Looking for good, low cost 4k video camera?

HeySiriHeySiri Website User Posts: 382 Just Starting Out

For an upcoming short film, I was going to shoot on my iPhone 8, which has a 4k camera, and is good for quite a few feels for the movie and look and stuff, but I recently started thinking maybe a more professional video camera would be better. There are problems with phone cameras, like variable frame rate, small aperture, and not the best low-light (although I don't need any low-light, just a thing to consider).

Should I go for a nice video camera? It needs to be at least 4k but other than that I'm not sure what I need in terms of technical schematics. Also, I can't go over $300. I could stretch it a tiny bit but that's pushing it... and I was thinking of buying used to save costs. Getting a professional video camera could make my movie look better, but is it worth it?



  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator Moderator, Website User, Ambassador, Imerge Beta Tester, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 18,650 Ambassador

    Panasonic FZ80.


    For $300 this is your best option. 

    Over $400 the field opens up a bit. @Davlon is looking at the FZ300.

    The FZ80 has longer zoom. The FZ300 has an external mic jack (Davlon, get the 300).

    The FZ300 is about $400.

    Under $300 your other options become mostly action cameras. Those are fineish, but you'll LOVE either of those Panasonics. 

  • rutxerrutxer Website User Posts: 176

    I'm with @Triem23 on this. Panasonic's focus on video is obvious even in these bridge cameras. And personally I found their menus to be very intuitive.

  • HeySiriHeySiri Website User Posts: 382 Just Starting Out
    edited January 2019

    @Triem23 would this camera be worth it over my phone (which has good quality)?

    I don't know much about cameras, in my mind this is a video camera:Image result for video camera

    And this is a photo camera:

    Image result for camera

    I don't know why I think that just that's how I tend to think.

  • WhiteCranePhotoWhiteCranePhoto Website User Posts: 924 Enthusiast

    If your budget is only $300, use your phone, get a FilmicPro license, and some supplemental lenses.  That will allow you to get around the variable frame rate problems and enable you to put your focus on learning to make films.

    Then when you have a better budget and can spring for a real camera, it will feel like a luxury.

  • HictorHictor Website User, Imerge Beta Tester, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 333 Enthusiast
    edited January 2019

    Drop all of this and save your budget for lighting & sound.

    You are NEVER fully prepared for those. I don't care if you own an Arri.

  • WhiteCranePhotoWhiteCranePhoto Website User Posts: 924 Enthusiast

    Hictor is correct, but it's usually pretty easy to find inexpensive lighting rentals through services like ShareGrid and KitSplit and FatLlama.


  • HeySiriHeySiri Website User Posts: 382 Just Starting Out

    @Hictor I'm borrowing some nice lights from different people, and I have a nice Tascam and some LAV mics.

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator Moderator, Website User, Ambassador, Imerge Beta Tester, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 18,650 Ambassador

    @HeySiri You're technically correct here, but another issue is there are NO 4k Camcorders, ENG Video Cameras, Broadcast Video Cameras or Cinema Cameras for $300.

    Mirrorless/DSLR cameras aren't optimized for video - and this largely comes down to speed of operation since you don't have buttons/switches for common video functions, but DSLR's now largely shoot fantastic video.

    Honestly, on this forum you're going to find a lot more people using "photo" cameras as video cameras than using video cameras.

    Personally I disagree on the "keep using your phone." Even with Filmic Pro you've got a fixed lens and a really really tiny (1/4" or smaller) sensor.

  • HeySiriHeySiri Website User Posts: 382 Just Starting Out

    @Triem23 there is an advantage to shooting with my phone: everything with have a very tight, "tense" feel to it. That would work for the movie I'm working on now. I'll probably use my phone with Filmic Pro for this movie, but upgrade to a better camera for the next.

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator Moderator, Website User, Ambassador, Imerge Beta Tester, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 18,650 Ambassador

    Sure! And, maybe by the time you upgrade there will be the new gear from CES released and older gear will have a price drop and maybe something 4K that isn't a bridge or action camera will fall into your price range!

  • HeySiriHeySiri Website User Posts: 382 Just Starting Out
  • HeySiriHeySiri Website User Posts: 382 Just Starting Out

    @Triem23 would something like a UHD 4k camcorder be worth it? They're around $150 at their lowest... the wider aperture would allow me to see more when filming, right?

    I don't really know how cameras work...

  • WhiteCranePhotoWhiteCranePhoto Website User Posts: 924 Enthusiast

    @HeySiri no, probably not. A $150 camcorder that records 4K unless it's used or you snag it from a garage sale where the seller inherited but hasn't a clue what it is will most likely be little more than a joke, and probably a lot worse than your phone.

