One of the questions that we get most from our camera audience is: what is the best DSLR for video? To answer that in 2018 is not as easy as it has been in the past due to the influx of quality mirrorless competitors entering the space and seizing market share away from DSLRs.
If you don't have time to read the entire article, we believe the best overall DSLR for filmmaking is the Canon 1DX Mark II followed by Canon's 5D Mark IV which comes in at a significantly lower price. If you are on a really tight budget then Canon's 80D is a great cheap DSLR camera that shoots HD video with excellent autofocus.
Should you be open to considering newer mirrorless camera technology with nearly all the features, at a smaller size and cheaper price then you should seriously consider the Panasonic GH5 or their newer GH5s (better for low-light & slow motion shooting).
Best DSLR For Video
A powerhouse of a DSLR camera for both stills and video, Canon's 1DX Mark II offers all the bells and whistles at a premium price-point.
The 1DX Mark II is a favorite among professional photographers, but the video capabilities are top-notch for a DSLR camera. With high-end features like C4K video up to 60fps, touchscreen dual-pixel CMOS autofocus and solid low-light performance, the 1DX Mark II is the DSLR of choice for filmmaking, if you can stomach the high cost.
Pricing as of 3/6/18*
The successor to the company's 5D Mark III which had been widely regarded as the best DSLR for video in the past few years.
A step down from the 1DX Mark II, Canon's 5D Mark III offers a lot of the great features without going above and beyond like its older sibling. This model brings several new features to their signature 5D line-up including 4K video, dual-pixel AF and touch screen support.
Pricing as of 3/6/18*
Best Low-Budget Option
Made popular by Casey Neistat, the 80D is a affordable DSLR that is more compact with HD video that is great for vloggers.
This is the only Chromebook that made the list, but its portability and feature-set make it one to consider if you value a compact footprint. Do consider the limitations of a Chromebook before buying as you can't do many of the same things (such as installing Microsoft Office) as a Windows machine.
Pricing as of 3/6/18*
Editor's Choice & Best Mirrorless For Video
A mirrorless model that impresses in low-light, high-frame rate and overall picture quality.
Panasonic has really upped their game in recent years with their line of video-centric MFT cameras such as the GH4, GH5 and GH5s. Priced under $2,500 the GH5s offers an all-new sensor with great low light capabilities allowing shooting up to 4K at 60fps or HD up to a whopping at 240fps along with data-rich 10-bit 4:2:2.
Pricing as of 3/6/18*
In the remainder this article, we'll do our best to cover the best DSLR for video along with several potential mirrorless options that you'll want to consider when in the market for a new video camera. Remember, everyone's needs are different, and the right camera for one reader might be an entirely different model for another depending on their shooting style, footage requirements or overall budget.
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RELATED - Q&A: What Is The Best DSLR Camera Under 500?
Buying a new DSLR camera for filmmaking usually is a big investment for many and that requires a great deal of research before pulling the trigger. We understand you likely have a lot of questions or concerns of which we will try to cover as much as we can throughout this guide.
If you finish this piece of content and still feel as though you have questions or concerns about DSLR filmmaking that weren't answered then feel free to use the comments section below this article. We will do our best to provide an answer or any helpful advice as soon as we can.
Should You Buy A DSLR Or A Mirrorless Camera?
The great DSLR versus mirrorless debate is something that has only begun in the past few years, but it is as fierce as the iPhone/Android or PC/Mac rivalry with no clear winner to date.
DSLR stands for the digital single-lens reflex camera and is the traditional digital camera technology that evolved from 35mm SLR film cameras. This design utilizes a mirror inside the camera body to reflect light coming through the lens up to the prism and then into the viewfinder for your shot preview. Once the shutter button has been pressed to take an image, the mirror flips opening the shutter so that the light falls directly onto the image sensor which captures the resulting image.
On the other hand, a mirrorless design has light pass through the lens and projects it directly onto the image sensor (skipping any mirror components). This allows the user to see exactly what the camera is seeing through electronic signals sent to the back LCD and viewfinder.
Here's a great video produced by Sony showcasing the differences between DSLRs and mirrorless cameras:
Advantages Of DSLRs For Video
- Better battery life as DSLR bodies are traditionally larger thus being able to house bigger batteries and the optical viewfinder doesn't require power
- Better autofocus/tracking thanks to phase detection (the dual-pixel AF found on some Canon DSLR models is stellar)
Advantages Of Mirrorless For Video
- Smaller, lighter form-factor as the extra room isn't required for a mirror system
- Better image quality/less noise in low-light conditions
- Electronic viewfinders allow you to see exactly what the sensor sees even in high brightness situations (aka outdoors in direct sunlight)
- Offer native monitoring functionality (zebras, focus peaking, sensor grid, etc.)
