best cheap camera for documentary – 2021 Guide

The Best Cameras for Low Budget Filmmaking

  1. Panasonic G85/G80
  2. Fujifilm X-T3 or X-T4
  3. Canon EOS M50
  4. BlackMagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K
  5. Panasonic GH5 or GH5S
  6. Fujifilm X-T30

In terms of value, 4k mirrorless cameras are the most cost-effective way to get started with creative low-budget filmmaking. They are reasonably priced and relatively simple to operate. They have larger sensors than the majority of camcorders, which makes them better for low-light photography and creating artistic shallow focus shots. In addition, you can swap lenses. As an alternative to being restricted to a single zoom lens, you have the option of selecting from a variety of zooms and prime (non-zooming) lenses.

Other types of cameras may be more appropriate for specific applications, such as prosumer or professional camcorders for news and events shooting; compact still cameras, such as the DJI Pocket, for travel; or cinema cameras, which offer serious creativity and professional features built in.

I’ve chosen cameras ranging in price from $500 to approximately $2000. If you’re working with a limited budget, you might be able to find a used mirrorless or DSLR camera for less than $300.

Are you looking for a camera to use for professional purposes? The Panasonic GH5 or GH5s would be my first choice.

best cheap camera for documentary

Panasonic G85/G80 – best camera for interviews

Because it costs around $700 with a lens, the Panasonic G85 (also known as the G80/81 in Europe) is the best value camera you can purchase for filmmaking. One that I personally use is this one. In addition to having a weather-resistant magnesium body with a touchscreen that is both tiltable and swivelable, the camera’s body and lens are also weather-resistant. With a zoom range of 12-60mm, the sharp 12-60 kit lens can be used for a variety of tasks. 4K and HD video can be captured, as well as slow motion footage at speeds of up to 60p. In addition, it has excellent image stabilisation, which makes shooting with one hand simple and straightforward.

Cons? Because of the smaller sensor size, it is more compact than the Fujifilm and Canon cameras listed above. Consequently, it performs less well in low light, though it is still superior to older Panasonics in this regard. However, you can create an audio output from the HDMI port if you don’t have a headphone jack on your device. However, the battery life is only acceptable, not outstanding (you can add a battery grip to double it, or use an adapter and an external battery). Particularly when shooting in 4K, the autofocus is a little slow. However, because of its sturdy construction, slow motion, and image stabilisation, it is an excellent option.

Fujifilm X-T3 – video camera for documentaries

best cheap camera for documentary

Because Fujifilm’s X-T3 (which costs around $1500 for the body only) has a larger APS-C sensor, it performs better in low light and with creative shallow focus than the Panasonics. With excellent colour rendition, a wide dynamic range, and professional video features, it is an excellent value for money.

A few of its standout features are its excellent low-light performance, ultra-fast autofocus, and 4K slow motion capability. It can record high-quality 10bit files at a rate of 400Mb/s and shoot in log mode, among other things. ) (Log mode compresses the highlights and shadows, allowing the camera to capture a wider range of contrast while also holding up better to colour correction and grading.)

Image stabilisation is not integrated into the body of the device, and instead of fully rotating the screen, it tilts rather than swivels. Even though the battery life isn’t great, you can power it via USB-C if you have an external power supply handy.

It’s also an excellent camera for taking still photographs.

READ ALSO: How to do Product photography with phone – in 2021

Fujifilm X-T4 – best cheap camera for documentary

best cheap camera for documentary

The more recent X-T4 is more expensive: it costs around $1700 for the body alone. You’ll get excellent 5-axis image stabilisation, a fully swivelling screen, a larger battery, improved autofocus, and 10x slow motion in HD for your money. There is also an option for ‘F-log assist,’ which allows you to see a preview of what the finished image will look like when you are working with a log-mode camera. They’ve removed the headphone jack, but the camera comes with a USB-C to headphone adapter to make up for it.

