The 10 Best Cameras for Live Streaming
As live streaming continues to grow in popularity, the competition is tougher and streamers are looking for ways to stand out from the rest. While before the most common camera for streaming was a simple webcam, now regular cameras are used more often due to their higher quality. No matter if you're a YouTube or a Twitch streamer, here's the list of the best cameras for live streaming.
Table of Contents
- The 10 Best Cameras for Live Streaming: Comparison
- How to Use Any Camera as a Webcam
- What Cameras Can You Use for Streaming?
- Is a 4k Camera Worth it for Streaming?
- Best Webcam for Live Streaming
- Best Mirrorless for Live Streaming
- Best Camcorders for Live Streaming
- Best DSLR for live streaming
The 10 Best Cameras for Live Streaming: Comparison
How to Use Any Camera as a Webcam
Be it a DSLR, camcorder or mirrorless camera, you only need a camera with a clean HDMI output and use something like ElGato Cam Link. This capture card will let you stream up to 1080p60 quality.
Alternatively, you could install an app like Camerafi and connect to a camera using either USB or Wi-Fi to start a live stream.
How does it work?
When using a regular camera as a webcam, you don’t have to press the record button. Instead, you are going to stream your camera's LCD screen. You only need to keep your camera on for as long as the stream lasts.
This prevents damages to the sensor of the camera and bypasses the 29 minutes limit that photography cameras have when using videos.
This is what also prevents the camera from overheating.
The process for you will be something like this:
- Turn the camera on
- Disable auto turn-off (this is the option that puts the camera to sleep after some idle time).
- Connect your camera HDMI output to ElGato Cam Link.
- Connect ELGato Cam Link to your PC through USB.
- Open and configure you streaming software.
And that’s it! You can start using your camera as a webcam.
Bear in mind that if you’re going to stream for hours, you will need an AC power adaptor for your camera model. This will let you connect your camera to the power outlet directly so you don’t ever run out of battery.
Finally, some cameras like the ones from Panasonic will require you to turn off the overlay so you get a clean image without Meta info on your stream (data like ISO, aperture, etc.). You will find the option to turn it off in the camera settings.
What Cameras Can You Use for Streaming?
You need a camera with all of the following features. Use this info so you understand why we picked these cameras:
1. A camera with CLEAN HDMI output
A camera with simple HDMI output is not enough. Since you're going to stream what your camera shows in its LCD screen, you need the information on the screen to be clean.
What does this mean?
You need a camera that can turn off all the extra information that is normally shown on the screen ---ISO, aperture, shooting speed, recording time---, and not all cameras have this option.
2. A camera with unlimited runtime
Most cameras have a limited time that puts the camera to sleep after a while, but you can turn this off in the camera settings. However, some cameras will turn off completely after a certain amount of time, and you can't deactivate this function. You need a camera that doesn't do this.
Some features that aren't needed in a streaming camera:
If you want to stream from home, then you don’t need a camera with image stabilization. This will save you some money so bear this in mind when choosing your camera and lens.
Image stabilization comes in various types. There are some cameras like the DSLR systems manufactured by Nikkor and Canon that don’t have image stabilization built into the camera body. On the other hand you will find micro four-thirds systems manufactured by Panasonic and Fuji which have image stabilization (sensor-shift type) built into the camera body.
But even though you can skip image stabilization, you will still need a tripod. A tripod will allow you to set up your camera at the preferred height, depending on the composition of the shot.
Is a 4k Camera Worth it for Streaming?
Though the world is moving towards 4K / UHD, full HD still rules the market in terms of maximum available videos. Actually, you can't really output 4k quality to a stream yet.
However, when you set your camera to 4k and use ElGato's Cam Link to output a 1080p image, you will still use a downscaled 4k image . You will still get a slighty better quality than 1080p even though you aren't really uploading a 4k image.
Using a 4k camera is worth it, but it isn't necessary either. You can go for it if your budget allows it.
Best Webcam for Live Streaming
If you're looking to start with streaming, you might want to consider first a cheap webcam that can record 1080p60 video. The Logitech C920 is by far the most popular streaming camera for good reasons. Just imagine it: full-HD recording for only around $50. It is the first option you should consider due to its excellent quality/price relationship that makes it the most popular camera for streaming.
