Searching for the best cameras for video, filmmaking and YouTube? Richard Sibley takes you through some of the most cost-effective options out there…
As Internet speeds have increased at home and on mobile devices, it isn’t just photos we share. Every day millions of hours of video are being uploaded to social media channels, with many of us choosing to share parts of our lives or knowledge with the world. While smartphones will do the job, the best cameras for video provide a significant step up in terms of quality.
When you’re ready to move on from shooting on a smartphone, there is a seemingly endless number of cameras you can choose to shoot video content. Before we look at what cameras we think are best for vlogging or creating YouTube content, let’s look at some considerations when looking for a camera to shoot video.
How to choose the best cameras for video and filmmaking
Here are the key specs to think about when selecting your video camera.
One of the first things to look for is resolution. Nearly every camera on the market should be shooting at 4K resolution. Still, it is something to look out for if you are shopping on a budget or looking at a used camera. 4K televisions and screens are commonplace, and we are starting to see cameras that will shoot in 8k or higher. If you are beginning to vlog or shoot for YouTube, there is currently no real need for you to be shooting in 8k; it is complete overkill.
Frame rate will define how many images the camera can record in a second. The more frames, the smoother the footage, but it also allows you to slow the footage down. Hollywood movies are typically shot at a frame rate of 24fps, whilst PAL TV is 25fps with the US NTSC format at 30fps. Higher frame rates are a multiplier of these, so you will commonly find 50fps and 60fps and 100 and 120fps.
By recording at 120fps and then creating a video that is shown at 30fps, you will have a 4x slow-motion effect. So, if you are interested in shooting slow-motion footage, the higher the frame rate, the greater the slow-motion effect. For an excellent slow-motion effect, look for at least 120fps.
If you are shooting cooking or craft tutorials, you can fix the camera in position by using a tripod. For more on how to choose the best tripod for you, check out our ultimate guide to tripods as well as our picks for the best tripods to buy in 2023.
However, suppose you are using the camera handheld because you are vlogging or filmmaking on a family holiday. Handheld footage that isn’t stabilised can look shaky and almost unwatchable.
Lens or sensor-based stabilisation will help keep the footage looking steady. Some cameras will also use digital stabilisation. Digital stabilisation crops into the frame and shifts the recorded area to smooth camera movements. A combination of all three types of stabilisation can keep handheld footage free of all but the most dramatic of movements.
For cameras that don’t have stabilisation, a motorised three-axis stabiliser, also known as a gimbal, is a great way to create smooth footage.
People often say that poor footage can be forgivable, but poor audio can make a video unwatchable. For the most part, this is true. You’ll be hard-pushed to find a camera that doesn’t have built-in microphones for recording audio. Still, for the most part, these will only be fine in ideal conditions, such as in a quiet environment.
For the best possible audio, using an external microphone is a must. Make sure your camera has a microphone input socket, which will usually be a 3.5mm socket on the side of the camera. This socket will allow you to add a microphone, which will usually be held on an accessory shoe on top of the camera. However, be aware that this may block or hinder the use of a front-facing screen.
If you are planning on filming yourself, you will need to look for a camera that has a screen that can be swivelled so that it faces you whilst you are recording. Generally, these come in two types – articulated from the side or flipping up from the top. Both have their advantages.
Top-facing screens look more natural if you look at the screen rather than the front of the lens. However, if you want to mount a light or microphone to a hotshoe, it may prevent you from using the screen. Side-facing screens will leave the camera’s top free for mounting microphones and accessories. Still, if you find yourself presenting to the screen, it can look unnatural as your eye-line will always look off to the side. In summary, remember to talk to the lens, not the screen!
For those who aren’t filming themselves, a simple tilting articulation helps shoot at different angles, making your videos look more dynamic.
Power and battery
Shooting a video can drain a battery very quickly. While battery life shouldn’t be a deciding factor when buying a camera, it is worth noting so that you can plan to purchase an additional battery, or two or three, if you are out shooting video all day.
Something else is to look for charging. Most cameras will charge through a microUSB or USB-C connection, with many of these also able to be powered by USB whilst still recording. A simple £20 USB power bank could give you hours more recording by either keeping the battery charging when not in use or by being able to power your camera.
