Entertainment Best cheap video camera 2022: bargain picks for every kind of filmmaker
Best cheap video camera 2022: bargain picks for every kind of filmmaker
Editor’s note: August 2022
Nikon recently launched an affordable vlogging camera called the Z30 – and it sounds like Canon could soon be following suit. According to rumors, the camera giant is planning to launch a small camera for vloggers that’s based on the EOS M6 Mark II, only this time with its newer RF-mount.
The concept certainly makes sense, even if there are currently only two native RF-S lenses for its APS-C sensor cameras. Hopefully, the arrival of an affordable mirrorless video camera could also see Canon add to those lenses with some wide-angle options, which would make the EOS R100 (as it might be called) a tempting option for YouTubers or vloggers who can’t justify a full-frame camera.
If you’re looking for the best cheap video camera, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve assembled an in-depth list of the top budget video cameras, including recommendations based on specific needs (while each of these video cameras is affordable, they’re all quite different). On the hunt for a lightweight and portable vlogging camera, a rugged all-weather camera for capturing your outdoor exploits or simply the best model when it comes to pure image quality? We’ve got you covered.
Our picks are based on hours of real-world tests from our seasoned expert reviewers. On balance, we think the Panasonic Lumix G9 is the best overall cheap video camera. While some might argue that this mirrorless camera is more focussed on still photography than it is on video, it can also record movies in a wide range of formats up to and including 4K at a smooth 60fps, comes with features that suit video like a built-in image stabilization and a highly adjustable vari-angle screen and boasts great build quality and handling – all while being available for a very reasonable price.
That’s not to say it’s necessarily the best model for you. Your requirements may vary, but whatever they are we’re confident there’s a cheap video camera in this list that suits them.
How to choose the best cheap video camera for you
There are a number of important factors to consider when choosing a video camera, with perhaps the most obviously important being the image quality.
You should first consider the resolution(s) offered by any potential camera, as well as the frame rate(s) on offer. Resolution gives an indication of the level of detail that’ll be visible in your movies (4K is more detailed than 1080p, which is more detailed than in 720p, and so on) while frame rate determines how smoothly they play. Recording at a high frame rate also gives you the option of slowing the video down to create smoother, non-choppy slow motion, either in-camera or in an editing app in post-production.
You should note that resolution isn’t the only criterion that affects detail, however: 1080p footage with strong contrast, high dynamic range and low noise can appear a lot more detailed than noisy, flat-looking 4K footage – which is why other aspects like sensor size and the lens being used are also important things to consider.
Autofocus is also important. While all the cameras here have it, some implement it better than others, and if you’re vlogging you’ll almost certainly want a camera with face and/or eye detection and, if possible, real-time face/eye tracking to ensure you’re always in sharp focus even if you move within the frame. Right now, Sony and Canon offer the best video autofocus systems in more affordable cameras.
Image stabilization, meanwhile, can make handheld videos much steadier and less nausea-inducing, and things like long battery life, storage speed/capacity, handling and waterproofing can also be important depending on your particular requirements.
The best cheap video cameras in 2022
The Panasonic Lumix GH5 (see below) shares much of its spec and features with the Panasonic Lumix G9 while being a more video-centric camera, so you may be wondering why we’ve rated the latter more highly here. The reason is price: the G9 is significantly cheaper than the GH5 when purchased brand-new (if you’re buying a used model, your mileage may of course vary).
Despite its price and focus on still photography, it offers videographers some powerful tools to play with: it can shoot 4K video at up to 60fps, offers highly effective in-body image stabilization (representing up to 6.5 extra stops of exposure), a 3-inch rear touchscreen that can be flipped and rotated to face forwards and microphone and headphone jacks for connecting your recording and monitoring audio gear. The main thing it lacks in comparison to the GH5 is support for 4:2:2 high bitrate recording, which means its video quality is slightly less rich when it comes to color and detail.
It’s also a great camera to use thanks to its thoughtful control layout and ergonomic DSLR-style body, which is sealed against water and dust and offers two SD card slots, both compatible with high-speed UHS-II cards. This camera feels solid and snug in the hand, while being compact enough to carry around for extended periods of time.
