Sometimes getting the best money can buy is overrated. And a lot of the time, it’s not possible. Thankfully, spending thousands on a high-end DSLR camera isn’t necessary these days. Instead, you can accomplish a similar feat at a fraction of the price.
Whether you’re a beginner looking to document your day-to-day life or a seasoned pro looking to dive into the lucrative world of content creation, you’ll need a good camera. And a good camera is the foundation of a successful career and the key separator between creators. Thankfully, if you’re starting, you don’t have to spend a lot to shoot professional-level content. Today’s camera market has plenty of easy to use options that will make the process both effortless and more appealing. And there are plenty of affordable cameras with similar features as higher-end flagship models—all without breaking the bank in the process.
However, the potential vlogging camera options are enormous, particularly when you start looking at the older generation or secondhand models. So choosing the best camera for this purpose is likely to be quite difficult. With that, we compiled a comprehensive and detailed guide outlining the most important factors for a vlogging camera. And we’ll also cover the best cheap vlogging cameras on today’s market.
Jump to a Section
- 5 – Canon EOS M200
- 4 – DJI Osmo Action
- 3 – Panasonic ZS80 / TZ95
- 2 – DJI Osmo Pocket 2
- 1 – GoPro Hero9 Black
- Buyers Guide
- Can I film vlogs with my phone?
- Are cheap cameras good for vlogging?
- How to choose a vlogging camera:
- How do you want to use the camera?
- Size & Weight
- Lens Angle
- Low Light Performance
- Video Capabilities:
- Battery Life
5 – Canon EOS M200
Canon’s EOS M200 is the latest hit follow up and their most affordable mirrorless camera. It features a 24-megapixel APS-C sensor, 4K 24, and 1080p 60 FPS video. It also features a 3″ tilting touchscreen, USB charging, HDR, time-lapse, vertical video, and wireless connectivity.
Canon updated the sensor with this second-generation model. And that change finally brings about 4K video to the lineup, a notable upgrade over its predecessor. But, it also brings along an updated 143-point phase-detection autofocus system with their acclaimed Dual Pixel technology. Additionally, it’s brought Vertical Video support to the line so that you can shoot vertically to various social media sites. But, crucially, the M200 is the easiest camera in this class to use. It provides an extensive guide mode, with detailed on-screen tutorials to teach beginners the best camera settings. And it’s an enormously helpful feature, mostly lacking in the competition.
Overall, Canon’s EOS M200 brings a proven sensor and autofocusing system into a lavishly compact body. And it rivals the higher-end 80D in performance, with a fraction of its price. As such, it’s an excellent option for creators wanting a simple, capable, and take-anywhere camera.
4 – DJI Osmo Action
DJI’s Osmo Action is their first action camera, but quite a successful endeavor considering so. It features a 12MP 1/2.3-inch sensor, an ultra-wide-angle lens, 4K 60, and 1080p 240 FPS video. It also features time-lapse, voice control, water sealing, and wireless connectivity.
Unlike most of its rivals, it packs a front-facing display, making it ideal for selfies and vlogging, especially considering DJI’s configured the device to meter on the subject’s face instead of the background. But, they’ve also configured the camera to render more vibrant and true-to-life skin tones, reducing the need for post-processing or editing. Additionally, the Osmo Action obtains RockSteady image stabilization, which delivers gimbal-like footage.
Overall, DJI’s Osmo Action, as a first attempt, is quite a surprising release. And it offers excellent value for money for those wanting an ultra-portable setup to document life’s best adventures.
3 – Panasonic ZS80 / TZ95
Panasonic’s ZS80 is the latest release in the superzoom ZS lineup of compact cameras. It features a 20-megapixel 1/2.3-inch sensor, 4K 30, and 1080p 60 FPS video. It also features a 3″ tilting touchscreen, an EVF, hybrid stabilization, a built-in flash, HDR, focus stacking, time-lapse, panorama, stop motion, and wireless connectivity.
As a compact camera, the ZS80 features an included lens. In this case, it has an extensive range from 24-720mm. Panasonic also equipped the camera with an Intelligent Zoom feature, doubling its 30x zoom to 60x or 1,050mm. This camera also obtains Panasonic’s helpful 4K Photo Mode, which allows you to pull images from a 30 FPS video, ensuring moments are never missed.
Overall, Panasonic’s ZS80 is a mighty compact with class-leading zoom capabilities. Sure, it’s mostly an incremental upgrade over the already powerful ZS70. But, it continues the excellent feature set this particular lineup is known for. And it’s a powerful hybrid camera for content creators looking to capture both stills and video.