- Ability to use a broad range of lenses via third-party adapters like the Metabones due to the flange distance
- Sensor-based image stabilization (can be used in conjunction with lens stabilization)
- More common for models to offer recording in 4K resolution
- More likely to have modes with higher frames per second for slow-motion (sometimes via variable frame rate modes)
- Greater value as mirrorless models are typically cheaper while offering more features
Now seeing the advantages laid out in a matter like this, you should be able to see why so many DSLR video shooters are switching to the mirrorless market.
Does that mean you shouldn't buy a new DSLR for shooting video? Absolutely not, but it is important to understand the current market during your search for a new camera to help make the best purchase decision about which model to buy for your video shooting needs.
Sensor Size: Full Frame vs. APS-C vs. Micro Four-Thirds
Both DSLR and mirrorless models offer different sensor sizes, and they are broken up into three main types: Full Frame, APS-C, and Micro Four Thirds. With such a dramatic difference in size between sensors, the recorded image will be affected in numerous ways.
While it is possible that the descriptions may differ in some situations, here is a general overview of sensor sizes and common traits regarding them:
- Full frame sensors – the biggest sensor you'll see in a DSLR or mirrorless thus being capable of letting in the most light (best in low light conditions). From a defined distanced, it will offer the widest field of view and the greatest depth of field. These sensors are commonly used in the higher-end DSLRs and mirrorless models as they are the most expensive to produce. Due to the increased size of the sensor, DSLR and mirrorless models that use these typically result in larger camera bodies.
- APS-C sensors – the middle ground sensor that is most common in DSLRs and found in only some mirrorless models due to their lower cost to produce, but the smaller sensor will let in less light (mediocre in low light conditions). From a defined distance, it will display a narrower field of view (usually around 1.5x crop factor) and depth of field.
- Micro four thirds sensors – the smallest sensor size offered and exclusive to mirrorless cameras as Panasonic and Olympus introduced the sensor technology back in 2008. It is the smallest of the three sensors by a significant margin meaning it will get the least amount of light (worse performance in low light conditions) From a defined distance, you'll get the smallest field of view (typically a 2x crop factor) and the least depth of field. These sensors are the cheapest to produce, so you'll often find them on entry or lower end models despite them still packing competitive features.
Something that is important to note about APS-C and micro four thirds mirrorless cameras as opposed to DSLRs is that despite the smaller sensor size, you have the option to purchase a speedbooster which uses magnification to optically enlarge the sensor thus letting in more light, widening the field of view and increasing depth of field without compromising image quality.
This means you can turn an APS-C mirrorless model to perform like a full-frame sensor or a micro four-thirds mirrorless to perform as an APS-C or full-frame sensor. The primary downside to this approach is that you'll have to have the extra cash to invest in a speedbooster which usually cost at least $500 and utilize DSLR lenses (of which you might already own like I did). However, mirrorless models are typically cheaper than their comparable DSLRs so the price difference could even out nicely.
Low Budget? Consider Buying A Used Camera
This is a big question a lot of consumers make when they are looking to buy a new DSLR for video, and the answer depends on many variables:
- Do you have the budget to buy any of the above models new? (don't forget the cost of lenses, spare batteries, recording media, lighting & rigging gear) If yes, then buy new.
- Are you okay with spending a large sum on a used or pre-owned model that may already show visible wear or markings? If no, then buy new.
- Are you comfortable with and could you afford potential repair costs associated with purchasing a pre-owned camera that is more than likely out of the original manufacturer's warranty? If no, then buy new.
Over the course of my filmmaking career, I've purchased both new and used DSLR/mirrorless camera models, and my decision as to which condition I went through with has always been situational.
I have nothing against buying used and have done so on many occasions in the past, but if I opt to go down this route, I always make sure to do my homework. For any used camera in question, I make sure that I fully understand the exact condition (with pictures) before purchasing so that there are no surprises when it arrives.
When looking for deals on used DSLRs or mirrorless cameras, I always check the following websites:
- B&H Photo (Used Department) – one of the biggest camera retailers that have great deals on pre-owned cameras
- Amazon (Used) – beyond selling new cameras, Amazon also allows third-party sellers to sell used cameras
- eBay – one of the largest online marketplaces for used goods from individual sellers
- BorrowLenses – one of the best places to rent a DSLR or mirrorless camera, but often sell off older rental units with a lot of life left in them
- Adorama (Used) – another big camera retailer that lists used camera deals often
- Craigslist – the biggest risk, but can potentially score a great deal locally
Finding a good deal on a used camera is all about timing. You'll find plenty of used models in good condition late into the lifespan of the product, but a newer camera model will have significantly less or even no pre-owned units available.
