Tips & Tricks

Best cameras for live streaming for any budget (updated for 2021)

December 23rd, 2020 Marta Chernova

Best cameras for live streaming for any budget (updated for 2021) image

Researching how to pick a camera for live streaming? Want to know which type of camera will suit your specific use case? Looking to compare options and understand the differences between pricing categories? Want to know which models other users like? We’ve got answers.

Contents

    Which cameras are suitable for live streaming?

    How do you know a camera is good for live streaming? Can you use the one you already own? There are many features you should consider when choosing a camera for streaming. While some features are nice to have in a streaming camera, there are four that are simply essential.

    Four essential criteria for live streaming cameras

    1. Clean HDMI out

    To live stream from a camera, you have to capture the signal coming directly from its HDMI or SDI out port. Along with the video feed, some cameras will also send all the user interface (UI) elements visible on the display (e.g., battery life, exposure, aperture). To be suitable for live streaming, your camera has to be capable of sending a “clean” signal over HDMI, i.e., a signal without any UI elements visible. Unless it’s clean by default, there should be a menu setting you can toggle.

    Pro tip: An easy way to find out whether your camera has a clean HDMI out is to search online: “_your camera model_ clean HDMI output”

    2. Power supply / AC adapter-ready

    Live streams can run for hours. Most internal batteries can only last for about 20 minutes. Make sure there’s an option to get an AC power adapter for your camera (and get it!).

    3. Unlimited runtime

    For safety and battery conservation reasons, some cameras (especially DSLR models) will automatically shut off after about 30 minutes of inactivity. Automatic shutoff will not be acceptable for longer live streams. Check to see if your camera has this safety feature and whether there’s a way to disable it in settings.

    4. No overheating

    If you are planning to stream for over an hour, camera overheating may become an issue. Some mirrorless and DSLR cameras can overheat, especially when powered over USB. One way to prevent this is to use something called a dummy battery and an AC power adapter instead of USB power. Even so, some cameras are just more prone to overheating than others. Be sure to research this before buying.

    Be it a DSLR, a camcorder, cinema, mirrorless, or any other type, if your camera meets these four criteria, your camera is ready for live streaming. Webcams, on the other hand, are designed specifically for streaming, so it’s safe to assume that most of them come out of the box ready to live stream. It is also safe to assume that all camera models listed in this article comply with these guidelines.

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    Other important aspects to consider

    In addition to the four essential criteria, there are a few other aspects to consider.

    Output resolution

    Today, a camera should be able to output a minimum of 1280×720 (i.e., 720p) resolution. We suggest going for at least 1920×1080 (i.e., 1080p), which most cameras today do offer.

    Wondering whether you need 4K streaming? Chances are you don’t. Despite the ever-growing ubiquity of 4K displays, streaming in 4K is still unnecessary in most cases. For one, most viewers watch videos on their mobile devices (for YouTube, it’s over 70 percent of viewers), where even 1080p is more than enough for an enjoyable experience. Another reason is that sending and receiving 4K requires significant resources in terms of both encoding and bandwidth. Essentially, it’s a significant investment for a dubious advantage. Investing in a 4K camera (as well as powerful encoding hardware) is only reasonable when you know viewers will actually watch your live video on 4K displays.

    Frame rate

    Frame rate is another important aspect to consider, especially if you are planning to stream fast-paced activities like sports. For average-paced activities like interviews, 30 fps is reasonable; however, 60 to 120 fps is recommended for capturing brisk action.

    Autofocus

    We’ve all seen those videos where the camera just can’t seem to focus on anything. If you are planning to move about in the shot or show a close-up of something, fast and reliable autofocus is extremely important.

    Another frequently overlooked aspect is how loud the autofocus is. If there’s a lot of noise coming from the camera focusing, microphones could pick it right up, ruining audio. We suggest researching online what users say about a camera’s autofocus before purchasing.

    Audio pathway

    Always consider the path of your audio signal. Are you capturing sound with a mic separately, or is it routed through your camera? If it’s the latter, pay attention to the camera’s audio inputs. Basic cameras come with a 3.5-mm jack while more advanced models may offer professional XLR inputs. Some cameras don’t have any external audio inputs at all. Cameras like these rely on an internal microphone, which rarely produces great results.

    An advantage of routing audio through your camera is that it eliminates sync issues because the audio and video signals arrive at the same time.

    Pro tip: Check to see if your camera has live audio throughput.

    Some older camcorder and DSLR models don’t output live audio. A fast way to check this is to connect the camera to a TV using an HDMI or SDI cable. If you can hear the sound on the TV, your camera has live audio throughput, and you’re all set.

    Connector type

    HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) is one of the most popular connector types for video. It comes in three varieties: HDMI micro, HDMI mini, and full-size HDMI. Check which one your camera uses and be ready to buy adapters.

    Though popular, HDMI connectors are often said to be unreliable, especially the micro and mini varieties. It’s easy to accidentally pull out these cables in the middle of an important event. Additionally, HDMI cables are limited to about 100 ft in length, beyond which the signal starts to degrade.

    Another popular connector is SDI (Serial Digital Interface). SDI is a faster connection than HDMI. SDI cable connectors also offer a physical locking mechanism and can run for distances of up to 300 ft.

    Simultaneous streaming and recording

    It’s a good idea to have a backup recording of your live stream, just in case. Keep in mind that some camera models don’t allow simultaneous internal recording and video capture for streaming. A quick way to determine whether your camera can do both is to connect it to a TV and press record on the camera. If the recording starts and you are still able to see the live feed on the TV screen, your camera is able to stream and record simultaneously.

    There is another option when it comes to simultaneous streaming and recording: all-in-one hardware encoders like Pearl-2 and Pearl Mini can both stream and record video at the same time.

