What's the Best Camera Under $1K? Canon T4i, Sony NEX-6, Panasonic GH2 Shootout
Kevin Good and the Weapons of Mass Production team are on a sleepless mission to determine the best bang for your buck, and weed out all the rest. Each contender will get its due where it excels, but a clear winner will emerge from the settling dust just about every time — and WOMP will suffer no runners-up, all on behalf of the budget shooter. You know this from the show’s 24-70mm lens shootout — you also know how to shoot with an iPhone, or how others measure up to GoPro as action cameras. Now, WOMP sets out to answer the question of questions in today’s camera market: what’s the best you can do for under a thousand dollars? (Runners-up, beware).
The contenders are:
- $800 Canon T4i with 18-55mm kit lens ($900 total)
- $850 Sony NEX-6 with 16-50mm kit lens ($1000 total)
- $650 Panasonic GH2 with 14-15mm kit lens, both stock and with Flowmotion v2.02 (+$10 or so) hack ($700 total)
And the pudding, wherein lies the proof (drumroll, anyone?):
Given that there are plenty of other sub-$1000 options available, here’s Kevin on why he limited the scope of the shootout, via his post-video writeup:
I know there are a lot more cameras I could’ve chosen from. I chose these because:
- Canon has consitently been a leader in DSLR video quality, so I felt they should be represented
- Mirrorless is the way of the future for video, so I wanted the others to be mirrorless
- These all have larger chips that ‘traditional’ video cameras (the handycam you’d get at Best Buy made specifically for video) which gives us better light sensitivity, shallower depth-of-field, and that cinematic look that viewers of my show are concerned with.
We’ve seen some gorgeous stuff shot on the GH2 (particularly hacked or aerial), even from the very beginning. So much so that the GH3 had pretty big shoes to fill for those counting out offerings from the industry-dominating Canon. Kevin saw the highest level of sharpness from the Panasonic workhorse in his findings, which he sees as further proof manufacturers may be holding out on options and quality in favor of making us pay for upgrades or more ‘mature’ models. Either way, Canon — to everyone’s surprise, I’m sure — wins out in shadow-rendering out of the box, and that counts for a lot.
The Sony did a good enough job to surprise me, at least, especially considering most of the company’s video eggs are in an entirely different basket altogether. I think there’s something to be said for how admirably well it does given its size, though we already know (in terms of camera form factor) that size does matter — just in a different way than it does to, say, Godzilla. As for the Canon, Kevin breaks it down better than I could — and his points could be seen as indicative of Canon’s grasp of the DSLR video market in general:
It’s not as sharp as the Panasonic, and the form factor (with optical viewfinder instead of electronic) isn’t as good for video as the others. But it was the best in low light, it was the best with dynamic range, it was just about even on the other tests, and there is a hack available for it (Magic Lantern) that gives some really nice functionality. It worked predictably, it has a nice articulating touch-screen, it has a histogram to aid exposure, and having the cleanest image matters a lot to me. I think it’s embarrassing that it can’t resolve the same detail as the much older Panasonic, but you have to remember that these cameras are all stills cameras first.
What do you guys think of the test? Have you, in your own work, found the T4i to be the superior camera, or one of the others? Either way, which do you personally prefer, work best with, or feel you can get the best material out of? Why? Did you cringe at WOMP’s symbolic “destruction of that which fails the budget shooter in terms of overall value?”