Canon EOS M50

Canon EOS M50

Despite the fact that the M-series cameras and lenses are small and lightweight, they have large APS-C sensors, excellent colours, and very good dual pixel autofocus. With the use of an adapter, you can use standard Canon EF lenses. The EOS M50 (approximately $500 with kit lens) is a reasonably priced camera with an intuitive user interface. Because of its portability, it is an excellent choice for vloggers and journalists. It is primarily intended for shooting in high definition: when shooting in 4K, the dual pixel autofocus does not function and the image is heavily cropped. This camera does not have in-body image stabilisation, and there is no headphone jack on the back.

Panasonic GH5

Panasonic GH5 mirrorless camera

The Panasonic GH5 mirrorless camera best cheap camera for documentary (approximately $1400 for the body only) packs a lot of video features into a small and lightweight body. Excellent in-body image stabilisation, long battery life for a mirrorless camera, and the ability to record in a variety of broadcast-quality 4K and HD formats are among its many features. A professional audio module can be purchased separately. It is a well-built and durable system. Cons? As a result, the MFT sensor is small and the colour and low-light performance of Panasonic’s MFT sensor are not as good as those of their competitors. More information on the GH5 can be found here.

In comparison to the original GH5, the new GH5 II offers some significant improvements, including a higher resolution screen, internal 10-bit 4K slow motion (60fps), and V-log recording (which is a paid upgrade on the original camera). It is approximately $300 more expensive than the previous version, which is still available for purchase.

Panasonic GH5s

Panasonic GH5s mirrorless camera

The more expensive GH5S (approximately $2000 for the body alone) is designed specifically for filmmaking, with more professional video features, better video quality, and significantly better low-light performance. It is, without a doubt, the best moviemaking camera available for less than $2000. In contrast, it does not have in-body stabilisation, and its still image resolution is limited to 10MP.

BlackMagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K

BlackMagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K

In terms of professional features and image quality, the BlackMagic Design Pocket best cheap camera for documentary Cinema Camera 4K offers a lot for a low price. Approximately $1300 for the body alone. It has professional audio inputs and can shoot RAW and ProRes files at up to 60 frames per second. It has a Micro Four Thirds sensor, just like the Panasonic cameras.

There are some drawbacks, including the fact that its RAW and ProRes files are extremely large, the lack of in-body stabilisation, the lack of an eye-level viewfinder, and the short battery life. However, I would not recommend it to beginners because it is overpriced for creative filmmakers who require extremely high image quality in controlled conditions.

Fujifilm X-T30 – cheap camcorder

Fujifilm X-T30 mirrorless camera

This small APS-C camera produces excellent video quality for a price of less than $1200, which includes a 15-45mm kit zoom lens. Fujifilm also produces high-quality fast prime lenses at an affordable price.

It can record in Full HD at up to 60 frames per second, but its 4K recording is limited to a maximum of 10 minutes of continuous recording. It has the unusual capability of shooting in log mode and in the 17:9 DCI (digital cinema widescreen) aspect ratio, which is uncommon for a camera at this price. A high-quality 10-bit 4:2:2 recording to an external recorder can also be done with it. Aside from that, you can also shoot cropped Full HD video at up to 120 frames per second in slow motion.

There is no headphone jack on the device, but you can use the USB-C adapter to connect headphones. In addition to focus peaking and zebras, it has Film Simulation modes that mimic the appearance of traditional Fuji film stocks. Image stabilisation and weathersealing are absent, and the screen tilts rather than fully swivelling, as is the case with the iPhone 6.

Canon 5D Mark III

Excellent for: experimenting with different lenses and shooting raw footage on a tight budget.

