The 3 best Mirrorless cameras for shooting video. I personally LOVE number 2! May 08 2014
It's been many years since Nikon and Canon revolutionised the videographer market with the D90 and 5D Mk 2 respectively; 2 DSLR cameras that shot flawless HD video. It wasn't long at all before all many DSLR manufacturers were following suit.
Well now the DSLR industry is once again being revolutionised, only this time the revolution is being led by mirrorless cameras.
Before we go on, a little bit of info on the mirrorless category of camera.
A mirrorless camera is a camera that offers the best of both worlds: a more compact size, coming closer to that of a typical point-and-shoot camera, except it is equipped with a larger sensor and the flexibility to change lenses (like a typical DSLR).
What's most exciting about the format is that this is where the main areas for growth and innovation are in the camera field - and it's this innovation that is drawing more and more videographers to the format.
Below we list 3 of the top mirrorless cameras for shooting video and also discuss the key things you should look for when determining what camera is best for your video needs!
Before we get to the cameras, lets look at several points that videographers especially need to be aware of -
Lens motor ability
In the micro 4/3 world (mirrorless) lenses designed for video are labeled with the title MSC. What does that mean? Well first and foremost the performance of continuous focus is optimised…whoa, what's that mean in layman's terms? Firstly, a faster autofocus motor within the lens that can change the direction of its focus quickly. Secondly, the motors are typically much quieter. This is very important as it stops focus and zoom lens sounds from being picked up by any onboard microphones.
A huge plus of mirrorless cameras is the fairly large sensor, compound this with high quality, very fast lenses and you can get amazing, Hollywood quality focus depths easily and somewhat cheaply. You will be able to capture images where the background/foreground are soft and out of focus, bringing attention to the subject in focus.
Pretty much every camera on the market has a "built-in" microphone. These are usually pretty competent for holiday videos or filming the backyard football game, however anything more professional than that and they are completely out of their depth. As a videographer it is vital that your mirrorless purchase has both an external mic input and the ability to control audio levels (auto recording levels will bring you nothing but pain!). Some videographers use separate audio equipment, which is a great idea, but a lot of the time it is simpler and easier to have the video and audio recording all happening within the camera.
Manual Video Control
The most important thing for a videographer is to have precise control over their video recordings - the more control the better. If you stick to "auto" modes you may find your white balance and exposure all over the shop which will make for a very visually jarring edit indeed.
With these points in mind, here are 3 of the best mirrorless cameras for shooting video.
1. SONY A7s
Chief among this camera's features are 4K (that's right 4K!) video capture, making it a very worthy competitor to the Panasonic GH4 (listed below).
The A7 can capture uncompressed video at 4K - it does this by reading every last pixel on its full frame 12.2 megapixel sensor. The A7's processor then converts this to QFHD (Quad full HD is a format that offers 4x the resolution of 1080p) at 3840x2160 in either 24p or 30p.
The only downside with recording 4k on this camera is that it needs to be recorded to an external recorder plugged into the cameras HDMI port. This may be the deal breaker for some. It can however record full 1080p HD natively to the camera in the XAVC S format (Full HD recording at 50mbs).
This powerhouse mirrorless camera also has a number of other features directly suited to videographers including S-Log2 gamma setting. This is common in commercial, professional grade broadcast equipment. The gamma setting reproduces the entire tonal range captured by the camera's sensor and can be described as a "digital negative". It extends the dynamic range of the camera and allows greater latitude or room when color grading.
The Sony A7 also features audio in and out plus monitoring abilities.
All in all this is a gangbuster mirrorless video camera, however at the time of writing the price looks to be a whopping $4,189 USD (body only), though with the punch this camera packs it would definitely be worth it. At time of writing a release date has not yet been announced.
2. PANASONIC LUMIX GH4
Put simply, this camera is ahead of the curve. The Panasonic Lumix GH4 is the first compact camera to market to deliver 4K video, this has set the bar in more ways than one. And so it should, seeing as it follows the Panasonic GH3, widely regarded as one of the best compact cameras for shooting video. Lets have a look at what makes this camera such a good choice for videographers.
Well firstly, as mentioned before, there's the resolution. 4K res in UltraHD format at 30p, 25p or 24p. Also, the powerful processor that makes the 4K possible is housed in a weather sealed, sturdy magnesium body.
It also has excellent video monitoring including focus peaking and zebra patterns (excellent for noticing overexposed areas of your footage).
Unlike the Sony A7s, the Panasonic can record 4K natively to SD card within the camera, though this data rate is limited to 100Mbps. Also, unlike the Sony, it offers two 4k formats: 3840x2160 res at 30p/25p/24p or the widescreen cine format of 4096x2160 in 24p.
A blockbuster camera for video, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 is the market leader in compact mirrorless video. This little beauty retails for about $1698 USD (Body only).
3. BLACKMAGIC PRODUCTION CAMERA 4K
Blackmagic's latest offering, the Production 4K, started shipping earlier this year for a previously unheard of price point of $2,995 - an astounding figure for a camera of its class.
The Blackmagic captures UltraHD res of 3840x2160 on a Super 35 sensor in Prores 422 format, still believed to be the best codec compression for video.
As soon as you use this camera you will see that Blackmagic are definitely aspiring to become the Apple of the video camera market. Everything is meticulously designed including the camera interface.
This camera can record the full dynamic range from the camera sensor (just like RAW stills) which means there is so much more information in the image to play with in post production and color grading.
Another plus is the EF compatible lens mount which allows the Blackmagic to utilise the worlds best (albeit very expensive) lenses that are designed to take full advantage of the cameras Super 35 size sensor.
A downside of this camera is that it only allows for recording video up to a max of 60fps, which in this day and age is a little disappointing especially considering the iPhone will shoot 120fps.
This camera is aimed squarely at the professional film and broadcast market, more than that of the Sony or Panasonic which cater somewhat across the pro-sumer category. This being said, it packs a huge punch for the price and can easily sit alongside cameras such as the Canon 1D-C that retail for 2x the price!
So there you have it, 3 mirrorless cameras that are perfectly suited to shooting video.
All of them would prove to be very solid investments, and would definitely help to take your videos to the next level, it really depends on what you think is best for you and your videography needs!