We saw huge innovation in terms of prosumer cameras in 2014: GH4, Sony A7s, etc… This year Canon has already announced a T6i, T6s, 5Ds, and 5DsR. Let’s see what the best bang for your buck in 2015 is.
The Best Budget DSLRs for Video
Excellent video can be had fo super cheap. If you want to roll with Canon, any used rebel series camera will do, starting with the T2i on up to the brand new T6i and T6s. Honestly, there has not been much innovation since the T3i. The T4i basically only added touch screen, and the T5i only added a fully rotating mode dial. The smart thing to do is to buy a T3i; it features an articulating LCD screen (very useful for video) and basically the same video quality as a T5i.
The Brand New Canon T6i and T6s
The T6i and T6s only give minor improvements over the T5i and T3i in terms of video features. Basically the only improved features for video are a DIGIC 6 processor (the T5i has a DIGIC 5 processor), and HDR video mode. Aside from that there are no major improvements. For photography, upgrading to a T6i or T6s has merit; the new rebels sport 24.2 megapixels, have wifi, and the T6s has a second LCD on top of the camera (similar to 70D and 7D, etc..) which is very useful for battery life conservation and astrophotography.
Or, you can roll with Panasonic. The GH2, and GH3 feature excellent video quality (better than Canon Rebel series cameras). At this price range, I would roll with Canon. The reason I’d go with Canon is that they have more lenses as well as excellent cheap lenses. The Canon 24mm STM and 50mm 1.8 are amazing lenses that offer great image quality for a low price, perfect for your Rebel T3i or T5i. Though, if you are not afraid of playing with vintage lenses, you can an amazing look with the Pansonic GH1 and GH2. Slap on a new or vintage lens (the GH1 and GH2 are MFT mount, meaning you can adapt tons of lenses to the camera body), and you will get footage that looks better than Canon.
I recommend: T5i, T3i, GH2. The T2i does not have an articulating screen (neither do the GH1 or GH2, but their video quality makes up for it). If you are looking to shell out $750, I’d skip the T6i and get a Canon 70D. You can get a brand new Canon 70D for $750, without the standard Canon warranty (but you will get a third party warranty).
The Best Prosumer DSLRs for Video
Here are the most conventional options for a prosumer: GH3, Gh4, Canon 7D, 7D MKII, 6D, 70D, BlackMagic Pocket Camera (BMPC), Sony A7s
The best picture quality comes from the AS7, followed by the GH4. Well, technically the BMPC has the best picture quality to my eye. You get excellent dynamic range and rich color from the BMPC. But it’s limited to 1080p, while the A7s and GH4 can do 4K. Also, the ergonomics of the BMPC suck. Good luck not smashing the camera to bits and pieces in anger; battery life sucks, audio sucks, buttons suck, interface sucks, LCD sucks, etc… But… for $1,000 you will not get a more beautiful image. The BMPC truly delivers in that respect. So if you have experience, are patient, and want to get a professional look for only $1,000, buy a BMPC, otherwise get a Canon, Panasonoic or Sony.
If you want to go with Canon; get a 7D or 70D, both are excellent “budget” cameras. The 7D is a tried and true camera; outputs 1080p video monitoring signal, has a great build quality, and is now compatible with Magic Lantern hacks. The 70D is basically an improved 60D, with duel pixel technology (extremely useful for auto focusing). The 70D is a great camera if you don’t want to manually focus your video, thanks to the dual pixel technology. For the price of a 6D or 7D mkII, you can get a much better video camera: the Panasonic GH4, which is why I don’t really recommend the 6D or 7D mkII. Also, the sleeper in this group is the Panasonic GH3: it has great build quality, is small, has a headphone output, and has better video quality than the Canon 70D and Canon 7D. The best “prosumer” camera in terms of image quality and functionality is the Sony A7s.
I recommend: Sony A7s, Pansonic GH4, Panasonic Gh3, Canon 7D, Canon 70D.
The Best Professional DSLRs for Video
Lots of options for the professionals: Sony A7s, Black Magic Cinema Camera, Panasonic GH4, Canon 5D MKII, Canon 5DmkIII, Canon C100
If you can afford to spend $3,000+ on a camera, you need to make sure you get the right body for your needs. First; ask yourself if you need 4K. If you need 4K your decision is easy; get an A7s and an external recorder (so you can output 4K), or a GH4. If you want the best bang for your buck, get a Panasonic GH4 – it does 4K in camera, no need for external devices. If you want the prettiest looking 1080p picture, get a Black Magic Cinema Camera. If you love Canon, love Canon lenses, and want excellent photography capabilities, get a Canon 5D mkIII or wait for a Canon 5D mkIV (yet to be announced).
Canon C100 vs C300
Do you want 4K from a Canon camera? I would wait and see what the upcoming C300 mkII has to offer; The C100 currently goes for $4,000-$4,500 new, $3,500 used. For its specs, the C100 produces an amazing image, and is extremely easy to work with. If you are purely a video shooter, it is logical to get the C100 over a 5D mkIII. The C300 is fairly overpriced for what it is; you get time code, an improved optical viewfinder and HD-SDI output. Aside from that, the C300 and C100 are very similar. The video quality of the C300 is better because it shoots 8bit 4:2:2 , however the C100 can also output 8 bit 4:2:2 if you pair it with an external recorder (otherwise the C100 is limited to 8bit 4:2:0). So um… why is the C300 almost 3x the price of the C100? I don’t know. What I do know is that the upcoming C300 will likely have 4K video. I’m guessing the camera will cost about $12,000.
What About The Canon 5Ds and 5DsR?
As far as I can tell these latest offering from Canon offer no improvements over the Canon 5DmkIII in terms of video features. Wait for a 5DmkIV if you want improved video capabilities.
What Are the Best DSLRs for Video?
There are no right answers. The easy answer is: Canon. Get whatever Canon you can afford. If you are brave enough to stray away from Canon, chances are you will wind up getting a camera with better video quality than what Canon has to offer. Panasonic makes great cameras, and Sony makes the best sensors (hello low light performance). If you are on a budget; go for a T2i, T3i, or GH2. If you can afford a GH4, get one; you will have a camera that will literally last you a decade. I hope this article helped you with your research.