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The Best Budget Cinema Cameras Of This Year (Reviewed)

In today’s article, I have covered what I think are the best cinema cameras or filmmaking ones. The list mainly consists of camcorders, and you may ask why. 

Let’s learn more about the five best-budget cinema cameras I picked for you guys who don’t want to break the bank.

A Quick Look at My Favorite Budget Cinema Cameras

ImageProductFeaturesPrice
Best Overall
Panasonic X1500
Panasonic X1500
10
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Best High-End
Canon XA11
Canon XA11
9
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Best Entry-Level
Canon XA40
Canon XA40
8.6
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Best Value
Canon VIXIA HF G50
Canon VIXIA HF G50
8.5
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Best Compact
Sony FDR-AX43
Sony FDR-AX43
8.6
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Key Takeaways

  • In order to have a nice camera and be able to record some incredible moments, I would like to get the Panasonic X1500
  • To achieve incredible results, make sure the camera you’re using has high quality, wonderful sound, etc.
  • With these incredible camcorders, you may choose to launch a filmmaking profession in a budget price of course.

The Top 5 Best Budget Cinema Cameras in 2022:

5. Panasonic HC-X1500 – Best Overall

What I Like

  • Flexible and Portable
  • A great RGB pixel structure
  • Hybrid optical image stabilization

What I Don’t Like

  • Limited battery life

Not so long ago Panasonic released two camcorders, the HC-X1500 and its big brother the HC-X2000. Both of them have their worth, with the HC-x2000 being better at some fields but costing way more.

Panasonic with the release of those two camcorders promises us portability, functional flexibility, and overall satisfaction in video shooting.

The HC-1500x is indeed a professional camera, but vloggers and indie filmmakers had no problem using it either, and it sure does more than they need.

Panasonic makes a bold statement entitling it as the smallest and lightest 4k camcorder, and in a way, it does live up to that. It measures 12.79 x 11.1 x 8.46 inches and weighs only 5.06 pounds.

So yeah, thanks to its light body and heat-dispersing design, it will sit in your hand for a long time without ruining your comfort, giving you arm aches and such.

It comes with a 3.5-inch LCD Monitor that also has touch features and approximately 2,760k dots. It provides a great RGB pixel structure for high clarity even on the brightest days. As for the Viewfinder, it is one with equivalently 1,550k dots that can be easily tilted to your desired position, while the large eyecup comfortably fits your eyes.

Output includes SDI and HDMI, both can pass embedded audio, with a pair of XLR inputs

Next, it got a 24x optical zoom that will please anyone, even the most obsessive investigator. It is also capable of extending up to 32x in 4k shooting, or even further than that at 48x, but the latter one is viable for a Full HD shoot.

Thanks to its five-axis hybrid optical image stabilization, it produces very nice handheld footage even at the end of the 24x range.

In average, the Panasonic HC-X1500 has an 8.5-hour battery life, which is pretty good considering it can shoot great videos.

The 1/2.5 inch sensors are capable of shooting at 4k with a nice 60fps, while at the same time its autofocus is fantastic and pulls the face tracking so well. The Panasonic HC-x1500 supports 10-bit 4:2:2 recording at a bit rate of 200mbps for 60/50p video. The slow motion can be recorded at 120/100 fps at 10-bit in Full HD.

Why should you buy it?

This camera has a light body and heat-dispersing design; it will sit in your hand for a long time without ruining your comfort, giving you arm aches and such.

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Footage Samples of the Panasonic HC-X1500


4. Canon XA11 – Best High-End

What I Like

  • Very powerful and portable
  • Infrared shooting mood
  • Built-in headphone jack
  • No distortion

What I Don’t Like

  • Low battery life

Since we are talking about filmmaking and cinema, run-and-gun situations can demand quite a lot, especially a versatile lens and a heavy body. And that’s when the Canon XA11 kicks in. It’s as good, if not better than a high-end mirrorless camera.

The Canon XA11 is a combination of both power and portability, it’s exactly what you want to hold during a chaotic, intense environment/scene.

Like most camcorders we are used to seeing these days, it also has a 3.5 OLED touch panel view, and an electronic viewfinder with a 1 560 000 – dot resolution. The XA11 features a bunch of zoom settings like constant, fast, normal, variable, and slow. It also provides full manual controls and auto mode features like focus, gain, shutter speed, and balance, besides that there are also professional features such as color bars, pre-record buffer, peaking, and reference tone.

What’s more, it features an IR (infrared) shooting mode that allows you to capture great-looking visuals even in low-light environments. As for the connectivity the camera has a USB port for downloading footage that you stored in the memory card, and there’s also the 2.5mm mini-jack for remote control.

Sound quality for sure needs to be great for any type of recording, that’s why the XA11 comes with a built-in headphone jack that manages audio levels and a 3.5mm mini audio output jack. It also includes an integrated microphone and two XLR line mic inputs.
It supports codes like SD/SDHC/SDXC, giving us freedom on the recording. You can film the same scene but with different codes.

