Published May 4, 2021
There are a lot of photo/video cameras that have found a role as B-cameras on professional productions or A-cameras for amateur and independent productions. These cameras provide a variety of tools to support filmmakers and output high quality footage at high bitrates.
For high-end productions: Panasonic Lumix DC-S1H
The Panasonic Lumix DC-S1H’s stills-camera looks disguise one of the most video-centric stills/video cameras we’ve ever encountered. Its capture options are diverse: 10-bit 4:2:2 4K at up to 30p from the full sensor area or 60p from a Super 35 crop, with open-gate and Anamorphic support or 5.9K Raw output, but it’s the other features that make it our pick.
Features such as waveforms and vectorscopes, shutter angle operation, dual zebra displays and the same V-Log profile as Panasonic’s VariCam pro cinema cameras make it a tool that can slot into professional working environments with minimal workarounds. Probably the greatest weakness is the somewhat unreliable autofocus, which counts against it for run-and-gun shooting, but overall, it’s a powerful addition to productions both large and small.
If your budget won’t stretch to the S1H or you don’t need its full-frame specific benefits (like more potential for shallow depth-of-field), the Panasonic GH5 and GH5s offer many of its capabilities in a smaller, less expensive format.
Run and gun: Sony a7S III
The Sony a7S III is a highly flexible compact production tool. Like the S1H it’s a full frame camera and one that can shoot UHD 4K at up to 60p from its full sensor width or 120p with a slight crop. 10-bit 4:2:2 capture and a choice of codecs combine with image stabilization, effective autofocus and good battery life to provide powerful option for run-and-gun shooting.
There’s also a 4.2K Raw output option. It lacks the peace-of-mind offered by the Panasonic S1H’s fan cooling and it also lacks support tools such as waveform displays and control in terms of shutter angle, but it’s a vast step up from Sony’s previous consumer offerings.
We’d also suggest considering the Sony FX3. It’s essentially the same camera but with a built-in fan and more video-centric form factor. You lose the viewfinder but gain a top handle with a pair of XLR / ¼” audio inputs.
We considered the cameras below when picking our winner, and even though we think the Panasonic S1H and Sony a7S III are the best choices overall, the cameras on our short list are also worth considering.
* This product has not been reviewed and is not eligible for an award.