The video camera market is out of control.
New cameras with new features are released every month. And if you’re looking to buy a camera it can be intimidating. It’s a big investment, and what if you buy the wrong one? How do you know your church is making the right decision?
Well I am here to dispel any fears or hesitations you may have.
How it’s going to work
Here’s how this list of comparisons will work: Cameras will be compared based on strengths, weaknesses, and price. I’ll also add a couple of my own personal notes along the way.
NOTE: These camera recommendations are made with the following applications in mind: storytelling, video announcements, baptism videos, testimonies, sermon trailers, skits, narrative, welcome videos etc. If you are hoping to record your services or live stream your services, check out this resource instead.
1. Canon T5i/T6i
The reason I suggest two different models is because Canon didn’t care to upgrade any of the video features in the new T6i.
That’s right! The T5i costs $300 more than its predecessor and doesn’t offer any new worthwhile video functions.
- Colors: Canon’s color science is legendary. Skintones appear lifelike. Colors pop!
- Affordable: The cheapest camera on this list. You can get a T5i for about $599 (Pro Tip: Don’t be afraid to shop used – you can always get a better deal this way).
- Still Photos: The T5i/T6i is primarily meant for photography, so you can do both with one camera.
- Soft images: Videos aren’t very sharp. Compared to the other cameras on this list, you won’t get as much detail with the T5i/T6i. It can’t shoot 4K which is quickly becoming standard on other brands of cameras.
- Recording Limit: You can record only between 22-30 minutes of consecutive HD footage. This is downside for many churches that want to film longer videos like announcements, interviews, etc.
Price: $599-$999 (Amazon)
The Panasonic GH4 is the absolute BEST all-around camera currently available for churches.
It can shoot beautiful slow-motion, 4K resolution, and photos as well!
- 1080p/96fps: These numbers mean that the GH4 can shoot at 96 frames per second in full 1080p high definition. This means you can have full-resolution slow motion! Most consumer cameras still can’t do this, and this is one of most enticing features of the GH4.
- Resolution and detail: The amount of detail in GH4 4K videos is about 4 times as great as the T5i/T6i. This means your video will appear sharper and you’ll be able to see more details.
- Overall quality: The GH4 is simply a more robust, capable video camera than the T5i/T6i. But, of course, it is also more expensive.
- Price: The price of the GH4 isn’t outrageous by any means. But at $1399 this price tag could be a bit steep for churches diving into video for the first time.
- Colors: Canon is notorious for producing great colors in their images. Panasonic’s colors, on the other hand, leave something to be desired. They just don’t pop in the same way.
Price: $1399 (B&H)
Sony is producing some of the most exciting cameras in the world right now.
The A7Sii is capable of shooting 120fps slow motion and internal 4K. It’s has a full frame sensor which means you’ll be able to capture an ultra shallow depth of field with the right lenses. And that’s just the beginning of the spec list.
This is crazy!
The Sony A7Sii also has internal stabilization. This means it will automatically stabilize your footage to minimize shake and jitters.
- 1080/120fps: Beautiful slow motion (even slower than the GH4).
- Full-frame: The A7Sii sensor is full frame which means there is no crop factor (if you don’t know what crop factor is click here).
- Still Photos: The Mark III also shoots tremendous photographs, making it a legitimate dual-threat camera.
- 4K: More detail and more sharpness in every shot.
- Price: The A7Sii comes in at around $2998. A huge investment for many churches.
- E-mount: You’ll need an adapter if you want to use lenses besides Sony glass.
Price: $2998 (B&H)
Our list concludes with my favourite video camera – the Blackmagic Ursa Mini.
This is the only camera on this list that is a pure cinema camera. All the others are primarily built for photography.
This camera will outperform every other camera on this list when it comes to image quality. If you care most about the beauty of the image coming out of the camera – this is the camera for you.
- Image Quality: 4.6K global shutter sensor with 15 stop of dynamic range (unheard of at this price point).
- Colors: Apple ProRes 444 codec for ultimate flexibility in post-production.
- Audio: Dual built-in XLR inputs for professional level sound quality directly into the camera.
- Compact Handheld Design: Let’s be clear: this camera is not compact compared to the other cameras on this list. But compared to other cameras with similar specs to the Ursa Mini this is a very reasonable form factor.
- Cost: When you look at the price of this cameras, you’ll know this is meant for serious cinematographers. Especially considering that when you buy needed accessories you’ll likely push your budget close to $10K.
- Batteries: The Ursa Mini requires power from V-mount batteries. These are expensive and heavy.
- CFast Cards: Unlike the other cameras on this list that record footage to SD cards, the Ursa Mini stores footage on CFast cards. These cards are expensive.
- File Size: When you’re recording footage of this quality, the file sizes are gigantic. If you want to work with video of this magnitude, you’ll need a powerful computer and plenty of free space.
Price: $4995 (B&H)
The needs of your church are different from mine. So instead of making a definitive statement about the one camera you should buy, I present four options.
Each camera has strengths and weaknesses that your church should carefully consider before purchasing.
But instead of having to choose from hundreds of different cameras, I’ve narrowed it down to four. If you’re looking for the most affordable option, you’ll want to pick up a Canon T5i/T6i. If you’re wanting the best image quality possible, saving up for the Blackmagic Ursa Mini is your best bet. And if you’re looking for something in between, either the Panasonic GH4 or Sony A7Sii will do the trick.
If you’re interested in what I use, I shot for two years on a Canon T3i (an earlier iteration of the T6i). I then upgrade to a Panasonic GH4 and shot with that for another two years. At the beginning of 2016 I picked up a Sony A7Sii and a Canon C100 Mark II. Finally, at the time of this writing I’ve pre-ordered the Blackmagic Ursa Mini 4.6K and I’m waiting for it to shop.
Now it’s your turn to make the decision!
What camera do you think would best fit your church? Let me know in the comments below!