Buying a camera for YouTube? I know it can be overwhelming as to all your different options. So regardless if you’re looking to create educational content, tutorials, YouTube shorts or vlogs; I have you covered.
I’m a YouTuber myself and I’ve created well over 300+ videos using all sorts of cameras from point and shoots, DSLR’s, full frame cameras, action cameras and even the iPhone. So in this helpful guide I’m going to break down the kinds of cameras YouTubers use and why.
First, the type of camera a YouTuber uses depends on the content.
Broadly speaking, YouTubers tend to prefer cameras that can shoot in 4k, can change lenses, and can add an external microphone for quality audio.
Most YouTubers go through a trial-and-error to pick the right camera. Depending on what sort of video content you want to make, your editing skills and budget will dictate what camera to get.
When I first started on YouTube, I bought a Canon G7X ( a point-and-shoot camera) to make vlogs with. When I wanted to transition to making tutorial videos, I found my camera significantly limiting for my needs and ended up selling my G7X to buy a a Canon SL2 and a few lenses.
Then I out grew my SL2 because I wanted to shoot in 4k so I picked up a 90D because I could use my lenses I already had. So here is break down on the content and camera options:
Vlog style content
I consider vlog content when you want to get out of the house or studio and record content in public. It could be anything from travel vlogging to giving your hot take on some news event. For vlogging you’ll need the following:
- Small and light-weight.
- Good audio built-in.
- Wide field of view.
- 60 FPS, 4k recording possible.
The video quality does not need to be top tier though as the best vlogs are focused on the story. You’ll also need a camera that is able to shoot at 60FPS so the video is nice and smooth.
GoPro – The GoPro is an excellent action camera with good audio, wide field of view and stable. It can record in 4K for high quality video and is perfect for for shot where you out and about. You’ll want to purchase a small tripod to mount and hold the camera.
iPhone – The iPhone and front facing cameras are simply outstanding for vlogging. In fact I have a whole guide on how to vlog with an iPhone. With the iPhone you have a wide angle camera which is perfect for narration and the main camera which is great for medium and close shots. You may want to purchase additional gear like a cheap tripod and microphone.
DJI Action 2 – I know the Action 3 is out, but it’s inferior to the GoPro. The Action 2 however is still a unique, small camera that can be mounted on the included necklace lanyard or to simply walk around and talk into the camera. It has a wide angle, 4k video recording and you can frame yourself with a front facing screen.
Sony ZV-E1 – The ZV-E1 (not to be confused with the ZV-E10) is a full frame, content creators dream come true. Paired with the Sony F1.8 20mm lens, you pretty much have everything you need to create in studio content or vlog style content. Small, light-weight, stable. With the 20mm lens you can get that blurry background and and shoot in 4k. However, this camera and lens combo will cost around $3K.
Narration (talking head videos)
If you need to do is film yourself in your home or studio then you’ll want a proper camera and not your iPhone or action camera. In addition, you’ll want to be able to record at 24P or 30P at 4k. You’ll need a flip out screen to frame yourself, good audio preamps,
- Record at 24p or 30p at 4k.
- Flip-out screen to frame yourself.
- Good audio preamps and the ability to attach an external microphone.
- Lenses with a low aperture for that blurry background.
Since we’re not vlogging or moving the camera around, stabilization is not that important nor is being able to shoot at a high frame rates like 120P in 4k. Your camera is going to live on top of a tripod and that’s it.
Canon 90D – The 90D is a APS-C camera that can shoot in 4K at 24P and 30P. Paired with the Tokina 11-16 F2.8 lens you get a wide field of view and a blurry background. You can also use the Sigma 18-35 F1.8 for even greater subject separation. However 18mm on a crop sensor is the same as 28mm on a full-frame camera. Overall this is the most cost effective option.
Sony EV-1 – The EV-1 again is a YouTube content creating machine. It’s a video first camera and paired again with the 20mm, F1.8 lens from Sony and a quality microphone you’re good to go. You’ll be able to record yourself in 4k with a wide field of view and a blurry background.
Lumix S5II – The Lumix S5 II is a film makers camera. However, it’s pretty amazing for recording yourself to. Paired with the Sigma 16-28 F2.8 lens, you’ll have everything you need to record beautiful narration shots with a blurry background.
Finally we have film makers or aspiring film makers. You’ll need something that has a lot of pro features most people don’t understand or need:
- 10 bit colors.
- Log profiles.
- Two SD card slots.
- 24P, 30P, 60P and 120P frame rates.
- Full frame sensor with 24 megapixels or greater.
- Does not overheat in 4k.
- Wide selection of lenses.
- High dynamic range and low light performance.
Film makers and videographers need these professional features. Two card slots because for paid jobs you always want to have a backup. High frame rates and slow motion to mix and match your shots. Log profiles and 10 bit color for color grading. A large selection of lenses with low aperture’s for that blurry background. No over-heating because if you’re filming a clients wedding the last thing you want is your camera shutting off in the middle of recording something.
Sony FX3 – Featuring a full frame CMOS sensor. It only has 12 megapixels but this is intentional as it helps this camera perform outstandingly well in low light settings. This camera body is also easy to rig up in a cage with additional attachements. It has a top handle with an XLR input for pro level microphones and Sony has the best develop range or lenses.
Lumix S5 Mark II – A Panasonic camera that finally has reliable auto-focus. You also get open gate recording, anamorphic recording modes, excellent dynamic range, the best stabilization among competitors, and a full-frame 24 megapixel sensor. The only downside is that at 60 FPS in 4k, it crops in to APSC mode. Overall a great camera for documentary style film makers for YouTube.
Sony FX6 – This is a true cinema camera and for 99% of people reading this totally unnecessary. 180 degree shutter angle so you never need to think about shutter speed again. Internal ND filters, SDI ports that far superior to HDMI connections. Nice big body that makes it easier to built out as it’s much more modular than the FX3.
Canon C70 – With a super 35mm sensor (similar to APSC and smaller than a full-frame sensor) the C70 produces the most beautiful video clips I’ve seen. I’ve never once seen a C70 clip compared to an FX6 clip and preferred the FX6. The FX6 has a lot of features lacking in the C70, but if all you care about is image quality for video then the C70 is hard to beat.
Additional things to look for in a YouTube camera
You have a lot of different options when it comes to buying a camera for YouTube. From action cameras to your phone to expensive mirrorless cameras. When looking at other cameras, take into consideration your needs, budget, the kind of content you’ll be creating, as well as the following features:
Flip out screen
You will want a camera with a flip-out screen so you can quickly and easily frame yourself. While many YouTubers opt to use a dedicated monitor (as monitors provide a lot of detail as to the quality of the video and what parts are being overexposed), for most content creators, a simple built-in, flip-out screen is fine.
This is important because having a screen allows you to frame yourself in the shot quickly and makes creating videos more easy and fast. While you can use a monitor, it’s simply excessive if you’re just getting started making videos.
You’ll want to have some flexibility in your frame rate options. Frame rates control how smooth the video is. Most YouTube creators need 24p, 30p, or 60p for presentation-style videos. 60p looks smooth, while 24p or 30p is what you’re most used to watching.
To make a slow-motion clip, you’ll need a camera that can do 120p in 1080 or 4k for best results. This high frame rate allows you to slow down the video to 24p or 30p while maintaining quality.
In general, you’ll want 60 fps for vlogs as that tends to look best when walking and moving the camera around and 30p or 24p for a talking head, studio recording style videos where you’re stationary.
Stabilization is essential if you move the camera around on a tripod or with your hands. While you can get an expensive gimbal to produce smooth video, gimbals are costly and bulky. They are not glorified tripods that add stabilization; they are expensive pieces of equipment that need to be calibrated and taken care of.
Instead, as a new video creator, you’ll want a camera with built-in stabilization. This way, you can use your camera on the go without any additional gear to produce walk-and-talk or point-of-view walking videos. Most action cameras and phones have some sort of digital stabilization, and high-end mirrorless cameras have what is called in-body stabilization, or IBIS for short.
Sensor size affects the image’s quality and allows for a blurry background. The bigger the sensor, the more light is let in to record in much greater detail, and the better separation of the subject from the environment you can achieve. Lens makers also typically create higher-quality lenses with better apertures.
The highest quality sensor size for any camera is called “full frame.” However, full-frame cameras cost thousands of dollars, and their lenses cost thousands or more. For most YouTube creators, you’re okay with a less expensive camera body with a smaller sensor and cheaper lenses.
Autofocus comes in many forms. Some systems work on a contrast-based system, while others, like Canon, have a unique dual-pixel autofocus. You want autofocus because it makes recording content more easily. The alternative is to manually focus the camera every single time you go to record.
The best vlog cameras are small, light, durable, and have good audio, stabilization, and a wide field of view. Vlogging typically requires a different camera than you would use to create online courses or sit-down, talking head videos.
Conclusion: What cameras do YouTubers Use?
To conclude, YouTubers use a wide range of cameras. Everything from action cameras or the iPhone, to crop sensor DSLR’s or full-frame mirrorless cameras. What it comes down to is what type of content your shooting. It’s best to get the camera that meets your specific needs.
David UtkeDavid Utke is a professional blogger, YouTuber and a highly rated user experience consultant. He and his team create helpful tutorials, software reviews, videos and more based on real-world experience. Join over 30,000 monthly readers and 27k+ YouTube subscribers!
The 10 Best Paraphrasing Tools for Blogging & Writing
I breakdown the best paraphrasing tools to help you rewrite text. Come find out the most effective and user-friendly options available.
10 Best Types of Websites to Make
There many different types of websites you can make. Come find out their various pros and cons in this comprehensive guide.