Best Cheap Video Cameras in 2023 for Low Budget Filmmaking
You can still produce great movies with cheap video cameras. This guide will show you the best bang for your buck models for low budget filmmaking.
By Andrew Dilks
If you’re a beginner videographer or on a low budget, you’ll love this guide to the best cheap video cameras.
Fortunately, here in 2023, you don’t need an expensive video camera to produce great movie footage.
While your average iPhone can shoot great videos, the cameras and camcorders on this list are much more versatile.
You’ll be able to swap lenses for more creative filming options, adjust frame rate for slow-motion or smoother footage and even shoot in 4K to allow you to crop or capture high-quality stills.
Low light video capture is better with a dedicated video camera, plus the ergonomics make them more comfortable and enjoyable to shoot with for long periods.
One thing to note – we all have different ideas of what a ‘cheap’ video camera is.
However, my advice is that if you only have a couple of hundred dollars to spend, stick with your smartphone camera – you’ll get similar if not better video quality than a really cheap camera.
$450~800 is the sweet spot for a video camera that most filmmakers would still consider ‘low-budget’ while offering the features and quality to excel against a mobile phone.
With that said, take a look at the best budget video cameras on offer right now.
What Are The Best Budget Video Cameras in 2023?
- Compact and lightweight
- Hotshoe attachment
- Rapid autofocus
- Side-flipping screen
- Image stabilization could be better
- Limited touchscreen
- Definitely not the cheapest option
One of the most powerful, feature-rich compact cameras used by vloggers and YouTubers is Sony’s ZV-1, which crams a surprising amount of features into its slim case.
Sharp and vibrant footage is captured via the 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 lens, using a BSI CMOS sensor at 20 megapixels, with options to record in 4K/30p or 1080p at up to 120p.
Additional specs match those typically associated with higher-end cameras, including picture profile options such as S-Log2 and S-Log3 for colour grading and an ND filter to manage sunlight.
The star of the show with the Sony ZV-1 is the autofocus, which tracks human and animal subjects and effortlessly maintains sharp focus in even the most challenging situations.
This level of accuracy with the autofocus opens up a range of possibilities in terms of the shots you can achieve with the Sony ZV-1, giving you the confidence to be more adventurous with camera movements.
The flip-screen is an additional boon for vloggers who want to talk directly to the camera. However, the touchscreen is limited, so be prepared to use the camera’s button interface to navigate the options.
Speaking of this budget video camera’s settings, there’s a lot here to customise, and the overall selection of features might be a tad overwhelming for those just making the transition from smartphones.
Those prepared to put in the time will be rewarded with improved footage while learning lots of useful information they can transfer to more professional-level cameras in the future.
As with most compact cameras, audio quality from the onboard mic is passable, but it includes a port for an external microphone, along with the charging USB and an HDMI port.
Overall, the Sony ZV-1 is a comprehensive pocket-sized budget vlogging camera capable of delivering high-quality results, especially suited to content creators who want to travel light without compromising on shooting options.
- Read more: What is the best camera for vlogging?
Canon PowerShot G7X Mark III Digital 4K Vlogging Camera
- Nice build quality
- Bright zoom lens
- Tailored for live streaming
- Great image stabilization
- Lacks a Hotshoe
- No EVF
Like Sony’s ZV-1, Canon’s PowerShot G7X Mark III is a compact camera aimed squarely at content creators looking to move beyond smartphones but not yet ready to dive into more complicated DSLR and mirrorless cameras.
It shares many attributes with Sony’s compact vlogging camera, including the 1-inch CMOS sensor, tilting touchscreen, a built-in ND filter, and the option to shoot in 4K or 1080p, with the latter unlocking slow motion.
The PowerShot G7X Mark III has more room to play with on the zoom, which ranges from 24mm to 100mm, delivering the same soft bokeh with its f/1.8-2.8 aperture.
Many of the biggest upgrades featured in the Canon PowerShot G7X Mark III are focused specifically around vlogging, with the option to live stream video a game-changer for vloggers looking for a new compact camera.
Measuring 2.4 by 4.1 by 1.6 inches and weighing just 10.7 ounces, it fits discreetly inside a pocket, with its combination of plastic and metal delivering an all-around solid and durable impression.
The overall design is simple yet effective, with intuitive button placement for quick access to a wide range of settings in addition to those available via the camera’s touchscreen.
As with the Sony ZV-1, the touchscreen is adjustable, so you can quickly tilt it all the way forward for selfie vlogging, and the image remains crisp and clear at various angles.
It all comes together to deliver a budget video camera capable of putting out high-quality video, assisted by impressive image stabilization and rapid-fire focus.
If you’re an amateur videographer or someone upgrading from their smartphone, the Canon PowerShot G7X Mark III is a fantastic all-rounder that has earned its popularity among established vloggers and YouTube creators as one of the best budget video cameras.
