When it comes to picking a camera for video you have a lot of options. There are a lot of video camera options today, and trying to find the right one for you can be very overwhelming. Not only do you have to choose between types of camera such as a point and shoot, a mirrorless camera, a camcorder, or a DSLR, but you also have to figure out the exact model that you want. If you’re reading this article, we’re guessing that you’ve already narrowed down your options to a DSLR and now you are trying to figure out which one is right for you.
With so many options on the market, choosing a camera for video can be challenging. There are a lot of great DSLRs for video out there, and Nikon makes some of the very best. Why choose a Nikon camera over one from Canon or one of its other competitors? For many people it comes down to gear that you already own or a personal preference for one brand over another. Whatever your reasoning, once you’ve decided to add a Nikon DSLR to your arsenal, you have a lot of choices. Once you’ve decided to selecting a Nikon DSLR, there are still several things to think about before making your final purchase.
In this article we’ll give you some ideas on what to look for in a Nikon DSLR for video and then tell you about some of our favorites. Let’s get started!
The 7 Best Nikon DSLRs for Video
What to consider when choosing a Nikon DSLR for video:
An image sensor converts light into a digital format, which the camera then transforms into a photo or video. In the video world, particularly in the world of DSLRs, the most popular sizes to consider are full-frame sensors and APS-C, or “crop sensors”. Full-frame sensors are often considered better because they can perform in low light and have tighter control of shallow depth of field, but crop sensors can sometimes cost less, and are perfectly acceptable if you’re usually shooting with a deep depth of field. Crop sensor cameras can also be lighter, which is ideal for travel.
Video resolution and 4K
Of course, high resolution is extremely important to consider when choosing as camera, but the highest resolution available on the market may not always be your best bet. In the last several years, 4K has become highly sought after for video resolution, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessary in all circumstances. Sure, a resolution of 4K will give you clearer video beautifully detailed shots and more pixels to play with in post processing, but do you really need it? Not necessarily. 1080p has been the standard video resolution for a long time and is good enough for most applications. Having said that, 4K video looks better than footage shot on the same camera when downsampled to 1080p, gives you more ability to crop when editing, and can often produce still photographs that are good enough to print.
Depending on the type of sensor you get (full frame or APS-C) you will have different choices for lenses. While some lenses work well on both types of cameras, others are only designed for use on crop sensor bodies. Make sure that the lenses you want to use will work on the body that you buy. If you will be purchasing all of your kit brand new, this isn’t quite as big of a deal but if you already have your heart set on a specific lens or you already have lenses in your possession, be sure to choose a body that is compatible. For example, an AF-S or AF-P lens will work well on a Nikon DSLR, but an AF lens will have limited functionality.
Headphone and microphone ports
If you plan to record audio along with your video, you will want to look for a camera that makes this easy. The built-in microphones on most cameras leave a lot to be desired and aren’t a great option for people who are serious about audio quality. Being able to attach an external microphone will help you make videos with beautiful sound. Another feature that is helpful for videographers is a headphone jack so that you can listen, in real time, to what your camera is recording.
A good LCD screen is one of the things that can take a DSLR from good to great when it comes to video. A screen that flips out or tilts makes it easier for you to see what you are recording when you take video and can be a huge asset when it comes to videography. On many modern cameras, the LCD is also a touchscreen, which can make it quick and easy to change your settings or focus on a subject.
Low light performance
How well a camera does in low light depends on things like sensor size, as previously discussed, and maximum ISO. ISO is the measure of how sensitive a camera is to light. Cameras that can shoot at higher ISOs will perform better in the dark. Most DSLRs are capable of shooting at a high ISO, which can be helpful when shooting in low light. However, keep in mind that as ISO increases, videos become noisier and can look very grainy. Just because a camera can shoot at a very high ISO doesn’t mean that you necessarily should.
Many professional videographers shoot videos entirely in manual focus mode, but those who like to use autofocus when they take video should look for a camera with a good autofocus system. The most important aspect of autofocus to consider is whether or not the autofocus in question is continuous. Multiple points of autofocus are great for photography, but if it doesn’t adjust with the subject during video once the shutter is pressed, it isn’t particularly useful. That said, you also want to ensure that the autofocus you choose is quick and quiet; if your lens makes a lot of noise constantly adjusting during a shot, it can be very annoying come post-production time.
