As most filmmakers know, Netflix original productions can only be shot on cameras that have been approved by the streamer. Most of the the cameras on Netflix’s “approved list” are very costly, but there are a few affordable options worth taking note of.
Before we dive in though –
It should go without saying that you should never pick a camera to buy solely on the basis of whether or not Netflix has approved it. There are plenty of incredible cameras out there that aren’t approved by Netflix, and many approved cameras that deliver sub par visual results.
Netflix’s metrics for what makes a good camera are not aligned with the vast majority of working DPs. Look no further than the exclusion of most of Arri Cinema Cameras, which are renowned by Hollywood but rejected by Netflix due to their slightly lower resolution… Only Arri’s large format/65mm offerings are approved.
All that said, for owner-operators, rental houses, and producers investing in gear to be specifically used in Netflix productions, these considerations are important. After all, anyone responsible for capturing content for Netflix has no choice but to follow their protocols.
Below is a full list of every camera currently approved by Netflix for use.
90% of footage used in any Netflix project must be shot on the following cameras, which meet their highly specific technical criteria:
- Arri Alexa LF
- Arri Alexa Mini LF
- Arri Alexa 65
- Canon C300 MK II
- Canon C300 MK III
- Canon C500 MK II
- Canon C500
- Canon C700
- Canon C700FF
- Canon C70
- Panasonic VariCam 35
- Panasonic VariCam LT
- Panasonic VariCam Pure
- Panasonic EVA1
- Panasonic S1H
- Panasonic BGH1
- Panasonic AK-UC4000
- RED Weapon Monstro 8K VV
- RED Weapon Dragon 8K VV
- Red Weapon Helium 8K S35
- Red Epic-W Helium 8K S35
- RED Weapon Dragon 6K S35
- RED Epic Dragon 6K S35
- RED Epic-W Gemini 5K S35
- RED Scarlet-W Dragon 5K S35
- RED Raven 4.5K
- RED Ranger Monstro 8K VV
- Red Ranger Helium 8K S35
- RED Ranger Gemini 5K S35
- RED Dragon-X 6K S35
- RED Komodo 6K
- Panavision DXL2
- Sony Venice
- Sony FX6
- Sony FX9
- Sony F55
- Sony F65
- Sony FS7
- Sony FS7 II
- Sony PXW-Z450
- Sony PXW-Z750
- Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6K
- Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 4.6K
- Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 4.6K G2
The majority of cameras on this list are full blown professional cinema offerings that run anywhere from $15K – $80K+, depending on the model and configuration.
For most filmmakers, cameras in this price range are unaffordable as purchase items, and are simply rented for individual projects as needed.
But what if you do want to own a camera from this list, and don’t want to break the bank?
You’ll likely want to consider one of the following 3 cameras.
These are the least expensive cameras on Netflix’s approved list:
Lumix BGH1: $1999
The BGH1 is the least expensive camera on Netflix’s approved list, but given its modular design and need for accessories, some additional costs are inevitable. To make the BGH1 useable as an A camera on any real project, at a minimum you will need a cage or rig, and an external monitor. This might add anywhere from $500 – $1000+ depending on how you configure it. Still though, it’s a relatively low cost option.
The BGH1 is essentially a Lumix GH5 in a different form factor that is entirely geared toward video pros. From dual native ISO and internal 4:2:2 recording, to SDI output and remote control capacities – the camera is packed with professional grade features that make it extremely versatile.
Like all other Lumix GH cameras, it features a micro-four thirds sensor, which isn’t the most sought after sensor size… That said, some filmmakers (myself included) like crop sensor cameras as they can be paired with a wider array of lenses. Not to mention, speed boosters are always an option if you want a larger sensor look.
I was somewhat surprised to see this camera on Netflix’s list of approved cameras though, mainly because no other cameras from the Lumix GH lineup made the cut. In reality, a GH5 (or most other Lumix GH) cameras would be a more obvious choice for filmmakers, just based on the form factor alone. The box design is great, but most filmmakers use these kinds of cameras on drones, gimbals, or as crash cams, and rarely as a dedicated A-camera.
That said, I’m still glad it made the list because despite its quirks, the BGH1 is a powerful camera that happens to be pretty affordable too.
Sony FS7: $2000 – $4000 (used)
The original Sony FS7 was long ago replaced by the FS7 II, and has since been made even less relevant by Sony’s FX lineup. You can’t buy one new anymore, but you can pick one up on the used market for anywhere from $2000 – $4000, depending on the condition.
