With DSLRs, the question of whether they are good enough to make amazing videos is no longer valid. DSLRs have proven beyond doubt that they are capable of video production tools. The question to ask is: Which is the best DSLR for video shooting?
Thanks to improved technology, it is now possible to shoot in-camera 4K/UHD footages, the new standard for video production, with DSLR cameras.
In addition, DSLRs let you mount external noise canceling mics, essential to shoot excellent quality audio on a tight budget.
Also, the ability to use variable frame rates to accommodate different shooting scenarios and broadcasting parameters (PAL in Asia and Europe and NTSC in the Americas and Japan) is essential.
Some DSLRs come with superior live-view auto-focusing, a feature perfect for shooting videos.
To Keep in mind when choosing the best DSLR for video production:
- Auto ISO and
- Zebra Highlights.
They are the ideal exposure assistants when shooting in difficult lighting situations.
So let’s get started and take a look at the best DSLRs for video shooting in 2020…
✔ The Best DSLRs for Video Making
- Our Picks: the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
- Nikon D850
- Canon EOS-1D X Mark II
- Nikon D500
- Nikon D7500
- Canon EOS 6D Mark II
- Budget Pick: Canon EOS 80D
1. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV (Our Pick)
The Canon EOS 5D is the latest in the 5D series and is one of the best DSLRs for video shooting in 2020.
It is built around a 30.4 megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor. The 5D series has always been looked at with great interest by amateur cinematographers. These cameras always had great video features.
The 5D Mark IV uses the DCI standard (4096 x 2160) for shooting videos clips, a standard that is slightly wider than the standard UHD (3840 x 2160) aspect ratio. These days with widescreen TVs and computer monitors fast becoming the standard and the dividing line between film and digital fast blurring out, a widescreen aspect ratio would be welcome. The EOS 5D Mark IV shoots 4K at 23.98, 24 and 29.97 fps.
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Crop Factor (1.64x) of the Full Frame Sensor
The thing that we don’t like, however, is that the 5D Mark IV uses a crop of the full-frame sensor. That means the frame is 1.64x cropped (and the lenses will have a resulting extension of the effective focal length).
Bear in mind, that DCI 4K is available only for Motion JPEG videos (this means you will have issues when recording for longer lengths of time). The camera will only record for a limited time, and additionally, the reliability of the recording process will depend on the speed of the recording media.
You would be able to output clean (uncompressed) video footages out of the 5D Mark IV. However that would be limited to only full HD resolution. That’s a shame. If someone is genuinely interested in video shooting s/he would prefer the DCI 4K format and the capability to get a clean output of 4K footages could do wonders for the final production value.
Dual Pixel CMOS Technology
EOS 5D Mark IV uses Canon’s dual pixel CMOS auto-focusing technology. This technology was first implemented on the EOS 70D. Since then it has gone from strength to strength. Dual-pixel CMOS auto-focusing is geared for video shooting (as well as for live-view stills). This technology matches with the auto-focusing motor of the new STM lenses, and the final result is a smooth focusing performance which is ideal for video work.
Additionally, the 3.2″ rear LCD touchscreen (resolution of 1,620,000) allows all of the major video features to be accessed right from this screen.
- New 30.4 Megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor for versatile shooting in nearly any light, with ISO range 100-32000; expandable up...
- 4K Motion JPEG video (DCI cinema-type 4096 x 2160) at 30p or 24p; in- camera still frame grab of 4K 8.8-Megapixel images;...
- Superb Dual Pixel CMOS AF for responsive and smooth AF during video or live view shooting; LCD monitor has full touch-screen...
- Excellent performance - up to 7.0 fps continuous shooting speed with high-performance DIGIC 6+ Image Processor for improved...
- Use the EOS Utility Webcam Beta Software (Mac and Windows) to turn your Canon camera into a high-quality webcam, or do the...
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2. Nikon D850
The Nikon D850 is to the Nikon lineup what the EOS 5D Mark IV is to the Canon. The Nikon D850 is an excellent camera in every sense. It is built around a 45.7 megapixel BSI CMOS sensor, Nikon’s first foray into BSI sensors. The feature that we are concerned about, however, is video shooting. The D850 shoots 4K/UHD in camera. You have two choices to shoot with. You can either use the full sensor width or use a DX crop.
A DX crop of the sensor efficiently extends the ‘effective’ focal length of the lenses you use. Alternatively, which most cinematographers will prefer is use the full-frame mode. That means the lens you use gives you the exact field of view that you come to expect.