The conditions you intend to shoot with will largely determine the amount of weatherproofing you need. If you primarily plan to shoot indoors, weatherproofing isn’t much of a concern, but once you step outside you’ll want to be sure that your camera is protected from the elements. Cameras that are sealed against moisture and dust will hold up better in harsh conditions. The more rugged the climate you will be in, the more weatherproofed your gear should be.
Recording video uses up more battery than taking stills. While you can always carry a bunch of spare batteries and replace them when necessary, it’s better if you don’t have to do this. The fewer batteries you have to haul around, the better. Look for a camera with good battery life to make your life easier when you’re on the go.
With so many things to consider when choosing a Nikon DSLR for video, it can be hard to narrow it down. We’re hoping to make this process a little bit easier for you. Here are some of our favorites:
|Camera||Nikon D5||Nikon D810||Nikon D500||Nikon D750||Nikon D610||Nikon D7200||Nikon D5500||Nikon D3300|
|Max Video Resolution||4K at 30 FPS||1080p at 60 FPS||4K at 30 FPS||1080p at 60 FPS||1080p at 30 FPS||1080p at 60 FPS||1080p at 60 FPS||1080p at 60 FPS|
|Sensor Size||20.8 MP Full Frame||36.3 MP Full Frame||20.2 MP APS-C||24.1 MP Full Frame||24.3 MP Full Frame||24.2 MP APS-C||24.2 MP APS-C||24.2 MP APS-C|
|Continuous Autofocus||Yes, in AF-C mode||Yes, in AF-C mode||Yes, in AF-C mode||Yes, in AF-C mode||Yes, in AF-C mode||Yes, in AF-C mode||Yes, with specific lenses||Yes, with specific lenses|
|Screen||3.2″ rear||3.2″ rear LCD||3.2″ tilting touch- screen||3.2″ tilting LCD||3.2″ rear LCD||3.2″ rear LCD||3.2″ articu- lating touch- screen||3″ rear LCD|
|Weight||3.1 lbs||1.9 lbs||1.9 lbs||1.7 lbs||1.7 lbs||1.5 lbs||15 oz||15 oz|
|Cost||$6,500||$2,800||$2,000||$1,900||$1,500||$1,000||$600||$450 (with lens)|
1. Nikon D5
($350 weekly rental, $6,500 MSRP)
Did your jaw just drop when you saw that price? We get it. But if you are looking for the best Nikon DSLR for video, this is it. The D5 was the first camera in Nikon’s lineup with the ability to shoot ultra high-definition 4K video and it can do it at up to 30 FPS. The D5’s 3.2” screen is attached to the back of the camera and does not articulate but it is a touchscreen, which makes for easy navigation. If this camera has a major downside it’s that it weighs over three pounds, making it the heaviest on our list.
While this camera is probably beyond the price point of most consumers it is an excellent machine for serious videographers. People who want one of the most powerful DSLRs on the market and have money to spend will love what the D5 can do. This camera produces sharp, clear 4K video and does very well in all conditions—including low light. If only the very best well do, the Nikon D5 is your camera.
2. Nikon D810
($148 weekly rental, $2,800 MSRP)
The D810 is Nikon’s answer to Canon’s wildly popular 5D Mark III and it’s an excellent option for videographers who want a serious piece of equipment but don’t want to shell out several months rent to get it. This camera’s whopping 36 MP full frame sensor is able to capture 1080p video at frame rates up to 60 FPS. If the D810 has a downside for videographers, it’s that it does not shoot in 4K, and the 3.2” screen is fixed to the back of the camera and does not flip out. For many people, this is a small price to pay for a camera this good.
3. Nikon D500
($119 weekly rental, $2,000 MSRP)
The D500 represents a good balance of price and quality for videographers. This 20.0 MP APS-C camera was designed for photo and professionals who want a high-quality body at a more reasonable price point. This camera can take 4K video at 30 FPS and 1080p video at 60 FPS and has a 3.2” tilting touchscreen. The D500 has a lot of the extra features that videographers look for like headphone and microphone ports for capturing clear audio and a flat picture profile for improved post-processing. Anyone who wants a great professional level camera but doesn’t want to spend close to $3,000 (or more) to get it will appreciate the D500.
