Best YouTube vlogging camera for beginners 2021
Written by: Dexxter ClarkI learned a thing or two when choosing a my vlogging camera for YouTube.
In this article I’ll share the most important features the best camera should have based in my own experiences.
What makes a good vlogging camera for YouTube in 2021?
At the end of this article I’ll share my camera model recommendations.
In short, the best vlogging camera for YouTube:
- is a mirrorless or mirror camera (DSLR)
- has flip screen to see yourself
- stores files in the right file format (MP4, x264 codec)
- has an external microphone connection
- has a wide angle lens
- has an extra battery
- read on for the details …
Camera typesDSLR has been the magic word over the last 10 years when it comes to film and photography because of the great picture quality compared to traditional video cameras.
DSLR stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex, a digital extension of the (analog) SLR photo camera where the photographer sees though the viewfinder the exact image of the photo due to the use of a mirror.
In order to take a picture, the mirror moves out of the way to expose the film (or sensor) to light.
This in contrast to a point-and-shoot camera where the photographer sees a rough estimate of what will be the final image though the viewfinder (I’m not talking about the display).
You can switch lenses on a (D)SLR camera.
You can have wide angle lenses, macro and zoom lenses.
A DSLR can shoot video if the mirror is moved out of the way, this means the viewfinder is blank.
But what if you take the technology from DSLR and removed the mirror from the camera?
This is how a new type of camera was born: the mirrorless camera (also called system camera or APS-C), a hybrid between the DSLR with interchangeable and the point-and-shoot cameras with fixed lenses.
A system camera has also interchangeable lenses.
You can use DSLR lenses on system cameras, but you will need a special adapter to make them fit.
Because a mirrorless camera has no mirror, it is less heavy, which is ideal for vlogging because you shoot a lot out of your own hand.
You can’t use the viewfinder on a DSLR when filming, so a system camera is equally suited for filming for YouTube or vlogging as a DSLR.
Due to the success of system cameras and DSLR, the traditional video camera moved to the background.
You can use a traditional video camera, without a problem, but I advice a DSLR or even “better” a mirrorless system camera.
Are there no downsides to using a DSLR or mirrorless camera?
Yes there are.
Some DSLR/system cameras have a nasty side effect when filming.
The sensor in a lot of cameras does not take 1 frame at a time like a traditional video camera, it builds up the image over time from top to bottom.
When objects in the image move fast, the top of the image is recorded earlier in time than the bottom, which results in a distorted image.
The object moves while the sensor is still taking one video frame.
This is why most DSLR/system cameras are not suited to document fast paced events like sports.
I found a great article on b&h photo, which explains in great detail what rolling shutter is.
Another downside to DSLR/system cameras is the limited recording length of 30 minutes per file.
This is not technical limit, but a regulatory limit (at least here in Europe).
By law video cameras are taxed higher than photo cameras.
By law DSLR and system cameras are regarded photo cameras which also can film.
When is it a film camera, when a photo camera for the law?
A video camera can take shots longer than 30 minutes.
With 3rd party software like Magic Lantern you can turn your Canon “photo” camera into a “video” camera by removing the 30 minute limit.
You can work around the 30 minute limit by stopping a recording and starting it again.
Especially for one take recordings like tutorials this is annoying and always need to keep an eye out for the timer on the display.
Canon cameras warn you that you reach the 30 minute mark very subtle, sometimes to subtle.
Been there, done that.
Flip screenIn contrast to traditional filming with a cameraman, you are a one man band.
You need to be able to see the shot to judge if you are in the shot, if the picture is correctly lit and if the picture is sharp.
The one thing that separates the vlogging camera from a regular camera is the flip screen.
A flip screen on the back of your camera can turn 180 degrees so you can yourself.
You can’t live without a flip screen when vlogging.
The right file formatSome Sony and Panasonic cameras have the tendency to store their footage in a incredibly annoying format: AVCHD.
In theory, video editing software like Final Cut Pro and Premiere should be able to read this file format.
In practice, it is incredibly resource intensive and most software can’t playback the video files fluently without any applied effects.
In Final Cut’s case it’s even worse: it makes the software crash over and over again.
There are software solutions like Apple’s Compressor out there to convert AVCHD files to Apple ProRes for example so you can edit your videos without problems.
However it adds extra time to an already time intensive process.
You also need extra storage space on your hard drive for the converted files (besides the original, the proxy/render files of your editor and the final video).
Make sure your camera supports another file format, this will make your editing experience a lot smoother.
A good file format is the x264 encryption in the .MP4 file container.
Although the compression of x264 is still resource intensive, most computers and editing software can cope well enough to make your editing experience enjoyable.
Final Cut Pro, Premiere and Davinci Resolve can cope with this file format.
Because we are moving gradually to 4K, we needed a more efficient encryption algorithm to save storage space.
This standard has become x265.
Although the x265 offers a better encryption than x264, it is also more computing intensive for your computer.
In other words, you need a pretty beefy computer to cope with the format.
I would say, at this moment x264 (.MP4) offers the best of both worlds in terms of compatibility and computing resources.
Microphone & mic connectionThe most important feature YouTubers and manufacturers seem to forget: a microphone connection on your vlogging camera.
Many cameras sold as “vlogging cameras” without an external microphone connection!!!
I wish I was kidding. I’m not.
I use my lavalier microphone for every single YouTube video I make.
Built-in microphones in cameras are bad because they are incredibly small.
Besides the bad sound quality, they pick up a lot of surrounding noise.
A lavalier or directional microphone is probably the best choice because of mobility.
