The global craving for professional cameras is on overdrive.
In the age of social media–Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.–everyone wants to share images and videos that elicit the most reaction.
The desire to stand out has been fueled by YouTube’s paid videos, which call for quality images and video.
It’s only professional cameras that come with the top range features and capabilities of taking photos and videos that stand out.
Besides, they’re made with some consideration for durability and future compatibility.
However, professional cameras don’t come cheap. Their assembly of the best tools and features in one gadget justifies the cost.
So what do we mean when we talk about cheap video cameras for professionals? You’re about to find out.
Best Cheap Video Cameras for Professionals
Professional cameras come with unrivaled video recording capabilities.
Although the market is flooded with fantastic video recording gadgets like smartphones and drones, the professional camera has retained the top spot as the ultimate video recording machine.
These gadgets have above-average shutter speeds, ISO, pro-grade lens, optimal aperture controls, 100% coverage viewfinder, white balance settings, built-in microphone, exposure compensation, and a flash sync speed of beyond 1/250.
Besides, most professional cameras are weather-sealed and have rugged bodies, in many cases, made of metal materials like stainless steel or magnesium.
Of course, a professional camera should pack customization options. Such help you adjust the camera to match your preferences.
Additionally, it should have fast drive modes and autofocus for swift but precise capture of priceless moments.
Ultimately, experts design professional cameras with room for future compatibility and expandability.
These outstanding features hike the prices of professional cameras—some beyond reach for the ordinary person.
Nonetheless, the market is flooded with affordable gadgets with a slice of some of the features that make up a professional camera.
Essentially, a fully-fledged professional camera should cost thousands of dollars.
Anything between $2000 and $5000 is mid-range. Highly professional cameras should cost upwards of $5000.
However, you can still get a professional camera with a budget of less than $2000.
Let us take you through the best cheap video cameras for professionals in the market today.
The Sony FDR AX53 is a low-priced professional camera with amazing performance.
It features a 26.9mm ZEISS lens capable of 30x sharp image zoom and 20x optical zoom, all in the 4K resolution.
Its CMOS image sensor is just outstanding and is responsible for its outstanding clarity. The sensitivity is dynamic and works perfectly well in dimly lit situations.
Ultimately with an impressive 120fps, you can perfectly record activities happening fast.
- Pro-grade autofocus: The camera’s autofocus is swift and conveniently detects contrast
- Zoom function: It has both clear image zoom and optical zoom. It’s capable of up to 30x clear image and 20x optical zoom.
- Image stabilization: You say goodbye to blurred images with the A53 optical steady shot stabilization. Luckily, the stabilization works the same in all zoom ranges, and the resolution isn’t lost despite all the shaking and vibration.
- Intelligent and precise AF: The Sony Handycam FDR-AX53 has intelligent autofocus that perfectly and automatically wraps around the subject to produce significantly accurate and sharp images and videos.
- Can capture distant objects due to its excellent zoom capabilities
- Less prone to image blurring due to its excellent optical image stabilization
- Supports Wi-Fi, USB, and HDMI connectivity technologies
- Captures videos in high resolution ( 4K ultra-HD )
- Swift and continuous video recording at 120fps
- Its colored EVF produces bright and clear images
- No design changes from its predecessor, the AX33
- The smartphone app has some bugs hindering connectivity
The Panasonic HC-V770 is an affordable professional video camera that excels in cutting-edge technology, although it’s easy to use.
It boasts a 4-drive lens system capable of high resolution, and top-quality videos.
However, the two most significant settings are its High Dynamic Range (HDR) movie mode and the powerful zoom.
The HDR makes its footage cling to your eyes due to its precise details and clarity.
Furthermore, with the powerful zoom, you can pull close striking scenes from a distance but still be able to take clear images.
- 20X Optical zoom: This capability draws close to a distant scene and captures it with outstanding clarity.
- HDR Movie feature: The HC-V770 has a high picture dynamic range where the image shadows (darkest scenes) are highly contrasted with the brightest scenes. Thus, the camera is capable of amazingly clear videos. This technology makes the videos clearer and crispier because the highlights (bright scenes) are amplified, but the shadows are blocked. The feature is predominantly for video recording.
