Want a Nikon camera for video? Have no fear!
Our favorite Nikon video cameras (updated 2020):
Video is taking the world by storm
With the ubiquity of photography today, the popularity of video cameras has gradually increased as more people begin to experiment with video. The recent phenomenon of vlogging has especially promoted videography, with influencers like Casey Neistat and Roman Atwood encouraging many to try their hand at video.
It’s certainly true that video holds some advantages over photography. If you’re looking back on a trip or event, video offers a more complete submersion into the past, and is a more entertaining way to preserve memories. However, video is not only beneficial for remembering the past – it’s also used to convey the present. Documentaries rely on video to teach the world about a particular issue, and news reporters know just how powerful video can be to educate the public on current events.
As video has cemented its important role in the world today, camera companies have responded. New models are released every year, and the capabilities of the average video camera are being added to each time. Now that Full HD is becoming standard for consumer video cameras, professionals are looking to 4K UHD as the new normal for pro videography. As demand increases, camera giants like Nikon and Canon are working hard to keep up.
Nikon has long been a dominant presence in the camera world. Only recently, however, has Nikon began to delve into the video camera world, but its range of consumer video cameras doesn’t disappoint. From its first DSLR video camera released in 2008, the D90, to the D7500 released only a couple of months ago, Nikon has come a long way since its first days of video equipment and is still adding to its line. For those who are familiar with Nikon cameras and want to try their hand at video, this is the list for you.
We have included several options, each geared to a slightly different purpose. The D500 is our personal favorite, but it may not be right for you. Use this as a guide to which camera is the best fit for your needs, but always research thoroughly before investing in new equipment.
Consider the purpose of your video camera
The first thing you will need to think about before deciding on a video camera is its purpose. What will you be using the camera for? What kinds of videos do you plan on shooting? Will cost play a big part in your decision? What features do you absolutely require in your camera and what features are you willing to live without? These are all questions you should ask yourself before plunging into research.
There are many genres of video, and as such there are many different cameras catered to specific needs. Vloggers will need a lightweight, durable camera that has an easy Wi-Fi/sharing feature (check out our article on the Best Blogging Cameras here). Event videographers need a camera with high quality audio and high ISO settings that can cope with the dim light at evening events. Family filmers will want a camera that has good Auto settings for quick filming and a fast shutter speed to capture speedy children. Decide on the type of usage your camera will get in its lifetime, and make your decision based on it. Video cameras are an investment, and you want the camera you choose to perform as you want it to.
We have included 4 cameras in this list plus 2 runners-up to guide your search. However, Nikon has several other video camera models not included in this article, and we recommend doing your own extensive research before deciding on a model.
What to look for in a video camera
In addition to the purpose of your camera, it is also necessary to reflect on what features you want. Some capabilities you will absolutely need, and some you will be fine without. It all depends on what you will be using your video camera for. Here are some of the main features you should consider.
- Ease of use
If you need a camera for vlogging or shooting travel videos, you will likely want a lightweight and durable camera. It is worth considering a point-and-shoot camera instead of a DSLR, as they are much lighter and often more durable too. Look at the build of the camera, the location of the controls, whether it is waterproof or shock proof, if it has an LCD screen, and whether it has dust-protection on the image sensor. These will all come in handy if you are planning to use your camera on-the-go.
- HD or 4K
The new norm for video cameras is Full HD quality, usually 1080p/60fps. However, if you are a professional videographer, you may be more interested in the recent emergence of 4K video. If you look at any comparison of Full HD vs. 4K, you will see the notable quality difference. 4K (also called Ultra High Definition, or UHD) refers to the pixel count: 4000. If you’re planning to show your video on a large screen or broadcast to a wide audience, 4K may be worth the investment.
- Headphone and microphone jacks
Headphone and microphone jacks allow the connection of external equipment to your camera, offering more freedom in audio recording. Some cameras only come with a microphone port, but a headphone port is worth looking out for, as it’s useful to be able to hear what the audio will sound like on your video.
Most cameras today come with a wireless sharing feature. Pay attention to what else is needed to be able to transfer footage – often an app will have to be downloaded to connect your smartphone to the camera. This feature is especially important for vloggers who want to share their content quickly and easily.
Now, to the cameras!
#4 COOLPIX P900
Video quality: 1080p HD
Wi-Fi connectivity: Yes
Released in Spring 2015, the P900 is still the best zooming bridge camera on the market. For those who are into wildlife filming or want to travel without carrying extra lenses, this is the camera for you.