Don’t think that the Logitech C920 HD Pro webcam is a pushover due to its small size. In fact, it punches way above its weight. The Logitech C920 HD Pro is designed as a live streaming camera that you can plug on to your computer and start streaming right away.
The built-in lens on the Logitech C920 HD Pro has a field of view of 78 ˚. That's wide enough for you to move around inside the frame while shooting and yet not be out of frame. The camera has full HD video capabilities at 30 fps and it's the only webcam on the market to offer true full-hd for such a low price.
The built-in microphones aren't really good, but you should know by now that you need a good microphone for any kind of professional live streaming. Combine it with a good USB microphone and you're good to record with quality that is enough for most people.
Best Mirrorless for Live Streaming
If you're looking for more quality, mirrorless cameras are also popular. This is because their main weakness ---battery duration---isn't a big deal when it comes to live streaming from your home/office since you need to connect your camera with an AC power adapter anyway.
You can also get more image quality for your money with a mirrorless since most of them offer 4k recording quality while DSLRs appear to be stuck in 1080p.
Editor's Choice: Panasonic GH5
The GH5 wins this slugfest between the contenders for the best cameras for live streaming. It is also cheaper than the a7R III which we read about after this. Because of its native 4K video recording without crop and a series of other features including superior weather sealing, this an excellent camera for streaming no matter where you are.
No cropping when recording 4K videos definitely suggests that the GH5 oversamples the video and then downscales it to fit the 4K requirements. This takes care of some of the false coloring and moiré issues.
The GH5 is one of the best cameras in the market to do serious video work. It can output 4:2:2 10 bit output to an external monitor or recorder. A practical solution for recording videos without the artifacts that are a fall out of compression technologies used in ordinary cameras.
Plus, the presence of HDMI, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth means streaming is never an issue.
Read the full review: Panasonic GH5.
Runner-up: Sony A7R Mark III
The a7R III is the latest in the A7 series cameras. It is an upgrade of the older a7R II and promises high resolution with superior detailing. The a7R III has a 42 megapixel sensor which is paired with a BIONZ X image processor. The a7R III is capable of capturing UHD 4K 30p videos. The camera has HLG and S-Log3 gamma support.
Another aspect of the camera is its BIONZ X image processor and the front-end LSI technology. In plain English, BIONZ X is known for its superior image processing capabilities and low light results. The camera can capture up to 15-stops of dynamic range.
Dynamic range is the number of stops of (unique levels of brightness) between complete black and complete white that a camera is capable of capturing. Higher the dynamic range the smoother the tonal range of the videos. You would likely going to have more details in the shadow areas as well as retention of detail in the highlights. The a7R III, is one of the best cameras in the market in terms of in-camera dynamic range.
Additionally, the 4K video utilizes the full width of the 35mm sensor. This oversampling ensures that the recorded footages are of a higher quality and secondly, if there are fine patterns on the subject's clothing, something that creates false colors and or moiré, these are suppressed to an extent.
Image stabilization is an integral part of any camera, not just video cameras. If you are shooting based on a tripod 90% of the time you would probably never need it. But if you shoot hand-held then it is an absolute must-have. The Sony a7R III comes with built-in body based image stabilization.
Affordable Top Quality: Panasonic G85 (Cheaper alternative: Panasonic G7)
The DMC-G85 is capable of shooting internal 4K / UHD videos at a frame rate of 30 / 24 fps. Plus, the camera has a built-in image stabilization in the form of a sensor-shift type system. The DMC-G85 is compatible with Panasonic's Dual I.S. This is basically all about utilizing the lens based image stabilization system and combining that with the sensor-shift type (camera based) image stabilization to produce a more effective optical stabilization system.
The fully-articulated touchscreen at the back of the camera is really useful when it comes to recording yourself. Especially, when you are a one man shooting team.
As a cheaper alternative, you can try the Panasonic G7. The real main difference is the lack of image stabilization in the G7, which a I said before, it is one thing you can spare if you want to use this camera to stream from home.
Read the full review: Panasonic G85.
Affordable alternative: Sony a6500
And even though it rocks an APS-C sensor instead of a micro four thirds, this model is actually smaller. So that's a nice additional feature to have without any sacrifice.
Furthermore, the autofocus this camera has is one of the best for video. It is a mirrorless that is very frequently chosen for video work due to this.
The thing you might want to know this one doesn't offer compared to the Panasonic is a completely articulating screen. You can 't really use its LCD for selfies, but you can tilt it up to 90 degrees and down to 45 degrees.
