It is known that professional photographers use SLRs & regular users use point & shoot camera. What kind of cameras do professional videographers use & whats the difference?

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    This site concentrates on the photography, so there may not be enough videographers here to give an authoritative answer. One thing I can say is that it is well documented that some TV shows have been filmed using DSLRs; I'd also suggest that SLRs aren't just for professionals. – Rowland Shaw Nov 19 '10 at 8:41
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    Based on discussion on the meta site, questions about cinematography and video equipment are off-topic. Recommend this be closed. – ahockley Nov 19 '10 at 15:38
  • I see coward people downvoting your post because you have posted a question about video in the 'video' section. So, I will up vote you to help you take your points back. – Altar May 31 '11 at 16:11
  • @Altar: I think you mistake how this site works, and particularly the tagging mechanism. There is no "video section"; just a tag someone created. The existence of (or lack of) a tag has nothing to do with whether a question fits the site's defined topic. For that, see meta.photo.stackexchange.com/questions/28/… – mattdm Dec 19 '11 at 3:00

I'd regard this as off topic as it concerns video cameras not stills, but anyway a lot of professionals use the Red series of cameras:


The most popular being the Red One:

(source: redoneutah.com)

Benefits over consumer level video cameras nicely mirrors the difference between DSLRs and Compacts, namely:

  • The ability to shoot video in raw, for example using the proprietary RecCode format. This makes contrast adjustments, post production and grading easier.

  • A larger sensor, the Red One has a similar sized sensor to a DSLR (same size as super 35 film) this allows better low light performance and shallower depth of field.

  • The ability to have interchangable lenses.

  • Higher resolution pictures (again to refer to the Red One it will output at 4k (4,096 x 2,304 pixels, which is at least four times full HD)).

  • Better build quality. All professional tools should be built to be packed up and shipped round the world and work first time on location.

There are other advantages specific to professional videography cameras, namely:

  • Higher framerates for [real] slow motion 24fps -> 1000fps (some consumer cameras do this, but not very well)

  • Wider range of inputs for mics etc.

  • Wider range of accessories, HD out for live monitoring etc.

  • Record to multiple data banks, HDDs, flash memory etc.

Another difference is that professionals will more often than not hire equipment as the cameras cost more than even the most expensive 35mm DSLRs, and they are typically only shooting for part of the year in intensive bursts. This also enables the use of specialist cameras (such as the Phantom 1000fps camera, which can only be rented, not bought).

It's worth pointing out that DSLRs which shoot video offer many of the advantages posted above, but they lack the modularity and flexibility of output that you get with a professional digital cine camera. They are also limited in terms of shooting time.

  • The Red One is brilliant for lots of things, but it's worth knowing that it suffers from rolling shutter artefacts and that the output is quite desaturated. – Ian Mackinnon Nov 19 '10 at 13:08
  • It seems rolling shutter is inevitable with high resolution output, though shooting at 100fps ought to mitigate the effects to a degree. I think most people operating a Red One will be planning on grading the film anyway so desaturated output is not a problem, especially if you short in REDCODE. – Matt Grum Nov 19 '10 at 13:43
  • This answer is old and outdated. It could probably stand on it's own if all mention of RED One was stripped from it, but I'll give the author a chance to update it first. – Jason Conrad Mar 5 '19 at 18:46

One of the big differences is manual control.

Many consumer video cameras don't let you disable automatic control of simple things like focus and exposure (or more often exposure compensation).

I think that lots of cheap video hardware would be very capable of capturing clear and beautiful moving images if only one were able to control it more precisely.

As an example, consider that David Lynch's Inland Empire was shot using reasonably inexpensive but highly controlable DV cameras, and it looks great.

  • Indeed, manual controls are the main difference. But obviously the more money you spend the better hardware you're going to get. – Chard Dec 20 '11 at 9:33

I don't do much in the way of cinematography myself, although it is a field that interests me, and one I hope to break into sometime in the future. I am primarily a photographer, and my first video camera will likely be a Canon 5D Mark III (once released.) The Canon 5D Mark II was one of the first DSLR's to add video capability, and combined with the advanced lenses available to such cameras, you can achieve some of those vaunted "cinematographic" effects.

As I can't offer any specific advice (hopefully another member will be able to answer and provide more useful information than I can), I can supply some very useful links. Here are a few that I have found helpful myself over the last couple months:


Worth noting that like all tools, a professional will use the right tool for the job.

enter image description here

If you're shooting a cinematic feature something like the Red One would be a great tool for the job. However if you're shooting news footage you'd be an idiot to take a Red One - it's designed to be used by several people at once, and is optimised for the greatest creative control of the picture by having manual controls for exposure, depth of field and focus; while an ENG (Electronic News Gathering) camera is designed for one person to put on their shoulder and get the shot in the heat of the moment, with automatic settings that make it easier to do that.

A professional cinematographer will choose the tool that best suits the job. Are you shooting as part of a crew of hundreds, or is it you and the director? Is the result going to be seen in cinemas or on YouTube? Are you after a certain look, such as shallow focus or do you need ease of use? Are you strapping it on someone's helmet when they jump out of a plane? Do you want to shoot documentary footage while keeping a low profile? Is weight a consideration, say if you're using a gimbal or drone?


Honestly in this day and age the difference in "Pro" and "Amateur" gear is whether or not you're getting paid to use it. I know some amateurs with 5D mk2s and some serious pro shooters with 60ds.

Completely agree with the comments on manual control. But even without manual control and some semblance of exposure compensation you can get amazing results. It is not about the gear, but mastering what you have in your hands to tell the story.

I just spent the last week using an audio recorder that cost less than $200 but it was so much more intuitive than the $600 one I've been using. There is no difference in the sound at all. Mentioning that as an example... realizing you were asking about cameras. And in all fairness putting Flip Video footage on a large monitor - it doesn't stand up... but don't get hung up on "Pro" and Amateur"... get hung up on stories.

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