    Rotating display (flip screen)

    You want to be able to see what you look like on camera. Cameras with a screen that rotates to face you and flips the image are designed for this. This handy feature saves the extra effort it takes to set up an external confidence monitor.

    Going mobile

    If you are planning to use your camera for a mobile live stream, be sure to review the camera’s battery life (and get a few additional battery grips). Also consider the weight, size, and shape of the camera. For example, the design of many DSLR cameras makes it challenging to hold them steady without a tripod for extended periods of time. Camcorders, meanwhile, were designed for handheld shooting.

    Other important gear (lights, tripods, etc.)

    As amazing as camera technology is today, respecting the basic principles of filmmaking is still crucial. It’s important to pay just as much attention to lighting and composition as to your choice of camera. Even the world’s best camera won’t be able to save a poorly lit shot. Similarly, a sturdy tripod can do more for image stabilization than the best image stabilization software. Check out our guide to building your own live streaming studio to learn the basics of lighting and camera setup.

    How to connect a camera for live streaming

    It’s a question we hear often: Can I connect my camera to a computer using an HDMI or USB cable and just start streaming?

    The short answer is no.

    If connecting USB webcams to a computer is pretty straightforward (because they are plug-and-play devices), connecting “real” cameras works a bit differently. First off, more often than not the HDMI port on your computer is an OUT port, not an IN port. Secondly, the small USB port on your camera was designed for slow data transfer and not for the continuous, rapid, high-resolution image transfer required for streaming. In most cases, video capture for live streaming is possible only through HDMI. Lastly, HDMI video capture requires special drivers computers lack.

    To capture HDMI video from a camcorder, DSLR, mirrorless, or any other non-USB camera, you will need a USB capture card.

    avio capture card diagram

    A capture card is a small piece of hardware that helps translate the camera’s analog video signal into a digital video format that your computer will understand. Capture cards can come in various flavors depending on resolution (HD, 4K) and connector type (HDMI, SDI, VGA, DVI).

    There is, however, a way to live stream from a camera without a capture card. Hardware encoders like Pearl-2, Pearl Mini, and Pearl Nano, are purpose-built devices that can capture, stream, and record any HDMI or SDI camera signal. This way you can connect the camera directly and stream without a capture card or a computer.

    Types of live streaming cameras

    There are various types of cameras you can use for streaming, including webcams, camcorders, DSLRs, mirrorless, PTZ, and action cameras. For some scenarios, one type of camera is clearly better suited than another. Other times the budget plays the final role, and sometimes it comes down to consumer preference.

    Webcams

    Webcams are USB-powered devices that connect directly to a computer. The plug-and-play capability makes them highly user friendly. Both computers and hardware encoders can accept webcams as USB video sources.

    Webcams were designed for capturing talking heads in indoor settings. Though webcam image quality is almost always inferior to that of “real” video cameras, modern webcams can produce very good video, especially with proper lighting. Advanced webcam features include digital zoom, face recognition, and background replacement. Webcams often come with a clip that mounts onto a laptop or computer monitor, and some even have tripod-ready mounts.

    Pro tip: Choose webcams with glass lenses over plastic ones: the video will look crisper and more vibrant.

    Logitech c920 webcam

    Logitech c920

    Webcams are good for:

    • Indoor video streaming
    • Video conferencing/talking heads
    • Online video game streaming
    • Lecture narration

    DSLR and Mirrorless cameras

    Originally designed as digital analogs to traditional film cameras, DSLR and mirrorless cameras offer beautiful image quality. The lenses on these types of cameras are usually interchangeable, presenting opportunities for shot customization and fine cinematographic effects. Compared to camcorders in the same price category, DSLR and mirrorless have much larger image sensors, which means better image quality. Switching from a webcam to a DSLR or mirrorless is a great way to improve your stream’s video quality.

    DSLR Panasonic Lumix GH5

    lumix gh5

    Because DSLR and mirrorless were primarily made to be photo cameras, some of them are poorly suited for video recording or live streaming. Older models from this category can be particularly prickly when it comes to meeting the four criteria for live streaming cameras:

    • Not all models have a clean HDMI out (or any HDMI out at all)
      Confirm that the camera has a video out, then check whether it’s a clean HDMI out. Online communities and professional reviews can usually help with this.
    • Overheating
      DSLR sensors and processors tend to overheat over long periods of operation. Many DSLRs will show an overheating warning after about 30 minutes in live view mode and shut off. This seems to be an issue with many Canon DSLR cameras in particular.
    • Automatic shutoff
      Some models shut off after a period of inactivity to preserve battery. This issue is usually resolved by either turning the energy saving timer off or connecting the camera to AC power.

    Pro tip: Before purchasing a DSLR/mirrorless for live streaming, always check online for any known issues.

    With the live streaming industry rapidly evolving, newer DSLR and mirrorless models are designed with live streaming in mind. This means that most recent releases meet the four criteria for live streaming cameras. Additionally, companies like Canon, Nikon, Sony, and Panasonic have recently released firmware updates that convert a DSLR/mirrorless model into plug-and-play USB camera (much like a webcam).

    Lenses: An additional expense with DSLR/mirrorless cameras

    What sets DSLR and mirrorless apart from other camera types is the interchangeable lens option. This opens up a world of possibilities when it comes to fine-tuning your shot, but the costs for “glass” can also add up fast. Some high-end lenses can cost in the tens of thousand dollars. Depending on the look you are going for, you may end up spending as much (if not more) on the lenses as you did on the camera. This is why lens choice is always something to think about. One way to keep the costs down and help you decide what you really need is to rent the lenses first.

