Best Cameras For Documentary

22 Best Cameras For Documentary

Are you looking for the best cameras for documentary? Documentary filmmaking is an ever-growing art, one that requires the use of high quality cameras to capture the stories that need to be told. As any documentary filmmaker knows, having the best and most reliable camera at hand is crucial to making a successful documentary and therefore, it’s important to know which camera is best for any given story before committing to a purchase.

The following list of 22 best cameras for documentary filmmaking is designed to take away some of the guesswork and provide some guidance in the ever-evolving camera market. Everything from 4K digital SLRs to cheaper and smaller action cameras made the round up in order to provide the best camera framework for any type of documentary project.

1. Sony Alpha a7 III

The Sony Alpha a7 III is one of the most versatile cameras on the market and is an excellent choice for documentary filmmaking. The a7 III has an impressive 24.2MP full-frame image sensor and is packed with features such as 5-axis image stabilization, a tiltable LCD screen, and an extensive list of video controls, making it perfect for documentary filmmakers who are looking to capture stunning footage.

Pros:

• Full-frame image sensor providing stunning image quality
• Wide array of video control settings
• 5-axis image stabilization
• Tilting LCD screen
• Highly customizable

Cons:

• Expensive
• No in-body stabilization

2. Panasonic Lumix GH5

The Panasonic LumixGH5 is a popular choice amongst documentary filmmakers and professionals alike. It’s a micro four-thirds camera that’s capable of capturing 1080p footage at 60 frames per second and has a plethora of features including time-code support, waveform monitor, and various frame rates for slow-motion shots.

Pros:

• 1080p recording at up to 60fps
• Time-code support
• Intuitive touchscreen menu with P2 card slot
• Various frame rates for slow-motion shots
• Waveform monitor

Cons:

• Limited dynamic range
• Low light performance is only average

3. Canon EOS 7D Mark II

The Canon EOS 7D Mark II is a great professional entry-level digital SLR with a 20.2MP image sensor and 9 cross type focus points among a host of other features. The camera would make an excellent choice for any documentary filmmaker as it offers a great combination of price, performance and usability.

Pros:

• Great combination of price and performance
• Fast autofocus system
• Handles low light conditions well
• Image quality produced is excellent
• Features such as dual card slots

Cons:

• No built-in image stabilization
• Only 1080p recording

4. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Best Professional Camera On A Budget

The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is the premier full-frame digital SLR offered by Canon. It boasts a 30.4MP full-frame CMOS sensor and comes with dual DIGIC 6+ image processors, making it more than capable of capturing high-quality footage for documentaries.

Pros:

• 30.4MP full-frame CMOS Sensor
• Dual DIGIC 6+ image processors
• 4K video recording capabilities
• Built-in GPS for recording locations
• Touchscreen rotating LCD

Cons:

• Expensive
• No 4K LCD monitor

5. Panasonic Lumix GH4

The Panasonic Lumix GH4 is widely regarded as one of the best 4K mirrorless cameras on the market and is loved by documentary filmmakers alike. It was the first DSLR to offer 4K 30p video recording, allowing documentary filmmakers to capture high quality footage with ease.

Pros:

• 4K video recording
• Intuitive touchscreen menu
• 10 fps burst shooting
• Weather sealed design
• Wi-Fi and NFC capability

Cons:

• No in-body image stabilization
• Low light performance could be improved

6. Panasonic Lumix FZ2500

The Panasonic Lumix FZ2500 is a great hybrid camera that offers a great combination of features from both a digital SLR and a camcorder. It offers 4K video recording, has a versatile 20x optical zoom, and comes with a fully articulated electronic viewfinder that would be especially beneficial to documentary filmmakers who need to capture detail from a distance.

Pros:

• 4K video recording
• Fully articulated electronic viewfinder
• 20x optical zoom
• Vari-angle LCD screen
• Many custom settings

Cons:

• Not the best for low light
• No image stabilization

7. Fujifilm X-T3

The Fujifilm X-T3 is a great hybrid camera produced and marketed by Fujifilm. It has a unique 26.1MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS 4 sensor and BIONZ X image processor, allowing it to capture excellent footage even in low-light conditions.

