So, you want to start making some videos on YouTube? The best high-definition (HD) video camera or camcorder to buy depends on a few of your needs. We know of some individuals who not only make YouTube videos for fun, but make quite a lot of money while doing so. Fortunately for many of us as technology continues to advance, some video cameras (particularly the popular DSLR cameras) and camcorders are quite affordable. Let’s take a look at what exactly you should be looking for when it comes to video cameras and camcorders for YouTube in particular and what our recommendations are.
Table of contents
As always in our shopping guides, this will be a very big deciding factor when it comes to which video camera is best for you. For this particular topic, the price range is relatively wide since there are so many options out there. As you continue reading, we list the different types of cameras that you should look at, and with those even come their own price ranges as well. For example, DSLR cameras can go anywhere from as low as $200 to as high as $2000. Professional-grade cameras and cinematic types aren’t usually found for under a thousand. On the other hand, some action cams, digital cameras and mini recorders get you into the budget-friendly range.
This is why we list the budget you have in mind as the first factor to keep in mind when shopping. If you don’t know yet, or are planning accordingly, make your choice first and start your savings!
This again is important because it will steer you into the direction of our next step — which type of camera to buy.
Are you planning on vlogging indoors (a cheaper DSLR will suffice)? Shooting skits in the outdoors (make sure you have a camera that provides quality lighting and also that you may need more gear for setting up) or in low light conditions? Filming sports and action videos? Family clips? Or perhaps you’re unsure and want to buy a video camera that will be versatile depending on what you come up with in the future? Much of these questions are just like our best video camera for music videos or best video camera for sports articles. Keep these factors in mind will shopping.
Here are the most popular types of video cameras for YouTube videos (which all ultimately depend on your video type and use):
- DSLR cameras – Best for versatility and a majority of different applications. These are highly recommended to invest in, unless you’re sure that you want something else.
- Mirrorless cameras – These are the freshest (and rising) types of video cameras out there, and they rival DSLR’s in terms of versatility and quality. They’re just a bit expensive.
- Sports and Action cameras – Great for sports, and filming first-person angles. We know people who grab not only a DSLR but action camera to switch it up sometimes.
- Camcorders – Ideal for home videos and other smaller types of uses
- Point-and-Shoot – Just another option when it comes to versatility, but are great for those who travel a lot and don’t want to lug around a DSLR. Most fit in your pocket.
- Mini video cameras – Also known as pocket-cameras, small cams, etc. – Great for filming concerts, kids videos, or merely any type that you need to fit a camera into your pocket or small bag for.
Once you’ve decided on which type of YouTube video camera to buy, there are a few things to note.
If you are indeed looking for a DSLR video camera, be sure to keep in mind when adding up your total cost that many of these as “body only”. This means that you’ll have to buy your lenses separately, which could get costly (it depends on what you want — some lenses are a few extra bucks while others are more than the camera itself!). For YouTube videos, the lens isn’t as big of a deal as it is for photographers or professional movie makers, so don’t stress too much.
If you’re into an action camera, remember that you’ll need to buy some accessories that come along with it. For example, many people use mounts for their action cams, straps on their chest or wrist, and more. Scour the net since a lot of people offer action camera accessory bundles for a decent price.
For any other type of video camera, you should still keep in mind the additional gear you may need to accommodate your setup. Make sure the package you’re looking at comes with a carrying case, tripod, etc. if those are what you need as well.
If so, it also depends on how clear you want the sound quality to be. You’ll have to search around for some external microphones and perhaps grab a few accessories to go along with it if you want truly professional audio quality. However, we do want to note that the stock microphones for DSLR video cameras are quite suitable (action camera audio is terrible by the way).
We do know individuals who state that audio quality is just as important as video quality, so keep that in mind. Here are some recommendations for external mics (there are many out there but at least wanted to give you a solid option), depending on the type of camera you get.
- DSLR cameras: Rode VideoMic Pro (US | UK)
- Action cameras and others: Quite a few options (US | UK)
- Vlogging or other desk applications: USB microphones
Below is our list of the 10 best video cameras and camcorders for filming high-definition YouTube videos. We made sure as to cover the bases when it comes to options for price point and camera type. Let us know in the comments if you have any questions, concerns, or feel that we didn’t include a vital model (we’re all ears to improve our list for our readers). Be sure to check out our best video editing software guide so you can finalize these videos for the world to see. Happy filming!
