Are you starting a new Youtube channel and you cannot decide on what is the best camera for shooting your first vlog?
I dealt with the same question just a month ago. And long story short, I went from trying an action camera in the beginning, to recording with a smartphone camera afterward, while looking for a budget compact camera in the meantime, and eventually ended up with the middle range mirrorless camera.
It took me a year and a half to realize I should buy a proper camera in the first place. Only then I was fully satisfied with video quality out of the box.
If you want to understand the pros and cons of each option I went through, read the whole post, so you can avoid the same mistakes I did. Without further ado, let’s talk about action cameras.
Are Action cameras good for vlogging?
Initially, I bought the action camera for my Southeast Asia trip two years ago. I was desperate at that time.
The trip was approaching in three weeks and I needed a decent camera asap. I could stick with my iPhone X I had at that time, or I could buy a brand new gear.
Inspired by many travel vlogs showcasing beautiful nature around the world using just an action for documenting their wild adventures, I was inclining to give it a try.
My reasoning was simple.
Why you should buy an action camera
Action cameras are compact and durable. They are specifically built for recording dangerous outdoor activities or action videos under extreme environmental conditions.
Since they are lightweight, they can be easily attached to any
An ideal companion, that can survive a hot wet tropical weather or a parasailing trip with an unexpected landing in the sea.
They have an acceptable image quality on par with the best smartphones on the market. Most of the high-end models can even record a 4K video.
With multiple battery packs, it is possible to record the whole day without any significant downtime needed for recharging batteries.
Finally, the prices are way lower than any high-end smartphone or digital camera with the same technical specifications on the market.
Action cameras flaws
The biggest con of any action camera is the fisheye lens. They make the scene distorted and produce a wide panoramic or hemispherical image as a result.
Without a doubt, the fisheye lens tells a better story when it comes to recording dynamic scenes and time-lapses. But I didn’t like how the video looked like when I was video vlogging myself or while I was capturing static scenes.
I am not photogenic in the first place and a wide-angle view amplified my asymmetrical features. So it really depends on what kind of video you are planning to record and what is the main message you want to convey.
Instead of talking to the camera, you can do a voiceover, while recording something more interesting. And instead of capturing boring static scenes, make a time-lapse.
Another thing that annoyed me was how cumbersome was to change video settings on the fly. Most action cameras have a touchscreen. But most of the time, it sits inside a tightly unclosed waterproof case.
So when I wanted to play with settings before recording a new scene or I want to replay what I have recorded so far, I had to use a mobile app, that is paired with the camera over the Bluetooth. And the app was so slow it totally hindered my creativity.
In the end, the pros overweight the cons and, for this reason, action cameras represent a great starting point for aspiring youtube content creators.
List of the best action cameras for Youtube video
Xiaomi Mi 4K Action Camera
As of 2020, Xiaomi still sells Mi 4K Action Camera, that I bought for my South East Asia trip. And to this day, the top-end model from Xiaomi still offers the best bang for the buck.
For the price of only around 100 USD, you get a 12 megapixel Sony sensor, digital image stabilization, LCD touch screen, up to 64GB MicroSDXC storage capacity, USB-C port, waterproof set, external mic input, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and the ability to record cropped 4K/30fps or 1080p/120fps.
The battery lasts over one hour and twenty minutes and footage’s maximum length stretches to over two hours.
As I said earlier, Xiaomi Mi 4K served me well and for such a low price, you don’t risk anything by trying it out. Of course, watch some sample footage to have a better idea.
Also, check out the current prices on the Amazon in the link below:
GoPro HERO8 Black
Compared to Xiaomi Mi 4K Action Camera, GoPro HERO8 Black costs three times more with the price starting from 350USD.
For a long-time, GoPro was the first choice when it comes to action cameras thanks to being a leading innovator. But then other Chinese manufacturers closed the gap with their products.
Unless the brand and build quality are the utmost important decision factors, there is no reason to pay two or three times more.
Similarly to Xiaomi, GoPro has a 12-megapixel resolution sensor, digital image stabilization, LCD touch screen, waterproof set, external mic input, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. But on top of that, GoPro Hero 8 Black can record true 4K/60fps.
Top-end specs mean a lot, but what is more important is the final image quality. And in this case, I have to admit, that the price tag is definitely justified with more vivid colors and better digital stabilization. Video just looks better out of the box.
So when your channel grows bigger, it might make sense to upgrade to the best camera on the market.