Pros:

• 26.1MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS 4 sensor
• Capture excellent footage even in low-light conditions
• Lightweight, slim design
• Fast autofocus system
• 4K recording up to 60fps

Cons:

• Low light autofocus could be improved
• Only a single card slot

8. Sony Alpha a6000

Best Sony Camera For Vlogging

One of the best cameras for documentary makers on a budget, the Sony Alpha a6000 comes with a 24.3MP Exmor HD CMOS sensor and a 179-point autofocus system, which allows it to capture sharply detailed photos, even in low light conditions.

Pros:

• Affordable price
• Excellent autofocus system
• 24.3MP Exmor HD CMOS sensor
• Lightweight design
• Full HD video recording at 60fps

Cons:

• Not the best for low light
• Single memory card slot

9. Sony Alpha NEX-7

The Sony Alpha NEX-7 was released in 2011 and it remains one of the most powerful cameras on the market. It offers a 24.3MP Exmor HD CMOS sensor and baked-in Wi-Fi connectivity, which would be great for documentary filmmakers.

Pros:

• 24.3MP Exmor HD CMOS sensor
• Wi-Fi connectivity
• Fast autofocus system
• Varied shooting modes
• Record 1080p video at 60fps

Cons:

• Low light performance could be improved
• No in-body image stabilization

10. Canon EOS R

The Canon EOS R is Canon’s first full-frame mirrorless camera and packs an impressive 30.3MP CMOS sensor, allowing it to capture detailed shots no matter the lighting conditions. It also features a double-pixel focusing system, allowing it to maintain focus even during fast-moving scenes.

Pros:

• 30.3MP CMOS sensor
• Dual-pixel focusing system
• Built-in EVF
• Numerous creative video settings
• Tilting touchscreen

Cons:

• Single SD card slot
• No in-body stabilization

11. Nikon D850

Best Budget Nikon Cameras

The Nikon D850 is the ideal choice for documentary filmmakers who need the best of both worlds. It comes with a 45.7MP full-frame CMOS sensor and an extensive range of video settings, allowing you to record stunning 4K footage with ease.

Pros:

• 45.7MP full-frame CMOS sensor
• Extensive range of video settings
• Built-in interval timer
• Touch screen LCD screen
• Excellent low light performance

Cons:

• Expensive
• Limited battery life

12. GoPro HERO8 Black

The GoPro HERO8 black is one of the best action camera’s on the market. It features a 4K recording mode, has a wide range of shooting modes, and built-in image stabilization, making it perfect for anyone looking to capture action footage for their documentary.

Pros:

• 4K recording mode
• Wide array of shooting modes
• Built-in image stabilization
• Compact and lightweight design
• Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity

Cons:

• Limited in-depth recording settings
• Battery life is not the best

13. Panasonic Lumix FZ300

The Panasonic Lumix FZ300 is an affordable yet powerful superzoom camera that’s capable of capturing 4K video at up to 30fps. It also features a long 12.8x optical zoom and a fast autofocus system, making it a great camera for anyone looking to shoot documentaries.

Pros:

• 4K video recording
• Impressive 12.8x optical zoom
• Fast autofocus system
• Vari-angle LCD touchscreen
• Weather sealed design

Cons:

• Low light performance
• No image stabilization

14. Canon EOS 70D

best lens for Canon 70D

The Canon EOS 70D is a popular digital SLR camera that offers great value for money. It has a 20.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor, an extensive array of video recording settings, and a fast dual pixel CMOS autofocus system.

Pros:

• 20.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor
• Many video recording settings
• Fast dual pixel CMOS autofocus system
• Tilting LCD touchscreen
• 7fps and 10fps burst shooting

Cons:

• Low light performance could be improved
• No 4K video recording

15. Nikon Z7

The Nikon Z7 is Nikon’s flagship full-frame mirrorless camera and offers some of the best features available on the market. It features a 45.7MP full-frame BSI-CMOS sensor and is capable of recording 4K video at up to 30fps.