Like photography, the sensor is probably the defining feature of a camera. As a (very) general rule, the larger the sensor, the better the image quality will be. A full-frame sensor will have a greater dynamic range, lower noise levels and better image quality at higher ISO sensitivities than a smaller sensor of the exact resolution.
So, shooting with a camera with a full-frame sensor will produce better results than shooting with the smaller sensor of a smartphone. The downside is a larger sensor will mean a bigger camera and larger lenses, which may not be ideal if you want something small for vlogging. See our guide to APS-C vs full-frame sensors for more on the differences between the two.
As you can see, there will always be compromises, whether in size, cost, convenience or image quality. The area you prioritise will depend entirely on what you want to film. If you need more help, check out our guide to how to get started with vlogging, but otherwise, let’s get to the cameras.
The best cameras for video, vlogging, and videography – our full list
Best everyday vlogging camera: Sony ZV-1 ($748/£700)
At a glance:
- 20.1MP 1-inch type sensor
- ISO 100-12,800 (movie mode)
- 3” 921,600-dot side-mounted articulated touchscreen
- Up to 75min battery life (continuous shooting)
- Optical and digital stabilisation
- 4K 30fps
Based on the popular Sony RX100 series of cameras, the Sony ZV-1 is aimed squarely at vloggers. The 1” size 20.1 million-pixel sensor offers a big step up from those currently shooting with a smartphone, while keeping the camera small and light enough to carry everywhere. The 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 (equivalent) lens may not be as wide as some would like for handheld vlogging, but third-party wide-angle adapters are available.
Gone is the metal body of the RX100, though, with sturdy plastic helping to keep the price of the camera affordable. Also removed is the program dial, meaning it is a little more fiddly to switch between the various video and photography modes. That said, the simplified operation makes it a good entry point. Modes such as Product Showcase and Background Defocus make it easy for those wanting to shift focus to present a product to the camera or blur a background.
Audio-wise, the camera has a three-capsule microphone and comes with a wind jammer. The ZV-1 offers good stereo sound recording straight out of the box, particularly if you are recording whilst speaking to the camera. There is a 3.5mm mic input on the side with a hot shoe on the top, and with a side-mounted screen mounting, a mic doesn’t get in the way of viewing the image. It is worth noting that there is no headphone jack for monitoring the audio, as there would be on a more advanced camera.
With 4K video at 30fps, HD video at up to 120fps, High Frame Rate mode capable of up to an incredible 1000fps, Timelapse recording, a built-in ND filter, Wi-Fi/Bluetooth control and vertical video for recording to Instagram and TikTok, there is plenty here to get you started in video. When you get more advanced, the camera also has the S-Log Picture Profiles that will help match footage with more professional Sony video cameras.
Read our full Sony ZV-1 review
Best camera for vlogging on the go: DJI Pocket 2 ($349/£339)
The DJI Pocket 2 is a clever, self-contained gimbal camera.At a glance:
- 1/1.7” CMOS sensor
- ISO 100-6400 (movie mode)
- Small screen built-in
- Up to 140 min battery life (continuous shooting in Full HD)
- 3-axis motorised stabilisation
- Up to 4K 30fps
The DJI Pocket 2 has a feature that makes it stand out from every other camera on this list, and that is the fact it has a built-in 3-axis stabiliser. DJI has essentially removed the camera and 3-axis stabilisation from one of its drones and added a handle and tiny screen. The combination is a camera that produces super steady footage and can easily fit in any pocket.
While the tiny built-in screen isn’t great for composing and reviewing footage, you can attach a smartphone via a port on the side and then use the DJI app to control the gimbal and change settings more easily.
The camera only has a 1/1.7” sensor, similar to those used in smartphone cameras, so you do lose some dynamic range, and there will be a little noise. That said, some of the tricks that the Pocket 2 can perform more than make up for these deficiencies. For example, you can actively track a subject in a scene, with the Pocket automatically using its motors to pan and tilt the camera. This is great if you are talking to the camera whilst demonstrating something, and you’ll never have to worry about disappearing out of the frame.
