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 2017!
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. Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7
Let’s begin this list with the most affordable camera, the Panasonic G7. This is the perfect entry camera for churches diving into shooting their own videos for the first time.
- 4K Video: This camera gives you the ability to shoot 4K right out of the box. 4K isn’t needed yet for delivery, but shooting in 4K allows you to punch in and out while editing and still keep your video in full 1080p HD.
- Affordable: The cheapest camera on this list. You can get a Panasonic G7 for about $599 and that includes a lens (Pro Tip: Don’t be afraid to shop used – you can always get a better deal this way).
- Colors: I’m personally not a huge fan of the color science in Panasonic cameras.
- Shallow Depth-of-Field: If you want to blur out the background of your videos, the Panasonic G7 will require additional lenses. The sensor of the camera is very small and that smaller the sensor, the harder it is to achieve a blurred out shallow depth-of-field. That’s not to say it cannot be done, it just can’t be done to the same extent as with other cameras and will require additional lenses.
Price: $599 (B&H)
2. Sony a6500
The Sony a6500 is the successor to the very popular Sony a6300. It’s a tremendous all-around camera with great specs at an affordable price point.
- 4K Video: Like the Panasonic G7, the Sony a6500 shoots 4K video, but instead of a 2x crop, the a6500 has a 1.5x crop.
- Autofocus: Perhaps the best feature of the Sony a6500, the a6500 boasts one of the best autofocus systems in the world. If autofocus is high on your list of priorities, this camera is a winner.
- 120fps: The a6500 can shoot at 120 frames per second in full 1080p HD. This enables you to capture super-slow motion.
- Built-In 5-Axis Stabilization: The a6500 has built-in 5-axis stabilization that works with any lens. Meaning, you can shoot handheld with this video and get away with it. This is a big improvement on the a6500’s predecessor the a6300 that had massive problems with rolling shutter.
- Price: The price of the a6500 is nearly double that of the Panasonic G7. This may be worth it if you really want super-slow motion and/or blazing fast autofocus capabilities, but for most, the price jump may not be worth it.
- No Lens: The Sony a6500 does not come with a kit lens like the Panasonic G7 does. Kit lenses aren’t great lenses by any means, but this an extra expense to consider when thinking about buying the a6500.
- E-mount: You’ll need an adapter if you want to use lenses besides Sony glass.
Price: $1399 (B&H)
3. Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5
The Panasonic GH5 is the best overall camera for churches – and it’s not particularly close. If you need an affordable camera that can do it all, this is the one for you.
- 10-Bit Codec: The Panasonic GH5 does something that no consumer camera that I know of has ever done before, it records 10-bit footage internally. The bit rate of your video footage is one of the most important contributors to overall quality. The higher the bit rate, the more information is captured. The more information that is captured, the better the video quality.
- 4K 60fps: Yes, the Panasonic GH5 captures 4K video. But not only does it capture 4K video at 24fps (regular motion), it also captures 4K video at 60fps (slow motion) all while still in 10-bit! This is a major breakthrough in consumer cameras. Props to Panasonic.
- New Sensor: The GH5 sensor is an improvement on the GH4 sensor. The sensor in the GH5 no longer requires crop mode to shoot in 4K. So instead of a 2.3x crop on the GH4, the GH5 will come with a standard micro-four thirds crop of 2x.
- 180fps: The GH5 can capture footage up to 180fps in 1080p HD. This is the highest frame rate available in any of the cameras on this list. The higher the frame rate, the slower the slow-motion.
- Sensor: The Panasonic GH5 is the best all-around camera on this list and it’s my first recommendation for churches. It’s a beast. It has very few weaknesses. The only weakness to be considered is the 2x crop of the micro-four thirds sensor. Similar to the Panasonic G7, this smaller sensor makes it more difficult to capture shallow depth-of-field. But this is a small gripe next to an amazing, and in many ways, groundbreaking camera.
Price: $1999 (B&H)
4. Sony Alpha a7S II
Much like Panasonic, 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.
- 1080/120fps: Beautiful slow motion (though not quite as slow as the GH5).
- 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). This means wider angle shots and shallower depths-of-field are possible with this camera.
- Low-Light Capacity: The a7S II, unlike every other camera on this list, can essentially see in the dark. It has some of most insane low-light capabilities of any camera in existence. If low-light is a priority to you, this camera is a winner.
- Price: The a7S II comes in at around $2998. A huge investment for many churches. Not the best bang for your buck either.
- E-mount: You’ll need an adapter if you want to use lenses besides Sony glass.
Price: $2998 (B&H)
5. 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 four cameras on this list were built not only with video in mind but also photography, the Blackmagic Ursa Mini was built entirely 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 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)
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 Panasonic G7. If you’re wanting the best image quality possible, saving up for the Blackmagic Ursa Mini 4.6K is your best bet. And if you’re looking for the best all-around camera for your church, I’d have to recommend the Panasonic GH5.
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 Ursa Mini 4.6K cameras.
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!