Which DSLR video camera is the best? Which one should I buy for filming high quality videos? These are some questions we’ve been seeing as we continue our video camera research. When it comes to shooting videos, the norm of needing a solid DSLR camera has become pretty solidified. We used to see a large number of “camcorders” and other easily recognized models dominate the market back in the early 2000’s, but most of those aren’t even being made anymore. You could always go the professional-grade route, but sometimes those aren’t as sleek, budget-friendly or merely what people want. DSLR cameras are extremely popular for a reason, so let’s take a look at which models made the cut for video filming.
So what’s the big deal about DSLR cameras?
DSLR cameras (that “stands for digital single-lens reflex”) are the most popular types of cameras (for both photography as well as filming video) and will continue to be for quite a long time. There was a reason our video camera buying guide has quite a few DSLRs. For a quick review of how they work, these particular cameras use a special reflex design that sets them apart from your every day digital camera. The design allows for light to travel through a lens and also a mirror to combine as the mechanism that sends the image/video to their built-in image sensor. This allows for higher quality and more efficient technology built into the camera.
Although we’ve been seeing the rise in mirrorless cameras for video (still worth looking at if you have a high budget, although the differences between DSLR vs. mirrorless will take some understanding), DSLR cameras are considered by many one of the best choices not only for photography but filming videos as well. We think you’ve made a great decision to invest in one and it’s going to last you many years.
Of course, there’s always this one drawback we like to warn our readers — both mirrorless and DSLR cameras only allow up to 30 minute videos at a time to be recorded, otherwise by law they’d have to call them video cameras completely. This may be tough for those wanting to film hours on-end without have to touch the camera. Others say it’s fine as they’re able to press record again. Just keep this in mind.
How to choose the best DSLR video camera
- Your budget – Most DSLR video cameras worth looking at that we included in here do not fall below at least $300, while others that will give you top-notch quality and overall additive features will go above $1,000. How much cash you have on hand to invest into your DSLR camera will really steer you in the direction.
- Lenses – Unless you’re going for a specific look and know what you’re looking for, using what comes in the box will work great. If you are indeed buying a “Body Only” package, you will want to purchase a lens to have it work properly. For those who aren’t concerned with the techy, fancy lens looks and want something to merely shoot their 1080p videos with, grab a highly rated budget-friendly lens that’s no more than a hundred bucks or two. Otherwise, we recommend reading our shopping for a DSLR lens article if you want something spiffy (that will also add to your budget of course).
- Extra features? First of all, we made sure that each of the recommended models at least included 1080p HD shooting (30 fps if you can). Other than that, what extra features you want in your DSLR video camera really depend on your taste, such as filters, continuous shooting modes (for photography), and more.
- Video quality – As stated previously, the standard nowadays come in at 1080p or they’re not worth getting. If you can grab a DSLR camera that provides up to 30 fps as well, you’re in for the long run. However, if you want to take it a step above and be a bit more advanced, you can start looking into the compression types, digic processors and overall quality the particular model gives. We tried to shed some light on this topic where it applies, otherwise we made sure each recommendation at least gave us the 1080p standard HD video clips. As seen in our best 4K video camera guide, it still has a while to go before it’s affordable, supported by devices and more popularly included in cameras (especially DSLRs).
- Additional accessories – Aside from needing some solid video editing software to finalize your videos, popular accessories include tripods, (as stated above) lenses, straps, bags, and more. Do you need other gear alongside your DSLR video camera? Some online and physical retail stores sell camera packages that include these and may be appealing to you.
- Nikon vs. Canon? As you’ll notice, there are basically only Nikon and Canon DSLR video cameras that dominate the market. This debate of Canon vs. Nikon is relatively popular among video camera enthusiasts, but our recommendation is to keep in mind that a brand is a brand, and to go for a model that you feel fits your needs as opposed to based off of a name on the camera. The article linked for the debate also sheds some light on the differences if you need more help in this category.
The top 10 best DSLR cameras for filming video
Below is our list of 10 of the best DSLR cameras that shoot at least 1080p HD video and are worth taking a look at. Remember to keep our above checklist in mind when determining which model is best for you. Let us know in the comments if you have any questions or recommendations. Happy filming!
This is one of the most popular DSLR video cameras out there for quite a few reasons. For one, it isn’t too expensive and won’t break your budget. As compared to some DSLR cameras out there, this is considered in the lower to middle price-point. Next, it’s rated very highly among users when it comes to the overall quality and build of the camera. In terms of highlights of this DSLR, the photos are 24.2 megapixels and the video is of course 1080p Full HD. You can choose either 60/50/30/25 or 24p. The video quality is super clear in detail since the image sensor they use does not have an optical low-pass filter.