If you can't find any of the camera models that I previously mentioned in used conditions via the websites that I listed, you might also want to consider these DSLR/mirrorless models as well since they are still relevant for video shooters despite older technology:
Keep in mind, there is always a significantly bigger risk in buying a used DSLR/mirrorless camera off the internet. However, it can pay off hugely to the tune of hundreds or even thousands off retail if you can score a reputable deal.
Renting - Temporary Access To Film With The Best Gear
If you've run the numbers and realized you can't afford any of the models on this list yet you have a big film shoot coming up then renting might be a more reasonable option for your needs.
Much like a car rental, camera or lens rentals allow you to get all of the necessary tools needed to get the job done without the worry about longtime payments, warranty issues and maintenance.
Depending on your needs and budget, there are plenty of DSLR or mirrorless cameras available to rent for periods as short as three days and as long as 14 days though the price will rise significantly the longer that you rent the item.
For all of our camera gear rental needs, we rely on BorrowLenses. From our experience, they offer the best selection, pricing and customer support in the business.
Comparing The Top DSLR Cameras For Filmmaking
1DX Mark II
5D Mark IV
Up to 60p
Up to 30p
Up to 30p
Up to 60p
Up to 60p
Up to 60p
Up to 60p
Up to 120p
Up to 120p (cropped)
Up to 240p
Native Flat Picture Profile
Image Sensor Stabilization
Dual Memory Cards
Best DSLR For Video (2018)
The latest and greatest high-end DSLR from Canon which replaces their original 1DX Mark I. Designed primarily for action photographers, the 1DX Mark II also brings a lot of video capabilities to the table which is a first for Canon's 1DX lineup.
The full-frame sensor is one of the best Canon offers with the best greatest sensitivity and enough resolution achieve cinema 4K recording at up to 60 frames per second. Its rear touch screen and dual-pixel autofocus make pulling focus and tracking moving subjects a breeze plus Canon's color science is notorious for its excellence and accuracy without the need to tweak much in post.
Something the 1DX Mark II is known for is being built like a tank for use in even the most grueling conditions with a durable and weatherproof construction. It is the largest camera body on this list but is still suitable for use on most video rigs and gimbals. The large size allows it to achieve the high frame rate C4k without overheating as well as use dual batteries for prolonged battery life.
As a photographer and filmmaker myself, the 1DX Mark II is something I've considered purchasing for my own use. My primary concerns are that the image quality is comparable to high-end mirrorless models like the a7S, a7RII, and GH5 which cost only a fraction of the price.
Additionally, for shooting 4K Canon is using Motion JPEG which is a format that each still image is compressed as a single JPEG. While this retains excellent quality, the resulting file is overly cumbersome so it can become a major hassle to work with in your editing software or store on your hard drives due to the inefficient file size.
Canon's 5D Mark lineup has always been a flagship for the company, and the 5D Mark II paved the way for DSLR video shooters, especially after Magic Lantern. The 5D line is known for its large, durable design with a full-frame sensor and solid low-light capabilities.
While the 5D Mark II to Mark III wasn't all that big of change, the Mark IV added some significant changes to remain relevant as Canon's market share dwindles due to mirrorless competition. This new iteration offers a 30.4MP Full-Frame CMOS sensor and DIGIC 6+ processor providing Cinema 4K video up to 30 fps and 1080P FHD video up to 60fps.
Similar to the 1DX, the 5D Mark IV has adopted the use of Canon's stellar dual-pixel autofocus technology and improves upon of the convenience with a rear touchscreen display that allows you to quickly rack focus from one subject to another or lock onto a particular subject.
The newest mirrorless model from Sony and successor to the a7RII which was previously listed in this article. This third generation model offers stellar improvements over the previous generation for both photography and video shooters.
Focusing on the video side, the sensor remains the same although you get an updated Bionz X processor that is capable of writing data almost 2 times faster than the previous model. There 425 contrast detection AF points on the Mark III compared to the II meaning this will focus faster and more accurately.
The EVF has also been improved with 3686k-dot resolution (previously 2359K-dot) and we also are getting a bump in the rear LCD resolution from 1229k-dot up to 1440k-dot. Native ISO is bumped up to 32,000 ISO which offers better low-light shooting. Sony added another SD card slot so you'll have two for simultaneous backup recording or to automatically switch when your first card runs dry.