    Wider aperture has nothing to do with field of view. And you don't always want to "capture everything" because that usually ends up leading to an image in which no one will see anything -- they won't know where to look, so they won't get a chance to take anything in.

    If you don't know how cameras work, then don't spend the money on one yet, because it's almost guaranteed that you won't end up getting something suitable for your needs, since you don't know what those needs are yet.

    Look into add on lenses like the Moment series for your phone. They're not great by professional cinematography standards, but that doesn't mean that they are bad lenses. It would probably be better to learn with inexpensive lenses before you start spending serious bux on a camera and lenses so that you don't start off with a bad investment for what you need. (Someone who primarily does ENG work would not be spending money wisely by purchasing any model of Red camera, for example.)

  • Behind_The_LensBehind_The_Lens Website User Posts: 159 Just Starting Out

    I use a canon t5i with magic lantern- and I really recommend it. You can pick a t something i for less than $300 with a 18-55 kit lens, and with ML, you can get focus peaking, histograms, cropmarks, higher bitrates, etc. I saw a t3i on eBay for $50. Then you can get some cheap vintage lenses (I got a 28mm for $80), and audio (rode lavs or a video micro into a zoom h1n). Or ditch the extra lens and get some cheap lights yourself.

  • TPV_ProductionsTPV_Productions Website User Posts: 31 Just Starting Out

    The Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7 is on sale for $497 with a lens @ B&H.  I know its past your budget but its' a great starting camera you can't go wrong with the M43 line.

  • HictorHictor Website User, Imerge Beta Tester, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 333 Enthusiast

    Or could just settle for 1080p.

    There were award winning films that I've watched on theatre which were smaller then the screen size permitted because they were shot in 720p.

    4K is an overhyped asset which film makers use for a certain number of conveniences;  (scaling/cropping in/motion tracking).

    It's also a large pain in the ass for editing if you're not prepared to handle 4k in terms of hardware.

  • Behind_The_LensBehind_The_Lens Website User Posts: 159 Just Starting Out

    +1 on Hictor

    Honestly you can probably crop in to almost 130% on good 1080 without much difference if the shot works

  • HeySiriHeySiri Website User Posts: 382 Just Starting Out

    My hardware can handle 4K easily. And I want the high-res so that I’ll have room for a lot of cropping and stuff. 

  • MatthiasClaflinMatthiasClaflin Website User Posts: 674 Just Starting Out
    edited February 2019

    If you have your heart set on 4k, do you have a phone? Most phones these days will shoot 4k, at least the name brands (Samsung Galaxy S series, LG G series, iPhones, Google Pixel, etc.) At least one award winning film was shot on an iPhone, Tangerine.  With proper lighting techniques, any modern camera can do what you need it to, provide a clear, crisp image.

    Since you say you don't know how cameras work, I'll give a quick overview to help get you started.

    So a digital camera does a few things, it funnels light to a digital sensor (exposure), processes the light to a digital file, and records audio to match the image. Exposure comes in 3 parts, aperture, shutter speed and sensor.

    Aperture is measured in f stops. The lower the f stop value the more open the aperture, and the more light will reach the sensor. For example f/1.4 will let in much more light than say, f/5.6. The other effect you get from changing the aperture is depth of field. The more open your aperture, the shallower the depth of field. Your f stop value will be entirely dependent on the lens on your camera. If the camera has a fixed lens, this will limit your choices here.

    As for shutter speed, this is the speed at which the shutter opens and closes. This controls a few things, but most notably, how much light is let in front of the sensor. The longer it is open, the more light it lets in. However, the longer it is open, the more blurry the image will be when things move. For this reason, the industry standard is that the shutter speed be double the framerate. If you shoot 24 fps then your shutter should be 1/48 (which means it is open for 1/48th of a second).

    The last thing is the sensor. This comes in two parts; size and sensitivity. So the larger the sensor the more light can reach it and the more sensitive it is (indicated by ISO settings) the less light the sensor needs to produce an image. However, the trade off with a high sensitivity is typically more noise. So the less light your sensor gets, the higher you have to push the ISO (the sensitivity of the sensor) and the more noise your image will have.

    After the light hits the sensor, the information the sensor takes in has to be processed into a usable format for you to edit/view. This is typically handled by a processor inside the camera. So the sensor information is sent to a processor that then converts that raw information into a video file. The different file types a camera can produce are going to have different effects on the final quality. Needless to say the more compressed the file is, the smaller in size it is, the less information will be present.