If you plan on using this as a photo camera as well, you can also use your smart phone with the camera with its WU-1a wireless adapter (if you’ll be using it for photos as well, they automatically send to your smart device). In terms of build, its pretty compact and lightweight so you’ll be able to travel with it pretty easily (we recommend getting a case for it if you intend on doing so). It also comes with a lens kit so you won’t have to worry about that side of the equation either. If you wanted an immediate answer on the best DLSR video camera and something that didn’t break your wallet, definitely take a look at the Nikon D3300 (it also made an appearance in our best DSLR camera under $500).
Canon EOS Rebel T5
Up next is another one of the best DSLR video cameras for the money. This one is also extremely popular among the video camera world (the entire Rebel line of course). It is a bit cheaper than the previously listed DSLR so if you wanted to save some money this may be a better option for you (they’re even cheaper refurbished if you’re up for it). This one gives us 1080p HD recording with their DIGIC 4 Image Processor. The unit has a built-in 3.0″ LCD screen for Live View while you record to get a better feel of what you’re filming. It also has some solid recording quality even in dim light due to their 63-zone, dual-layer metering system that helps expand the ISO range. It has this additive feature called “Scene Intelligent Auto” which auto-detects settings based on the environment if you don’t feel like customizing them.
The overall construction of the Canon EOS Rebel T5 video camera is pretty rugged and lightweight, so you’re not getting a dinky toy here. If you take proper care of it, this will last you quite a while, deeming to be a wise investment if you wanted a more budget-friendly model to grab. It also comes with its own lens kit so you can use it right out of the box.
Canon EOS 5D Mark III
This is a huge jump in price when it comes to the best DSLR camera for filming videos, but hear us out first. If you have the money, this camera’s highlights definitely justify the price tag — a full-frame CMOS sensor (22.3 megapixels), an extremely high quality image processor (DIGIC 5+) to help your videos stand out when it comes to the clarity of them, full HD 1080p video recording at 30 fps, as well as a nice 3.2″ 1.04 m-Dot LCD monitor (ClearView II). It has excellent low-light sensitivity so if you foresee yourself filming in some dark environments in the future, it will be a plus to grab this one. The HDR and “Multiple Exposure” modes when it comes to photography give you some creativity room when it comes to post-production if that seems attractive to you.
This one is for those who know what they’re doing, want to learn a complex camera, or merely want the best of the best when it comes to price point. If you weren’t feeling the others listed in here and want a beast of a DSLR video camera that will last you quite a long time if you take care of it and will elevate the quality of your videos vs. competitors in a noticeable manner, check out the Canon EOS 5D Mark III.
Here’s another Nikon model and this one is just a step below the previously listed Nikon video camera. It has some quality specifications for a pretty affordable price (usually under $500 as well depending on where you look). You have 24.2 megapixels (DX-format CMOS sensor), VR image stabilization lens (18-55mm) so you don’t have to shop for one separately, and the recommended full HD 1080p cinematic video quality. The 1080p comes in at either 30, 25, or 24 p so if you were looking for 60 fps, it isn’t available here. This quality is still considered among the norm of video cameras (as we said, 4K has a long way to go if it’s going to become the typical setting). If you’re planning on using this DSLR camera for photos as well, you have a nifty 4 fps continuous shooting function which is always fun to mess around with — you can also include this in some videos to switch it up if you prefer.
We recommend the Nikon D3200 if you wanted a cheaper DSLR video camera than most out there. It’s one of our favorite best budget-friendly Nikon DSLR cameras — not to mention it already comes with a lens in the box so you don’t have to worry about that part.
Canon EOS 6D
This is yet another Canon EOS model that’s one of the best for shooting and filming videos. The 6D comes in at a pretty high price as compared to some other popular models, but the specifications are up there when it comes to numbers and additional features. You’re equipped with 20.2 megapixels (but the sensor is full-frame CMOS, a wide ISO range from 100 to 25600 and very effective low light adaptability). Like the 5D Mark III, it has a higher quality image processor than the lower-priced DSLR cameras in this article (DIGIC 5+) so that’s where the price starts to jump (but you’re paying for higher quality, so it’s up to you). It has a built-in Wi-Fi transmitter to help you with the transfer process and in terms of video quality, you’re not only getting up to 1920 x 1080 at 30 fps, but the compression options it gives you sets it above those who have the same resolution (it’s not always about 1080p but how they compress the clips as well).