Although the P900 is quite heavy, matching some DSLR models in weight, its incredible zoom is the reason for this. With 83x Optical Zoom, 166x Dynamic Fine Zoom and 332x zoom all on its built-in lens, the P900 is unmatched in its field. The video quality is 1080p HD, at 60 fps, the standard for most consumer-level cameras. However, the high-speed setting offers 120 fps at reduced resolution, for very fast-moving sports or wildlife videos.
A downside to the P900 is the lack of an external microphone port. Although the P900 does come with a built-in microphone, the sound of the zoom is quite noticeable, and it may be worth it to use a separate microphone for the audio.
The traveller and vlogger will appreciate the built-in Wi-Fi and NFC (nicknamed by Nikon as SnapBridge) and the GPS capabilities, although the SnapBridge app is fairly slow and confusing to use at first. A useful feature is the video stabilization, which works fairly well to minimize blur. Nevertheless, there is only so much that stabilization technology can do, and a tripod would be needed for when the camera is at its higher zoom settings.
The P900 is quite easy to use, despite its weight. It comes with both an LCD screen and an optical viewfinder, and for particularly bright conditions, the LCD screen has a 6-level brightness toggle. The main buttons are located either on top of the camera or to the right, so it’s possible to use one hand to film. On the top are the mode dial (for Auto modes – custom settings can also be programmed), a scrolling dial for shutter speeds and a function mode quick-menu. On the other hand, the very long lens does provide a good place to support the camera for stabilization, especially when filming at one of the higher zoom settings.
If extreme zoom is what you’re looking for and you don’t want to overstep your budget for a camera, the P900 is for you. Offering unrivaled zoom technology, and comprehensive Auto settings as well as a wide range of manual controls, the P900 may not live up to the quality of a higher-priced DSLR, but it’s certainly a high performer for its price. For the traveler wanting to minimize equipment but still capture detail, the P900 is a great choice.
Video: 1080p HD
Wi-Fi connectivity: Yes
A combination of Nikon’s previous models, the D800 and the D800E, the D810 offers much more in terms of features and performance than its predecessors, in the same compact body.
The LCD screen on the D810 has a pixel count of 1,229,000 compared to the D800’s 921,000, meaning that the image resolution is much clearer. This is a big advantage if you’re going to be using the LCD screen more often than the viewfinder. Another handy addition is the new color tint adjustment feature. Now, you can set the tint of the screen yourself, eliminating the “green tint” problem that many complained about in the D800.
The D810 also has microphone, headphone, and hot shoe sockets, so an external microphone can be added and the audio monitored. If you do choose to use the internal stereo microphone, the D810 includes a manual frequency adjuster, allowing you to set the range of audio frequency.
If you will be shooting on-the-go most of the time, have no fear – the D810 is tough despite its high-quality features. The image sensor has a built-in cleaner, and the buttons and doors are sealed against dust and moisture. The D810 also comes with a useful Auto ISO feature. This allows videographers to move from dark to light conditions quickly and not have to worry about finicky ISO adjustments, all while keeping the same shutter speed and aperture.
Another convenient addition is the ability to record footage on an external device (smartphone or memory card) at the same time as recording on the camera. As well as speeding up the process of sharing video, it serves as a backup if the footage accidentally gets deleted off the camera.
Among other improvements, the D810 has a 30% longer shooting time than the D800, allowing 20 minutes at Full HD and 30 minutes at normal quality. It also introduces zebra stripes to the range, allowing identification of over-exposure in the frame.
Although it doesn’t have a 4K UHD mode, the D810 is still a very good option for the professional filmer. The fast EXPEED 4 processor – allowing quick AF for speedy subjects – and the “flat” style feature – enabling post-shooting editing for high contrast conditions – will make this camera a go-to for high-quality video. This is certainly not a camera for the casual videographer, but if you can live without 4K, the D810 ticks all the required boxes for the enthusiast-professional buyer.
Sensor: APS-C CMOS
Video: 4K UHD
Wi-Fi connectivity: Yes
Our second favorite video camera on the list, the D7500 is the younger brother to the more expensive D500. With a more compact and lightweight body (16% lighter than the D500), the D7500 is easier to carry around, yet still feels robust and secure to hold, due to its deep grip and textured coatings. This camera would serve well for travel or on a long day shooting.
The LCD touchscreen is tilting, and a sensor will turn it off when you put your eye to the viewfinder, which is great for battery conservation. Its touchscreen is also very responsive, and has 51 AF points (the same as the D7200, but still only 1/3 of the AF points that the D500 has). However, manual focusing would probably produce better results than using AF, since (as with many Nikon cameras), the AF tends to noticeably jump around to find a focus point.
