If you're ready to step up your game from a mirrorless or DSLR, consider these options.
When we think of a cinema camera, we often consider a camera dedicated to the moving image that creates a look and feel that is cinematic. Simply put, it captures the utmost image quality without compromise.
While mirrorless cameras can give us manageable file sizes or quick set-ups, cinema cameras are tools that can create a structured workflow and are designed to handle the rugged environment of a film set from a crew that's always on the move.
A cinema camera can shoot film or digital at 2K, 4K, 8K, or even 12K and beyond. The camera itself is only part of the cinematic look many try to achieve. There's the production design, costume design, locations, visual effects, and editing techniques that all add to the feel of a film or television show. The camera is just the technical heartbeat behind the work of dozens of people.
We've recently started seeing less expensive cinema cameras that meet those real requirements because of the advancement in technology. So much so, that they're becoming more manageable to buy than to rent. Below are the best digital cinema cameras we found under $10,000.
Best Overall: RED Komodo
Think of the RED Komodo as a shrunken down, baby RED Dragon with a lot of the same features, quality, and color science but smaller than 1/2 the size and 1/4 of the price. The Komodo was originally designed as a small, compact "crash camera" intended to be mounted where large Red cameras couldn’t go but without compromising the quality.
It is impressively small too, a box camera just 4x4”, capable of filming in 16-bit R3D in 6K at 40fps with 16+ stops of dynamic range that is virtually indistinguishable from other RED cameras. The first RED camera to incorporate autofocusing technology, this RF Mount camera can be completely controlled and monitored via the iOS and Android app Red Control, and the deep level of integration is impressive.
RED cameras have notoriously required expensive add-on components to get up and running, including overpriced proprietary media, but with the release of the Komodo those days are over. Not only does the RED Komodo work right out of the box, requiring little more than an SDI monitor, it also uses reasonably priced Cfast 2.0 media. This camera isn’t battery hungry either. Its unique two-bay Canon BP-900 slots allow for endless battery swapping, and runtimes of around three hours per battery.
This camera doesn’t offer eye-catching headlines with outrageous frame rates, but with R3D it's going to be a real joy to shoot with.
Table of Contents
- Best Overall: RED Komodo
- Best Alternative: Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 12K
- Best Low Light Performance: Sony FX6
- Best Budget: Blackmagic Pocket Cinema 6K
- Best Autofocus: Canon EOS C200
- Final Thoughts
Best Alternative: Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 12K
Blackmagic launched the URSA Mini Pro 12K, and beyond simply changing the game in terms of resolution, leapfrogging from their current 6K Pocket right over 8K and going straight to 12K, the camera boasts a completely fresh sensor design, which allows the camera to operate in ways other cameras don't—at least not yet.
Building on its existing URSA Mini camera body design, the 12K version delivers such stunning images that you're able to consider the camera as a real contender when it comes to higher-end productions. Blackmagic Pocket cameras have been dominant, and now we're about to see the URSA Mini Pro on more productions than ever before.
Best Low Light Performance: Sony FX6
Even smaller and with a few more conveniences than the RED Komodo, the Sony FX6 packs a lot into a fantastic design. It is essentially a beefed-up a7S III with a full-frame sensor that can see in some of the darkest settings imaginable.
An internal 10-bit 4:2:2 codec that meets most broadcast standards and an external 16-bit feed that can be recorded using an Atomos recorder make this camera just about as versatile as it gets.
Stripped down, this camera is even lighter than the Komodo and can be mounted easily onto a handheld gimbal, which could allow you to do a lot more on set with less.
Best Budget: Blackmagic Pocket Cinema 6K
Some form of RAW recording is a must for a digital cinema camera in 202 and even though the form factor of the Pocket 6K isn’t the best for a film shoot and the battery life leaves a lot to be desired, the Pocket 6K can capture fantastic images and offers a wonderfully simple post workflow with its BRAW codec.
The Pocket 6K packs in video recording of 6144 x 3456 up to 50fps with a Dual Native ISO of 400 and 3200 which is expandable to 25,600. It can record to CFast 2.0 or SD/UHS-II cards, or externally to take advantage of BRAW. Expect around 13 stops of dynamic range.
With a built-in 5” touch screen, there is very little rigging that needs to be built out to get rolling on a shoot day.
Best Autofocus: Canon EOS C200
Released in 2017, the Canon C200 is still a fantastic camera and Canon’s most affordable cinema model capable of shooting in Canon RAW Light.
With a robust RAW codec, it can film in 23.976fps and 60fps in 12-bit and 10-bit color respectively. The Super 35mm CMOS sensor is still great by today's standards, and it boasts Dual Pixel AF as well as 4K DCI and 4K UHD recording. It features SDI and HDMI outputs, but no TC in or out, so syncing can be problematic if you’re looking to sync with timecode for audio or shooting with multiple cameras.
As far as the form factor goes, it is one of the best designs ergonomically speaking. The C200 is very easy to use handheld. It comes in EF mount but there are optional kits that allow users to switch it over to a PL mount. If you're eyeing Canon's Cinema EOS line and looking to spend a little more, the C300 Mark III is tough to beat, but it is priced at $10,999.
Any camera can be a cinema camera, and to classify one specifically as a cinema camera is somewhat problematic. There are indeed a lot of great DSLR and mirrorless cameras that could easily find their way onto a movie set.
But if you’re in the market for a more robust cinema camera dedicated to video, you can't go wrong with any one on this list.