The DJI Pocket 2 can record footage in Full HD, 2.7k or 4K at 60fps, and a slow motion mode allows for Full HD 120 or 240fps to be captured. A time-lapse motion mode is also available that utilises the camera’s ability to pan and tilt.
Audio-wise, there is an internal microphone, but external recording is made possible via an adapter that can be plugged into the USB-C port on the bottom of the camera. Videographers can purchase different accessories to increase the uses of the Pocket 2, including a wifi remote control that allows operation remotely via a smartphone. Third-party filters are also available.
Best for action and adventure: GoPro HERO10 Black ($449/£479)
At a glance:
- 24-million-pixel sensor
- ISO 100-6400 in ProTune mode
- Small screen built-in
- Many optional accessories
- Up to 83min battery life or 120mins with optional Enduro Battery
- Hyper smooth 4.0 Digital stabilisation
- Up to 5.6k 60fps, 4K 120fps, 2.7K 240fps
Note: GoPro has very recently announced an update to this camera, the GoPro HERO11 Black. We’re currently waiting to get our hands on this exciting new action camera – and it may well find its way onto this list when we do. For now, though, the HERO10 Black remains an excellent buy.
For years GoPro has been the market leader for action cameras, and with good reason. Waterproof to 10m straight out of the box, and ruggedly constructed, you can take the GoPro HERO10 Black with you on whatever adventure you may be going on.
The version offers many creative features powered by the camera’s GP2 processing chip. The camera can record 5.7k video at an impressive 60fps or 4K at 120fps. If you want to record slow motion, the GoPro HERO10 Black can capture 2.7k and Full HD footage at 240fps.
Over the years, GoPro has become synonymous with an ultra wide-angle field of view. However, thanks to the high-resolution sensor, you can effectively ‘crop in’ to the image to produce a narrower field of view. This cropped view looks more natural if you are presenting to the camera rather than ripping down a mountain bike course. However, there are a few caveats regarding the field of view and the shooting rate options. The maximum shooting rate is reduced when using the SuperView wide-angle option, and SuperView isn’t available at all when shooting in 5.7k.
GoPro’s HyperSmooth 4.0 digital stabilisation helps to keep footage looking super smooth. Whether you are skiing, surfing or cycling, you can capture great-looking footage. And, of course, there is the option to record Timelapse and Hyperlapse footage to add some variety to your videos.
The GoPro HERO10 Black has a built-in microphone that videographers and photographers can use to record audio and listen to voice commands. These commands allow you to start and stop recording or take a photo by just speaking to the camera. If you require better audio, the GoPro Media Mod adds a directional mic, a 3.5mm mic socket and HDMI output.
As you would expect, there is complete control of the camera via your smartphone, with videos able to be edited via an app. You can even get it to upload footage automatically to GoPro cloud service whilst it charges. However, there is a subscription charge for this. You can even live stream to services such as YouTube to enable you to share your experiences in real time.
As you can imagine, there are many accessories, with GoPro producing a Max Lens Mod, Media Mod and a Light Mod. There is also a Display Mod – which adds 2-inch front-facing screen for vlogging, leaving the existing screen available for shooting settings. Then there are cases and mounts galore to get footage in all situations.
If you are an action-adventure type, then the GoPro HERO10 Black is still the best option for creating and sharing videos.
Best for tutorials and filmmaking: Blackmagic Pocket Cinema 4K ($1,295/£1,200)
At a glance:
- Four Thirds Sensor
- ISO 100-25,600 (movie mode)
- 5” Screen
- Micro Four Thirds Lens Mount
- Up to 60min battery life
- Optical/Lens Stabilisation only
- Up to 4K 60fps, Full HD 120fps
- Anamorphic Shooting
If you are an aspiring filmmaker, then the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema 4K may be a great camera to start shooting. It is very affordable for a camera with many advanced features prioritising image quality above everything else.
It features a Four Thirds size sensor that has an impressive 13-EV of dynamic range so that you can capture lots of highlight and shadow detail. It can also save footage in ProRes or Blackmagic Raw 2.0 formats, meaning a considerable amount of colour detail is captured to enable image editing in post-production.
