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August 23, 2015

Best video cameras under $1000 for musicians to purchase in 2015

This is my updated list of the most interesting video cameras available in 2015. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, but depending on your needs I’m sure you’ll be able to make the best choice for you.

A note to all musicians looking to upgrade their video gear: All of the cameras below only record audio of terrible quality, so you should ALWAYS record audio separately and then synchronize it with video in the post-production. The cheap $99 Zoom H1 portable recorder is a fairly good option, but remember to keep it close enough to the sound source.

If you decide to purchase any of the cameras below, please use the affiliate links – it doesn’t cost you anything to use these links, but it helps support this site and any future tests/tutorials. Thanks!

Sony A6000 ($698, $548 body only)

A6000

This is an excellent, inexpensive option to start your video production. It is a very small, lightweight camera with an APS-C size sensor that will allow you to shoot beautiful video even in low-light situations, which is very useful when capturing live concerts. It can shoot continuously up to 29 minutes.

The Sony A6000 features excellent full HD 1080p image with fewer artefacts than a Canon DSLR like t5i, plus some advanced features like focus peaking, focus assist, zebras etc. The Sony E-mount is also very flexible and with adapters you can make this camera work with most lenses.

Sadly, there is no microphone input so always record audio separately.

Affiliate link – Sony A6000

Canon EOS Rebel t5i ($699)

Canon t5i

When I bought my Canon t3i back in 2012, the DSLRs  ruled the budget video production market. In terms of video quality there was really nothing else in this price range. Three years later we have a flood of great new products under $1000 with either Sony or Micro Four Thirds lens systems that often produce better video quality, some even in 4K resolution. To be honest, Canon did produce an amazing cinema line with their C100, C300 and C500 cameras (now in the MkII version), but they cost so much a musician wouldn’t even dream to spend on a camera. The cheaper model, C100 MkII costs $5500 body only. On the other hand, looking at the Canon DSLR Rebel line, the image hasn’t really improved at all since t2i!! Shame…

On the plus side, Canon t5i still produces quite a lovely image and is not bad in low light performance if coupled with a faster lens like the Canon EF 50 mm f/1.8. Its downsides are the weak h264 codec that breaks the image apart easily when grading. That’s why I highly recommend to set the image in camera that is as close to the final result as possible. Recommended settings are:

Neutral Color Profile – Sharpness: 0, Contrast: -4, Saturation: -2, Color Tone: 0

I’d suggest to use Magic Lantern firmware as well with this camera to get the advanced video features such as zebras, histogram, better color temperature control, timelapse etc.

It only records around 12 minutes continuously, so out of the box it’s not suitable to record longer pieces with it, but when using Magic Lantern firmware you can use its auto restart function which will restart recording automatically after a short break of a few seconds.

Affiliate link – Canon EOS Rebel t5i

Panasonic Lumix LX100 ($798)

LX100

Often regarded as Swiss army knife of video, the LX100 is a tiny camera that packs a bunch of amazing features:

  • Internal 4K video
  • 4/3 inch sensor with 16 megapixels of roughly the same quality as the expensive Panasonic GH4
  • a nice Leica DC Vario-Summilux f/1.7-2.8 10,9-34mm zoom lens
  • Eye-level electronic viewfinder alongside the back LCD screen
  • Timelapse function, Wi-Fi connectivity, included external flash etc.

You cannot change the lens on this camera, which is a drawback to me, but the image quality is still really nice so I think this is a perfect camera for everyone that would like to record right out of the box and get nice image quality.

This camera shoots up to 29 minutes 59 seconds in HD, but 4k recording time is capped at 15 minutes.

Affiliate link – Panasonic LX100 kit

Samsung NX500 ($799)

Samsung NX500

Samsung NX500 is the direct competition product to the Panasonic LX100 and performs similarly in many areas.

Exactly as LX100, the NX500 records up to 29min 59sec in HD mode and up to 15 minutes in 4K mode.

Watch the comprehensive review of NX500 by Max Yuryev and the comparison video between Panasonic LX100 and Samsung NX500.

Affiliate link – Samsung NX500

Panasonic G7 ($798)

Panasonic G7

As much as I find Panasonic LX100 and Samsung NX500 appealing due to their compact size, versatility and 4K shooting ability, an interchangeable lens system means a lot to me as this way I can always pick the lens that has the right character for the production.

