Improvements to smartphone camera technology have seen an increase in the number of people using a smartphone for filmmaking and vlogging. In fact, as a BBC article points out, acclaimed films like High Flying Bird by Steven Soderbergh and Tangerine by Sean Baker have been shot entirely on iPhones.
It is important to select the right smartphone for vlogging and filmmaking purposes, but the most cost-effective option may be to explore refurbished phones from premium brands.
Understanding the Requirements of Filmmaking and Vlogging
Before choosing your phone for filmmaking and vlogging, you need to understand the key features to look out for. It is essential to find a phone with a high-quality camera. You should also give consideration to the type of films or vlogs you want to produce, as this can impact on your final decision.
Your smartphone should allow you to record 4K footage at 24fps as a minimum requirement. Image stabilisation is an essential feature, especially if you are looking to film action shots. Digital and optical zoom are necessary, while the camera on filmmaking phones should record high-quality audio provide adequate storage.
Camera Specifications and Capabilities
When exploring different refurbished smartphones for filming, you should pay attention to the specifications. Resolution describes the size of the image produced by a camera and is expressed in megapixels (MP). A good number to look for with filmmaking phones is 12MP. Aperture, measured in f-stops, describes the size of the opening through which light enters the camera. Fewer f-stops means a wider aperture and better low-light performance.
Image stabilisation prevents blurring on footage when the camera is in motion. This is perfect for filmmaking or vlogging phones because it means you can record stable images even if you are running or moving quickly. As an article for Lifewire explains, optical image stabilisation (OIS) works through the use of moving elements in the lens, whereas digital image stabilisation (DIS) occurs on a software level. OIS is generally regarded as the gold standard.
Examples of ideal filmmaking and vlogging phones include modern iPhone and Samsung Galaxy models.
Video & Audio Recording Features and Settings
In terms of video recording features, the refurbished smartphones you consider for filmmaking and vlogging will need 4K video recording and a fast auto-focus system. Digital and optical zoom functions are important and this should be at least 2x zoom, but preferably 3x zoom.
One mistake buyers make is to focus solely on visual features, but high-quality audio is vital. Noise cancellation allows you to reduce unwanted background noise. Meanwhile, a smartphone for filmmaking should record stereo sound, which mimics natural sound more accurately by capturing directional sound through separate audio channels.
Storage and Memory
Storage and memory are key considerations when exploring vlogging or filmmaking phones. Storage refers to the amount of space you have to save data, while memory determines things like how quickly you can move between apps and how many apps you can have running at once. For memory, you will want at least 3 GB of RAM.
Some phones support expandable storage, meaning you can use an SD card to boost total storage space. However, this is not possible on all phones. Furthermore, while SD cards provide affordable extra storage, they are slower than internal storage, can break easily and have finite read/write cycles, so their lifespan continuously degrades.
Battery Life and Charging
Filmmaking phones are hard on the device's battery. For this reason, when choosing your phone for filmmaking, you must ensure you have a long battery life for uninterrupted filming and vlogging sessions. Try to find a smartphone for vlogging or filmmaking that boasts a battery life of more than 15 hours for video playback.
Similarly, when exploring various refurbished phones, you are going to want a model with fast charging capabilities. For instance, modern iPhones can make a perfect smartphone for filmmaking, because they have long battery life and provide fast charging, reaching 50% capacity in as little as 30 minutes.
One of the biggest factors for anyone looking for a smartphone for vlogging or filmmaking is going to be the available budget. If money is tight, slightly older refurbished phones can be ideal, with the iPhone XR serving as a good example. You might also look at mid-range phones, like the Samsung Galaxy A series.
In general, there is going to be a trade-off between cost and features. The more you pay, the greater the features are likely to be, but it is possible to find a good smartphone for filmmaking at an affordable price.
Good Filmmaking and Vlogging Phones
The three phones listed below are possible candidates when seeking a smartphone for vlogging or filmmaking purposes.
A refurbished iPhone 11 Pro Max is a great option if you have a decent budget to work with. The Pro Max line is the flagship range, with plenty of features. The iPhone 11 Pro Max boasts a capacity of up to 512GB, offers 4K video recording and supports 2x optical zoom, 6x digital zoom, stereo recording and optical image stabilisation.
2. Samsung Galaxy A51
If you prefer an Android smartphone for vlogging and filmmaking, a refurbished Samsung Galaxy A51 marks the sweet spot for features and affordability. It can record 4K footage at 30fps and features "Super Steady" mode, which makes use of AI technology and a large sensor to compensate for any unsteady movement while you record.
3. iPhone XR
For the most budget conscious buyers exploring filmmaking and vlogging phones, the iPhone XR is perfect. It offers 4K recording at 24 fps, 30 fps or 60 fps, supports stereo recording, features up to 3x digital zoom and benefits from cinematic video stabilisation, along with optical image stabilisation.
Ultimately, your choice of smartphone for filmmaking and vlogging purposes will depend on many factors, including whether you prefer Android or iOS, the budget available to you and the type of filming you want to achieve. You should, however, give consideration to refurbished smartphones like the iPhone 11 Pro Max or the Samsung Galaxy A51.