many spectacular and groundbreaking specifications, it can be challenging and time-consuming to find the best camera suitable for all your needs.

One particular benefit content creators in the present have over those in the past are the cheaper price points available today. Even a few years back, it was either tough to find specialized digital movie cameras or too expensive. Fortunately, many modern mirrorless and digital SLR cameras have high-end specs and characteristics at an affordable cost and size. Now that 4K and 8K cameras aren't tricky to find, the selection process will be highly based on your preferences and budget at hand. Even though specs do hold the utmost importance when choosing gear, it all comes down to the fact that how well you can utilize the camera to create the best content.

Key Features of a Digital Movie Camera

Digital movie cameras, such as the Blackmagic Pocket Camera that stands on the topmost position on the list, have many similarities with DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. Their lenses are interchangeable and have massive sensors. What makes them unique is the user interface (UI), video specs, and high-end filetypes. Digital movie cameras often present us with uncompressed RAW files or slightly compressed filetypes such as Apple ProRes. On the other hand, the majority of DSLRs and mirrorless cameras record highly compressed videos. The higher the filetype, the more is the flexibility offered in editing and postproduction.

This article enlists some of the high-end and affordable digital movie cameras, as well as the unique characteristics each has to offer. From top-notch movie cameras to shoot 8K videos for professional use to 4K cameras for hobbyist filmmakers and vloggers, you'll be on your journey to creating the best possible videos.

1. Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 6K

Price: $1995

The Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 6K isn't your ordinary cine camera. It is rightfully known as one of the best mirrorless specialized movie cameras. This small but efficient camera features a large sensor and can capture 6K resolution videos up to 50fps. Although the camera comes in a caliber model, it is rather handy and flexible. The camera comes with a beautiful ergonomic design and a straightforward touchscreen menu system. Users can manually adjust the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. 

For example, if you want to adjust the resolution by modifying RAW or ProRes, you can select the option for a different memory card or change other settings. The touchscreen menu system partitioned into themes will help you with it. With the Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 6K, beginners and experienced filmmakers can record high-quality video content to show it to the world during the film festivals or online without spending a fortune on gear.

Key Specs:

  • 21.2 MP Super 35 CMOS sensor
  • 12-bit RAW and 6K resolution
  • 13 stops of dynamic range
  • 5-inch 511k dots touchscreen
  • Active EF lens mount
  • 4K/6K video recording at 50fps
  • Autofocus using compatible DaVinci Resolve 16.1 lens
  • Dual Native 400 & 3200 ISO to 25,600

2. Blackmagic Design Micro Studio Camera 4K

Price: $1319.79

Given its outstanding feature-set, the Blackmagic Design Micro Studio Camera 4K is one of the best studio digital movie cameras. What separates it with other movie cameras is its compatibility with a huge range of pro optics and Ultra HD RAW support. The Micro Studio Camera 4K boasts an integrated 6G-SDI interface that allows users to connect the camera to video switchers when shooting in live mode.

It is considered as the smallest studio Ultra HD resolution camera with 82.5x65.4x69.5mm dimensions. This particular camera's body is a bit larger than the bayonet, which implies that it can be set up in unusual environments for taking unique videos in the stealth mode.

The Blackmagic Design Micro Studio Camera 4K is the best in terms of versatility. Because of the presence of a standard mount, SDI and HDMI connectors, and an expansion port, it can create multiple tailored configurations. The external input allows it to connect to various types of professional microphones. The camera is compatible with several accessories because of the mounting holes present on the top and bottom panels.

Key Specs:

  • 8.8 MP Super 35 sensor
  • 5-inch 521k-dot touchscreen
  • 4K video recording at 30 fps
  • High-performance active MFT lens mount
  • 11 stops of dynamic range

3. Canon XC10 4K

Price: $1399

The Canon XC10 4K is regarded as one of the best filmmaking cameras that can generate spectacular photographs. You can notice this particular feature if you look closely at its design that looks similar to a regular digital camera. However, not all its features resemble a standard camera, including its rotary handle that's meant for holding the model while shooting footage.

This particular model offers various shooting formats. In terms of stabilization, XC10 provides an electronic one together with the optical system. Remember that you can make use of the electronic stabilization feature in Full HD mode only.

