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How to buy a vlogging camera

It’s an important new category that’s here to stay.

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The number of YouTuber creators has exploded over the last few years, with videos running the gamut from eating ASMR to Rube Goldberg-style trick shots. With that, vlogging cameras are now popular enough to be their own category. Some models are even specifically designed for the genre, like Sony’s new ZV-1 and Panasonic’s G100, with features like a flip-around screen, stabilization and face/eye-detect autofocus. 

Manufacturers have also added vlogging features to regular mirrorless, compact and DSLR cameras priced anywhere from $500 to $5,000. It’s become such a key feature, in fact, that camera reviews usually take into account whether a model can do it or not. 

That has led to an overwhelming selection of good vlogging cameras, with many having arrived in the last few months alone. To that end, we’ve created a guide to the best models for everyone from novices to pros. Many I’ve tested myself, but I’ll also talk about upcoming models like the Sony A7S III and Canon EOS R6 that are worth keeping an eye on. 

What do you need in a vlogging camera?

Gallery: How to buy a vlogging camera in 2020 gallery | 24 Photos

  • How to buy a vlogging camera in 2020
  • How to buy a vlogging camera in 2020
  • How to buy a vlogging camera in 2020
  • How to buy a vlogging camera in 2020
  • How to buy a vlogging camera in 2020
  • How to buy a vlogging camera in 2020
  • How to buy a vlogging camera in 2020
  • How to buy a vlogging camera in 2020
  • How to buy a vlogging camera in 2020
  • How to buy a vlogging camera in 2020
  • How to buy a vlogging camera in 2020
  • How to buy a vlogging camera in 2020
  • How to buy a vlogging camera in 2020
  • How to buy a vlogging camera in 2020
  • How to buy a vlogging camera in 2020
  • How to buy a vlogging camera in 2020
  • How to buy a vlogging camera in 2020
  • How to buy a vlogging camera in 2020
  • How to buy a vlogging camera in 2020
  • How to buy a vlogging camera in 2020
  • How to buy a vlogging camera in 2020
  • How to buy a vlogging camera in 2020
  • How to buy a vlogging camera in 2020
  • How to buy a vlogging camera in 2020
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Vlogging cameras are designed for filmmakers who work alone and either use a tripod, vehicle-mount or just their hands to hold a camera. It has to be good not just for filming yourself, but other “B-roll” footage that helps tell your story.

The number one requirement is a flip-around screen so you can see yourself while filming. Those can rotate up, down or to the side, but flipping out to the side is preferable so a tripod or microphone won’t block it.

Continuous autofocus (AF) for video with face and eye detection is also a must. It becomes your camera “assistant,” letting you concentrate on other things. Most cameras can do that nowadays, but some do it better than others. 

If you move around or walk a lot, you should look for a camera with built-in optical stabilization. Electronic stabilization will also help as long as you’re aware of the limitations. You’ll also need a camera without too much rolling shutter, which can create a distracting jello “wobble” with quick camera movements.

How to buy a vlogging camera in 2020
Steve Dent/Engadget

4K recording is key. All cameras nowadays can shoot 4K up to at least 24 fps, but if possible, it’s better to have 4K at 60 fps. If you shoot sports or other things involving fast movements, look for a model with at least 120 fps, 1080p super slow-motion recording. 

Video quality is another important consideration, especially for skin tones. Good light sensitivity helps for night shooting, concerts, etcetera, and a log profile helps improve dynamic range or lets you shoot HDR videos. If you want the best possible image quality and can afford it, get a camera that can record 4K with 10-bits (billions) of colors. That will give you more options when you go to edit.

Don’t neglect audio either — if the quality is bad, your audience will abandon you. Look for a camera with a microphone port so you can plug in a shotgun or lapel mic for interviews. It’s also nice to have a headphone port to monitor sound so you can avoid nasty surprises after you’ve finished shooting.

You’ll also want good battery life and, if possible, dual memory card slots. Finally, don’t forget about your camera’s size and weight. If you’re constantly carrying one while shooting, especially at the end of a gimbal or gorillapod, it might actually be the most important factor. That’s why tiny GoPro cameras are so popular for sports, despite offering lower image quality and fewer pro features. 

The best action cameras

If you’re just starting out in vlogging or need a small, rugged camera, an action cam might be your best bet. In general, they’re easy to use as you don’t have to worry about things like exposure or focus. Recent models also offer good electronic stabilization and sharp, colorful video at up to 4K and 60 fps. The downsides are a lack of control; image quality that’s not on par with larger cameras; and no zooming or option to change lenses.

DJI Osmo Pocket

How to buy a vlogging camera in 2020
Steve Dent/Engadget

If you do walk-and-talk or action vlogs, the DJI Osmo Pocket is a great option. The camera is mounted on a gimbal, so you get smoother, more natural movement than you would with electronic stabilization. It supports 4K at 60 fps with face tracking autofocus, letting you shoot with one hand while keeping yourself in focus. You can get it with accessories like an extension rod, a wireless module for remote smartphone control, a waterproof case and more. For $300, it’s an unbeatable option for beginner vloggers. 

