Top Five Best Cameras for Selling Stock Footage in 2019
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the number of great camera choices out there. Especially when you try to compare all the confusing specs between them. These numbers just don’t translate easily into real life situations, nor do they tell the full story of what each camera is capable of.
Cameras are like people - they all have a few faults, but at the same time, they all have their own unique redeeming qualities. Depending on your needs and your style of shooting, some may be better suited than others.
I decided to do all the technical research for you. I’m cutting through the numbers and doing my best to translate those specs into easy to understand features of these top five cameras.
In this post, I’ll be breaking down some great camera choices for shooting and selling stock footage specifically. Here are a few of the main factors I considered in this breakdown:
If you are venturing into the ever growing world of stock footage, then you probably already know how quickly the quality of footage is increasing. Since I began my own journey into the stock footage world, I have seen the demand quickly shift from SD to HD to 4K, all in a matter of just a few years.
It’s important to keep this rapidly changing environment in mind when shopping for a new camera to shoot stock footage with. Not only will you want a camera that can produce the highest quality video out there, you’ll also want a camera that is a step ahead of it’s own time in regard to resolution and image quality.
No matter who you are, price is important. Obviously, lower is better, but not if it compromises the overall quality and function. It’s all about finding the perfect balance between price and function. You’ll land at a place where it’s comfortable for you personally. I paid close attention to price in these recommendations, so that there’s an affordable option at every level.
Each and every one of the following cameras has a handful of their own special features that makes them unique. Depending on your specific use or personality, these may be just the selling points that will push you towards one camera over the other. I’ve included these highlights for you to take note of as they may not appear obvious when just scanning the specs elsewhere.
Recommended by other filmmakers
In case you missed some of my first posts, I explained my own journey into the stock footage and photography world. I’m on a mission to sell more and more footage each month, thereby increasing my monthly passive income through videography. Having the right gear is critical to me being able to capture desirable footage that others will want to pay for.
I also keep in touch with a community of other stock footage contributors who chat daily about their favorite gear. I decided it was time to explore each of the top names that I hear about the most and which may be the best buy for stock footage contributors in 2019.
Here are the top 5 cameras for shooting stock footage and a few reasons why.
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This was by far the crowd favorite among other stock footage contributors. This mirrorless camera seems like a solid choice for anyone looking for the best quality and function at an affordable price. Here are the top features.
Stabilization - This is the number one selling point for this camera noted by a number users. The in-body stabilization is far superior to all other cameras at this price point. You won’t have to use a tripod or gimbal nearly as much as with other cameras to keep your footage smooth and steady when on the move. Great for traveling or action shots.
Resolution // Footage Quality - At this price range, it’s one of the only cameras that I know of today that can shoot 4k at 60 fps (including my Canon 1DX mark ii which doesn’t even do this). Again, this is ideal for stock footage, as this camera proves to be a step ahead of its competition in terms of resolution for slow motion footage.
Size - A great compact choice. Relatively small in comparison to almost all DSLR cameras and right in line with many of the medium sized mirrorless camera bodies. Great for travel and on-the-go shoots.
Auto Focus - Overall a very strong feature. It does struggle to focus on faces in low light conditions, but in general does a great job following focus on most moving objects.
Battery Life - Long lasting battery life, can shoot just about an entire day of shooting. That’s amazing.
Color Profile - Shoots in log capture color profile, which closely mimics raw and allows for maximum freedom when editing colors in post production. Ideal for that warm, cinematic look.
Photo Capabilities - If you are also a photographer and like to capture both stills and videos, then this point may actually be the weakest for this camera. The photo technology is not bad at all, but it’s not up to par with a typical DSLR. Would be just fine if you are taking photos for the web or social media. You may notice a difference if you photos are blown up to billboard size or if you are a professional photographer and are used to the speed and light capabilities of a DSLR.
Extra features to note - Intervalometer (already built-in to camera for taking photo time-lapses), articulating display (great for selfies, youtubers, low angle shots, etc.). With this and the Panasonic GH5S listed below, it’s important to remember the smaller sensor size of the camera. This allows the camera to be small and lightweight, but it also means that there will be a significant crop if you decide to use lenses from other systems.