The DJI Pocket 2 is a footloose vlogger’s delight. Tiny and lightweight (it really does live up to its name), it’s equipped with a 3-axis gimbal that keeps footage beautifully stabilized and horizon-leveled. With a wide range of video options (including 4K at a smooth 60fps, HDR and 8x slow motion) it’s a great step-up from a smartphone if you’re looking for a vlogging camera that you can take anywhere and use one-handed. Image quality is strong in general, even if dynamic range and low light performance aren’t able to match a mirrorless camera.
The Pocket 2 burnishes its vlogging chops with built-in beauty-enhancement options (skin smoothing and face slimming), live streaming and an impressive tracking function: drag a box around an object and the camera and gimbal will keep it centered, even if it (or the camera) moves. It’s a great feature if you want to present to camera without having to worry too much about composition.
The tiny 1-inch screen means you may want to dock the Pocket 2 with your smartphone for added functionality (you’ll need to use the DJI Mimo app for live streaming for instance), and while the method for this is quite ingenious (you slide a Lightning or USB-C adapter onto the Pocket 2’s handle, then connect that directly to your phone) the result does feel unwieldy and unbalanced, requiring two hands to keep things stable.
The Sony ZV-E10 is a mid-range mirrorless vlogger camera that delivers a lot for its price. It’s compact in size (thanks in part to the lack of a viewfinder or flash) and lightweight in build, with a sideways-flipping articulated touchscreen, impressive wide-grilled built-in microphone, and jacks for hooking up an external mic and headphones. It can also be tethered to a computer via its USB-C port, allowing it to be used as a webcam or for plug-and-play live streaming.
Perhaps its most impressive vlogger-friendly feature is its fast, accurate autofocus, which can be set to detect and track eyes and faces in real-time. It can also record video in picture profiles like S-Log 2, S-Log 3 and HLG, which videographers who like to color correct and grade their own footage will appreciate.
It’s not without some issues, though. It has a tendency to display wobbly rolling shutter effects during quick pans and doesn’t have in-body image stabilization, both of which reduce its appeal as a run-and-gun video camera. 4K recording is limited to 30fps (you can record at 60 and 100fps, plus 120fps for slow motion, but you’ll need to use a lower 1080p resolution), while the lack of a viewfinder also limits its stills usability somewhat.
A vlogging-centric twist on Sony’s premium RX100 compact camera line, the ZV-1 is a pocket-sized point-and-shoot with powerful video capabilities. Using a 1-inch sensor and bright f/1.8-2.8 lens, it can capture sharp 4K video with smooth background bokeh. 4K footage tops out at 30fps rather than 60fps, but higher frame rates (up to 960fps for super slow-motion playback) are available if you reduce the resolution to 1080p. Picture profiles like S-Log2 and S-Log3 are supported, boosting its enthusiast credentials, while a built-in ND filter makes it easier to capture better quality footage in bright sunlight.
The ZV-1 benefits massively from Sony’s class-leading autofocus tech, which includes real-time face- and eye-tracking and in our tests did a great job of keeping human subjects in constant sharp focus. It has built-in image stabilization too, but be warned: the system applies a sizable crop to the image frame when at its most effective, which means shooting yourself while holding it requires you to keep your arm fully stretched.
Despite its compact size, the ZV-1 finds room for an articulated screen, good quality three-capsule microphone and an accessory shoe that can accommodate an LED video light or shotgun mic. All in all it’s a very solid package for the on-the-go vlogger.
Released as the company’s flagship video-centric mirrorless camera back in 2017 (the G9 being the other, still photo-focussed flagship), the Panasonic Lumix GH5 remains a fantastically powerful tool for serious filmmakers years later. In fact, at the time of writing it’s still part of Panasonic’s current line-up, despite being superseded in the range by more recent, higher spec models like the GH5 Mark II and GH6.
While not as cheap as the G9 with which it shares a sensor and many features, the GH5 is more affordable than ever today (particularly if you can pick up a used model) and offers a better video spec than the G9, as well as a slightly larger 3.2-inch touchscreen. The GH5 can record beautiful Cinema 4K footage at 60fps with a bitrate of 150Mbps, and supports 10-bit color depth and 4:2:2 subsampling. It can also output Apple ProRes to an external recorder via its HDMI port, and (when equipped with an optional adapter) can record sound through high-end XLR microphones.