The D7500 has both a microphone and a headphone jack. If you do choose to use the in-camera microphone however, the sound quality is not bad, with features such as wind-noise reduction and a setting that allows you to manually set the microphone sensitivity from 1 to 20.
Like its more expensive counterpart, the D7500 has zebra stripes, Auto ISO, and “flat” picture style (discussed in our review of the D500 next). Along with the new metering sensor, allowing better 3D tracking if you do choose to use AF for slower-moving subjects, the D7500 has many high-class features for a more affordable price.
A big selling point in the D7500 is its 4K UHD recording ability. The future of video lies in 4K UHD, and it’s nice to see that Nikon is not only including it in its top cameras, but starting to introduce 4K in its more affordable models. As well as 20 minutes of 4K video, the D7500 can create time-lapse movies in-camera using 4K. A Vibration Reduction feature is included, but we highly recommend using a tripod for any stationary shooting.
SnapBridge technology, as in all Nikon cameras, is confusing to use at first. However, once it’s been set up, you can set the D7500 to send footage to an external device automatically, although this will drain the battery considerably. If you remember to bring an extra battery, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem, and it does prove useful if you don’t have the time to fiddle around with the app on a day of shooting.
The D7500, coming in at #2 on our list, is a great option for those who can’t quite justify the price tag of the D500 but want the majority of its first-class features. With 4K UHD, the fast EXPEED 5 processor, and a comfortably lightweight body, the D7500 offers a lot for a considerably cheaper price.
Sensor: APS-C CMOS
Video: 4K UHD
Wi-Fi connectivity: Yes
The D500 is one of Nikon’s latest releases, coming on the market in 2016. Since then, it has garnered the attention of many Nikon and non-Nikon fans, from beginning videographers to professionals, and proved itself to be one of Nikon’s most popular cameras. Coming in at #1 on our list, we can see why.
Firstly, the camera body is weather sealed, for adventure and sport filmers. The touch-screen LCD, though not completely movable, is tilting and boasts 100% coverage. The other buttons on the camera can be set to light-up in the dark, which is useful for low-light or evening event shooting.
The D500 has 3x the AF points compared to the D7500, at 153 points that cover a much wider area. If you want extra control, the D500 also gives you the freedom to specify what type of subject movement it is recording, and lets you decide what the camera should do when another object blocks the subject. The D500 also lets you adjust the aperture during recording, although this will be audible, so taking advantage of the mic jack would be a good idea if you plan to use this feature.
Like all recent Nikon cameras, the D500 comes with Nikon’s SnapBridge technology. However, Nikon have recently introduced the inclusion of Bluetooth with the Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity. This feature is pretty slow, and there are already several apps that accomplish the same thing, so it’s not a huge benefit on the D500.
Professionals will be glad to see that the D500 comes with two memory card slots, instead of the one on the D7500. Another advantage over the D7500 is the vertical grip option, allowing a much more secure grip if using one hand.
The D500 comes with both mic and headphone jacks for those who want higher quality audio and monitoring capabilities. For the professional filmer, these features are a must. Another plus to the D500 is its ability to distinguish video settings from photo settings. If you shoot photos as well as video, you can program the Auto settings separately for each, and when it comes time to switch from one media to the other, the camera will remember your desired settings. A big timesaver when on-the-go!
The D500 is an enthusiast-professional level camera, with the much-coveted 4K video abilities and customisable Auto settings. If you want a more lightweight camera than a full professional-level video camera but don’t want to sacrifice quality, the D500 is the perfect compromise and our top choice for Best Nikon Video Camera.
Use these options to further guide your research!
Video is connecting the world more than ever before, and with advances in technology like 4K UHD, it’s never been easier to share your point of view with others. As videography increases in popularity, more people are turning to better quality cameras to record home videos, and professionals are looking for the latest in video technology.
Nikon, as one of the leading camera companies, has a wide variety of video cameras to suit pretty much any filming need. Our favourites are listed here, but also check out Nikon’s other video cameras. For those with a lower budget, Nikon has a range of HD Action and Video cameras.
If you are a beginner, however, don’t be intimidated by DSLRs. Most of the cameras on our list offer comprehensive Auto modes to get you used to shooting, and if you plan to film more frequently and increase the quality of your shooting, DSLR cameras offer much more freedom for the enthusiast videographer. If you are just venturing into the world of DSLR, check out our article here for a guide to the best DSLR entry-level cameras.
From documentary filming to preserving family memories, video purposes are as numerous as video cameras on the market. Although it is certainly overwhelming to choose the right camera for your needs, we hope our list has been helpful and has set you on your way to shooting videos you will love.