This next camera, the Blackmagic Pocket Design 4k, is a bit of a mixed bag. The footage quality is incredible, especially for those looking to capture that raw, cinematic film look. This is the number one reason to buy this camera and the main reason I have included it in this list. However, the usability, ergonomics, and out of box limitations make it a difficult camera for some users, especially beginners. In some cases, this camera will not make sense, but if image quality is your number one consideration, then you may be in love. Let’s take a closer look at some of its top features.
Resolution // Footage Quality - I ranked this feature at the top here, because it is by the far the biggest selling point of this camera. Much like a RED camera, the Blackmagic Pocket 4k has exceptional resolution and quality, especially for a camera under $2,000. It offers 12-bit RAW recording with 4k up to 60p and HD at 120p. That being said, it unfortunately cannot simply be used out of the box like many of the other cameras on this list. You will pay the price with additional accessories that need to be added on to the camera to make it work for you. There is also a much steeper learning curve when it comes to how to operate this beast. However, for the true filmmakers at heart, this camera is a dream. The fact that you can get this quality of resolution and dynamic range cannot be beat for the price.
Size - It is small and light. These are great features however, it also makes it hard to get steady handheld shots. You will definitely need to rig a cage on it in order to make it more stable and perhaps even add a gimbal or tripod to your setup.
Auto Focus - Not the best auto focus functionality. It does have auto focus, although not continuous and very slow to lock focus. Depending on your main subject, this may or may not be a drawback. Since I mainly shoot children that are constantly moving, often unpredictably, having great auto focus is an important factor for me. But, for the landscape or nature photographer, this may not be the case.
Battery - Out of box, the battery life is not great. Only 1 hour of total usage using one battery. You can, however, attach an external battery to your rig to prolong the battery life.
Color Profile - Records in 12-bit RAW and Pro Res codecs with plenty of options to choose from. Great features for maintaining a high dynamic range and all those wonderful blacks, whites, and colors in between when editing in post. This is another wonderful selling point for why you might consider investing in this camera.
Photo Capabilities - Does not take still photos. This one is purely for filmmakers.
Stabilization - There is no in-body stabilization with this camera. Because of the somewhat awkward size and shape of this camera, a rig is almost a necessity to make it functional. It can be connected to a gimbal for added stability.
Other features worth noting - The freedom to add-on and customize your setup is a key feature for this camera. It’s perfect for filmmakers and professional videographers that have very specific needs and will utilize these robust features. Multiple functions in camera for recording audio (i.e. splitting channels if you are doing multiple person interviews, etc.), very nice and intuitive LCD touch screen to scroll through all the video functions, many options to add on your own personalized setups (add additional memory storage, battery life, etc.)
Let’s take a closer look at Canon’s full frame mirrorless camera choice - the EOS R. How does it compare to the other cameras on this list in terms of quality and function as well as its suitability for shooting stock footage?
Resolution // Footage Quality - Overall great 4k image quality with very high bit rates and shoots 60p at 1080p max. Overall not as great as some of the others on this list, such as the Blackmagic and Lumix GH5, but very solid choice for this price range. One thing to keep in mind is that the 4k footage is cropped, which is a bit of a bummer. But still great quality overall. Another key thing to note: it does not shoot in 120p at 1080p, only at 720p. This may be a deal breaker for some.
Color Profile - Shoots in C-log profile that is great for color grading in post, shoots 480 MBPS at 4k, which is a very nice quality codec (Sony A7iii only does 100 MBPS to put that in perspective).
Size - Feels great in your hands, about the average size of a small DSLR camera, but bigger than some of the other mirrorless options.
Auto Focus - Great quality auto focus for a mirrorless camera. Canon by far is the king of auto-focus.
Battery Life - Long battery life: approximately 5-6 hours per battery.
Stabilization - No built-in IBIS (in-body stabilization) with this camera, but there is an enhanced digital stabilization feature. It will crop in on your image which is unfortunate, but it does take out a bit of the jitter in the handheld camera movement. The small size allows you to easily carry it mounted to a gimbal or tripod.
Photo Capabilities - A great choice for those looking for a combo of quality video plus photo capabilities.
Other features worth noting - You can either use a new set of lenses specific to the EOS R system, which includes a very cool additional ring stop on the lens that you can customize to adjust ISO, shutter speed, or other settings directly on the lens OR you can easily mount traditional Canon EF lenses using an EOS R adaptor, also features a fully tilting LCD screen (great for selfies and youtubers).
