Films are a medium like no other. In this digital platform, you can get as creative as you want to. You only need a few essentials. The most vital among them is a digital camera. The better your video camera is, the freer you will be to experiment.
But cameras are quite an investment. Make sure you know your cameras well before deciding on a purchase. In this article, we are going to help you do that. We have 5 of the best cameras in the market lined up for you.
Take a look at the list and get yourself the best video camera for a documentary to get started. So without further ado, let’s dive into that list now.
5 Best Video Camera For Documentary Reviews 2021
These cameras blow it out of the park. They differ in terms of specifications, prices, and so on. But we guarantee quality results from all of them. Just find the one that suits your needs and budget best.
1. Canon VIXIA HF G40 Full HD Camcorder
Low light shooting is inescapable when you are documenting a real story of life. For good footage, you need a good camcorder for sure, and this is where the Canon VIXIA HF G40 will have your back. The advanced technology of the HD CMOS Pro Image Sensor will produce the best quality images through your captures.
Inside it is a 20X optical zoom lens that has a focal length of 28 to 560 mm. The camera is capable of producing crisp images because of the precise magnification and adjustment of light between the object and the lens. Images will appear to be bright, sharp, and clean.
You can also record videos of 1080/60 pixels in MP4 format. Adding subtitles and editing becomes easy in this format, so post-processing won’t take much longer either.
You can view your captures instantly through the 3.5 inches OLED screen on the camera. The contrast ratio of the EVF screen is 10000:1 and it aids in your judgment of the frames quite conveniently so that you can have good control on the angles you are working on.
Transferring files between devices is easy because of the built-in WiFi and the FTP connectivity in the camera. There are also two SD cards inside the slot which are easily readable and very convenient for transferring consumable media effortlessly.
Another reason for the crispy images is the image stabilization of the camera. You can also turn the stabilization off if it interferes with the style of photos you want. The on/off between on the dynamic mode has great uses as well.
- Has image stabilization
- Video recording in 1080/60 pixels in MP4
- 20X optical zoom lens built inside
- HD CMOS image sensor produces great images in low-light conditions
- 3.5 inches OLED screen with a high contrast ratio of 10000:1
- Has WiFi and FTP transfer modes for easy file sharing
- Powered by a high-capacity battery that is included inside
- The zoom rocker switch is faulty
2. Panasonic LUMIX GH5 4K Digital Camera
You will not always be in favorable conditions when going out to record stuff for your documentary. There will be many trying landscapes that you will be tempted to explore. Through all this, your first companion, which is your camera, should be extra durable and resilient. We introduce the Panasonic Lumix to you as it’s a perfect fit for this category.
The camera is 20.3 megapixels and it comes with an MFT (micro four-thirds) sensor. This sensor will give you a crop factor of 2.0 It has a shorter flange at the back than the FTS.
The camera has a high dynamic range and it gives a clean performance without any artifacts. It is smaller than the DSLR but produces crisp images, and that is in part a reason for its popularity.
The body of this camera is what makes it so resilient and fit for different weathers. It is made with an extra durable alloy of magnesium that can withstand pressure for up to 10 degrees.
On top of that durability, this is a mirrorless camera that is compact, lighter, faster, and much more convenient for travel. This is why it has become the favorite of many travel vloggers and continues to hoard in admirers every day. If you want a camera to endure the strains of heavy use in the field then this is the camera for you.
The whole body of the camera is dust and splash-proof. The joints, buttons, and dials are all encased so that everything can run smoothly even after being in extremely sandy and windy areas.
Images will be stabilized by a 5-axis correction through all the lenses including the classic ones that are not equipped with the OIS system. The final images will be crystal clear for both 4k recording and image production.
- Features 20.3 megapixel MFT sensor with an OLP filter
- Comes with an anti-aliasing effect for increased sharpness on images
- Stays freeze-proof for up to 10 degrees
- Made with a durable magnesium alloy
- The whole case along with joints, buttons, dials are sealed up
- Has a 3.5 mm audio port, USB 3.0 connection, external monitor, and recorder
- Has an HDMI port and twin SD card slots
- Doesn’t support WiFi
- Autofocus doesn’t work well
3. Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 4K
This is a mirrorless camera with a full four-thirds sensor in it. This sensor is smaller in size than that in most DSLRs, therefore the telephoto lenses on it are also going to be a bit smaller. This is not going to interfere with the quality of the footage, however.
You get a 4096 x 2169 resolution here. This is 4K quality, and it’s the most popular one for entertainment purposes on television and other broadcast platforms. Video recording is at 60 FPS and there is a 13-stop dynamic range at a ratio of 8000:1. You can control the exposure of light by changing the stop count.
