This guide aims to present the best cameras to shoot stock footage – up-to-date and comprehensive packages that can fit a full range of stock footage producer budgets, from super cheap, to very high end. Each of these packages aims to include everything needed to shoot high-quality clips.
The optional gear listed at the bottom of every package can extend your ability to gather more footage. Each portion of this guide can be seen as a good stepping stone to a faster shooting package that will elevate the quality and quantity of footage you can capture.
At the end of this page is a short section on how to save 5% on any of the gear listed below.
The bottom of this guide also includes a section on which action cameras are best for capturing stock footage.
In addition to the above considerations, this gear was chosen based on build quality, support quality from the manufacturer, usability, and reliability. Everything listed except the “Hollywood” packages has been tested by StockbyNumbers. For the gear where we have already written a review, you can find a link to it below the camera link.
Finally, because of the drastic decreases in the price of cameras and storage, it is no longer worth investing in anything that CAN’T shoot 4K. Everything listed below is 4K ready.
(The first price listed is for a bare-minimum, essentials package. The second price includes the optional items.)
4K for less than $1K. The following packages are the cheapest current options that are able to accomplish all of the necessary techniques to shoot high selling footage. There are trade-offs with these budget gear packages compared to the higher end packages listed below. Primarily, the quality of footage and its potential longevity in the stock footage market.
Both of the cameras in the low-budget category are Panasonic Micro-Four Thirds (MFT). The reason for this is that they offer a great 4K image workflow and MFT lenses are generally cheaper than other EF or cinema lenses. This makes the G series camera a great entry into stock footage.
Low-Budget Camera Package 1 – $950 / $1,650
Camera: Panasonic DMC-G7
The Panasonic G7 offers a great all-around entry level 4K capable camera with an interchangeable MFT lens mount, EVF, and flip out screen.
Lenses: Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7
Power: DMW-BLC12B, Third Party
Filters: Variable ND, K&F Concept 46mm Slim
Additional Lenses: Panasonic 42.5mm f/1.7 Power O.I.S.
Overall, this is a great introduction package to shooting stock footage that won’t break the bank while still yielding beautiful 4K footage. The G7 has Cinelike-D and Cinelike-V color, giving it a professional look that rivals many of the more expensive cameras in this guide. The largest downsides of this camera are that it lacks in camera stabilization and like its bigger sibling the GH4, has a relatively low 100mbs data rate when recording 4K
The included stock lens is usable, but the f1.7 25mm lens allows for shallower depth of field and will yield better stock footage depending on the angle of view needed.
The Zhiyun-Tech Gimbal has become almost standard for cameras this size and performs very well. The drawbacks of this budget option package include lower dynamic range, no in camera image stabilization, and no practical slow-motion capabilities.
Low-Budget Camera Package 2 – $1,700 / $5,200
Camera: Panasonic Lumix GH4
This camera made a big splash when it came out in 2014. While it may seem like old news, the advantage of a few years having gone by is that the price has dropped significantly since its release while the quality of its image has remained competitive.
Lenses: Mitakon Speedmaster 25mm f0.95
Power: DMW-BLF19, Third Party
Tripod: Benro S2 Video Tripod
This package steps up from the G7 in several ways. The most important is the 10-bit 4:2:2 output. You can start recording 4K on a budget, but upgrade as you start to earn. The Atamos Ninja Flame 4K is a great add-on to achieve 4K 10-bit 4:2:2 footage. While skipping this and upgrading to the Panasonic-GH5 does make some sense, the advantage of the Ninja Flame is that you can record to post-production friendly ProRes. It also gives you a large beautiful screen with many tools that will speed up your shooting.
The downside to the GH4 is similar to that of the GH7, no internal image stabilization and low data rate recording. At least with the GH4 you are set up for a path to 10-bit recording.
The Mitakon 25mm f0.95 can be a bit soft wide-open, but this is worth the shallow depth of field it achieves. The 12-35mm is a great all-rounder lens for shooting handheld.
GX85 is about the same price as the Panasonic G7 and a good deal smaller. The best feature gained by the GX85 is the 5-axis in camera optical image stabilization (O.I.S.). If you do a lot of hand-held shooting this option is worth looking into. The trade-off is the loss of the Cinelike-V and Cinelike-D, which may be worth the O.I.S.
The Yi is extremely affordable if you are on a super tight budget, but not as highly recommended as the G7, GH4 or GX85, because of a lower 80mb/s bit-rate and poorer low-light capabilities.
Stepping up from the low-budget packages to the two mid-range packages will enable a few major advantages over the low-budget options. If you are getting serious about stock footage production it is worth taking a look at these. If you plan to do commercial or documentary video production in addition to stock footage, these cameras are a much better investment.
