Written by 10:35 am Photography, Streaming & Vlogging, Videography • One Comment

9 Best Cameras for Live Streaming in 2021

Laptop with OBS on the screen and a Sony camera with capture card in foreground.

While live streaming video has been around for a number of years, it became more mainstream in 2020 as people were forced to stay at home. But the best camera for streaming can vary depending on what your goals are. It may be as simple as a webcam or as complex as a full professional video rig.

If you’re trying to get into live streaming or looking to upgrade your camera, here are the best cameras for streaming.

Table of Contents

 

Types of Cameras for Live Streaming

There are many reasons to live stream and each has a different level of complexity. Perhaps your only live stream need is to connect with distant friends. Maybe you are a fitness guru who wants to present live classes to an audience outside of your gym’s physical space. Perhaps your business wants to live stream on social media in order to grow a following or your brand’s presence.

Each of these situations will require a different setup. There are a few different types of cameras you can look to in order to fulfill your needs.

Cameras Integrated Into Your Devices

At the most basic level, the camera integrated into your smartphone or computer may fulfill your needs. If your live streaming is basic and informal, such as a virtual happy hour or family gathering, the camera on your phone, tablet, or laptop will be sufficient.

Webcams

Webcams have often been looked down on since many early versions didn’t have high-quality video or audio. But, as with all camera formats, webcams have steadily and significantly improved over the years. You can find webcams with different resolutions and frame rates, the ability to zoom, quality microphones, and even integrated lighting.

The biggest advantage for webcams is that they offer a universal plug and play solution that is generally as simple as inserting a USB cord and choosing the camera as the video source. However, you have limited control over webcam’s automatic exposure and focus settings. While webcams are often still designated “video cameras”, they have no actual onboard recording. You need to pair the device with a computer to operate. They are ideal for long periods of monitoring and streaming.

DSLR and Mirrorless Cameras

It’s been over 15 years since Canon’s 5D Mark II introduced high-quality video capabilities to the DSLR format. The focus on video has continued to grow in successive DSLR and mirrorless camera models.

While capture cards have been a popular solution for using DSLRs when streaming, in 2020 we saw virtually every camera manufacturer release software updates that allow their DSLR and mirrorless cameras to be used as webcams, plugging directly into a computer and offering clean video. Currently, Canon, Sony, Nikon, Panasonic, and Fujifilm all have such programs.

This opens up more possibilities when streaming. You can change lenses to match your situation, control exposure and white balance settings, use wide apertures and shallow depths of field, and have access to the enormous range of accessories.

While there are some exciting possibilities for turning your existing DSLR or mirrorless kit into a live streaming setup, it’s probably not the approach to take if you’re building a kit from scratch specifically for live streaming.

Camcorders

Zoom rockers, a wide range of I/O ports, the ubiquity of AC adapters (and higher-capacity batteries), and the ability to record long events are all major benefits of going with a camcorder for streaming. Because they are built for video, considerations like recording limits are not as restrictive on camcorders.

The downsides are that camcorder sensors tend to be smaller than DSLR or mirrorless camera sensors (but are significantly larger than those in webcams). Also keep in mind that few camcorders connect directly like a webcam, so you’ll probably need a capture card and/or encoder to get them to work for live streaming.

Cinema Cameras

At the upper end of video cameras/camcorders are cinema cameras. With a cinema camera you get top-tier image quality, access to some of the best lenses available, and an unlimited range of accessories to fully flesh out your video kit. Of course, all of this comes at an extremely high price point. But if cost and complexity are of no concern and you want the absolute highest degree of professional presentation and streaming quality, a system based off of cinema cameras will probably be the approach for you.

Hardware and Software for Live Streaming

There can be a lot of pieces to put together when you’re setting up your live streaming system. Let’s look at a few of these components.

Internet Connection

Internet speed plays a huge role in your ability to live stream. Keep in mind that your internet connection has two speed ratings, one for downloads and one for uploads. In almost every case the upload speed is far, far lower than the download speed, which is a problem when you are live streaming.

If your upload speed can’t keep up with the footage you’re streaming, your connection will throttle the bandwidth or even drop the resolution of your video, meaning that your video quality is going to drop significantly even if you use top-tier equipment. If your streams simply aren’t the quality you think they should be, there’s a good chance your internet connection is to blame.

Microphones

Improving your audio quality hugely influences whether your work comes off professionally. Even without seeing a video, people will immediately make judgements based on how it sounds.