Boom (dead cat) and shotgun microphones are only useful in a studio setting.
You place a directional microphone on the hot shoe of your camera (the place where a photographer would put his flash light).
Then you connect the microphone to your microphone connection on your camera.
Some cameras have a flip screen that is placed behind the hot shoe.
When you place the directional microphone on the hot shoe, you can’t see the screen.
Directional microphones, boom and shotgun microphones are almost always powered with some kind of battery, some lavalier microphones too (for no reason).
I am a great adversary of battery-less solutions, even if it means an extra cable.
Wireless solutions seems very convenient at first glance.
The downside to battery powered solutions is that you have to switch the power on explicitly for the microphone, besides hitting the record button on the camera.
You also have to power off the microphone explicitly, otherwise your batteries are empty the next time you want to shoot.
If you forget to power on the mic, or the batteries are empty, your sound is not recorded.
You will notice that … during editing, once you have shot all your footage.
On top of that, you always need to have extra batteries on hand when you film.
TRS and TRRSThere are two types of standards for microphone connections.
TRS (Tip Ring Sleeve) and TRRS (Tip Ring Ring Sleeve).
The plugs have the same size and might look the same at first glance.
But when you compare them side by side you’ll see that a TRRS plug has 3 rings and a TRS plug has 2.
This means (depending on the equipment) that you won’t get a signal with a TRRS plug on TRS equipment and vice versa.
TRS regular mini jack microphone connection available on computers and cameras.
TRRS for phones and other recording equipment.
Wide angle lensThere are different types of lenses for your DSLR or system camera: zoom, wide angle, macro.
Choose a wide angle lens for vlogging.
A wide angle lens captures more of you and your surroundings.
Especially for tight spaces like you filming your YouTube video at home a wide angle lens is ideal.
A wide angle lens has a small focal length.
Focal lengths are expressed in mm, the smaller the number, the wider the angle (you see more).
A 10mm lens has a wider angle than 15mm.
With 10mm you “zoom out” more than 15mm.
With 10mm you see more of your arm when you vlog for YouTube than 15mm.
By the way: focal lengths for DSLR and system cameras are not the same, due to the different size of the sensor (this is why you need an adapter to put DSLR lenses on a system camera).
A focal length wider than 50mm (DSLR) or 35mm (system camera) is considered a wide angle lens.
These millimeters are shown in a range on lenses, for example: 15-45mm.
This is because you can zoom in and out with the lens, 45mm is zoomed in, 15mm is zoomed out.
A 15-45mm lens is pretty standard wide angle lens to be bundled with a system camera.
Extra batteryIt is very useful to buy an extra battery for your camera, so you have at least 2.
When you use one battery, the other can charge.
If you make sure your batteries are always charged, you ca always continue filming, without having to wait for a charged battery.
Body or kitSomething to bear in mind, most DSLR and system cameras come without lenses or any other accessories, you buy only the camera body,
You can also buy camera kits with lenses.
Some kits are more extensive than others, some have UV filters, memory cards, carrying bags, cleaning materials and others don’t.
Kits are generally cheaper than buying all the components separately.
Memory card: how much do you need for YouTube and vlogging?I shoot my YouTube videos in 1080p x264 .mp4.
I have a 64GB memory card.
For me this is the ideal size.
I store the videos of the current and previous month also on the card and delete the rest.
I store the videos of the previous month as a backup as a failsafe for accidents in the editing workflow (been there, done that).
My average YouTube video has 20-30 scenes of a couple of seconds. I need sometimes 20-30 takes to get it right. I do 1 video a week.
Sometimes I run out of space on my memory card.
I can easily fix that by deleting the backup videos of last month.
4K or 1080p?Less than 1% of viewers on YouTube view videos in a higher quality than 1080p.
In my book that is not worth the effort to edit and store 4K footage.
However, when it comes to a camera, you might consider it.
Maybe in the future (I’m talking about years, not months) 4K becomes standard and you want to shoot footage in 4K.
At least with a 4K camera you have the option to choose your resolution.
Camera stand / out of the handIn my vlogging days I filmed a lot out of the hand.
Nowadays I make a lot of tutorials.
It is convenient to place your camera on a stand.
I have a small camera stand to put the camera on my table and a large camera stand to film everything else.
When you don’t film a lot out of the hand, consider a camera stand.
Especially DSLRs can become very heavy when holding it.
Choose a camera stand that allows you to access the memory card and battery.
If you need to change them, you don’t have to screw the camera off and on the stand every single time.
No WiFi, no bluetoothA lot of cameras nowadays offer WiFi or Bluetooth capabilities.
These solutions are are slow, especially with large video files it takes forever to transfer them to your computer.
Taking out the memory card and putting it in your computer is much faster.
Checklist: what to buy
- carrying case
- extra battery
- memory card - 64GB for 1080p footage is enough
- battery charger (often included)
- camera stand (optional)
- microphone (optional)
Best camera models for YouTubeI have two recommendations, but there are other models out there that will be equally good.
Canon EOS M6
- microphone connection
- flip screen
- .mp4 x264
- 1080p / 4K
- downside: flip screen behind shoe
- downside: limited selection of lenses
- downside: no optical viewfinder (only useful to take pictures)
- mirrorless brother of the 90d
Price on Amazon: kit with lens https://amzn.to/2Vc4Htd
Canon EOS 90d
- microphone connection
- flip screen
- .mp4 x264
- 1080p / 4K
- mirrored brother of the 6M
Price on Amazon: kit with lens https://amzn.to/2JUELwN
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Click here for more information about my YouTube e-book: "What Big Tubers Don't tell you"
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