- Twin camera feature: You can wirelessly connect the Panasonic HC-V770 to your smartphone’s camera. The extra external camera helps bring out the floating window video effect—picture in picture.
- BSI Sensor: This camera can shoot in a dimly lit environment, thanks to the 1/2.3” BSI with a 6.03 M effective pixels sensor that suppresses all the noise.
- Remote shooting/view: The HC-V770 connects to smartphones via the “Panasonic Image App.” With the app, you can control the camera from a distance. Furthermore, the Wi-Fi function (supporting IEEE 802.11b/g/n) allows you to remotely do some activities like baby monitoring and real-time broadcasting.
- Image stabilization: Average consumer cameras produce blurred images when you accidentally shake the camera. Luckily, the Panasonic HC-V770 overcomes this through the 5-axis hybrid Optical Image Stabilization (OIS). On The other hand, the V770 is comfortable for the palm, and shaky circumstances are minimized.
- Back-illuminated sensor: The sensor has a back illumination crowded with an effective pixel of 6.03M and contributes greatly to the recording of clear videos.
- Fast image processing
- Its top-performance BSI optical sensor produces high-quality images
- Takes clear and stable images due to the 5-axis Hybrid Optical Image Stabilization
- Capable of fast image capture at a speed of 60fps
- Records high-quality videos with a 1080p resolution
- Connects to mobile devices via Wi-Fi connectivity technology
- With 20x optical zoom, it can accurately capture distant scenes
- Low videotape quality
- The best resolution it can offer is 1080p
- The touchscreen is not made with the best materials
I can comfortably label that the Sony Handycam HDR-CX405 is the best HD camera for less than $500.
It has a top-performance Exmor R CMOS sensor that boosts the camera’s sensitivity for fantastic photography and videography in low light.
The bright LCD makes the camera convenient because you can customize the settings quickly and thus create realistic films.
Furthermore, it can take fleeting images due to its bursting frame rate—60fps—without losing the quality of the videos.
You can’t talk about the Handycam DDR-CX405 and fail to mention its face detection technology.
It automatically detects faces and optimizes the exposure and focus for the perfect shots.
Ultimately, you’ll be able to take steady and super clear images with this gadget due to its optical image stabilization system.
Thus, you can hold it in your hand and film without worry because the feature saves you from blurs when you accidentally shake the camera.
- Creation of highlight video: The camera can create a highlight video from multiple clips in the MP4 format.
- Optical Image Stabilization: You can enjoy moving around while filming since the optical steady shot feature protects your footage from blurry images due to accidental shakes.
- 30x Optical and 60x clear image zoom: Sony Handycam HDR-CX405 lets you get closer to the action with these fantastic zoom ranges.
- Built-in USB cable: The cable helps in easy file transfer and charging the camera’s battery.
- Face detection feature: This feature is vital as it ensures that the camera recognizes human faces in a photography scene. In most cases, human beings are the main targets of photography, and blurring their faces may not be a good thing. The HDR-CX405 prioritizes the faces closest to the center of the frame instead of those far from the center and computes the optimum focus and exposure.
- LCD Display: You can operate the cameras conveniently from the 230K 2.7” clear Photo Plus LCD.
- Highly sensitive Exmor R CMOS sensor produces high-quality images
- Has zoom capabilities of capturing a distant target (30x optical zoom)
- Swift image processing
- Detailed and clear capture of human faces due to its face detection technology
- Overcomes the challenge of blurred images through its optical image stabilization
- Swift image capture speed of 60fps
- Captures videos in high resolution (1080p)
- Can capture a wide scene due to its wide-angle lens(26.8mm)
- The lens cover is manual
- Doesn’t support an external microphone
The Panasonic Lumix GH5 is an affordable professional video camera. It’s popular for its modern mirrorless form factor.
Its swift performance revolves around its speedy sensor —the Digital Live CMOS sensor (20.3MP).