2 – DJI Osmo Pocket 2
DJI’s Osmo Pocket 2 comes to market boasting a larger sensor, updated lens, microphone, and slow-motion recording. It features a 64-megapixel 1/1.7-inch sensor and 20mm lens mounted a 3-axis gimbal that produces 4K 60 and 1080p 240 FPS videos. It also features HDR, a log profile, the Ultra High-Pixel option, panorama, time lapse, and an 8x digital zoom.
The Pocket 2 obtains DJI’s high-end ActiveTrack 3 technology, a feature taken from their drone lineup. This feature allows you to relentlessly track moving subjects just by tapping on the screen. And the camera tracks them with or without seeing faces or being obscured by other obstacles. As such, it greatly simplifies the process of capturing enticing b-roll during recordings. Additionally, DJI refined the touchscreen display with this refresh. Which now not only shows a powerful live view and shooting information, but it also supports swipe gestures to focus, track subjects and control the gimbal.
Overall, DJI’s Osmo Pocket 2 offers excellent versatility for creators. And it thoroughly fixes the shortcomings of the original model. But, it does so while setting a new benchmark for the class with an even better gimbal and pocket-sized form.
1 – GoPro Hero9 Black
GoPro’s Hero9 Black is the latest release of the family and ups the standard of the lineup. It features a 23-megapixel sensor, 5K 30, 4K 60, and 1080p 240 FPS video. It also features time-lapse, HDR, TimeWarp 3, water sealing, a removable lens cover, live streaming support, webcam support, and wireless connectivity.
With this model, GoPro’s focused on a new design that now boasts a larger rear display and a front display with a live view. The front display is also conveniently located by the lens, so you can discreetly check relevant settings while filming. The Hero9 also sports HyperSmooth 3, GoPro’s professional stabilization system for smooth shake-free recordings. Along with the helpful HindSight Mode to capture 30 seconds of video before releasing the shutter, so you never miss a moment.
Overall, while pricier than before, the GoPro Hero9 Black ups the standard in the Hero lineup. And it shows action cameras are quite a formidable force. For vloggers looking for the ultimate in portability, ease of use, and general functionality, this is your best option.
Can I film vlogs with my phone?
Well, yes, of course. And this is usually the starting point for most vloggers, especially beginners. Today’s smartphones are convenient, pocketable, and easy to set up for this fashion. As such, they’re the most accessible camera for spur of the moment vlogs.
Many of today’s flagship smartphones have 4K video, reliable autofocus, and decent image quality. But, likely, the front-facing camera isn’t as good as the rear. And the rear cameras, while powerful, make it challenging to compose vlogs correctly. But, crucially, most smartphones lack proper stabilization. And even with an optically stabilized lens, they still struggle to keep the footage steady as you move, resulting in shaky and unwatchable videos. A way to correct that is by investing in a handheld gimbal. But, even so, the last thing you want to do is drop your $1,000 plus flagship smartphone while energetically filming a moving vlog. So, they’re not ideal.
Otherwise, sometimes the best camera is your smartphone. But, if you want to go above the competition, you’ll want a dedicated camera. And one that offers specific features to make filming vlogs easier and with higher quality.
Are cheap cameras good for vlogging?
Yes. Even the lesser-price cameras offer similar features to more expensive flagship cameras. And while more affordable, they work equally as well. The only real difference between the cameras is extras and bonuses. Some of these bonuses include more inputs, larger sensors, better ergonomics or handling, and a more rugged build. But, fundamentally, these cameras are identical. Plus, most reputable camera manufacturers purposely sell affordable cameras since they want to entice beginners to upgrade from phones. So, even if you’re on a tight budget, you can still get a powerful camera.
How to choose a vlogging camera:
Below we will cover each of the factors you may want to consider while shopping around. But, know, just because these cameras are affordable doesn’t necessarily mean they’re poorly designed—the opposite. You only trade particular bonus features for the lower price. And most of these features aren’t necessary for vlogging. With that, let’s cover the essential components of a good vlogging oriented camera. And the main factors that help separate cameras.
How do you want to use the camera?
Outside of vlogging, of course, how else do you want to use the camera? Do you also want to take photos? Maybe time-lapses? Slow-motion? Go hiking or deep-sea diving? Not all cameras offer the features to suit these needs. So as you’re shopping around, keep your needs in mind.
Here’s an example. Say you’re planning on doing vlogs at home on a tripod, you may not need weather sealing or optical stabilization to remove handshake. Additionally, the size and weight of the camera may not be a significant factor for you. But, if you plan on filming travel vlogs, the opposite is true. And a compact and lightweight camera with stabilization becomes paramount.
A rule of thumb is that beginners should focus on an affordable camera that’s easy to use. In contrast, professional users should focus on features like 4K video, manual control, and support for external devices like flashes or microphones. But, either way, use the below list to compare cameras that check the most boxes to decide which is best.