We recommend grabbing the Canon EOS 6D for video if the 5D Mark III was a bit too much of money yet you were still looking for a more expensive, quality-focused camera to make your photographs and videos stand out from the average. It also made it into PC Mag’s best DSLR camera of 2016 article.
a 16.2 megapixel DX-format CMOS sensor like the other D-series model we listed, full 1080p HD movies with something called “full-time autofocus” (basically keeps it clear to get rid of those occasional zooming blurs we get when shooting videos), and a 6 fps continuous shooting up to 100 shots function. You’re also getting some different customization settings to tweak around the look and feel of your videos.
The overall build of this will last you quite a while if you take proper care of the camera. It has a 100% frame coverage so you can see exactly what you capture, and the LCD is only 3″ but decent quality to help guide your shots. Take a look at this other option for the best DSLR camera for filming HD videos. You have some options for lens kits and packages to help with flexibility. The Nikon D5300 pretty darn affordable, too.
Sony A77 II
Here’s one of the best DSLR cameras that doesn’t happen to be a Canon or Nikon. Sony brings us a beastly DSLR here, giving us 24.3 megapixels, an APS-C Exmor CMOS sensor and 1080p or even 4K video quality options. They have something called “4D FOCUS” which is basically their new technology to help with autofocus to get rid of those disruptions we sometimes get. They also state their AF system has the highest number of phase-detection points (it has 79 with 15 cross-points) which helps you get some great tracking during their 12fps continuous shooting function. You can also use their built-in Wi-FI and NFC for easy sharing.
We’d say grab the Sony A77 II if you weren’t into what everybody else wants in terms of brand and are a Sony fan, let alone want a higher-end DSLR that will help you create those breathtaking videos when it comes to look and feel (check out the video demo). In the package, it comes with an accessory shoe cap, battery charger,body cap, eyepiece cup, micro USB cable, rechargeable battery and shoulder strap. The body weighs only 23 ounces. DP Review’s Sony SLT-A77 II review has some more in-depth info on the camera since there are way too many highlights to put in here.
Canon EOS 80D
Canon’s EOS (electro-optical system) DSLR cameras are way too popular to not have at least a few in here. This particular video camera is a competitor to the previous Sony model since they’re both high up there in terms of price and overall video quality. The 80D provides a nifty 45-point all cross-type AF system for some precise autofocus while you film, 24.2 megapixels (an APS-C CMOS Sensor like the Sony), and of course Full HD 60p movies (save them as mp4 for some great quality and easy editing).
Since we’re getting into the advanced DSLR video cameras here, what’s going to start setting them apart from each other is how many points it has (and how good of quality they are) when it comes trying to bring the picture into focus. It has a wide-area to give you better coverage and works well in dim light. The advanced features and specs continue into their not only points but “autofocus zones” (this one was 9). Check out the Canon EOS 80D if you are serious about your video filming and photography.
This one is another solid Nikon budget-friendly camera that’s usually priced under $500 retail. If the previous models were a bit too expensive and you aren’t concerned about their fancy autofocus and sensor technology, this could be the right DSLR video camera if you didn’t like the first D3300 model mentioned. You’re getting 1080p HD video, a 16.2 megapixel DX-format CMOS sensor, and 6 fps continuous shooting for up to 100 shots if you want it for taking pictures as well. Like the other Nikon cameras, it has 100% frame coverage, decent light adaptability, and EXPEED 2 image processing. For audio, it isn’t too groundbreaking and has a built-in monaural microphone, but you’re also getting an external mic jack if you have an additional microphone to attach for real-time audio recording. The Nikon D7000 is just another great DSLR for shooting videos that doesn’t break your wallet.
This is not listed last for any reason besides the price point. It’s a full-frame DSLR camera (which means the sensor is as big as the frame, a lot larger than others). It’s recommend for more advanced-level and professional photographers and videographers. You have a whopping 36.3 megapixels without an optical low pass filter (which is only pretty important for those who will be using this for photography aside from their videos). For filming, you have 1080p at 60 fps but also keep in mind that they’re uncompressed — giving you raw video data to allow for better editing and more creativity when it comes to getting that perfect picture.
Another benefit of this is the broadcast-caliber audio control that’s built into the camera, so if you were concerned with audio, this will be a better solution than others. The image processing is “EXPEED 4” (very detailed with ISO from 64 to a whopping 12,800). Swoop up the Nikon D810 if you want a beast in your repertoire.