Best Mid-Range Nikon DSLRs for Video
4. Nikon D750
($118 weekly rental, $1,800 MSRP)
Full frame DSLRs used to only be the stuff of professional photographers but these days there are a lot of affordable options on the market for serious enthusiasts—and the D750 is one of the best. This camera can record 1080p video at 60 FPS and has a robust 51-point autofocus system, with 15 of those points being cross-type easily accessible continuous autofocus, with decent ability to track subjects. It has the same EXPEED 4 processor as Nikon’s flagship camera, the D810, and also has one nice little touch that its big brother does not: an articulating touchscreen.
The D750 isn’t designed to be quite as rugged as the higher end models on our list but that is also one of its benefits. The D750’s body is made from magnesium alloy and carbon fiber, making it lighter than most full frame DSLRs. It’s around a quarter pound lighter than the APS-C D500 which may not sound like a lot but after carrying around a heavy camera all day, you may notice it more than you think. For enthusiast videographers, the D750 strikes the perfect balance between value and quality. The bang for the buck is big with this one.
5. Nikon D610
($85 weekly rental, $1,500 MSRP)
The D610 is very similar to the D750 but without a few of its big brother’s extra features. Like the D750, the D610 has a 24 MP full frame sensor and the ability to record 1080p video at 60 FPS. Unlike the D750, the screen on the D610 is mounted to the back of the camera, which can make shooting in awkward positions difficult.
If you’re looking for a full frame, enthusiast level Nikon DSLR for video, the decision between the D750 and D610 may very well come down to price and whether the extra features on the D750 are worth the upgrade. If you think you will use the flip screen or more robust autofocus system, it may be worth splurging on the D750 but if you’re new to videography and just looking for a solid full frame DSLR to get started, the D610 is a good choice.
6. Nikon D7200
($65 weekly rental, $1,000 MSRP)
Nikon made the D7200 with video in mind and because of it this camera has some of the video-friendly features that you’d expect in a higher end model. This crop-sensor camera can shoot 1080p video at 60 FPS in crop mode (which adds an additional 1.3x crop). It may not be 4K but it’s still really good! It has the same EXPEED 4 processor as some of the more expensive options on our list, a powerful 51-point AF system, and flat picture profile. The D7200 is dust and weather sealed and will stand up to a lot of abuse.
Whether you are looking to get your first DSLR for video or just want to upgrade from your current entry-level rig, this is a great option. With the D7200, Nikon packed a lot of punch into a relatively light and affordable piece of equipment. The D7200 is a very capable APS-C camera for beginner to enthusiast videographers. Check out our in-depth review of the D7200 for more information on this camera.
Best Budget Nikon Cameras for Video
7. Nikon D5500
($58 weekly rental, $600 MSRP)
The Nikon D5500 proves that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a DSLR that can do video well. The D5500 is a 24 MP crop sensor camera that can shoot 1080p video at 60 FPS. But with the D5500 it’s not just about those basic stats—it’s the little things that set this camera apart. The D5500 packs some of the features of the more expensive cameras on our list into an affordable, lightweight body. This camera has a 3.2” flip out touchscreen, and flat picture profile.
This camera does come up a little short compared to its higher priced siblings in a few notable ways. The D5500 is not weather sealed, so if you get this body you’ll want to keep it away from dust and water. Its battery life is significantly shorter than the D7200 and it doesn’t have a headphone jack to help with recording audio. While the D5500 isn’t quite as powerful as some of our other options, it’s a great choice for beginners who are hoping to get started in videography.
8. Nikon D3300
($39 weekly rental, $450 MSRP, lens included)
The D3300 may be our least expensive option, but don’t be fooled by its low price. This is a great camera for the novice videographer. This camera has the same 24 MP sensor and EXPEED 4 processor as many of our more expensive cameras and it is incredibly well priced, especially when you consider that a lens is included. This camera may lack the flip screen and built in Wi-Fi of the D5500, but for the price, it’s a great option.
The D3300 doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles of our other options, but it also costs significantly less. If you’re just getting started, that extra money may well be better spent on things like education, a tripod, or other equipment.
Picking the right Nikon DSLR for video can be a challenge, but if you figure out which features are most important to you and how much you want to spend to get them, you’ll be well on your way. If you’re still having a hard time deciding, renting a body to play with before you make your purchase can be a great way to figure out what works—and what doesn’t—or your style of shooting.
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