DSLRs are also great tools for capturing video, and if you’re looking for one such camera with the express intention of capturing slo-mo video, you’ve come to the right place. I interviewed 43 professionals who use such cameras in diverse fields like films, tv commercials, sports and action before starting to make sure whatever I discuss here is relevant in the current market.
When it comes to slow-motion video, we first need to determine your project settings, i.e. the frame-rate of your final output video. This will determine the type of slow-mo video you can shoot. Consider the following:
- 24fps project at 120fps = 5x slo-mo
- 30fps project at 120fps = 4x slo-mo
- 60fps project at 120fps = 2x slo-mo
Next up, settle on a resolution for your project. Few cameras can shoot higher than 4K at 30 fps, and only expensive, professional cameras manage 4K 60 or 120fps. For the average user, even one with deep pockets, it makes more sense to set a more realistic resolution target of FHD or 1920 x 1080.
A few other factors to bear in mind are:
- Crop factor: High-frame rate video tends to crop in slightly, giving your video a zoomed-in look. You’ll need to account for this when you’re shooting as the framing of your shot will change from shot to shot.
- Loss in quality: Shooting at higher frame-rates tends to result in a significant drop in quality because cameras tend to use higher compression when recording slo-mo.
- More light: A higher frame-rate necessitates a higher shutter speed, and if you’re following the 180° shutter rule, your shutter speed will need to be twice that of your frame rate. For a 120fps video, you’ll ideally need a 1/240 second shutter, and 1/480 for a 240fps video. Shooting at such high speeds will require a lot more light than you’re used to shooting in.
- No audio: Anything shot at higher than 60fps tends to be recorded without audio. If you do need audio, be prepared to record externally and sync the two sources later in your editor of choice.
- Best DSLR Cameras For Slow Motion in 2021
- 1. Best Overall: Canon 1D X Mark III
- 2. Best for 4K Slow Motion: Nikon D6
- 3. Best for Filmmakers: Nikon D850
- 4. Best for HD Slo-Mo: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
- 5. Value For Money: Nikon D780
- 6. Best under 1500: Canon EOS 90D
- 7. Best for Beginners: Nikon D7500
- 8. Budget-Friendly Option: Canon EOS 800D
- 9. Lightweight Option: Nikon D5600
- 10. Best Under 1000: Canon EOS 80D
- Frequently Asked Questions
Best DSLR Cameras For Slow Motion in 2021
For this series, I first interviewed experts who use such gear on a regular basis and then compiled a list of every DSLR camera that they recommended and spent hours researching the pros and cons of the various features, weighing them against the requirements of professional filmmakers. Hence, whatever camera you pick from this list, you are rest assured that it’s been specifically chosen to do a particular job.
1. Best Overall: Canon 1D X Mark III
If there’s only one DSLR you want for slow-motion video, budget no bar, it has to be Canon’s flagship DX Mark III. This camera is expensive, but it’s the only camera that shoots 5.5K footage (that’s a lot higher than 4K) at 60fps and a whopping 2400 Mbps bit-rate.
It’s hard to speak of this camera in anything but superlatives. RAW 5.5K recording at 60fps is unheard of in this class of camera, and the video bit-rates involved beggar belief. 5.5K RAW requires a card that can handle over 2400 Mbps of sustained writes and even the 120fps FHD modes record at a whopping 470 Mbps.
The AF system is just as spectacular, offering 155 cross-type AF points (191 PD points) and nearly 4000 phase-detect pixels for ridiculously fast and accurate AF performance in any lighting conditions. Handling this massive flow of data is an all-new DIGIC X image processor.
As befitting an imaging supercomputer, which is what this camera is, the 1DX Mark III is made of metal and built to last a lifetime and any form of abuse. On the rear is a 3.2-inch, 2.1mn dot LCD, below which is a secondary monochrome LCD. Another monochrome LCD can be found up top. The camera is replete with buttons and dials, and even includes duplicate buttons along the right edge to allow for easier shooting in portrait mode.