To start off our list, we’ll begin with a DSLR camera because they’re the most popular choice for YouTube videos since they span across many different video types (vlogging, outdoors, skits, and more). The D3300 is one of the highest rated in its category. It is our choice to list first because it will not necessarily break your wallet (it ranked first in our best DSLR cameras under $500), offers superb video quality and covers our musts for YouTube videos. It is equipped with a 24.2 megapixel CMOS image sensor (DX-format) for photos, 18-55mm VR image stabilization lens, and 1080p full HD video, so the overall quality of your picture will be there among the standard. It is compatible with Wi-Fi if that’s what you need, and it terms of the photos, you have a few extra features like ‘Active D-Lighting’ (best for darker environments), an Autofocus system, and a handy shutter button at 5 fps. Lastly, it is pretty light and is easy to travel with, and although won’t fit in your pocket, is still great for those who will be traveling to film their videos or want to use this for other uses besides their YouTube masterpieces. Here’s a D3300 sample video if you want a taste of what you’ll be getting.
Up next we have one of the most popular new video cameras for the past 4-5 years now. If you haven’t heard of it, you may have seen them on people’s helmets in the snow mountains, motorcycles and more. This is a camera we recommend for those filming sports or merely any body who can think of a use for a first-person perspective. You can also use it to film others using their WiFi app but it gets a bit more difficult. Also, we’ve heard of people using this alongside their DSLR in order to give their videos some more advanced and different shots here and there to switch it up. To highlight some of the video features, it really depends on which model you grab. Just know that all of them film in at least 1080p (and others can go all the way up to 4K!), have a nice fish-eye lens, are waterproof, and mp/fps burst for camera-mode.
What we love the most about GoPro’s are their numerous options for all types of price-points. This allows you to grab the camera that not only fits your needs but exact budget as well. If you need help deciding on which version to buy, the GoPro HERO4 Silver made WireCutter’s best action camera article. Here are some GoPro videos if you haven’t’ seen it in action. If you go this option, just remember that you most likely will need to buy some additional accessories as well.
Canon EOS Rebel T5
Here’s another DSLR video camera, and it begins Canon’s dominance in our list (for a reason). The Rebel T5 is a part of their Rebel T series’ and although they have numerous options to choose from, we went with this particular model because it’s the most reviewed around the internet by far (and positively, of course). This one provides a bit lower quality than the previous DSLR, and albeit at a lower price, is well worth settling with if you’re under a strict budget. A few highlights of this one include being equipped with a 18.0 Megapixel CMOS image sensor (APS-C), their ‘DIGIC 4 Image Processor’ (Canon’s newest high-speed signal processing control unit), a big 3.0″ LCD screen for watching what you’re recording, as well as being able to record in up to 1920 x 1080 (30, 25 or 24 fps). We would recommend purchasing this DSLR video camera if you don’t want to spend the extra money on the D3300. Here’s a video demo of the Rebel T5 to watch.
Nikon COOLPIX S7000
Here’s one of the best digital cameras for YouTube videos in the market today. This model, and ultimately the Coolpix line in general, is extremely popular among users around the camera world. With this model, you can film in 1080/60i video, have 18 ‘Scene Modes’ for different types of shooting environments, built-in Wi-Fi with NFC (you can wireless share photos to smart devices), and some extra Image Effects if you want to get creative. In terms of the photo capabilities, it gives us 20x optical zoom, 40x ‘Dynamic Fine Zoom’, and a big 3.0″ LCD screen for our ease of use.
It’s pretty budget-friendly, too. This S7000 review rated it pretty highly if you want some more information on it. If this isn’t in your price range and you still want a digital camera to accommodate your uses, we list one more down below, but also recommend browsing through their other options to see what else fits. Here’s a cool video demo of the COOLPIX S7000.
Here’s a heavy hitter in the YouTube video camera realm, and is one of the highest rated professional-grade cameras in the market today. Although a bit pricey as compared to DSLRs, professional camcorders typically come in around this price point. If you wanted more of the pro-grade cam style this is one of our top recommendations. a 1/3″ CMOS Sensor, native 1920 x 1080, 24 Mbps AVCHD recording, and 60i, PF30, PF24 with Native 24p quality. It has an internal 64 GB internal flash drive so storing your clips won’t be a problem because you also get a few extra SDXC card slots. The low light sensitivity in this one is awesome and it has a 35 mm equivalent zoom range (30.4 mm to 304 mm).
Lastly and what really sets this thing apart aside from the superior video quality is the overall technology that comes with it (way too many to name) — infrared recording for night shooting, XLR inputs for top-notch audio, color peaking, zebra patterns and more. This is geared towards the advanced video camera user or those who want to really go hard when it comes to being serious about their YouTube videos and production altogether. Here’s a XA10 video demo.
