Best DSLRs for video: 15 cameras from £400 to £2,400

Which DSLRs for video is right for you? We help you choose

Nikon D3100

UPDATE: To discover the best all-rounders, read our article on the best DSLR for you.

If you're thinking of purchasing a DSLR or compact system camera (CSC) for movie making then there's a lot to consider, so read on to find out what DSLR for video is right for you.

The main feature that differentiates DSLRs and CSCs from camcorder technology is sensor size. Camcorders just don't offer the kind of physical sensor size that allows for greater depth of field control (ie blurred backgrounds with a wonderful bokeh effect).

Of course, you'll need to invest in a good lens with a wide aperture to achieve such a look, but that brings us to the second clincher: all DSLRs and CSCs have removable lenses. It's inherent in their very makeup.

Access to a portfolio of lenses doesn't come cheap, but it does mean you can control whether you're looking at a scene like through your own eyes, taking a wide-angle shot that can 'see' twice as much as the human eye, or zooming in to distant subjects magnified well beyond normal vision.

The stills camera market is forging a bridge between consumer and professional video capture, and in doing so has generated its own sector that's perhaps not directly comparable to the other two.

CSC: a new breed of camera

Camcorders are designed for ease of use, everything's well positioned for steady holding and easy zooming with minimal fuss and the built-in lens tends to offer huge zoom possibilities too. DSLRs, on the other hand, are based on an older design and video capture isn't what they were originally intended for. This causes issues with both focus speed and accuracy that's an issue for all DSLR cameras, whatever their price.

By comparison, the latest CSC technology works in a fundamentally different way that lends itself far better to smooth and accurate continuous autofocus in video mode. It's the ultimate balance between camcorder-like ease of use and accurate focus, but with that crucial medium-large sensor size that adds to the overall look, feel and final quality of shots.

Limitations

Despite all the positives, stills cameras have to come under strict sets of rules in the EU, after all they are stills rather than video cameras. For classification and tax reasons this means a single shot cannot last longer than 29 minutes and 59 seconds.

A second issue is that file sizes are capped at 4GB due to the FAT32 formatting that memory cards adhere to (some manufacturers cap to 2GB, depending on the camera). So when shooting high definition video you're far more likely to hit the file size roof that could limit clip length to around 7 minutes for some models.

Large sensor sizes also means lots of additional processing in order to 'squash' the full capture down to the HD resolution. This can result in a lot of heat to the point of overheating where the camera turns itself off.

So without further ado here are the best DSLRs for video and the best compact system cameras for the same task, broken down into three convenient price brackets: under £500; from £500 to £1,000; and over £1,000.