Nothing about this camera is held back. The 2400 Mbps 5.5K 60fps RAW video, or 1000 Mbps DCI 4K video, and even the 470 Mbps FHD 120fps video bit-rates are unmatched by any other DSLR out there. This recording also happens at 10-bit internally with 4:2:2 chroma subsampling, translating to more color information than you’ll know what to do with. The same quality video can also be transmitted via HDMI to an external recorder.
The good stuff doesn’t end just here though. That ridiculously fast AF system is paired with a deep learning, AI-based AF system that intelligently tracks subjects, something that can happen in the light as low as -4 EV.
The ISO range can hit over 800,000 for when you want to shoot a black cat against coal in a pitch-black cellar. There’s even a 400,000-point RGB-IR sensor for calculating the perfect exposure. When it comes to features, it’s hard to know where to stop with this beast.
This 3.37lbs monster is heavy, but as many a filmmaker will attest, the weight adds stability. That weight, however, is a very small price to pay for what is, perhaps, the very best DSLR money can buy. Oh, and warranty is limited to 1 year, so do make sure you insure your gear.
- 5.5K RAW at 60fps
- FHD 120fps recording option
- 2400 Mbps bit-rate
- AI-based AF
- 400,000 pixel metering system
- 30min recording limit
2. Best for 4K Slow Motion: Nikon D6
This beast of a camera from Nikon’s stables could very well be the ultimate camera for photojournalists. Featuring one of the fastest Nikon AF systems around, and build quality that will make a tank squirm in envy, Nikon D6 is also no slouch when it comes to video.
Granted, 4K video is limited to just 30fps, but the camera can record 60fps video at FHD resolutions, and it can do so for as long as your memory card has space and your battery is charged. The extreme low-light sensitivity of the camera means that difficult lighting will also not be an issue when shooting 2x slo-mo footage at FHD resolutions.
Being a professional camera, the D6 is large, heavy, and built like a tank, but it also packs in all the pro features you could think of. These include a Gigabit Ethernet port for tethered shooting and fast data transfer in a studio, dual card slots, and more.
The rear features a large, dense 3.2-inch 2359K dot screen paired with a monochrome LCD. There’s another monochrome LCD on top as well for displaying additional info. The LCD doesn’t flip out, which can be inconvenient for some shoots, but with a camera rig this expensive, you’re likely using an external recorder anyway.
The stand-out feature of this camera system has to be its AF system. With 105 cross-type AF points designed to operate from -4.5 EV to +20 EV while supporting face detection and subject tracking, this camera will never miss a shot in any light.
With dual CFExpress Type B memory card slots, you can rest assured that there is always a backup of your data being recorded at all times. You also get internal Wi-Fi and Bluetooth data transfer capabilities for quick, wireless data transfers.
At 2.8lbs, the D6 is a very heavy camera, but that weight can be a boon for video as it adds additional stability. The 1-year limited warranty is quite normal for this type of camera and we’d recommend getting insurance if you’re considering investing in gear that’s this expensive. The only real issue with this camera is that it can’t shoot faster than 60fps. This is primarily a photographers’ camera, but one with the ability to shoot slo-mo video in a pinch.
- Built like a tank
- Dual card slots
- Incredible AF performance
- Wireless connectivity
- No recording limits
- Limited to FHD 60fps
3. Best for Filmmakers: Nikon D850
The D850 might seem like a stripped-down D5, and it is but in a good way. All that was good about the Nikon D5 is still here, including that stellar 155-point AF system and EXPEED 5 image-processing engine. UHD 4K videos utilize the full 45.7 MP sensor area, resulting in sharp footage with a ton of detail.
In terms of design, the D850 is like a smaller D6 or D5. It’s just as boxy, but the body is smaller and lighter overall, making it more compact and easier to lug around. At the rear are a massive 3.2-inch tilting LCD and a bunch of buttons and dials that should make setting up the camera a breeze. Dual card slots for redundant capture are present, as is an HDMI clean feed for recording to external devices, and 3.5mm jacks for mics and monitoring.
What makes this camera exceptional is its Back-Side illuminated (BSI) CMOS sensor that allows for spectacular low light photography and videography.
