Advertisement

CineD’s Best Mirrorless Camera of the Year for Video 2021

December 7th, 2021 Jump to Comment Section 18
CineD's Best Mirrorless Camera of the Year for Video 2021

2021 is slowly fading away, and what a year it was! A year full of challenges for manufacturers, if also rewarding for the filming community crowd. Let’s summarize by saying that never before have there been so many cameras with such good video recording capabilities available to filmmakers for a relatively affordable price. Saying that, 2022 will be even more engaging as some very interesting cameras will come to the market with specifications previously seen on higher-end cameras only.

Guys, how was your year? I truly hope that it was fruitful. Here at CineD, we were extremely busy bringing you the latest news and reviews featuring many of the new products that caught our attention. We also grew “a bit”, as last month we announced acquiring MZed, a leading educational platform for filmmakers. So in the long run, expect to see much more of everything… More news, more reviews, and of course, more new engaging educational courses.

So, who did what?

Almost all the leading mirrorless camera manufacturers from our industry were busy exposing their merchandise throughout the year. Some did just OK, while others did tremendously well. And when I write “well”, I mean introducing cameras at an affordable price, or, including features that have been requested for a long time. So before talking about our finalists, let’s briefly talk about those whom we dearly respect but did not make it to the end-line.

FUJIFILM GFX100S
FUJIFILM GFX100S. Image credit:CineD

FUJIFILM

Those who follow my work, know that my personal camera is the FUJIFILM X-T4. It’s not only small and affordable but also has excellent video/audio quality. Interestingly enough, it is still competing very well with much of today’s offerings. So, why am I mentioning this slightly ageing camera here? Simply because FUJIFILM has not really renewed their APS-C line in a while. Yes, some new cameras were introduced, but their X-trans sensor, the processor behind it, and overall video specifications remained the same. If you take a closer look, you can see that FUJIFILM was mostly busy releasing new, free firmware updates for their existing line of cameras, which is of course great for current owners but probably not enough to convince new users to jump on the boat. Now, is this a sign that something good is cooking under the hood and will be presented during 2022? I guess we will have to patiently wait and see.

When it comes to FUJIFILM GFX’s large sensor family of cameras, also here we got much of the same (video-wise), with the great exception of lower prices and smaller body sizes. To me, it seems as if FUJIFILM is determined to make their large sensor offerings equivalent to full-frame cameras. Welcomed move, FUJIFILM! The potential to innovate is big and we are looking forward to seeing what comes next.

Panasonic

Earlier this year, Panasonic made a development announcement mentioning their upcoming GH6, and while we are waiting for additional information to be exposed, let’s refer to what is already here. In 2021, the company was busy updating its GH5 line with the addition of the GH5 II (see our review here). Now, if you are into vlogging, live events, or even broadcasting, this camera might prove to be the right tool for you, but in all honesty, if serious filmmaking and content creation are at the heart of what you do, you might have decided to skip this camera altogether and wait for the next best thing (the LUMIX GH6). The BS1H box camera was also introduced earlier this year, (see our review here), but I won’t elaborate much here, as it belongs to a different category of cameras.

LEICA

Although introduced at the very end of 2020, the LEICA SL2-S’ place is definitely here. For the sake of transparency, I do have a warm place in my heart for LEICA’s cameras, simply because of their ability to allow the user to film without applying any Noise Reduction to the footage. This translates into very organic-looking footage that I miss so much, when testing cameras from other brands. As a side note, my above claim was true to their original SL and SL2 offerings, but in my test, the SL2-S, has “lost it a bit”. I’m still working on my full camera review, but I can reveal already that LUTs that worked perfectly on the original camera(s), do not work nicely on the SL2-S. My assumption is that the camera – being a very close sibling of the Panasonic LUMIX S5 – brings some enhanced features like the All-Intra recording mode. So yes, it is LEICA, and yes they can produce amazing quality footage, BUT some of the magic was lost. The image is cleaner than before now, almost as if NR (Noise Reduction) is “smoothing things out”.

SIGMA

In 2021, SIGMA was extremely busy bringing new lenses to the market, but they also did not forget to update their fp camera line with a newcomer. From a pure filmmaking perspective, the new fp L is still a unique filming machine as it offers the ability to record Cinema DNG RAW internally (or externally to a fast SSD). But taking the competition into account, I’m asking myself if this is enough. I mean, I love the camera’s size and appreciate what it brings to the table, but the main obstacle here is really to decide who this camera is for? If it is for the occasional content creator, then there is surely no need for RAW video recording (not that it is directly connected, but fast, accurate autofocus will be more appreciated by occasional users instead, for example). Now, if it aims to capture the pros’ attention, then other features might need to be taken into consideration. The bottom line is (at least in my opinion), pinpointing the type of potential users that can enjoy this little gem is a must for a successful future.