I recognise that the Canon 5D Mark III is the underdog on this list, but I felt it deserved to be included nonetheless. In the Citrus Daze music video (shown below), I used the software because it was my first music video and I was working on a tight budget, but I still wanted the ability to manipulate colour. best cheap camera for documentary

This camera is unique among the others on this list because there is an online plugin available that allows you to use it for things that Canon never intended. You can get a plugin called Magic Lantern from the internet that allows you to record in raw format with your camera. Canon equipped the sensor with Raw capabilities, but they are not allowing people to use them (presumably so that they can continue to sell their $10,000 cinema cameras…), but a third-party software company called Magic Lantern discovered a way to hack the camera sensor to allow it, and they are sharing their findings with the world. Canon is obviously not happy about it, and they will not repair your camera if something goes wrong after you’ve installed the plugin. However, I personally believe it is well worth the effort, as it will raise the video quality to a level that surpasses that of any DSLR on the market and will provide you with a professional appearance on a budget.

You can get it from Amazon by clicking here:

The Canon 5D Mark III is the oldest and least expensive camera on this list, and on paper, it appears to be a poor choice for filmmaking. In addition to not shooting in 4K, it also does not have internal stabilisation or a log picture profile, among other things. What it does have, on the other hand, is an absurd number of lens options. Almost every professional video lens that has been released in the last decade has been compatible with Canon’s EF mount. This means that, in my opinion, this camera is the ideal starter camera for learning about lenses, which is essential when getting started in the filmmaking industry. Being able to experiment with a variety of lenses will aid you in developing your own style and discovering your own voice as a filmmaker. The Canon 24-105mm f4 L series is an excellent lens to start with because it is extremely sharp and covers nearly all of the shooting situations you will encounter.

Sony A6500 – best camera for documentary

Compact, reasonably priced, with plenty of internal technology that is ideal for vlogging.

This camera is an APS-C sensor mirrorless camera from Sony. Some features of the A6500 stand out from the competition. The fact that it is so small is just one of the reasons. The camera can be stored in a jacket pocket when not in use with the lens. Never mind the fact that it’s small; it’s a great option if you’re mounting your camera on a gimbal or stabiliser because of its small size. When it comes to software, it also packs a powerful punch.. With 4K, you can crop in and reframe when editing, and it also has the ability to shoot 120fps slow motion (5x slower). It has internal stabilisation, which makes it easy to shoot handheld, a log picture profile, which makes it easier to colour grade, and good autofocus for when you’re on the fly. When all of these factors are considered, I believe it to be an excellent camera for vlogging or travel/lifestyle video production.

Amazon has it available for purchase at the following link:

best cheap camera for documentary

“Without a lens on, it fits in a jacket pocket.”

Its sensor size is a disadvantage; with an APS-C sensor, it struggles to capture clean footage when shooting at ISOs higher than 1600. As a result, I would not recommend this camera for filming weddings or events because you will be forced to use ISO settings of 2500 or 3200 to compensate for the lack of light. It is possible to purchase this camera for less than $1000 brand new, though be aware that Sony lenses are on the expensive side; if you are on a tight budget, I recommend purchasing a good third party zoom lens like the Sigma 18-35mm Art lens with a lens adapter instead.

A few other manufacturers produce APS-C mirrorless cameras in the same price range, such as the Fujifilm X-T2 and Canon M5, which are both excellent cameras in their own right. However, the Sony A6500 has everything these cameras have combined, plus a few additional features.

Sony A7III

All-purpose event camera with exceptional low-light capabilities….

In terms of full-frame cameras, the Sony A7III represents a return to the fold. This camera takes all of the excellent software from cameras such as the A6500 and places it behind a full frame sensor with exceptional low-light performance. Canon EOS cameras can shoot at ISO 3200 without generating any grain or noise, and Sony cameras can shoot at ISO 6400/12800 with only a tiniest amount of grain or noise. There are log picture profile options, super quick autofocus – one of the fastest available, and in-body stabilisation on the A7III. It can shoot 4K at normal speed and 120fps in 1080p. Also included is a camera body that is small enough to be mounted on almost any gimbal currently available on the market.

Because you’re paying for excellent photography features in the same package (eye locking autofocus, an updated sensor, and 10 frames per second continuous shooting), it’s a little on the expensive side. However, a new body can be purchased for less than $2000 (depending on where you live). Because of the autofocus speed and low-light capability, it is almost a perfect camera for weddings, events, and live music.