The Pocket Cinema 4K can record footage in 4K DCI (4096 x 2160) at 60fps or the even wider 4K 2.4:1 format (4096 x 1720) at 70fps. The camera can also shoot 2.8k anamorphic footage at 80fps. Those that want slow-motion footage can shoot at 120fps in Full HD resolution.
The Micro Four Thirds lens mount means that there is a vast amount of quality lenses, new and used, lenses at affordable prices. It is worth noting though that there is no sensor or digital stabilisation. The Pocket Cinema 4K relies on any optical lens stabilisation, so it is better suited to being on a tripod or gimbal than being used handheld. Autofocus isn’t the fastest, so it suits a more static environment where you can manually focus a lens on a subject.
The Pocket Cinema 4K features a substantial 5-inch touchscreen perfect for navigating menus, focusing precisely, composing your shot and reviewing your footage.
As a fully-fledged cinema camera, the Pocket Cinema 4K has all of the inputs and outputs you would expect and some you might not. There are slots for CFast or SD cards to be used for storage, and you can even record directly to an SSD via the USB 3.1 port. For audio, there’s a 3.5mm mic input and a Mini XLR input for professional microphones that require phantom power. It also allows you to monitor the audio via a 3.5mm headphone jack.
Although it may seem overkill to have such a powerful camera for shooting YouTube, for its price, it offers the best image quality for those recording reviews or demonstrations. It is also the perfect entry point for anyone that wants to begin a career in filmmaking.
Best hybrid photo/video camera: Fujifilm X-H2S (around $2,500/£2,500 body-only)
At a glance:
- 26.1-million-pixel APS-C X-Trans sensor
- ISO 160-25,600 (movie mode)
- 3” 1.62-million dot touchscreen
- Fujifilm X-Mount
- Up to 95 min battery life (Full HD)
- 5-axis in-camera sensor stabilisation + digital stabilisation for video
- Up to 6.2k 30fps, 4K 120fps Full HD 240fps (for 3mins)
Fujifilm’s X-H2S takes the best bits of the company’s X-T4 camera but changes the ergonomics and processing power to make it a small video powerhouse. Often overlooked in favour of full-frame sensor cameras, the X-H2S has some compelling features for videographers. First up, it can shoot in 6.2k, which gives plenty of scope for reframing scenes or making vertical crops for Instagram Stories or TikTok.
Photographers have long been impressed with the quality of the images straight out of Fujifilm cameras, thanks to the excellent Film Simulation modes. These modes mimic the looks of classic Fuji film stock. Filmmakers can now apply these looks to their video footage. In addition, there is the great-looking ETERNA mode designed explicitly for natural-looking videos.
Videographers can keep handheld shooting stable thanks to the 7EV sensor-based stabilisation. Image stabilisation can be extended by using optically stabilised lenses and the in-camera digital stabilisation of the X-H2S.
There are two 3.5mm sockets for recording from an external microphone and monitoring audio via headphones. The camera’s USB-C connection can charge the battery and power it, which helps extend shooting sessions.
Read our full Fujifilm X-H2S review.
Best video camera for 4K: Panasonic Lumix GH5 II (around $1,500/£1,300 body-only)
At a glance:
- 20.33 million-pixel Live-MOS Four Thirds Sensor
- ISO 100-12,800 (movie mode)
- 3” 1.84-million dot free-angle touchscreen
- Micro Four Thirds lens mount
- Up to 70 min battery life (Full HD)
- 5- axis in-camera sensor stabilisation + Dual IS with compatible lenses
- Up to 4K 60fps, Full HD 180fps
The Panasonic LUMIX GH5 was one of the most powerful mirrorless video cameras when it was released five years ago in 2017. Popular amongst both professional and enthusiast filmmakers who appreciated the camera’s size, 4K capture, high data rates and huge lens selection, it was no surprise that the camera received an update in 2021.
On the surface, the GH5 II is identical to its predecessor, with a comfortably sized magnesium, weather-sealed body. The most significant differences come in the processing power with the adoption of the Panasonic Venus 10 image engine.
The more powerful processor allows for improved autofocus performance over the GH5. However, it is still contrast detection rather than the often more reliable phase detection systems used now by most other manufacturers. Body and Animal AF have also been added to the existing Eye and Face Detection of the GH5.
