14 Great Cameras To Put Your Video Vision in Motion

April 25, 2016

By Greg Scoblete

Our top gear picks for video, mirrorless, cinema and action cameras are sure to help you find a match for both your style and your budget.


Sony FDR-AX53 
The new AX53 boasts a 20x optical zoom lens with Zeiss T* coating and 5-axis image stabilization. The lens has a maximum aperture of f/2-3.8, depending on focal length. You can record 4K video (3840 x 2160) at up to 30 fps or Full HD video up to a motion-slowing 120 fps in addition to 4K time-lapse videos. It has a new AF algorithm for faster performance and the built-in mic is able to capture sound from five different directions. You’ll frame your scene through an EVF or a 3-inch LCD. You can pull out 8-megapixel still images from your 4K footage during playback and also use a trimming feature to crop down 4K footage to HD resolution.
Price: $948

JVC GY-HM200  
This 4K camera features a 12x f/1.2-3.5 optical zoom lens that helps you stay on top of distant action. You can save your footage to a pair of SD cards in either the MOV of AVCHD formats. In addition to 4K, the HM200 is capable of Full HD recording at up to 60 fps. A pair of XLR inputs are on hand for high-quality audio recording, and you’ll frame your scene through either a 3.5-inch display or a 0.24-inch viewfinder.
Price: $2,595

Canon XA35 
The versatile XA35 is an HD camera with a built-in 20x optical zoom lens equivalent to 26.8-576mm on a 35mm camera. You’ll enjoy a maximum aperture of f/1.8-2.8, depending on your focal length. The camera employs a new 1/2.84-inch HD CMOS PRO image sensor with improved signal-to-noise performance when shooting in low light environments. You can record 1920 x 1080 video at 60 or 24 fps to a pair of SD cards. You’ll frame your scene through a 3.5-inch OLED touchscreen display or a 0.24-inch OLED electronic viewfinder. There’s focus peaking and zebra patterns to aid in composition, full manual control and several customizable buttons for quick access to key settings.
Price: $2,299

Panasonic HC-WXF991 
One of the benefits of shooting in 4K is the latitude those extra pixels afford you for cropping and stabilizing footage to be delivered in high definition. While said cropping and stabilizing is usually done in post-production, Panasonic’s WXF991 can tackle that and more within the camera itself. The camera’s cinema-like editing features allow you to zoom in and out of subjects without changing camera angle, pan across a scene Ken Burns-style or create Steadicam-like ultra-stabilized footage, all from your 4K file. Taking advantage of these edits means the resulting video will be high definition, not 4K. If you film in 4K, you’ll also have access to Panasonic’s 4K photo modes, which isolate 8-megapixel still frames from your moving pictures. The WXF991 records 4K video at either 24 or 30 fps via an 18-megapixel 1/2.3-inch backside-illuminated image sensor. It has a 20x optical zoom Leica Dicomar lens with a variable aperture from f/1.8-3.6 and a 5-axis hybrid image stabilization system.
Price: $998


Olympus Air A01 
The AIR isn’t the first camera you’d think of for a video shoot, but hear us out. Though not durable like an action cam, its Micro Four Third (MFT) lens mount and sensor give you significantly better image quality in a form factor that’s not much bigger than many action cams on the market (provided you’re not slapping on a monster lens). For shots where you might mount a GoPro, in other words, it makes sense to consider the portable AIR as a higher-quality alternative. You can control it with your phone via Wi-Fi. The Air records HD video at 30 fps to microSD cards and can burst at up to 10 fps.
Price: $300

Panasonic GH4 
Since its launch, the GH4 has been a game-changing mirrorless camera for video applications, and recent firmware upgrades have made it more potent still. The latest firmware, which requires paying $100 for an updated software key, enables you to record in the V-Log L profile to obtain a desaturated file that has a wide dynamic range and is better suited for color grading. The newest free firmware updates have bumped up electronic shutter speeds to 1/16,000 of a second, enabled Full HD 30p output via HDMI, and added support for Panasonic’s 4K photo modes, which let you isolate an 8-megapixel still frame from a 4K video in-camera.
Price: $1,498(body)

Z-Camera E1 
Similar to the Olympus Air, the E1 offers higher image quality with 4K recording through its 16-megapixel MFT-sized sensor. Incredibly, the E1 is just about the size of a GoPro with a body that weighs just 0.37 pounds. The camera features a native ISO of 100 to 6400 with the ability to expand up to ISO 102,400 in a pinch. It supports continuous AF during stills and video recording in addition to full-time manual focus. The E1 offers both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for wireless remote control and image composition, and there’s a 2.5-inch display on the back as well. Footage is saved to microSD cards and the E1 comes with a removable battery that’s rated for about 45 minutes of 4K recording with Wi-Fi engaged. Turn Wi-Fi off and you’ll reach 90 minutes of recording time.
Price: $699

