The camcorder used to be the king when it came to video recording, but the times are changing, and they’re changing fast. DSLR cameras are rapidly becoming the preferred method for shooting film among professionals and amateurs both, and they and their mirrorless younger sibling are starting to give the established norms a run for their money.
But that doesn’t mean that every DSLR camera is right for video. Many of these cameras are still built for stills first and foremost, and that means that you have to be more careful in evaluating a DSLR camera for video than you might when buying a camcorder. That’s why we’ve put together this list. We’ve compiled some of the best DSLRs for video along with a helpful guide for narrowing down your options.
- The Best DSLR Cameras for Video
- 1. Canon EOS 6D Mark II Camera
- 2. Nikon D850 FX-Format Digital SLR Camera
- 3. Canon EOS Rebel T7 EF-S 18-55mm IS II Kit
- 4. Nikon D3500 W/ AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm
- 5. Sony A77II Digital SLR Camera
- 6. Canon Rebel SL3 with 18-55mm Lens
- 7. Nikon D7500 DX-Format Digital SLR Body
- 8. Canon EOS-1DX Mark II DSLR Camera
- 9. Nikon D500 DX-Format Digital SLR
- 10. Canon EOS 80D DSLR Camera
- 11. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Full Frame
- Best DSLRs for Video Buyer’s Guide
The Best DSLR Cameras for Video
1. Canon EOS 6D Mark II Camera
The EOS 6D Mark II is Canon's flagship mid-range DSLR video shooter, and while it doesn't include 4K resolution, it can shoot Full HD at a steady and crisp 60 frames per second. This is also the first full frame camera from Canon to offer five-axis digital stabilization for DSLR video. That means that you can keep a great sense of balance even if you're out in the wild and under trying conditions.
The real upgrade from earlier models (and a point that puts it among the front of video DSLR cameras in its price range) is the quality of the touch screen. The fully articulating screen allows you a lot more flexibility than you'd find with earlier models, and that simplifies the process of trying to capture tricky shots. The connectivity options are equally impressive, offering NFC, Bluetooth, and GPS tracking.
2. Nikon D850 FX-Format Digital SLR Camera
The D850 is quite possibly the best video camera that Nikon has ever produced, but it's not for the faint of heart. Professionals will find a lot to love here. Its ability to capture 4K footage from the full sensor is phenomenal, and it also offers 1080p at up to 120 frames per second. Just keep in mind that this isn't an accessible camera. Pro photographers can do a lot with this camera, but newbies may find themselves a bit lost.
The feature set here is strong. Focus peaking offers a selection of four different colors and three options for intensity, and it provides helpful warnings for setting exposure. And in a rarity for dual stills/video cameras, you can establish separate settings for both. The autofocus is strong but has a pretty steep learning curve. All in all, it's an impressive camera that requires some getting used to.
3. Canon EOS Rebel T7 EF-S 18-55mm IS II Kit
Is the simplicity of the interface on this Canon EOS camera truly rebellious? That's hard to say, but creating a mid-range camera that's this accessible to new photographers is a fairly original move. The Rebel is a great beginner DSLR for video that sacrifices a few higher end features for the sake of affordable pricing and accessibility but performs admirably well. The most obvious absence is 4K, but the FHD offered runs at a decent 30 fps, and the color consistency is quite good.
But the real benefits of this entry level DSLR for video come from its rich feature set. There's a fully automatic mode, but users can slowly ease into manual settings as they get their bearings. The dedicated Video Snapshot mode lets you string together shorter videos. Then there are simple touches like the fact that it saves files in .MOV format for easy editing.
4. Nikon D3500 W/ AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm
The EOS Rebel is undoubtedly one of the best entry level DSLRs for video on the market, but the Nikon D3500 can give it a serious run for its money. This affordable DSLR for video similarly doesn't shoot in 4K, but the FHD is an improvement on its EOS counterpart, offering between 50 and 60 frames per second. But for the sake of that, it sacrifices Wi-Fi for a more basic Bluetooth connection. Whether or not that's a fair trade will likely come down to whether or not you use your camera primarily for vlogging.