At the time, the 4K 60fps shooting of the GH5 was virtually unmatched in its class. Although this is still the highest resolution that the camera can record, the recording bit rate has increased. The GH5 II can record Cinema 4K at 30fps in 4:2:2 10-bit, which is a jump in image quality – the GH5 could only record that quality at 24fps. C4K 60fps at 4:2:0 is another welcome addition, as is 4K anamorphic shooting and Full HD at 180fps. There are many different bit-depth, data rates and compression options to choose from, so there is something for everyone, though to get the highest quality will require an SDXC V60 card.
As you would expect, there are microphone input and headphone output sockets, as well as a wealth of video features, including Panasonic V-Log colour space. The Dual IS image stabilisation is borrowed from Panasonic’s full-frame S5 camera and combines both sensor shift and lens stabilisation for 6.5 stops of stability.
Perhaps most appealing is the Micro Four Thirds system. The lenses are typically smaller, meaning you can fit the GH5 II in tighter spaces, and there is an incredible line-up of lenses from various brands.
While the more recent Panasonic GH6 and Lumix S5 cameras may get most of the headlines, the GH5 II is a little powerhouse of a camera that will be great for YouTube and anyone who wants to go on to evolve their filmmaking.
Read our full Panasonic Lumix GH5 II review.
Best for beginner YouTubers: Nikon Z30 ($700/£700 body-only)
At a glance:
- 20.99-million-pixel APS-C CMOS Sensor
- ISO 100-25,600 (movie mode)
- 3” 1.04-million dot Vari-Angle touchscreen
- Nikon Z Mount
- Lens-based Nikon VR stabilisation and Electronic stabilisation
- Up to 4K 30fps, Full HD 120fps
The Nikon Z30 is a small, affordably priced entry point to Nikon’s Z system. Designed and marketed as a vlogging camera, it has a great basic set of features. It does lack a few headline features – for instance, there is no sensor-based stabilisation, although Nikon does have optically stabilised lenses. A good one is the NIKKOR Z DX 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR, which is available in a kit with the Z30 for around £830. There is also eVR, or Electronic Vibration Reduction, which is Nikon’s form of digital stabilisation for video.
For more, check out our picks of the best Z Mount Lenses for Nikon in 2023.
All the features you expect for getting started with vlogging are present, including a vari-angle screen for recording yourself, and a microphone socket. There is no headphone socket for monitoring audio. Still, there are other great features, including a recording time of up to 125 minutes (battery-dependent). The camera uses the entire width of the 20.99-million pixel sensor to shoot 4K without any crop.
Although it may lack some of the more advanced features and recording options of other cameras in this line-up, its price makes it a significant step up for those shooting with a smartphone or compact camera.
Read our full Nikon Z30 review.
Best video camera for those on a budget: Canon EOS M50 Mark II ($599/£589 body-only)
At a glance:
- 24.1 million-pixel APS-C CMOS Sensor
- ISO 100-25,600 (movie mode)
- 3” 1.04-million dot vari-angle touchscreen
- Canon EF-M Mount
- Lens-based optical stabilisation and electronic stabilisation
- Up to 4K 25fps, Full HD 60fps
An update of the Canon EOS M50, which was released in 2018, the EOS M50 Mark II adds several features to make it more suited for shooting online video content and live streaming.
The main features remain the same, including the 24.1-million-pixel sensor and the DIGIC 8 processing engine. These two features power Canon’s highly regarded Dual Pixel phase detection autofocus, and in the Mark II version, the Dual Pixel AF has been updated to include Eye AF in both stills and video. However, it is worth noting that Dual Pixel AF is not available when shooting in 4K, where the camera defaults to contrast detection autofocus.
Features such as the ability of the camera to recognise vertically shot video and to be able to wirelessly Livestream to YouTube (via a suitable Wi-Fi network) all make the EOS M50 Mark II an excellent option for video creators. And for those working from home or even recording a video podcast, there is the option to use the cameras as a webcam via Canon EOS Webcam Utility software. And, of course, there is a 3.5mm jack socket for adding an external microphone that can be mounted on the camera’s hotshoe.