Under the hood the XA11 is armed with an HD CMOS Pro image sensor, DIGIC 4 image processor, and a 20x HD optical zoom lens, no doubt it delivers high-quality HD content. However, the downside of that much power is that it has a 4.7-hour battery life.

The 1/2.84, max 1920x1080p CMOS sensor is capable of recording videos up to 59.94 fps. If you want a cinematic feel to it, you can cap the camera to record at 24p.

Stability is an issue when shooting in most running situations, but thanks to its powerful DIGIC DV 4 image processor that powers the DIS mode, the XA11 promises us no distortion.

Another common thing while shooting a video is zooming in and out. The 20x optical zoom is equivalent to a 26.8 to 567mm zoom range, giving us the chance to capture wide shots and tight ones while maintaining the same great video quality.

It has a pretty good battery life too, which is another great plus for this camcorder.

Even though the 4k cameras are the main players currently, you can stick to XA11 and still have a great experience with it and great quality at the same time.

Why should you buy it?

This camera provides full manual controls and auto mode features like focus, gain, shutter speed, and balance.

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Footage Samples of Canon XA11


3. Canon XA40 – Best Entry-Level

What I Like

  • Affordable
  • Compact and portable
  • 16 levels of speed
  • Great resolution

What I Don’t Like

  • The SD card isn’t usable for 4K recordings

Yet another camcorder from Canon. Calling Canon cameras good may feel like an understatement since they have been providing top-notch cameras for years now.

The Canon XA40 is an entry-level professional camcorder, the reason it is considered an entry-level is that it shoots at a maximum of 4k 30fps and it is on the budget side unlike its cousins the XF400/SF405 which shoots 4k 60fps, and obviously they are pricier.

Canon claims that the XA40 is one of the most compact and portable 4k professional camcorders currently on the market. This is true, it goes back to back with my first option from Panasonic. It measures 7.2 x 4.3 x 3.3 inches and weighs 4.5 pounds, making it small enough to fit on a launch box.

It has a 3.0-inch LCD touchscreen for comfortable viewing, a built-in microphone, and two XLR terminals. What’s more, the XA40 supports linear PCM-4 channel audio, which not many cameras at this price point can do.

Also, don’t let the small size lie to you, The XA40 is fully-packed with useful and nice features. It has the Infrared mode for shooting that i mentioned on the previous Canon camcorder. Canon also used a 3D real-time lens on the XA40, for more stable images.
It sports a great stabilized 20x optical zoom, which is the equivalent of almost 600m. Zoom speed can be set to either variable or constant. It has 16 levels of speed from fast to normal and slow.

What rewards us with detailed and high-definition video records, is the 1/2.3-inch,8.9 Megapixel 4k UHD CMOS sensor, which is capable of capturing a maximum of 3840×2160 pixels. at 4k Resolution, it runs at 23.98 up to 30fps and on FHD 1920x1080p at 23.98 fps up to a whopping 60FPS.

It includes a high dynamic range, dual pixel focus, and an impressive nine-bladed circular aperture.

Basically, it is a great budget camera that is fully packed, judging by how small the body is.

Why should you buy it?

This is a great budget camera that is fully packed, judging by how small the body is, so it is worth the purchase.

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Footage Samples of Canon XA40


2. Canon VIXIA HF G50 – Best Value

What I Like

  • 4K shooting capabilities
  • Waterproof and dustproof
  • 20X HD video zoom lens

What I Don’t Like

  • Low battery life

Yes, I know, I know another one from Canon.

What can I do, the camcorders are just too good and well priced.

The G50 is the first VIXIA G series camcorder to have 4k shooting capabilities and at the same time, it is the lowest priced one. Since it offers UHD content like the above option, makes this camcorder is ideal for advanced amateurs who are diving into cinema shooting.

Outdoor video shooters will benefit from the G50 since it is shockproof, dustproof, and waterproof up to 5m deep, and at the same time it can be used in temperatures down to -10C. If you are planning to shoot waterproof videos, i recommend you look for cheaper options. For that, you can take a look at our list of the best budget waterproof cameras.

It sports a 3-inch LCD screen and a 0.24-inch EVF viewfinder, which is tilt-able and accumulates 1.560.000 dots. It has an HDMI 2.0 out for the UHD content, 2 stereo channels, and external microphone/ headphone jacks for recording and monitoring the audio. It is really small and lightweight, measuring 9.1 x 4.5 x 3.3 inches and weighing only 1.29 pounds.

Under the hood it has a 20x HD Video zoom lens, that promises excellent image quality and low light performance even at the fullest zoom. It also features the new 5-Axis image stabilization, meaning it keeps the video sharp even in low light or prevents shaking when you hold the camera without a tripod. There’s also the Digic DV6 Processor that provides processing power for better picture and video quality.

As I mentioned earlier it is capable of recording at 4k UHD/30Fps ( 4:2:0 8 bit) and in 1080p at 60 fps. Also, it can record in slow and fast motion intervals from the lowest being 0.4x to the maximum 1200x.

