Our video camera of choice is currently the Panasonic GH5 but we also occasionally shoot with our Nikon D850, and our iPhones. We happen to have gimbals for each of these cameras and so today, we compared them.
As you can imagine, the physical size and price tag of each of these cameras is wildly different but surprisingly, the footage out of each of them can look almost identical. Let's start with the most expensive setup first.
1. Nikon D850, Tamron 24-70mm 2.8, Moza Air
For the first seven years, every Fstoppers video was filmed on a Nikon DSLR. For a number of reasons we have switched over to the GH5 for most of our videos these days, but we still own a Nikon D850 for stills photography. This camera is capable of taking incredible looking footage in 4k and when paired with the Tamron 24-70mm lens with vibration compensation and the Moza Air gimbal, you can get some extremely smooth looking footage.
The D850 is actually a superior video camera to the others in two ways; it can produce a shallower depth of field (which I usually like) and it has better high ISO performance. The issue is that 99% of the time when I am trying to shoot stable footage with a gimbal, I want a deep depth of field, and I usually have plenty of light to work with so I'm not using a high ISO. For this reason, the D850 is not my first choice to put on a gimbal but as you can see in our video above, the footage looks very similar to the GH5 when you shoot at f/8.
2. Panasonic GH5, Panasonic 12-35mm 2.8, Moza AirCross
The GH5 is basically my dream video camera. It's small, powerful, and relatively affordable at $2000. The footage out of this little camera looks amazing and the in-body stabilization is the best of any camera I've ever tested. For our run and gun style of shooting, it's perfect. When you combine the GH5 with the Moza Aircross you can get super stable footage while walking or even running and the pop-out screen makes this easier to use than a standard DSLR.
Perhaps the footage out the GH5 is slightly better than the footage out of the D850 but to me, they look pretty similar, at least in this one simple test.
3. iPhone X, Moza Mini-Mi
I'm not going to include the price of the iPhone X in this last setup because I assume that everyone reading this already owns a smartphone. We've been shooting video professionally with the iPhone for years now and so you certainly do not have to buy the newest phone to get great video quality. In case you don't yet own a smartphone, a used iPhone 6s is currently selling for under $150 on eBay.
The footage with this setup isn't quite as good as the other two cameras but it is shockingly close. Straight out of the camera you'll notice that the iPhone's footage is much more contrasty and has a tendency to blow the highlights earlier than the flat profiles of the "professional" cameras. One other issue is that the optical stabilization on the iPhone X (and other iPhones with OS) is that it will occasionally jump or jitter which won't totally wreck your footage, but it can be noticeable.
You probably already own some sort of smartphone and if you do, I think it's worth buying a $109 gimbal whether it's the Moza Mini-Mi or the Feiyu G4 which is even cheaper. It may seem silly to film with your phone but there are certain situations where you may not have your "professional" camera on you and this could help you get the shot you need in a pinch.
If you are trying to decide between the D850 and GH5, I think the choice is pretty simple; if still photography is your priority, go for the D850. It's an incredible stills camera that is also a very capable video camera. If video is your priority, definitely get the GH5. It's a better video camera in almost every way and it's significantly cheaper.
OMG, didnt include the Samsung S9 or the sony A7-3 in the test.
Smartphone has bailed me out occasionally in a pinch and unless I disclosed the capture tool no one would be any the wiser. Good information.
Of of my nephews works in a video recording studio. They mainly use Red cameras and just for fun they mixed in some gimbal and smarphone footage. On their high-end studio monitor, they could tell the difference but on mobile phones, tablets or cheap monitors, they were hard pressed to notice the difference.