You can use any camera you want to shoot video for YouTube. But, if your camera spits out clips that make you like a yellowish ill-defined, mushy mass of pixels, you’re going to have trouble getting and keeping viewers. Why not start with a good camera then, right? Right.
Since any “good” camera will work, though, you’ll probably want to start by deciding what type of shooting you want to do. There’s little reason to spend hundreds or thousands on camera gear if you can accomplish what you want with a webcam or your phone. To that end, we picked out some of the best cameras that can be used for everything from simple live streams from your laptop to more polished productions. The picks are all based on the type of camera you might want with an eye toward budget.
Note that if livestreaming is a priority, you might need additional hardware. You’ll find suggestions for that as well as other accessories to consider following the cameras.
With a small handful of exceptions, all of these have been included after being fully reviewed or anecdotally tested by me or other CNET editors. Those exceptions in the accessories sections are based on positive Amazon user reviews and additional word of mouth accolades. Note that CNET may get a share of the revenue if you buy anything featured on our site.
DJI Osmo Mobile 2
Best default YouTube rig: Your phone + this gimbal
Whether iPhone or Android, using a phone is probably the easiest option for most people for recording and livestreaming. And unless your phone is ancient, the image quality is probably pretty good. What can make even good video bad is camera shake. A three-axis stabilizer, also known as a gimbal, will make sure everything you shoot looks nice and smooth. The DJI Osmo Mobile 2 has great features and performance for its $130 price. You’ll get the same steady videos that DJI’s drones are known for from your phone’s camera.
The Osmo’s autotracking capabilities will keep you and your subjects in the frame automatically whether you shoot horizontally or vertically. Plus, you get direct camera controls as well as programmed shots that make you look like a pro shooter without the effort.
If you do decide to start with your phone and want to livestream to YouTube, you’ll need at least 1,000 subscribers to use YouTube Live with a mobile device. Otherwise, you’ll have to use a mobile encoder app like Streamlabs OBS.
Logitech C922 Pro or Brio 4K
Best PC webcam for deskside YouTubers
Whether you’re looking to do a quick how-to from your computer, want to stream yourself while you game or anything in between, the simplest option is a webcam. True, you can’t move around too much, but it is pretty much a plug-and-play experience because you don’t need an encoder.
Both the C922 Pro and higher-end Brio 4K are great options, but for the money, the C922 is my personal preference. It streams at 720p at 60fps and the image quality was solid and its built-in mics give you decent audio. It also comes with a 3-month subscription to XSplit Broadcaster and Gamecaster to do more than simple broadcasts. Or you can use Logitech’s included software to control up to two webcams for picture-in-picture or switching between the two, and you can record video in landscape or portrait.
The Brio 4K has more features than the C922 like the option to use it to sign into your Windows 10 PC using facial recognition. The main attraction is the increased performance for streaming at full HD 1080p resolution at up to 60fps and recording in 4K resolution at 30fps. It can also compensate for bad lighting with HDR. It’ll cost you about $100 more, though.
GoPro Hero 7 Black
Best camera for wet-and-wild YouTube videos
From its small waterproof design to its incredible image stabilization to its excellent video quality, the Hero 7 Black is one of the most versatile cameras you can get for creating YouTube gold. You can use it as a studio camera, but it’s really made to be used on the move. And if you want to livestream, you can do it through GoPro’s mobile app, though it also has an HDMI output. (Note that Jim Lanzone, the Chief Digital Officer of CBS — CNET’s parent company — serves on GoPro’s board of directors as of August 2018.)
Livestream Mevo Plus
Best camera for on-location YouTube livestreaming
Livestream’s Mevo Plus camera lets you create the look of a multicamera shoot with a single small camera. Livestreaming can be done by connecting both a mobile device and the camera to the same Wi-Fi network, or you can directly connect by Wi-Fi to the camera and use your phone’s LTE mobile broadband signal to stream. It can also record a 4K-resolution version of your stream to a microSD card (a 16GB card is included).
The mobile app is the true star of the show here, though, as it lets you use its high-resolution sensor to create multiple tight and wide shots, and switch between them with a tap on the screen. Or, you can have the software automatically track people and switch between shots.