Amazon has it available for purchase at the following link:

Canon EOS R

This camera is ideal for documentary filmmaking because of its long battery life, vibrant colours, and the best autofocus available on the market.

The Canon EOS R represents Canon’s first foray into the full frame mirrorless market, a segment that was previously dominated by Sony until 2019. The Canon EOS R outperforms the Sony A7III in a few areas, but it falls short in other areas. Canon has always claimed to have the best “in-camera colours,” and after using both the EOS R and the A7III, I can say with confidence that they are correct. The Sony footage appears a little lifeless when it is not colour graded, whereas the Canon footage jumps off the screen without any adjustments. If you’re shooting in log mode, which both cameras are capable of, there’s nothing to be concerned about. Another outstanding feature of this camera is its autofocus, which is the fastest and most accurate I’ve ever experienced. If you’re the type of filmmaker who prefers to point and shoot, this autofocus feature will make your life a whole lot easier. The battery life on the EOS R is also excellent; it uses the same batteries as the 5D III, which means they are easy to come by and are extremely affordable.

You can purchase the Canon EOS R from Amazon by clicking on the following link:

In the case of interviews or documentary work, the EOS R is a fantastic camera to have in your arsenal. Battery life, combined with autofocus and beautiful natural colours, make it the ideal camera for going out and shooting without any concerns.

However, not everything is sunshine and rainbows in the Canon mirrorless world; there are a few dark clouds in the sky. It crops your field of view by approximately 1.7 times if you are shooting in 4K with this particular camera. This means that your 24mm lens has been transformed into a 40mm lens, which is extremely inconvenient. In the time that I owned this camera, I only ever shot in 1080p, which was a little frustrating at times, but not nearly as frustrating as a massive crop that destroys your wide angle lenses in the first place. On top of that, the camera only shoots slow motion at 100 frames per second in 720p, so if you want slow motion, you’ll have to sacrifice quality.

And if you thought Sony lenses were expensive, the EOS R introduced a brand new lens mount called RF, which has only a handful of lenses available so far, each of which costs an arm and a leg to buy and maintain. I strongly advise you to purchase the Canon adapter in order to use the older EF lenses instead.

Blackmagic Pocket 4K

If you want to achieve the most high-end look possible for less than $2000, then you need to go for the cinematic look.

We’ve finally arrived at the camera I currently own, the one to which they’ve all been building anticipation. This is the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K (I know, it’s a mouthful, but let’s just call it the BM4K for short). In comparison to other cameras, this one stands out because it is a cinema camera rather than a DSLR or a Mirrorless. This camera is not intended to be used for taking photographs; rather, it is intended to be used for filmmaking on a tight budget. Apart from the 5D III with Magic Lantern, it records Raw video, which means that it is completely uncompressed, unlike the other cameras on this list. This will give you the ability to colour grade to your heart’s content without losing quality, as well as adjust your white balance, ISO, and contrast in raw controls while editing so that you don’t lose quality as you would if you were simply changing the exposure as you would in regular colouring. Another reason why I believe this camera is the best camera for filmmaking on a budget is because of the menu system on the camera. It’s extremely user-friendly, has everything you need laid out exactly where you’d expect it to be, and is extremely responsive when it comes to changing settings.

The BM4K can shoot in 4K at 50 frames per second, making it the only camera capable of shooting slow-motion in 4K, and it can shoot in 1080p at up to 100 frames per second. The camera also has all of the exposure and focus assist features you could possibly want, which makes it extremely simple to get your shots ready.

You can get it from Amazon by clicking here:

her is the too0p of the good reason fou tr idie

“The BM4K for me is the perfect camera for music videos, short films or commercials.”