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Several frame rates are possible, so regardless of the country and the format that you are shooting for, you have all possibilities covered. The available frame rates are 30, 25 and 24.
Motion JPEG and MOV Formats
The advantage that the D850 has over the 5D Mark IV is that the Nikon gives you the option to record your footages in both Motion JPEG and MOV formats. The 5D Mark IV, as we just read, gives you only the bulky Motion JPEG option.
To match rival Canon’s dual pixel CMOS auto-focusing system, the Nikon uses a multi-CAM 20K 153 point AF system that has been borrowed from the current flagship Nikon D5.
An important feature on the D850 is focus peaking. Focus peaking is a manual focusing assist. It highlights the areas that the lens focuses on at any point as you turn the focusing ring. This feature allows for precise manual focus control when shooting videos.
The D850 has a 3.2″ 2.36 million dot LCD touchscreen that tilts up and down to assist shooting from acute angles. But ideally, I would have preferred a more flip out/vari-angle design which would have given a bit more flexibility.
- 4K Ultra HD video recording, slow motion up to 120 FPS at 1080p to an internal XQD/SD card or 30/25/24p uncompressed to...
- Broadcast-caliber audio control right in the camera & included microphones lets you capture the clearest audio for the most...
- Nikon's innovative EXPEED 5 image processing for flawless detail retention and beautiful noise-free images from ISO 64 to ISO...
- 45.7MP back-side illuminated (BSI) FX-format full-frame CMOS image sensor with no Optical Low Pass Filter delivers stunning...
- Focus Peaking, 8K Time-Lapse (via Interval Timer) and Flat Picture Profile let you add a professional touch to your content
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3. Canon EOS-1D X Mark II
The current flagship full-frame DSLR in the Canon stable, the Canon EOS-1D X, is a state of the art DSLR camera built around a 20.2 megapixel full-frame sensor.
The EOS-1D X Mark II is capable of shooting DCI 4K at a frame rate of 60 and at a resolution of 4096 x 2160 pixels.
4K Videos not at Full Frame, HD @ Full Frame – The full sensor is not read out when making 4K videos. It uses only a crop of the entire sensor. Interestingly, however, when shooting full HD it uses the full sensor width. Therefore, oversampling for full HD videos. But the fact that it does not use the whole sensor for 4K means the angle of view of any wide angle lens that you use will become smaller.
Dual Pixel CMOS Auto Focusing
The strong point of the new flagship camera is, however, the dual pixel CMOS auto-focusing mechanism (first of its kind on a Canon).
The auto-focusing mechanism on the EOS-1D X Mark II is powered by a 61-point system.
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I must add a few lines regarding the FlexiZone auto-focusing mode.
Auto Focusing Mode
This mode gives you better control over the auto-focusing when shooting videos. It allows you to limit the focusing area. Therefore the camera restricts it’s focusing on a specific area of the frame, which speeds up the whole process, plus prevents focus hunting across the frame.
Additionally, the focusing sensitivity can be adjusted in 10 steps which is in tandem with the movie-servo AF feature. Thus, if you have a reasonably stable distance for the entire length of the footage, you can minimize the focusing sensitivity. On the other hand, if you have a subject that is moving erratically, you can increase the sensitivity.
4k in Motion JPEG Format
However, just like the 5D Mark IV that we discussed above, the EOS-1D X Mark II records 4K in motion JPEG format only. This, as already has been explained above, is a space consuming format. It is excellent for pulling stills (as a matter of fact you can pull 8-megapixel stills from the videos) but is not great for extended video recording or storage. Unless of course, you have a high-speed CF card installed.
Two Memory Card Slots
Another good thing: the camera comes with Dual memory card slots. One supporting CFast and the other supporting CompactFlash.
The LCD touchscreen has a resolution of 1.62 million dots but cannot rotate or tilt. That’s a bit problematic because when filming you need the ability to tilt and move the screen so that you can shoot from acute angles, lower down from the waist or from high up to get an overhead angle.
- Fastest shooting EOS-1D, capable of up to 14 fps full-resolution RAW or JPEG, and up to 16 fps in Live View mode with new...
- Achieves a maximum burst rate of up to 170 RAWs in continuous shooting at up to 16 fps, and 4K movies using CFast cards in...
- Improved AF performance through 61-point, wide area AF system with 41 cross-type points, improved center point focusing...