The a7RIII can now shoot 120fps at FHD and also benefits from access to Sony's latest flat picture profiles like S-Log 3 and HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma). Battery life has also been improved rapidly on this model thanks to the new processor that is both faster and more efficient.
One of the benefits of mirrorless such as this is the ability to purchase a Metabones Mark IV adapter like I did to utilize the best Canon L and Sigma ART series glass without having to deal with the hassles of selling and rebuying my existing lens kit while taking advantage of some of the highest performance optics on the market.
Unlike the a7RIII, the a7SII is designed specifically with video shooters in mind and comes in slightly lower at price than its older sibling. While both models utilize full frame sensors, the one found on the a7SII has only 12.2 MP. This decrease in pixels helps it achieve less noise in low-light conditions and better video performance while using the entire sensor.
Just like its older sibling, the a7SII does offer 5-axis image stabilization the sensor, so you are getting the very best tech packed into this video-centric mirrorless body. If you are shooting video on the a7SII, you'll have to stick to full frame unlike the a7RII's preferred APS-C (crop) mode as he a7SII doesn't have enough pixels on the sensor to shoot 4K while in APS-C mode.
Beyond the full frame video and low-light advantages of the a7SII, it can also shoot FHD 1080P at up to 120 frames per second. While this is a huge advantage for slow-motion shooters, the downside is that in this mode you are stuck with a 2.2x crop. High frame rate files will automatically be output in 5x slo-mo in a 24fps clip or 4x slo-mo in a 30fps clip.
Another great aspect about the a7SII is the ability to shoot in S-Gamut3.Cine/S-Log3 which is Sony's logarithmic (flat) picture profile that achieves the best dynamic range and latitude in both the shadows and the highlights. With S-Log3, you'll need to learn or know how to correctly expose and correct the image in post-production, but it will help keep the shadows and highlights in your scene from blowing out giving you the best-looking picture.
When we first posted this article, we included the base GH5 in this spot (we still love this camera) although Panasonic has released a new model dubbed the 'GH5s' which is geared even more for video shooters. By dropping down the megapixels of the sensor, the GH5s is now better in low-light with dual native ISOs of 400 and 2500.
Beyond the performance increase in low-light which is the huge selling point for this camera over the previous version, the slow-motion capabilities have also increased from 180fps in VFR modes up to 240fps in VFR (variable frame rate). The GH5 could only shoot 60p in 4K, but could only shoot up to 24p in Cinema 4K. The GH5s can now shoot up to 60p in both 4K and C4K.
However, two things you do sacrifice in exchange for the improved video performance is the 6K Photo mode (really more of a gimmick than useful) and the lack of internal 5-axis image stabilization compared to the GH5.
Much of the GH5 goodness is still present like dual SD card slots and internal 10-bit 4:2:2 however, you get several more video-centric features standard. Within this area is the inclusion of V-Log L gamma and HDR Hybrid Log Gamma without the need to purchase any unlock codes.
The 70D was the first DSLR camera released by Canon that was specifically geared for video shooters due to their stellar dual-pixel autofocus system. Since then, the company has released the 80D which improves upon the original model in several ways and has been a favorite among YouTubers and social media celebrities. For example, Casey Neistat shot many of his vlogs on this camera and the 70D before switching to a GH5.
Sharing this attribute with the GH5, the 80D is the only other camera model on this list that has a flip out screen that articulates allowing you to film yourself in “selfie” mode or place it on a tripod and still see what you are shooting from in front of the camera. This screen is also touch enabled with improved dual pixel AF making it simple to lock on your subject and precisely track their movement with ease.
If you are an absolute beginner to DSLR filmmaking, then the 80D is probably the best starting point as it is very user-friendly with the easiest menu system and least amount of knowledge to operate. However, its limitations to shooting 1080P up to 60fps at 8-bit 4:2:0 makes it dwindle in value as your experience and knowledge in the filmmaking world expand thus requiring a more capable camera body for video shooting.
Congratulations on making it this far into this guide! By now we have shared all of our knowledge on the DSLR filmmaking industry and the cameras that are commonly used within it. We understand all this information could be a lot to take in so feel free to bookmark or save this guide to revisit for future reference.
As stated earlier, if you've absorbed all of various content in this article and are still lost or stuck as to which video camera you should buy then leave us a comment below this article. We will get back to you as soon as we can to help better assist with a personal recommendation based your specific needs and budget.
The Best DSLR For Video
- Canon 1DX Mark II
- Canon 5D Mark IV
- Canon 80D
- Sony a7RIII
- Sony a7SII
- Panasonic GH5s
We hope that this article helped you determine the best DSLR for video and believe our recommendation of the GH5s is the ideal choice for most filmmakers.