It’s complemented by the robust Venus Engine processor that has significantly reduced the processing time of its predecessor.
Besides, it’s capable of the impressive 4k video recording with stunning cinematic effects.
The gadget has a stable ISO range and can thus perform well in low-light areas.
For stable videos and minimized image blue, the designers of the gadget fitted it with the 5-axis image stabilization feature to keep the images clear during handheld shooting.
Ultimately the OLED (0.76X) viewfinder provides a vision perfectly identical to the scene and thus gives a good glimpse for perfect shooting.
- High-performance sensor: It has a powerful 20.3 MP micro four-thirds sensor. Since it has a low-pass filter and a high dynamic range, it can capture sharp images.
- Freeze and splash-proof design: The Lumix GH5 is made up of tough magnesium alloy that can withstand freezing up to -10 degrees and it allows heavy usage in the field. Furthermore, its weather-sealed on every button, dial, and joint such that liquid splashes and dust cannot penetrate into the camera.
- 5-axis image stabilization: The GH5 has a dual image stabilization that optimizes all lenses such that any shaking of the lens during filming doesn’t affect the quality of the images—eliminating image blurs.
- 4K video capture: This camera smoothly records 4K 60p by 50p footage. Besides, it can take 6K and 4K photos up to 60fps.
- Ports and connectivity: It connects to devices running on USB 3.0, an external recorder via HDMI (full size), a 3.5mm audio port, and two twin SD card slots.
- Can record top-quality footage with the 4K ultra HD resolution
- The OLED (0.76X) viewfinder produces clear and bright images
- It has a freeze and splash-proof design
- Records at a high resolution and thus better images
- Capable of continuous shooting at a high speed of 12fps
- Fast image processing due to the powerful Venus Engine
- The robust DFD Autofocus system accurately focuses on a moving target
- Sharp and stable images due to the 5-Axis Image stabilization feature
- Raw videotape recording isn’t possible with the GH5
- The videotape autofocus can lose focus at 24fps
Besides its suitability for budget-strapped videographers, the Canon VIXIA HF G50 4K is popular for its advanced video resolution—the 4k ultra-HD 30p.
Its lifelike video effects, autofocus, and face detection augment the top-quality recording capability to give the camera a professional status.
The Canon G50 has the SuperRange image stabilization feature and can shoot non-distorted recordings even when held with an unsteady hand.
With the active stabilization mode on, it’s possible to record steady images across at whichever zoom range and also across a vast range of motion.
The camera tilts are corrected by the 5-axis stabilization system.
- HDMI output: You can use the Canon G50 as a high-quality webcam by using its HDMI output.
- Intelligent 5-axis image stabilization: The Canon G50 features a super range optical image stabilizer that swiftly corrects camera shakes.
- 8-bladed circular aperture: This helps minimize the “starburst” typical of camcorder cameras with non-circular apertures. It circularly blurs the points of light in the background of your images resulting in beautiful photos with an original and artistic feel.
- Tiltable EVF: The VIXIA HF-G50 has a 0.24” electronic viewfinder that can be tilted to a maximum of 45 degrees from its normal position and gives you shooting freedom.
- 4k Ultra HD 30P recording: This camera can record high-definition 4k videos with amazing image quality due to a combination of the top-performance CMOS sensor and DIGIC DV 6 image processor.
- The top-notch CMOS sensor(large format) produces high-quality images
- Fast image capture speed of 60 fps
- Has 20x optical zoom for pulling close and capturing distant targets
- Can capture a wide area due to its wide angle of view(29.3mm)
- The camera can connect to external displays via HDMI
- Less prone to image blurring due to its 5-axis Image stabilization
- Can record in high resolutions (4K Ultra HD and 1080p)
- The camera has no Wi-Fi connectivity
The Panasonic Lumix ZS100 is an excellent and affordable 4K video camera with a powerful 1” MOS sensor, Hybrid OIS, and 10x LEICA DC lens(25-250 mm) for top-quality, and colorful images.
Notably, the pro-sensor is accurate and helps capture attention-grabbing images in challenging scenes.
