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

Cameras for video canon eos 7d

One of the big guns when it comes to stills shooting, Canon's APS-C format semi-pro spec 7D also delivers quality on the movie front too.

On the rear of the camera there's a movie live view mode switch that surrounds a Start/Stop button to commence recording. As this individual control features here the position of the main mode dial on top of the camera - to select between Programme or Manual modes - is crucial depending on how much exposure control you want to have.

Shooting modes

The 7D doesn't do things by half measures: either you take full control of both aperture and shutter values (and ISO if you should choose) when in Manual mode; or the P (Programme Auto) mode automates exposure and controls all settings on your behalf.

Aperture and Shutter Priority modes are not available, instead these act as per the P mode, and it's only in Manual that full control of all settings is available.

Exposure compensation can be adjusted live during recording using the rear rotational wheel, and the exposure lock button can also fix the exposure value to the current subject in order to stop the camera adjusting for changes in light. The occasional flash of light can occur as the camera auto adjusts for exposure, though it's not a common occurrence.


Autofocus and manual control

Focus-wise it's either single autofocus (AF-S), as controlled by the AF-ON button on the rear of the camera (that's quite awkward to use due to its placement) or manual focus. The focus is as per many other DSLR cameras - there will often be over- and under-focusing issues, plus the camera (even when in Manual mode) may briefly up the exposure value in order to obtain a higher area of contrast for focusing and this then relays in final capture playback. So it's not so slick unless you take full control of everything, including focus, by hand.

Although the 7D isn't a point-and-shoot model by any means, the main reason to consider buying one is the final quality of its movie clips. The 1080p files can be captured at 24, 25 or 30fps and are rendered as MOV files using H.264 compression. The end quality is quite staggering in terms of fine detail, motion fluidity and careful use of compression - indeed at around 375MB/minute there's a whole lot of data being squeezed into the clips, and it shows.

Audio is handled by an on-board microphone or a third party microphone can be plugged into the 3.5mm mic jack for more professional off-camera recording.

For full manual control and high quality movie clips the 7D does a fantastic job, though the autofocus system is best avoided if you're after truly professional quality final clips. 

Video specs

Approx price: £1,445 with 18-135mm kit lens
Sensor: APS-C sized sensor (1.6x magnification)
Maximum resolution:1080p capture (1920x1080px)
Frame rate: 24, 25 and 30fps
Compression: H.264 compression for video and Linear PCM audio
Audio support: 3.5mm audio jack for external microphones
File format: MOV
Exposure mode:
Programme mode with exposure compensation & AEL; Manual mode with live aperture and shutter control
Focus modes: Single autofocus or manual focus
Connectivity: HDMI-C out, A/V out