The camera also focuses down to -4 EV, meaning it can almost see in the dark. Paired with this fantastic sensor is that 155-pt AF system that also features 3D tracking of subjects in real-time; a boon for video work.
Other features include an improved movie AF system to ensure smooth transitions and even an option to save lens-specific adjustments for AF tracking speed and performance, allowing power users to take better advantage of the camera’s capabilities.
As a cheaper, smaller variant of the D5, the D850 is fantastic for video. The 120 fps slo-mo shooting at FHD is great, and you do get the option to shoot 4K 30fps video using the full camera sensor. For a DSLR, this is quite impressive. The 2.01lbs weight means that the camera is more flexible in use. Nikon’s 1-yr warranty should provide adequate protection for a year.
- Low-light performance
- FHD 120 fps slo-mo video
- Fast, accurate AF system
- Dual card slots for safety
- 8K timelapse
- 4K 30 fps limit
- 30 min recording limit
4. Best for HD Slo-Mo: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
A durable and versatile camera, this workhorse from Canon’s DSLR line ably carries forward the legacy of the legendary 5D series with its all-new AF system and native support for DCI 4K video. For slo-mo shooters, 4K is limited to 30fps, but you can get FHD video at 60fps for at least 2x slo-mo, and HD at 120fps for at least 4x slo-mo.
The 5D Mark has always been Canon’s workhorse DSLR, and the Mark IV variant is no different. The major upgrade from last year’s model is a new 61-point AF system that covers a larger area of the sensor.
The system works at -3 EV, and the central point can focus even at f/8, allowing for good AF performance with slow lenses. The DIGIC 6+ image processor is what allows this camera to handle 500 Mbps DCI 4K video without breaking into a sweat.
Designed to be a professional photographer’s workhorse, this camera is ruggedly built and properly weather-sealed, allowing it to perform normally in adverse conditions. The camera also features a host of connectivity options, including Wi-Fi, GPS, and NFC. There’s also a USB 3.0 port, as well as a mic input and headphone out. Two card slots ensure that your data is always backed up when shooting.
DCI 4K is a bit like the holy grail for video shooters and filmmakers, and it’s nice to have that option on the 5D IV. It is sad that it can’t shoot 60 fps video in DCI 4K, but you get a very capable FHD 60 and HD 120fps option. The latter two modes, in fact, make use of the entire area of the CMOS sensor for a sharp, downsampled video, which should allow for a decent amount of lossy upscaling.
As expected, the camera also features Canon’s signature, and a very effective, dual pixel AF paired with the Movie Servo AF system that ensures smooth focus when recording video. For stills, AF is nearly instantaneous.
This 1.76 lbs camera is missing several features when compared to its more expensive brethren, but for what’s on offer, and at the price this camera sells at, one really can’t complain.
- Dual-pixel AF
- Rugged build
- Movie Servo mode
- 120 fps HD recording
- Relatively light
- No flip screen
- 74x crop at 4K
5. Value For Money: Nikon D780
Yet another camera that borrows the D5’s stellar AF system, think of the D780 as a cut-down D850. It packs in many of the same features, offering up 4K 30fps video and FHD 120fps slo-mo options in an even more compact body and at a lower price point. You do lose out on the D850’s 45 MP sensor resolution, but you get everything else that’s good about that camera.
The fast, new AF system paired with HLG recording (Hybrid Log Gamma) for HDR capture means that this camera is a very capable video recording machine. While the 4K 30 fps mode isn’t suitable for slo-mo footage, the FHD 120fps mode is.
Paired with eye-tracking AF and the relatively lightweight of the camera, you’re left with a very effective, flexible video camera that’s also fantastic for stills. You also get a BSI CMOS sensor that’s great in low light.
The design of the D780 is fairly simple and features two LCDs. A 3.2-inch color LCD at the rear that flips up is your alternate viewfinder, and another monochrome LCD up top will show you all critical camera settings at a glance. Connectivity options include USB-C, HDMI-C, and 2x 3.5 mm audio jacks for a mic in and headphone out.