Read the full review: Sony a6500.
The only reason I didn’t include the following cameras was just due to space and wanting to feature other kinds of cameras. However, I find them extremely useful for streaming:
Best Camcorders for Live Streaming
If you want to livestream on the go, probably a camcorder isn't a bad option. The only thing you should be aware about is the lack of lighting; they aren't really good if there's poor lighting, like most indoor situations.
It's also the only camera here that can connect 2 channels of XLR professional mics without an adaptor, and it can record and control each microphone separately.
The XA 15 has a built-in 20x optical zoom lens which has an aperture range of f/1.8 – f/16. This is really good because you get a good lens without having to buy one like with the other cameras here.
This makes it surprisingly one of the cheapest options here because if you'd like a f/1.8 zoomable interchangeable lens for the other cameras it can get really expensive. The XA11 already comes with it.
Just bear in mind that this one still rocks a really small sensor compared to other cameras so it won't have the same impact on low-light performance. All these prices have their good reasons to be.
Canon VIXIA HF R800: Best Camera for Starters on the Go
The Canon VIXIA HF R800 is a camcorder with a powerful 57x advanced superzoom feature. But don’t get too ga-ga over it. Much of this is digital zoom. The sensor under the hood is a 3.28 megapixel full HD CMOS unit. Small sensors like this tend to get a bit noisy when shooting in low light situations.
The VIXIA HF R800 comes with an interesting feature. The ability to live stream videos to a compatible Android or iOS device as they are recorded. That way all you need is an app like Camerafi and you would be able to stream what is being recorded.
Another feature that the camcorder has is highlight priority mode together with backlit correction feature. This will help you when you don't have good lighting, which is usually the case when recording on the go.
Let's explain this in further detail. Normally, in a backlit situation like this you get underexposed faces / subjects. This is because the camera will take into consideration all the brightness behind the subject and accordingly pull down the exposure to 'balance' it. As a result subjects which are towards the center of the frame and are much smaller to the background end up being darker.
This camera is really useful for the price, and we recommend it if you need a camera to take out for streaming. Although it won't be much different than using a good smartphone with camera.
Best DSLR for live streaming
DSLR were extremely popular but they've been slightly put aside by mirrorless cameras. The problem with them is that their main advantage over mirrorless---battery life--- isn't used for streaming. After all, you will need to connect your camera to an outlet if you want to stream for hours.
Still, if you want to get a DSLR for streaming, here are some of the best ones:
The EOS 80D is a 24.2 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor powered camera. This is the main advantage of using DSLR and mirrorless cameras: their sensors are much larger than those of camcorders. This makes them great when recording in poor lighting conditions.
One of the critical advantages of this camera is the fully articulated rear LCD touchscreen. This allows you to turn the LCD screen facing you giving you the ability to see exactly how accurate the framing is without having to do guesswork. Comes in handy when you are basically a one man recording crew.
The EOS 80D captures full HD videos in camera at 30 fps and comes in with both built-in Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity.
When it comes to live streaming, one of the main issues with this camera is that it can’t output a completely clean image through the HDMI. You can turn off most of the information on screen, but if you use the autofocus you will see a green square appear on your face as the camera focuses. This is why you are stuck to using the manual focus with this camera.
As long as you keep your camera static in the same place and use the manual focus, you can use this camera for live streaming and the result will be fantastic.
We mentioned the A7R III above as one of the best, but it's also one of the most expensive cameras by far. The reason is that the camera is made for professional photography, so if you are just going to stream with it, there are too many features that increase its price that you won't be using.
If you are truly looking for a camera to stream with the highest quality, but you just want it for that---streaming---, then the Sony A7 III offers the best offer for your money.
Even its autofocus in video is sometimes better than the A7R III's. It can still record 4k video at fps and it features a full-frame sensor that is great for the low lights situations you can encounter.
You could also go for the Mark II version if you want to save even more money, although I feel like the better autofocus in this new version is worth the price difference. Also, the Mark II can only record 1080p60, so around $500 more for this version seems like a good deal.
If you want to start with a DSLR, the Rebel SL2 has just what you need without asking for a ridiculous price, so it is perfect for starters that are looking for a DSLR.
However, for this price you could get a mirrorless camera like the Panasonic G7 with a slightly smaller sensor, but that can record in 4k.