Canon EOS 7D
Yes, another one of the best DSLR video cameras recommended for YouTube videos — but for a very good reason. This one is about double the price as a few others in this article, but if your budget is able, steps your channel up to the next level as compared to the beginners and starters. It’s geared more towards semi-pros or those looking to upgrade their beginner DSLR, otherwise if you think you can hang with this one and want to spend some time learning it, by all means get it! You have a nice 18.0 Megapixel APS-C size CMOS sensor, DUAL DIGIC 4 Processors, picture up to ISO 12800 and speeds of 8.0 fps. Full HD video comes in at 30 fps and 24 fps, and a high-tech layer metering system to help with any type of lighting you’ll face.
The whole build of the video camera is impressive as well, so if you want a solution that will give you security and longevity, the magnesium alloy body (yes, weather resistant and dust proof) will allow for that. We wish we could summarize it all up in this little review but that would take an entire article within itself. If you want one of the best DSLR cameras out there at the moment and have the cash, grab this one. This EOS 7D review rated it very highly. For some previews of what you can get with it, check out this EOS 7D video demo.
Blackmagic Pocket Cinema
Don’t let your eyes fool you — this isn’t a measly digital video camera. The power you’ll be holding in your hands with this thing is very impressive — a 16mm super sized image sensor, 13 stops of dynamic range, full HD 1920 x 1080 recording (but with an incredibly high-quality CinemaDNG RAW codec), and an active micro four thirds lens mount. So what are all these fancy names of the technology included? The codec gives you raw, unedited video images (which is what the move sets use) and can record multiple audio channels. It’s not recording in compressed, typical formats like .avi and what not, so you aren’t losing any quality not only when it records but is transferred to your editing software as well.
It also gives us a nifty but not gigantic 3.5″ LCD display (it’s 800 x 480 resolution), can use SDXC as well as SDHC memory cards, a high-quality rechargeable battery, and some decent ins and outs (HDMI, LANC, and standard 3.5mm). This thing is a step above the typical YouTubers, so if you grab this, it’s not only going to set you apart from them but will last you for many years when it comes to the future. Check out the Pocket in action for a better feel before you buy it.
Canon PowerShot SX260
Yet another Canon appearance, but this is the second and last digital video camera we’d recommend for YouTubers. It’s extremely budget-friendly so if you were looking to save some money as well, this could be the option for you. In terms of photography, you’ll have 20x optical zoom, a 25mm wide-angle lens and 12.1 megapixel high-sensitivity CMOS sensor. For videos, you’re of course able to film in 1080p full HD, a “Smart AUTO” that’s supposed to optimize settings for 58 different settings (you’ll most likely want to customize your own later on), and it conveniently has a face ID technology to prioritize certain faces it has seen before (if you even want that). CNET’s SX260 review gave it a 4 out of 5 stars.
Canon VIXIA mini X
When we first saw this one come up, the words nifty, sleek, and awesome came to mind. This is one of the best pocket-sized cams in the market, so if you’re looking for a smaller video camera type solution, check this one out. As compared to some other heavy-hitters in this article, we’d consider it pretty affordable. The sensor is quite big considering the overall size (12.8 megapixels), gives us a video format of AVCHD (1080p of course), and it supports SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards. It uses Canon’s f/2.8 fisheye lens so keep that in mind (looks great), provides a 2.7″ tilting touch panel LCD and is known to be great for wide and close-up shots.
You also have a microphone input if you want to use some external sound, so it’s great to have that option especially if you’re concerned with audio in your videos. You have a headphone output to listen to what you’ve recorded to check up on the clips during shooting. Check out the VIXIA mini X in action.
Sony Alpha a7S
To top off our list, we’ve got a beautiful camera by Sony for those who are extremely serious about their YouTube filming. If you’re serious about this and want to be set until you make it to doing this as a full-time job, check these features out. A 12.2 MP full-frame exmor CMOS sensor (it is new advanced sensor that doubles light sensitivity of the senor and uses their A/D conversion to reduce noise effectively for amazing quality), BIONZ X image processor (Sony’s advanced image processing of raw image data like we saw in the Blackmagic), gapless on-chip lens, 3.0″ tilting LCD monitor, a 25-point AF system and full HD in recording in XAVC S (their own recording format).
Aside from these advanced names of their technology, we hope it can at least explain why the quality and price are so high in this model. If the terms and words are all confusing (we understand), check out the video demo to see the camera in action instead.