There is no one kind of YouTuber, so there is no single “best” camera for YouTube. Content creators on YouTube range from daily, on-the-go vloggers to high production value indie filmmakers. A good camera for YouTube provides a balance of image quality, features, and availability, while also addressing the unique needs of different types of YouTube creators.
Our picks for the best YouTube cameras of 2018 are broken down into five categories:
- Best Vlogging Cameras: Best for portability, ease of use, and solo productions.
- Best Overall YouTube Cameras: Best for studio and tripod talking head setups.
- Best Indie Film Cameras: Best for small group or solo work with a higher production value, image quality, and coloring.
- Best Drones with Cameras: Best for aerial and creative shots.
- Our Camera Setup: The cameras we use here at VlogNerd.
With that in mind, here is our list of the best cameras for YouTube:
Best Vlogging Cameras
These cameras are great for on-the-go daily vlogging. These are the cameras you can keep in your purse, backpack, or even your pocket. Their portability makes them great for “selfie” style vlogging videos. (See out full list of vlogging cameras.)
1. Sony RX100 MK V ($999)
Flip Screen: Yes (Up)
What We Like: Great, high-quality camera squeezed into a compact point-and-shoot body. More creative options due to 4k video, easy-to-use timelapse app, and color profiles.
What We Don’t Like: It’s relatively expensive for a point-and-shoot. The default color of the image out of the camera is generally cooler (bluer) and flatter. At this price point, an audio input would be helpful.
What You Need to Know:
The Sony RX100 V is one of the best, compact on-the-go cameras available. It’s zoom lens and flip-up screen make framing your shot easy. We’re also big fans of its built-in time-lapse app, which can improve your b-roll and transition shots. It also shoots in 4k, which provides a lot of flexibility in recomposing your shot in editing.
The built-in microphone isn’t horrible. You can cover it with a fuzzy material to help cut down wind noise, making this a reliable option for on-the-go vlogging.
As a Sony camera, the image color coming out of the camera is distinctly different from Canon cameras. The image is flatter (less contrast) and cooler (blue-ish). This is mostly a matter of preference because the overall image quality is solid.
It’s also not cheap. At nearly a thousand dollars, this camera requires quite an investment.
2. Canon G7Z Mk II ($564)
Flip Screen: Yes (Up)
What We Like: Solid compact camera with great color, especially on skin tones.
What We Don’t Like: It only shoots in 1080.
This camera is the Canon alternative to the RX100 V. It’s an excellent compact camera with a flip-up screen. However, it only shoots in 1080 and is less advanced than the RX100. As a vlogger, you don’t really need more than 1080, so considering you save over $400s with this camera, it’s a great value.
As a Canon camera, the default photo quality is going to be warmer (orange/red) and have more contrast. The Canon cameras produce a pleasing skin tone color (although this is a matter of preference). The default video out of this camera is great, meaning you can use it directly without much color correction in editing.
Best Overall YouTube Cameras
While a compact camera provides a lot of portability, they come with fewer of the features a vlogger needs day-to-day. With a more DLSR traditional camera, you get improved autofocus, interchangeable lenses, and a microphone input.
1. Canon 80D ($999)
Flip Screen: Yes (Side)
What We Like: A dependable workhouse with great image quality and color. Solid auto-focus.
What We Don’t Like: It’s bulkier. It only shoots 1080.
What You Need to Know:
If you’re filming from a tripod with lights in your home or office studio, then this is a great camera. It has a flip-out screen, so you don’t need much else to set up your shot. It also has a microphone input, so you can use an external microphone (which we highly suggest, as it’ll dramatically improve your auto quality).
Simply put, this is a dependable camera, and its family line up of cameras are classically popular. As a Canon, it’ll also have that signature color and skin tone look.
There are also several other cameras within this family at different price points. If you’d like something more inside your budget, look at the Canon T7i ($849) or the Canon 70D ($799).
I started with the Canon T5i, the younger sibling of this camera, and it was a great intro DSLR.
2. Sony a6500 ($1,398)
Flip Screen: No (Tilts)
What We Like: Solid mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses. Shoots 4k.
What We Don’t Like: Short battery life. No flip screen.
The Sony a6500 is an excellent camera and, as a mirrorless camera, it has a low profile. This form factor can make it a better multi-purpose camera for both on-the-go shooting and studio setups. However, the lack of a flip-out screen can make composing a shot of yourself harder.
However, this is a technically more superior camera compared to the Canon alternative. The 4k video is an excellent benefit, giving you more options in post-production. If you’re a Sony fan and want something more serious than the RX100, but don’t want to dish out the cost of the a7R, then this is your camera.
As a Sony camera, you’ll get their signature image color, which is a bit more flat and cooler than Canon.
3. Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920 ($50)
Flip Screen: No (Computer Monitor)
What We Like: Small and affordable. Can use your computer monitor as a screen.
What We Don’t Like: Limited features and lower image quality. Also requires the use of a computer.
If your videos are mostly interviews, streaming, screencasts, or webinars than this is a good, easy to afford option. Its image quality will undoubtedly underperform relative to a truly dedicated camera, but if you don’t need that quality, look into this camera. We highly recommend the creating the best lighting conditions possible, as that will contribute to its overall quality.
While being attached to a computer is a downside of this camera, it also comes with a few perks. You can use your computer screen as a monitor to compose your shots. You can also use USB microphones or headsets, giving you much better audio than using a mic on the camera.
Best Cameras for Indie Filmmakers on YouTube
If you’re creating cinematic videos or short films, you’ll need more than a basic vlogging camera. These cameras not only provide better image quality but provide more options for filmmakers.
