Jun 2, 2022
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: We’re truly living in a digital filmmaking renaissance. And while it might be a bit upsetting to those who still favor the halcyon days of analog cinematography, the rise of digital video technology has changed the game forever.
For those starting off on their careers today cameras have never been better, smarter, or cheaper. And they’re certainly accessible because you can purchase a truly great digital video camera for under $1,000 with the single click of your mouse (or a tap on your smartphone screen).
But just because you can buy a video camera here today doesn’t mean you can afford to skip your research.
Not only should you read up on your filmmaking basics, types of shots and angles, and other video production techniques — you should also read up on all these camera options, watch some helpful YouTube video reviews, and try to ask yourself which one might actually be right for you.
We’ll have much more to say on each of these cameras below, but for those scrolling here at the top, here’s a breakdown of our camera selections:
Each of these cameras can be purchased for under $1,000 USD (with a few exceptions being for used versions — but even then a new one wouldn’t be much more expensive).
Our picks range from classic DSLR cameras to more modern mirrorless options and run the gamut of different brands each with their own camera body strengths and weaknesses. But each pick comes with great video quality, image stabilization, and compact camera design.
Also, before we dive in too deep, we need to go over some ground rules first. While we tried to include as much camera diversity in our list as possible, there are some basic elements which we feel that every modern digital camera should have for filmmakers and video creators working in video today.
While ranging from DSLRs to mirrorless cameras, each of these cameras are capable of recording video at Full HD with the majority of them being able to record 4K. We also only chose cameras specifically designed for interchangeable lenses, which means we didn’t include any action cameras, point-and-shoot cameras, or smartphone cameras.
We also looked to highlight cameras which are made by the familiar and trusted legacy brands including selections from Canon, Sony, Nikon, Panasonic, Fujifilm, and Blackmagic Design so you know you’re getting quality builds with performance that you can rely on.
Other than that, these selections are pretty diverse. So let’s see which one might be right for you and your needs.
Because technology is advancing so fast, some truly great cameras are getting insane price drops quickly over the years. The Panasonic Lumix G7 is a great example of a high-value camera which you can get at the fraction of the price of the latest models, but with more than enough specs and features for a wide range of video needs.
With a 16MP sensor, the G7 offers 4K UHD video at up to 30fps with plenty of great hybrid film and photography features and functions. Yes it’s a micro-four thirds camera, but for filmmakers looking to take this lightweight and affordable camera on the run, it’s a great option.
Plus, at a price point under $600, you get a stock 14-42mm kit lens which is one of the best video camera options for high quality videos out there.
Another “classic” camera that actually didn’t come out that long ago, this sleek DSLR was one of the most popular cameras for videographers of all skillsets when first released. And even today, with its 24.2MP CMOS sensor and Full HD recording at 60fps it’s a true workhorse which packs a surprising punch for well under $1,000.
While it’s not up to 4K speed, if you’re creating content for social media or other online distribution, the D5600’s beautiful image quality and smart processing will serve you well in an array of lighting conditions.
Moving on to some of our favorite mirrorless cameras which fit the bill under $1,000, we have our first Sony camera to highlight with the Sony a6400. With a 24.2MP APS-C format sensor, this Sony actually packs quite a bit of punch comparable to what you’d find on any full-frame Sony camera option.
With internal UHD 4K video capability and some beautiful S-Log3 recording options, the a6400 should work almost just as well as any modern Alpha line camera in the right situations and on the right projects. Combine the a6400 with some high-speed lenses and your social content will look just as good as any content creator out there.
If we’re talking about big name brands in the camera industry, we also have to highlight some selections from FUJIFILM. These cameras stand out for their iconic color science and looks, and you’ll get plenty of both from the FUJIFILM X-T30 II. It’s another quality hybrid video and photo camera which is currently being offered at a huge discount.
With a 26.1MP APS-C sensor capable of 4K video (DCI and UHD) up to 30fps, you can really shoot fantastic-looking footage quickly on-the-run with the built-in F-Log Gamma settings. It’s also a modern digital video camera and offers all the expected bells-and-whistles in terms of AF technology, Wi-Fi connectivity, and a tilting LCD touchscreen monitor.
Okay, now we’re moving into the area where filmmakers and content creators might have to get a bit creative to stay under the $1,000 price point, but trust us — it can be done. For example, take the uber-popular Sony a7 II camera which is now available at some amazing discounts when you start looking for used options.
As far as camera manufacturers go, Sony is a great name to trust in terms of quality and longevity as these a7 IIs should last nearly a lifetime. Plus, coupled with its 24.3MP full-frame sensor and Full HD video recording, this camera offers blazing fast AF, sharp focus, and all the expected Sony colors and technology.
Unlike the legacy of Sony’s Alpha line of mirrorless cameras, Canon’s mirrorless camera line got off to a bit rockier of a start with the Canon EOS R. However, the mainstay brand was able to right the ship quite quickly with this much more affordable, and slightly corrected follow-up.
The Canon EOS RP is nowhere near the powerhouse that was eventually released with the 8K capable R5, but for content creators not quite ready to handle footage that large, the RP is honestly the better option for starting out.
With a 26.2MP full-frame sensor capable of 4K video, the RP is no slouch itself though. It pretty much represents the latest-and-greatest features of Canon’s mirrorless line, but without the 8K and at a fraction of the price.
From here on out we’ll be operating just barely under the $1,000 threshold, but only because this seems to be the price point that many manufacturers will stay at for some of their biggest and most successful cameras — even if you are looking at used options.
Take for example this Canon EOS 5D Mark III, perhaps the most famous hybrid digital video and photo cameras of the past decade. The 5D is synonymous with the term “workhorse.”
With a 22.3MP full-frame sensor capable of recording Full HD video that looks fantastic for pretty much any web-based playback, this 5D has been used on more projects and feature films than you might realize and it can still serve you well today.
When compiling this list, I was actually surprised to see that the FUJIFILM X-T3 had slipped below the $1,000 threshold because this camera really didn’t come out that long ago, and it’s actually very close to FUJIFILM’s newer model (the X-T4) which is currently retailing for around $600 more.
With the FUJIFILM X-T3 you’re getting a 26.1MP APS-C format sensor and 4K video at up to 60fps, along with F-Log gamma and 10-bit output recording. This is insanely high quality video footage available at this price point and you’d be hard pressed to get better quality from cameras upwards of three times this price.
Finally, we’re going to cheat this list just a little bit so that we can also include the fantastic Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K. While retailing at around $1,300 new, this camera can easily be purchased used either online or preferably at your local mom-and-pop camera shop for under $1,000.
Unlike the majority of the other cameras on this list, this is a true single-purpose cinema camera designed for one thing and one thing only — shooting the highest quality video footage possible. And even with its 4/3” sensor it’s capable of capturing up to 4096 x 2160 DCI 4K images at rates up to 75 fps as well as offering up to 2.6K RAW recording at up to 120fps.
With the combination of some great video-specific features like 8x pinch-to-zoom functionality, the ability to embed custom LUTs, and and 13-stops of dynamic range, you’re getting a true cinema camera that honestly rivals some of the footage you might see from the highest-end cameras out there.
Hopefully these options should give you enough information — and inspiration — to go out and make a smart purchase for your very own affordable video camera. If you’d like to explore some other buying guides and filmmaking resources, check out these additional articles from the Soundstripe blog: