Best Smartphone For Filmmaking In 2020 – Video Recording

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Best Smartphone For Filmmaking – Do you have a great idea and some filmmaking skills and want to film a feature but afraid of the costs? The biggest equipment cost that any filmmaker to capture his/her vision onto the big screen is a filmmaking camera. 

The problem with many filmmaking cameras available on the market today tend to break the budget for many independent filmmakers. 

While there are some great 4K filmmaking cameras under $1,000 that can shoot amazing video footage, but what if you don’t have the funds to buy a 4K camera today to start filming? 

I have some good news for those filmmakers that are looking for an alternative to a filmmaking camera, and that filmmaking camera may be in your pocket today, and it’s called your smartphone.

That’s right, today’s smartphones shoot amazing 4K quality video footage. Plus they are stiff competition for some of the best selling filmmaking cameras out there on the market today. 

This post is for filmmakers looking for a cheaper alternative to a filmmaking camera. 

With the advancement in smartphone camera technology, the huge amount of storage space available, fast processing speeds, and filmmaking apps to help you along the way, it’s no wonder why filmmakers are choosing a smartphone for his/her next film project

If you are thinking about using a smartphone for your next film project, I will break down the best smartphones for filmmaking so you can start filming cheaper than you ever thought possible.

Best Smartphone For Filmmaking In 2020 - Video Recording

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Smartphones For Filmmaking

Smartphones are not just for making phone calls and playing Angry Birds on them, they are powerful palm-sized computers that also take amazing 4k videos.

Beginning to advanced filmmakers are using smartphones to shoot amazing movies with at a fraction of the cost for a professional 4k filmmaking camera.

Even Hollywood filmmakers like Steven Soderbergh, Zack Snyder, and Sean Baker (Director of Tangerine) have made short-length and full-length features with the iPhone’s, and many Hollywood filmmakers are taking notice of the power of the smartphone.

With so many great smartphones available on the market today that can produce incredible video footage, it can be difficult to choose the right one for you. 

Below are reviews of the best smartphones for filmmaking chosen by my filmmaking colleagues shooting short-films while stuck in self-isolation.

Curious about what the quality looks like when shooting with a Smartphone? See the video below.

Apple iPhone 11 Pro

Best Smartphone For Filmmaking In 2020 - Video Recording
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Since the Apple iPhone 7, filmmakers were given the ability to shoot features with, as long as you had conversion lenses attached to the smartphone. Directors attached lenses like Moment anamorphic lens to give the iPhone footage a more cinematic look to the footage.

With the recent iPhone 11 Pro release, Apple decided to replace the single-lens camera that has been standard for years, and add three cameras to the smartphone

With the addition of a 12mp 26mm f1.8 wide-angle, a 52mm f2.8 2x telephoto and a super-wide 13mm f2.4 lens, filmmakers who are loyal to the Apple eco-system are now rejoicing in the fact that they now have an amazing filmmaking smartphone. 

Another great addition to the new camera system is a built-in optical zoom that gives smooth zooming within the three-lens camera system without sacrificing the image quality.

Plus, with the 4k video (up to 60 fps) and 1080p HD video (up to 60 fps),helped by the speed of the A13 bionic chip processor, every video footage you capture is cinema ready. Also, if you add the great Filmic Pro app to the smartphone, you have a filmmaking camera that is a joy to film with.

Pros:

  • Amazing Stabilization
  • Fast Focusing
  • Excellent night mode
  • Versatile triple camera
  • Consistent colors across cameras

Cons:

  • Overpriced

Specs:

  • Screen size: 5.8-inch Dimensions: 144 x 71.4 x 8.1mm Resolution: 2436 x 1125
  • OS: iOS 13
  • CPU: A13 Bionic
  • Storage: 64/256/512GB
  • Battery: 4 hours longer than XS Rear camera: 12MP, 12MP, 12MP Front camera: 12MP

My Filmmaker Friend’s Review: “The iPhone 11 Pro is probably the best smartphone camera Apple’s ever made, it’s and for the price of this camera phone it’s certainly a winner for me. It’s reliable – you take a shot and it’s likely going to be a good one, even in middling light. Dynamic range is strong, and with three cameras, it’s versatile too.”

