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. I present to you the best 5 video cameras for your church in 2016!
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.
NOTE II: This list is not in any order. Each of the five cameras serves different purposes and comes in at a different price point.
1. Canon EOS Rebel SL1
Let’s begin this list with the most affordable camera, the Canon EOS Rebel SL1. This is the perfect entry camera for churches diving into shooting their own videos for the first time.
- Colors: Canon’s color science is highly regarded. Skintones appear lifelike. Colors pop.
- Affordable: The cheapest camera on this list. You can get a SL1 for about $399 (Pro Tip: Don’t be afraid to shop used – you can always get a better deal this way).
- Still Photos: The SL1 is primarily built 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 SL1. It can’t shoot 4K which is quickly becoming standard on other brands of cameras.
- Recording Limit: You can record only between 30 minutes of consecutive footage. This is downside for many churches that want to film longer videos like announcements, interviews, etc.
Price: $399 (B&H)
2. Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4
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 capture full-resolution slow motion. Most consumer cameras 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 detail.
- 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)
3. Sony Alpha a7S II
Sony is producing some of the most exciting cameras in the world right now.
The a7S II 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.
The Sony a7S II 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 a7S II 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 a7S II also shoots tremendous photographs, making it a legitimate dual-threat camera.
- 4K: More detail and more sharpness in every shot.
- Price: The a7S II 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)
4. Blackmagic Ursa Mini 4.6K
Our list continues with my favourite current video camera – the Blackmagic Ursa Mini. This camera is a pure cinema camera. While the previous three cameras on this list were built with photography in mind as their primary feature, the Blackmagic Ursa Mini was built for cinema.
Most importantly, this camera will outperform every other camera on this list when it comes to image quality and spec list. 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 stops 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)
5. Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera
If you were at all enticed by the Blackmagic Ursa mini (camera #4 on this list), but the price was a deal-breaker, you may want to consider the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera. Much like the Ursa Mini, the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera was built for cinematography rather than photography. The BMPCC offers an image quality similar to the Ursa Mini, but in a much smaller (and significantly more affordable) package.
Also of note, this camera’s image quality will outperform every other camera on this list – aside from the Blackmagic Ursa Mini.
- Image Quality: Captures 1080p footage with 13 stops of dynamic range
- Colors: Apple ProRes 422 codec (or CinemaDNG RAW if you’re feeling especially ambitious) for ultimate flexibility in post-production.
- Cost: This camera is one of the most inexpensive on this list while still being a true cinema camera.
- Compact Handheld Design: This camera is tiny. Essentially the size of an iPhone before adding a lens or any accessories.
- Versatility: While the BMPCC can capture beautiful, cinematic 1080p footage – that’s about all it can do. You can’t shoot slow motion with this camera. No 4K either.
- Battery Life: The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera batteries are notorious for being abysmal. Each battery will only give you about 30 minutes of shoot time. We solved this by problem by purchasing an external battery solution.
- Sensor: The BMPCC camera comes equipped with a Super 16 sensor. This means that your field of view will be zoomed in 2.88x compared to a full frame camera like the Sony a7S II (camera #3 on this list). One way we mitigated this was by purchasing a Metabones Speed Booster adapter. This effectively reduces the crop from 2.88x to 1.75x – much more manageable.
Price: $995 (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 five 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 five. If you’re looking for the most affordable option, you’ll want to pick up a Canon EOS Rebel SL1. 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, Sony A7Sii, or Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera will do the trick.
If you’re interested in what I use, when I first began shooting video I shot for two years on a Canon T3i (cousin of the Canon EOS Rebel SL1 with nearly identical video specs). I then upgraded to a Panasonic GH4 and shot with that for another two years. At the beginning of 2016 I picked up a Sony A7Sii. Currently, I shoot with a pair of Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Cameras on a weekly basis. And finally, in the summer of 2016 I purchased a Blackmagic Ursa Mini 4.6K.
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!