With a high-tech processor, it can shoot at a continuous speed of 30fps and perfectly capture fast-moving and unstable scenes with little effort.
Furthermore, it can comfortably handle 4K footage.
On the other hand, the highly sensitive sensor creates high-resolution videos whose quality is enhanced by the optical stabilization feature.
- Multiple white balance settings: In simple layman’s language, white balance refers to how cool or warm the colors in your photo look.
A good professional camera should be able to reproduce the colors in the photography scene—accurate compensation for extremely cool or warm colors.
To keep the camera settings optimal for various photography scenes, the LUMIX ZS100 has several presets that prevent the camera from getting confused and making the colors too cold or too warm.
The available presets for different scenes are Auto, White fluorescent light, Daylight, Flash use, and Cloudy.
- Very clear EVF and LCD display: The EVF is not only at eye level but has a high resolution (1166k-dot). At 1040K dots the 3” LCD display has a great resolution. Both are clear even in the glare of bright sunlight.
- 4K video capture: The Lumix ZS100 can record 4K full HD (3840*2160). Besides, it’s capable of taking 4K photos. Interestingly, with the internal focus stacking, you can set your preferred focus points even after the photos have been shot.
- Connection via Wi-Fi and USB Charging: Besides Wi-Fi connectivity to smartphones and tablets, the camera has a USB charging feature. Also, apart from the wireless connectivity to your mobile devices, the cameras have micro-HDMI type D(3) ports and a USB 2.0 micro-B that offer extra connection options.
- Continuous shooting speed of 30fps
- 4K video recording
- Top performance image processor(Venus Engine)
- Bright and clear LCD ( 1040K-dot)
- High sensitivity MOS sensor (20.1MP)
- Eyelevel electronic viewfinder
- Image stabilization feature
- Multiple white balance settings
- Wide angles produce soft edges
- The electronic viewfinder (EVF) is relatively small
Choosing a Professional Camera: What to Keep In Mind
The following are the factors to consider when choosing a professional camera to buy:
Ease of use
An excellent professional camera should comfortably fit into your palms.
A camera that’s uncomfortable to your hands may slip out of your grip and get damaged.
Furthermore, its controls should be easy to use.
Moreover, the settings shouldn’t be ambiguous but easy to adjust using convenient buttons and switches.
A camera whose only way of adjusting necessary settings is through a menu may inconvenience you when changing a setting.
Ultimately you’ll need to ask yourself whether you’ll need to fit external accessories like a microphone or light and whether the camera has a shoe for that purpose.
When you get serious about videography and photography, you may need to perform manual controls like sound levels, white balance, and exposure.
If the camera you bought only supports automatic controls, then it may keep you from perfection.
Performance of the Lens
You should consider the wide-angle of the camera (how far can the lens zoom out) and the telephoto capabilities (how far it can zoom in)when buying a camera.
The latter lets you get close to scenes that are meters away and capture them accurately.
In contrast, the former helps you get the broadest possible view, although the image is smaller and farther away.
The 35mm equivalent—multiplying the lens focal length by 1.5—is the best way to make a comparison.
A camera with a 35mm equivalent of 25mm or less is the best, although anything under 30mm is still good.
Suppose the zoom range is not very big, in that case, you should find out whether the manufacturer makes adaptors—telephoto or wide-angle—to fit in front of the lens.
And, compensate for the incapacitation.
Cheap cameras provide too little zoom, (like 5x), or too much zoom (anything above 25x).
A bigger zoom capability may not always give good results since telephoto lenses are not easy to use even with good image stabilization and, in most cases, give poor-quality images.
Essentially, digital zoom degrades the video quality. Optical zoom is the best.
Ultimately it’s important to consider the widest aperture of the camera.
It’s an opening that controls the level of image brightness that’s allowed through the lenses to the image sensor.
Cameras with apertures as low as f/1.7 or f/2 can allow more light and could thus be used in dark conditions.
Quality cameras have an aperture of f2 or lower and a maximum focal length of 39mm.