Mid-Range Camera Package 1 – $2,700 / $5,500
Camera: DJI OSMO Pro (Bundle)
The Osmo X5 takes a little getting used to, but once the workflow is in place, this camera is a footage gathering machine. It has two major pros: the ability to move freely and smoothly and an integrated follow focus. When you get comfortable using this camera, you can capture tracking shots with accurate shallow depth of field at a very high rate. SxN is in the midst of writing a guide on making the most of this powerful package.
Power: DJI Osmo Battery
Media: Samsung U3 Micro SDXC
Steadicam: Osmo X5 / X5R Z-Axis
Osmo X5 Conclusion. Why not the Osmo X5R RAW you might ask? The Osmo X5R was the original choice at Stock by Numbers (SxN). However, after pulling proxy footage recorded to the micro SDXC card, rather than the SSD, that consistently came out looking great, downgrading to the X5 made the most sense. The X5R’s raw capabilities are impressive – it does yield one to two extra stops of dynamic range, as well as some additional flexibility in post-production.
The RAW benefits of the X5R are not worth the extra costs though when shooting for stock footage. The X5R’s workflow to process the DNG files is a bit of a nightmare – it takes far too long and the file sizes are so large that the storage costs become prohibitive.
Be aware that mastering the Osmo X5 setup does take some practice. However, once you have mastered using this camera, you will be cranking out clips at record speed. Also, the h.264 files generated by the X5 are incredible for the low cost and relatively low bit-rate. Adding the Z-axis to the OSMO gives you a limitless steadicam as well. More and more of the footage selling from SxN is coming from this extremely versatile setup.
The last, and a great, benefit to this package is that it integrates with the DJI Inspire 1. This drone X5 combo yields incredible footage. Tradeoff here when compared to smaller drones is that it is less portable, but arguably worth the improved footage quality.
Mid-Range Camera Package 2 – $2,500 / $6,650
Camera: Panasonic Lumix GH5
The Panasonic GH5 is the first small form factor camera to offer 4K internal 10-bit encoding. Why is this a huge deal? Because it allows for the capture of greater dynamic range and richer color in a small affordable package. It can also record 4K at 60fps and 1080P at 180fps.
Lenses: Mitakon Speedmaster 25mm f0.95
Tripod: Benro BV4 Carbon Fiber
Remote Follow Focus: Ikan PDL-F Remote Live 2
Internal 10-bit 4:2:2 can’t be praised enough. It is the gold standard of image capture because it strikes an amazing balance between high image quality and low data storage. The GH5 has been in the works for years and is truly a dream camera for shooting stock footage. The workflow got off to a bit of a rocky start, but editing programs have recently caught up to support the GH5’s codec.
Professional slow motion cannot be overstated when it comes to shooting stock footage. One of the best ways to maximize your time when shooting is to replicate shots in slow motion. This is the one exception to the shoot everything in 4K rule I discussed earlier. Slow motion footage sells very well and being able to capture it can almost double the high quality clips you can capture during a shoot.
These features, combined with the GH5’s 5-Axis image stabilization, will give you an extremely powerful camera that provides massive bang for your buck.
One drawback of the GH5 is sub-par low-light performance. Panasonic has announced a new version of the camera, the GH5S, that is supposed to address this issue. However, the extra cost may not be worth the slight tradeoff of better low-light performance.
The addition of the Ikan remote follow focus to the Tech Chrane gimbal makes this camera as flexible as the Osmo Pro, but with a much higher quality footage.
As discussed above, the workflow managing DNG files from the DJI X5R is pretty cumbersome. One advantage to having these DNGs though is that they are often beautiful RAW still photos in themselves. On the plus side – they have great dynamic range and are extremely sharp. StockbyNumbers is beginning to experiment with submitting frame grabs as stock images. Check back soon for more.
The Blackmagic Design Production Camera 4K has largely fallen by the wayside as it is a bit older. There is no other camera at this price point however that records internal 4K ProRes. Because of this ability the BMD Production Camera 4K is still a force to be reckoned with, especially if you are already shooting with EF-mount lenses. While it takes a slight dynamic range hit and does not perform well in low-light compared to the packages discussed in the next section, it is still worth consideration on account of the speedy ProRes workflow.
While powerful and versatile, the high-end packages listed here might only be for those looking to shoot stock footage full-time, or have an existing or planned video production business. These cameras are comprehensive and open up new possibilities for the stock video shooter.
High-End Camera Package – $7,600 / $12,300
To many, Stock by Numbers included, this camera is the holy grail of video production. It provides an image that rivals RED (and some would argue an Alexa). It includes integrated ND flip down ND filters, has incredible shooting tools, and uses a standard EF-mount. Hyperbole aside, Stock by Numbers believes this camera is 150% as capable as a RED Scarlet-Dragon, but for a fraction of the cost.