The video features on this model are quite impressive for what you get from a DSLR. HLG support for HDR video, UHD 4K 30fps recording, and FHD 120fps are all great to have, as is support for a 10-bit HDMI clean feed over HDMI for monitoring or recording to an external device. As far as video features are concerned, you won’t be left wanting.
The 273-point hybrid AF system (with 51 cross-type sensors) can focus down to -4 EV for video, and -6 EV for stills. It’s just as fast as any camera in Nikon’s DSLR lineup, with only the flagship D6 edging it out in the focusing speed department.
This 1.86 lbs camera is a great upgrade from the D750 if you’re interested in video recording. It’s also fantastic if you’re coming from Nikon’s more entry-level systems and don’t want to spend way too much money on flagship cameras.
If you don’t need the D850’s crazy-high resolution sensor and extreme low-light shooting abilities, this is the camera that will do for most shooters.
- BSI CMOS sensor
- Borrows the D5’s fast AF system
- FHD 120 fps slo-mo
- UHD 4K 30 fps recording
- HLG mode for HDR capture
- No slo-mo at 4K
- Limited dials and buttons
6. Best under 1500: Canon EOS 90D
While the 5D Mark IV might be the workhorse of Canon’s full-frame camera lineup, it’s the 90D that’s the more workhorse for everyone. This APS-C camera might have a smaller sensor than its full-frame brethren, but it doesn’t hold back any on the performance front and despite its price, is one of the few DSLRs capable of 120fps video recording.
The EOS 90D is a high-resolution (32.5 MP) APS-C camera that’s great for stills as well as video. It manages to meld the best features of an APS-C mirrorless camera (size, weight, and video capabilities), with the speed and performance of a proper DSLR. Between the 45 cross-type AF points and FHD 120fps recording, one can expect excellent performance across the board.
In terms of design, the 90D borrows elements from the larger, more expensive 5D Mark IV. You get dual LCD displays, one of which is monochrome and the other, a tilt-flip 3.2-inch 1040K dot screen. The viewfinder provides a 0.95x magnification and the AF system can shoot down to -3 EV.
For slo-mo shooters, the FHD 120fps mode is exactly what the doctor ordered. Of course, FHD 60 would be better in terms of quality, but 4x slo-mo can be very useful. When you want to go high-res, you have that 4K 30 option to move up to as well. There’s also an in-built digital image stabilization function that can work wonders for handheld shots.
The AF system is worth mentioning as well. The 45 cross-type points provide exceptional focusing speed, and as a bonus, 27 AF points are capable of functioning even at f/8, which is great when using long zooms or when working in low light.
The Canon EOS 90D is a tiny, lightweight (1.54 lb) do-it-all camera that gives you high-quality video shooting modes paired with a small, high-resolution sensor for exceptional stills. This top of the line APS-C camera is exactly what you need to kickstart your YouTube career, or for use as a B-cam alongside your fancier camera gear.
- FHD 120fps mode
- 45 cross-type AF points
- Digital IS
- Lightweight body
- 32.5MP stills
- 8-bit video output
- Limited to 4K 30fps
7. Best for Beginners: Nikon D7500
While it may not offer more than 2x slo-mo (60fps at FHD), the D7500 does offer excellent low-light performance for a camera in its class. The ISO range goes all the way up to 51,200, which is about twice what you’d get from competing cameras. Paired with a UHD 4K shooting mode, this can be an excellent all-rounder Nikon body for the hybrid shooter.
Image processing duties are handled by Nikon’s EXPEED 5 processing engine, which is fast enough to handle Nikon’s APS-C DX-format DSLRs. One thing to note is that both 4K and FHD recording modes use a cropped area of the sensor, resulting in a slight increase in apparent focal length when shooting: 1.5x in the case of UHD and 1.3x in the case of FHD. FHD does use the full width of the sensor, though.
Being a more entry-level option, the D7500 isn’t as well built as its more expensive counterparts. You get a single SD card slot, a 3.2-inch tilting LCD display, and a secondary monochrome display up top for monitoring settings. The ergonomic design ensures a good grip in all shooting conditions.