Built-in microphones are constantly improving, but they will never be as good as a dedicated microphone. You will get far better results from a lavalier mic, a headset mic, or even a standalone mic placed just out of frame, especially if you’re shooting wide shots and are further from the camera. These will isolate the voices you want to hear and help reduce background noise and echoes that might plague your recordings.

Lights

In addition to improving the audio, adding well-designed lighting is one of the most important elements for elevating your video quality. Lights can help you add dimension and shape to your main subjects and create separation between the subject and the background. They can also help you overcome the limits of the small sensors in webcams. Great lighting can make even the most mediocre equipment look pretty good.

Capture Cards and Encoders

Once you move beyond webcams (or the software to turn your DSLR into a webcam discussed above), you’re going to need to take some steps to connect your camera or camcorder to your computer in a way that makes it usable for streaming. This is where capture cards and encoders come into play.

Capture cards connect your camera to your computer, typically through either USB or HDMI ports. Basically, they take a device that isn’t designed to output video and create that video out signal. If you have a camera that doesn’t put out a video signal, a capture card can capture it (hence the name), typically by mirroring what is on the LCD.

Encoders convert a video signal from one form into another. Essentially they take a video signal coming from a camera that might not be immediately readable or streamable by your computer and convert it into a signal that will be compatible with your streaming platform.

With those components considered, let’s look at some recommended cameras for live streaming.

Best Cameras for Live Streaming

Logitech Brio webcam mounted on a MacBook with Twitch studio on screen.

1. Logitech Brio 4K Webcam

For a webcam setup, Logitech has been the top choice for many years, and it’s hard to beat the Logitech Brio. With the Brio, you get up to 4K resolution, though you are likely to get bottlenecked by your internet service if you try to stream in 4K. Both the low light performance and built-in microphones are surprisingly capable for a webcam, though an external microphone and lighting will go a long way towards increasing your video’s professionalism. Unlike most webcams, the Brio offers a 5x digital zoom to give you more flexibility.

Logitech Brio webcam standing on its own clip.

Logitech Brio Key Specs

  • Resolutions: DCI 4K, UHD 4K, 1080p30, 1080p60, 720p90 (90 FPS Not
  • Supported By All Applications
  • 2 Omni-Directional Mics
  • USB 3.1 Type-A, USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C Connection
  • 90º Diagonal Field of View
  • 5x Digital Zoom
  • 1/4″ 20 Mounting and Clip Mounting
  • Dimensions: 1.06 x 4.02 x 1.04″
  • Weight: 3 oz

Logitech C925e webcam mounted on MacBook showing YouTube Studio.

2. Logitech C925e Pro HD Webcam

Logitech’s C920 series has been one of the most heavily recommended webcam lines for years. The Logitech C925e (an updated version of the C922, which was itself an update to the C920) is an ideal choice for an affordable, easy-to-use webcam that just works with great footage. It offers a plug and play solution with built-in dual omni-directional stereo mics, Full HD at 30 FPS resolution, H.264 support, and improved low light performance over the earlier models. If you don’t need the 4K capabilities and 5x digital zoom of the Logitech Brio, the C925e is the perfect option at half the price.

Logitech C925e webcam mounted on a mini tripod next to laptop with YouTube Studio.

Logitech C925e Key Specs

  • Resolutions: 1080p30, 720p30
  • 2 Omni-Directional Mics
  • USB 2.0 Type-A Connection
  • 78º Diagonal Field of View
  • 1.2x Digital Zoom
  • 1/4″ 20 Mounting and Clip Mounting
  • Privacy Shade
  • Dimensions: 2.87 x 4.96 x 1.77″
  • Weight: 6 oz

ROG Eye webcam on MacBook showing Facebook Live.

3. ASUS Republic of Gamers Eye Webcam

For an alternative to the Logitech webcams above, check out the ASUS Republic of Gamers Eye Webcam. The ROG Eye webcam uses facial recognition technology and Wide Dynamic Range technology to ensure that the most important part of the image (your face) is well exposed and stands out from the background, even in challenging lighting conditions. Dual microphones help to isolate your voice and filter out background noise, and Full HD resolution with frame rates up to 60 FPS give you crisp footage that won’t overload your internet connection. It’s also the more attractive camera of the bunch, with a sleek, foldable design.

ROG Eye webcam on Post It note for scale.

ASUS ROG Eye Key Specs

  • Resolutions: 1080p30, 720p30
  • 2 Omni-Directional Mics
  • USB 2.0 Type-B Connection
  • 78º Diagonal Field of View
  • 1.2x Digital Zoom
  • 1/4″ 20 Mounting with Built-In Clip-Style Mounting (Better for Laptops than Thicker Monitors)
  • Warning: No Privacy Shade
  • Dimensions: 1.1 x 3.2 x 0.7″
  • Weight: N/A

GoPro HERO9 next to iPhone showing GoPro app.

4. GoPro HERO9 Black Action Camera

Action cameras are offering interesting options as small, affordable cameras for non-action uses, including everyday streaming. The GoPro HERO9 Black is the newest iteration from GoPro and includes the capability to use it natively as a webcam either plugged directly into your computer or wirelessly through the GoPro app (note that you might have to install a firmware update before being able to use webcam mode). GoPros are known for having ultrawide fields of view, making them a great choice for wide shots in small spaces, though they do now allow you to choose from multiple focal length modes. Another thing to note is that webcam mode is limited to Full HD, though you will get up to 5K resolution for recorded footage.

GoPro HERO9 showing front display in vertical mode.

GoPro HERO9 Key Specs

  • 1-Chip 20MP CMOS Sensor
  • Resolutions: From 1080p240 Up to 5K30
  • 100-6400 ISO Range
  • USB 3.0 Type-C Connection
  • Fixed f/2.8, 24.4-15.1mm Field of View Lens
  • MicroSD Card Slot
  • 2-Channel Stereo, Supports 3.5mm Stereo Mic (with Adapter or Media
  • Mod, Not Included), 3-Mic Processing Wind Noise Reduction
  • WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS with Voice Control
  • Built-In 2.27″ Touch LCD
  • Image Stabilization, Horizon Leveling
  • Waterproof Up to 33′
  • Dimensions: 2.8 x 2.2 x 1.3″
  • Weight: 5.6 oz

Canon VIXIA HF R800 next to Post It note for scale.

5. Canon VIXIA HF R800 Camcorder

If you’re looking at a dedicated camcorder on a tight budget, the Canon HF R800 is about as affordable as you can get while retaining decent video quality. With the Canon HF R800 you get Full HD resolution, optical image stabilization, an HDMI mini connector for video out, a 3.5mm audio-in port, and a 38.5-1232mm equivalent optical zoom range. Streams are flicker-free and you can stream with it directly with HDMI if your device allows signal input (laptops do not have HDMI-In internally). Otherwise, a capture card will be required.

Canon VIXIA HF R800 front view showing lens.

Canon HF R800 Key Specs

  • 3.28MP 1/4.85” CMOS Sensor
  • Resolutions: 1080p60, 1080p30 with Variable Recording Speeds of
  • Between 0.5x-1200x
  • HDMI Mini Connection
  • Fixed f/1.8-4.5, 2.8–89.6mm Field of View Lens
  • 1140x Digital Zoom
  • SD Card Slot
  • 2-Channel Stereo, 3.5mm Stereo Mic Input
  • Built-In 3” Articulating Touch LCD
  • Image Stabilization
  • Dimensions: 2.1 x 2.3 x 4.6″ (this thing is tiny!)
  • Weight: 8.29 oz

Sony AX53 on laptop showing OBS with Magewell capture card.

6. Sony FDR-AX53 4K Ultra HD Camcorder

The Sony FDR-AX53 4K Ultra HD Camcorder is a great compact mid-range camcorder offering resolutions up to 4K at 30 FPS and Full HD up to 120 FPS. Sony’s Balance Optical SteadyShot image stabilization helps give you smooth handheld footage and the Fast Intelligent AF system is quick and accurate. Built-in WiFi/NFC support gives you the option to turn your smartphone into a remote control as well as offering one-touch sharing options.

Sony AX53 with LCD out.

Sony FDR-AX53 Key Specs

  • 8MP 1/2.5” CMOS Sensor
  • Resolutions: 4Kp30, 1080p60, 1080p30, 1080p120 (Slow Motion Mode)
  • HDMI Micro Connection
  • Fixed f/2.0-f/3.8, 32.8-656mm Field of View Lens
  • 30x/40x Digital Zoom
  • SD Card Slot
  • 2-Channel Stereo, 3.5mm Stereo Mic Input
  • WiFi
  • Built-In 3” Articulating Touch LCD
  • Image Stabilization
  • Dimensions: 2.9 x 3.2 x 6.6″
  • Weight: 1.4 lbs

Canon XF405 on laptop showing OBS with Magewell capture card.