Sony Cyber-shot RX100 III or later
Point-and-shoot video camera
Better than your phone, but still fits in a pocket, Sony’s RX100 III (also known as RX100 Mark III or M3) gives you a big image sensor and a bright lens for better video quality even when your lighting isn’t the best. It has a flip-up display so you can see yourself when you’re shooting. It has a clean HDMI output, too, so you don’t have camera settings and info in your video if you output to an external recorder, encoder or display. The RX100 M3 records in full HD, but its successor, the RX100 IV, goes up to 4K.
Canon Vixia HF G21
Best prosumer camcorder for YouTube shoots
A prosumer camcorder is a good choice because, unlike other options, it’s expressly designed for video capture. The G21 has many key features to look for, like headphone and mic jacks, a cold shoe and mini accessory port for a mic or light, clean HDMI out, a flip-out rotating display, and electronic viewfinder and manual controls. Plus, you don’t have to mess with taking lenses on and off with its 20x f1.8-2.8 26.8-576mm-equivalent zoom lens.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH5
It might be shaped like a traditional SLR camera, but the GH5 was built for video. You’ll find all the features you need and then some, regardless of your experience level, and it’s all wrapped up in a splash-, dust- and freezeproof body.
If its $1,500 price is more than you want to spend for a camera body (you’ll need to buy lenses, too), its predecessor, the GH4, is still an excellent option despite its age — it was released in 2014 — for around $800.
Canon EOS 80D
The 80D pops up in a lot of top lists for good reason: The company’s Dual Pixel CMOS sensor gives it a fast on-sensor autofocus system; the Live View performance — which lets you see what you’re shooting on its display without looking through the viewfinder — is smooth; it has headphone and mic jacks; and it supports 1080p and 60fps. The one downside is that it doesn’t have a clean HDMI output, so if you’re going to livestream, you’ll need to shut off all the display info and switch to manual focus.
It is a crop-sensor camera, though, so if you simply must have a full-frame sensor for the best video quality, the Canon EOS 5D MIII continues to be a popular pick. It came out in 2012 and still sells for more than $2,000 for the body only if that gives you any idea just how good this camera is.
Getting great video for YouTube requires a little more than a camera. You’ll want good lighting and audio, too, and if you’re planning to live stream, you might need a capture card or encoder to get video from your camera and up on YouTube or other video-sharing site.
Lume Cube Air VC Kit
Best mobile light
The Lume Cube Air gives you a bright boost when you don’t have enough light, but still fits in a pocket. With its built-in Bluetooth and mobile app, you can wirelessly connect the light to your phone to control brightness as well as strobe speed and flash duration for photos. It comes with diffusers to help soften its light and the compact, lightweight design even has a magnetic back in addition to a tripod mount so you can use it hands-free, too.
The VC kit, which stands for video conferencing, comes with a small suction cup mount that you can easily stick to your phone, tablet or display for brightening your face or subject without having to reposition the light every time you move your camera.
Best on-camera microphone
Blue Yeti microphone
Best studio microphone
Black Eye Pro Kit G4
Best add-on lens kit for phones
An easy way to help your phone videos stand out is by using simple add-on lenses. The Black Eye Pro lenses are nice because they quickly clip on and fit any phone (or tablet or laptop webcam, for that matter). Though you can buy lenses individually, you can also get them as kit with a custom case that includes fisheye, 2.5x telephoto and cinematic wide-angle lenses.
Epiphan Webcaster X2
Best hardware encoder
If you want to livestream from a camera, you’ll need a hardware encoder like the Webcaster X2. It allows you to connect HDMI and USB audio and video sources and stream from them to YouTube, Twitch or Facebook over Wi-Fi or Ethernet. It has an HDMI output, too, so you can monitor your stream.
Elgato HD60 S
Best game-capture card
A software encoder will let you stream your PC games and webcam video to YouTube and Twitch. However, console players will need a capture card like the HD60 S. Connect this to your Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 or Xbox and to a PC or Mac and a display and it will capture your gameplay and set you up for streaming. The included software will help you mix in webcam video as well.
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