Buy DJI Osmo Pocket at Amazon - $300

DJI Osmo Action

How to buy a vlogging camera in 2020
Steve Dent/Engadget

While the GoPro Hero 8 Black is the best action camera, the DJI Osmo Action (currently available for $245) is the best for vloggers, thanks to the built-in front facing display. At the same time, it can nearly match the Hero 8 Black with features like 4K 60 fps recording, smooth image stabilization and an HDR recording mode. It does lack certain features like a GPS and social sharing modes, but those shouldn’t be crucial for vlogging. 

Buy DJI Osmo Action at Amazon - $240

GoPro Hero 8 Black

GoPro Hero 8 Black
Engadget

GoPro’s Hero 8 Black (currently $300) isn’t the best vlogging camera, but it is the best action camera on the market, thanks to a wide range of resolutions topping out at 4K 60p and incredibly HyperSmooth 2.0 stabilization. It also has advanced pro features if you want to create more dramatic shots. However, to get a front-facing display, you’ll need to spend an extra $80 on GoPro’s Display Mod, which isn’t yet shipping. That pushes the total price close to $400, which is essentially compact camera territory. Even so, for that sum you get a powerful and versatile vlogging camera.

Buy GoPro Hero 8 Black at Best Buy - $300

The best compact vlogging cameras

Compact cameras are a step-up option from smartphones or actions cameras, with larger sensors and much better image quality. At the same time, they’re not quite as versatile as mirrorless or DSLR cameras (and not necessarily cheaper) and they lack advanced options like 10-bit video. For folks who want the best possible quality without needing to think too much about their camera, however, it’s the best option. 

Sony ZV-1

How to buy a vlogging camera in 2020
Steve Dent/Engadget

On top of its mirrorless dominance, Sony recently released its first dedicated vlogging camera, the compact ZV-1. Based on the RX100 V, it has a 1-inch 20.1-megapixel sensor and fixed 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8mm (equivalent) lens. It also offers a lightweight body, built-in high-quality microphone (plus a microphone port), flip-out display, best-in-class autofocus and excellent image quality. 

While the $750 ZV-1 can’t shoot 10-bit video, it comes with Sony’s S-Log picture profiles that give you increased dynamic range for shooting in challenging lighting conditions. The flaws include a lens that’s not quite wide enough when you’re using electronic stabilization, and it lacks a true touch display and headphone port. That aside, if you’re looking to step up from a smartphone, it does the job nearly perfectly.

Buy Sony ZV-1 at Best Buy - $750

Canon G7 X Mark III

Canon G7X Mark III vlogging
Engadget

Canon’s G7 X Mark III should also be front of mind for vloggers looking for a compact option. It packs a 20-megapixel 1-inch sensor and 24-100 mm f/1.8-2.8 35mm equivalent zoom — quite a bit longer than the ZV-1 at the telephoto range. It can shoot 4K at up to 30 fps, while offering optical image stabilization, a microphone input (though no headphone jack) and even the ability to livestream directly to YouTube. The downsides are contrast-detect only autofocus and a screen that tilts up but not to the side. For $750 , it’s still a great option, though. 

Buy Canon G7 X Mark III at Amazon - $750

Sony RX100 VII

Sony RX100 VII vlogging
Sony

Before the ZV-1 came along, Sony’s compact vlogging camera of choice was the RX100 VII. It offers a similar feature set for vlogging, with 4K 30p video, optical stabilization, Sony’s continuous AF with face and eye tracking, a microphone port, S-Log shooting profiles and decent low-light sensitivity for a compact. Unlike the ZV-1, you get a metal rather than a plastic body and a much longer 24-200mm equivalent zoom, though you lose a stop of light sensitivity. On the minus side are a display that only flips up rather than around to the side, along with the rather expensive $1,200 list price

Buy Sony RX100 VII at Amazon - $1,200

The best mirrorless/DSLR vlogging cameras

Interchangeable lens cameras give you the most options for vlogging for the widest range of prices. All have larger sensors than compact cameras, giving you better low-light sensitivity and shallower depth of field to isolate your subject — i.e., yourself in many cases. They also offer better control of your image with manual controls, log recording, 10-bit video and more. The drawbacks are extra weight compared to action or compact cameras, extra complexity and higher prices.

Fujifilm X-T4

Fujifilm X-T4 mirrorless camera vlogging
Steve Dent/Engadget

The Fuijfilm X-T4 is the best all-around mirrorless camera for vlogging. It has everything you need, including a fully-articulating display, continuous eye- and face autofocus, 10-bit 4K log recording at up to 60 fps, 5-axis in-body stabilization, microphone and headphone jacks (the latter via USB-C) and lower noise in low light.