- Turn your Canon camera into a high-quality webcam--Learn more: canon.us/livestream
- Use the EOS Utility Webcam Beta Software (Mac and Windows) to turn your Canon camera into a high-quality webcam, or do the...
4. Nikon D500
The Nikon D500 is the current flagship APS-C (DX) sensor powered DSLR in the Nikon stable.
4K UHD Video @ 30 fps
The 20.9-megapixel sensor is paired with Nikon’s EXPEED 5 image processing engine. Together, the sensor and the image processor is capable of shooting 4K UHD videos at a maximum frame rate of 30 fps.
Crop Factor (1.5)
However, what is pertinent to know is that the 4K (UHD) video consists of a 1.5 crop of the whole sensor. Please bear this in mind when shooting videos. Your wide angle lens will already have a crop factor applied to it because of the smaller sensor. But then because of the smaller sampling area, the final field of view will be even further narrow.
The D500 and the D5 came to the market at around the same time. They share the same 153-point Multi-CAM 20K auto-focusing system. They also have the same 180k-pixel RGB sensor and the group area AF system.
99 cross-type auto-focusing points ensure that the camera can do a better subject tracking.
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The back of the camera is a 3.2″ 2539k-dot tilting LCD touchscreen. A slight advantage with this DX camera over the others is the tilting rear LCD screen.
As has been noted before in this post, the flipping screen adds a bit of advantage to the whole filmmaking process. The tilting screen is the next best thing. You still are somewhat limited but it is better than having a fixed display.
Not THE Best DSLR for Videos Shooting (but one of them)
I wouldn’t go the distance to say that this is the best DSLR for video shooting by far. No way.
The D500 does miss out on a few features that video shooters would have preferred. This includes the focus peaking option and the highlight warning.
The Good: Auto ISO & Flexible Aperture
But yet, there are some features you would like. One of them is the ability to use Auto ISO. This feature is convenient when shooting with a fixed shutter speed and aperture.
The second feature is the ability to change aperture as you record. There is also a flat picture profile which you can use for better color grading. Truly, one of the best DSLRs for video shooting.
- 20.9MP DX format CMOS sensor. Viewfinder: Eye level pentaprism single lens reflex viewfinder
- Expeed 5 image processor; Monitor size: 3.2 inches diagonal
- 3.2 inches 2,539k dot tilting touchscreen Lcd
- 4k UHD video recording at 30 fps
- Multi cam 20k 153 point AF system
5. Nikon D7500
The Nikon D7500 is a crop camera built around a 20.9-megapixel DX-format sensor and EXPEED 5 image processor.
The D7500 is a tad lower in the hierarchy when compared with the current flagship APS-C camera that Nikon has – the D500.
Again, only Crop Factor Videos
The D7500 also shoots 4K/UHD video but uses only a crop of the sensor when shooting 4K / UHD. That means the field of view is severely limited. Even the widest focal length lens becomes not so wide when shooting 4K. When shooting full HD, however, there is no cropping. The frame rate on 4K/UHD shooting is 30 fps.
Unlike the older D7000 series cameras, there is a flip-out rear LCD screen. This screen has touch properties, and you can access most of the shooting features using the LCD screen.
Where the D7500 loses out to rival Canon, is the lack of a proper answer for the dual-pixel CMOS auto-focusing. Live-view shooting is old-fashioned contrast detect.
Electronic Vibration Reduction
There is, however, an electronic vibration reduction feature that helps in shooting stabilized hand-held clips. Please note, electronic vibration reduction (image stabilization) will always cause a bit of image cropping, depending on how much shake there is.
Auto ISO & Build in Stereo Mic
The other features include Auto ISO, which is very handy when maintaining the same visual effect, even if the light is changing (e.g., a scene shot at sunset) and zebra stripes which is useful as a highlight warning.
The camera comes with built-in stereo mic and the option to plug in an external noise canceling stereo mic for better sound quality. Sound can be regulated over 20 levels and monitored using a headphone.
- Class leading image quality, ISO range, image processing and metering equivalent to the award winning D500
- Large 3.2” 922k dot, tilting Lcd screen with touch functionality. Temperature: 0 °c to 40 °c (+32 °f to 104 °f)...