Like all Panasonic mirrorless cameras it uses a contrast-based autofocus system which, while it generally works well, does feel a little hesitant compared to more advanced hybrid systems from rival manufacturers like Sony and Canon. It’s a great camera to use all told though, with good handling and controls, an articulated screen and weather-sealing for fuss-free outdoor operation.
The latest iteration of Canon’s enthusiast point-and-shoot compact, the PowerShot G7 X Mark III comes with a number of features designed to appeal to would-be vloggers and content creators.
It captures good quality uncropped 4K video at up to 30fps and 1080p at up to 120fps, supports vertical recording (hello TikTok) and YouTube livestreaming and has a built-in ND filter and 3.5mm mic jack. The lack of a hotshoe for attaching accessories feels like a big omission here, while the flip-up touchscreen isn’t quite as appealing or flexible as the side-flipping articulated LCD used by most rivals.
We found that the camera has a slight tendency to overexpose scenes, but image quality is generally solid and helped by effective image stabilization and reliable autofocus (including face detection). One thing to note, however: 4K recordings are limited to a maximum length of just under 10 minutes per clip, probably to avoid overheating.
Pocket-sized and well-constructed, the Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III is a great camera to use and feels comfortable in your hand, with lots of physical controls placed within easy reach. It’s not quite as advanced or forward-looking at the Sony ZV-1 (see above), however.
It might no longer be GoPro’s flagship action camera, but the Hero 8 Black is now so cheap that it feels like the best value model in the company’s range. Small, sturdy, waterproof and weighing just 117g, it comes with a mount built into its body, making it extremely easy to fix it to your bike, chest, head, surfboard or a selfie stick.
With its wide-angle field of view, wide range of video modes and superb HyperSmooth image stabilization, it’s a great choice if you just want something that can record usable footage without constant attention. You might be otherwise occupied climbing a mountain or kayaking down a river, but the Hero 8 Black can be relied upon to do a decent job of filming your exploits regardless.
It’s not without its issues, though. While it boasts a maximum resolution of 5.3K (which it’ll capture at a silky 60fps), its video quality isn’t as good as a high-spec smartphone, and dynamic range and detail falls off when you attempt to record in low light conditions. If you can restrict yourself to outdoor daytime use and learn to work within its limitations, though, the Hero 8 Black can prove a valuable video-making tool.
Despite being several years old, the Panasonic Lumix G85 (called the G80 in the UK) remains a valid option for anyone looking for a super-cheap interchangeable lens video camera. It shoots good quality 4K video at 25 and 24fps, comes with in-body image stabilization (which can add 4.5 stops of compensation), weather-sealing, a 3.5mm microphone input and an articulated touchscreen – all of which are features a would-be filmmaker should find extremely valuable. It’s also nicely compact and fits well in the hand thanks to its classic DSLR-inspired shape.
The sensor’s low 16MP resolution isn’t as big an issue for video as it is for still photography, but it’s worth noting that slightly newer Panasonic Lumix G series models like the G9 and GH5 do outperform the G80/G85 in terms of bitrate, frame rate and dynamic range, not to mention offering faster autofocus and more effective image stabilization. Still, for its price it’s very hard to fault this veteran Micro Four Thirds model: you can spend some of the money you save when buying it on an extra lens or two, and a good lens can make huge real-world improvements to your footage.
Looking for a video camera that films everything around you and lets you play director later? The Insta360 One X2 is the best 360 camera around and ideal if you’re mainly looking to shoot social media videos with some dynamic camera moves and special effects. Thanks to its two lenses and 5.7K sensor, the One X2 lets you choose your frames and transitions after the video’s been shot. To do this, you use either Insta360’s desktop Studio software or the companion app for iOS or Android, which we found to be a little buggy and processor-hogging during testing.
Our test clips showed that the One X2 certainly has limitations, particularly when shooting in low light. But shoot during the day in good light and you’ll get some perfectly serviceable 1080p footage, which you can crucially re-edit when you get home to create the effect of having your own cameraperson. This makes the One X2 particularly handy for solo filmmakers and it comes with IPX8 water-resistance for shooting in the great outdoors. The newer Insta360 One RS 1-Inch 360 Edition captures better footage due to its larger image sensors, but for value the One X2 is still the 360 camera to beat.