The Best DSLR Video Alternatives

The Best DSLR Video Alternatives

We all love big sensors, affordable glass, and cheap camera bodies, but is DSLR videography a dying breed? If so, what are the alternatives that we should be looking at?

I’ll be honest. I love the Sigma Art series, even if my 18-35mm is made for cropped sensors. It’s absolutely perfect for my cheap Canon T3i. In fact, I own two sets of them for interviews in order to avoid color-correcting cameras in post.

But my new favorite camera, the Sony FS5, takes my Sigma glass with a Metabones adaptor. It also takes SD cards, so there’s no fooling around with expensive media. Is it time to move on from the DSLR revolution? What are the benefits of buying another 5D? We’re at a point now in which the only thing holding us back is the camera body.

There are three categories for DSLR shooters to consider jumping to, should the time come. We’ll put aside cost for the most part and just dream, especially since the rental prices of these lower budget cameras aren’t too far apart.

Mirrorless

Just as I can put my Canon lenses on an FS5, I can put them on a Sony A7s or a Panasonic GH4. In fact, the classic Canon 24-70mm f/4L is a workhorse on an A7s. It’s no secret that DSLR expats are moving over to Mirrorless, and it’s especially aided by the fact that they can still use all of their great lenses. My beloved 18-35mm even worked perfectly on the A7s II when I had cropped mode enabled.

Cinema

Now that we’ve got the obvious out of the way, here’s where it gets more interesting. When the DSLR revolution hit us with the Canon 5D Mark II, not many people could afford the time or money to shoot on a cinema camera. For small sets, the list jumped from DSLR to renting an Arri Alexa, without very much to offer in between that. Today, that list is ever growing, and prices have begun to plummet. The Canon C100 is now the same price as the 5D Mark III. Then there are offerings from Blackmagic, where you can find cameras for under $1,000 or the new URSA Mini. Their original cinema camera is selling for less than a 5D Mark III right now.

Broadcast

What’s the difference between cinema and broadcast these days? You’d likely define that by what a broadcast camera isn’t. You might not consider a Digital Bolex or the Blackmagic Cinema Camera to be broadcast cameras. They lack a run and gun attitude.

The Sony FS5 and FS7 fit perfectly here. Their batteries run for days, they don’t need very much extra rigging, and they come with a built-in EVF for when it’s too bright out for an LCD display. Like I mentioned with the FS5, it’s an easy switch from a Canon setup, and it’s usually pretty cheap to rent. I’d normally prefer the FS5 in this case, because it’s not as bulky and doesn’t shoot on XQD cards, but I can still get 4K and slow motion out of it, just not at the same time.

With regards to other brands, you may struggle to get that film look we know and love from DSLRs out of camcorders with small sensors. Panasonic and JVC are pumping out brilliant 4K camcorders, but you’re not getting your old lenses onto those anytime soon.

So, there we have it! Through all the hype surrounding the 5D Mark IV, there are still so many options for people looking for that DSLR look in their videos. It doesn’t even need to be terribly expensive either.

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14 Comments

Lee Morris's picture

I keep thinking about making the switch from DSLR to a real video camera. We rarely take pictures these days and I'm tired of stopping and starting every 20 minutes.

Konstantinos Tsakmaz's picture

I agree. A rather large investment though.

Photo Kaz's picture

Really, you guys are not creating much stills? What is the focus these days?

Stephen Kampff's picture

Halfsies on an FS5?

Lane Shurtleff's picture

I'm with you Lee, I've been giving a hard look at the SONY PXW-X70 Camcorder. It starts as an HD camera but with the one inch sensor (also great for shallow depth of field look of DSLRs) it can be upgraded with a $250 license from Sony to make it a 4K camera. It's fully self contained and small enough for travel without having to pack a lot of add on gear.

Justin Moon's picture

Do it! You'll never look back. I moved to the C100 Mkii about 12 months ago and you'll never get me to go back to a DSLR for video. Having a camera purpose built for video is so refreshing. Need 48V on that mic? no worries. Would you like some focus peaking sir? I sure would!

David Liang's picture

I started with the mk2, through 6D, mk3, A7s and now the Fs5.

It's the little things that make a world of difference. 5-6 hour on a BP-u60 battery, simultaneous recording, variable ND, dual audio input. The fact it's e-mount means i'm using nikon, sony, canon lenses etc. Best camera decision i've ever made.

David Eberts's picture

Really impressed with the specs and price of the Sony FS5 and FS7 but I just can't deal with the unnatural, mushy, pastel-like skin tones. Pretty much ruined our footage (thankfully a test day) and surprised that this isn't mentioned more often. If anyone has seen footage samples with natural looking skin tones with these cameras, I'd love to check them out.

T Dillon's picture

Sounds like a hardware learning curve. We are having the same problem with skintones and a C100. Everyone comes out so pasty with pink highlights..... it isnbad equipment, we just need to adjust our settings and post-production.

Stephen Kampff's picture

Are you shooting in S-LOG? I've had issues with that before, but I've usually avoided it in favour of a faster/more reliable workflow.

David Eberts's picture

Yes we shot S-LOG. I would revisit the Sonys but not on a paid gig. Too disappointed with our footage and haven't seen any pleasing skin tones, even from top DPs. I'm looking into other options.. URSA Mini, C300ii and even Arri AMIRA.

noa put's picture

Never heard of the JVC GY LS300?

William Hohauser's picture

Please take the time and research a little into the JVC LS300. This is an extremely capable 4K camera that uses micro4/3 mount lenses (the same as the GH4), has pro audio inputs, a larger sensor than the GH4, built-in ND filters, and the PrimeZoom feature which allows zooms with fixed lenses. All for less than $3000US. The camera has been available for a year, it's exclusion from this article is unfortunate.

Stephen Kampff's picture

Seems like it'd be perfect for broadcast!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNysgtLnjCk