So, you’re brand new to YouTube and you’re wondering what kind of camera you need. The answer is both really simple and… a bit more complicated. Well the simple answer is there’s no specific type of camera people are supposed to use just for YouTube. The longer answer is that it depends on what kind of content you plan on making. Now in this video/article I’m going to first talk generally and then make some specific camera recommendations.
Update: check out my new list of the top 100 YouTube channels you probably haven’t heard of yet!
Before we go any further, let me clarify which questions I hope this article will help solve for you:
- What camera (or cameras) do I need (or which are best) for creating YouTube videos?
- How much money should a beginning YouTuber expect to spend on the right camera?
- What quality should I be filming videos in for YouTube (1080p HD, 4K or something else)?
- Do I have to have a DSLR camera for making YouTube videos?
- Do I need a camera with interchangeable lenses?
- Can I use an action camera (like a GoPro) as my main camera for my YouTube channel?
- Can I use my cell phone (or any cell phone, like an iPhone or an Android device) as my main YouTube camera?
- Is a point and shoot camera or a DSLR or micro 4/3 camera better for YouTube content?
- What features make up a good vlogging camera?
- What is the best webcam for a gamer?
The first thing you want to do is think about the type of content you’re planning on making. A vlogger, a product reviewer and a skater are all going to want different types of cameras with some very specific features.
So what kind of cameras are out there for you to choose from? Let me walk you through the hierarchy. There are cell phones which (believe it or not) can work great as a starting point if that’s all you’ve got — especially if you’ve got a top-of-the-line flagship model (like a new iPhone or Samsung Galaxy S7). Using a phone can be challenging as you’ll have to watch your battery life, your audio won’t be stellar and you’ll pretty much be stuck with one view since you can’t use interchangeable lenses.
Next up are action cameras — like the GoPro — which honestly don’t make very good primary cameras for YouTube. They’re great for capturing certain views — like people talking in a car or some skating action — but overall action cameras can be pretty limiting in the audio department. And just like using a phone, you won’t be able to swap lenses. For YouTubers, I’d consider action cameras as purely supplemental and definitely not a main camera.
Next up is the point-and-shoot. Several YouTubers use these cameras since they are small and can typically fit in a pocket. This is definitely an upgrade over using a phone since you’ll get a built-in zoom, a tripod mount and, if you buy the right model, an articulating screen which you can flip out or around in order to see what you look like on camera. Still, though, you’re not going to be able to changes lenses. If you’re a dedicated vlogger, a point-and-shoot is probably going to be your best friend.
I’ll also go ahead and mention camcorders at this point just to be comprehensive even though I was really tempted to leave them out of this discussion. Basically these are like point-and-shoots that are dedicated to capturing video. I’m not even sure why they still make these honestly — personally I’d either grab a point-and-shoot which is going to be smaller or one of the next cameras I’m about to mention which are a lot more versatile.
And now we come to micro 4/3 and full-frame DSLRswhich really hit a sweet spot for YouTubers. With these types of cameras you can get stunning footage and, finally, you’ll be able to use different lenses. Whether you’re a vlogger, a reviewer, a person who wants to create explainer videos or maybe you just want your epic rants to be as clear as possible, this is the level of camera you are going to want for really professional results.
Now before we get to the top of the pyramid — the really crazy cameras that no beginner will ever use but which I feel I should mention for educational purposes — let’s talk about some other interesting cameras you might possibly be interested in. I’ll just call these specialty cameras.
First I want to mention the DJI Osmo which is a really odd looking ball of a camera with a grip that uses your phone as a screen. It’s a bit expensive, but what it does is pretty amazing: namely, it shoots really steady, high-quality footage and makes switching views smooth and easy as well. It’s really sort of a cross between a point-and-shoot, an action cam, a phone and a micro 4/3 camera all-in-one.
I also want to briefly mention drones just because an aerial point of view can really add some visual spice to your shots and is just something to keep in mind.
And if you happen to be a gamer you might want to look into a camera like the Logitech HD Pro webcam. That’s all I’m going to say about that.
Another big trend right now is 360 degree cameras which let you capture immersive video content that people can view using VR headsets like the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive. I think this type of video is going to be really popular in the future, but at the same time it’s not suited to every type of application.
And now finally we come to the cream of the crop: cinema cameras. No beginning YouTuber is going to be able to afford one of these and they’d definitely have no reason to pick one up anyways. These are the types of cameras that Hollywood or indie movies with serious budgets film on and they come from companies like RED or Black Magic. One popular cinema camera within the YouTube community is the Sony FS7 which retails for more than $7,000. Shout out to MKBHD though for rocking the RED just because.
So that’s kind of a quick overview of the camera landscape, but there are a few things to consider before just making a snap decision.
First: quality. In 2016 and beyond, it would just be embarrassing to upload anything to YouTube with quality worse than 1080p HD. The future, though, lies in 4K. Videos shot in 4K have four times the resolution of regular HD and if you want to be future proof this is the way to go. Keep in mind, though, that 4K footage is going to take longer to import and edit than HD footage.
Next, think about whether or not you need a camera with an interchangeable lens system. If you plan on shooting in the same room day in and day out, the answer might be no. If you want a more cinematic look where you can switch from extreme close ups to all-encompassing wide-angles, this is definitely the route to go.
Finally, if you’re going to shoot YouTube videos I’d recommend getting a camera that will let you see what you look like when you’re in front of the camera if you’re going to be a one-person crew. This could be an articulating screen like I mentioned before, a camera that connects to your phone through an app or it could be a camera that will let you attach an external monitor which would be more on the high-end of things.
Alright, now it’s time to get to some recommendations and here I’m really only going to focus on point-and-shoots and micro 4/3 cameras because those are what the vast majority of YouTubers end up using. I’m also going to keep these recommendations super short and sweet and let you do a bit of research yourself (especially because these recommendations are going to get old as time goes on).
If you’re looking for a micro 4/3 camera that’s a little more professional and that will let you swap lenses, take a look at the Sony a7S II or, if you need a cheaper option, the Lumix GH4 from Panasonic — or if you’re super budget conscious the Lumix G7.
If you have any questions let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to get them answered for you.