Check out the current prices on the Amazon in the link below:
DJI Osmo Action
DJI entered the market in 2019 with its only model, Osmo Action. After having some success with manufacturing drones cameras, they decided to come up with their own product.
Osmo Action offers the same or better specs than GoPro for almost the same price.
Looking at the specs sheet, what stands out is the ability to record with up to 240 frames per second on Full HD resolution. That means even smoother slow-motion videos.
Another nice feature is the front-facing LCD screen, that allows you to see yourself while vlogging. Other than that whatever GoPro has, DJI also has, but with little better parameters. There is a noticeable difference in image quality thought.
Osmo Action looks great on paper and I would buy it if it was cheaper. Let’s not forget the fact, that Osmo Action is DJI’s first iteration. Because of that, I would wait for the next upgrade.
Still, check out the current prices on the Amazon to see if it is worth it for you:
Smartphone cameras for vlogging
Another option for people, who already have a smartphone is to use their devices for recording videos.
After selling the Xiaomi Mi 4K action camera, the only option left was to use my iPhone X. As a cheapskate, I thought I should try to record a Youtube video without spending a dime first before I invest in digital camera again.
With the iPhone X in-built double camera with 12 Mpx (f/1,8) + 12 Mpx (f/1,8) sensors and Joby TightGrip tripod, the video should be good enough for vlogging standards if not better compared to the action cameras.
So I tried to record myself with this ultimate budget Youtube studio setup, sitting alone in a hotel room with funny light conditions.
And let me tell you, when looking at the final footage, the overall result was not good. The image looked bland, colors were flat and there was no depth in the scene. I felt unimpressed.
It is not 2007 anymore when everyone uploaded their shaky videos using budget smartphones with bad audio quality.
Nowadays, everyone, who is serious about creating quality Youtube content has expensive gear, that can compete with professional filmmakers.
So I was thinking about upgrading as well. And I was looking for a dedicated blogging camera, that can produce better results.
Digital compact cameras for vlogging
I fired up google and typed in “the best camera for vlogging”. And the top ten results were in sync when I looked at the recommendations.
According to the internet, the most used and popular vlogging camera at that time was Canon G7X or Sony RX100, both belonging to the digital compact camera category.
Canon G7X vs Sony RV100 for vlogging
Canon is a major player in the vlogging market. They even made a dedicated compacts camera for vloggers, that encompasses every feature a blogger needs.
During the time of the writing, I had a choice to either:
- buy a used ancient model Canon G7X Mark I for about less than 200 USD
- buy a second hand upgraded 2017 model Canon G7X Mark II for around 400 USD
- or go with the new 2019 model Canon G7X Mark III, which was released in Autumn 2019 for the price of about 800 USD.
Canon G7X series
By any means buying any Canon G7X camera is a major upgrade over the iPhone X I had. And if I was really, really constrained by the budget, I would consider either of the versions, even the oldest one.
Canon G7X Mark I Pros
- The oldest models are available for as low as 200 USD on eBay
- Thanks to the famous Canon color scheme, videos look much better than any top-end smartphone out of the box
- Compared to smartphones, Canon G7X will allow you to play with recording settings such as ISO or shutter speed
- Finally, a flip-up screen is a must for knowing how you look like in the composition.
Canon G7X Mark I Cons
- No warranty is a major issue. I usually don’t buy high-end gadgets from eBay and if I do, it has to have a short period warranty or buyer protection.
- The G7X Mark I also miss 4K resolution. Although 4K is overrated, sometimes Youtube creators shoot in 4K to capture as much information as they can and then scale down to Full HD.
- There is no mic input. I don’t consider it a necessity, but I understand the need of having a mic synced with video on the go without the need for any postproduction.
- With slower chip comes worse image quality and slower autofocus compared to newer models.
All-in-all Canon G7X Mark I can be a great starter camera. Check out its price on Amazon below.
Canon G7X Mark II Pros
Canon G7X Mark II has the same features as the original model had.
The only difference worth noting is the faster chip, which can capture more data per second and can handles autofocus better.
In other words, Canon G7X Mark II is a minor upgrade and better image quality is the main selling point.
Canon G7X Mark II Cons
Canon G7X Mark II still lacks 4K video and external mic input.
It is hard to justify the price difference considering it being a minor iteration.
However, G7X MarkII became the most popular Youtube camera for most content creators, thanks to its small form factor, flip-up screen, and famous Canon color scheme.