Power: (Included In Above Linked Package For Free)
Gimbal: DJI Ronin-M
The biggest drawback to the URSA Mini 4.6K compared to the cameras preceding it is its weight. This necessitates the use of a two handed, and more expensive gimbal. Other than that, it really is a dream to shoot with and produces absolutely stunning footage. Blackmagic clearly leveraged their extensive knowledge of color science to create a camera that gives RED and ARRI a run for their money. Great low-light performance, 60fps 4K, 120fps slow motion at 2K, ProRes 422 HQ, RAW recording in camera, ND filters, false-color, the list goes on…
Finally, this camera is the first in this guide that has professional audio pre-amps and phantom powered XLR inputs. While this doesn’t matter to the stock video producer, if you are using this camera for commercial or documentary production, these professional features are a must-have.
This is the only high-end camera package we’re going to include, as we don’t feel the more expensive RED options can compete with it for stock footage purposes. While the R3D codec has major benefits, for now they are out of range based on our monthly earnings.
Action cameras provide some of the best value as their footage is often in high-demand. On the flip side of this, since they are so low cost, this footage has flooded stock marketplaces. Shoot briefs a year ago requested action camera footage, but this request was clearly answered as they have not come up often since.
Action cameras can still be great for shooting stock footage, but keep in mind that what you capture needs to usually have models and needs to be spectacular.
Camera: Yi 4K Action Camera – $160
The Yi 4K action camera was a big surprise, as it rivaled GoPro in specs and performance. It is a great value, as it still has a back touch screen, quality sensor, and 100 mb/s recording capability. Additionally, it offers in camera stabilization at 2.7K. Note that this lower cost camera still requires a waterproof case, but it still beats out the GoPro Hero 5.
Camera: GoPro Hero 5 Session – $200
The GoPro Session 5 is a marvel of engineering. This is one of the smallest 4K capable cameras available and is so small it can fit in a pocket. This is especially handy when going on vacation or doing adventure activities that are ripe for stock footage recording.
Camera: RED EPIC-W – $40,000
RED has been a truly innovative and ground-breaking camera company since the introduction of the RED One. Shooting on the Epic-W 8K is a dream goal of Stock by Numbers, as we want to test the ability to pull professional quality 35 Megapixel frame grabs from the footage for upload to stock agencies.
Camera: ARRI Alexa Mini – $55,000
While the Alexa Mini is “only” a 4K camera, it is the gold standard right now. Major Hollywood blockbusters and Academy Award nominees are being shot with at a much higher rate than RED cameras. It is the dynamic range and color master. More just fun to have listed here – can’t ever seeing it making that much sense for stock footage production.
5% Off Camera Gear:
Most of the above camera gear is listed from Amazon because of its cheap prices, almost no questions asked return policy, and their 5% points back store cards.
These cards are not available for everyone and are NOT the right choice for some. I would caution against them if you cannot pay-off your balance at the end of every month. The burden of paying interest on expensive cameras and gear can take a big chunk out of your stock footage earnings.
If you CAN pay off the balance on these cards at the end of every month, they can save you hundreds of dollars. If you buy a GH5 with one of these cards you will end up paying $100 less than you would on a regular credit card.
If you plan on shooting stock footage for years, or run a video production business of any kind, these cards are a no-brainer. While B&H Photo and Video and Adorama both have some advantages compared to Amazon, but 5% back on most fixed asset expenses for any business is a huge deal.
These cards do necessitate being a Prime member, but if you are already one of the 63 million members out there, this shouldn’t be an issue.
You can find more information on Amazon’s two cards here:
As video cameras and high-end digital cinema cameras become more and more affordable this list will update accordingly. There are a huge number of variables to consider when picking your camera. Before buying, make sure to check how well cameras from that brand hold their value, as you also want to consider what you can sell these for before upgrading to the next step.
There are many omissions here, one of the biggest is the Sony A7r series. While this line of cameras has become extremely popular over the last two years, they only produce 8-bit footage with 4:2:0 color. It doesn’t make sense to fork over $3,000 for anything that doesn’t produce 10bit footage since the introduction of the GH5. While having a full-frame sensor is great, similar shallow depth of field can be achieved with the very fast aperture, and very cheap micro four thirds lenses that are on the market.
Their is an old adage in narrative and documentary filmmaking that story trumps all. This implies that the gear is less relevant. When shooting stock footage, you only have a single shot with no sound to tell your story. In this limited amount of time, you have to impress visually. In stock footage, the camera matters. Being able to shoot quickly while still gathering a wide diversity and number of shots in a short period of time is of paramount importance in this business. Try to buy accordingly and great luck shooting.
Do you see anything missing from this list or that could be replaced? Please let us know in the comments and we’ll look into it asap!