5+ Best 4k Filmmaking Cameras Under 1000 Dollars
Are you looking for the best 4K video and filmmaking cameras for under $1,000? A great 4k camera can come in a variety of styles, from action cameras to mirrorless cameras, and can help you shoot amazing short films or features on a shoestring budget.
Are you an independent filmmaker with a great script who wants to develop it into a short film or feature film? Or, are you a film enthusiast who has always wanted to make a film but has been too afraid to begin a film project due to the costs of film production?
The issue for many aspiring filmmakers considering shooting their first feature is the limited budget they may have to proceed with the project.
Regardless of your situation, the first thing you’ll need, aside from a great idea or script, is a filmmaking camera capable of shooting incredible footage that will visually captivate an audience.
Sure, you can spend a lot of money on a new camera, such as the new Sony Alpha 7III or Canon EOS R6, but in filmmaking, the audience isn’t concerned with the highest pixel count or built-in technology of your camera; they are concerned with the content that you created.
So, if you’re a filmmaker looking to cut costs on production, here are some incredible 4k filmmaking cameras under $1,000 that produce high-quality videos without breaking the bank.
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Common Features Of Filmmaking Cameras To Pay Attention to
Are you a new filmmaker still figuring out your filmmaking style, or do you have a specific look in mind that you’d like to achieve with a filmmaking camera that’s easy to use on set?
Here are some important considerations to make when looking for the best 4K filmmaking cameras under $1,000 that will provide you with the best 4K filmmaking experience at a price you can afford.
How Easy Is The Camera To Use
For me when it comes to directing a short film, there are so many things to think about, that I really don’t want to spend too much time on the camera.
Now, I know that the camera is an incredibly integral part of the filmmaking process, but you want to make sure of a few simple things first when choosing the right 4K filmmaking camera for you.
- First, is the camera easy to handle?
- Second, are the controls on the camera simple to use?
- Third, can you cycle through the major settings of the camera with just pressing a button, or do you have to manually go through the menu to find the settings you need?
- Fourth, if the camera has a touchscreen, is it easy to use?
- Fifth, does the camera have a hot shoe that you can place a microphone or light on the camera?
Related Article: 5+ Best Tips To Make Your Smartphone Cinematography More Cinematic
I know that many of us when we are out and about taking snapshots with our camera that the autofocus feature works out quite nicely.
But, when you are looking for a filmmaking camera you want to make sure that you have the option to switch to manual at a moment’s notice.
Why? So you can manually set the exposure, the white balance, and if you are recording sound from the camera, the sound levels as well.
If the camera you are using for filmmaking doesn’t allow for this, it may make filmmaking a lot harder when you become more of an advanced filmmaker.
Lens Choices Available
If you want to use an all-in-one professional video camera under 1000 dollars, such as a camcorder, you’ll need to find some 4K filmmaking cameras under 1000 dollars that are extremely compatible with the lenses you’ll need to get the job done.
Why? Because, in my opinion, the lenses are responsible for making everything look good. Sure, the camera helps, but it’s the lens choice that can create an environment in which the audience can escape.
That’s why many of my friends own the Sony a7ii Mirrorless camera (on this list below) that costs under $1000, but the lenses they use on the camera are worth close to 10 times what the camera is worth.
So, if you’re thinking about purchasing a filmmaking camera, you’ll want to know which camera is best suited to the lens options you’re looking for.
Is The Camera Great In Low Light Conditions?
When it comes to a 4K filmmaking camera that performs well in extremely low light conditions is an asset.
The reason for this is that if you have a limited filmmaking equipment budget, you may not have enough lighting kits to help light the set.
A great low light filmmaking camera also helps out in the lens area as well because you might be able to get by with a stock lens if your camera is competent in capturing excellent low-light footage at higher f-stops.
A Bigger Sensor Size is better when it comes to a 4K filmmaking camera.
The bigger sensors in DSLRs, mirrorless cameras, and large full frame sensor filmmaking production cameras are better in low light, and allow to capture shallow focus effects.
Plus, bigger sensor sizes help the filmmaker use smaller apertures without diffraction softening the image.
Image stabilization aids in the reduction of the dreaded shaky cam.
If you’ve seen the Blair Witch Project or pretty much any action movie recently, you’ll know that shaky video can make or break an audience’s experience in your film.
If you use tripods and dollys to stabilize your filmmaking camera, you won’t have to worry about camera stabilization, but if you switch to handheld, great camera stabilization is a lifesaver.