In addition to offering a traditional auto mode, this budget DSLR for video also comes with a beginner friendly "guide mode" which essentially serves as a menu driven tutorial on the fundamentals of shooting. A live viewer further simplifies the process of shooting great video, and the zoom capabilities are especially strong for the price.
5. Sony A77II Digital SLR Camera
Sony's a77 ii is their more modestly priced counterpart to the professional grade a99, and for people who are more interested in video than they are in still photography, it's probably the preferable choice. For a significant drop in price you get the same megapixel count with just a slightly smaller sensor, and most of the other features are standard across the board. This is another camera that doesn't quite hit the 4K benchmark, but it records Full HD video at a nice clip of 60 frames per second.
This camera for video comes with all the basic features you could expect. The Wi-Fi allows you to easily transfer your videos online and also shoot remotely from your phone. It will be a comfortable choice for anyone who's familiar with Sony cameras, but if you're a new photographer, you may find the density of menus a bit overwhelming at first.
6. Canon Rebel SL3 with 18-55mm Lens
In need of a camera for filmmaking on a budget? The Rebel SL3 is a cheap DSLR for video, but that doesn't mean that Canon has been stingy with the quality. The compact size, combined with the compact budget, makes it an appropriate choice for hungry vloggers who need a camera for YouTube videos, and that's complemented by the presence of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for quick video uploads. Less confident users will also love the superb autofocus that can keep your subject framed even while you're learning the ropes.
As is the pattern with cameras in this price range, you shouldn't expect to shoot 4K video with this camera, but the 60 fps FHD speeds are the gold standard. Digital stabilization is also built in, but it comes at the cost of being able to shoot in full screen mode. The battery offers a respectably long life as well.
7. Nikon D7500 DX-Format Digital SLR Body
The D7500 is a camera built for speed. If you find yourself regularly shooting off the cuff and out in the wild, this is a DSLR for video and photography that can admirably meet your needs. Not only that, it manages to shoot 4K in video despite costing only a little over a thousand dollars. Note that 4K footage requires a 1.5 crop and a frame rate half that of the 60 fps you'll get from shooting in FHD.
Getting the sort of accurate video you're looking for is easy too. The touchscreen is a touchscreen, and it's articulated in a way that you can shoot from all sorts of interesting angles without going in blind. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are both included, and they're further accentuated by compatibility with Nikon's SnapBridge app. Full stereo sound ensures that you won't need to invest in new microphones to pick up sound.
8. Canon EOS-1DX Mark II DSLR Camera
If you want a truly professional DSLR for video, the EOS-1DX Mark II is the top of the line. Just be aware that you can be expected to drop five grand for the privilege. It's going to be too much camera for most hobbyists, but true pros looking to shoot movies can get a lot of mileage out of this baby. This DSLR for filmmaking offers 4K shooting with no compromises. That's especially impressive given that this is a full frame DSLR for video, and it can reach frame rates of 60 fps consistently.
It's a sturdy camera as well. The magnesium alloy frame is waterproof, and the needs of shooting 4K video at those speeds ensures that it needs a pretty hefty stability system. That means it's a pretty hefty model as well, but Canon has employed a smarty ergonomic design that makes maneuvering it pretty simply.
9. Nikon D500 DX-Format Digital SLR
On the surface, the Nikon D500 is incredibly similar to the D7500. They're both Nikon-made professional video cameras that put a focus on quick shooting in a variety of environments. There's a reason for that. The D7500 is a mid-level variation on the high-end D500. If you like what the D7500 offers but find that it's not quite enough to meet your needs, consider taking a step up. It strips out the need to crop your images when shooting in 4K and offers a respectable 30 frames per second.
That's accommodated largely by the truly impressive vibration reduction built in to this camera, and it also supports great time lapse footage in 4K resolution. This DSLR with flip screen offers a great range of movement too. If you want to capture a video, you can probably manage to do so without having to abandon the LCD screen.