    DSLR and mirrorless cameras are good for:

    • Vlogging, live shows, webinars
    • Upgrading from webcam-quality streaming
    • Creating a customized cinematic look using lenses
    • Serving double-duty as a photo and video camera
    • Travelling, specifically for mirrorless cameras, which are compact and lightweight

    Camcorders

    Unlike DSLR and mirrorless cameras, camcorders are purpose-built for capturing hours and hours of video. Designed as digital versions of their analogue counterparts, professional camcorders are the industry standard for video broadcasting. Feature sets range widely depending on price point. The bottom line is, if you are looking to produce a lot of live video content, you should strongly consider a camcorder.

    Camcorder main features:

    • Long battery life
    • Subjects are always in focus (flipside: lack of depth of field)
    • Easy to use (ergonomic design, point and shoot)
    • No recording or streaming time limit (unlike DSLRs)
    • Versatility – one lens fits all (flipside: less control over cinematics)

    Canon VIXIA HF G21 Camcorder

    Canon Vixia G21

    You can start streaming with the most basic prosumer camcorder like the Canon Vixia R800 for about $250 US, move up to a mid-level camcorder with more functionality and far better image quality for about $1,000 US, and graduate to a professional camcorder ranging anywhere from $2,500 to $10,000.

    A small number of high-end camcorder models offer direct-from-the-camera live streaming. This means the camcorder has an encoder unit built in that can stream to any destination via Ethernet, Wi-Fi, or a cellular connection. These include Panasonic, Canon, Sony, and JVC camcorders (all of which are quite an investment).

    Digital camcorders are good for:

    • Beginner videographers (more affordable models)
    • Large live productions like concerts, conferences, live news shows, etc.
    • Events where a camera operator is present or can be brought in

    PTZ cameras

    PTZ (Pan, Tilt, and Zoom) are cameras you can operate remotely. These cameras typically have a flat base that can be securely mounted on a shelf, a ceiling, or a tripod. PTZ cameras are widely used in permanent installs at churches, conference and concert halls, lecture auditoriums, and other large spaces.

    These cameras offer ample optical and digital zoom as well as 60 fps streaming, making them a viable solution for sports streaming. One camera operator can remotely control multiple PTZ cameras at once. Some PTZ camera models offer automatic tracking, which means the camera can identify and follow a speaker as they move about the room.

    Sony BRC X400 4K PTZ Camera

    Sony BRC X400 4K PTZ Camera

    PTZ cameras generally do not feature audio capture options, which means audio has to be configured and synced separately.

    PTZ cameras are good for:

    • Church streaming, lecture capture, sports streaming
    • Easy mounting and set-and-forget permanent installations in large spaces (churches, lecture halls, concert and conference venues, stadiums)
    • Remote operation scenarios
    • Automatic subject tracking

    Optimal settings for a live streaming camera

    To get the best possible video quality, be sure to check the following settings before going live. Some of these settings will be easily adjustable using dials on the camera body, while others may be hidden deep within the system menu.

    Coordinate exposure and fps

    Set the exposure time fraction to be a multiple of the chosen frame rate. For example, if you are streaming at 30 frames per second (fps), set your camera’s exposure to be 1/30; at 60 fps make it 1/60; etc.

    Fully open aperture

    The more light the camera receives, the better the image quality, as more light is able to hit the sensor.

    Progressive, not interlaced

    Video sources that are listed with the letter “p” are called progressive scan signals (e.g., 720p, 1080p), while those listed with “i” are interlaced (480i, 1080i). Progressive signals look better because they display both even and odd scan lines simultaneously. Interlaced signals alternate between even and odd scan lines, making the video look stripey. Always go for “p” for streaming, not “i”.

    Deciphering a camera’s streaming resolution and frame rate

    In the camera features lists that follow, you’ll see the following sets of numbers and letters:

    • 720p60
    • 1080p30
    • 4K30

    These describe the maximum resolution (e.g., 720p, 1080p, 4K) and frame rate (e.g., 30, 60) the camera is capable of streaming.

    Best live streaming cameras for any budget

    We’ve broken the list down into four budget categories. The idea is to highlight the features you can expect at each price point. The model picks are based on our own experience as well as the opinions of expert streaming community members. Prices are as of November 2020.

    1. Minimal budget ($50-250) — Just getting started with streaming

    This category includes two types of cameras: webcams and basic camcorders.

    Logitech C920

    Logitech C922 Pro HD Stream Webcam ($120)

    Along with its younger brother, the C920, the Logitech C922 is arguably the most popular webcams on the market today. It remains our go-to recommendation for easy plug-and-play USB video.

    Features

    • 1080p30, 720p60 streaming over USB
    • Good autofocus and light correction
    • Stereo audio with dual microphones
    • Customizable background replacement
    • 78° Diagonal Field of View

    Drawbacks

    • Webcam-quality video
    Microsoft Lifecam Studio for Business

    Microsoft Lifecam Studio for Business ($80-100)

    Another affordable webcam option. We recommend the slightly more expensive Studio Business model over the Cinema model because it comes with 1080p resolution, digital zoom, and a tripod mount.

    Features

    • 1080p30 streaming over USB
    • CMOS sensor Technology
    • High-fidelity, wideband internal microphone
    • 75° diagonal field of view
    • 360° Rotation

    Drawbacks

    • Webcam-quality video
    Logitech BRIO Webcam

    Logitech BRIO Webcam ($200)

    Logitech BRIO offers some of the best video quality you can expect to get from a webcam. High dynamic range guarantees vibrant colors and balanced lights and shadows. The webcam adapts well to any lighting environment, automatically adjusting exposure and contrast to compensate for glare and backlighting. Unfortunately, the 4K feature is only available for recording, not streaming.

    Features

    • 1080p60 streaming over USB
    • 90° Field of View (wide for a webcam)
    • Good autofocus
    • Performs well in low-light conditions
    • Many additional settings through Logitech software
    • Top video quality when it comes to webcams

    Drawbacks

    • Still webcam-quality video
    • 4K for recording only
    Canon VIXIA HF-R800

    Canon Vixia HF R800 ($250)

    The Canon Vixia HF R800 is a popular option among those getting started with event streaming. This camera is easy for anyone to operate, handheld or on a tripod. Though not ideal for professional productions, the ​Canon Vixia HF offers a quick-and-dirty way to set up live streaming for small events, both indoors and outdoors.

