If you're just starting out in filmmaking, chances are you are hoping to get your hands on a camera. You want it to be something you can shoot with all the time, for a wide variety of projects, as you practice your skills and grow. Ideally, it's something you won't outgrow quickly and is adaptable to a wide variety of situations. But it would also be nice for it to be affordable as you develop new skills.
The logical choice for you is to start out with a mirrorless camera, especially when it comes to video. While DSLRs do have their benefits, mirrorless cameras make it easier to adapt to other lens mounts, as well, making the option of renting cinema lenses for a weekend to learn about their imaging quality a more realistic experience.
So if you're just starting out, here are some mirrorless options to consider.
Best Overall: Fujifilm XT-30 II
The X-T30 II combines a sleek mirrorless camera with next-generation image-making technology to meet the ever-increasing needs of content creators, regardless of their skill level.
- 26MP APS-C Sized Sensor
- 4K 30fps
- Easy to Use
- Limited Video Formats
If you're just dipping your toes into filmmaking and are looking for a versatile, affordable mirrorless camera to start learning with, we recommend the updated Fujifilm X-T30 II camera. Built around an APS-C 23.6mm x 15.6mm sensor, the X-T30 II camera provides an appealing combination of an entry-level price with some pro-level video features that make it the perfect camera to start your journey.
The camera is capable of shooting 4K video up to 30fps and 1080p video up to 120fps for slow-motion shooting. It can even output 4K as 10-bit 4:2:2 over HDMI to an external recorder. But more than just specs, it's the philosophy that makes this a great camera for starting shooting with.
Fujifilm has an ergonomic design that some may think of as being old-fashioned, but it's great for beginners because of its easy-to-use external buttons and other key functions you need to adjust to craft your images. Many Fujifilm lenses feature aperture rings, a good thing to get used to for those looking forward to shooting on cinema lenses in the future.
On top of all that, the image quality looks great. They offer internal processing that's pleasing, and there's nothing like the confidence boost when it's difficult to make things look good. Straight out the camera, the images look good with less effort than other cameras it competes with. Add on top, internal log recording with F-Log, and beginners will get to practice their post grading skills on their footage as well.
Lastly, Fujifilm shows a deep and real dedication to this lens mount, form factor, and sensor size. While other manufacturers have moved on to full-frame sensors, Fujifilm is instead doubling down on innovation on their APS-C sized lineup. For larger sensors, they've instead focused on their medium-format GFX line, which is also very popular. Combined with their expertise in lens design, this makes for an effective combo that should have a long life into the future of support and new lenses and accessories.
While the X-E4 is the latest option from Fujifilm, the price and features of the XT-30 II are already stellar and hard to beat.
Table of Contents
- Best Overall: Fujifilm XT-30
- How We Picked
- Best Low Light: Sony a7 III
- Best MFT: Panasonic GH5s
- Best Autofocus: Canon EOS RP
- Best Under the Radar: Nikon Z6 II
- Final Thoughts
How We Picked
In addition to following the entire mirrorless market closely, reading reviews and evaluations by users, and shooting with these cameras ourselves, we're also involved in education. Having taught hundreds, or maybe thousands, of filmmakers how to shoot over the last decades, some cameras are just easier to start using than others. We used that information in our evaluation.
But most of all, we looked at how the video features stand out in each camera over everything else.
Best Low Light: Sony a7 III
Built around a 24.2-megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor and BIONZ X image processing engine, the a7 III performs exceptionally well in low light with fast autofocus.
- 15-stop Dynamic Range
- 8-bit video
The Sony a7 III is a great mirrorless camera for beginners, as it will introduce you to the Sony Alpha universe without slacking on features. It's a very popular hybrid that's great for both video and stills. It delivers a full-frame sensor, amazing low-light reproduction, IBIS, and 4K resolution without much compromise.
The caveat is that it only records 8-bit both internally or externally. It doesn't support H.265, and its slow-motion is limited to 1080p 120fps, and 4K tops out at 30p. That said, the a7 III is one of the best mirrorless cameras at its price point.
Best MFT: Panasonic GH5s
The LUMIX GH5s mirrorless camera is one of the best MFT cameras on the market equipped with autofocus. With high resolution recording and beefy bit-depth, the image packs a punch.
- 4K DCI at 60p
- Unlimited Recording
- Anamorphic Modes
- Dual Native ISO
- No RAW video
Another camera worth consideration is the Panasonic GH5s.
Released in 2018, it's the more video-focused sibling to the original GH5, though the GH line has been popular with filmmakers for many revisions even without the filmmaker specific benefits of the S mode.
Built around the popular Micro Four Thirds mount, lens choices are wide and flexible. It shoots up to 60fps in 4K and 240fps in 1080p, and records 4:2:2 10-bit internally. It supports H.265 for smaller file sizes of equivalent quality. It really packs a punch.
However, there may be a replacement coming. There have been rumors of a GH6, and it's clear that Panasonic is putting more of their energy into the full-frame, and pricier, S series at the moment.
Best Autofocus: Canon EOS RP
The mirrorless EOS RP includes a 26.2 MP CMOS sensor, fast and accurate autofocus, and 4K video.
- 4K UHD
- AF Peformance
- 4K Crop Factor
When it comes to full-frame, the Canon EOS RP is worth a look. Coming in at a similar price as the XT-30, it hasn't taken off in popularity yet but not for lack of trying on Canon's part. The full-frame sensor is capable of shooting in 4K on Canon's brand-new RF lens mount, and of course the color science that Canon is most famous for.
The only thing currently holding it back from being the top spot is the relative youth of the RF lens lineup. But that's growing among Canon and third-party options. As a beginner looking to expand lens selection, good-quality used lenses will be hard to come by because RF mount is too new.
Best Under the Radar: Nikon Z6 II
Do it all with this versatile full-frame mirrorless hybrid that excels in speed, image quality, and video performance.
- 4K UHD
- ProRes RAW
- Blackmagic RAW
- AF Performance
This is what a hybrid still and video mirrorless camera for beginners is meant to be. The Z6 II is a subtle refresh of the existing Z6, but it gains a second Expeed 6 processor which improves its autofocus performance.
The 24.5MP BSI sensor offers high-speed shooting with the buffer capacity to match. 4K Ultra HD video at 60p. It combines outstanding low-light capabilities, next-generation autofocus, and two card slots. Better yet, the Z6 records ProRes RAW and Blackmagic RAW externally.
The Nikon Z6 II features 5-axis in-body image stabilization, with up to 5 stops of vibration reduction performance. The camera offers flexible power options and compatibility with a vertical battery grip. It also provides wireless connectivity with smartphones and laptops and so much more.
When you're starting out, it can be difficult to choose among the different brands. Fujifilm, Canon, Sony, Nikon, and Panasonic all offer great options that won't break the bank.
It's important when deciding to keep in mind that you're buying into a system more than a camera. Once you start purchasing lenses, you'll tend to lean more towards a camera body with that mount. While there are lens adapters available, sometimes those adapters don't support autofocus or communication with the camera.
However, the great thing about starting out is you can afford to try different cameras before really choosing which one you prefer—and even then, it's perfectly acceptable to use cameras from multiple brands.