10. Canon EOS 80D DSLR Camera
Enthusiasts that don't need the training wheels of an entry level DSLR but also don't have the experience or the finances to justify a professional grade model should check out the Canon EOS 80D. It's one of the best hobbyist level cameras on the market today, and its video capabilities are especially worth investigating. The 45 point autofocus system can provide some added assistance to videographers not quite ready to make the leap to full manual tracking.
As is largely the standard in this range, the EOS 80D offers Full HD resolution at rates of 60 fps. The stereo microphone is also especially strong, but an HDMI port allows you to swap it out for an ancillary device if you're so inclined. Video capture is a simple process, but the features here are a bit limited. The focus is less on complex functions and more on solid all around performance.
11. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Full Frame
The EOS 5D might not be as expensive as Canon's top shelf EOS-1DX, but it's still undoubtedly a luxury camera. If you're a pro, you won't find a lot of better options. If you're a novice, just come in expecting a learning curve. The imaging sensor stuffs an impressive 30 megapixels into its surface area, and the autofocus system is one of the best you'll find anywhere. But Canon has taken a lot of care to ensure that the video in particular is top notch on this model.
The EOS 5D can shoot 4K resolution at 30 frames per second, FHD at 60 fps, and HD 720p at 120 fps. A number of cool features are included. The Face Tracking functionality is an especially useful option for video users. While there's a built-in mic, a 3.5 mm jack for an external option is also included.
Best DSLRs for Video Buyer’s Guide
Understanding the Specs
Having a list of specs doesn’t mean much if you don’t understand what they mean. Some are fairly self explanatory, but here’s what you need to know about the more technical specifications.
Resolution and Megapixels
Megapixels determine the amount of pixels that make up the detail of a picture. So do resolutions like 4K and FHD. So what are the difference? It’s pretty simple. The former determines the detail of still photos, while the latter affects video quality. If you’re simply looking for the best videos you can possibly shoot, then you don’t even need to worry about megapixels. But by doing so, you’ll be missing out on half of the camera’s utility.
So what is the difference really between 4K and FHD resolution? Magnitudes. 4K resolution packs four times as many pixels into the surface of the screen than FHD. If your viewers have the TVs to display 4K (and increasingly more consumers do), a camera that can shoot in 4K will look dramatically better. Whether that’s better enough to justify the steep rise in pricing from FHD to 4K is another matter entirely.
Sensors and ISO
A camera’s sensor is like its eyes. When the aperture opens or closes, it spills light onto the sensor which then translates into the image that’s printed digitally. The size of the camera sensor ultimately determines the size of photos you can produce and can determine the native size of film. Full frame cameras are the most coveted but also the most expensive option because they capture everything in your viewfinder without having to crop. Far more common are more compact APS-C sensors which can vary some in size but are always smaller than full frame alternatives.
Related to the sensor is the ISO level. This determines how much light spills into the sensor and thus can have a major effect on the quality of your video or photo. Lower ISO levels let in less light, and as a result, they tend to have less noise and more vivid colors. That means that you ideally want to use the lowest ISO level possible in any given situation.
But a higher maximum range for ISO is generally considered a good thing. That’s because the higher the max ISO is, the better the camera can perform in low light levels. If you find yourself regularly shooting video at night or in situations that can’t be controlled, having a broader range of ISO levels available to you should definitely be a priority.
Frames Per Second
Frames per second refers to exactly what it sounds like. It determines how many images are shot over the course of a second. When shooting film, this determines how smooth the movement is. 60 frames per second is the ideal that most videographers look for, but that can be hard to achieve in 4K for most cameras. 30 fps is respectable but not ideal.
FPS is also used when referring to the burst mode for a camera. Most commonly used by nature photographers and those trying to capture action sequences, burst mode allows you to capture a number of photos with a single click. A high rate of speed for burst mode is a good feature to have, but it will be a much bigger deal for photographers than for videographers.
Camcorders vs DSLR for Video
There was a time when camcorders where camcorders were the inarguable standard for anyone who wanted to shoot video in a meaningful way, and it wasn’t that long ago. As little as five years ago, video was seen as an extraneous feature for DSLR cameras: a nice addition to have but nothing that could meet the needs of a professional. But the feature gap has been closing quickly in the past few years, and DSLRs are becoming a serious contender. While there’s no one definitive winner, there are some significant disadvantages to shooting with a DSLR along with a couple of big advantages.