    Features

    • 1080p60 streaming
    • One-chip 1/4.85″ CMOS sensor
    • Long battery life (2760 mAh battery)
    • Light and portable (305 g with battery)
    • Rotating display
    • 3.5 mm mini-jack/headphone terminal
    • Mini HDMI out

    Drawbacks

    • Soft focus
    • Subdued colors
    • Noisy video in poor lighting conditions
    • Unimpressive image quality due to small sensor size
    Panasonic HC-V180K

    Panasonic HC-V180K ($200)

    Much like the Canon Vixia R800, the Panasonic HC-V180K offers an easy way to capture video for small events. This is one of the most affordable options when it comes to basic prosumer camcorders.

    Features

    • 1080p60 streaming
    • 1/5.8″ BSI MOS sensor
    • Compact and lightweight
    • Rotating display
    • Mini HDMI out

    Drawbacks

    • Soft focus
    • Subdued colors
    • Noisy video in poor lighting conditions
    • Unimpressive image quality due to small sensor size

    2. Starter budget ($500-700) — Beginners looking for better image quality

    If you’re looking to upgrade from the quality you’d get from a webcam or basic camcorder, this category is for you. Alternatively, if you’re just getting started with streaming and want to jump directly to advanced video quality (skipping webcams altogether), this category is also for you. This category predominantly features entry-level mirrorless and DSLR cameras, which offer crisp, professional-looking video. At the same time, the interchangeable lenses offer additional control over framing, depth of field, and blurred background effects.

    Compared to high-end DSLRs, more affordable DLSRs may offer less advanced autofocus capabilities. Keep this in mind for situations when you’re filming yourself solo: good autofocus goes a long way for talking-head videos.

    Sony Alpha a5100

    Sony Alpha a5100 ($500-$600)

    Ever since its release in 2014, the Sony a5100 has been the top affordable camera pick for many looking to stream. Its small, portable, and lightweight design makes it a perfect travel companion. Overall this is a solid entry-level mirrorless camera choice for live streaming.

    Features

    • 1080p60 streaming
    • APS-C (23.5 x 15.6 mm) CMOS sensor
    • ​3” flip-up display
    • Fast autofocus
    • Light and portable (only 283 g)
    • Micro HDMI out

    Drawbacks:

    • Design and location of Micro HDMI port makes it prone to breakage
    • No image stabilization (not ideal for action video)
    • No external microphone port
    Canon M200

    Canon EOS M200 ($550-$650)

    This 2019 addition to the Canon mirrorless family quickly became popular with the live streaming community. The M200 is one of the few entry-level mirrorless cameras that offers 4K streaming. This, along with its impressive video quality, makes the M200 a great value.

    Features:

    • 4K24, 1080p60, 720p120 streaming
    • APS-C (22.3 x 14.9 mm) CMOS sensor
    • 3” flip-up display
    • Dual Pixel CMOS silent autofocus
    • Light and portable (only 299 g)
    • Micro HDMI out

    Drawbacks:

    • No external microphone port
    Canon EOS Rebel SL3 (250D)

    Canon EOS Rebel SL3 (EOS 250D) ($650)

    If you’re looking for an affordable 2-in-1 photo and video camera, consider this DSLR. Canon EOS Rebel SL3 (also known as 250D) is the most affordable choice on the market right now. While many DSLR cameras are unsuitable for live streaming due to the automatic safety shutoff feature and the autofocus box display issue, the SL3 doesn’t exhibit either issue. This camera is also capable of streaming in 4K.

    Features

    • 4K30, 1080p60 streaming
    • APS-C (22.3 x 14.9 mm) CMOS sensor
    • Good face-tracking autofocus
    • External 3.5 mm microphone jack and a hot shoe mount
    • 3″ rotating display
    • Long battery life
    • Mini HDMI out
    Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7

    Panasonic Lumix G7 ($500)

    The Panasonic Lumix G7 is a great deal. This Micro Four Thirds mirrorless camera (trapped in a DSLR body) offers great image quality. The external 3.5 mm audio input makes it easy to route professional audio through the camera, avoiding AV sync issues. The G7 is simple to set up and use, and it’s not fussy when it comes to output settings. All these features combined with the price make the G7 a great value camera for live streaming.

    Features

    • 4K30, 1080p60 streaming
    • Micro Four Thirds (17.3 x 13 mm) CMOS sensor
    • ​External 3.5 mm microphone input
    • Good autofocus
    • 3” rotating display
    • Micro HDMI out

    Drawbacks:

    • Because of the (smallish) Micro Four Thirds sensor, it might be difficult to get intense blurred background (bokeh) effects, even with a low-aperture lens.
    Panasonic HC-V770K

    Panasonic HC-V770 ($600)

    The Panasonic H-V770 is a mid-level prosumer camcorder. Like all camcorders, it’s easy to operate, on a tripod or off. This particular model offers a few noteworthy features. One is good image stabilization for handheld shooting and fast-paced action. Another feature allows you to pair your smartphone to the camera and use it as a second camera angle for a picture-in-picture layout.

    Features

    • 1080p60 streaming
    • One-chip 1/2.3″ MOS sensor
    • ​20x optical zoom (29.5 to 612 mm equivalent focal length)
    • 3.5 mm microphone and A/V inputs
    • 3” rotating display
    • Micro HDMI out

    Drawbacks:

    • Noisy video in poor lighting conditions
    • DSLR/mirrorless cameras in the same budget category often offer better, more customizable image quality due to larger sensor size

    3) Advanced user budget ($900-1600) — Transitioning to professional-quality live streaming

    This section is for those looking to transition from basic and mid-level event streaming to professional, polished live productions. This category includes advanced DSLRs, mirrorless cameras, and prosumer camcorders.