    This doesn't really get into the audio side of modern cameras, but this should give you a pretty good basis for understanding what camera you want to buy. Keep in mind other things go into the image quality of a camera like the quality of the sensor itself and the quality of the glass that refracts light onto the sensor. Bottom line if you are going to spend less than $300 on a camera, I'm not sure it will exceed the quality of your phone (assuming you have a phone). I wouldn't worry about upgrading your camera from a phone camera until you have a bit higher budget. For now, I'd suggest you learn a bit about lighting to make your phone image look better.

    EDIT: I was just looking over past comments and want to point out that there are cameras for around $300 that are better than a phone, that is for sure. Though I don't know any that do 4k. I would highly recommend, spending $300 on some clamp lights from Home Depot, some bulbs, some PVC pipe for stands, etc. This will help you create a good image more than any sub $300 camera will.

  • HeySiriHeySiri Website User Posts: 382 Just Starting Out

    @MatthiasClafin my iPhone 8 shoots in 4k, and that's what I'll be using for filming. I already have quite a few lights and stands, so the money will probably just wait in my backup budget!

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator Moderator, Website User, Ambassador, Imerge Beta Tester, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 18,650 Ambassador

    @MatthiasClafin often I would agree that a phone cam will work, but, in HeySiri's case he's gearing up for an ambitious production that looks like he'll be syncing up multiple camera passes for elaborate VFX and the VFR on a phone really hurts sync. Phone footage is a pain to track in mocha for the same reason, so, for him, he really does want to get something shooting CFR. 

    But, to contradict myself, @HeySiri consider some of the third-party camera apps like Filmic Pro or Cinema FV-5. Some of these can force your phone to CFR, which is really the primary thing you're trying to attain for ease of compositing. These will be paid apps, but cheaper than a new camera. 

  • DataDesignDataDesign Website User Posts: 459 Enthusiast
  • bilykingbilyking Website User Posts: 2
    edited February 2019

    https://bluestacks.vip/ https://kodi.software/ https://luckypatcher.pro/

    Best DSLR 4K Cameras
    Panasonic HC-X1 4K UHD Camcorder. 
    Blackmagic Design URSA Mini 4.6K Digital Cinema Camera. 
    Nikon D500. 
    Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. 
    Sony PXW-Z100 4K Handheld XDCAM Camcorder. 

  • ramoss55ramoss55 Website User Posts: 1
    edited March 2019

     I already have quite a few lights and stands, so the money will probably just wait in my backup budget!  CCleaner Happy Wheels VLC

  • brajbraj Website User Posts: 75
    edited March 2019

     Is FilmicPro the best option for an Android app, or should I look at another option? $15 isn't bank but my wallet it light.


    Edit: Ok, I am impatient as hell and went ahead and bought it. Does 24fps fine, but when I try and record 120 fps it can't do it even though my phone is supposed to be compatable, but it does see all three cameras and records 24 fps which my native camera app couldn't do. And all the manual controls are great. 

  • HeySiriHeySiri Website User Posts: 382 Just Starting Out

    @braj haha I just bought it myself. Have you found any useful tutorials?

  • brajbraj Website User Posts: 75
    edited March 2019

     I just bought it tonight, and the extra $10 add on for the higher bit video stuff. I haven't looked much for tutorials though, it is pretty straightforward. I am really loving it, I can play with depth of field on one of my camera's lenses, I have a LG g7 and it has a wide angle that doesn't have manual focus, and a telephoto, and that gives decent dof. I am impressed. I can really use my phone to do more interesting video work, near macro is possible with the manual focus and I can go visit my jumping spider buddies in the park. I know it is just a phone, but I have everything from start to end to make a full movie with only my phone. I need to figure out an external mic solution at some point, I guess, Audio Evolution doesn't have a real noise reduction plugin so audio needs to be better from the start. 

  • HeySiriHeySiri Website User Posts: 382 Just Starting Out

    What’s the best way to reduce audio noise without decreasing total audio quality for free? I know there are some pretty good noise reducers around $100  but are there any good, free alternatives?

  • brajbraj Website User Posts: 75

     On Android? I'm not sure. I wish Audio Evolution would get a tool similar to Hitfilm's. I use ReaFir in Reaper on the desktop, which is more flexible but the same process. I am pretty sure it would work on Android, it is really just an eq/compressor. 

  • brajbraj Website User Posts: 75

    There is built in noise reduction. I haven't tested it through the camera the native camera yet but something's going on. It's in Settings/device, scroll to the bottom. There is also a preference for Voice Processing under Audio. I am guessing that should be enabled. 

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