- Read more: What is the best point-and-shoot camera?
Sony FDRAX53/B 4K HD Video Recording Camcorder
- Live streaming capabilities
- Great in-body image stabilization
- Bright and colourful video quality
- 4K video modes
- Battery life could be better
- Small-sized sensor
With many content creators often preferring the balance between photography and videography afforded by compact and mirrorless cameras, it can be easy to overlook dedicated camcorders.
The Sony FDRAX53/B is a perfect example of how dedicated camcorders offer opportunities for filmmaking and vlogging, with exceptional video resolution combined with a broad selection of tools to deliver professional-looking results.
This cheap video camera is lightweight and durable and can be freely used without the need for a tripod, using the Balanced Optical Steady Shot feature to minimise camera shake.
It records vibrant footage in 4K using a 26.8mm ZEISS lens and sports a 20X optical zoom, in addition to the 30X Clear Image zoom for additional reach and coverage.
To match this powerful range, the Sony FDRAX53/B comes with a premium 5-directional microphone built-in, capable of recording clear, noise-free audio in either 2-channel stereo or 5.1 surround sound audio.
As you might expect from Sony, the autofocus system on the FDRAX53 is impressive, with an Intelligent AF system that tracks subjects with ease and makes on-the-fly adjustments to contrast and motion to predict the AF range accurately.
Operating the Sony FDRAX53/B is simple, with a range of accessible manual controls you can use to adjust the settings to your preferences for shutter speed, exposure, zoom controls, and more.
This can be achieved using the robust control dial, while the LCD touchscreen is clear and responsive, which is especially handy when making the most of the camera’s zoom capabilities.
Perhaps the biggest selling point for vloggers and live streamers is the Ustream feature, letting you share footage straight from the camera and link it to your social media accounts.
These features combined make the Sony FDRAX53/B camcorder perhaps the best budget video camera in its class, delivering solid audio/visual performance whether you’re live streaming or recording videos.
- Read more: What is the best video editing software?
- Compact and easy to use
- Reliable autofocus
- Articulating touchscreen
- It comes with a clip-on wind muffler
- Lacking a 4K/60p video mode
- No in-body image stabilization
Another cheap video camera from Sony that delivers its trademark excellent video quality and powerful autofocus performance is the Sony ZV-E10, which serves up an array of powerful videography tools as well as being a fine stills photography camera.
It’s a 24MP APS-C mirrorless camera that is squarely aimed towards enthusiastic amateur and professional vloggers, complete with articulating screen, reliable AF detection for eyes and faces, and ports for multiple peripherals.
Unlike the camcorder and company cameras, the ZV-E10 allows for interchangeable lenses, opening up a new world of coverage opportunities for those willing to invest in a repertoire of lenses to their kit.
This doesn’t have to break the bank, either. Sony’s native e-mount lenses can be expensive (particularly their G Master series), third-party lenses can be picked up for a fraction of the price, with lens mount adapters available to open up a huge market of vintage lenses.
Footage is recorded on a 24MP APS-C sensor, with the camera capable of capturing 4K at up to 30fps, with 120fps slow motion footage available at 1080p video resolution for more variety to your shots.
It’s an incredibly lightweight budget video camera, with perhaps the only noticeable shortcomings being the absence of in-body stabilisation and a rolling shutter, “jello” effect while panning.
While the lack of an optical viewfinder might be off-putting for those who want to use this as a stills camera as well as for video content creation, it’s made up for with its crystal clear touchscreen that makes it easy to keep your footage nicely framed and in focus.
It’s also a vari-angle screen, so if you’re a vlogger or video podcaster who likes to make content talking into the camera, this allows you to quickly switch the screen around and ensure you’re well-lit and framed correctly.
Audio quality is generally good, with the ZV-E10 using a 3-capsule directional microphone located on the top of the camera, which can be used with a clip-on wind muffler (which comes included with the camera).
It’s arguably the best cheap video camera for vloggers looking to bridge the gap between compact cameras and full-frame mirrorless cameras that might be out of their budget but want the option to start working on a great collection of lenses for their video work.
- Read more: What is a good camera for filming podcasts?
GoPro Hero 10
- Rapid performance
- Improved horizon leveling
- Excellent media transfer speeds
- Intuitive interface and menus
- Low-light performance could be better
- Average battery life
The GoPro Hero range has made considerable strides in features and performance over the years, with the latest iteration of this popular action cam improving on previous versions across all metrics.
The GoPro Hero 10 delivers more frame rate options than its predecessors, with an overall more polished aesthetic to make it one of the best budget cameras in the action category.
While the 23MP 1/2.3-inch sensor remains the same as on previous versions, it comes with a new GP2 processor that enables a broader selection of shooting modes, including 5K/60p, 4K/120p, and 2.7K/240p.