However, the micro four-thirds sensor in this camera is significantly smaller than the APS-C sensor in the Sony A6500, which is a drawback in some situations. In other words, if you put a 24mm lens on it, it will turn into a 45mm lens, which is a little ridiculous. A speed booster lens adapter, on the other hand, can prevent all of this from happening. An optical lens mount converter with a piece of glass inside that amplifies the light coming through the lens, reducing the crop on your camera to about 1.2/1.3 and also giving you an extra stop of light on your aperture, which can come in handy when shooting at night. It follows that you will have to spend some additional money on the speed booster, which will cost you between $300 and $600 to purchase.

The BM4K also consumes batteries at an alarming rate; I have nine batteries for it and charge them continuously throughout the day when I’m not shooting. For those of you who shoot weddings or interviews, this is something to keep in mind in case your battery dies during a critical moment such as the exchange of wedding vows or something similar.

The BM4K is, in my opinion, the ideal camera for music videos, short films, and commercials because of its colour control and the look that can be achieved with a camera that costs less than $1300 brand new.

AS A CONCLUSION- best documentary cameras

Finally, there isn’t a camera that is absolutely perfect. As I mentioned at the outset, the best camera is the one that works best for you and your situation. When I first started, it was the EOS R because I was mostly photographing events and live music, but now it is the BM4K because I am primarily photographing music videos and documentaries. The Sony A7III and Sony A6500 are two cameras that I would choose without hesitation if I were filming a wedding. As a beginner photographer looking to experiment, the 5D Mark III would be my first choice because of the low cost of raw recording and lens choices. The type of filmmaking that you do the most must be taken into consideration, as well as the camera that will be the most effective for you.

My Documentary Is only For The Web

If your documentary is intended solely for the web, you can pretty much do whatever you want with it.

240p to 4k resolution video can be streamed over the internet using web video technology.

Obviously, the higher the resolution, the better the image will appear, especially when it is blown up to fill the entire computer screen with it.

In full screen mode, 240p will appear very pixelated, whereas 4K will appear stunningly beautiful.

Keep in mind that not all computers and internet connections have the necessary power or bandwidth to stream a 4K video at high definition. For this reason, understanding your audience and the location from which the video will be streamed (e.g., remote villages in Africa or Singapore?) is critical. For those who prefer to watch videos on their smartphones, 1080p is sufficient resolution for a clear and beautiful image on a 3-inch smartphone.

Web video should have a minimum resolution of 1280 720p, according to my recommendations. Almost all modern video cameras, including smartphones, are capable of shooting at this level of detail.

Ideally, you should look for a camera that can capture video in either 1280 x 720 or 1920 x 1080 resolution.

However, even if you have an old SD (standard definition) camera that shoots in 720 x 480 resolution, the image quality on the web is still quite good. Keep in mind that viewers are becoming accustomed to viewing high-definition content, so SD may not appear to be as “fresh.”

Be aware that even though 4k resolution (also known as Ultra HD or Ultra High Definition) is ideal for documentaries, it will only be accessible to a small percentage of web viewers who have access to such a high-resolution display. Furthermore, because 4K takes up a significant amount of space on your hard drive, shooting in 4K is only really worthwhile if you intend to show your film to an audience other than those who access it through the internet.

Despite the fact that 1080p produces a very nice looking crisp image, it should be sufficient high quality for most web applications.

If you’re wondering why 4k is referred to as 2160p, it’s because resolutions are classified based on how much vertical space they take up on the screen. As a result, whereas technically 4k is 3840 x 2160, it is referred to as 2160p in shorthand. Because of this, the 1920 x 1080 resolution is referred to as 1080p in some circles (“p” refers to progressive scan, the standard for web video).

best camera for filmmaking on a budget 2021
best camera for documentary filmmaking 2021
best cheap camera for videography
best camera for filmmaking 2020
best budget camera for video
best camera for documentary filmmaking 2020
best camera for filmmaking on a budget 2020

best documentary cameras 2021
best cheap camera for videography
best budget camera for video
best camera for filmmaking 2021
best camera for filmmaking on a budget 2021
best camera for documentary filmmaking 2021


1 thought on “best cheap camera for documentary – 2021 Guide”

Leave a Comment