Check out its price on Amazon below.
Canon G7X Mark III Pros
Now comes the newest model, which was released only a few months ago.
This upgrade was long overdue. I literally checked Canon rumors every week since 2018 to see, if they plan to release a new model soon. It took Canon a year to finally release the new model to the market.
G7X Mark III looked promising on paper, but then the first reviews popped up and each and every one of them came to the same conclusion.
Canon improved the image quality with a brand new chip, that can finally handle 4K video, although a cropped one. And it incorporates a jack input for external microphone. On top of that, G7 Mark III comes in a new slick silver body, that looks great.
It seems like they listened to the crowd and included all missing features the closest competitor (Sony) already had for years.
Canon G7X Mark III Cons
With a new model comes a higher price tag. It is not a budget camera anymore and for around 800 USD, there are better alternatives out there.
The biggest downside is an incredibly slow autofocus, that takes seconds to find the object. Obviously a repairable software issue, but still a big red flag.
Check out its price on Amazon below.
Why I didn’t buy Canon G7X
Clearly, I was almost on the verge of buying the Canon G7X camera, but there were too many cons, that I could not accept.
G7X Mark III had broken autofocus and was too expensive for what it offers.
G7X Mark II was for a long time a top choice, but I kept waiting due to rumors of a new model coming in the future.
For 500 USD, it was already an outdated camera with no 4k and external mic input. The second-hand ones were also too expensive, selling only with a 25% discount.
G7X Mark I would be the last resort if I was constrained with budget.
In all cases, my cousin, who is a camera expert, warned me of Canon due to its image quality. And recommend me to invest in a Sony camera instead. I didn’t want to believe him, but as the title of this post says, I went with Sony after all. But more on that later.
Sony RX 100 series
No digital compacts buying guide would be complete without mentioning the Sony RX 100 series. A direct G7X competitor with better image quality, more features, but also two times higher price tag.
Due to this reason, I never considered buying one. Even though older models, like Mark I, were selling at 200 USD or Mark III at 300 USD, the newest Mark VII cost a whooping 1200 USD.
Now, why older models should not be considered, despite having better image quality than any alternative in the digital compact category? They all lack vlogging features.
It is important to notice, that only the newest model Sony RX100 Mark VII has both external mic input and flip-up screen. While flip-up screen was added to Sony RX100 Mark VI, it took them another iteration in the form of Sony RX100 Mark VII to add an external mic input.
So don’t go for older models if you need it.
In conclusion, despite the high price tag, Sony is definitely the best choice given you want a small compact camera you can put to your pocket. And you want to have the best image quality in the digital compact category.
In case you are curious, check out the newest model on Amazon below:
Budget mirrorless cameras
Still convinced about Canon superiority, I checked what professional Youtube content creators use nowadays.
And few other Canon models popped out from the search. Those cameras were not, unfortunately, vlogging centric and they always had some cons, that were hard to overcome.
With that being said, their image quality was superior over any compact camera I looked into so far.
Let’s enter the world of mirrorless cameras. They encompass all the greatness of professional mirror cameras, like interchangeable lenses, into a smaller body frame, not much bigger than any regular digital compact camera.
And by looking at the reviews, mirrorless cameras got a lot of love from the Youtube community in the past year.
Canon EOS M100
Canon M100 was the first mirrorless camera I looked into, because of the lowest price. It cost only 100 USD less than G7X Mark 2.
And if the budget was the main constraint, I would almost buy one due to its price.
It comes in silver, has 24 Mpx CMOS sensors, LCD touch screen, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and most importantly interchangeable lenses.
On the other hand, Canon M100 lacks most of the vlogging features and for this reason, I skipped this option completely.
Canon M100 does not have a flip-up screen, 4k video nor external mic input. Additionally, the build quality feels cheap.
If you want to consider it anyway, check out the current prices on Amazon below.
Canon EOS M200
A year later Canon upgraded the EOS M100 model with a new iteration called EOS M200. Effectively replacing EOS M100 and costing only 150 USD more.
This time, Canon listened to the customers and added a flip-up screen and 4K resolution. Except for a mic input, that is still missing.
Again, I almost bought this one, but I could not overcome the cheap plastic feeling.
If the look and no external mic input is not an issue for you, check out the price on Amazon below.
Canon EOS M50
Another option was to buy the Canon EOS M50. And older model, that is still quite popular among Youtube content creators.