Sony a7S II 
The a7S II is a full-frame filmmaking machine, recording 4K footage internally to an SD card. You can shoot Full HD at up to 120 fps and 12-megapixel still images as well. If you prefer to color-grade your footage, the a7S II has several profiles, such as S-Log2 and S-Log3, to deliver a flat, desaturated video file with wider dynamic range than the default color profiles. The a7S II can also shoot at ISOs as high as 409,600, so low light environments are no longer crippling. In-camera 5-axis stabilization keeps your footage steady.
Price: $2,998 (body)

DJI Zenmuse X5 
You’re just as likely to see this video camera in the skies, mounted to DJI’s Inspire 1 drone, than you are on terra firma. Still, with a forthcoming accessory you’ll be able to mount the tiny X5 onto DJI’s OSMO stabilizer (reviewed in our February 2016 issue) for smooth handheld shots. The Zenmuse X5 features a 16-megapixel MFT sensor and MFT lens mount. You’ll enjoy 4K recording at up to 30 fps with 12.8 stops of dynamic range. Drop to Full HD resolution and you can push frame rates to 60 fps. The larger sensor means better low light results, with the X5 delivering an ISO range of 100 to 25,600. Footage is saved to microSD cards. Not every MFT lens is compatible with the X5, so be sure to check DJI’s site for compatible glass.
Price: $1,699


Canon C100 Mark II 
With the C100 Mark II, Canon brings the low-light sensitivity and color science beloved by filmmakers into a package that’s more approachable for wedding filmmakers. Unlike the original C100, the Mark II incorporates Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology for improved autofocusing, particularly in low light conditions. You can record Full HD video via the C100’s Super 35mm-sized CMOS image sensor. Lightweight at 2.5 pounds (sans lens), the C100 Mark II accepts EF lenses and features a hinged, 3.5-inch OLED display for live view and menu navigation; you can flip out the display at either 180 or 270 degrees. Footage is stored to a pair of SD cards.
Price: $5,000

Blackmagic Design URSA Mini 4.6K
We loved the footage from the original URSA (reviewed in the May 2015 issue), but as the name implies, it was a beast to carry around. At less than a third the weight of the original, the Mini sheds the URSA’s three monitors in favor of a single, 5-inch touchscreen HD monitor for framing and focus confirmation. The Mini records 4K footage to a pair of CFast 2.0 cards in Apple ProRes or CinemaDNG 12-bit RAW. It has dual XLR inputs with phantom power and a built-in stereo mic. The URSA Mini is sold with either Blackmagic’s new 4.6K Super 35mm-sized image sensor or an updated 4K sensor with slightly less resolution and 12 stops of dynamic range. The 4.6K sensor (4608 x 2592) boasts 15 stops of dynamic range and delivers 4K recording at 60 fps with rolling shutter or 4K at 30 fps with a global shutter; if you opt for the less expensive Mini with the 4K sensor, you’ll enjoy 4K frame rates of 60 fps with a global shutter. Both versions of the Mini clock in at a motion-slowing 120fps when shooting at 1920 x 1080.
Prices: $4,995 (4.6K sensor, EF mount), $2,995 (4K sensor, EF mount)

Digital Bolex D16 
The D16 is all retro on the outside, but inside beats a high-tech heart. The D16 records 2K video (2048 x 1152) at 30 fps via a 1-inch sensor. It delivers a 12-bit file in the Adobe CinemaDNG format. Footage is saved to 400GB of internal SSD storage and there are two CompactFlash card slots on hand for more capacity. It sports a pair of XLR inputs, an internal battery, HDMI output and a headphone jack for audio monitoring. You can preview your scene on the 2.4-inch display atop the camera, and there are cold shoe mounts on the top and left of the camera for accessories like mics or an external monitor, which you’d connect via HDMI. It’s available in EF, PL and Micro Four Thirds lens mounts and weighs 5 pounds.
Price: $3,000


GoPro Hero4 
While the world waits anxiously for GoPro’s drone, the company’s flagship model is still the standard-bearer for small, durable action cams. The Hero4 Black Edition can record 4K video (3840 x 2160) at 30 fps, 2.7K footage at 50 fps and Full HD video at up to 120 fps. The 12-megapixel Hero4 Black also features full-resolution still photo bursts at 30 fps. It features Wi-Fi and a HiLight Tag feature that lets you earmark key moments in your video while you’re recording, either through the GoPro app or a dedicated button on the camera. These highlights can then be quickly located in GoPro’s Studio software for sharing on social media or using in your highlight reel.
Price: $500

Ricoh Theta S 
During CES, Pentax President Jim Malcolm told us of a wedding photographer who planted a Theta at every table at the reception to capture 360-degree stills of the proceedings. It’s these kind of novel uses we’re likely to see more of as 360-degree photography and filmmaking gains wider attention this year. The Theta S uses a pair of image sensors and f/2 lenses to deliver fully spherical 14-megapixel stills or Full HD video—no stitching required. It has 8GB of internal memory and can live-stream footage over Wi-Fi networks. Using a mobile device and the free Theta app, you can access a live view of the camera and change exposure settings, even put the Theta S into full manual. The internal battery is good for about 260 stills or about an hour of Full HD recording.
Price: $347