Image quality, especially in the skin tones, is lifelike and the sensor has minimal rolling shutter. It also offers good battery life and comes with dual UHS-II card slots. Finally, it’s fairly light considering all the features, and Fujifilm has a good selection of small lenses ideal for vlogging. What I don’t like is an autofocus system not quite as fast or accurate as Sony’s and the fairly steep $1,700 asking price for the body only. 

Buy Fujifilm X-T4 at B&H Photo - $1,700

Panasonic GH5

Panasonic GH5 vlogging
Engadget

Panasonic’s GH5 is like the X-T4 in that it does everything well, including vlogging. It has a flip-out display, 10-bit video with (optional) V-Log-L recording, 5-axis optical stabilization, dual UHS-II card slots and microphone/headphone ports. Plus, it’s pretty lightweight, to boot. It does offer face- and eye-detect AF, but it uses contrast-detect AF (or depth-from-defocus as Panasonic calls it), which tends to hunt when shooting video. Still, this is one versatile camera considering the reasonable price ($1,400 for the body only).

Buy Panasonic GH5 at Amazon - $1,400

Sony A6100/A6400

How to buy a vlogging camera in 2020
Steve Dent/Engadget

Sony’s secret weapon for vlogging is autofocus, and the A6400 and A6100 do that incredibly well. Both offer phase-detect AF with eye and face tracking (even for animals) that no other company can match. The differences between the two models are slight, with the A6400 offering a better electronic viewfinder (mostly irrelevant for vlogging) and Sony’s S-Log tech. 

Otherwise, both offer uncropped 4K at up to 30 fps (8-bit only), flip-up displays and microphone ports. The weak points for both are the lack of in-body stabilization and very bad rolling shutter. The A6100 is a bit cheaper than the A6400, currently available for $750 compared to $900 without a lens. The A6100 has been priced as low as $600, however, so I’d wait for a sale before buying. 

Buy Sony A6100 at B&H Photo - $750

Buy Sony A6400 at Amazon - $900

Fujifilm X-A7

Fujifilm X-A7
Fujifilm

If you’re looking for a budget vlogging camera with a relatively big sensor, Fujifilm’s X-A7 is your best bet. It packs a 24.2-megapixel APS-C sensor, can shoot 4K at up to 30 fps and has a fully articulating touchscreen. At the same time, you get phase-detect autofocus with face- and eye-detection. Unfortunately, it lacks stabilization, so you’ll have to rely on the lens for that. Luckily, you can get the camera and a 15-45mm f/3.5-5.6 stabilized lens for $500 right now, making this the best vlogging deal right now. 

Buy Fujifilm X-A7 at B&H Photo - $500

Panasonic G100

Panasonic G100 vlogging camera
Panasonic

Like the ZV-1, Panasonic’s G100 is purpose built for vlogging but also allows you to change lenses. It has a fully-articulating flip-out screen, 5-axis hybrid (optical/electronic) stabilization, 4K V-Log-L video at up to 30 fps (though sadly cropped at 1.47X for 4K video), 1080p at up to 60 fps, and contrast detect AF with face/eye detection. The coolest feature is the Nokia OZO system that can isolate audio to a specific person via face-detection tracking — something that can theoretically improve audio quality. You can grab with a 12-32mm lens for $750. 

Buy Panasonic G100 at Amazon - $750

Canon EOS M50/Rebel T8i

Canon EOS M50 mirrorless camera
Canon

I’m lumping Canon’s EOS M50 mirrorless and Rebel T8i DSLR together because they share the same 24.1-megapixel APS-C sensor and have similar capabilities. Both include fully-articulating displays and allow you to shoot (1.6X cropped) 4K at up to 24 fps, or 1080p and 60 fps. You also get Canon’s vaunted Dual Pixel autofocus for video, but it only works for 1080p and not 4K video. Both also have microphone jacks and digital image stabilization for video. With all that in common, the Rebel T8i is nonetheless more expensive at $900 with an 18-55mm kit lens, compared to $650 for the M50 with a 15-45mm lens. 

Buy Canon EOS M50 at B&H Photo - $900

Buy Canon Rebel T8i at B&H Photo - $650

Upcoming cameras

Panasonic S5 upcoming full-frame mirrorless camera
Panasonic

If your budget exceeds any of the above cameras, you might want to wait a bit. Canon’s EOS R5 and EOS R6 cameras are going on sale soon and the latter looks to be a powerful vlogging option for around $2,500. Sony’s recently unveiled A7S III will also be a killer video-centric camera, though at $3,500 it’s in a different league price-wise. Finally, Panasonic is set to unveil the full-frame S5, which will come with rumored specs like 4K 60p 10-bit video, a vari-angle touchscreen, 5-axis in-body stabilization and a price of around $2,000. 

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