When should you upgrade to a professional video camera?

In today’s age, almost every device you get includes a camera. Anyone with a smartphone is carrying a video camera in their pockets. However, while most people already have access to some kind of camera, some wonder if they should upgrade to a professional video camera.

While the professional camera market is projecting a decline in the coming years, there will always be a demand for professional cameras. While smartphone cameras have improved over the years, they still don’t match the power, quality and control that pro cameras offer. Many people start shooting videos on their phones because of their accessibility. And, this teaches them about the basics of filmmaking. However, there is a point where those passionate about video will want more. When is that tipping point? Let’s discuss that.

When should you switch from shooting video on your phone to a professional video camera?

The tipping point is different for everyone. Some people’s tipping point is right around the time they start shooting video. They know they’re super serious about building a video career and want the best gear they can get. For some, it takes a while. They start shooting vacation highlights, realize they enjoy making videos, begin making longer family videos and eventually upgrade to a dedicated camera to up the quality of their videos. What it comes down to it, the when and why is different for everyone.

Why is a dedicated camera better than a smartphone camera?

Low light

Smartphones typically struggle in low light settings. Their sensors aren’t effective at picking up what little light is available. They’re too small to capture the light. Professional video cameras have larger camera sensors, allowing them to absorb much more light than a smartphone can.

professional video camera shooting sunset
Dedicated cameras handle low light setting much better than smartphone cameras


Video clips take a lot of storage capacity and smartphones have a much smaller capacity than a dedicated camera. On any shoot that requires a few decent length video clips, you’re going to fill your phone’s storage fast. It is possible to expand the storage of some phones, but professional cameras are designed specifically to capture longer video clips on to memory cards. This setup allows you swap out cards in the middle of a shoot, letting you record more with less hassle.

Macro / Micro shooting

Something that you don’t get with smartphones is the ability to swap out lenses. Smartphone cameras have a fixed focal length lens or set of lenses. Essentially, that means they can’t be zoomed in or out without getting pixelation or using third-party accessories. With professional cameras, you switch out lenses with different focal lengths. That means you can take fine, extreme close up shots with macro lenses or you can shoot with a telephoto lens that lets you record the action from a distance.

How do you know if you’re ready for a dedicated camera?

Take a look at your current skill level

One of the great things about smartphones is they’re very accessible for beginners to learn the basics of filmmaking. When you upgrade to a dedicated camera, you have access to many more settings and options than you would have on a smartphone. Smartphones do a few things, and they do them well. Professional video cameras do many things and do them with great quality if users can use them properly.

If you’re thinking about upgrading, you have to know how to use the camera you’re going to get — or at least be prepared to learn. Remember, a dedicated camera is a tool, not a magic wand. It won’t magically make your videos look better. You have to have the skills to use it, skills that you can learn by practicing with your smartphone and by doing research into how to operate more advanced cameras.

If you feel your phone video camera is limiting your creativity, think about upgrading

While smartphone cameras can make great looking videos, they’re still limited on what kind of anesthetics they can create. If you have visions for your videos that you’re just not getting with your smartphone, it might be time to get a dedicated camera. When you upgrade to a dedicated camera, you will have so many more settings you can use to make your videos much closer to what you’re imagining. For instance, with an interchangeable lens camera, you will be able to get different lenses with different focal lengths. With smartphones, you’re usually stuck with the same lens and a pretty basic focal length.

Person shooting sunset with camera
If you desire more than what your able to shoot on you smartphone, it’s time to upgrade

If you want to make videos that are more than the standard home videos, then look into getting a dedicated camera.

Review your video production goals

For many, using a smartphone to film is good enough — and they’re not wrong to think that. If you’re using your camera to film a vacation trip or family video, you likely don’t need to get an expensive professional video camera. Even if you’re a professional vlogger uploading to YouTube, using your phone to film your videos is just fine. It’s when you start getting into client work, weddings, product shoots and film, that’s when the camera you’re using starts to become more important.

Deciding to upgrade to a dedicated camera is a huge step for every videographer. It is the moment you decide that you’re serious about making a good video. Owning a dedicated camera doesn’t determine if someone is a videographer. However, it is a statement that you’re striving to hone your craft beyond what the general public can shoot on their phones.

Sean Berry
Sean Berry
Sean Berry is Videomaker's managing editor.

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