The Best Video Cameras for Documentary

video camera for documentary

So you’ve decided to make the next hit documentary, but don’t yet have a camera to film it. The good news is, there are a ton of worthy cameras on the market. We have listed four of our favorites below, with a brief overview of why we think you should choose them as the camera for your next documentary film!

Quick Summary

  • If you are on a tight budget, the Panasonic HC-VX981K is a great choice. It comes in much cheaper than the others on this list, yet can still give you a beautiful 4k image worthy of any film festival.
  • If you are a Canon brand loyalist (we know there are many), we suggest the Canon XC15. It’s beautiful 4K image and ergonomic design make it a strong contender for best on this list.
  • If you are looking for a more cinematic look to your documentary, the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K is the way to go. The dynamic range and color science in this camera make an absolutely beautiful image.
  • If budget is of no concern and you want the best possible image quality, you will want the Sony PXW-FS7. It has every possible customization you could ever want, giving you full control over exactly how your image looks at all times.

Who Should Get This?

Any one of these cameras will be great for filming documentary films. So if you are looking to record one, you should find the specifications and overall useability of these cameras to fit your needs in that department.

Another great use for these would be things like YouTube videos. The quality of YouTube’s content has been rising over the last few years, so being able to record high-quality content is extremely important. These cameras will give you the quality to compete with any creator out there!

Best Video Camera for Documentary: What to Consider

Resolution

In today’s world, having 4K video is a must. Especially for documentary filmmaking, where there will be a lot of closeups, you want to make sure that the people you are interviewing are popping off the screen.

Budget

You can find cheap cameras that you can shoot a run-and-gun documentary for YouTube, or you can up your game to a nice cinema-style camera that will need to constantly be mounted on a tripod.

Best Video Camera for Documentary: Our Picks

1. Panasonic HC-VX981K


Making a documentary doesn’t have to be the most expensive adventure you take. This Panasonic camcorder is the perfect example of an affordable camera that is more than capable of recording gorgeous videos for your documentary.

It records a beautiful 4K image for such a small and compact camera. When you add to that the 20x optical zoom, you can get nice environmental shots to go along with your interviews and close ups. This is a very versatile camera, with a ton of shooting options and even a robust wifi smartphone app.

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2. Canon XC15


Canon is a known and beloved camera brand, and they have a fantastic offering for a documentary filmmaking camera. It has a lovely, ergonomic body shape, so shooting on the go is a breeze. It also has a nice hinged display so you can get the shot, no matter what the angle.

The 12-megapixel sensor in this camera is capable of capturing 4K video with stunning image quality. The built-in lens is capable of a 10x optical zoom, giving you a bit of range for your exterior shots. The included pro audio module gives the camera XLR inputs and a nice shock mount for a shotgun microphone.

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3. Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K


Blackmagic make some of the most well respected cinema cameras on the market, and their newest model the Pocket Cinema Camera 4K is no exception. This camera packs a gorgeous 4K cinema image into a body that is roughly the size of a normal DSLR camera.

Blackmagic has some of the best dynamic range and color science of any camera out there, so you know when using this camera you are going to get gorgeous video that will bring out the best in your movie. The small size also makes it very easy to pack and carry from shoot to shoot.

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4. Sony PXW-FS7


The FS line from Sony has a reputation for being some of the most reliable cameras, especially for shooting documentaries. The image quality is fantastic due to the sheer amount of control you have over your video settings at all times.

The super 35 sensor on this camera records great looking 4K footage, and the nice surprise is the inclusion of a high frame rate 180fps recording mode in full HD 1080p. This can make for some very crisp and smooth slow motion shots that would match up well within your next creative film.

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Useful Tips and Resources

Having a good tripod is paramount in making a proper documentary. We suggest getting one with a nice fluid head to make sure you are able to get nice panning shots and other movement when it is needed.

You will also need proper lighting for your interviews. There are many lighting kits on the market, but picking the right one for an interview situation is important. Make sure you have a couple of large umbrella lights and the inclusion of a green screen is not a bad idea.

Final Words

Making a documentary is a bold move, and having the right camera can make all the difference. The four we have listed above are great choices, and any of them can make your documentary film a success. Having that perfect camera will take the stress off of you throughout the process, so make the decision on which to buy with great care.

Do you enjoy documentaries? What is your favorite, and why? Let us know below!

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