Pros:

• 45.7MP full-frame BSI-CMOS sensor
• 4K recording up to 30fps
• 3.2-inch tiltable LCD touchscreen
• Dual memory card slots
• External microphone jack

Cons:

• Expensive
• No in-body stabilization

16. Sony Alpha a6500

The Sony Alpha a6500 is the successor to the a6000 and packed even more features for the money. It has a 24.2MP Exmor CMOS image sensor, a host of video settings, and some of the best autofocus tracking available in a compact-size camera.

Pros:

• 24.2MP Exmor CMOS image sensor
• Wide range of video settings
• Fast autofocus tracking
• Wide variety of lenses
• Touchscreen LCD screen

Cons:

• No built-in stabilization
• Low light performance could be improved

17. Sony Alpha a7S II

The Sony Alpha a7S II, is a great camera for documentary filmmakers who need to shoot in low-light conditions. It featrues a 12.2MP Exmor CMOS sensor that’s capable of capturing up to 4K at PAL/NTSC mode with uncompressed S-Log and S-Gamut settings.

Pros:

• 12.2MP Exmor CMOS sensor
• 4K capture up to PAL/NTSC mode
• Uncompressed S-Log and S-Gamut settings
• Wide dynamic range
• Built-in image stabilization

Cons:

• Low resolution sensor
• No touchscreen LCD

18. Sony Alpha a9

The Sony Alpha a9 is one of the most powerful mirrorless cameras on the market. It features a 24.2MP full-frame CMOS sensor and is capable of shooting full-frame 4K video at up to 30fps.

Pros:

• 24.2MP full-frame CMOS sensor
• 4K video recording up to 30fps
• Built-in image stabilization
• Wireless image transfer
• Tilting LCD touchscreen

Cons:

• Expensive
• Slow start up time

19. DJI Osmo Pocket

The DJI Osmo Pocket is a great action camera for documentary filmmakers who need to capture quality images and videos on the go. Its small, compact form factor makes it perfect for quick and easy shooting, and its built-in gimbal helps to eliminate camera shake.

Pros:

• Compact and lightweight
• Built in 3-axis gimbal
• 4K video recording
• Intuitive one-handed operation
• Wireless connectivity

Cons:

• Low light performance could be improved
• No mic input

20. Sony RX100 V

The Sony RX100 V is a great small and compact camera that is capable of capturing 4K video footage. It offers a 24-200mm f/2.8-4.5 ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T optical zoom lens, a 20.1MP image sensor, and a range of features that make it perfect for documentary makers.

Pros:

• 24-200mm f/2.8-4.5 ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T lens
• 20.1MP image sensor
• Up to 960 fps slow-motion video
• High-speed Autofocus system
• Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity

Cons:

• No built-in stabilization
• Low light performance could be improved

21. Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5S

The Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5S is a great camera for documentary filmmakers who are looking for powerful yet compact mirrorless camera. It offers a 10.2MP Digital Live MOS image sensor and a range of features, such as 4K video recording at up to 60fps making it the go-to camera for any serious filmmaker.

Pros:

• 10.2MP Digital Live MOS image sensor
• 4K video recording up to 60fps
• Dual native ISO sensitivity
• Digital Image Stabilization
• Dual card slots

Cons:

• Expensive
• Low megapixel count

22. Canon EOS 1DX Mark II

The Canon EOS 1DX Mark II is a professional digital SLR camera, making it the perfect choice for documentary filmmakers who need a reliable and professional-grade camera. It is packed with features, such as 4K video recording and a built-in Wi-Fi system, making this camera a great choice for those who demand the highest quality in their imaging.

Pros:

• 4K video recording
• Built-in Wi-Fi system
• High speed continuous shooting up to 14fps
• Dual memory card slots
• Remote live view

Cons:

• Expensive
• No built-in image stabilization

Final Thoughts On Best Cameras For Documentary

Any of the cameras above could make a great addition to any documentary filmmaker’s arsenal. With a variety of features and price points, there should be no shortage of choices when selecting the right camera for any documentary project. The ultimate deciding factor should always be the documentary filmmaker’s own needs and budget, as no two projects are ever the same. With a little bit of research and a few test runs, anyone should be able to narrow down their choices and find the perfect camera for their documentary project.

Ken Marshall

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