Meet our finalists
Meet our finalists. Image credit: CineD

Meet our finalists

If you got this far reading the article you might have asked yourself, what about Sony, Canon, and Nikon? Glad you asked! Please, “keep calm and carry on”…

Sony

In all honesty, up to the last minute, I was not sure if Sony will make it to our finalists list. Indeed, the Sony A1 is an amazing overall photo/video mirrorless camera (see our review here), and it proved to be a highly versatile tool, but as my article is centered around video, it was hard for me to nominate it as a finalist. Yet when thinking about it, the new Sony a7 IV is a perfect candidate. After all, it brings most of the qualities the popular a7S III has, without the price tag. My business partner Nino, who tested the new camera summarized it perfectly by saying:

Sony clearly didn’t cut too many features out of this model and there will be people buying this instead of an a7S III if they don’t need the super low light capabilities or 120 fps recording of the a7S III. This camera will definitely find its market.

So, let me add the following: The price difference between the cameras is $1000 – do your math and according to your project’s demands, invest in the right tool for your needs.

EDIT: We got some emails from fellow filmmakers asking why the Sony A1 was not chosen (instead of the a7 IV). So I feel obliged to highlight that the “price/performance” of the a7 IV is great, making it a perfect candidate to complete the crown. As a side note, for video usage, both Canon EOS R3 and Nikon Z 9 are superior to the A1, each one in its own way. Hope I’ve managed to clarify my point.

Good job, Sony, for bringing 4:2:2 10bit internal recording at a lower price!

Canon

My EOS R3 camera review is not out yet, and I apologize for the delay. Yet, in my opinion, this is the best mirrorless camera for filmmakers Canon has ever made! 6K is obviously the “sweet spot” between “high quality” recording and “overheating performance” (really well controlled)! On top, Canon RAW comes in two flavors and my favorite is the “light version” as the quality is superb and the space on the CFexpress card does not get eaten up so fast. Add the new upcoming Tascam CA-XLR2d-C XLR adapter and voila, you just got yourself an even more advanced recording machine. So to summarize, the new Canon EOS R3 is a top video AND photo camera made for those who can justify its price tag. If you are working professionally, I can guarantee that this camera will serve you very well.

Nikon Z 9, camera of the year 2021
Nikon Z 9. Image credit: CineD

Nikon

In the history of mirrorless cameras that can shoot video, Nikon will have the honorary spot as the one who created that segment with the introduction of the Nikon D90. Back in 2008, it was the first camera that was able to record videos on an SD card at 720p resolution. A small anecdote: I’ll never forget how it felt trying to “lock the shutter” as most of the video functions were set to “auto” by default. As a side note, I recently had the pleasure to meet some of the same exact people who designed that legendary camera, while visiting Nikon’s HQ in Tokyo, Japan. But back to the topic, for years I felt that Nikon can do so much better and not lag behind the others, as the potential is simply there. And now, with the introduction of the new Z 9, it is great to see Nikon moving forward with creating the best mirrorless camera of this year. (Congratulations to the team at Nikon as this is quite an achievement)!

The Z 9 (Full Review Coming Soon)

Full-frame, check. Internal Image stabilization, check. Good autofocus, check. Looks good, but nothing that we haven’t seen before. OK, how about H.265 8K internal video recording with well-controlled overheating AND 4K internal ProRes 422 HQ recording? The list does not stop yet, as N-RAW for those who edit on DaVinci Resolve next to ProRes RAW for others is promised to be delivered to with a firmware update coming up later next year. By the way, do you think we can expect more mirrorless camera manufacturers to join and add those common high-quality, edit-friendly recording formats to their upcoming cameras, too? Time will tell, as the “old rule” rules. If you don’t do it, someone else will gladly…

When it comes to getting the most out of the camera, like with Canon, add the Tascam CA-XLR2d-AN XLR adapter, and enjoy additional flexibility when recording sound.

In the end, what differentiates the Nikon Z 9 from the Canon EOS R3 – apart from the higher recording resolution which might not be that important for some – is a lower price tag ($503 less) and a common internal video recording format (ProRes/ProRes RAW). In the past, lenses used to be a factor for making the decision if to (or not), jump to a different ship, but lately, more and more manufacturers are offering the possibility to change the lens mount on the fly, so even that reason should not stop one from considering a change.

Best mirrorless camera of the year for video 2021
Best mirrorless camera of the year for video 2021, Nikon Z 9. Image credit: CineD

What should we expect during 2022?

I love filming with mirrorless cameras. The feeling of freedom and the ability to be so close to your filming subject without causing disturbances is a pure gift for documentary work. Top this with the ability to work handheld and maximize the benefit of IBIS and autofocus, and you got yourself a “dream coming true” run&film machine. But where is it all heading to? Will mobile phones yet again cannibalize a good chunk of sales from traditional camera manufacturers? What will happen when Artificial Intelligence becomes dominant and “takes control” by demonstrating what a “bokeh engine for video capture” can do? (Not that this is the main thing, but, you guys, the veterans of the VDSLR revolution, know exactly what I mean).

What was once considered undoable and not professional enough might become today’s “de facto” standard with solid “Phone-o-graphy” filming. In the end, what I’m trying to say is that no matter what tool you choose, the focus should be on knowledge – and if you think you know it all already, treat yourself to learning something new and small every day.

Happy filming and a great holiday season from me, Nino, and the rest of our dedicated CineD team!

What will be your mirrorless camera of the year? Please share with us your thoughts in the comment section below!

18 Comments

Filter:
all
Sort by:
latest
Filter:
all
Sort by:
latest

Take part in the CineD community experience

Get 25 FREE Music Tracks for your next film projects