Production & Filmmaking
May 25, 2021

The Best Cinema Cameras for Filmmakers in 2021

By Josh Edwards 18 min read

Highlights

  • In this article, we take a look at the best cinema cameras available to filmmakers in 2021, broken down into different price categories of budget-friendly, middle ground and high-end
  • Take a glance at specs, as well as the pros and cons for each
  • We highlight some of the best things about each camera and why it may be the right one for you

When it comes to the cinema camera, there’s never been a better time to be a filmmaker than right now. In 2021, it’s pretty amazing what you can achieve with the gear available.

In a competitive, growing market, manufacturers have all been busy vying for our attention (and money) with the latest and greatest digital movie cameras. Prices have come down while quality has gone up. So, whether you’re looking for a budget cinema camera or can afford to splash the cash, there are plenty of incredible cine cameras out there that’ll satisfy all of your cinema camera needs. With so many options, it can be a little daunting when it comes to choosing the one that’s right for you!

Below, we’ve put together a list of the very best cinema cameras available for filmmakers in 2021. To make things even easier, we’ve broken the sections down into budget-friendly options, middle-ground film cameras and the all-out high-end options.

Budget-friendly options

Blackmagic pocket 6K Pro

source: https://www.blackmagicdesign.com/

Type

Mirrorless

Sensor

Super 35

Megapixels 

8.8 (Native 4K)

Lens mount

Canon EF

4K/6K frame rates

Up to 60/50fps

ISO Range

400 - 32,000

Memory cards

1x SD/SDHC/SDXC UHS-II, 1x CFast

 

Positives

Negatives

Excellent value for the specs

Quite large

ND filters built-in

No continuous AF, AE or IBIS

Instant access to Canon EF mount family

Tilt-only screen

Blackmagic have been busy making a name for themselves over the past few years with their line of amazing pocket cine cameras. When you look at the price tag, their new Blackmagic pocket camera 6K Pro is quite simply one of the best cinema cameras on the market right now - at least for budget options. It comes with a wide array of features and impressive specs that all culminate in a beautiful image. The small details such as the in-built ND filters let you know that this is a cine camera that’s been designed with filmmakers in mind. If you’re looking for the best film camera available to you on a budget, this Blackmagic cinema camera is it.

PS - you may want to read about the Blackmagic 7.3 update.

Sony FX3

source: https://electronics.sony.com/

Type

Mirrorless

Sensor

Full frame

Megapixels 

12.1

Lens mount

Sony FE

4K/6K frame rates

No 6K. 

4K at 120fps

ISO Range

80 - 102,400

Memory cards

2x SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS II)/CFexpress Type A

 

Positives

Negatives

Included handle is very useful

No physical viewfinder

120p at 4K is impressive

No in-built ND filter

Very small and portable

No internal LUT preview

The Sony FX3 is Sony’s latest release in their cine camera line. It looks to pack a real punch, taking many of the great features seen in the FX6 (more on that soon) and cramming them into a very small, durable little body. With the astonishing ability to shoot 120p 4K, one would worry about overheating but fear not! The active cooling system works wonders here. The film camera also comes with a handle, which proves very useful in getting some beautifully low, swooping shots, as well as extending the camera’s audio capabilities. This is a winner - certainly one of Sony’s best movie cameras. If you want to learn more about the FX3, our article covering the FX3 vs A7S III is well worth checking out.

Panasonic LUMIX GH5 

source: https://www.panasonic.com/

Type

Mirrorless

Sensor

CMOS

Megapixels 

20.3

Lens mount

MFT

4K/6K frame rates

No 6K.
4K at 60fps 4:2:0 8-bit

4K up to 30fps 4:2:2 10-bit

ISO Range

200 - 25,600

Memory cards

2x SD/SDHC/SDXC UHS-II

 

Positives

Negatives

Great build quality that makes it durable

Can fall short in low-light conditions

Near-perfect video specification

AF is not brilliant

Very well implemented IBIS

Some decrease in quality when shooting high frame rates (180p)

The Panasonic GH5 was originally released in 2017, so the fact that it’s still making this list in 2021 tells you everything you need to know. This cinema camera is a truly remarkable beast - a reliable workhorse that won’t ever let you down. Particularly attractive features include its durability, exquisite image quality and a fantastic IBIS system that enables you to shoot pretty much everything handheld. The LUMIX GH5 set the affordable digital movie camera benchmark for years and continues to hold its own as one of the best movie cameras around. Well worth the investment. 

