Five Hybrid Cameras That Excel At Both Stills & Video
I'm a hybrid shooter. Please put down your pitchforks and hear me out. My grandfather was a professional portrait photographer, and my dad owned a gorgeous chrome Minolta XD-11 that he passed down to me. My formative high school years were peppered with innumerable disposable Kodak film cameras. I wouldn't call myself a stranger to photography.
When it came time for me to start my career, I decided to go into film and video production. In film school, I remember a good friend of mine received a Panasonic HVX-200 camera kit including a Letus depth-of-field adapter to get a shallow depth of field as a very expensive birthday present. I don't remember the exact price but I'm pretty sure the kit he got was over $10k. Thankfully, it wasn't too long after film school that the emergence of the true 'hybrid' cameras began. This was a game-changer for me. Suddenly, I could get cinematic-looking high-definition video out of an affordable stills camera.
For those of us who like to dabble in both photography and video, there are now countless options from micro four thirds to full-frame sensors. Here are a few cameras still kicking butt when it comes to stills & video.
Let's start with the ubiquitous 5D. If you're a video shooter and haven't used one of these, I pity you. Canon shook the indie and documentary world to its core with the release of the 5D Mark II- the first DSLR with the capability to capture 1080p video. The Mark III only improved on this. With great ergonomics, a 22-megapixel still sensor, the ability to shoot 60fps slow-mo, and the tremendous library of Canon EF lenses, this one is a sure shot. Oh, and if you're still skeptical- consider that I filmed hundreds of interviews and live concerts with one for a nationally-broadcast tv show over the course of 7 years and never heard any complaints about picture quality.
So you love the idea of the Canon system, but you're on a tighter budget. We've got you covered with the 70D for about half the price of the 5D Mark III. Designed as a sort of follow-up to the immensely popular 7D, this APS-C body will still fit all of your EF lenses and give you the option to use the more affordable EF-S lenses as well. While it does come with a smaller sensor, the photo and video capabilities are just about the same, if not better in some aspects. You'll also gain a rotating touchscreen and dual-pixel autofocus for video, which makes filming self-facing video blogs a breeze.
Wild horses couldn't drag me away from this full-frame camera. Being mirrorless, the a7S II is more compact than its DSLR predecessors. It features in-body 5-axis image stabilization, including a manual input so you can use that same stabilization with older manual lenses. It's also the first Sony mirrorless to have in-body 4k video recording capabilities without using an external recorder. It's absolutely stunning in low-light, with unprecedented high-iso power. For stills, 12 megapixels may not seem like much, but consider that most folks look at photos on their 5-inch smartphones. If printed at 300ppi, you can enlarge these photos up to 9.34x14.3 inches before seeing pixel detail. Trust me—unless you're printing posters or shooting wide & cropping in close, this will be enough.
If you love the idea of the smaller form factor, but are looking for something a little more wallet-friendly, there's the Panasonic GH4. For about half the price of a Sony a7S II, you can pick up this Micro Four Thirds wonder. It also can provide you with 4k video at a cinematic 24 frames per second, and 1080p at 60 frames per second. The GH4 may have the upper hand on the still photo side, with a 20-frame-per-second burst shot and its 16-megapixel image sensor.
Fujifilm may be slightly newer to the video-hybrid-camera world, but they sure know how to make an entrance. Their newest flagship mirrorless offering is an ergonomic delight to use. Seemingly designed for-photographers-by-photographers, all of the settings a shooter may need to change quickly are controlled by external dials and switches, giving a real analog feel to operation. Which we love, of course.
The X-T3 includes Fujifilm's wonderful film-based color science. It also happens to be the first mirrorless APS-C camera capable of internal 4k 60fps 4:2:0 10-bit recording. If that's a lot of random numbers and letters to you, don't sweat it. That just means that they're bringing impressive new tech to the table alongside a wonderful user experience. There's a reason that we can't seem to keep them in stock very long.
GoPro Hero4 Black
GoPro may not have the best reputation for image quality, but don't count them out. This 'action camera' can produce some breathtaking images. The Hero4 Black Edition, released just over 5 years ago at $499 can now be picked up from us for under $100. Even if you never plan on scuba diving or snowboarding with one, the image quality from these matchbox-car-sized cameras is impressive. All of the major technical specs are here like 4k video, 12mp photos, a built-in timelapse mode, and GoPro's Protune feature which allows you to manually control iso, color and exposure settings. All in a camera that's small enough to hide onstage during your friend's band's first show. It sounds to me like the perfect photo & video camera to document a vacation.