1. Sony a7R II ($2,398)
What We Like: Exceptional mirrorless camera with top-notch image quality.
What We Don’t Like: Short battery life. Fewer lens options. Low-light autofocus.
Sony has produced some fantastic cameras over the last few years, and this camera is no different. It’s sensor, image quality, and 4k footage gives an indie filmmaker a lot of options in post-production. Its small form factor is also a huge plus, giving you an exceptional filmmaking tool in a small package.
These benefits do come with some trade-offs. The battery life isn’t great, so expect to buy and carry around additional backup batteries. Its low-light autofocus is not as reliable as some Canon counterparts. Lastly, it doesn’t have the selection of lenses available to a Canon camera.
However, if you’re a fan of the Sony image and want a low-profile camera that produces an excellent image, this is a great camera.
2. Canon C100 Mark II ($3,499)
What We Like: Dependable workhorse camera with tons of different built-in features for indie filmmaking and run-and-gun documentary work.
What We Don’t Like: Bulky. Only 1080.
It’s much larger than the other cameras on the list, but you get a lot with that size. It has a wide range of features, from built-in ND filters to XLR support. It also has a lot of easy to access features like peaking, zebra, magnify, and focus assist. The camera excels at having everything you need for run-and-gun or indie filmmaking built-in.
However, unlike several of the other cameras on this list, it does not have 4k, which is a bit disappointing at this price point.
If you want to get most of the benefits, but save a bit of money, you can still get the original C100 Mark I for $2,899.
3. Canon 1DX Mark II ($5,699)
What We Like: 4k DSLR style non-Cinema camera from Canon. Exceptional autofocus. Excellent for still photography. Amazing image quality.
What We Don’t Like: 4K video uses Motion JPEG codec, meaning file sizes are enormous. Missing high-end video features like focus peaking and exposure zebras. Memory card slides use CF and CFast 2.0. Fixed LED.
Simply put, this is one of Canon’s best DSLR cameras, period. It’s not cheap though.
It excels at both photo and video, creating some of the best images you’ll find. The dynamic range of this camera is top-notch. It shoots 4k up to 60p, which give you a lot of flexibility. It’s autofocus tracking and more cinematic focus racking keeps you in focus without a lot of noticeable hunting.
The build quality on this camera is impressive. It’s a tank. However, that does make it heavy and you’ll tire holding it. A lot of this bulk comes from its massive battery, but that also means you get great battery life.
However, as a photo first camera, it does lack some more pro video features. Its static screen on the back of the camera is also limiting. It doesn’t have a tilting or flip-out screen.
Best Drone Cameras for YouTube
Drones are dynamic tools that allow you to get shots you never thought were possible, from high-flying landscape shots to sweeping low-to-the-ground shots that simulate a crane or job. A drone can instantly improve your production value. They’re great for indie filmmakers, but can also provide excellent b-roll, tradition shots, and establishing shots for vloggers.
1. Mavic Pro Platinum ($1,099)
4K: Yes (24 fps)
Highest 1080 Frame Rate: 96 fps
What We Like: Small and compact. Quite for a drone. Little setup. Makes this great for travel or on-the-go filming. It’s easier to film without being noticed.
What We Don’t Like: Camera quality could be better. Its dynamic range, the field of view, and low light performance aren’t as strong as higher end drones. Fewer optical avoidance sensors.
The Mavic wins on availability and ease of use. The best camera is the camera you have with you. The Mavic comfortably fits into a backpack, large purse, or carry-on. This form factor, combined with its quick setup, means you’ll always have it available and will never miss a shot.
It’s also much quieter than larger drones. A quieter drone means you’ll be less obtrusive and get less attention. This low-profile is a huge benefit, as a lot of places don’t like drone filming. You can get up in the air and nail your shot before anyone notices (or at least have enough time to report, find, or confront you).
For YouTube videos, the camera is good enough. However, it has some noticeable short-comings regarding dynamic range and overall quality. It does do 4k and higher framerates, but it’s limited in both of those areas. If you care about image quality or need to use the footage professionally, you may be disappointed with the image quality in some situations.
2. Phantom 4 Pro ($1,499)
4K: Yes (50 fps)
Highest 1080 Frame Rate: 120 fps
What We Like: Solid image quality. More advanced proximity detection, which gives you more confidence. Bigger controller and larger screen. Faster.
What We Don’t Like: Larger, louder, and longer setup.
The Phantom 4 Pro is an excellent drone. If you do professional work, indie filmmaking, or just care more about image quality, this is the drone for you. It outperforms smaller drones, like the Mavic, across many categories such as image quality, speed, and features.
The downsides are its size and noise. Its use is more intentional, meaning you’ll have it on you less often. However, if you go out with the intention of filming and don’t mind the additional bulk or setup, then you’ll be pleased with this drone. However, its size and speed mean it produces more noise. This makes it harder to keep a low profile.
The Cameras We Use
So what do we use here at VlogNerd?
Our camera setup is atypical and is influenced by the style of work we do. In addition to filming videos for social media and YouTube, we also do commercial work and short indie films. Having studied film in school, I care about cinematography and image quality, pushing me towards some of the higher end cameras on this list.
The cameras I use personally are:
- Sony RX100 V
- Canon 1DX II
- Phantom 4 Pro
- Canon C100 Mark I
These aren’t starter cameras though. If you’re just getting started, I’d highly recommend something like the Canon 80D or the more affordable Canon 70D or Canon T7i.