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Best Cinema Cameras for Your Next Documentary

Tanner Shinnick

No matter what genre of documentary you’re working on, here’s a look at some outstanding documentary cameras on the market.

Documentary filmmaking can oftentimes require a unique set of needs, skills, and demands on any production. This is especially true when it comes to the camera system that you choose to utilize. Having the best camera for the job is an age-old adage that’s especially true for the documentary filmmaker. 

While nearly every camera on the market today can be outfitted and used as a documentary camera, we’re going to take a look at our best out-of-the-box options on the market. Some of these common requests and needs of the documentary cinematographer are:

  • Built-in ND filters
  • High ISO performance
  • XLR/audio capabilities
  • Robust features (high-speed, in-camera IS)
  • Plus, general ease of use.

Whether you’re filming the next hit docu-series for Netflix or a film about your grandparents, let’s take a look at some documentary cameras today! 

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro

If the camera’s name wasn’t already long enough, it’s list of features is just as long. With a wildly robust list of features, this camera is destined to be found in the documentary filmmaker’s camera bag. With dual mini-XLR ports, built-in ND, and a super-small form factor, this camera is soon to be a favorite among documentary cinematographers to simply grab-and-go.

Because of its form factor, it can easily sit on handheld gimbals, nearly disappear during vérité work, and travel lightly in a backpack. 

Canon C70 

Canon continues to solidify themselves as a dominant force for the documentary cinematographer. With their latest C70, they’ve entered the chat as a powerhouse in documentary cinema. While not stated from Canon, this camera seems to be the direct replacement to their popular C100 lines of cameras. This mid-tier, entry-level camera features all the needs of the documentary filmmaker with 4K, built-in ND, and mini XLRs, with the ever-reliable Canon color science built right in. 

Panasonic EVA-1 

The Panasonic EVA-1 has been on the market for a few years now. However, it still proves itself as an excellent camera for the documentary filmmaker. This Super35 sensor camera fits right below the popular Panasonic Varicam LT that you’ll see on many high-end productions. It features fourteen stops of dynamic range and dual ISO, which proves to be an extremely useful feature for documentary filmmaking. This lowlight mode changes the camera’s native ISO all the way to 2500. 

Sony FX6/FX9

Sony continues to mark themselves as a premiere documentary camera maker with their new FX6 and FX9 line of cameras. Both of these cameras feature a full-frame sensor and cover all the needs of the documentary filmmaker, including built-in ND, XLR, and an ergonomic form factor. These ultra-reliable cameras have found themselves shooting many high-end documentaries and reality TV shows.  

With high-speed options up to 240fps at 1080, these cameras can quickly meet the most extreme demands of a documentary shoot. 

Canon C300 MIII & C500 MII

The Canon Cinema line of camera has become a staple in the documentary world. Their reliability, features, and color science have solidified their place in this field. Canon’s latest cameras, with the documentary filmmaker in mind, are the C300 Mark III and the C500 Mark II. The C500 Mark II offers a full-frame sensor, while the C300 Mark III offers a Super35 sensor. With high-speed options of up to 120fps on the C300 Mark III, this camera can fulfill the special needs of a documentary production, while providing an exceptional image to bring into post-production.

These are some impressive cameras on the market for the documentary filmmaker. No matter the needs of your production, you’ll be bound to find the best-suited camera for your project. 

For more documentary tips and advice, check out these articles:

Cover image via Alzbeta.

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