These upgrades, combined with an improved hydrophobic lens and a waterproof casing good for up to 10 meters, increase its versatility considerably and allows GoPro to retain its pre-eminence in the realm of action cameras.
GoPro cameras have long been the camera of choice for videographers who enjoy shooting high-octane outdoor pursuits, and the Hero 10 is easily attached to mountain bikes, helmets, and canoes for first-person action footage.
It’s also virtually indestructible, being 5g lighter than its predecessor and housed in a durable case with a protected LCD screen and a mount built into its body.
The touchscreen is nice and clear despite its small size, with better touch sensitivity than on the Hero 9, and navigating through the GoPro’s menus is slick and responsive, aided by the GP2 chipset.
Perhaps the only notable drawback with the GoPro Hero 10 is a drop in battery life over previous versions, with around 30 minutes of footage possible on a full charge when shooting at the highest possible video resolution.
Representing the best iteration yet in their flagship action camera series, the GoPro Hero 10 pushes image quality to the limit.
While it’s certainly not cheap, one could still argue that for this quality, it’s certainly a budget video camera for anyone focused on fast-paced, outdoor coverage.
Read more: What is the best action camera?
DJI Pocket 2
- Incredibly small and lightweight
- Bright and vibrant video
- Solid image stabilisation
- Great tracking feature
- Poor performance in low-light situations
- Heats up shooting in 4K mode
The DJI Pocket 2 is the kind of budget video camera that appeals to similar videographers who enjoy the GoPro range and are looking for something exceptionally lightweight and small in their camera repertoire.
Small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, it’s equipped with a 3-axis gimbal for image stabilisation and comes with a range of video options that include 60fps in 4K and 8x slow motion.
It’s a popular camera for budding videographers who are upgrading from smartphones and require a more versatile camera that nevertheless retains the portability and discretion of use found in phones.
While there are high-end smartphones with stronger image performance, they lack the ability to mechanically stabilise your shots without being hooked up to a small gimbal, which requires carrying around more gear and allowing for time to set it up.
The DJI Pocket 2 is designed specifically with vloggers in mind and even comes with skin-smoothing and face-slimming tools to ensure you’re looking your best when delivering your next update to your social media followers.
It also has a tracking feature to keep your subjects in focus, which can be activated by simply dragging a box around the subject on the camera’s touchscreen, so the gimbal keeps it in the centre frame.
While the picture quality lags somewhat in terms of dynamic range, and low-light performance could be better, footage shot in solid lighting conditions is impressive when you consider the camera’s diminutive size and small sensor.
There’s a 1-inch screen for controlling the camera’s settings and menus, although this can be paired with a smartphone for ease of use, while the DJI Mimo app allows you to live stream directly from the device.
Additional pleasing touches to the design of the DJI Pocket 2 include the camera head, which rotates inwards when not in use to protect the lens, and additional gimbal modes that allow you to lock the roll and tilt axes to create different types of shots.
DJI also offers various bundles, with the most expensive Creator Combo including a tripod, wind guards, a wireless microphone transmitter, and other peripherals not available in the standard version.
The DJI Pocket 2 is ideal for casual videographers looking for a fun, portable pocket camera for ad hoc filmmaking, whether they’re backpacking in the great outdoors or taking in the nightlife of a bustling metropolis.
- Read more: What is the best 360-degree camera?
What features should I look for in a budget video camera?
When browsing through the vast selection of budget video cameras on the market, there are various features and modes you should keep an eye out for, as these will determine what you can and can’t accomplish with the camera.
These features and settings include:
A camera’s video resolution is a good indication of the video quality you can expect when recording, so check to see whether it’s capable of full-HD video in 4K or 1080p High Definition so you have an idea of the overall quality to expect.
- Frame rate
There are various frame rates video cameras are capable of shooting at, with 24 frames per second (fps) and 30fps featured on all cameras, with more advanced cameras capable of recording slow motion footage while shooting at 60fps or 120fps.
- Zoom range
The ability to zoom with your camera opens up a world of possibilities when it comes to filming otherwise inaccessible scenes and close-ups, so check the available zoom range on the camera, or, if using interchangeable lenses, find one with a broad zoom range.
- Image stabilisation
Shooting handheld or on a lens with a long focal length can easily lead to shaky footage. Cameras that feature image stabilisation will use an algorithm to remove unwanted jitters and shakes.
- Lens mount
While cheap video cameras typically come with a fixed lens, DSLR and mirrorless cameras feature a lens mount to allow users to swap and change lenses and increase their potential range of shot options.
If you intend to work with multiple lenses, verify the lens mount of a given camera so you can research compatible lenses that will meet your needs.