Personally, I was never a huge fan of this camera… At least not for narrative productions. Despite it’s feature-set and strong ergonomics, the image quality always left a lot to be desired – specifically with regard to color science and motion performance.
At the same time though, for some productions it is a worthwhile option at a low price point. The camera is easy to work with in the field, is excellent in low light, and (unlike the BGH1) it essentially works straight out of the box – no need to accessorize.
The FS7 would not be my choice though, even if it is technically Netflix approved. There are just so many other options out there that will yield superior results for narrative productions. But for filmmakers working in the reality/documentary/lifestyle space and want a cheaper alternative to the FX6, it’s worth considering.
URSA Mini 4.6K: $2000 – $4000 (used)
I shot an entire feature film on the URSA Mini 4.6K and have only great things to say about the camera… For the most part.
While this camera too has been followed by bigger and better iterations (Ursa Mini Pro, G2, 12K, etc.), the original URSA Mini 4.6K is still a very capable and powerful cinema camera. Like the Sony FS7 though, the camera can only be found on the used market in the $2000 – $4000 price range.
The camera body is loaded with manual controls, is just heavy enough to operate handheld without a rig, and the image quality is truly gorgeous. It has a Super 35mm sensor and comes in both EF and PL mount, making it extremely versatile and compatible with a wide array of lenses.
It does have its shortcomings too – for instance it struggles in low light and occasionally can exhibit fixed pattern noise when underexposed. But all in all, it offers a ton of bang for your buck. And if you know how to work around its issues, it can hold its own against much more expensive cinema cameras.
My Favorite (Affordable) Netflix Approved Cinema Camera
Of the three cameras listed above, personally my favorite option is the URSA Mini 4.6K, followed by the BGH1, and finally the FS7.
The URSA Mini gives you the best of both worlds, great visual quality and strong ergonomics. The other two cameras aren’t quite as strong visually (especially the FS7), but have strengths of their own that are worth considering for specialty shooters.
Keep in mind though, this is just my subjective opinion based on the type of narrative projects I produce and direct. Someone with a different visual taste or different creative needs may have an entirely different opinion, and wouldn’t be wrong! Each tool has its own purpose.
In addition to the cameras above though, it’s also worth considering four other cameras from the Netflix approved list.
These cameras aren’t quite as low cost as the previous 3, but they are still relatively affordable and great choices for those looking for a more up to date camera system:
- Canon C70 ($5499)
- RED Komodo ($5999)
- Sony FX6 ($5999)
- Panasonic EVA1 ($6495)
Each of these more current offerings are fantastic options for filmmakers and DPs alike.
The Canon C70 (which I’ve written about here) is easy to work with and delivers beautiful colors, much like rest of Canon’s cinema lineup. The RED Komodo will deliver a classic RED look and workflow at a fraction of the normal cost. The FX6 is one of Sony’s best sub $10K cameras ever. And the Panasonic EVA1 (while a few years old now) is incredibly well designed and also boasts really strong color science.
Do You Need A Netflix Approved Camera?
If you need to find an affordable Netflix approved camera, I hope this list has been helpful for you.
But please remember, in most cases it doesn’t make sense to choose a camera simply based on whether it’s Netflix approved. There are so many other amazing options out there that aren’t on this list, and are worth taking into account too.
For instance, my Fuji X-T4 is an astounding camera that I constantly recommend to filmmakers on a budget. It didn’t make the Netflix approved list, nor did dozens of other cameras that (in my opinion) supersede many of the cameras that did.
Ultimately, Netflix’s rationale for adding cameras to their approved list is different from your rationale as a filmmaker.
For them, it’s not about the creative merits of a camera, or what it’s capable of producing from an artistic perspective. It’s about whether or not the camera meets a set of rigid technical standards, that in many cases don’t have any bearing on the artistic value of the end product.
As mentioned above: Most Arri Alexa camera bodies are not listed here (only the LF/65mm versions are), because they aren’t high enough resolution.
But does that mean an Arri Alexa SXT is a worse camera than a Sony FS7? Of course not.
It’s impossible for Netflix (or anyone else) to quantify subjective visual properties, so they must rely on technical benchmarks only. In my opinion, this is an oversight, and in the long run will continue to frustrate DPs and directors who know they can get better results (in some cases) with cameras that aren’t approved by Netflix.
Hopefully in time this will change, but for now there is no choice but to play by Netflix’s rules…