Huawei P40 Pro

Best Smartphone For Filmmaking In 2020 - Video Recording
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My friend and I had a battle last year on which smartphone had the best quality of video footage between his Huawei P30 Pro, and my Apple iPhone 10. We placed our smartphone beside each other on tripods and shot the same landscape. Let’s just say that the Huawei P30 Prowith its phenomenal camera, won that battle easily.

Now that Huawei has introduced the P40 Pro, I would have to say that it would probably win the battle again. The same friend just upgraded from the P30 Pro to the P40 Pro, and he brags to all of his filmmaking friends that it’s the best camera phone period! 

Before I go into the incredible camera features of this great smartphone filmmaking camera, I have to warn you that due to Huawei and Google not getting along. This means that many of the great applications on Google Play won’t be found on the Huawei P40 Pro

The Huawei P40 Pro’s Leica-branded imaging system is initiated by a brand new 50MP sensor, which uses RYYB (Red, Yellow, Yellow, Blue) sub-pixel formation. The company insists that this Huawei claims this gives its cameras the ability to manage shooting dark scenes like a pro, which my friend still brags about. 

The P40 Pro main camera lens features a standard f/1.9 aperture like many of the smartphones on the market today, but with a huge sensor size and OIS, coupled with Huawei’s impressive electronic image stabilization, it can pretty much see in the dark. 

Plus, the smartphone features a 40MP f/1.8 ultra-wide camera, a 12MP telephoto camera that’s capable of 5x optical zoom or 50x digital zoom, and a time-of-flight (ToF) sensor for creating bokeh effects.

Pros:

  • Fantastic Battery Life
  • Amazing Camera

Cons:

  • Limited Software

Specs:

  • Main camera: 50MP (f/1.9)
  • Telephoto: 12MP (f/3.4)
  • Ultra-wide: 40MP (f/1.8) 
  • OIS: Yes 
  • Front camera: 32MP 
  • Weight: 209g 
  • Dimensions: 158.2 x 72.6 x 9mm 
  • Battery size: 4,200mAh
  • Max video quality: 4K 60fps
  • Storage: 128GB / 256GB / 512GB 
  • Memory card slot: Yes

A short review from my filmmaking friend who owns the P40 Pro: “The Huawei Camera App is the best in the business, and I can shoot Ultra HD / 4K video at up to 60 frames per second, as well as a super slow motion at up to an eye-watering 7680fps. I haven’t seen anything else come close.”

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G

Years ago I owned the Samsung Note 4, and I thought that was the best camera on the market at the time. Then the battery issues happened, and the Note 4 went into lockdown mode.

So, I was a little apprehensive about buying a Samsung smartphone again. But then the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G came along and change my mindset on Samsung phones.

With this smartphone, you are able to bring a pro-level studio wherever you go with Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G’s super-speed processing and complete pro kit of camera features – including the groundbreaking 100x Space Zoom and cutting-edge AI – in an immersive 6. 9” Infinity-O display. 

Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G’s modern design gives you a cinematic experience and enhanced viewing comfort with next-level functionality. 

Take pro-quality, hi-res images and video with a full system of studio lenses with super stabilization a groundbreaking 108MP camera system that captures millions of more pixels in each shot. 

Features like the Single Take AI make it quick and easy to capture multiple photos and videos with a single tap. Zoom in super close, even from 300 feet away, and capture pro-grade video and dazzling photos at night, even without flash, with Ultra Bright Night mode.

Pros:

  • 108MP primary camera
  • Up to 100x zoom
  • 8K video

Cons:

  • 100x zoom of limited use
  • 8K video comes with restrictions
  • Battery life is an issue

Specs:

  • Rear cameras: 108MP (primary f/1.8, 26mm, OIS), 12MP (ultra wide angle f/2.2, 13mm), 48MP (telephoto f/3.5, 103mm), ToF depth-sensing camera
  • Front camera: 40MP (f/2.2, 26mm)
  • OIS: Yes 
  • Weight:222 g  
  • Dimensions:166.9 x 76 x 8.8mm
  • Max video quality: 8K video
  • Storage: 128GB / 256GB / 512GB
  • Memory card slot: Yes

A short review from my filmmaking friend who owns the S20: “The most advanced Smartphone camera takes great quality of photos and videos. Long-lasting 5000mah all-day battery life with true 5G connection is a plus! 

Beautiful, stunning QHD 120Hz AMOLED Display makes me watching content even better than ever before!”

Google Pixel 4 XL

The spec serious videographers look for when filming in 4K at 60fpsThe Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL are limited to 4K at 30fps.

Now, most of my filmmaker friends don’t shoot video at 4K in 60fps, so with the Pixel 4 is missing that mode isn’t exactly a disappointment. 

But, with many of the high-end smartphones on the market today able to do 4K60, the Pixel 4 should as well. 

The smartphone does have the most important modes of shooting right now with the 4K at 30fps and 1080p at both 30 and 60fps, and can achieve this on both cameras, not just one is impressive. 

Video quality out of the main cam in 4K is quite good. The Pixel 4 captures a lot of detail, though there’s also a fair bit of noise in the footage. 

Plus, the Pixel exposes scenes a little darker, thereby creating a more realistic image most of the time. 

When the lights go down, the phone generates more image noise than many rivals, but this is a product of Google’s more restrained noise reduction processing.

The Google Pixel 4 XL is the more useful of the two Pixel 4 phones, particularly if you’re a power user or heavy picture-taker, thanks to its sharper screen and bigger, longer-lasting battery. 

Pros:

  • Outstanding primary rear camera
  • Solid build

Cons:

  • Low storage options, and not expandable
  • Occasional UI demons

Specs:

  • Rear cameras:12.2MP (28mm-equiv. wide angle lens, f/1.7, PDAF, OIS), 16MP (45mm equiv. telephoto, f/2.4, PDAF, OIS)
  • Front camera:8 MP, f/2, 22mm (wide), ToF 3D Camera
  • OIS: Yes 
  • Weight: 193 g  
  • Dimensions:160.4 x 75.1 x 8.2 mm
  • Max video quality: 4K video
  • Storage: 64/128 GB
  • Memory card slot: No

A short review from my filmmaking friend who owns the S20: “Pixel 4XL is a great mobile phone that probably has market-leading camera technology.

Love the camera, good as the new iPhones, battery lasts all day no problem.”

Xperia 1 II

The Sony Xperia 1 II is the best smartphone out there for the true cinematographer.

The Cinema Pro “powered by CineAlta” user interface has easy to control features like framing guides, shutter speed (angle), touch autofocus, auto exposure, manual white balance and more.

If you are looking at filming movies with the similar parameters and color settings as the professionals, this is the smartphone for you. 

With eight different color settings, you can bring the mood of different cinema styles to your videos. Plus, the 21:9 ratio, 4K HDR, and 24 fps give you the tools you need.

This is the perfect smartphone for post-production editing tools like Premiere Pro or Da Vinci Resolve.

ZEISS optics calibrated specifically for your Xperia smartphone. The ZEISS T* Coating contributes to exquisite rendering and contrast by reducing reflections.

The Xperia 1 II includes an industry-leading audio separation technology, for highly-effective wind filtering. It truly is a filmmakers smartphone.

