So you aren’t feeling the DSLR camera or digital camcorder trends nowadays, are you? Want to take your filming to another level that 90% of videographers aren’t on, let alone YouTubers or regular Vimeo channels? Maybe you just want to film your friends and family in the best possible quality available?
Besides the internet, and for film-making in general, it’s extremely important to invest in a camera that you know will bring you the absolute best results — a camera is the centerpiece of making films and movies. Professional grade HD video cameras are the best pieces of machinery available to record the world around us, and we’ve selected the best of the best.
Benefits of a professional grade video camera
You’re here for a reason: you have standards and want to be above the rest, or at least on the same level of the video camera alpha dogs. Professional grade video cameras are a step up from the typical camcorders or DSLR cameras. Around 85% of the average film-maker (that isn’t Hollywood, of course) uses a DSLR, camcorder or action-type of camera nowadays, and even less use true 1080p HD video cameras. As the times continue and technology grows, it becomes even more of a standard to have a specific quality. Professional grade HD cameras give you that, and some.
Here are a few highlights of the benefits you’ll receive with a professional cam:
- Provide the top-of-the-line, highest quality technology can offer to date
- Gives your movies/clips/videos the edge vs. average competitors
- Better quality zoom than average video cameras (both speed and optically)
- Larger and more advanced lens technology and sensors for cleaner clips
- More memory for clip storage, both internally and more expansion card slots
- Built-in stabilization for natural movements and decrease the need for artificial stabilization with software
- Compatible with higher-end accessories and supplemental gear, such as lighting systems, microphones, and special mounts
- Help you look the part in any professional or semi-pro environment
How to choose your pro grade camera
There are a few factors you need to take into consideration when choosing your HD professional camera. Your budget is of course your #1 priority, However, you’ll also want to keep in mind the video quality, camera type, when and where you will be filming, which accessories you’ll need to pair your rig up with, to name a few. Keep in mind that there are numerous kits available around the internet that come with packaged deals and cameras, which we’ve seen on Amazon.
Here is a list of some important accessories you may need:
- Tripods and mounts
- External microphone
- Battery charger
- Replacement batteries (for emergency)
- Memory cards
- LCD screen protector
- Various lighting equipment (depending on your type of videos)
- Camera cases
- Cleaning kits
Many of these really depend on which camera you end up going with. If we have a solid package we’ve been able find with a good deal we will provide it, otherwise contact us for recommendations!
Below is a quick-view list of our top best professional grade video cameras, sorted by lowest to highest price. As we can see they’re higher
- Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera
- Panasonic AG-AC8PJ
- Sony HXR-MC2000N
- JVC GY-HD110U 3-CCD MiniDV
- Sony HVR-A1U
- Sony NEX-VG30H Handycam
- Canon XF-105
- Panasonic AG-HMC150
Our top best picks for best professional video camera
Below you will find some in-depth analysis and main features of our favorite professional grade video cameras. Let us know which one you own/have chosen!
Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera
This starts our list off as the cheapest professional grade HD video camera and it almost fools us with it’s small and sleek size. Although it looks like just another digital camera, this thing has some of the most powerful features we’ve seen available at this price. It’s the #1 best seller in professional grade video cameras on Amazon. It’s going to cost you a few more dollars, but his camera is compatible with micro four third lenses (doesn’t come with one), which are very high-quality lenses that are compatible with mirrorless cameras. Basically great quality like DSLR’s in a smaller body. It has an extremely high resolution 3.5″ LCD screen to help with focus and zooming 1:1 for a precise look at what you’re filming.
So one of the biggest pluses of the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera is how it records: into ProRes 422 and lossless compressed CinemaDNG files for very detailed images with a dynamic range — no user-friendly files that compress and sacrifice the overall true quality of the clip. With that being said, it will take a few sessions of reading the manual to learn how to work this thing as well as how to edit with the files. The true open file format makes it stand out than other cheaper video cameras on the market, allowing for more frames, better overall resolution range and free-range when it comes to inserting it into your editing software. Another obvious plus that we love is it’s size, which is great for portability and travel. Take a look at it, but don’t forget that you should probably spend some money on a micro four third lens. We recommend the Olympus 9-18mm zoom. So a complete total of around $1700 if you want that lens as well.
For more information, we recommend Gizmodo’s Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera review.
This is a great model on the cheaper end of pro grade video cameras. It only weighs about four pounds and most of the fucntions are included in the menu. It has an auto and manual mode, depending on how you’d like clips shot but the auto mode is quite satisfactory in determining the camera settings for the environment you’re in. The quality is very good and natural looking, although some say it isn’t necessarily ‘cinematic’. It does have an extremely high-quality MOS Image sensor (1/4.5-type), 1,400 lx standard illumination and a decent-sized focal length of 2.82-59.2mm.
The Panasonic AG-AC8PJ is very powerful and some other additional features of the camera include an HDMI output, slots for two SD cards (they can be configured as a mirror for data safety, which is very important) or merely act as double the memory space. Requires a lithium ion battery (included) and the display size is a bit small (3″) but that’s all based on personal preference. The optical zoom goes up to 21 times. We’d say it’s a little better of a deal as compared to the Blackmagic camera simply because you won’t have to be spending any more money on lenses (although you may need to save a few extra bucks for accessories you need).
Sony HXR-MC2000N Camcorder
Here’s a step up by Sony electronics, a brand we’ve all loved for years on end. This particular pro grade video camera is wide-angled with Sony’s “G Lens’ technology for excellent image fidelity. The zoom is only 12x but we feel that that’s more than enough. The wide angle of 2.8mm to 36.8mm is astounding and the sensor is Exmor R CMOS (1/4 back-illuminated) so it’s very good for low-light sensitivity, or merely in any lighting setting for that matter. This is a great option for those who will be in differing environments or especially low-light.