Size & Weight
If you’re planning to record travel vlogs, you’ll want to factor the camera’s weight, form factor, and size into your decision making. In most cases, you’ll be holding the camera handheld at arm’s length for some time, somewhere around 15 minutes. And this position will cause strain and quickly become uncomfortable if the camera’s heavy. As such, the camera should be portable and lightweight. Additionally, it may also be important that the camera is compact, so you can easily slip it into a pocket, purse, or backpack. So ask yourself, is this a camera I can take everywhere I go? If the answer is no, you’ll likely dread taking it out to film. And it won’t be a good vlogging camera.
The lens angle determines how far you’ll have to hold the camera to get the proper framing. And not only does it change your framing, but the further away you are, the worst the audio quality. For handheld vlogs, 20-24mm, it is best as it allows you to keep your arms at a comfortable distance away without exerting yourself. And it’s also wide enough to get both you and the surroundings in the frame. But, not so wide it causes distortion.
Built-in stabilization is critical for vlog videos, as most vlogs are handheld. Stabilization comes in two forms, optical or digital. And it helps the camera produce smooth and shake-free videos by counteracting movement. If the camera doesn’t offer stabilization, handheld footage will be too shaky to use and difficult to watch. As such, look out for cameras that provide at least digital stabilization. This form isn’t quite as effective as an optically stabilized lens. But, for a budget camera, it’ll do the job. And while only a gimbal or a tripod can remove all shake, the camera should markedly improve your video’s stability.
Sound is equally as important as video quality. And if your voice is muffled and drowned amongst background noise, it’ll likely ruin your viewer’s experience, and they’ll lose interest. So to avoid turning off your audience, you’ll want to prevent poor audio quality.
Sadly, most of the cameras in the budget-friendly market don’t offer external microphone inputs. That is unless you purchase older generation models secondhand. So, instead, you’ll want a camera with a built-in stereo microphone.
Built-in microphones come in two positions. A lot of cheap compact cameras have top-mounted microphones, which frequently get covered by your fingers. But, they do produce better audio when you’re narrating a scene from behind the camera. Front-facing microphones, however, are usually preferred. And they produce more directional audio when you’re standing in front of the camera to ensure your voice is clear.
But long-term, you’ll want to use a microphone or lavalier and connect it to your smartphone. There you’ll record into a voice recording app and sync the two later in editing. Doing so will dramatically improve your audio quality, and it’s an easy workaround. But if you’re a beginner, it’s best to find an easy to use package and create content. That’s ultimately more important than the quality at the start.
Low Light Performance
If you’re a beginner, it’s unlikely you’ll have money to purchase lighting equipment. So, you’ll want to find a camera that performs well in low light, such as night scenes, overcast skies, or indoors. Two factors determine a camera’s low light performance, sensor size, and lens aperture. In short, the larger the sensor, the more light the camera captures and the better the video. The same applies with lens aperture, where the larger the opening, the more light the camera captures. So, in general, if your budget allows, look for an APS-C sized sensor. And look for a camera with a built-in lens with a wide aperture of f/1.8.
Today’s cameras are coming with ever-increasing resolutions. And we’re now seeing 8K consumer cameras. But, even so, 4K is the golden standard for video. So if you want to future proof your camera, then look for ones that supply 4K video. Otherwise, save the money and find one with 1080p. Anything below this will create blurry and grainy looking videos.
For vlogging, a screen that tilts up above the camera or a front-facing screen is best. The reason here is that it forces you to look up when checking camera settings, which is flattering and natural to viewers. And it’s also not immediately apparent to your viewers when you’re doing so while recording. But, even so, it can become a distraction to viewers if you always stare at yourself in the vlog. So be aware of that.
How well the camera autofocuses during the video is essential, particularly for beginners. You want the camera’s focus to be confident and smooth, so it’s not distracting to viewers. A lot of cameras will find it difficult to maintain focus in real-time as you’re moving. And they’ll take some time to regain focus. But, recent innovations such as Face and Eye-detection have dramatically improved focusing. Faster processors and updated sensors have also helped. Even so, it’s heartbreaking to find out later the footage is out of focus and fuzzy. So, take the time to research beforehand to ensure you have faith in the camera focus before purchasing.
These days Wi-Fi is a fundamental feature for most. And in the camera world, it’s a universal standard of sorts. But, older generation cameras may not have it. So, it’s a feature to keep in mind if you want to wirelessly share photos or videos from the camera to a smartphone or tablet. Without wireless connectivity, the camera has no way of connecting to external devices.
Most cameras will offer 60-90 minutes of continuous recording time when filming in 1080p. However, if you want to record in 4K, expect only 30 minutes. As such, you may want to budget for spare batteries or investigate whether the camera supports USB charging so you can charge on the go.