Even though its battery life is only around 4.5 hours, without a doubt, this is a great camcorder that offers a lot of value for the small price it comes with.

Why should you buy it?

This camera features a new 5-Axis image stabilization, which keeps the video sharp even in low light or prevents shaking when you hold the camera without a tripod.

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Footage Samples of Canon VIXIA HF G50


1. Sony FDR-AX43 – Best Compact

What I Like

  • Lightweight and compact
  • Affordable
  • Built-in gimbal
  • 20x optical zoom

What I Don’t Like

  • No ViewFinder

No don’t worry, there’s no more Canon. Last but not least is the most pocket-friendly option from Sony, which actually is a compact Handycam, the FDR-AX43. It can be considered a direct competitor to some of the high-end mirrorless cameras.

Basically, the Sony FDR-AX43 is what GoPros want to be when they grow up, it is lightweight, compact, cheap and on top of it a great performer.

I am well aware that Sony has made the AX43 with content creators and vloggers in mind, but there’s nothing stopping it from being a cinema shooting device on a really tight budget.

As I said it is a Handycam and sure backs it up, measuring 6.88 x 2.88 x 3.25 inches and weighing only 1 pound. What’s more, Sony reduced the need for a gimbal, as it has one built-in!

But sadly, there’s no ViewFinder so you are forced to frame through the flip-able touch-screen, LCD panel.

Audio is picked through the 3 built-in mics, which contain both headphone and external mic ports.

It sports a ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T zoom lens with 20x optical zoom. But what’s more, it features 30x clear zoom for the 4k Recording and 40x for the HD one. Under the hood, it is powered by a 1/2.5 Exmor R sensor which makes it great in low-light environments.
But as mentioned earlier the star of the show here is its built-in gimbal system. Sony makes quite the bold statement saying that its mechanism is about 13 times more effective than those of the competition using optical systems3.

It captures smooth and professional-looking images, even at full zoom or while running, hence it earned a spot on my budget list for cinema cameras.

Why should you buy it?

It captures smooth and professional-looking images, even at full zoom or while running; hence it is worth to be purchased.

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Footage Samples of Sony FDR-AX43


Buying Guide: Camcorder for Cinema on a Budget

Before buying a video camera there’s some stuff you should take into consideration. The price is not the only thing you should look at, there are things that are more important if you want to have a proper video shoot. For example the Lens, sound, image stabilization, oh, and the brand also.

I don’t worry much about the professionals since they pretty much are aware of what they should consider.

But for newbies or people who try to enter cinematography, picking the right video camera is not a walk in the park. That’s why I would highly advise reading more into them or seeking professional help.

I wrote this article with the idea to be as helpful as possible.

Quality

We all are well aware that the quality of the videos is key to filmmaking. So, you should look into a camera that is capable of affording a good zoom capability, good resolution, and mostly how well it works in low light.

If you are looking for something even cheaper, you can buy a point & shoot under for less than $100.

Sound

Another important thing that you should take note of. Make sure the built-in microphone is good and if there’s a socket for you to listen to while filming.

Recording Format

Filming in 1080p HD is enough on most occasions, but most of the camcorders I included are 4k, and the 4k has its own benefits. Besides looking great it also gives you the freedom of cropping.

Image stabilization

Image stabilization makes the recording less shaky, something that can be easily achieved with a tripod, but what’s more important is shooting handheld. Also one of the reasons why I made a budget list with camcorders.

Portability

Another key thing that should be highly taken into consideration. Imagine having great quality and an expensive camera that delivers everything how you want, but it’s quite crucial to handle and weights massively, all of the above bite the dust afterward. It’s pretty hard to find a cinema camera that is both portable and performs well.

The Extra Package

When you buy a cinema camera there is a high chance an additional package comes too. In this case, you should research in-depth for this, so you get the extra tools that will prove useful to you. If it has something like a slider for cameras, do not think twice and get it.

The Brand

Something I always tell to people is please look into the brand before buying a cinema camera. There are cameras that promise unique features at a cheap price and then when it arrives, it is completely the opposite. Just ensure that the brand you are buying from has a reputation and it delivers what you ordered.


What are the three most known brands for cinema cameras?

Hence the cameras I listed in this article, the brands that bring budget cinema cameras to you are Panasonic, Canon, and Sony!

What is the main feature that cinema cameras should own?

Just by checking out the thing that you are looking for, a cinema camera, the first thing you should check out is the recording format! There are many cameras with many different recording types, but still, there is the 4K that will do an amazing job.

Are cinema cameras expensive?

This article is completely related to budget cinema cameras, but overall, these cameras are known as expensive ones. Yes, they are expensive, but you can also find affordable ones.


Final Comment

I am well aware that a lot of professionals won’t agree with me on the camcorder aspect, and even hate on me. But I don’t doubt that this is the best budget option, a camcorder offers everything you need for cinematic shooting/filmmaking.

Michael Fortin