Auto focus on the Sony HXR-MC2000N is particularly good and the high definition quality is better than most videos people are putting out right now. It records in AVCHD or DVD quality MPEG-2 and has a built-in 64GB drive (now that’s a lot). Lastly, the USB 2.0 slot makes it very easy to transfer to your computer; however, one thing it lacks is open file formats so the MPEG-2 files aren’t ideal, as seen in the Blackmagic camera spoken about previously.
This professional camera by JVC cameras is a big fan favorite. It records in HD at 24 fps and includes a ProHD lens (16x Fujinon) which is interchangeable. They have a built-in auto-focus module they call ‘HD Focus Assist’ which has gotten some positive reviews in terms of rarely seeing blurs when zooming. You can also record to the disk and tape at the same time for permanent backups of all of your clips. We’d say this is one of the best pro grade video cameras due to the Fujinon lens — one of the best at this price we’ve ever seen.
The True 24p HD of the JVC GY-HD110U is the same as movie film, so this camera quality is some of the best we’ve ever seen. The Fujinon lens is exceptional and blows a lot of the competition out of the water. The link we’ve provided actually comes with a professional microphone for some great audio quality as well. This is one of our favorite pro grade cameras because of the video quality — you just can’t beat it. If you’re able to spend a few more dollars we’d grab this over the previous models spoken about.
Sony Professional HVR-A1U
Sony again comes through with an even higher-grade professional video camcorder. This particular model is around $2,000 retail, but for a good reason. It features HD resolution in 1080i, 720p or 720i with analog down-converting (helps the sampling rate of the signal). It’s also capable of 16:9 widescreen or 4:3 conversion, a very nice 10x optical zoom lens (Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar – very good with light conversion), and an overall CMOS camera system similar to DSLR’s but the lens really sets it above all of them.
The Sony HVR-A1U has a CMOS sensor that is a 2.97 megapixel 1/3″ type, which gives it a great ability to process large volumes of picture data at small, efficient sizes, giving this camera a both convenient size as well as powerful video quality. Some say it has a Hollywood look in terms of film quality.
Sony NEX-VG30H Handycam
The sensor on this thing is magnificent. It’s 16.1 megapixels (Exmor APS-C HD CMOS) which gives you that cinematic feel and look of your videos. The zoom power is exceptional as well, being one of the best out there: direct power zoom with speed control. The lens is an image-stabilized Sony E-mount 18-200mm OIS. The microphone included is also something to be fond of: a Quad Capsule Spatial Array Sound mic. It also accepts interchangeable lenses if you want to do that (DSLR A and E-Mount lenses).
Another plus of the Sony NEX-VG30H is expanded focus which is done manually. You can program the zoom control to be digital or just use the power zoom on the lens. It has both microphone and headphone jacks, contains a sharp and clean picture in various conditions, and lastly contains a depth of field that is mind-blowing.
When you see that Canon cameras brand logo, it’s not just a result of repetitive marketing. This thing is a beast, as it features professional tools such as Zebra (tells you which parts of the image are over-exposed), waveform monitoring (measures and displays the voltage of the video signal in terms of time), etc. It also has a dual compact flash drive for extra memory storage and backup and infrared recording\stereoscopic 3D production possibilities.
This isn’t for filming little Billy’s Saturday morning basketball game. The Canon XF-105 is very professional, with a lot of features many people need to research about. Some other highlights include a very smart operating system for easy hook-up to most computers and other pieces of machinery, eye-popping video quality and a lens hood. The mount up top (as shown in the picture) is compatible with microphones. The 920 x 1080 CMOS Sensor gives you some of the best video quality out there combined with the XF codec (very high sampling rate), and the Zoomlens is 10x — a decent middle ground for optical zooming.
Here’s the last of our list of professional video cameras, and this thing is just a flat out beast. 13x wide angle 28 mm lens provides up to 1080/60i resolution, but you can also go down a bit from 1080/30p, 1080/24p and more. The CCD progressive image sensor (1/3″) is top-of-the-line. This also has those special video camera tools a lot of professionals use, such as a waveform monitor, vectorscope (provides more details in terms of signal and time as opposed to other cameras) and two focus displays.
The Panasonic AG-HMC150 is worth the money if you have it. Some other features it gives you is XLR audio inputs for pro mics, extremely high bit-rate recording, some neutral desntiy filters, a 3.5″ LCD monitor, and a USB 2.0 for easy file transfer. Basically everything you need in a video camera and more. I can’t really think of anything this camera lacks. I’ve read some complaints about it’s low-light performance due to a smaller 1/3″ imager but we can’t really complain here. If you need a mic for the AH-HMC150, check out the Panasonic MIC150 Shotgun Mic as it is very popular among the professional realm.
The verdict on professional grade HD video cameras
It takes some general understanding of the professional grade video camera terminiology when shopping for your solution. These aren’t just video cameras for kids or anything. Research is critical and it’s important to take into consideration the few elements we’ve listed, such as (firstly and most importantly) budget, which features you truely need, what conditions you will be in, and other accessories such as lenses you will have to buy along with it.
In terms of best of the best, our favorite goes to the JVC GY-HD110U. You just can’t beat the overall reliability, video quality, and additional features for the price. The Fujinon lens is extremely reliable and provides wonderful, crystal clear video quality.