Shorter focal lengths are important for wide viewing angles such that more of the scene appears in the photo frame.
If you need a professional camera that can be connected to pro-microphones, then go for one with 3-pin XLR inputs.
Besides, cameras with headphone sockets help you listen to the sound while recording the video.
It’s important to decide whether you’ll need an inbuilt microphone, an external microphone, or even both.
This is a camera feature that makes images less shaky and blurred.
When you’re shooting handheld, your arm is prone to shaking and thus interrupting the capture process.
The best professional camera like the Panasonic GH5, combine optical stabilization (OIS) and in-body image stabilization(IBIS)
Larger sensors are better, but only to a certain point. The bigger sensors, especially in mirrorless cameras, perform well in low light.
However, small sensor cameras give a bigger depth of field, which is vital for events and news shooters.
The Camera’s Recording Format
Choosing a professional camera whose recording format is compatible with your editing program is crucial.
The most common recording formats are MPEG-2, MPEG-4, and AVCHD.MPEG-2. M-PEG-2 is an older recording format that requires minimal compression compared to the others.
On the other hand, MPEG-4 is the best format for web uploads, whereas AVCHD is a modification of MPEG-4 usually used in Blu-ray discs.
Some professional cameras record high quality (10-bit and 4:2:2), but heavy videos consume your storage but are easier to edit.
Furthermore, filming in 4K UHD is great because the footage still looks great even when downsized to 1080p, and editing is simpler.
Ultimately if you’re working for a broadcaster, it’s important to first find out the broadcaster’s format requirements before filming.
Features To Ignore When Looking For a Good Professional Camera
Some features make little sense when looking for an excellent professional camera. Such are:
The best time to add special effects to a piece of footage is only during editing.
A camera with special effects may not be so helpful in recording impressive footage.
Something like 200x digital zoom looks excellent on paper.
Unfortunately, in most cameras, it’s just a way of enlarging the middle of an image and making the quality even worse.
It’s unlike the “digital teleconverter” feature on some mirrorless cameras capable of enlarging images but preserving the quality.
The megapixel index gives you an idea of how many light-capturing pixels (in millions) a sensor has.
Although a higher megapixel index is ideal for big prints, they don’t enhance the video quality.
Unbelievably, 4k Ultra HD is only 8MP, and Full High Definition video is only 2MP.
A small sensor with more megapixels means that the camera performs worse in poorly lit areas.
Do Professionals Use DSLR or Mirrorless?
Professional photographers and videographers are split on opinion as to which is better—DSLR or mirrorless.
Although some still use DSLRs, many renowned photographers like Trey Ratcliff (travel photographer) have switched to mirrorless cameras.
DSLR cameras have longer battery life and interchangeable lenses and are better at low-light shooting.
However, mirrorless cameras offer better video quality (even cheaper models) and are lighter and portable.
The mirrorless camera ditches the traditional mirror system and all its related parts.
This makes the camera system less delicate and less complicated.
Besides, it makes the camera more compact and light. They are also less prone to shaking.
Mirrorless cameras are the more modern and, in my opinion, are the future of professional cameras.
Are DSLRs being phased out?
Due to the advancement in mirrorless camera technology, DSLRs are slowly being phased out.
For instance, Canon’s CEO, Fujio Mitarai, recently stated that their next SLR camera will be the last and that they’ll consider whether it’s feasible to make new consumer-level DSLR cameras.
In the long term, they intend to focus on mirrorless cameras.
Sony has also taken a bold step by slowly replacing its DSLR lineup with mirrorless cameras.
Nikon is also strengthening its grip on the new Z format mirrorless camera.
Choosing the best cheap video camera for professionals is not a mean task. It even gets arduous if you want the camera for more than just casual use.
Despite the challenge, you can never go wrong with the reviewed cheap cameras for professionals.
Though they differ in one or two aspects, you won’t miss a good one that fits your meager budget.
If you’re still confused about the camera to go for, it’s essential to go back to the section: “What to look for when choosing a professional camera.”
It’ll help you identify the vital features of professional cameras.