    Compared to the budget pool below, DSLRs in this category offer larger sensor sizes and better image quality. For DSLR and mirrorless cameras in this category, 4K output virtually comes standard, whereas for camcorders this is not necessarily so. Compared to DSLR/mirrorless cameras, camcorders also come with smaller sensor sizes, though their overall design is better equipped for shooting video. Here, many camcorders will feature professional video and audio inputs, such as SDI and XLR. This is particularly important for professional productions because SDI cables can run longer than HDMI, and they offer a more secure and faster way to transfer video data.

    Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4

    Panasonic Lumix GH4 (body+lens starts at $900)

    One of the most popular DSLR models among social streamers, and for good reason. The Lumix GH4 camera was designed with video in mind: it never overheats during extended periods of work, it doesn’t shut off automatically, and it offers up to 3.5 hours of battery life. For a moderate price, you get a 4K-ready camera in a durable, magnesium alloy, weather-sealed body.

    Features:

    • 4K30, 1080p60 streaming
    • Four Thirds (17.3 x 13 mm) Live MOS sensor
    • 3″ rotating display
    • Long battery life
    • Micro HDMI out

    Drawbacks:

    • Average low-light high-ISO performance compared to APS-C sensor cameras at a similar price point
    Sony a6300

    Sony a6400 ($900)

    The Sony a6400 is one of the cameras we use for our Live @ Epiphan show. A few steps up from the a5100 and an update of the a6300, it’s a great balance between portability, image quality, and value. Sony a6400 is also known for its fantastic autofocus capabilities.

    Features:

    • 4K30, 1080p60 streaming
    • APS-C (23.5 x 15.6 mm) CMOS sensor
    • 3″ flip-up display
    • Embedded 2 channel HDMI Audio
    • Light and portable
    • Fast autofocus
    • Micro HDMI out

    Drawbacks:

    • No built-in image stabilization
    • No headphone jack
    Sony Alpha a7

    Sony A7 II ($1200)

    The Sony A7 Mk II is likely the most affordable Full Frame sensor camera on the market. This mirrorless camera feels very solidly built and durable, and it offers undeniably great image quality. The A7 II is a good choice for anyone seeking a well-priced, feature-packed, full-frame camera that can shoot both video and still photography. Due to its below-average battery life and overall heft, this camera may not be ideal for on-the-go shooting.

    Features:

    • 1080p60 streaming
    • Full Frame (35.8 x 23.9 mm) CMOS sensor
    • Simultaneous HDMI out + internal recording to memory card
    • Excellent image stabilization with almost any lens
    • 3.5 mm mic and headphone jack
    • Micro HDMI out

    Drawbacks:

    • Short battery life
    Canon VIXIA HF-G50

    Canon Vixia HF G50 ($1,100)

    Canon Vixia HF G50 is the top tier Vixia series prosumer camcorder. It offers a large, highly sensitive image sensor and a lot of control over settings including aperture, brightness, focus, exposure, ISO, white balance, and more. Canon’s advanced optical image stabilization helps correct camera shaking so even handheld video will look sharp and steady.

    Features:

    • 1080p60 streaming
    • One-chip 1/2.3″ CMOS
    • 3.5 mm stereo mini-jack (mic/line level) and headphone jack
    • 3” rotating display
    • Mini HDMI out

    Drawbacks:

    • No 4K streaming
    • HDMI connector is prone to breaking
    Canon XA11

    Canon XA11 ($1,300)

    A step up from the Vixia series, Canon’s XA series is a step into professional entry-level camcorder territory. The XA11 offers XLR audio input and a shotgun mic mount, which significantly expand quality audio input options. Users commend this camera for its autofocus and face tracking, image stabilization, and long battery life.

    Features:

    • 1080p60 streaming
    • 1/2.84″ CMOS Sensor
    • 3″ rotating display
    • Two XLR mic/line-level (+48V phantom power) inputs and one 3.5 mm stereo mic input
    • Mini HDMI Output

    Drawbacks:

    • No 4K output

    4) Professional budget ($1,600+) — For mission-critical live productions

    This category goes into heavy-duty, high-end professional camcorders, advanced DSLR/mirrorless, and professional cinema cameras. You can expect to see full-size HDMI 2.0, SDI, and XLR inputs for professional audio. Other professional features might include LCD/EVF displays that assist shooting (e.g., focus and exposure peaking, zebra, waveform display), built-in ND filters, LUTs, and more.

    Many cameras in this category offer advanced remote control and management options, which is something that becomes crucial during professional live productions.

    These are refined, professional-grade tools with extensive settings menus, so adequate experience is required to use these cameras proficiently.

    It’s difficult to estimate the upper limit for a professional camera budget. Some systems can cost upwards of tens of thousands of dollars. Accordingly, below is but a small selection of popular professional camera models.

    Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5

    Panasonic Lumix GH5 ($1600+)

    A successor of the GH4, the GH5 also carries a Micro Four Thirds sensor and streams in 4K. Beyond that, it offers extended color depth (10-bit color with 4:2:2 chroma subsampling), fast autofocus, great image stabilization, and a few other advanced features. The GH5’s well-balanced affordability and rich feature set makes it a popular camera choice. This is a sturdy, solid-built camera, and according to Panasonic also freeze-proof, dust-proof, and splash-proof.

    Stream without a capture card: Recently, Panasonic released the LUMIX Tether for Streaming (Beta) software, which lets you connect the camera directly to your computer via USB to start streaming.

