It takes a decent amount of gear to get a YouTube channel off the ground. Recently I wrote a post called Vlogging for beginners: your first 5 equipment purchases which breaks down a lot of what you’ll need to get started ASIDE from a good camera. I also wrote a post a few months back detailing a few affordable 4K cameras which is worth checking out. But if I had the ability to give a new YouTuber a set of cameras right now, it would be the three below — all together.
If you’re interested in becoming a YouTuber check out my book From You to YouTube. Also, be sure to check out my list of the 100 best tools and resources for aspiring YouTubers. And before you get any further, make sure to check out Tubebuddy if you’re a YouTuber!
You’ve probably heard that old saying, “Variety is the spice of life!” Well I personally feel that’s the case when it comes to shooting interesting YouTube videos. You COULD have one camera that you handle your entire workflow on, but that’s sort of the minimum viable entry point (and what 99% of YouTubers do). If you want to increase your channel/video engagement on YouTube (including the all-important watch time), keep things visually interesting by mixing up the type of footage and angles! And that is exactly what the cameras below will let you do. Together, these three cameras will give you a 4K workflow for incredibly detailed shots; you’ll have a hard-working main camera, a smooth action camera and an aerial camera.
Update: check out my new list of the top 100 YouTube channels you probably haven’t heard of yet!
A few notes. You definitely don’t NEED a camera setup this elaborate for YouTubing. But this is a dream setup for beginners or those who have been on YouTube for awhile but are ready to commit harder and are looking to upgrade their gear and production quality. A lot of people will recommend a lot of different cameras to you; no problem there as everyone has their preferences. These are just mine. Could you buy nicer gear? When it comes to the first camera listed here, ya, sure. You could spend $10,000 to $20,000 on a single camera, easily. But you can always work your way up. As for the last two cameras listed here, you can’t really do better than them in their categories. Let me know if you have any questions (leave me a comment).
PS – If you need a video editing computer, I’d absolutely recommend the MacBook Pro (can’t go wrong there) paired with FCP X.
PPS – An iPhone 6s (or newer) shoots awesome slow-mo and timelapses (and can shoot 4K video as well).
Panasonic Lumix G7
If you’re looking for an affordable 4K main camera for your YouTube channel I can wholeheartedly recommend the Panasonic Lumix G7 (and it’s little brother the Lumix FZ300 for those on a tighter budget). In terms of quality and bang for your buck, I am blown away by the Lumix G7. It’s the camera I am currently using myself — that’s how I can make such a high recommendation. It’s light, it shoots really nice 4K footage, you can attach an external mic like the Rode VideoMic Pro (which I recommend over using built-in audio for sure) and — importantly — uses an interchangeable lens system. That means you can get a telephoto lens for far-away objects, a macro lens for extreme closeups, a fisheye lens and many others. I really do love this camera.
I don’t have a GoPro or other action camera listed here because I would much rather have the DJI OSMO (any day). It’s a stabilized camera that uses your phone as a display (but not for storage). That means that you can take really smooth footage even when you’re walking, running, biking, etc. (which is not something you can do with your phone or a Go Pro without a gimbal). It shoots in 4K which is great but it’s also got the ability to swing around into selfie mode at the tap of a button which is AWESOME for vlogging. You really have to see this in action to fully appreciate what it can do — it’s unlike any other camera on the market. Trust me — smooth shots are a sign of professionalism and this camera can help take your channel to the next level.
DJI Phantom 3 Professional
Many YouTubers are one-person camera crews and one of the easiest ways to make your videos look more professional is to have a drone as a “camera man.” What’s special about the DJI Phantom 3 Professional is that it can automatically follow you around so you don’t have to be actively piloting it. It can circle around you, fly through waypoints and more and the professional model shoots in 4K (though the standard version which is WAY cheaper still looks nice at 2.7K resolution). Drone footage is going to be big in 2016 and if you have the budget, I’d absolutely recommend grabbing a drone just for the epic flyovers and interesting perspectives you won’t be able to get any other way. I haven’t really seen a vlogger put a drone to consistently good use yet, so maybe you can be the first to make it your thing.