7. Canon XF405 4K Ultra HD Camcorder

If you’re looking for professional camcorder capabilities, the Canon XF405 offers a host of features that will help you take your footage to the next level. With 4K at 60 FPS or Full HD at 120 FPS, you get access to some of the most popular shooting modes. 5-axis image stabilization and Canon’s Dual Pixel AF system gives you smooth, sharp footage and the 15x optical zoom (25.5-382.5mm equivalent) gives you a wide range of focal lengths suitable for most situations. The Canon XF405 is very user friendly for beginner videographers, but also offers advanced features like four channels of audio, dual XLR inputs, an HDMI 2.0 terminal, dual SD card slots, and built-in ND filters.

Canon XF405 camcorder with LCD flipped out.

Canon XF405 Key Specs

  • 8.29MP 1” CMOS Sensor
  • Resolutions: 4K60p, 4Kp30, 1080p60, 1080p30, 1080p120
  • HDMI Mini & 3G-SDI Connections
  • Fixed f/2.8-f/4.5, 25.5-382.5mm Field of View Lens
  • 30x Digital Zoom
  • Dual SD Card Slots
  • 4-Channel & 2-Channel, Dual XLR Inputs, 3.5mm Stereo Mic Input
  • WiFi
  • ND Filters
  • Built-In 3.5” Articulating Touch LCD
  • Image Stabilization
  • Dimensions: 5.9 x 8.5 x 10.5″
  • Weight: 3.7 lbs

Sony V90V showing stream options on LCD screen.8. Sony PXW-Z90V 4K HDR XDCAM

Lining up against the Canon XF405, the Sony PXW-Z90V 4K HDR XDCAM is another powerful compact camcorder option. It’s the first ultra compact camcorder to offer 4K HDR with Hybrid Log-Gamma profiles. It has a powerful Fast Hybrid AF system which can easily be pushed/pulled by tapping where to focus on the LCD. The back-illuminated sensor offers far better light sensitivity than you would expect for a sensor its size. And like the Canon XF405, you get a wide range of professional features and I/O ports including dual XLR inputs, full-sized HDMI, built-in ND filters, and dual SD card slots.

Sony V90V side view showing 4K badge.

Sony PXW-Z90V Key Specs

  • 14.4MP 1” CMOS Sensor
  • Resolutions: 4Kp30, 1080p60, 1080p30, 1080p120
  • HDMI & 3G-SDI Connections
  • Fixed f/2.8-f/4.5, 29mm Field of View Lens
  • 48x Digital Zoom
  • Dual SD Card Slots
  • 2-Channel Stereo, Dual XLR Inputs, 3.5mm Stereo Mic Input
  • WiFi
  • ND Filters
  • Built-In 3.5” Articulating Touch LCD
  • Image Stabilization
  • Dimensions: 5.1 x 7.1 x 11.3″”
  • Weight: 2.2 lbs

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera in front of MacBook with OBS and Web Presenter in foreground.

9. Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K

With cinema cameras, the sky’s the limit when it comes to what you can find. However, the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K has a lot of attractive features for someone just building out a livestream kit. Compared to other cinema cameras, it’s surprisingly affordable, especially when you consider the 6K resolution it offers (though it’s unlikely for 6K streaming to be possible or even desirable anytime soon). With the Super 35 sensor and EF lens mount (compatible with all Canon EF lenses), you get fantastic video quality with an enormous selection of lenses. Finally, it has complete compatibility with all of the Blackmagic products including the Atem line of switchers (making creating a multi camera streaming setup a breeze) as well as Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve software, making it appealing for both live streaming and editing videos after. It pairs seamlessly with the Blackmagic Web Presenter, which is also just a great tool for turning nearly any camera system into a webcam.

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K with Sigma lens.

Blackmagic Pocket 6K Key Specs

  • 14.4MP 1” CMOS Sensor
  • Resolutions: 4Kp30, 1080p60, 1080p30, 1080p120
  • HDMI & 3G-SDI Connections
  • Fixed f/2.8-f/4.5, 29mm Field of View Lens
  • 48x Digital Zoom
  • Dual SD Card Slots
  • 2-Channel Stereo, Dual XLR Inputs, 3.5mm Stereo Mic Input
  • WiFi
  • ND Filters
  • Built-In 3.5” Articulating Touch LCD
  • Image Stabilization
  • Dimensions: 5.1 x 7.1 x 11.3″”
  • Weight: 2.2 lbs

Whatever your streaming needs, odds are there is a camera setup that will be perfect for the job. If you’re thinking about investing in a new system, rent it and try it out first to make sure it’s going to work for you.

Tags: , , , , Last modified: February 24, 2021
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