Pros:

  • Excellent pro video features
  • Stunning screen
  • Decent battery performance

Cons:

  • Best suited to serious content creators
  • Colors prioritize accuracy over the wow factor of other handsets

Specs:

  • Rear cameras: 12pm (24mm f/1.7) + 12pm (70mm f/2.4) + 12MP (16mm f/2.2)
  • Front camera: 8MP (f/2)
  • Rear camera aperture: f/1.7 + f/2.4 + f/2.2 
  • Dimensions: 167 x 72 x 8.2 mm
  • Max video quality: 4K video
  • Storage: 128 GB

My Review: “If you have a Sony Alpha series camera, like the a7II,  you will start using and loving the camera on this phone immediately. It’s a fantastic smartphone for filmmaking.

Great accessories for your camera phone

If you decided that you are going to shoot your next feature on a smartphone, then I would suggest getting some valuable accessories to make your films more cinematic.

Here are just a few items that I feel you will need:

If you decided that you are going to shoot your next feature on a smartphone, then I would suggest getting some valuable accessories to make your films more cinematic.

Here are 6 Essential Smartphone Filmmaking Accessories you will need to get the job done:

JOBY GorillaPod Mobile Rig

Designed for content creators, this smartphone rig is flexible, portable, and user-friendly.

The locking GripTight mount secures most smartphones, which can then be easily adjusted via tilt and landscape-to portrait mode as needed.

Up to three additional devices such as mics, lights, and action cameras can be added using 1/4″-20 connections, and included are two 6-socket Gorilla arms with 1/4″-20 connections, plus two cold shoe mounts and one GoPro mount.

DJI OM 4 - Handheld 3-Axis Smartphone Gimbal Stabilizer with Grip Tripod Vlog YouTube Live Video for iPhone Android

DJI OM 4 - Handheld 3-Axis Smartphone Gimbal Stabilizer

This gimbal brings smooth Steadicam motion to your smartphone. 

The gimbal has built-in auto-tracking capabilities and fingertip rotation control. It’s perfect for filmmakers working on everything from run-and-gun action sequences to long-form moving live streams.

Moment - Anamorphic Lens

The Anamorphic lens is the holy grail of filmmaking. Sweet horizontal flares and that widescreen, letterboxes look. 

Its 1.33x design brings the organic look and character of 2:40:1. it’s like shooting a wider focal length in the horizontal direction and a longer focal length in the vertical. 

Works with the Moment Pro Camera App to de-squeeze the image when shooting video and photos.

For iPhones, you will need a Moment Photo Case for the lens to attach to the smartphone.

Ulanzi U Rig Pro Smartphone Video Rig

Ulanzi U Rig Pro Smartphone Video Rig

This innovative smartphone camera cage gives you full-motion protection and two-handed smoothness for all your filmmaking needs.

Its customizable construction also accommodates add-ons like microphones and LED panel lighting for the ultimate professional smartphone filmmaking setup.

iStabilizer Dolly for Mobile Devices

iStabilizer Dolly for Mobile Devices

This clever dolly car invention brings smooth camera dolly movement to your smartphone filmmaking arsenal. 

The iStabilizer Dolly Car is a cheap but strong build on skateboard wheels, which brings precision motion to a vast array of camera moves across mostly smooth surfaces.

Rode smartLav+ Lavalier Condenser Microphone for Smartphones

The Rode smartLav+ is a lavalier microphone for your Apple or Android mobile device that is designed to deliver high-quality audio recording.

The smartLav+ clips on to your shirt or lapel, and the sensitive, omnidirectional condenser capsule captures the sound equally from all sides of the microphone.

This design lends to effective, hands-free recording of speeches, interviews, dictations and more.

Conclusion

Filmmaking with Smartphones is a complex game but with a little experience and sufficient practice you can accomplish remarkable results.

With the best smartphones for filmmaking mentioned above, the cameras on a Smartphone are no different from any other filmmaking camera.

With a little practice, the best smartphone for you, and the right smartphone gear, there is no telling what you as the filmmaker can accomplish.

Now, get out there and start filming!

best smartphones for filmmaking

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