- 51 point AF system with 15 cross type sensors and group area AF paired with up to 8 fps continuous shooting capability
- 4k ultra hd and 1080p full hd video with stereo sound, power aperture control, auto ISO, 4k UHD time lapse and more
- Built in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for easy connectivity through the Nikon snap bridge app
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6. Canon EOS 6D Mark II
The Canon EOS 6D Mark II is an entry-level full-frame camera from Canon.
Image processing is powered by DIGIC 7 image processing engine.
Full HD Videos @ 60 fps
The system is capable of producing full HD videos at a frame rate of 60 fps (this is the first camera in this discussion that does not shoot 4K / UHD).
Ideal for Beginners
Overall this system is suitable only for users who are just getting into DSLR video shooting and need a decent camera to get started.
Additionally, you don’t have any of the advanced function which you would come to expect if you are looking for a professional grade camera.
Plus, it does not have the option to plug in an external headphone to monitor the sound.
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Focus Peaking and Footage Stabilization
The 6D Mark II does not have focus peaking.
But what it does have is the ability to stabilize a footage when shooting handheld and even when moving with the camera.
The camera comes with a digital 5-way image stabilization system that is available when shooting videos.
3″ Tilting Touchscreen
The back of the camera is dominated by a 3″ swivel touchscreen with a resolution of 1040k-dots. You can hold it at varying angles allowing you to shoot from almost every conceivable angle without having to twist your back or lay down on the ground.
But the best feature of the camera, by far is the dual pixel CMOS auto-focusing. This is the feature that allows smooth auto-focusing when recording videos.
- 26.2 Megapixel full frame CMOS sensor
- Optical viewfinder with a 45 point all cross type AF system. Compatible Lenses: Canon EF lenses (excluding EF S and EF M...
- Dual Pixel CMOS AF with phase detection & Full HD 60p
- DIGIC 7 Image Processor, ISO 100 40000. GPS, Wi Fi, NFC and Bluetooth low energy
- Vary angle touch screen, 3.0 inch LCD
Budget Pick: Canon EOS 80D
Another mid-range DSLR by Canon. But this one is a capable video shooter!
The EOS 80D is built around a 24.2 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor and DIGIC 6 image processor. This is an upgrade of the very popular EOS 70D.
Full HD @ 60 fps
The EOS 80D’s video capability is limited to full HD only. However, you can shoot a maximum frame rate of 60p. The standard compression for that is MP4 and standard IPB. However, when shooting in MOV, you get both the PAL and NTSC frame rate of 24 and 30 frames per second.
The previous model, the EOS 70D was the first APS-C (in fact the first Canon DSLR) camera that had the dual pixel CMOS auto-focusing technology implemented in it.
The EOS 80D also has the same technology implemented in it. This technology, as explained above, is designed mainly for live-view shooting and that includes video work. Compatible with the STM lenses the EOS 80D’ auto-focusing is a smooth operator.
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3 Auto Focusing Modes
The camera comes with three different auto-focusing modes. These include Face+Tracking, Flexizone-Multi, and Flexizone-Single.
I have discussed the Flexizone-Single when detailing the EOS-1D X Mark II. The Face+Tracking mode is ideal for locking focus right at the beginning and then following a subject as moves across the frame.
Overall these modes are beneficial to shoot excellent quality videos.
Vari-Angle LCD Screen
This series of mid-range DSLRs come with a vari-angle LCD screen. Vari-angle LCD screens are the best when it comes to shooting videos.
You don’t have to keep the camera at your eye-level at all times which is a significant inconvenience. You can hold the camera at waist level or hold it high up over your head and yet produce excellent results.
The EOS 80D misses out on stuff that videographers would love – focus peaking, HDMI clean output and the ability to use a flat picture profile. But then this is just a mid-range DSLR.
- The EOS 80D camera’s Intelligent Viewfinder helps bring the thrill of SLR photography with each use
- The Intelligent Viewfinder displays AF points and AF mode, has a grid display, a horizontal electronic level, plus numerous...
- The 242 Megapixel (APS C) CMOS sensor captures high resolution images and has refined individual pixels that enable high ISO...
- Use the EOS Utility Webcam Beta Software (Mac and Windows) to turn your compatible Canon camera into a high-quality webcam
- For next level AF operation, the EOS 80D camera has a wide area, 45 point, all cross type AF system with low luminance...
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Rajib is an avid travel photographer and an overall shutterbug. He loves to test and review new photography gear. He has been writing about cameras and lenses for over 10 years now. You can consider him as your “master guide” here at PhotoWorkout.
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