The autofocus feature is the same as in all standard video cameras, implying it's smooth, fast, and precise. In case you have to shoot a light scene, you can do it with a sharp change in focal length or other critical conditions; the model will give a high-performance and won't let you down.

Key Specs:

  • 12 MP still image shooting function
  • 2.54cm 4K high-sensitivity CMOS sensor
  • 1-inch 1m dots touchscreen
  • 4K and Ultra HD XF-AVC video recording at 30fps
  • 10x optical zoom 4K video lens 
  • Canon Log for Wide DR Gamma
  • Wi-Fi remote control

4. Sony PXW-Z90V

Price: $2598

The Sony PXW-Z90V possesses HDR HLG and the groundbreaking SMOS Exmor RS multilayer sensor. The camera is known for its no-fixed wide-angle Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T lens with 12x optical zoom feature, and 18x clear image zoom support (in QFHD resolution with Super Resolution Technology). These specifications make Sony PXW-Z90V one of the best digital movie cameras.

The camera offers phase-detection autofocus (AF) and HDR capabilities. The PXW-Z90V's Fast Hybrid AF algorithm and the 273 points covering 84% of the frame area allow the camera to offer a fast phase focusing feature. AF can detect faces and objects and can be fixed on the item that is selected. Additionally, it is possible to predict the film objects as well as the trajectory in extraordinary quality.

If you have this movie camera, you don't need to worry about losing the color intensity, as it shoots from 1 to 100fps without crop. However, if you feel like the colors aren't intense, you can level it up in video editing software.

Key Specs:

  • 14.2 MP 1-Chip 1-inch CMOS sensor
  • 4K (3840 x 2160) video recording up to 30 fps
  • 4K HDR with Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG)
  • 3.5-inch 1.6m-dot touchscreen
  • 3G-SDI Output, 2.4/5 GHz Live Streaming
  • S-Log3/S-Gamut3 Imaging Options
  • Zeiss 12x Optical / 18x Clear Image Zoom

5. Nikon Z6

Price: $1796.95

Nikon SLR cameras aren't renowned for filming videos and aren't mostly used by professional filmmakers. However, the Nikon Z6 is undoubtedly one of the best digital movie cameras manufactured by Nikon so far. It shoots 4K video content at 30 fps without a crop, which is its topmost characteristic. You can shoot videos for approximately 80 minutes but dedicating 30 minutes for one video.

The camera offers matrix and electronic stabilizers that can be activated only when required. In Full HD mode, the camera can shoot footage at up to 120 fps in regular and slow modes. One of the features that make filmmakers appreciate the camera is the presence of connectors for an external microphone and headphones.

In fact, for the proper functioning of AF, you will have to follow the instructions in the user settings menu in the G (video) section and select the AF Speed parameter in it. Besides, Nikon Z6 not only makes an exceptional camera for cinematographers but also taking time-lapses and top-notch pictures.

Key Specs:

  • 24.5MP FX CMOS sensor
  • 3.2-inch 2.1m-dot touchscreen
  • 4K video recording up to 30 fps
  • SLR-style mirrorless body type
  • 0.5-inch 3.6-million dot Quad-VGA electronic viewfinder (EVF)
  • Compatibility with most of Nikkor lenses

6. Sigma fp Mirrorless Digital Camera

Price: $1799

The professional Sigma fp is regarded as the world's smallest and lightest full-frame mirrorless digital movie camera, measuring just a little less than a pound. Regardless of its size, this professional model possesses a 24.6MP BSI Bayer CMOS full-frame sensor and an ISO 100-25600 base sensitivity that can be expanded to ISO 6-102400. 

The unique structure of the Sigma fp Mirrorless Digital Camera, along with its straightforward and advanced design, makes it more appropriate for cinematographers who are looking for a low-maintenance cine camera that is easy to be transported. Moreover, it has Quick Set buttons, displays for Still and Cine modes, and specialized operation systems, making it one of the most versatile high-end Sigma cameras.

What makes the Sigma fp Mirrorless Digital Camera striking is that it motivates users to build around it. Its petite structure makes several rigs fit easily. The camera has a lot of attachment points and supports Leica's L-mount lens interface. Its 4K Ultra HD recording mode and its open system make it one of the best compact and build-around digital movie cameras.

