The best mirrorless cameras and DSLRs dominate the video production scene thanks to their impressive image quality and relative affordability. Though these little cameras still look like photo-only tools, they have become increasingly capable video cameras with some big advantages.
At the end of this article, we’ll go over some of the special considerations unique to this form factor. But first, here are the best DSLR and mirrorless cameras across several use cases.
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Best all around camera
- 10-bit external capture
- Great image quality
- Vibration reduction
- Single media card slot
- Screen isn’t fully articulating
The Nikon Z6 is one of two new full-frame mirrorless cameras from Nikon, the other camera being the pricier Z7. While the Z7 prioritizes photo resolution with a large 45.7-megapixel sensor, while the Z6 uses a sensor with an effective pixel count of 24.5MP. The Z6, however, supports a larger ISO range, from 100 – 51200.
As for video, the Z7 and Z6 both record in full-frame 4K UHD at 30p. The camera allows for capture in either the FX or DX format, so you have the option to crop your image at will, giving you more flexibility in your field of view. Along with 4K, the two cameras also shoot Full HD video at up to 120p. Plus, the cameras use the full-pixel readout for sharper 4K.
While several manufacturers launched new mirrorless systems at around the same time, Nikon’s offerings stand out in part because of the affordability and quality of the initial lens offerings for the cameras’ brand new Z Mount.
The Z6 and Z7 are also the first cameras to output in Nikon’s N-Log picture profile. Pairing the Z6 with an external recorder enables both N-Log and 10-bit video recording.
Its full-frame sensor, flexible recording options and growing collection of Z Mount lenses work together to help the Nikon Z6 capture video of impressive quality.
Budget all around camera
- No record limit time
- 120fps in HD
- No in-body image stabilization
- No headphone jack
The Sony a6400 is the follow up to the a6300 in Sony’s lineup of compact, lightweight APS-C cameras. Sony claims the camera has the fastest autofocus in the world, with an acquisition time of just 0.02 seconds. That’s is lighting fast. It also sports 4K video recording, “Real-time Eye AF” and “Real-time Tracking,” and of course the 180-degree tiltable LCD touch screen.
The camera uses a 24.2 MP APS-C sized image sensor with an upgraded BIONZ X processor. With this combo and the same image processing algorithms as Sony’s full-frame cameras, noise in the a6400 is greatly reduced.
This is also Sony’s first APS-C mirrorless camera to include the Hybrid Log-Gamma picture profile. Both S-Log2 and S-Log3 are available, as well. Other handy tools include Zebra functionality, Gamma Display assists and proxy recording. That last feature should make editing large video clips in post much easier. Overall, the Sony a6400 is a feature-rich camera.
Best camera for online video
- 10-Bit 4:2:2 DCI 4K
- Eterna Bleach Bypass Film Simulation
- Long battery life
The Fujifilm X-T4 comes with a lot of important features for online video creators. It has a newly designed IBIS system, a quiet shutter and a new vari-angle LCD screen that makes it easier for vloggers to shoot in selfie mode. Plus, it adds Eterna Bleach Bypass Film Simulation for that cinematic look. It can also record F-Log footage in 10-bit color, straight to the card.
Inside, the X-T4 has a 26.1 MP, back-side illuminated CMOS sensor and an X-Processor 4. The camera can record DCI 4K/60p and Full HD/240p super slow-motion video. Additionally, the AF-C subject tracking works in low-light conditions down to -6EV. Finally, it has a battery said to last quite a while and a form factor that’s both compact and lightweight.
Budget option for online video
- Long battery life
- Good image quality
- Flip out screen
- Significant rolling shutter
- 2.56 times crop shooting 4K
The Canon EOS M50 sports a 24.1-megapixel APS-C sensor and can capture 4K video at 24fps, 1080p video at 60fps, and 720p video at 120fps. While one of the big features for the M50 is its 4K capabilities, 4K recording comes with a 1.6X crop. That’s an additional crop to the existing 1.6X APS-C crop factor. The M50 uses Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF and a new “eye detection AF” that automatically locks focus to a subject’s eyes, but unfortunately, you can’t use phase-detection Dual Pixel AF in 4K.
The M50 has built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC connectivity. There’s also a vari-angle, flippable touchscreen perfect for vloggers. Solid video functionality and an articulating screen makes the Canon EOS M50 a solid pick for vloggers on a budget.
Best hybrid photo/video camera
Sony a7R IV
- 61 Megapixel sensor
- Real-time Eye AF
- 240 MP Pixel Shift multi shooting
- Poor menu system
- No 4k 60p
- No 10-Bit video
The Sony a7R IV offers more to hybrid shooters than any other camera before it. The a7R IV combines a 61 Megapixel resolution image sensor with 6K oversampled video for capturing UHD 4K. Plus, it has no record time limit. While the codec, frame-rate and resolution options for video haven’t changed since the previous model, the added benefits to still shooters elevate the a7R IV to the level of hybrid shooter’s dream camera.
If you are a hybrid shooter, meaning you want a strong video and stills camera, the Sony a7R IV is at the top of its class. Just looking for a high resolution stills camera? The a7R IV might still be for you, though you will pay a premium for the added resolution over the previous model a7R III. If you are a video only shooter and wouldn’t be able to use the photo features, then the a7R IV might be a poor choice. You can get much more for less money from many other cameras on the market. In all, the video looks great, and with the addition of no record limit time with dual card slots, its ready for just about anything.