The actual video capture options are somewhat limited, with 4K only available at 24 or 25fps and only 60fps for Full HD. If you want slow motion footage, it is possible to shoot at 120fps, but only if you accept a drop in resolution to Standard HD 720p, mode, which may still be suitable for viewing on mobile devices.
Like other cameras in its price range, the EOS M50 Mark II also offers no sensor-based stabilisation. Instead, it relies on lens-based stabilisation, with the option of further digital stabilisation, although this does come at the expense of a pretty significant crop to the image.
Battery life is good, with Canon quoting up to 95mins for 4K or 130mins when recording in Full HD. However, like many other cameras, the maximum record time for video is 30mins before you have to stop and hit record again.
In 2023 the Canon EOS M50 Mark II may look a little underwhelming in terms of its video capabilities. Still, its price and live-streaming features make it a powerful, easy-to-use camera. And in terms of value for money, it is tough to beat.
Read our full Canon EOS M50 Mark II review.
The best cheap 4K camera: Sony ZV-E10 ($698/£679 body-only)
At a glance:
- 24.2-million-pixel APS-C Exmor CMOS sensor
- ISO 100-32,000 (movie mode)
- 3” articulated touchscreen
- Sony E Mount
- Up to 125min battery life
- Lens stabilisation + digital stabilisation and optional post-production stabilisation
- Up to 4K 30fps, Full HD 120fps
Following Sony’s ZV-1 is the ZV-E10, which borrows from various other cameras in Sony’s line-up. It has much in common with the basic vlogging and video features of the previously mentioned ZV-1, such as the 3-inch articulated touchscreen and features such as Product Showcase mode.
The biggest difference is that the ZV-E10 is a mirrorless camera and uses the Sony E-mount rather than having a fixed zoom lens, like the ZV-1. This mount opens up the vast catalogue of Sony E-mount lenses available from Sony and third-party manufacturers. In this regard, the camera has much in common with the Sony Alpha 6000 series cameras, including the 24.2-million pixel sensor, which has been a mainstay in Sony’s APS-C line-up for a few years.
With 4K recording up to 30fps, Full HD at 120fps and a bitrate limit of 100mb/s, the ZV-E10 isn’t the most advanced on this list, with the Nikon Z30 and Canon EOS M50 Mark II being its closest rivals. Still, like those other cameras, what it lacks in high-end features it makes up for in price.
The ZV-E10 uses the entire width of the sensor to produce its 4K image; the footage is not cropped in this mode (unless you are using digital stabilisation), and the camera actually has a 6K image and samples this down to the 4K video that you see from the camera. The result of this downsampling should result in more detail and better colour.
As mentioned, there is a huge variety of lenses to choose from. Getting the camera as a kit with the 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens will cost around £770. Check out our picks of the best Sony E-mount lenses in 2023 for more options.
Externally the camera is like a large Sony ZV-1, with the layout being very straightforward and unintimidating for those who use a ‘real’ camera for the first time. Like other cameras in this price range, the body is polycarbonate, a.k.a. plastic, making it light and affordable. However, it may not be one for those who are more heavy-handed with their cameras.
Like the ZV-1, audio is handled well in-camera, with a microphone array on top that can be covered with a supplied wind jammer. The microphone socket can be used to provide external audio. However, you can also use the Multi Interface Shoe to mount a Sony microphone such as the ECM-G1. This means you don’t need to worry about having cables dangling from your camera, or whether the microphone is switched on. And, of course, there is a headphone socket so you can listen to the audio to check everything sounds great.
As you would expect for a Sony video camera, there is the ability to shoot in S-Log3. While perhaps this isn’t one for beginners, it is there when you want to evolve your filmmaking. However, maybe the best feature is Sony’s AF system which is about the best on the market. It provides fast and reliable focusing, particularly for faces, which is crucial when vlogging or shooting for YouTube.
Read our full Sony ZV-E10 review.
Finished with our guide to the best cameras for video? Don’t miss our essential run-through of the best lenses for video. We’ve also got in-depth guides to shooting video, including 9 common video problems and how to fix them, as well as our no-nonsense guide to how to get outstanding audio in your videos.
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