Key Specs:

  • 35mm full-frame Bayer 24.6MP sensor
  • Face & Eye Detection AF
  • Sturdy aluminum frame
  • UHD 4K shooting at 24, 25 & 30 fps
  • Compact and lightweight design
  • Electronic image stabilizers
  • Standard 100-51,200 ISO Range
  • UHD 4K shooting at 24, 25 & 30 fps
  • Full-time electronic shutter

7. Panasonic HC-X1 4K Ultra HD

Price: $2397.99

The Panasonic HC-X1 4K Ultra HD digital movie camera is the best for people for shooting sports, films, documentaries, and other events at a professional level. This model boasts a 24-inch wide-angle LEICA lens with 20x optical zoom. The HC-X1 4K Ultra HD offers four modes of shooting: wide-angle UHD (3840x2160, 16: 9), multi-format FHD (1920x1080), Cinema 4K (4096x2160, 17: 9), and HD Super Slow Motion.

For the convenience of people, the camera comes with a dual SD memory card slot. This allows the shooters to switch cards from the first slot to the second and vice versa. Additionally, if you happen to record a video on both the cards simultaneously, the crucial moments will indeed be recorded.

One of the striking features of the Panasonic HC-X1 4K Ultra HD is its compact size. Moreover, the professional video camera 4K possesses electronic and optical stabilization features that allow you to capture high-quality 4K video content while you film at unusual locations (such as the mountains), wedding events, or sports. 

Key Specs:

  • 9.5 MP 1-Chip 1-inch MOS sensor
  • 3.5-inch 1.2m dots screen
  • Advanced image stabilizer
  • 4K video recording up to 30 fps
  • FHD, UHD support
  • Live HDMI output

How to Choose the Best Digital Movie Camera?

The best movie cameras in the world keep getting better day by day, with new specifications and designs at large. We're now witnessing prosumer and customer level bodies that are highly proficient for professional use. That implies, whether you are a hobbyist or a professional filmmaker, the top-notch movie cameras on every end are more competent than ever — and their purchase needn't put a hole in your wallet that it was once. 

In case you're a hobbyist, before heading out to a shop to purchase a movie camera, you need to ask yourself a fundamental question: "Do I need to purchase this?" Since these cameras are loaded with high-pro specifications, they do not come cheap, which is why you need to be sure about your decision because it'll cost you your hard-earned money.

Mentioned below are some of the factors that you need to remember before purchasing a movie camera:

The Reason for Your Purchase

The best camera for you would be the one that will suit your needs. It is important to note that each camera has a unique and different set of specifications and characteristics that makes it suitable for a particular type of shooting, including documentaries, short films, and commercials.

The best approach to figure this out is to check your shooting requirements (including angles and quality), shot logistics (including the size of your production team and camera rigs at hand), as well as the entire genre of your movie or short films. High-quality and successful cinematography doesn't always have to look pretty and attractive; it needs to match the story you want to tell.

  • Set Your Expectations Real

Needless to say, we want the best possible result. This can be very difficult to achieve if you're an amateur in the field or running low on budget. If you're just starting out in the area with very little or no experience in using movie cameras, it'd be best to seek out for a more affordable alternative and upgrade it as you develop your skills. Or if you have experience in the field but have a limited budget, select a camera that is cost-effective and has specifications close to your expectations. If you don't need to compromise, you can always consider the next tip.

  • Camera Rentals 

Fortunately, the camera rental start-ups are in substantial demand for today's filmmakers who require a cine camera without breaking the bank. This certainly has a few challenges of its own, considering when you're on a limited budget, you'd be missing out on some of the high-quality tools and specifications that only pro cameras have. In any case, you can still rent a cine camera when you don't want to invest too much into it, yet want to have the best of the best.

The rental option not only allows you to experiment with the camera but also saves you a lot of money. And in the end, if you like it, then it's all a matter of saving up!

  • Specifications Shouldn't Be Your Only Requirement

The specifications of the digital movie cameras do matter, but even the high-end camera won't be able to do much if it falls in the hands of a person who cannot make the best use. Here's a note: the thing that comes first is the creative force behind the equipment and the concept. Even when you have a limited budget and control over the digital movie camera alternative, you can still make the best use of any camera for most of your cinematography needs by merely finding a compromise between the available resources and your content.

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