What to Look for in a Vlogging Camera?

To start vlogging, you only need a nice camera, and a decent microphone. Your first challenge will be deciding the right camera for you. Don’t worry, I wrote this post to teach you what to look for in a vlogging camera when you barely know how to turn on a camera (yikes… like me when I started).

There are so many cameras out there with so many different features and prices, but don’t worry, it’s simpler than you think.

What to Look for in a Vlogging Camera

The cameras that vloggers are choosing are the ones that make their job easier.

I’m not going to mention here the obvious. We all know that we want a camera that can record good quality video. But there are some interesting features you might not know that are good for vlogging.

First, let’s see what you don’t need to worry about.

What You Don’t Need

There are three main things you shouldn’t care about when looking for a vlog camera:

  • ​Zoom
  • ​Flash
  • ​Megapixels
zoom: something not to look for in a vlogging camera

Trust me; you’ll do fine without this zoom

Most cameras can fulfill many jobs at the same time. This makes them good for different people, but not exceptional for a particular job.

For example, most of them come with zoom and flash, but these are features that are almost useless for vlogging.

The only time that zoom will be good for vlogging is if you record travel vlogs (and It still isn’t essential).

Flash and zoom are the two main features that you shouldn’t worry about. A camera with a zoom that can get up to 50mm is enough.

Using the camera’s built-in flash is considered a sin in professional photography. If you want to use lighting in your video, you will need an external lighting kit and some photography lighting knowledge. The camera’s flash is only useful to show your family your trip pictures. Nothing else.

Using the camera’s built-in flash is considered a sin in professional photography. If you want to use lighting in your video, you will need an external lighting kit and some photography lighting knowledge. The camera’s flash is only useful to show your family your trip pictures. Nothing else.

Getting a camera without flash and with small zoom will give you more value for your money. After all, this means that the manufacturer invested that extra budget in other truly helpful features.

Finally, do not worry about megapixels. They are only relevant for photography, and it’s only good if you need to print big pictures. MPs are almost exclusive for printing (unless you got something crazy like 40MP, which allows for photography cropping).

Evading these features will give you more value for your money.

What You Should Look for

Let’s begin with the aspects you might not know that are important. The cameras featured in this site perform well in each of these aspects, in relation with their price:

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    ​Low-light performance

This is by far the most important aspect you should worry about when looking for a vlog camera.

It’s probable that you won’t have a way of controlling lighting. This means that your camera —to record at the promised quality— will need to have good performance in low light.

Low-light performance is important indoors, not only night time. It’s even an important factor in foggy days.

If your camera doesn’t have good performance in low light, it will reduce its frames per second and it will show image noise.

What makes a camera have a good performance in low light?

1) Lens aperture

A 24mm or 35mm lens is useful for vlogging

A good quality lens has a wide aperture. This allows it to capture more light.

This also gives you nice aesthetics, as you are able to achieve the blurred background effect with wide aperture. High-quality 50mm lenses have an aperture of at least f/1.8 (the higher the number the narrower the aperture).

2) Amount of noise it shows at higher ISO

This is something you can’t see in the camera’s specifications. This is the amount of noise the image will show as the ISO gets higher. You can only know this by testing the camera at high ISO.

ISO is the camera’s sensor sensibility to light. The camera will lift up its ISO number until the image is clear enough. This means that the lower light the higher the ISO.

And consequently, the higher the ISO number the more likely the camera will show noise.

High ISO Grain

It is kind of hard to notice the difference between these pictures, but if you look closely at the horse’s head, you’ll notice little grains that are the consequence of high ISO.

This difference is a lot more noticeable in video, since these grains will look like they’re moving. That’s why I consider low-light performance one of the most important things you should worry about.

Rather than worrying about your camera’s largest ISO, you should worry about the quality decrease as ISO gets higher. Still, usually cameras with higher ISO capacity show less noise in lower ISOs. Just bear in mind that it isn’t an accurate measure.

3) Sensor size

sensor size comparison

By Moxfyre [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

The bigger the sensor size is, the more light the camera captures. Simple.

The kind of camera often determines the sensor size. Here’s their normal size order from smaller to larger:

  1. Camcorders
  2. Compact Cameras
  3. DSLRs/Mirrorless
  4. Full-Frame Cameras (high-end DSLRs and Mirrorless)

Some cameras have bigger sensors than others of its kind. This often happens with compact cameras and camcorders. That’s why it’s important to check their size and compare it with others from the competition.

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    ​Optical Image Stabilization

A camera with OIS is necessary for vlogging. This is what allows you to record while moving around. If your camera doesn’t have OIS, it will result in a shaky image. That kind of video can be hard to watch.

Be aware of the called ‘digital’ image stabilization. This is only a marketing trick. It does not stabilize the image. You need to look for optical image stabilization or 5-axis image stabilization. The digital thing is just a lie.

This is the kind of impact OIS has on a still image sharpness:

With and without OIS results

In terms of video, OIS makes your recording a lot less shaky. This is vital for vloggers that walk around with their camera.

Most DSLRs and mirrorless don’t come with internal image stabilization. This is normal, but it doesn’t make them bad for vlogging. The reason for this is that there are a lot of lenses you can attach to them that have OIS. You just need to get a lens with OIS, which are a bit more expensive, but they are completely necessary for vlogging.

You don’t have to worry much about it since most kit lenses come with stabilization.

Finally, the following features aren’t vital, but they do help a lot for vlogging:

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    ​Flip screen

​Flip screen are come in handy when you need to record yourself. Vlogging often involves this kind of recording, so having a flip screen is always a plus.

