The best mirrorless cameras and DSLRs dominate the video production scene thanks to their impressive image quality and relative affordability. Though these little cameras still look like photo-only tools, they have become increasingly capable video cameras with some big advantages.
At the end of this article, we’ll go over some of the special considerations unique to this form factor. But first, here are the best DSLR and mirrorless cameras across several use cases.
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Best all-around camera
Panasonic LUMIX S5IIX
- Cinematic video features and performance
- Dual native ISO
- SSD recording
- Internal ProRes capture
- RAW output via HDMI
- No tally light
- Articulated screen twists into HDMI cable path
Sporting a 24.2 MP full-frame CMOS sensor, the Panasonic LUMIX S5IIX is a great mirrorless camera in all aspects. It’s the first in the LUMIX line to boast Phase Hybrid AF, which delivers fast, accurate autofocusing performance across 779 phase-detection points. Its new sensor design, coupled with an enhanced processor, allows the camera to record up to 6K video for 30 minutes and unlimited 4K video recording. The S5IIX also offers an innovative Active I.S. system optimized for video, supporting walking shots for advanced image stabilization.
The S5IIX camera is no less exceptional when it comes to video features, loaded with HDMI RAW video data output, USB-SSD recording, ALL-Intra recording and ProRes recording. For livestreaming, it offers Wireless IP streaming, USB tethering to smartphones and Wired IP streaming. Featuring an all-black design, the camera body houses sensor-shift stabilization technology and supports a high-resolution mode to generate 96 MP RAW or JPEG files from eight separate exposures. For videographers needing to capture high-resolution slow-motion video, the S5IIX supports 120p video capture, with RAW HDMI output possible via an optional license upgrade. All these features combined position the Panasonic LUMIX S5IIX as an exceptional tool for both stills and video.
Budget all-around camera
- Has a headphone and mic jack
- Can shoot up to 120 frames per second in HD
- Overheats in some situations
- No electronic viewfinder
With a 24.2 megapixel APS-C Exmor CMOS sensor, it can record up to UHD 4K at 30 frames per second and in Full HD at 120 frames per second. With 425-Point Fast Hybrid autofocus, it offers Real-Time Eye autofocus and tracking, so you’re sure your subject’s in focus.
The ZV-E10 has a headphone and a microphone port. Having both is not typical for cameras under $1,000. With them, you can use an external microphone and listen to what you are capturing. This will greatly improve your ability to get clean and clear audio. Lastly, it offers a fully-articulating rear monitor, making it great for vloggers. Sony a6400 offers the most bang for your buck.
Best camera for online video
Canon EOS R8
- Has both a mic and headphone jack
- Full-frame sensor
- Has a single media slot
- Offers only digital image stabilization
The Canon EOS R8 captures tons of detail with rich, vibrant colors, thanks to its. It’s capable of capturing 4K footage at 60 frames per second in 10-bit internally with Canon Log 3. And whether you’re using its 2.36 million-dot OLED electronic viewfinder or its 3.0-inch 1.62 million-dot vari-angle touchscreen, you’re guaranteed a clear view while shooting. With the industry-leading Dual Pixel CMOS AF II system, the R8 offers quick and accurate autofocus. Its Vertical Movie Mode is also incredibly useful for shooting content for TikTok or Instagram.
Also, the R8 has both a microphone input and a headphone output, allowing you to easily capture and monitor audio. So, if you need a camera to shoot video for online, the Canon R8 is a clear winner.
Budget option for online video
Canon EOS R50
- Dual Pixel CMOS AF II system
- Vertical aspect markers
- Has a single media card slot
- Doesn’t have a headphone jack
The Canon EOS R50 features a 24.2 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor that can record up to UHD 4K at 30 frames per second. It also features a fast and accurate autofocus system.
For those wishing to shoot in full auto mode, the R50 offers Advanced A+ Assist. With it, the camera analyzes the scene and automatically sets the optimum settings. This makes full auto images easier to capture with better outcomes. Additionally, you can use the camera as a webcam. All you need is a USB cable. The camera plugs directly into your computer. So, if you need an affordable camera for online video, you can’t go wrong with the Canon EOS R50.
Best hybrid photo/video camera
Canon EOS R6 Mark II
- Five-axis sensor-shift stabilization
- 10-bit 4:2:2 H.265 UHD 4K internal capture
- Dual Pixel CMOS AF II
- Micro HDMI output
The Canon EOS R6 Mark II is a great camera for videographers who also shoot photos. It features a 24.2-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor and a DIGIC X Image Processor. It also has an ISO range of 100-102400. And, while Canon isn’t necessarily known for its low-light performance, the R6 Mark II’s low-light performance is impressive, introducing no noise until ISO 12,800.
Its RAW burst mode and pre-shooting capture up to 30 frames per second. Additionally, the R6 Mark II can oversample 6K to 4K at up to 60 fps. Plus, it features in-body image stabilization with up to eight stops of shake correction with Coordinated Control IS.
So, if you’re looking for a hybrid camera, the Canon R6 Mark II is a great option.
Budget option hybrid photo/video camera
Nikon Z 30
- Can shoot up to 120 fps in HD
- Livestreaming via USB
- Has the same lens mount as the full-frame mirrorless Nikon cameras
- Single media slot
- No headphone jack
- 28-minute record limit in some resolutions and frame rates
The Nikon Z 30 features a 24.2 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor that can record up to UHD 4K at 30 frames per second. It also features a fast and accurate autofocus system.
