It’s been a great year for filmmakers – we round up 2018’s best video cameras you can buy right now
Video on consumer cameras is getting better and better every year, and 2018 has been no exception! With 4K now pretty much the universal standard for new models, manufacturers have now been competing to see who can offer the best dynamic range, the highest bitrates, the best slow-motion footage, and a whole lot more besides. This has led to some fantastic releases throughout the year – the future has never looked brighter for video shooters.
Here’s a rundown of the best video cameras released in 2018...
1. Panasonic LUMIX GH5S
Panasonic’s LUMIX GH cameras have always been video/stills hybrids with a firm emphasis on video, but the GH5S – an update to the GH5 from 2017 – cranks this up further. It slashes the resolution of the GH5’s Micro Four Thirds [MFT] Live MOS sensor in half, from 20.3MP to 10.2MP. This means there is more room on the sensor for the megapixels, which are up to 1.96x larger than those on the GH5, meaning the GH5S can gather light much more efficiently, to the tune of 2.38x more sensitivity than its predecessor. Other advantages include up to 25% less noise, an improved signal to noise ratio of up to 1.5 stops and faster readout from the sensor, which means reduced rolling-shutter distortion.
So while this isn’t the camera to buy if you’re planning to make prints from stills, for video shooters it’s optimised practically to perfection. It shoots 4K in 10-bit 4:2:2, internally, recording Cinema 4K (DCI 4K) at up to 30fps in 10-bit 4:2:2 or up to 60fps in 8-bit 4:2:0, and it also improves upon the GH5’s slow-motion capabilities, with the ability to shoot in Full HD at a super-slow 240fps, rather than 180fps.
There’s loads more to talk about on this superb camera. It comes with Panasonic’s flat gamma profile V-Log L built in – no need for firmware updates – and has a multi-aspect sensor, meaning no matter what aspect ratio you’re shooting in (4:3, 16:9, etc) you’ll always be using the full width of the sensor. All this is housed in a rugged body that’s well equipped for outdoor shooting, making the Panasonic LUMIX GH5S an all-around superb, enticing prospect.
2. GoPro HERO7 Black
We were all anticipating the release of a new GoPro HERO, but one thing we didn’t know was what the company was going to do next. How could it improve on the successful HERO6, which already produced impressive 4K footage?
The answer, as it turned out, was in stabilisation. The GoPro HERO7 promised to make shaky, blurry video a thing of the past with unprecedented levels of in-body stabilisation for a camera of its size and class. GoPro has described the stabilisation as ‘gimbal like’, with the 4K 60p video captured by the device looking smooth and silky, as if it had been professionally stabilised using a gimbal.
Elsewhere, it’s got all the GoPro functionality you’d expect, with waterproofing down to depths of 10m (more with a housing) and the ability to shoot Full HD footage at speeds as slow as 240fps. It’s also optimised for easy clip sharing, offering full compatibility with GoPro’s share-focused QuikStories app that allows for the speedy editing and uploading of clips for social media. If you get a GoPro Plus subscription, you’ll also be able to take advantage of up to 250GB of cloud storage space. Although, it’s still possible to squeeze a substantial amount of footage onto your SD card, thanks to the option of High Efficiency Video Compression (HEVC). It’s great to see GoPro still innovating, and the HERO7 is another fantastic model in the series.
3. Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K
Hotly anticipated by huge swathes of the industry, the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K arrived with our expectations at a fever pitch and it did not disappoint. With a small form factor (though ‘pocket-sized’ is up for debate), the BMPCC shoots 4K 60fps in 12-bit RAW with a full-sized Micro Four Thirds sensor, meaning none of the unfortunate crop factor that blighted the original, and also means that with the aid of a Metabones adapter, users can now take advantage of the enormous MFT lens range. Our own Kriss Hampton stuck a Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 OIS lens on the front of the BMPCC 4K to shoot the test footage, and you can judge the quality for yourself in the video above. The new BMPCC 4K also introduces some popular new features to the Blackmagic line, including dual native ISO, allowing users to shoot at higher ISOs without compromising on quality. An all-around winner from Blackmagic – full marks!
4. Insta360 ONE X
Insta360 One X 360 Degree Camera
360-degree video cameras are just getting better and better, and the Insta360 ONE X is a prime example, taking everything that was great about the original Insta360 ONE from 2017 and improving on it. This model shoots 5.7K 360 video, 4K at 50fps and 3K at up to a super-slow 100fps. It also boasts impressive built-in stabilisation rivalling that of the GoPro HERO7, virtually eliminating the need for gimbals and other supports. Its 360-degree functionality also has uses even if you aren’t interested in capturing this kind of content, as it’s possible to review your footage and then extract a ‘flat’ video from your chosen section, effectively allowing you to choose your shooting angle post-capture. There are also extensive time-lapse options, with the ability to combine slow-motion, normal and hyperlapse footage to create complex sequences referred to as TimeShift. The sheer number of creative options available to you make this a terrific buy for any filmmaker.
5. Sony FS5 II
A long list of tweaks and upgrades meant that the Sony FS5 II was a welcome upgrade to its predecessor, the FS5. Chief among these was improved colour science, which meant greatly improved skin tones straight out of the camera, as well as an instant HDR workflow. Also on the upgrade list – no more would we need to fiddle with expensive firmware updates to get features like RAW and high-framerate shooting, which were now included in the base firmware along with 4K RAW shot at up to 120fps (in four-second bursts), continuous 240fps in 2K RAW or continuous 4K 60fps to an external recorder. Internally, the FS5 II would shoot 4K, Full HD 10-bit 4:2:2 up to 240fps with an eight-second cache, with the option of up to 120fps in Full HD Instant HDR too. This is just the start, and overall we can say that Sony took customer feedback on board and came out with a real quality upgrade in the FS5 II.
6. Canon XF405
One of a trio of new video cameras from Canon released in late 2017, the XF405 offers the most comprehensive spec, packing a 1.0-type CMOS sensor that records 4K UHD 50fps footage internally to an SD card, along with a HD-SDI output via a BNC connector. Other bells and whistles include 15x optical zoom (up to 30x in full HD), 5-axis image stabilisation, Canon’s legendary Dual Pixel AF system for whip-quick autofocus, a built-in three-stage ND filtration system and the option to shoot HD at up to 100fps if you need to slow things right down.
7. DJI Mavic 2 Pro
And finally – come on, it’d be deeply irresponsible for us to put together a list like this without including a drone. The DJI Mavic 2 Pro houses a Hasselblad camera with a 1-inch CMOS sensor that allows it to record 4K UHD at 30fps, 2.7K at 60fps and full HD at up to 120fps. Pair this with a 31-minute flight time, a top speed of 44mph and the ability to transmit full HD 1080p video up to ranges of five miles away, and you’ve got a drone that excels in all areas – although, to borrow a favoured maxim of our Pro Video technical editor Kriss Hampton: Just because you can fly it five miles away, doesn’t mean you should. This aside, the DJI Mavic 2 Pro is a ridiculously good drone for its price, and proof (if proof were needed) that DJI is at the top of what it does.
Thanks all for reading! Here’s to more fantastic video gear in 2019.