The Best DSLR for Video – Canon? Nikon? Pentax? Sony?

best dslr for videoSo you’re looking to find which DSLR is the best for shooting video? There are so many cameras on the market today which offer HD video capabilities and instead of having to pour over the specs of each of these cameras, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve already done the research for you and below is my opinion of the best as of May 2015. Don’t trust my opinion? That’s totally fine. You’re more than welcome to go over all the camera specifications individually. In fact, you can view this handy DSLR comparison chart or this one from Dpreview.com for an overview of different camera specs in a side by side comparison.

Just as a note, my recommendations below are based on my experiences as a wedding and event videographer. If you are just wanting to capture home movies on the side, or photography is your main focus, then there may be better options available. You may have already invested in lenses and accessories specific to a certain brand (Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax, etc.), and you might not want to scrap all that gear just to get a camera body from another manufacturer. So I will first pick the best DSLR within each of the major brands.

But if you’re starting from scratch, I’ll give you my recommendation for the best overall DSLR for movie making. As a side note, when you buy your camera you’re buying a brand, and not just one camera body. Along with your camera body you’ll need lenses and accessories, which may only be compatible for that brand. For more details on what to look out for, I’d suggest reading  the Canon vs Nikon article. But enough chit chat, let’s get on to the list.

 

Click to view full size comparison chart

Click to view full size comparison chart

 

Best Canon DSLR for Video: Canon 5D Mark III

5dIII

The Canon 5D seems to be the pioneer in using DSLRs for video work. Movies such as Captain America, Act of Valor, The Avengers, and the entire House season 6 finale episode were shot with a Canon 5D Mark II. A more comprehensive list of movies and tv work can be found here. However, since then Canon has released the 5D Mark III which is my Canon pick for best DSLR for video. Newer editions (5DS and 5DSR) of this camera are being released soon, but based on the specs, there doesn’t seem to be much improvement in terms of video functionality. So I’d say save your money to buy better lenses as opposed to updating from the 5D3.

Video Features of the Canon 5D Mark III:

  • All aspects of exposure (ISO, aperture, shutter speed) can be adjusted manually in live view/video mode. This might not sound like a big deal, but many Nikon cameras don’t have the ability to adjust aperture settings while in live view mode.
  • Microphone input. The sound captured by the camera’s built in microphone is not the greatest. This doesn’t just apply to Canon, as most camera bodies don’t produce the best quality sound. After all, it is primarily a camera, not a professional audio device. So to capture cleaner audio, you can mount a microphone such as the Rode Video Mic to the 5D Mark III hot shoe and plug it in to capture cleaner audio.
  • Good low light capability. The 5D Mark III has an increased ISO range (100 – 25600 in 1/3 stops; plus 50; 51200; 102400 as options) and better low light performance as compared to the 5D Mark II.
  • It’s a full frame camera, which also helps with low light performance. The bigger the sensor, the more light is able to be captured.
  • Dual memory slots and of differing types (CF and SD)
  • Headphone jack for monitoring audio
  • Ability to select Kelvin temperature for white balance – This allows more accuracy in selecting a white balance and the ability to sync multiple cameras to the same Kelvin temperature for continuity of shots between the different cameras.
  • Recording length of 29 minutes

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Canon Runners up:

1DCCanon 1D C
Has way more features for video – 4k video, focus peaking, etc., but it didn’t win the best because frankly how many people have $8000 to spend on a camera?
See review and specs.
7DIICanon 7D Mark II
Has the same or even better specs than the 5D Mark III, but it’s a crop sensor camera so it doesn’t perform as well in low light. But if you can’t afford the 5D Mark III, the 7D Mark II should be your next choice.
See review and specs.

 

 

Best Nikon DSLR for Video: Nikon D750

d750

Has all the video features mentioned above for the Canon 5D Mark III including full manual adjustments in live view, microphone input, headphone jack, Kelvin temparature selection, and good low light performance (it’s a full frame dslr as well). However, one difference from the Canon 5D Mark III is that the Nikon D750 has 2 SD card slots. The 5D Mark III has 1 SD card slot and 1 CF card slot. CF cards are still slightly faster than SD cards, so this might be something to consider. But then again the following are features that the Nikon 750 has that the Canon 5d Mark III doesn’t have:

  • Ability to shoot videos 1,920 x 1,080 at 60 fps. You might want to be able to shoot at 60fps so that you have extra frames to do some smooth slow motion work. This process is called overcranking.
  • Tilting screen – Being able to tilt the LCD screen can be so helpful when you want to get low angle shots. No more having to lie down on the ground just to see what your shot will look like.
  • Built in wifi
  • Zebras – Zebra stripes to indicate overexposed areas.

Full specifications and review of the Nikon D750 can be found here.

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Nikon Runner up:

Nikon D810
Has CF and SD card slots and more megapixels. Video features are comparable, but this camera costs more and doesn’t have a variangle screen.
See the Nikon d810 review and specs.

 

 

Best Pentax DSLR for Video: Pentax K-3

Pentax K3 Review

While the Pentax K-3 is a crop sensor camera, it still performs well in low light conditions. It also has dual SD card slots and full manual control of exposure in video mode. And the following additional features make it a contender for those thinking about purchasing it to use for video work:

  • In camera image stabilization
  • Weather resistant with 92 special seals
  • Microphone input option with the ability to control audio levels
  • Focus peaking – a display option which highlights areas in focus to aid in achieving sharp focus when adjusting focus manually
  • Many different frame rate / video resolution options:
    • 1920 x 1080 (60i / 50i / 30p / 25p / 24p)
    • 1280 x 720 (60p / 50p / 30p / 25p / 24p)
  • Cheapest of all the DSLRs ranked as the best for video on this page.

See the full review and specs for the Pentax K-3.

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Best Sony DSLR for Video: A77 II

SLT-A77ii

The Sony Alpha A77 Mark II is also an APS-C crop sensor camera, and what makes this camera stand out for video work are the following features:

  • In camera image stabilization
  • 60 frames per second at 1920 x 1080
  • 29 minutes of continuous video recording. This seems to be the standard  max length among DSLRs due to tax restrictions. However, the Pentax K-3 has a max of 25 minutes.
  • Wifi
  • Microphone input
  • Focus peaking
  • A whopping 79 autofocus points

View the full review and specifications for the Sony A77 ii.

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So overall, what’s the best dslr for video?

If you’re just looking at experimenting with dslr video to take some home movies, and don’t intend to take the hobby further, then the Pentax K-3 offers the best value. However, if you’re serious about filming with a dslr, you’re better off with the Nikon or Canon. First, they are full frame cameras for better performance, and secondly there are a lot more lens options for Canon and Nikon than there are for Pentax and Sony. A camera body will only take you so far and quickly become outdated. But good pieces of glass can keep their value and add different looks to your footage. So between the Canon 5D Mark III and the Nikon D750, I’d go with the Nikon D750 because it has a tilting LCD, the ability to shoot 60 fps, and a few more megapixels over the Canon 5D Mark III. However, Canon and Nikon are continuously releasing new camera bodies so if you’re a Canon fan, there’s no need to switch to Nikon just to get the D750, as I’m sure Canon will be quick to release a body to match it’s competitor.

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