The body of the camera is made with a carbon fiber composite, which is a mesh of three different types of organic polymers that are bound to each other with great strength.
It supports the Black Magic operating system which is great for editing photos without compromising post-production quality.
This camera is an all-rounder device for making the film. It does excellent audio recording with 4 microphones that are built into it.
Also, there is a 5-inch LCD touchscreen that helps you to point and shoot without missing. With this display, you can really control what you are working on without losing any time between.
This is a very compact video camera with all the features necessary for making a good documentary out in the field.
- Has a full-sized four-thirds sensor
- There is a 5-inch LCD touchscreen display on the camera
- Records video at 60 FPS with a large dynamic range
- The camera has a resolution of 4096 x 2160 resolution
- Produces nearly perfect audio due to the 4 installed microphones
- Great for post-production process due to the Black Magic System compatibility
- Carbon fiber composite makes the body very structured and rigid
- The sensor isn’t up to the mark
- Overheating problems
4. PANASONIC LUMIX S1H Digital Mirrorless Video Camera with 24.2 Full Frame Sensor
If you have been looking for a good video camera this one from Panasonic is sure to have already crossed your path. It is one of the best cameras recommended for the purposes of documentation. It has wide-ranging features that add quality and versatility to your projects.
This is a DSLR with 24 full-frame sensors of 2MP that is great at delivering an amazing dynamic range along with the right degree of sharpness even at high levels of sensitivity. No detail goes amiss with this LUMIX from Panasonic.
With this camera, you are not only limited to 4k, but you can extend to 6K videos as well! The videos will be recorded at 10-bit and there will be about 1024 levels per channel.
But you are not only to the highly advanced and sought-after 6k videos. In fact, there are anamorphic modes that you can use for a more vintage old-school feel to the videos.
You know how important ISO is, right? Well, this camera has your back in that regard. It has a dual native ISO which is great at capturing crips images with crispy colors even when the light is below average in your location.
Another advantage here is that it can reduce the levels of noise so that the camera can shift between regular to high sensitivity without a single distortion on the audio.
This camera has a v-log or a v-gamut, which offers more than 14 stops in dynamic range so that you can control the level of details you want to capture. The range is compatible with Cinema VariCam, which allows you to easily juxtapose your images and make it one of the top video recorders for sports.
The body of the camera is sturdy, rugged, and meant to endure great degrees of challenges in varying situations against dust, water, and ice. Rest assured, you can move with this camera through all kinds of resistance without fear of causing any irreversible damage.
- Can record in the anamorphic range as well
- Comes with a dual native ISO that produces great images in every light
- Doesn’t cause any noise degradation between ISO changes
- Records videos at 6K with 1024 shades per channel
- About 24 2MP MOS sensors for a great dynamic range
- Has a V-gamut for capturing every detail in light and shadow alike
- Switching focus is inconvenient
- Keeps going in and out of focus
5. Canon EOS C100 Mark II Cinema EOS Camera with Dual Pixel CMOS AF (Body Only)
This one comes with only the body. Regardless, you can still take photos and record videos with it. You can enhance its performance by adding an EF and EF-S lens to it.
It has a lens of 8.3MP with a sensor that is 35mm in thickness.
The camera comes with an electric focus mount at 1920 x 1080 pixels. This version of the camera is fully compatible for use in the United States.
One thing that makes it suitable for long journeys to unknown destinations is that this is a completely battery-operated set up, and can be brought to life at any time by using some lithium-ion batteries.
If you want to store the files, then there are media card slots built into the device for extra storage that you can utilize.
The camera works with dual-pixel technology in order to produce images that are as realistic as possible. Two photos are taken simultaneously when the capture button is clicked. Those two photos are then superpositioned to bring out the best results through their combined effect.
- Has a 35 mm camera with an 8.3 MP CMOS sensor
- Comes with an electric focus mount of 1920 x 1080 pixels
- Works with dual-pixel technology to produce the best quality images
- Houses SDHC and SDXC media card slots
- Videos are produced in the MP4 format
- No cons
Things to Consider Before Buying the Best Documentary Video Camera
There are quite some technical terms that are being thrown at you, right? Well, if you feel overwhelmed this guide will help to clear up the fog a bit.
Quite simply put, camera resolution determines whether your images come out detailed or mushy. Higher resolution creates sharper images. So, you want your camera to have a high resolution.
If you are recording for television and projectors, then go for HD quality with resolutions of 1080 pixels or UHD quality with 4K pixels.
Remember, higher resolution means sharper images.
Make sure that your camera definitely has image stabilization. When creating a documentary you will always be on the go. So, make sure you get a camera with stabilization so that the footage doesn’t shake when your hand does. There are two stabilization systems: optical image stabilization and digital stabilization. OPS is usually the better one among the two.