As mentioned earlier, the reason you’d want this APS-C shooter is low-light performance, which is very good in this class. But it’s not just low-light performance that’s good. The camera’s 51 cross-type AF sensors with 3D subject tracking ensure that your subject is always in focus, even when in motion. The central region features 15 cross-type sensors to improve tracking performance, and the center-most point is sensitive down to f/8.
Besides the AF and low-light performance, the D7500 also features digital image stabilization that will help a great deal with handheld shots, and powered aperture control for smooth exposure transitions when shooting video.
The D7500 is a small, light DSLR that’s capable of 4–5x slo-mo and 4K time-lapses. Together with that very capable 20.9 MP sensor and excellent low-light performance, you’re getting a relatively cheap yet powerful camera for everyday use.
- Low-light performance
- Electronic vibration reduction
- Powered aperture control
- FHD 120fps slo-mo
- Not too heavy
- 8-bit video output
- Single SD card slot
8. Budget-Friendly Option: Canon EOS 800D
The Canon 800D is several years old at this point, but that also means you can get a great deal on the body brand new, or even used. Given that it can shoot FHD video at up to 60fps, there’s quite a bit of utility that can be extracted from a body like this.
Powered by a DIGIC 7 processor paired with a 24.2 MP APS-C CMOS sensor, the Canon 800D is no slouch when it comes to photography. For video, performance is also not that bad. 60fps at FHD is good for even commercial projects, though the lower bit-rate of 60 Mbps can be a problem. Still, it’s more than enough for YouTube. Canon’s excellent dual pixel AF for video is also present.
The pentamirror viewfinder on this DSLR has a magnification of .82x, which isn’t bad for an entry-level system. On the rear, you get a 3-inch 1040K dot sRGB vari-angle LCD touchscreen, but you don’t get a secondary display. However, you get a single SD card slot, a built-in flash, and a 30fps liveview shooting mode.
For video, the 800D offers two codecs. You get a lower bit-rate (60 Mbps) .mp4 container for up to 60fps recording, and a higher bit-rate (90 Mbps) .mov container for when you need higher quality. This gives a filmmaker more flexibility with regards to the quality of their shoot.
Canon’s Movie Servo AF makes an appearance even at this price point, which is nice to see. Movie Servo AF ensures smooth focus transitions while recording video. The camera also supports cinematic stabilization, which can help cut down on unnecessary camera shake.
This lightweight (1.17 lbs) device is an excellent entry-level camera for those looking to get into video shooting but who also don’t want to spend much. FHD 60fps is a great starting point, and the flexibility of the Canon EF-S mount means that there are a ton of excellent, cheap lenses to choose from.
- Movie Servo AF
- FHD 60fps
- Cross-type AF points
- AF can’t perform below 1 EV
- No 4K option
9. Lightweight Option: Nikon D5600
If it’s a lightweight, portable camera you seek, and you don’t need more than FHD video, you really can’t do much better than the Nikon D5600. It’s an entry-level APS-C body with limited AF and video recording capabilities, but at 1.02 lbs, it’s easily among the lightest DSLRs you can find.
On paper, the D5600 may not seem like much. It’s an older camera with a slower EXPEED 4 image processor, 9 cross-type AF points (39 PDAF points), and it can’t record at anything higher than FHD at 60 fps. On the other hand, FHD 60 fps is more than what most people will need for YouTube and dreamy, cinematic slo-mo recording.
This compact DSLR doesn’t have much room for a plethora of dials and buttons, but it does offer a tilting, swiveling, 3.2-inch touchscreen that offers plenty of control and tap-to-focus features. The 0.82x pentamirror viewfinder is excellent in any lighting conditions. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi features enable wireless control as well image transfer.
The Multi-CAM 4800DX focus system features 9 cross-type AF points, and while the number pales in comparison to the 50+ you’ll find on higher-end DSLRs, 9 points aided by 39 phase-detect points are plenty for an entry-level camera. In live-view mode, a contrast-detect AF system takes over.
Despite the limited number of focus points, fancy features like face-detect AF, Eye AF, subject tracking, etc. are fully supported by the platform. Also, FHD and HD 60fps videos can be recorded for a full 30 min.