With the price on par with G7X Mark 2 and M200, but having much better image quality, a vlog friendly LCD touch screen, 4K cropped video and external mic input.
What I didn’t like though was its look. It reminded me of the big bulky professional mirror cameras with an enormous optical viewfinders, that would normally block any flip-up screen from tilting up.
As Canon EOS M50 targets content creators, Canon engineers had to include fliping screen somehow. So they decided to include a screen, that flips to the side instead. I don’t know about you, but I would be distracted during vlogging if I would have to look to the side.
Maybe I am biased, I would regret buying and using this camera, despite it being the best option for 600 USD price range so far.
As a visual person, the gadget needs to look slick. That is why a use Apple products most of the time.
Nevertheless, check out its price on Amazon below.
Sony Alpha A6000
Sony Alpha A6000 is the camera my cousin recommended to me last year. He praised its superior image quality over Canon and he was really convincing about it. After all, he built a million-dollar business selling digital cameras, so I better listen to him.
Then when I looked at the specification of Sony Alpha A6000 at that time. I was confused because it lacked all the features a Youtube creator would need. No 4k, no flip screen, no jack input, and the camera frame was much bigger than a digital compact Canon G7X I was comparing it with.
I would have to buy a ton of accessories to supplement missing features, including expensive lenses to have what Canon G7X has out of the box.
Why would he recommend me a non-vlogging camera for vlogging purposes? He knew better, that when it comes to creating great content, image quality wins half the battle.
If you want a mirrorless camera in a 500 USD price range, that has the top build quality and unbeatable image output for home videos, check its price on Amazon below.
Middle range 1000+ USD mirrorless cameras
A year later when I was on the verge of buying Canon M200, I asked another friend, who is a film-making hobbyist about my choice. And he discouraged me from taking the deal and look into more pricy 1000 USD range mirrorless cameras category. Namely, he recommended me Fujifilm TX-30.
For only 300 USD more, I should get far better image quality, 4K video and mic input. He promised I will never look back once I decide to invest in a more expensive camera.
Canon EOS M6 Mark II
Finally, let me introduce you to the best mirrorless camera that Canon offers. Its called EOS M6 Mark II and it has almost everything a Youtube camera should have.
The main selling point is its superior image quality over other Canon alternatives. For over 1100 USD Canon EOS M6 Mark II offers 32,5 Mpx CMOS sensor, 3″ LCD touch screen, jack input, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
Despite the great image quality and the sensor with the highest megapixel count of all mirrorless cameras, Canon crippled the model with cropped down 4K resolution (Ultra HD 3840 × 2160) and a horizontally flipped screen.
For those reasons, I removed OS M6 Mark II from my shopping list. If you are curious though, check its price Amazon below.
I saw multiple online reviews of Fujifilm TX-30 and I must admit its sample footages looked great.
It has a 26,1 Mpx CMOS sensor, jack input, and a full 4K resolution. But it still missing a flip-up screen and has a weird vintage look.
If I have to use an analogy, Fujifilm is something like a Subaru, a top-quality car brand, that is for whatever reason not popular at all, but has a dedicated and almost religious fan base.
And I see why. Fujifilm just looks different. Want to see yourselves? Check out the Amazon price below.
Sony Alpha A6400
Finally, Sony comes to save the day with the Alpha A6400 model, which checks every checkbox a Youtube camera has.
Full 4k resolution, jack input, flip-up screen, 24,2 Mpx CMOS APS-C sensor and up to 32 000 ISO for the price of only 1000 USD.
On top of that, Sony A6400 has the fastest autofocus in the world. A hard to beat argument when it comes to final decision.
And it was released in 2019, so there won’t be any upgrades anytime soon.
Currently, Amazon has a great deal, that bundles multiple lenses, 64 GB SDXC card, three batteries and much more. Check out the price below.
The winning camera
And the winner is Sony A6400. I was already set to buy one, but if there was a better deal I wouldn’t mind buying other cameras I mentioned in this post just to save some money.
Luckily, one day I decided to check all online stores and I noticed, that one of them was selling Sony A6400 with a more expensive 18-135mm OSS lens for the base price of 1000 USD. Which translates into a 30% discount.
I didn’t hesitate for too long and bought Sony A6400 on the very same day.
A two days later, the online store corrected the price to the original level. Clearly someone mispriced the product and didn’t understand the price differences between various lenses packaged with Sony A6400 frame.
So that’s it. I hope this helped you to decide on what camera to buy and see you in the next post.