Panasonic G7 delivers all this and much more for the same price of around $800, which makes the G7 my camera pick for musicians of 2015!

Watch the video below that compares the G7 to its bigger brother, the insanely popular Panasonic GH4 ($1498 body only). While understandably there are some drawbacks compared to the GH4 such as shorter battery life, no headphone input, no slow-motion videos, slightly lower video resolution (GH4 – 4K DCI > 4096 x 2160 pixels vs. 4K UHD; G7 – 3840 x 2160 pixels), the image of the G7 is on par with GH4, sometimes even exceeding it due to the slightly better sensor sensitivity and thus better low light performance.

The G7 records continuously up to 29 minutes and 59 seconds, but once you view the footage on your computer, the video will be separated in multiple 4 GB files. *Update: In Full-HD 1080p mode there is even no time limit in the US version of this camera, which is great for recording concerts.

If you’re planning to buy this camera, definitely check out the Panasonic G7 Video Guide by the same guy – Caleb from DSLR Video Shooter – that will save you a ton of money buying accessories. Or, at least watch its trailer video.

Also, make sure to watch Video Shooter’s review of this camera below:

Affiliate link – Panasonic G7 kit ($798)

Affiliate link – Panasonic G7 body only ($650)

Sony RX100 IV ($948)

Sony RX100 IVThis camera literally just came out and it offers some of the best value in this price range. What Sony managed to pack in this release is a big achievement, something Philip Bloom calls a “competition destroying” camera.

4k internal recording up to 100mbps (limited to 5 minute clips at a time), super slow motion of up to 1000 frames per second (reportedly the 500fps mode still looks usable), a 1 inch sensor with big increase in sensitivity, great OLED EVF, S-Log 2 profile, timecode and a bright Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* f/1.8-2.8 lens (24-70mm full-frame equivalent), all packed in this tiny body. Everything you need to start creating amazing videos!

Specs wise, this is perhaps one of 2015 most interesting cameras for budget filmmakers, but only time will tell how it stacks up against other cameras in its price range. There have been a few reports that the camera has an overheating problem, but it should record up to 29 minutes and 59 seconds (due to the EU higher tax for video cameras that can record over 30 minutes) in one take or up to 5 minutes in 4k mode.

Philip is currently testing this camera so make sure to check out these blog posts:

Evolving blog post: 1 week long road test of the Sony RX10 II and RX100 IV
A look at the “competition destroying” Sony A7R II, RX10 II & RX100 IV cameras

Affiliate link – Sony RX100 IV

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera ($999)

BMPCC 1

Now I may be biased as I own this little camera, but I think it is still one of the best options out there for musicians wanting to make the most beautiful video with a camera under $1000.

The full HD 1080p image of the BMPCC looks very organic and filmic, especially when using older lenses. Despite its form factor, I think this is NOT a consumer camera as it requires so many accessories as well as lighting, color correction and grading knowledge to make it work. If you’d like a pocket camera that works right out of the box, definitely buy the Panasonic LX100 instead.

But after investing time into learning to work with this camera, it’s all worth it – its image quality is amazing! The moiré is still visible and very distracting if you’re wearing a striped shirt in the video or say if you’d like to shoot a brick wall, but other than that I’m very pleased with the footage shot on this camera. RAW recording capability is very welcome as well as it adds extra detail and dynamic range to the image.

Also, this camera has no recording time limit and will go on until the SD card is full (in my case, with the SanDisk 64GB 95mb/s card it records up to one hour and a half in ProRes 422 LT codec).

If you want to know more about this camera, you can read three blog posts I’ve recently written – Best resources for Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera users / Adapting lenses for Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera / Affordable battery solution for BMPCC.

Affiliate link – Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera

One Comment on “Best video cameras under $1000 for musicians to purchase in 2015

Rafael V.
March 14, 2017 at 19:49

Thanks for this post (and many others!).

I’m a fellow musician (viola/violin) just now getting interested in recording techniques and gear. I’ve acquired a pair of Line Audio CM3 and a Zoom H6 (not the best setup, but not too bad either, IMHO) and I was wondering what you think about the Canon Vixia HF R700. I already own that camcorder and I think I could get good video of concerts/performances with it, but I know nothing about video gear. Any thoughts? Also, have you thought about a 2017 version of this post, or the cameras from the 2015 list still stand their ground? Thanks!

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