The Panasonic GH5 was one of the best filmmaking cameras I’ve recently used, with incredible image stabilization. The Panasonic GH5 combines lens-based optical stabilization with sensor-based in-body image stabilization (IBIS).
This could prevent you from developing IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) as a result of the stress of editing the footage afterward.
I discovered from a recent project that not all file formats are the same, which has caused me IBS because the footage isn’t compatible with the editing suite I’m using.
So, when deciding on the best 4K filmmaking camera for you under $1000, the first thing you should consider is whether the format will be easy to use in post-production.
Post-production is when you have the ability to turn water into wine.
It’s time to color grade your footage to achieve the desired look, and if your filmmaking camera can shoot in ProRes or RAW, your editing team will have more control over the color of the footage.
For a more in-depth look at what filmmakers should look for when purchasing a 4K filmmaking camera, check out this article, click here for B&H photo/video’s amazing guide.
BEST 4K FILMMAKING CAMERAS UNDER $1000
Let’s face it when it comes to film budgets and the allowed amount to be spent on filmmaking equipment will vary from filmmaker to filmmaker.
But when it comes to 4K filmmaking cameras there are so many to choose from, and to find a quality filmmaking camera under 1000 dollars means that you will only get the camera body with no lenses at the start, and then build later on.
Below are my reviews of the best mirrorless cameras and a few DSLR’s on the market today that will come under the 1000 dollar budget that will shoot incredible footage for your films.
With all of the features that the incredible Sony a6400 has, it should definitely be considered as your next filmmaking camera if you are on a budget.
This small and compact mirrorless camera provides 120 FPS frame rates, 4K UHD video, an incredible ISO range, impressive autofocus, time-lapse, and low light shooting capability that is difficult to match in this price range.
This is the first filmmaking camera I used when I first started making my own short films, and it’s an excellent entry-level filmmaking camera.
Why? Because most of the work was done hand-held, I was concerned about the video stabilization of my footage, and the five-stop image stabilization mode helped control even the slightest camera shake.
While the image stabilization isn’t as good as that of some of the more expensive filmmaking cameras on the market, it’s still impressive given the price of this compact camera.
Plus, I appreciate the weather-resistant body of this filmmaking camera because, living in the Pacific Northwest, rain is often an issue when I am shooting.
The only issue I have with the camera, which is minor if you prepare for it, is that the battery life isn’t the best in cold conditions. So keep a few spare camera batteries on hand in case you need to shoot for an extended period of time.
In addition, when shooting in bright light, the LCD is difficult to read. But, if you can live with that, the Sony a6400 is a fantastic camera in this price range.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G85
When I talk to many of my filmmaking friends, the Panasonic G85 is always mentioned as one of the best filmmaking cameras under $1,000.
Why? The reason for this is that the previous model to the G85 was the fantastic Panasonic G7. Everything that made the G7 such a fantastic filmmaking camera has been carried over to the G85.
The G85 has the same 16-megapixel camera and 4K video recording capabilities as its predecessor, the G7. Everything being filmed can be clearly seen on the great 3′ touchscreen with a 2.4 million dot viewfinder.
As a result, you can clearly distinguish all of the colors to gain a better understanding of what may require touch-ups as you edit.
The most significant upgrade from the G7 is the 12-60mm lens, which is a significant improvement over the previous 14-42mm lens. The new lens isn’t the only noteworthy improvement on the Panasonic G85.
Like the Sony Alpha a6400, the camera lens and body are both weather-sealed. And, as previously stated, this is a feature that is only available on most filmmaking cameras costing more than $1,000.
The sensor-shift optical stabilization is another important feature of the G85.
When a stabilized lens is attached, the G85 will use sensor-shift and in-lens systems together to better control unstable conditions. This feature is also beneficial when using slow shutter speeds.
For any aspiring filmmaker, the Panasonic Lumix G85 is an excellent filmmaking camera. It has a tonne of features and the controls are simple to use, plus it captures 4k video. It’s a great camera at a price that anyone can afford. I’m going to buy it!
When one of my filmmaking colleagues mentioned to me that he was getting rid of his sony a7 to buy the Fujifilm X-T30, I thought he was crazy. But after doing some research on the Fujifilm X-T30, maybe he isn’t that crazy after all.
When I looked at the video quality of some test footage of the X-T30, I was shocked at how good the footage looked. But, I was told from my film colleague that the camera can only shoot up to 10 minutes of 4K (at 30fps) shooting at a time.
If you are planning for shooting longer footage, the 1,080p mode provides exceptional video quality, and you can go longer.