For those wishing to shoot in full auto mode, the R50 offers Advanced A+ Assist. With it, the camera analyzes the scene and automatically sets the optimum settings. This makes full auto images easier to capture with better outcomes. Additionally, you can use the camera as a webcam. All you need is a USB cable. The camera plugs directly into your computer.
If you want a great camera but want to save some money, the Nikon Z 30 is a great option.
Most cinematic camera
Panasonic LUMIX GH6
- Internal ProRes 422 HQ capture
- In-body, sensor-shift, five-axis image stabilization
- 4K 120 fps
- Dual Base ISO
- Two different types of media slots
The Panasonic LUMIX GH6 mirrorless camera features a 25.2-MP Live MOS Micro Four Thirds sensor. This is a small sensor, so buying quality lenses is more affordable. However, its small sensor doesn’t compromise the resolution. This camera can internally capture 4K at 60 frames per second in 4:2:2 10-bit. Or, if you want to shoot wide, you can shoot up to 5.7K and crop later. For cinematic slow motion, the camera can capture up to 60 frames per second in 5.7K, 4K in 120 frames per second and HD high frame rate mode at 300 frames per second.
Because H.265 is hard to decode, so for a smoother edit, the GH6 enables a ProRes workflow with the ability to capture in ProRes 422 HQ internally. Also, you can get even more dynamic range using either V-Log or Dynamic Range Boost.
The GH6 features dual I.S. 2, offering 7.5-stop five-axis sensor stabilization. So capturing stable shots aren’t an issue. Plus, the camera’s 3.68-million-dot electronic viewfinder and 3-inch 1.84-million-dot free-angle touchscreen help you see all the details in your shot. And it’s got dual card slots with two different types of media, CFexpress Type B and SD UHS-II, allowing for media flexibility.
Best run-and-gun camera
Sony a7S III
- Low light performance
- Face-detect AF
- Larger weight and size
- Auto exposure in high-speed video
The Sony a7S III is a full-frame mirrorless camera that can capture internally up to 10-bit 4:2:2 UHD 4K video in 120 frames per second. All that for $3500, one might ask, what other features you might want or need?
Special considerations for DSLR & mirrorless cameras
As with any type of camera, choosing the right DSLR or mirrorless camera means weighing a number of different factors against your budget and intended use. You can get an overview of the important tech specs to consider before any camera purchase in our article on How to buy a camera. However, there are a couple of considerations that are unique to this particular form factor.
DSLR or mirrorless camera?
One of the major differences between mirrorless and DSLR cameras is size. A DSLR has a mirror in front of the image sensor, allowing the user to look into an optical viewfinder and through the lens. When the shutter is released to take a still picture, the mirror drops, momentarily exposing the image sensor. When shooting video, the mirror remains down, and the video can be seen on the LCD screen in the same way as on a mirrorless camera.
Because of the mirror mechanism, DSLRs tend to be larger and heavier than mirrorless cameras. DSLRs, at their smallest, weigh around a pound and a half and can fit in a small bag. In contrast, mirrorless cameras can weigh as little as half a pound and can be pocket-sized with a small lens. If you’re shooting on a tripod or a shoulder rig, the difference in size can be insignificant.
If you’re shooting on a tripod or a shoulder rig, the difference in size can be insignificant.
Another common difference is in monitoring options. Some mirrorless cameras lack viewfinders, instead relying on rear display panels; those that have them necessarily use electronic viewfinders, or EVFs, which have a reputation for making it difficult to see detail. Fortunately, many come with the advantage of being able to digitally zoom from within the EVF for focus assist. When a DSLR is in video mode, the optical viewfinder is disabled, and the video is viewable on the LCD screen making it function much like a mirrorless camera.
When buying an interchangeable-lens camera, lens mount is also important — especially if you already have a collection of glass in your kit. This is typically tied to the sensor size. The larger the sensor, the larger the glass in the lens needs to be because the lens needs to be able to cover the whole sensor with light. That’s why a full-frame lens can work with an adapter on a smaller sensor, but a small sensor lens will not work on a full-frame camera regardless of the adapter; it won’t cast enough light to cover the whole sensor. If you already have a substantial lens collection, consider lens-mount compatibility before you have to put your old lenses on Craigslist.
DSLRs have the broadest selection of lenses, from macro lenses to super-telephoto to fully manual cinema lenses. You can find a lens for almost any application to fit your DSLR’s mount. While the selection of lenses for mirrorless cameras is limited, the lenses are smaller and lighter than comparable DSLR lenses. You can often find adapters for mounting DSLR lenses on mirrorless cameras, but these adapters vary in quality, and some lens functions such as autofocus and iris control (aperture control) may not work.
What’s your style?
Do you need a camera that’s super compact and lightweight? If so, then a small, mirrorless camera might be right for you. Do you want an affordable camera with a huge variety of lenses and accessories? In that case, a larger DSLR might be the solution you’re looking for.
Many of the newer models of mirrorless and DSLR cameras share similar features, making the difference between these two types of cameras minimal. Besides the mirror, the biggest difference is weight and size. On a tripod, that doesn’t mean much. With the camera handheld, a little more weight and a larger body can make the camera easier to keep steady.
Above all, focus on the features that are important to you. Think about what you’ll be shooting and the environment you’ll be working in. Finding a camera that has the right features for the types of shoots you do is the first step in selecting the best gear for your productions.