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Which camera to use to make YouTube videos is one of the most common questions I get asked by people wanting to start vlogging or a YouTube channel. All cameras have their own benefits and uses and with so many different ones on the market this can be overwhelming for a beginner.
I’ve done some research and come up with the following list of cameras that you can use to make videos for YouTube.
- Mobile Phone (Smartphone)
- Compact Camera
- Mirrorless Camera
- DSLR Camera
- Action Camera
- Dedicated Video Camera
But which of these should you choose and what is the benefit of each of them?
Mobile Phone (Smartphone) Vlogging
You might not realise it, but using your smartphone is one of the cheapest ways you can get started when it comes to vlogging. If you already own a phone that has a camera and the ability to add apps, then this is all you need to create your own YouTube channel.
Using your smartphone to shoot YouTube videos is easy because it’s the camera you have with you most often. It’s great for informal, vlog-style videos where you talk to the camera about what you’re seeing, and you want an immediate, first-person view of the scene.
Even popular YouTubers like Casey Neistat or Peter McKinnon, with millions of subscribers, still occasionally use their mobile phones to capture footage or vlog on when they are out and about.
You can choose to add microphones and lighting to your setup later when your channel starts to grow, and you want to improve your video production quality. You can find out more in our post Starting a YouTube channel on Your Phone.
Using Compact Cameras for Vlogging
Compact cameras are ideal to get started with and to see if vlogging and creating video is something that you want to do longer term, but without spending a lot on equipment to get yourself up and running.
Compact cameras only require a small investment, but the results are very acceptable and a great choice for any beginner to get started with a YouTube channel or budding vlogger.
The typical vlogging camera in this range would include the Canon G7x Mark iii or the Sony ZV-1. You can also find budget options in our post on vlogging cameras under £300.
Vlogging on a Mirrorless Camera
Mirrorless cameras for vlogging are becoming increasingly popular, as they are a good compromise between compact cameras and DSLR cameras. Mirrorless cameras offer a similar lightweight feeling to a compact camera because they don’t have the mirror system inside, but typically have all the features that heavier DSLR cameras have.
If you want to get smooth slow-motion b-roll for your vlog, you’ll find all the features you need in a mirrorless camera, making them an ideal camera for vlogging. Being Lighter, they are also easier to carry around so you’re more likely to have your full featured camera on you when you need it.
The technology inside mirrorless cameras has advanced to the point that even professional photographers are using them in preference to heavier DSLR alternatives. Let’s be honest, as a photographer or videographer, the less weight we have to carry round the better.
Popular choices are the Canon EOS R (full frame camera) or the Canon M range, which offers DSLR quality, but at a fraction of the weight.
DSLR Cameras for Vlogging
A DSLR camera is a popular choice for YouTubers who create videos at home. They are a little heavier than other options, but they work better in low light than a smartphone or compact camera and give a nice blurry background (called ‘bokeh’) that is popular with creators on YouTube.
A popular DSLR option for vloggers is the Canon 90D (latest model to replace the Canon 80D), but due to its heavier weight and the advancement of mirrorless cameras, DSLRs in general are becoming a less popular option for vlogging.
Historically, DSLR’s were popular due to the dual pixel auto focus that the Canon DSLR range offers, but now this technology can be found in the mirrorless camera range, which is also lighter to carry as well as being easy to use.
For a long time popular YouTuber Peter McKinnon used a Canon 1DX ii (a huge DSLR), but now seems to have swapped to recording his vlogs on the Canon EOS R5 and even his phone or an action camera at times.
Action Cameras – Can You Vlog on Them?
If riding around on a quad bike, sky diving or some kind of snow or water sport is your thing, then an action camera is a good idea (but if you’re not doing any of this then you’re probably better off with one of the options above).
If you’re wondering what an action camera is, it’s a small, compact camera with a built-in microphone that you can attach to your body or your helmet, or your bike or your board. It’s a fixed-focus camera that takes video, slow-mo and sometimes stills. The best known is the GoPro, but there are many others on the market.
You can vlog on an action camera and many people choose to because of the compact and lightweight design. They’re also often waterproof, and very rugged. Some people say they feel more discreet, helping you to capture a great image without feeling self-conscious. The main complaint with them is that normally the sound can be very muffled and you can sound like you’re under water (even when you’re not). Not a problem for epic b-roll you plan to set against a banging soundtrack, but not great for talking to the camera.
You can input an external microphone on an action camera, but this comes at the cost of the camera not then being waterproof. The GoPro also needs a separate module before you can plug in the external microphone, making it that little bit bulkier and not much lighter than a compact camera.
I would include the 360-degree cameras in the action camera bracket also. They have their place in making video for YouTube, but they would not be my first choice for a primary camera. You can’t add an external microphone normally.
Action cameras you can add external microphones to include the GoPro Hero and the Sony RX0 cameras.
Dedicated Video Camera or Camcorder
If you are in your mid 30s or older, you might remember video cameras being so large that you had to carry them on your shoulder. Thankfully that was a long time ago and now video cameras are a lot smaller, have image stabilisation and record direct to a memory card and not a video cassette.
The benefit of using a dedicated camcorder is that they keep everything in focus, so they’re easy for anyone to pick up and press record. The other benefit is that as dedicated video recorders, they can record for longer periods of time. (DSLR and mirrorless cameras will normally stop recording at just under 30 minutes.)
One downside to a camcorder is that the lens isn’t normally wide angle, so vlogging on one will mean your face is larger in the shot and it will look like the camera is too close to your face.
Which Style Camera to Choose?
Deciding on which camera to choose will depend on your circumstances, but also which features are important to you as a vlogger.
If you’re happy carrying around gear all day long, then look for a camera that will give you all the features you need regardless of the weight or size of the camera. (A DSLR or higher-end mirrorless camera might be a good choice.)
If you’re travelling or want a camera that is a little more discreet, then pick up a compact camera like the Canon M50 or Sony ZV-1, both of which are great cameras for vlogging, but also great for taking photos when you’re travelling.
If you’re an all-action hero and always on the go, whether that’s in the water, on the snow or jumping out of a plane, you should choose an action camera. The GoPro Hero, DJI Osmo and Sony RX0 cameras are all good choices.
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If you decide that vlogging is for you and you want to take it to the next level, the next thing to do is upgrade the quality of your sound. Here are two posts you might find helpful:
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