    Features:

    • 4K30, 1080p60 streaming
    • Four Thirds (17.3 x 13 mm) CMOS sensor
    • 3” rotating display
    • 3.5 mm mic jack with line-level input
    • Hot shoe mount
    • Panasonic XLR mic adaptor support (sold separately)
    • Full-size HDMI out

    Drawbacks:

    • Rather heavy for a mirrorless camera (725 g)
    • An investment compared to other mirrorless cameras
    Panasonic AG UX180

    Panasonic AG-UX180 ($2,700-$3,700)

    Among other firsts, this camera is said to have the industry’s widest angle of 24 mm and the world’s first 20x optical zoom in a camcorder with a 1.0-type sensor. Other features include an advanced optical image stabilizer, five-axis hybrid image stabilizer, and intelligent autofocus. Overall, the Panasonic AG-UX180 strikes a good balance between professional features and affordability.

    Features:

    • 4K24 (via HDMI), 1080p60 streaming
    • One-chip 1″ MOS sensor
    • Focus assist + fast focus
    • External (remote) zoom and iris controls, wireless remote control from an iPad
    • Two full XLR inputs, one 3.5 mm jack
    • One 3G-SDI and one full HDMI 2.0 output
    Canon XF400

    Canon XF400 ($2,500+)

    This versatile and compact camcorder offers 4K streaming, remote control, and professional-looking video. Built-in WiFi allows you to control the camera’s functions through a web browser. Camera control is also available using the included WL-D89 remote.

    Features:

    • 4K60 streaming over HDMI
    • 1080p60 over 3G-SDI
    • One-chip 1″ CMOS sensor
    • 15x optical zoom (up to 30x digital zoom)
    • Two full XLR inputs (4 channels of audio)
    • Remote control connectivity
    • Full HDMI 2.0 out
    Panasonic AG-CX350

    Panasonic AG-CX350 4K Camcorder ($3,700)

    Aside from boasting all the standard professional features, this camera also offers unique networking features. The AG-CX350 has built-in streaming, which means you can stream directly from it using standard streaming protocols without a PC or an encoder unit. The camera features an Ethernet port through which you can stream directly to the Internet. An optional USB wireless adapter allows you to stream wirelessly. 4G/LTE connectivity is also possible using third-party dongles.

    The CX350 has preinstalled support of NDI, which provides automatic discovery and ease of use, and built-in support for NDI via NDI|HX. It also allows ultra-low latency streaming, and supports camera control and tally.

    Features:

    • 4K60, 1080p120 streaming
    • 1″ MOS sensor
    • 20x Optical, 32x Intelligent Zoom
    • 20x Optical zoom lens 35 mm (24.5 to 490 mm) focal length
    • Supports LANC Control
    • Output HDR over the 3G-SDI or HDMI output either individually or simultaneously
    • Intelligent autofocus with subject tracking
    • Built-in NDI support
    • Built-in stereo microphone or two XLR audio inputs (48V phantom power, mic, and line are switchable)
    Canon EOS C70

    Canon EOS C70 Cinema Camera ($5,500+)

    The C70 body may look like a full-frame DSLR camera, but it is in fact a cinema camera. It is said to combine the best of both worlds: the quality and performance of the cine line mixed with the portability, versatility, and ergonomics of the EOS R line. The Super 35 mm Dual Gain Output CMOS sensor can capture an incredibly wide dynamic range, which means a high level of detail in both the highlights and the shadows, a vibrant image, as well as low noise levels even in low-light conditions.

    Features:

    • Up to 4K60 streaming (DCI 4:2:2 10-bit)
    • Super 35 mm Dual Gain Output (DGO) sensor
    • Two mini XLR three-pin inputs, one 3.5 mm stereo mini jack
    • Full-size HDMI 2.0 out
    • IP streaming available; requires third-party optional USB-C to Ethernet converter and decoder transmission device
    • Dual pixel autofocus and face tracking
    • Portable and versatile

    Drawbacks:

    • A considerable investment (price listed for body only – lenses cost extra)
    • No SDI output

    Conclusion

    There you have it: our picks for the best cameras for live streaming for any budget. Naturally, there are many other streaming cameras on the market. This list is based on our own experience and the experiences of our customers.

    Did we miss anything? Which camera are you using to go live? Feel free to tell us in the comments which you think is the best camera for live streaming!

    63 Comments

    1. fkmobile

      In terms of camcorders, which brand is best? Panasonic, Cannon, or Sony? I see that you mention Panasonic and Cannon in your list.

      • Marta Chernova

        Not to sound vague, fkmobile, but at the end, it’s really a consumer preference. Most Panasonic, Canon, and Sony products today perform so well, that it often comes down to comfort. I know people who are loyal to a specific brand because of certain UI controls or because of the general product look and feel. I personally really like Canon as a brand, but I also know that Panasonic and Sony cameras are capable of shooting amazing video.

        I think it’s important to try them all, compare, and decide for yourself. It also depends a lot on your budget!

        • john A Lewis

          I have a Nikon D3200 and a ZOOM Q4m. Are these good camera for streaming?

          • Marta Chernova

            John,
            The Nikon D3200 is not suitable for live streaming because it does not provide a clean HDMI out.
            Not sure about a “ZOOM Q4m”, but if you meant Zoom Q4n – then yes, you can use it for streaming. The device outputs at 1080i over HDMI. Quality-wise – we don’t really know, we have not tested it.

      • David Norton

        Some of the vloggers we watch have moved from gopro’s to Sony action cameras because of their movie iris steady vision and the ability to plug in an external mic. Some are also using the new Samsung or iphone phones although the iPhone hasn’t got a mic input din

    2. I’m missing the new Panasonic AG-CX350 4K Camcorder. It has NDI HX build in.

      • Marta Chernova

        Jens, thanks for the comment. The Panasonic AG-CX350 is really new, and it looks great. We weren’t really aware of it being out there, thanks for bringing it up. We will be sure to have a better look.