The Nikon D5800 isn’t the best of DSLRs for slo-mo video, but it’s a cheap, light, almost disposable option for filmmakers. Even if you’re just starting out, there are enough tools here to keep budding filmmakers busy.
- FHD 60fps
- Weighs very little
- Record continuously for 30 min
- 9 cross-type AF points
- Very cheap
- Contrast detect AF in liveview
- No 4K option
10. Best Under 1000: Canon EOS 80D
This is the camera that kicked off many a YouTuber’s career, the camera that became the gold-standard for mainstream recording, the camera that was adopted the world over by nearly everyone looking to get into video recording. The Canon EOS 80D is the unsung hero of the video world.
The 80D has now been succeeded by the 90D, but unless you need 4K video, there’s really no need to spend more money on the newer, more expensive camera. With FHD 60 fps recording with IPB compression, and a 30fps all-I mode (higher quality), and 45 cross-type AF points with dual-pixel AF when recording video, do you really need something more powerful and expensive for your projects? We doubt it.
The 80D’s body will feel warm and familiar to anyone who’s ever used a DSLR at some point. Its articulating LCD screen makes shooting from any angle a breeze, and the deep grip helps you keep the camera stable when shooting at those awkward angles. The button layout is the standard Canon fare, and you get a top-mounted monochrome LCD for camera settings.
Connectivity options include a dedicated remote shutter release, 3.5mm input and 3.5mm audio output jacks. You also get HDMI out, USB micro-B, and an SD card slot. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth options take care of all your wireless needs.
Coming to video features, not only does this camera feature All-Intra compression — a video compression algorithm that preserves more detail — it is also among the very few cameras that capture and record HDR video at 1080p. Touch AF and Movie Servo AF modes serve to keep autofocus performance smooth and the video distraction-free.
The 45 cross-type AF points also help, and they’re designed to work in low light and apertures as small as f/8. Interestingly, various filters are also supported when shooting still and video. It’s with good reason that the 80D has served as the foundation stone of many young filmmaker’s careers.
It may be old now, but it’s still a powerful, effective FHD camera that’s capable of slo-mo video shooting. At 1.61 lbs, it’s also not that heavy a camera system to lug around.
- HDR video
- All-Intra compression
- FHD 60 for 2x slo-mo
- 45 cross-type AF points
- Dedicated remote shutter release jack
- Limited to FHD video
- Single SD card slot
Frequently Asked Questions
Ideally, you should get a mirrorless camera. The design of the mirrorless system lends itself better for video recording. That being said, a DSLR is a much faster, more robust stills camera, especially if you’re shooting sports. Your choice of camera platform depends entirely on your use-case.
That’s a debate that’s raged since the birth of the cine camera. Generally speaking, you shoot 24fps for more cinematic video, 30fps for YouTube, and anything higher for smooth motion. If you’re shooting for TV, 24fps, or more accurately, 23.976fps, might be the preferred option.
The 180° shutter rule states that the shutter speed must be exactly double the target frame-rate to best mimic how our eyes experience motion. Not following the rule can lead to shaky, jarring footage that might not be immersive. You don’t have to follow the rule of course, how you shoot is a creative decision.
As you can see, if you’re shooting slow motion video, you get plenty of options to choose from, and at all price points at that.
- For those who’re just starting out with slo-mo video, I’d recommend going with the Canon 90D. It’s a solid mid-ranger that can shoot FHD video at 120fps, and even 4K at 30, so you basically have one camera to do it all.
- Upping the budget a bit, you could opt for the Nikon D780, which offers the same video speeds but paired with a more sensitive FX sensor that’s perfect for low light.
- Of course, if you want to go all out, just empty your bank account and get the beast that is the Canon EOS 1Dx MK III. With the ability to shoot 5.5K RAW at 60fps and FHD120, you really can’t get a better video DSLR than this one.
As mentioned earlier, remember that not all DSLRs are capable of super slo-mo footage (shooting at over 120fps), but most can manage a 2x slo-mo speed of 60fps at a minimum. Paired with a DSLR’s generally rugged build, exceptional battery life and good AF performance, the camera system is not what will hold you back.