There are plenty more options on the budget-friendly side of things. We’ve put together these articles on the best cameras for YouTubers, as well as the best mirrorless cameras for 2021.

Middle-ground film cameras

Canon EOS C300 Mark III

source: https://www.usa.canon.com/

Sensor

Super 35

Megapixels 

8.85

Lens mount

EF / PL

4K/6K frame rates

No 6K,

4K up to 120p

Display size

4.3 inches

Memory cards

CFexpress x 2, SDXC x 1

 

Positives

Negatives

Amazing dual pixel AF

New battery format may be frustrating for existing Canon EOS C300 Mark II owners

Dynamic range is second to none

When rigged up, it can feel tall

Canon Cinema RAW light profile included

Frame crop on anything over 60p

The Canon EOS C300 Mark II has been the go-to Canon cinema camera for many filmmakers over the past few years. This latest release, the Mark III, blows that out of the water. Boasting ‘dual gain output’ (basically dual native ISO), the image quality in low light is exceptional. There are 16 stops of dynamic range, along with the option to shoot in Canon’s ‘Cinema RAW light’ profile, which combine to make the image quality of this cine camera something truly beautiful. If you have the money to invest, this is one of Canon’s best film cameras out there right now.

Sony FX6

source: https://pro.sony/

Sensor

Full frame

Megapixels 

10.2

Lens mount

Sony FE

4K/6K frame rates

No 6K

10-bit 4:2:2 4K up to 120p 

Display size

3.5 inches

Memory cards

2x CFexpress Type A or SD/SDHC/SDXC card slots

 

Positives

Negatives

Advanced hybrid AF is brilliant

SD Cards are very expensive

Great value for the specs

No IBIS

10-bit 4:2:2 4K up to 120fps is impressive

No internal RAW recording

When it comes to the best value full-frame cine camera on the market right now, the Sony FX6 is very hard to beat. Taking the beautiful sensor of the A7SIII, the FX6 is a dream for filmmakers everywhere, boasting fantastic low-light performance, XLR audio options, built-in ND filters and the ability to shoot 10-bit 4:2:2 4K up to 120fps. With no overheating issues and long battery life, this thing is made for the job. Truly one of the best cine cameras out there.

Red Komodo

source: https://www.red.com/

Sensor

Super 35

Megapixels 

19.9

Lens mount

Canon RF

4K/6K frame rates

6K full frame at 40fps

4K at 60 fps

Display size

N/A

Memory cards

CFast 2.0

 

Positives

Negatives

Great battery life

Software and integrated app a little flakey

Beautiful image quality

Similar specs to some cameras that are much cheaper

Very small and portable

Lots of add-ons needed before it works

The ‘Red look’ has always been an iconic, awe-inspiring vision that every filmmaker lusts for. We associate it with big-budget films and high-quality documentary work. It’s the color, the contrast and the subtle qualities throughout the highlights and shadows. The Red Komodo is a beautiful cine camera that delivers this coveted image quality at a very affordable price point. The ability to shoot in 6K and Red’s brilliant Redcode RAW codec (including the advanced compression technology and means your file sizes remain small, despite the high-quality images) all make for one of the best film cameras available in the mid-price market.

High-end pricey options

Blackmagic Ursa Mini 12K

source: https://www.blackmagicdesign.com/

Sensor

Super 35

Megapixels 

79.6

Lens mount

PL, or options EF / F

4K/6K frame rates

It shoots up to 12K!

Display size

4 inches

Memory cards

2x CFast 2.0 slots, 2 x SD UHS-II slots 

 

Positives

Negatives

It shoots up to 12K!!

Limited to only recording in Blackmagic RAW

Built to last with real durability

AF is poor

Extraordinary image quality

Super 35 is not full frame

Blackmagic really pulled out all the stops for this one. The Ursa Mini 12K is a cinema camera that’s caused quite a stir, and rightfully so. While the debate over whether we actually need 12K footage continues, there’s no doubt that this particular cine camera provides some of the most extraordinary image quality out there right now, especially when shooting 8K and 4K. Quite simply, they’ve set a new benchmark here. While your bank account may be displeased, this is one of the best cinema cameras you can buy, no doubt.

Sony PXW-FX9 XDCAM Full-Frame Camera System, Cranberry

source: https://pro.sony/

Sensor

Full frame

Megapixels 

20.5

Lens mount

Sony E

4K/6K frame rates

No 6K

4K up to 60fps

4K up to 120fps (external)

Display size

3.5 inches

Memory cards

2 x XQD slots, 1x SD data slot

 

Positives

Negatives

Relatively good price point

SD cards can be pricey

Advanced hybrid AF is very welcome

No 6K is disappointing

Dual native ISO sensor gives amazing low-light performance

No internal RAW recording

The guys at Sony know how to make a great digital movie camera, don’t they? The FX9 comes with all the professional controls associated with the best cine cameras, including your XLR audio and large battery life, before going even further by adding a beautiful full-frame sensor as well as hybrid AF (borrowed from the popular Alpha mirrorless series). It’s really a beautiful thing to behold. Given all of these features (wait until you see the colors and low-light performance), it’s quite remarkable that this high-end performer sits at the price it does. This is one of the best movie cameras available on the market right now.

ARRI Alexa Mini

source: https://www.arri.com/

Sensor

35mm ALEV III CMOS

Megapixels 

7.5

Lens mount

PL / EF

4K/6K frame rates

No 6K

4K up to 60fps

Display size

N/A

Memory cards

CFast 2.0

 

Positives

Negatives

Compact and lightweight

The price is eye-watering

Interchangeable lens mounts are great

No high frame rates

Very versatile

Can become bulky with all accessories

Given the price tag of the ARRI Alexa Mini, you’d be universally backed by every filmmaker in expecting this to be one of the best cinema cameras available. The good news: it is. The bad news: it still costs somewhere north of $40,000USD. Interestingly, by ARRI’s standards at least (the gold standard for TV and film production), this isn’t actually too pricey compared to their other models. The ARRI Alexa Mini is a fantastic high-end cinema camera option for anyone with the appropriate budget. It’s compact and lightweight and has proven very versatile over the years. With so many rigging options, you can use this camera body as the foundation for building your perfect digital movie camera. We doubt you’ll be disappointed.

Final thoughts

So, that’s our guide to the best cinema cameras available on the market right now.

As we said at the beginning of this article, it’s a fascinating time to be a filmmaker right now. Prices continue to come down while quality increases. There are now so many brilliant film cameras out there, covering a wide range of price points from the budget-friendly options that allow amateurs and budding professionals to take their first steps into the industry, all the way to the high-end mind-blowing gear that’s used at the pinnacle of Hollywood. The only thing that’s certain right now is that the industry will continue to experiment, develop and evolve, producing ever-better cinema cameras. We can’t wait.

Cine cameras not for you? There are still plenty of great digital movie camera options out there. We’ve written up this useful guide covering mirrorless or DSLR cameras, as well as an in-depth look at the best DSLRs for 2021.

 

About Josh

Josh Edwards is an accomplished filmmaker, industry writing veteran, storyteller based in Indonesia (by way of the UK) and industry writer in the Blade Ronner Media Writing Collective. He's passionate about travel and documents adventures and stories through his films.

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