Budget option hybrid photo/video camera
Canon Rebel T8i
- Accepts EF mount lenses
- Record up to 60 fps
- Flip-out screen
- Shared headphone/mic jack
- Limited external controls
The Canon Rebel T8i is a DSLR that accepts EF and EF-S mount lenses. That means it can use high-end EF lenses if you so wish. This camera has an APS-C sensor, on the larger side for its price. This will give you a 1.6 times crop factor, when shooting at up to UHD 4k at 4:2:0 8-Bit or any other resolution. making it a good choice for those who want a solid video camera and strong photo capabilities. Additionally, the T8i can shoot up to 60 frames per second in full HD — that’s more than two times slow-mo when played back at 24p. Although this camera offers plenty of options, one of the most important for this price point is the flip out screen. The T8i isn’t a ground-breaking camera, but for the money, it’s a great buy.
Most cinematic camera
- Image Quality
- Included v-log L
- Internal 10-bit 4:2:2 recording
- No sensor stabilization
With a new 10.2-megapixel Digital MOS sensor, Dual Native ISO and a Venus Engine 10, the Panasonic LUMIX GH5s aims to correct one of our only issues with the GH5: its performance in low light. Though the two cameras share many similarities, Dual Native ISO technology borrowed from the VariCam line helps the GH5s shoot at higher ISOs with less noise.
The GH5s is also the first mirrorless camera to offer 4K 60p video recording in Cinema 4K — a pretty big milestone. And thankfully, just like the GH5, there isn’t any record time limit for either Full HD or 4K video recording. In addition to 10-bit video recording, photo shooting in 14-bit RAW format is also possible. The GH5s shoots video in DCI 4K at up to 60 fps for a maximum 2.5x slow-mo. By contrast, resolution on the GH5 tops out at UHD 4K. The GH5s also ups the maximum HD frame rate to 240 fps for a maximum 10x slow-mo.
With its Multi-Aspect sensor, the GH5s also captures a wider field of view than that of other four-thirds sensor cameras. Less crop equals more field of view at the same resolution. This will give videographers the advantage using the maximum sensor area possible.
Absent from the GH5s is the 5-axis in-body stabilization of the GH5. If you’re choosing between the GH5 and the GH5s, you’ll be confronting a trade-off between sensor performance and image stabilization. However, cinematographers shooting in controlled environments where the camera properly supported likely won’t miss the stabilization.
Best run-and-gun camera
Sony a7S III
- Low light performance
- Face-detect AF
- Larger weight and size
- Auto exposure in high speed video
The Sony a7S III is a full-frame mirrorless camera that can capture internally up to 10-bit 4:2:2 UHD 4K video in 120 frames per second. All that for $3500, one might ask, what other features you might want or need?
Special considerations for DSLR & mirrorless cameras
As with any type of camera, choosing the right DSLR or mirrorless camera means weighing a number of different factors against your budget and intended use. You can get an overview of the important tech specs to consider before any camera purchase in our article on How to buy a camera. However, there are a couple of considerations that are unique to this particular form factor.
DSLR or mirrorless camera?
One of the major differences between mirrorless and DSLR cameras is size. A DSLR has a mirror in front of the image sensor, allowing the user to look into an optical viewfinder and through the lens. When the shutter is released to take a still picture, the mirror drops, momentarily exposing the image sensor. When shooting video, the mirror remains down, and the video can be seen on the LCD screen in the same way as on a mirrorless camera.
Because of the mirror mechanism, DSLRs tend to be larger and heavier than mirrorless cameras. DSLRs, at their smallest, weigh around a pound and a half and can fit in a small bag. In contrast, mirrorless cameras can weigh as little as half a pound and can be pocket-sized with a small lens. If you’re shooting on a tripod or a shoulder rig, the difference in size can be insignificant.
If you’re shooting on a tripod or a shoulder rig, the difference in size can be insignificant.
Another common difference is in monitoring options. Some mirrorless cameras lack viewfinders, instead relying on rear display panels; those that have them necessarily use electronic viewfinders, or EVFs, which have a reputation for making it difficult to see detail. Fortunately, many come with the advantage of being able to digitally zoom from within the EVF for focus assist. When a DSLR is in video mode, the optical viewfinder is disabled, and the video is viewable on the LCD screen making it function much like a mirrorless camera.
When buying an interchangeable-lens camera, lens mount is also important — especially if you already have a collection of glass in your kit. This is typically tied to the sensor size. The larger the sensor, the larger the glass in the lens needs to be because the lens needs to be able to cover the whole sensor with light. That’s why a full-frame lens can work with an adapter on a smaller sensor, but a small sensor lens will not work on a full-frame camera regardless of the adapter; it won’t cast enough light to cover the whole sensor. If you already have a substantial lens collection, consider lens-mount compatibility before you have to put your old lenses on Craigslist.
DSLRs have the broadest selection of lenses, from macro lenses to super-telephoto to fully manual cinema lenses. You can find a lens for almost any application to fit your DSLR’s mount. While the selection of lenses for mirrorless cameras is limited, the lenses are smaller and lighter than comparable DSLR lenses. You can often find adapters for mounting DSLR lenses on mirrorless cameras, but these adapters vary in quality, and some lens functions such as autofocus and iris control (aperture control) may not work.
What’s your style?
Do you need a camera that’s super compact and lightweight? If so, then a small, mirrorless camera might be right for you. Do you want an affordable camera with a huge variety of lenses and accessories? In that case, a larger DSLR might be the solution you’re looking for.
Many of the newer models of mirrorless and DSLR cameras share similar features, making the difference between these two types of cameras minimal. Besides the mirror, the biggest difference is weight and size. On a tripod, that doesn’t mean much. With the camera handheld, a little more weight and a larger body can make the camera easier to keep steady.
Above all, focus on the features that are important to you. Think about what you’ll be shooting and the environment you’ll be working in. Finding a camera that has the right features for the types of shoots you do is the first step in selecting the best gear for your productions.
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