    3. Karan Sahni

      Shall I prefer buying a camcorder or a DSLR for livestreaming?
      My budget is somewhat around Canon 80D

      • Marta Chernova

        Hi Karan. It really comes down to what you’re more comfortable using. If you’ve been using a DSLR to take pictures a bit of video – then probably go with the DSLR. Due to the variety of available lens, DSLRs can give your video a really nice visual quality, like the intense bokeh effect. A lot more room for artistic expression, basically. If you’re completely new to streaming and video – camcorders are just easier to operate from that perspective as they are made exclusively for video and there are fewer settings to figure out.

        Be sure to check out this article as well, it talks about the differences between DSLRs and camcorders.

        • Karla

          Great article, thank you!
          I bought the Canon Vixia HF R800 today thinking that connecting the HDMI cable from camcorder to my laptop would allow me to use it as a webcam. I am creating workshops on Zoom and wanted something of better quality. I called canon to help me troubleshoot it and they told me that it this camcorder cannot be used as a webcam. I am reading mixed reviews and know I am too new at this to fully know what I am doing wrong. Any tips? 🙂

          • Marta Chernova

            You can! All you need is a capture card between your computer and your camera. Your computer doesn’t “know” what the Canon camera is when you plug it directly, it needs some help.
            This capture card will work for you: https://www.epiphan.com/products/avio-hd/
            Connect your camera to the capture card using HDMI, and then from the capture card to your computer using an USB cable (comes with the capture card).

          • Jason Hofmann

            With the ongoing global pandemic, more and more people will find the blog post and be confused. The post needs to amended to explain that no computer can take HDMI in without additional hardware. Leaving this out of this blog post is a major oversight. Karla, the Elgato Cam Link- 4K is a much more affordable and more popular option.

            • Marta Chernova

              You’re totally right, Jason. We updated the article to include that section.

            • Jason Hofmann

              Very classy to accept my comment during moderation! I’m impressed.

            • Robroscob

              Not exactly true….Check out digiCamControl opensource software. It can allow you to connect a camera to your computer for webcam, live streaming etc.

    4. Christer Hiort

      Hello
      My issue using camcorders is that what you see on your view finder screen, is what will come out on the HDMI feed.
      I just got a Panasonic HC V750 and when I plug the HDMI from the camera to a monitor for example, I see the graphics from the camera on the screen. I have not found a way to turn that off to get a “clean” feed from the camera.
      Any tips ?

    5. Alexander

      Thanks for this great article! I would go for the Blackmagic Ultrastudio Mini Recorder as a capture device. Which cameras would be compatible? I am looking for something with good low light performance for a static setting (cam on tripod, no need to refocus). Which ones of the medium budget range would you recommend? Thanks!

    6. Alexander

      Thanks for the very nice review. I ended up buying the Sony A6400 which is pretty similar to the Sony A6300 which is in your list. A clear disadvantage which is also valid for the A6300 is the poor quality 1080p video which is missing a lot of detail. The 4k video ist great, though, strange enough. Otherwise it is great. Strong point is the excellent autofocus. It also does not need a dc coupler charger, it lives happily for at least 5 hours on the USB power supply.

      The Fujifilm X-T30 is the direct competitor, has better video and color quality and would be really nice to use but it overheats very quickly when outputting 4k video. I even used a dummy battery AC adapter to reduce heat from the battery and added a heatsink on the back with the display angled off the camera. Nothing really helped. The autofocus is also clearly weaker than on the Sony.

    7. Greg

      Great article. Does the Canon 80D output audio over its HDMI ?

    8. Vaughn Hazell

      I currently use the Canon Vixia HF R800 for streaming soccer games at 1080P60 using a DIA with 30MB upload but I don’t find the image to be very clear.

      Do you think I can get a much better image using the instead Canon Vixia HF G21?

      For these kinds of sporting events that can exceed sometimes 3 hours if I am streaming multiple games do you recommend a Camcorder or can a DSLR work just as good?

      Thank you

      • Mathieu R

        Unfortunately we do not own these cameras so we are unable to test them for comparison. Based on the technical specifications however, I would theorize that Canon Vixia HF G21 would be the better quality camera to use if comparing it with the Canon Vixia HF R800

    9. Jay

      Under the description for the Canon C100 mk2 you say “Consider getting the detachable top handle if you’re planning to do a lot of video.” You may want to edit that bc every C100 made comes with the handle/audio in the box.

    10. […] best cameras for live streaming for any budget (epiphan.com) – A comprehensive list of the best webcams, camcorders, DSLRs and mirrorless cameras for live […]

    11. Chris

      Hmmm… I bought the Canon SL2 for the purpose of live streaming and connecting it to an ATEM Blackmagic TV Production switcher… it appears that the SL2 does not provide a clean hdmi out, even with your recommended “manual focus” on the lens. Can you please help me figure out why I’m still not getting a clean HDMI out signal or was there a setting or option that I missed along with pressing the lens switch for “manual” focus.

      Please help.

      Chris

    12. Dmitrii Ermolin

      Hello!
      Does Panasonic H-V770 really has option to output 1080p124 through HDMI?
      How to set it up? I haven’t found any info on how to pick HDMI output frame rate.
      Please share if you know how.

      I’m looking for budget camera capable to output at least 1080p60 for school sport events streaming. V770 seems to good choose.

      • Craig Rhinehart

        I just chatted with a Panasonic representative who told me that the V770 does not allow for all icons to be removed in the HDMI output stream because it was not designed for streaming. He offered a list of other Panasonic camcorders that do have this feature:

        HC-X1500 – $1,700
        HC-X2000 – $2,199
        AG-CX10 – $2,750
        HC-V180 – $200
        HC-V800 – $500
        HC-VX1 / VXF1 – $600

        • Craig Rhinehart

          Replying to my own post here. Turns out I was given bad information by a Panasonic representative. This really stressed me out until I got the right answer. You CAN get a clean HDMI output with the Panasonic HC-V770. To do so, turn off the date/clock (instructions not provided here as they were pretty straightforward) but then (the tricky part) do this: Open the menu then choose Setup | EXT. DISPLAY (“SIMPLE”, “DETAILED”, “OFF”)… Set this to “OFF”. I know, seems like you wouldn’t want it set this way but it works just fine and removes the picture mode icon (or whatever that is).