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    ​Wi-Fi

WiFi means that you will be able to set your camera with your smartphone. It will also let you upload videos to YouTube without using cables

Basically all cameras from 2014 and up come with WiFi function

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    ​Microphone input

Having a microphone input is a huge plus for a vlog camera. Sadly, most compact cameras don’t come with this, so it is a premium feature.

The other way we got to record better audio is with an external recorder or a USB microphone.

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    ​Location of the microphones

Something that helps vloggers a lot is the location of the camera’s microphones.

A front-facing camera mic is the optimal for vlogging. This way, when you turn around the camera to record yourself it will catch your voice above everything else.

Also, if the microphones are on the sides, it can become annoying to hold the camera. You will need to hold it in a way that doesn’t cover the microphones. This can make you adopt a holding position that isn’t comfortable.

To detect if a camera has the microphones set on the front, just locate one or two small holes on its surface. Like this:

Detecting front-facing mic vlog camera

There are many amazing cameras that don’t have microphones set like this, and they’re still very good for video blogs. This is just a feature that’s nice to have.

This should cover the basics of camera features.

As you can see, not everything is a must-have, but they can make vlogging easier and more productive.

Now, let’s see how you can find a camera that looks tailored for you.

How to Choose the Right Vlog Camera

There are a few questions you need to ask yourself before making your last decision.

To find out what camera can fulfill your needs, you must answer the following questions:

  • What kind of content do I want to create?

Do you plan to record a lot of action videos? (GoPro) Or do you want to do some cooking tutorials from home (DSLR)?

Knowing the type of content you will create should be one of the first things to consider when choosing the right camera for vlogging.

For example:

gopro-example

GoPro has good video examples of situations where their cameras are necessary. However, notice how weird the surfer’s head looks? It’s impossible to film while surfing without a GoPro, but using it for any kind of video it’s not a good idea due to this deformation caused by the camera’s fish-eye lens.

If sharpness and good colors are essential for your vlog content, you will need a high quality DSLR. This is something that beauty YouTube channels are looking for. You don’t need to take your camera out for your makeup tutorials, so a DSLR is a good choice.

But, if you need to take it out you will need a mirrorless or a point & shoot.

You should also know more or less the length of your videos. This way you can determine if you should include extra batteries in your purchase.

  • Where will I record my videos?

Knowing where you’ll spend most of your time vlogging is essential to find the right camera.

Refer to the image to the left. Carrying all this gear around looks painful. Still, these accessories will improve the quality of your videos —if you know how to use them.

You should consider how far you will be taking your camera (carrying this gear to the local park isn’t as hard as taking it on a trip around the world).

Compact cameras are the easiest to take on a trip, but they don’t give you as good quality as a DSLR. In this case you would want to go for a mirrorless. They combine the best of both: luggability and high recording quality.

A DSLR is not the best camera to take on a trip; they come with heavy, bulky bodies and lenses that won’t make your vlogging easier.

  • How much money can I spend?

You can find perfectly fine vlogging cameras for around $200, but don’t expect to invest less than a $200 in total. A vlogging kit that includes microphone, tripod and lighting will cost you a lot more.

You should consider a higher budget; you will have to upgrade your cheap camera sooner or later, so why not buying a good one straight away?

You must also take into consideration the cost of a good microphone. Not only that, but also other accessories are important. You’ll need a tripod, extra batteries, and lighting if you want to record like a professional.

If you want the best quality and the option of upgrading with lenses, know that the best DSLRs for starters will cost you at least $600 without lens.

Many DSLR and mirrorless cameras offer a ‘starting lens kit’ for a higher price than buying only the camera body. Instead of buying the kit, get a good quality lens straight away. Canon Rebel cameras are one of the few exceptions to this rule.
  • What kind of camera do I want?

Some people don’t like to record with a compact camera because they don’t have the best grip when holding them for long times.

But, some others don’t want a camcorder because they want to take good pictures with their camera.

Before deciding for a type of camera, you should know the true disadvantages of each kind.

The following graphics show some of the pros and cons of the different types of cameras. These are just average measures, meaning that some cameras can be outstanding in one aspect even if its kind is normally bad at it.

Best kind of camera for vlogging

Most vloggers use compact (point & shoot) cameras. Most of the time these are the best cameras for vlogging, so open your mind about using one of them. After all, they’re friendly to the average camera user. They are easy to carry around and can record good video.

If you know the answer to each one of these questions, you will have half the job done.

You can now start by navigating through the site. I recommend you to begin by looking at the lists of the best cameras by price. In each one of them you will find different cameras that will appeal more or less to your needs in the same price range.

Conclusion

Before selecting the right camera, you should know what kind of content you will be recording. It’s ideal to have the general idea of your channel before going shopping.

Just having a general idea about it will be enough. Knowing if you’re going to make tutorials from home or if you’re going to record your sport activities will point you in the right direction.

Remember about diminishing returns: the quality improvement of upgrading from a $200 camera to a $600 is a lot higher than upgrading from $600 to $1000.

I like to consider the price range around $600 the optimal to buy a long-lasting camera for vlogging. Still, there are many great options at cheaper and higher price that will allow you to record high-quality video.

And that’s it, if you don’t want to do all the job yourself, you can keep navigating the site. I recommend you go to our best vlogging camera list if you have a decent budget, or else visit our post about the cheaper options.

And don’t forget to save some money for your microphone!

    Will A.

    Will is the founder of VloggerPro and he's an SEO expert, photographer and content creator that has been teaching these needed skills to vloggers for the last 3 years.

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