The only problem I had with the camera, was the quick menu buttons are on the thumb grip which caused me to accidentally push buttons I didn’t want.
Also, there is no image stabilization on the camera.
Nikon D7500 DX-format Digital SLR Body
When it comes to photography, everyone has a favorite brand that they always use. Nikon has always been my father’s preferred camera brand. So, Nikon has always held a special place in my heart when it comes to photography.
So, when it comes to 4k filmmaking cameras, the Nikon D7500 is an excellent choice for those who share my father’s passion for Nikon.
This DSLR filmmaking camera can be a clear winner for you as well, thanks to its versatility in all conditions and environments, as well as its enhanced speed and ease of handling. The Nikon D7500 is a powerful 21 Megapixel camera that is ideal for landscape and portrait photography.
With the addition of a great lens, it becomes a camera that is well-suited to all lighting conditions, with an ISO range that extends up to 12800. Nikon D7500 adds “zebra stripes” to a video that shows overexposure points, which is useful for cinematographers and directors.
The autofocus quality is excellent, with 51 AF sensors capable of capturing jumping children, flying birds, and moving trees with significant precision and sharpness. The DX crop-sensor camera and autofocus occupy a large portion of the viewfinder. The Nikon D7500’s Group AF mode allows the user to track moving subjects.
The 4k video shooting integrates a 1.5x crop which is not as good as other 4k filmmaking cameras, but the performance is very good and true.
The shutter provides 8 fps which means you can do wildlife and sports coverage effectually.
It also has a flip-out and tilting 3.2 inch LCD screen which is 922k dots and ergonomic. The menu settings are easy to locate and read. You can comfortably switch between Effect modes, ISO settings, focus options, and flash.
This model of Nikon is solidly inbuilt, comfortable in handling an excessive number of on-body controls which is very convenient for many photographers.
Nikon D7500 comes with a built-in Wifi and a good battery.
There isn’t much to this camera I dislike. The only drawback is the cropping factor in 4k video shooting, but with a good lens in front of this camera, it’s nothing to worry about.
Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless Digital Camera
Built around the EF-M mount (which shares an 18mm flange focal distance with the Sony E mount), this vlogging and filmmaking camera is designed to work with either the EF-M lenses or the full-fledged EF lenses that already a marketplace mainstay.
The great thing about being part of the Canon ecosystem is that you have a huge amount of lens variety, which is a great thing.
But, the drawback is that with most of the lenses, it will be operating with a crop, as EF lenses are largely designed for full-frame sensors; this unit’s smaller APC-C sensor won’t fill the full image processor circle.
As a 4K filmmaking camera, there are some slight drawbacks.
The Canon Eos 4K mode is a 1.6x crop, which sidesteps the issues of pixel binning but results in a small image area being used for 4K capture.
Dual-pixel autofocus (the marquee feature of cameras like the C200), only works for 1080 video, with the only option at 4K being contrast-detection autofocus.
The M50’s 4K mode does need a little help to get good results though: the Dual Pixel autofocus is not available in 4K, and there’s an additional crop when switching to 4K.
But the 4K image itself is actually very detailed and sharp, with great color and dynamic range. This is mostly due to the high bitrate of 120 Mbps and the fact that there’s no pixel-binning or line-skipping in 4k.
These are expected trade-offs in such an affordable camera body, and on many of the projects these will be used, shouldn’t be thought of as dealbreakers.
Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K
If you come across a sale on the Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera at B&H Photo/Video, take advantage of it. This 4k Filmmaking Camera didn’t make the list because it costs more than $1,000, but for a few hundred dollars more, it’s well worth the investment.
Why? This camera performs above and beyond expectations. At around $1,300, this camera puts true cinematic 4K capability in the hands of almost anyone. A comparable camera with RAW and ProRes at this price, as well as in-camera recording and multiple media options, cannot be found!
The BMD menu system is one of the best in the business. The color science and image quality in a camera at this price point is nothing short of AMAZING.
Check out the blackmagic pocket cinema camera video below for an example.
When it comes down to choosing the right 4k filmmaking camera under $1000, it’s a difficult decision.
Especially when it comes to brand preferences and the features that filmmakers expect from a 4k filmmaking camera. Some filmmakers expect autofocus capability, while others may anticipate image stabilization of the footage.
If you want the cheapest 4k camera that isn’t on this list and is essentially a point-and-shoot with limited lens options, go with a GoPro Hero Black, which has everything you need to shoot quality footage.
However, with the cameras mentioned above, you will have no trouble capturing stunning 4k video footage that will wow any viewer.
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