The sensor is vital in image capturing. It controls the amount of light that enters through the lenses to make sure that your light is as close to the natural light as possible. Footages darker or brighter than reality are definitely not acceptable for documentation.
The sensor also affects the dynamic range and the color gamut in the images.
As a general rule, the resolution of the sensor should be double the resolution of the camera. For HD 1080 pixels, the sensor should have a resolution of 4 megapixels.
You might have to travel long distances for documentation. So, for your convenience, you should look for a video camera that comes with a great capacity for storage. Otherwise, you might lose valuable data before getting the chance to back up your clips.
Most cameras nowadays have flash memory where you can erase files after transferring them so that you can reuse the memory card for storing fresh data again.
We would also recommend you to get one with an SD card slot so that you can push in more data altogether.
It will be much easier to transfer files without tugging in a bundle of wires, right? Well, remember to get a video camera that has WiFi connectivity. Most new cameras in the market have this feature. So make sure that you don’t miss out on this.
For more reliable connections, you need an HDMI port as well. Some files get distorted when being sent over by WiFi. In that case, use the HDMI port for a slower but much better transfer.
Exposure Control Units
Without the correct exposure levels in check, your camera won’t be able to make good use of its lens. Different situations demand a different level of exposure. So make sure that your camera has these settings in manual mode.
With these controls, you can regulate the shutter speed, aperture, and various such settings to improve the quality of your images.
Microphone and Headphone Jacks
You will definitely need to document speech at one point or another. Instead of adding speech separately from an audio recorder, it will be much more convenient for you if your camera has a built-in headphone and microphone. You will be able to produce much better footage with much less hassle with this feature in your device.
How To Make A Documentary Video
Find A Solid Subject: Start with a clear idea of what you want to show to your audience. The message has to be clear and strong.
Do Your Research: Learn about your subject. You need to go into the details – the beginning, the middle, and the progression of the event that you want to document. Look for leads, and follow them with diligence.
Plan Logistics: If you are making a documentary on your own, you have to know exactly how you want to represent it. Get a good location, explore it to find the angles that will be best to tell your story from. Decide which time of the day you want to shoot in and so on.
Plan Direction: Look into the directional aspects. Good direction is vital in order to send a clear video message through a visual medium such as this.
Begin Shooting: Start shooting the film. Go to the location on a good day with adequate light, then start shooting. Get all the good angles, catch the light and the movement around the location, incorporate different types of shooting techniques.
Start Scripting: Once you have gathered all the clips you need for your film, start writing a script to connect all of them through one unifying idea.
Narrate the Story: Narrate the story in the best way you can. If you want to use audio, then record vocals at this stage. If you aren’t using vocals and using typed words to convey the message then file the sentences of your narrative to sync with corresponding scenes.
Edit Your Work: Use video editing software to edit the clips to fix every tiny detail that you need to fix. Edit the vocals, the script as well.
Check Rights/Issues: Check with the copyrights issues to see if you are in line with all their conditions. You do not want your hard work to go down the drain with a red-flagged video. So make sure you are not violating any laws.
Distribute: After ensuring that your video is green-flagged, you can start to distribute it through media sources, social platforms, and so on. This will help you get an audience quickly.
Frequently Asked Questions About Documentary Camera
1. Do I need to clean my camera frequently if it is dust and splash-proof?
Ans: You absolutely need to. If moisture is left to accumulate inside, it will start to hamper the quality of the camera’s functions.
2. How should I clean my camera?
Ans: Take a soft cotton cloth, gently press the parts and rub them lightly until they are squeaky fresh.
3. How do megapixels affect image quality?
Ans: Megapixels on the camera’s sensor give clarity to the images. High megapixels produce better photos, while low megapixels will give you pictures that are hazy. However, in the case of creating clear images, the quality of the sensor matters more than the number of total megapixels.
4. What is the purpose of the shutter speed?
Ans: The shutter lets light enter through the image sensor. If the shutter speed is fast, the image sensor will let light enter in small bursts. If the shutter speed is slow, the image sensor will let light enter for a long time.
When shooting subjects in motion, low shutter speeds create motion blur while fast shutter speeds give you crisp images.
5. What does ISO do in a camera?
Ans: ISO controls the light in the photos. Increase your ISO and your photos will be brighter. Decrease the ISO if you want dark images.
To neutralize the photo, you have to decrease the ISO when shooting in extremely bright areas and increase the ISO in extremely dark conditions.
Filming is very fun but without the right equipment, it can surely become a great hassle. There are quite some factors to look into, and in this review, we have simplified everything down for you.
Hope you were able to find the best video camera for a documentary. Take your time to finalize any decisions of purchase, and make the buying guide come to use. Best of luck!