Camera Insights: The Best A-Cam and B-Cam Video Setups
Investing in a solid setup is well worth your money. Let’s take a look at three of the best A-Cam, B-Cam video camera setups currently on the market.
There are more video cameras available today than ever before. Not only do you have your great line of DLSR and mirrorless prosumer cameras, there are also many high-end cinema cameras that run the gamut of specs and price tags.
Speaking from experience, when I worked in-house with a video production company, there were often times when I needed at least a couple of cameras for a shoot. In many cases, these are A-camera and B-camera setups, where your A-cam is your high-end option for the majority of your filming, while your B-cam is usually your slightly lower-end camera, used for off-angle coverage and pickup shots.
In any situation, you can always mix and match your camera selections for the unique needs of your project. However, if you’re looking to invest in a solid setup — or just looking for some good go-to options — here are some of the best A-cam, B-cam setups currently on the market.
Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro and the BMPCC 4K
Blackmagic isn’t quite the “legacy” brand like some other names on this list, but the masterminds behind DaVinci Resolve are trailblazing their way into the forefront of the digital video camera game. While the URSA Mini Pro has been a solid A-camera (4.6K, ProRes 444 + 422 recording) cinema workhorse since 2017, the real variable in this equation is Blackmagic’s new Pocket Cinema Camera 4K, which is a popular B-camera companion that boasts many of the same specs but at a fraction of the price.
You could also consider Blackmagic’s recently announced URSA Mini Pro G2, which features greater high-frame rate recording. However, now may be a good time to strike, with the original Mini Pro most likely about to drop in price, thanks to the next-generation release.
Specs for the Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro:
- Super-35mm CMOS sensor
- 4608 x 2592 video up to 60p
- Compressed raw recording
- Ready-to-Edit ProRes 444 + 422 recording
- Dual CFast 2.0 memory card slots
- 12G-SDI output, timecode & REF input
- 1080p flip-out screen
- Touchscreen interface
- 2 x XLR audio inputs with phantom power
- Magnesium alloy body
Specs for the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K:
- 4/3″-sized HDR sensor
- Record DCI 4K 4096 x 2160 up to 60 fps
- Dual-native ISO to 25,600
- 5″ touchscreen display
- Active micro four-thirds lens mount
- Record up to 120 fps windowed HD
- CFast 2.0 & SD/UHS-II card slots
- External recording via USB Type-C
- 13-stop dynamic range, 3D LUT support
Canon C300 and the Canon 5D
I might be one of the last people in the world who still likes Canon cameras, but I spent years shooting on the Canon C300 — and both the Canon 7D and Canon 5D. Most of my career has been run-and-gun videography (and sometimes photography, to boot), so a reliable camera like the 5D or 7D has been invaluable.
Meanwhile, Canon’s C300 has been a very solid cinema A-camera offering — a favorite of documentary filmmakers and corporate video producers (also for its reliability and favorable color science).
And while we list the Canon 5D Mark IV as a good B-camera pairing (the brand’s latest version of its flagship camera), the 5D Mark III is actually pretty comparable as well, and you can find it much cheaper (or possibly used). You can also combine your combo workflow with the C100 as an A-cam, as well as other Canon cameras, like their new mirrorless EOS R or EOS RP. Or other DSLR options like the 7D or the 6D for the B-cam.
Canon C300 Mark II specs:
- Super 35mm CMOS sensor
- 4K,1920×1080 60/50i, 23.98/25p True 24p
- Canon XF AVC H.264 codec
- EF lens mount
- Dual-pixel CMOS AF technology
- >Rotating 4″ LCD monitor
- 2 x 3G-SDI output, 2x XLR inputs
- 2 x CFast card slots
- Timecode I/O, genlock in & sync out
- Canon Log 3 gamma
Canon 5D Mark IV specs:
- 30.4MP full-frame CMOS sensor
- DIGIC 6+ image processor
- 3.2″ 1.62m-dot touchscreen LCD monitor
- DCI 4K video at 30 fps; 8.8MP still grab
- 61-point high density reticular AF
- Native ISO 32000, expanded to ISO 102400
- Dual pixel RAW; AF area select button
- Dual pixel CMOS AF and movie servo AF
- >7 fps shooting; CF & SD card slots
- Built-in GPS and Wi-Fi with NFC
Price: $2,999 (body only)
Sony FS7 and Sony A7 III
Let’s not leave out the other major player in digital mirrorless and cinema cameras of the past several years. Going full Sony for your A-camera/B-camera setup may be your best image capture option. The Sony FS7, with its Super 35mm-sized CMOS sensor, is one of the most diverse and multi-functional A-cams on the market.
Combined with the full-frame Sony A7 III (or perhaps the Sony A7S II), you should get the best of Sony’s sharp and crisp color science, and superior low-light performance, for more uncontrolled and vérité-style shoots.
Here are the specs for the full Sony PXW-FS7 XDCAM Super 35 Camera System:
- Super 35-sized CMOS sensor
- Sony E-mount
- DCI 4K (4096 x 2160) up to 60p
- UHD up to 60 fps, HD up to 180 FPS
- 4096 x 2160 via external recorder
- XAVC-I, XAVC-L, MPEG-2
- XAVC-I Up to 600 Mb/s
- Dual XQD memory card slots
- Dual HD/3G-SDI & HDMI output
- Ergonomic handgrip with camera controls
And the specs for the Sony A7 III:
- 24MP full-frame Exmor R BSI CMOS sensor
- BIONZ X image processor & front-end LSI
- 693-point hybrid AF system
- UHD 4K30p video with HLG & S-Log3 gammas
- 2.36m-dot Tru-Finder OLED EVF
- 3.0″ 922k-dot tilting touchscreen LCD
- 5-axis SteadyShot INSIDE stabilization
- ISO 204800 and 10 fps shooting
- Built-In Wi-Fi and NFC, Dual SD Slots
- USB Type-C Port, weather-sealed design
Price: $1,999 (body only)
Cover image by lapandr.
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