    13. […] In searching for a list of cameras that have clean HDMI out feeds I found this great website that further explains streaming and  lists cameras with prices. Check them out! https://www.epiphan.com/blog/best-cameras-for-live-streaming/  […]

    14. Dr_Jon

      I think you should add auto-follow/auto-tracking cameras, which can be had from about $699 and up… ideal for stuff like exercise videos or anything with much movement.

      (You do something like wear a wrist-band and it will follow you as you move around.)

    15. […] ohnehin zu Hause herumliegen hat und schauen, wie das so funktioniert. Ansonsten gibt es sowohl für Kameras als auch für Mikrofone ausführliche Guides, die sowohl sehr kleine als auch sehr große Budgets […]

    16. […] Secondly, and as we mentioned above, there are plenty of options for recording your livestream as well. You may want to use your phone for Instagram Live, or maybe your laptop for Twitch. You can find tons of great deals on professional webcams, camcorders, and action cameras. Here’s a resource for the best cameras for livestreaming.  […]

    17. […] contrast here. Two widely acclaimed models are the Canon M50 and the Panasonic Lumix G7. Here is a more in depth article. And here is another great […]

    18. Gareth

      HI Are you sure that the G& actually has a live output? I have a G6 and as far as i was aware you can only monitor HDMI for play back from the G7 and not live streaming? the GH range are the ones that do live feed I think.

    19. Scott Webb

      Marta, great article. I only have 1 issue. The Canon 77d still displays the dreaded “no card in camera” notification on the feed. If I put an SD card in, it still shows the recording timer. 0:00 in red. Any suggestions?

      • Marta Chernova

        Scott, thanks for the comment! Personally, I am not too familiar with Canon 77d, but after doing a bit of research and asking around, it seems as though it does not have a clean HDMI out, so unfortunately not much can be done.

    20. David H. Belton

      Great article, I need help I am planning on getting the JVC-HM250 with built-in streaming, do I still need an encoder or video capture card. It indicates that it can stream directly to facebook and youtube. I want the camera for podcasting, Vlogging , and streaming. Am i going in the right direction?

    21. […] is to have more than one camera going. To discover which camera option works for your budget, read this article on Epiphan with the best 19 cameras for live […]

    22. RANJEETH S

      HI I AM A TEACHER and wants to take online classes for my students. I need a good camera to be used in app like zoom etc. The class duration will be minimum 2 hours and extends to 4 hours if i have two sessions in a row. my budget is around 700-1200 dollars. Is there any good camera in this budget ? please note, the camera I am looking for should not get overheated for this extensive duration..

    23. Mat

      Great article. Just having an issue for streams over 30min. My Canon T2i stops outputting HDMI after 30min (even with energy saving off and ML on auto-restart) and I need to press again on the focus button to get it to start outputting again. Does anyone know way around it? Does it happen with all DSLRs?

      • Marta Chernova

        Mat,
        Have you tried using a dummy battery/plugging the camera directly to an AC source?
        If that doesn’t help – it might be a DSLR issue. Many DSLRs do that: they flip up the mirror after about 30 minutes and there isn’t much you can do about it. There might be special (non-Canon) firmware that you could download to prevent that, something like Magic Lantern – at your own risk, of course.

    24. Ron McEwen

      We are trying to set up to live stream to our website. I am using Zoom and looking fora good camera with zoom and I am being told that when live streaming the zoom will be shut off. Is that true? andWhy<

      • Marta Chernova

        Are you trying to use the app ZOOM and stream at the same time? If so – often operating systems will only support video input for one purpose (aka either ZOOM or live streaming).
        Or are you talking about digital zoom on the camera?

    25. Anubhav

      Is there any way to use my Sony Alpha 58 for Livestream or recording video on my computer?

    26. Yiannis A

      can I use a Canon T2i as a web camera?

    27. Felipe

      Thanks for the helpful reviews. I’m trying to find a $900 price range camcorder for live streaming, but have found that Panasonic, Sony and maybe others, control the output on their camcorders for live streaming so that it will only work with a proprietary live streaming site where you have to pay for it. So they won’t work with the free websites.

      Do you know which brands do not control the streaming feature so that one can post live streams on free sites?

      • Marta Chernova

        Felipe,

        That’s interesting that you found this issue. We have never come across a case where Panasonic, Sony, or others control the output on their camcorders so the feed only works with proprietary live streaming sites. How did you come across this information?

        Most (if not all) camera brands are impartial and indifferent to where a video feed ends up. They also have no way of controlling where a video feed goes.

    28. Larry

      in the Canon 80D recommendation you refer to a canon rebel SL7.. there is no such camera. then you call it an S7 later on.

      did you mean SL2?

      you guys need better editors.

    29. LMAO NO

      Hoooly hell, way to completely ignore Nikon D series cameras, which are SIGNIFIGANTLY cheaper than the “budget” cameras you have listed here LMAO

      Also way to ignore the Panny gh4, think y’all n00b enough?

      • Marta Chernova

        Thanks for the note LMAO NO 🙂
        At the time when this article was first published, it was quite difficult to find a Nikon camera that matched all criteria for a “good streaming camera” (e.g. clean HDMI out, doesn’t auto-shut-off). Now Nikon has software released to help with that, so we’ll make sure to reflect that in the updated version of this article.
        Also we definitely did not ignore the Panasonic LUMIX GH4, it’s on the list 😉

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