- Sensor size
The larger the camera’s sensor size, the better the video quality, so check to see whether your budget video camera of choice comes with a full frame, APS-C, or another sensor size.
- Battery life
If you’re out and about shooting video all day, running out of battery power is an issue, so look for a camera with a long battery life and determine how many spares you might require for your shooting schedule.
- Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity
Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity gives you more flexibility when transferring your video footage from your camera to a laptop or smartphone. It can also come in handy for remotely controlling your camera.
- Audio inputs and outputs
Compact video cameras often use onboard microphones, so if you’re planning on using external mics along with headphones, make sure the camera includes the appropriate audio inputs and outputs.
While most cameras can be used with both PC and Mac computers, bundled software sometimes has limitations you should be aware of before purchasing.
- User interface
Finally, you should check the user interface to see if it is easy to use and intuitive, with clearly presented menus and other options to help modify your video camera setup.
What else do you need as a beginner videographer?
Before you get started as a beginner videographer, you need to be sure you have all the relevant gear needed to capture the kind of footage you’re after.
Here’s a handy checklist of some of the essential accessories you’ll need to consider getting so you can make the most of your budget video camera:
Compact cameras feature a built-in microphone that delivers adequate audio quality, but for crisp and dynamic results, a dedicated external mic, monitored via headphones, will ensure your videos sound professional.
- Interchangeable lenses
While interchangeable lenses are more commonly associated with higher-end products, you can still pick up an affordable video camera that features this option and open up a new world of focal lengths and aperture settings to enhance your videography.
- Spare batteries
Having found out the average lifespan of a given camera’s battery, you can stock up on spares so you’ll always have power to film the interesting footage while out and about.
- Memory cards
Recording video can quickly eat up memory, so having one or more spare SD cards in your camera bag means you won’t miss those important shots due to a lack of storage space.
While video cameras are becoming much better at low light performance, some circumstances, such as recording an interview indoors, require additional lights to ensure the subject is properly lit.
Shooting handheld is fine for run-and-gun filmmaking, but a decent tripod with a fluid video head mount is essential if you’re shooting weddings or other scenarios where steady shots are required.
A gimbal is a fantastic device you can use to simulate more elaborate shots used by professional filmmakers, allowing for smooth dolly and tracking shots, and other camera movements you won’t be able to achieve handheld.
- Camera bag
Carrying around your budget video camera in a rucksack is all well and good. Still, a dedicated camera bag will provide more protection for your gear, as well as quicker access to your camera should you spot something you’d like to film quickly.
- Spare cables
It’s not uncommon to lose or break cables over time, so including spare cables such as HDMI, headphone jack, and USB connectors is good practice and takes up minimal space in your camera bag.
While many videographers don’t bother using filters, there are some that can be used to enhance the quality of your footage, particularly a variable ND filter, which is used to adjust the brightness without affecting colour reproduction.
- Editing software
Once you’ve shot your footage, you’ll need to install editing software to put it together into an appealing video. There are lots of options available for editing software, from free programs with basic features to professional editing suites that include advanced tools such as colour grading.
Can I use my iPhone or Android mobile instead of a cheap video camera?
If you already own a smartphone with a camera (let’s face it – who doesn’t?!), you may not actually need to spend any more on any of the best budget video cameras in this guide.
The truth is, the latest iPhones and Android devices have as good video quality as many of the latest video cameras available in 2023.
You can definitely shoot a short film or start your vlogging career with a mobile phone camera. However, I do recommend investing in a better external microphone to improve the audio capture.
However, one big consideration is the experience of actually filming with a phone compared to using a dedicated camera.
Unless you have some fancy rig, holding a phone for any duration to film with isn’t enjoyable nor convenient.
In addition, it’s harder to take advantage of all the lenses available for interchangeable lens cameras, despite the availability of some great lenses for iPhones.
There’s also battery life to consider and the fact that you’ll be interrupted by incoming calls and messages when you forget to turn on aeroplane mode while filming.
Finally, you should consider how comfortable you’d be using your beloved smartphone to film an action shot vs using a GoPro with its protective underwater housing.
So, if you have a really tight budget and already own a modern phone with a camera, by all means, use that to kick off your filming adventure.
Then, if you start to feel its limitations, you can invest in one of the budget video cameras on this list.
Shopping for Cheap Video Cameras – Final Words of Advice
Obviously, everyone’s idea of a budget video camera is different.
$500 to one person is a lot of money, while to another, it may be quite reasonable… especially if you need a camera for professional use or to make some passive income on YouTube.
Either way, I’m confident that the budget video cameras on this list will help you get better quality footage in less time for less money.
Remember – it’s the content you produce that matters the most. Don’t stress over video resolution or fancy features – all you need is a cheap video camera (or even your smartphone) and a great idea.
Now, get out there and start shooting!
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