I know this camera pretty well, since it’s what my husband uses as his main camera. He is mostly a still photographer, but has recently enjoyed learning more about shooting video. He has been very pleased with this camera so far, especially after upgrading from the XT2 to the XT3. If you’re into fishing or any type of outdoor photography, you should definitely check out his full review on switching to mirrorless and why he did it. Okay, back to the main points for the Fujifilm XT3.
Resolution // Footage Quality - Shoots 4k 10-bit up to 60 fps at 400 MBPS. In normal language, this is a lot of data that gets recorded, which contributes to the wonderful footage quality you’ll get out of this little camera. Also shoots 120p at 1080 resolution, with a small amount of crop there.
Color Profile - This is perhaps the biggest selling point for the Fujifilm XT3 - the colors are awesome. The color science seems to fit real life the best out of all the cameras on this list. It shoots in a flat picture profile with F-Log gamma, as well as in HLG profile, again both great for color coding footage in post production. Great dynamic range for this price point.
Stabilization - No in-body stabilization for video, but the small size and weight make it very easy to attach to a gimbal or tripod for shots with a lot of movement.
Size - This is a great compact size for travel and packing light. It feels great in your hands, light but still sturdy. It just feels like it’s made from quality materials.
Auto Focus - Continuous auto focus and face tracking work very well in most situations. They will be tested a bit in low light, but are fully functional for most lighting situations. Overall better auto-focus tested better than with the Sony a7iii.
Battery Life - Battery life is decent. You will probably need 2-3 for a total day of shooting, but the batteries are small and inexpensive, so this is not a big issue.
Photo Capabilities - As with all mirrorless cameras, it’s just not fair to compare it to your normal high-end DSLR in terms of speed. However, for the size and price this camera takes exceptional photos. My husband is living proof with the many incredible shots he’s been able to get with this little workhorse.
Other features worth noting - Internal intervalometer for taking time-lapses without additional attachments, the body is just nice looking and feels sturdy, has an old school, analog feel in you’re into that sort of thing, as well as dual card slots.
This is not an upgraded version of the GH5, it’s more like the sibling version. Similar, but different personalities. Let’s look at some of the key differences here.
Stabilization - No in-body stabilization with this camera, which was a huge feature to the GH5 and really the biggest difference between the two cameras. Panasonic did this to increase the camera’s ability to handle low-light situations, which in turn becomes a feature that this camera has that the GH5 doesn’t. More on that in a second. That being said, you can still find some internal stabilization if you use a lens with built in stabilization. Or of course, you can mount it on a gimbal.
Resolution // Footage Quality - The sensor is slightly bigger than the GH5, which means it handles low light situations with less noise. This is the main appeal to the GH5S over the GH5. You can crank the ISO much higher than with the GH5, which gives you more flexibility in a variety of environments. Shoots in 4k 10 bit resolution, which is awesome. Can also shoot 4k at 60 fps, again awesome.
Size - About the same size as the GH5 - fits nicely in your hands and great for compact traveling or run and gun shots.
Auto Focus - The auto focus functionality could use some improvement in the future. This camera has received a lot of criticism for this area, but it’s not terrible.
Battery Life - Decent battery life, records several hours with one battery.
Color Profile - Same as the GH5, it shoots in V-Log for great raw footage that can be color graded later. Great for creating that cinematic feel in post production.
Photo Capabilities - Overall great quality photos, even though this camera was clearly designed for the filmmaker in mind. Either way, you can absolutely do both.
Other features worth noting - Built in anamorphic mode (adds a unique cinematic look), can add XLR adapter (for external audio inputs), totally adaptable to additional rigs and customization.
Picking the right camera is a tough decision. There are so many factors to consider and at the end of the day, sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith and decide. I would love to know which cameras you are considering. Or which cameras you already love. Do you agree or disagree with my conclusions? Feel free to comment below on your own experiences or if you have any further questions. Happy shooting!
Hi, I'm Beth.
I started Handcraft Films to give other filmmakers and photographers the gift of documenting their own stories for years to come. I hope you'll learn something new and share your creativity here.
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