Camcorders are designed out of the box to shoot video traditionally, and that means they win in a few important areas. They’re typically more comfortable to hold for extended periods of time, and they’re built for extended shooting. Camcorders can run for hours, while DSLR cameras can often only shoot clips up to a half hour or less in length. They also tend to perform better in extreme light conditions and have better microphones built in.
The obvious advantage of DSLRs is that they’re versatile enough to work with both stills and video, but they also sport much larger sensors than camcorders do. This allows them to perform much better in lower light settings and to create a better depth of field when shooting. The result is richer picture in a variety of different environments. They also offer a lot more customization due to the wide range of lenses supported.
The volume of advantages to camcorders may make them seem like the de facto winner, but the simple fact is that many of these issues can be overcome. Longer uninterrupted shots don’t mean much in an age when most videographers are going to be editing together footage anyway, and the difficulties that come from shooting audio and shooting in bright lighting can be mostly mitigated through an investment in a boom mic and filters. DSLRs are rapidly becoming easier to hold as video cameras, and the problem can be further remedied by making use of tripods.
Ultimately there’s no clear winner, but DSLRs are increasingly finding usage among serious videographers. If you want to be able to shoot both stills and video, a DSLR is hands down the better alternative. But even if you’re not, you should give a DSLR video camera some serious consideration.
Mirrorless vs DSLR for Video
DSLR has been not just the primary but the only reliable source for professional photographers for years, but the rise of mirrorless cameras has happened rapidly. While early versions of mirrorless cameras couldn’t keep up with the years of research that went into perfecting DSLRs, the gap has since closed pretty significantly. Mirrorless and DSLRs are both used widely for both video and photos, and there are distinct strengths and weaknesses to both types of cameras. So are you better off with a mirrorless or DSLR for video? Let’s find out.
The principle distinction between a mirrorless and a DSLR camera is, perhaps obviously, the fact that one of them comes with a mirror and the other doesn’t. As a result, mirrorless cameras tend to be significantly more lightweight than their DSLR counterparts, and the need to not include such expensive equipment also means that they generally cost less for roughly the same features and specs. They also sport comparatively smaller frames, making them simpler to handle all around. Perhaps most damningly, mirrorless cameras tend to offer better pound for pound video performance due to their superior autofocus and phase detection.
But that doesn’t mean that DSLRs are out of the fight yet. In terms of volume, mirrorless cameras flat out have more positive qualities than DSLRs, but their older siblings have a few tricks up their sleeve. The extended battery life of DSLRs makes them easier to take with you on long shoots, while DSLRs are often more feature rich than their mirrorless counterparts. But the big game changer here is lens compatibility. Both mirrorless and DSLR cameras accept interchangeable lenses, but the catalogs available to DSLRs are significantly more lengthy than what you’ll find for mirrorless cameras.
The case of mirrorless camera vs DSLR isn’t exactly clear cut, but the latter tend to be better for more experienced videographers and the former for hobbyists and amateurs. The advantage of autofocus and phase detection aren’t a big deal for a veteran who’s going to do most of the focusing in manual mode anyway, and the other issues can largely be mitigated with the right planning and equipment. The sheer number of lenses available to DSLR users is a breaking point that’s hard to avoid, whereas the advantages that mirrorless cameras offer often fade to the sidelines once you’ve passed the initial learning curve of a DSLR. If you’re interested in looking at alternatives, check out our guide to the best mirrorless cameras.
Whether you’re an enthusiastic amateur or a seasoned pro, you don’t want to invest in a DSLR camera for video without performing your due diligence. A good DSLR for video is going to cost you at least a hundred bucks and can easily climb into the thousands. Examine our list carefully, consider what your specific needs are, and prioritize the features that are right for you before pulling the trigger on your purchase.If you liked our article on dslrs for video, please share and comment below what your favorite product is.