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The best YouTube cameras in 2021: great cameras for getting your videos online

Included in this guide:

best YouTube camera
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The best YouTube cameras are an excellent way to start your own channel, or improve an existing one. Having the right kit will make it so much easier to create content that looks the business and sounds great too. It won't automatically mean you gain a bunch of subscribers – unfortunately, that's still down to you – but it will make it easier to produce content that's a cut above the average.

There are lots of different choices when it comes to YouTube cameras, even down to the type of camera you go for. With that in mind, we've divvied this guide up into four sections – compact cameras, action cams, mirrorless cameras and smartphones. YouTubers use all of these types of camera to create their content, and all are worth consideration.

Compact cameras are all-in-one packages – a camera with a lens attached, with no option to change it. You lose out in terms of versatility and the option for using optics of the highest quality, but compact cameras tend to be much more affordable and simple to use.

Action cameras are the little devices you'll see attached to people's heads and chests when they jump out of planes or go white-water rafting – but this isn't their only use. The high video quality and wide-angle lenses of action cameras make them perfect for all-purpose vlogging as well as death-defying stunts, so if you think you might do a little of both, they're a great choice. Though their smaller sensors can mean they struggle in low light.

Mirrorless cameras give you access to cutting-edge video technology, and allow you to swap to any lens you like. Want to produce high-quality footage at silky-smooth frame rates? These are the best choice – just remember that all that tech comes at a cost.

Finally, don't count out the smartphone. While there are limits to what a phone can do in terms of sensor size, lens quality and battery life, a good smartphone can be the most convenient option for producing high-quality content, and can also make it easier to transfer your content to YouTube Studio.

We've picked out a range of cameras at a range of price points for this guide. We've included models that have extra features like a socket for an external mic, or the capacity to live-stream. It's all about figuring out exactly what you need – that's what will allow you to ensure you're getting the right camera at the right price.

• Note that the star ratings for these cameras are overall ratings. Their video and design features, however, qualify them as amongst the best YouTube cameras around.

Compact cameras

(Image credit: Canon)

The best YouTube camera for livestreaming at this price

Specifications
Type: Compact
Sensor: 1-inch CMOS
Megapixels: 20.2MP
Lens: 24-100mm f/1.8-2.8
Screen: 3-inch tilting touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots
Viewfinder: Electronic
Max video resolution: 4K
Mic input: Yes
Headphone port: No
Reasons to buy
+Easy live streaming to YouTube+Microphone input
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-4K clips capped at 10 minutes

One of the biggest bugbears vloggers and video makers have with Canon is the crop factor when shooting 4K on many of its cameras, but the G7 X Mark III bucks the trend – thank goodness. This high-end compact packs a similar body and an identical lens to the G7 X Mark II, but includes a new sensor and no 4K crop. It was also the first camera of its kind with a microphone input – vital if you want clean audio, not to mention the ability to livestream straight to YouTube. This means that even if you’ve got an expensive cinema camera, if you also have a G7 X Mark III you can create a fuss-free live setup without any expensive capture cards and a PC. With its flip-out screen, the G7 X III also gives vloggers a clear view of themselves when they shoot, and thanks to its 20.1MP 1-inch stacked CMOS sensor and Digic 8 processor it’s also able to capture great stills, so your custom thumbnails can pop nicely.

(Image credit: Sony)

A brilliant little compact with its own clip-on wind shield

Specifications
Type: Compact
Sensor: 1-inch CMOS
Megapixels: 20.1MP
Lens: 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8
Screen: 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 921,600 dots
Viewfinder: No
Max video resolution: 4K
Mic input: Yes
Headphone port: No
Reasons to buy
+Vari-angle screen+Clip on wind shield+24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 zoom
Reasons to avoid
-No viewfinder

The Sony ZV-1 is like a movie-orientated version of Sony's long-running RX100-series compacts. It's also way cheaper than the flagship Sony RX100 VII, so for once Sony has reversed its usual technology/price escalation. The XV-1 has the same 4K video capability and blindingly fast autofocus, and a new 'Product Showcase' mode is perfect when holding objects up to the camera. The vari-angle screen is more useful than the tilting screen on the regular RX100, and the microphone has a clip-on wind shield (supplied) which is a huge advantage for outdoor shooting, where even a light breeze can cause awful buffeting with regular in-camera mics. The Version 2.0 firmware update adds live streaming via USB to this camera's formidable capabilities although, oddly, Sony warns it's not compatible with the Mac Big Sur operating system. When that's fixed, it will be hard to fault this camera.

Read more: Sony ZV-1 review

Action cams

(Image credit: DJI)

Incredible portability, simplicity, stabilization and quality!

Specifications
Type: Action camera with gimbal
Sensor: 1/1.7-inch
Megapixels: 64MP (16/64MP images)
Screen: 1-inch touchscreen
Max video resolution: 4K
Mic input: With adapter
Headphone jack: No
Reasons to buy
+Sensational stabilization+Fantastic pocketability+Simple operation
Reasons to avoid
-Relies on extras and accessories

The DJI Pocket 2 replaces the DJI Osmo Pocket, one of favorite mini-cameras, and is a best-in-class tool when it comes to combining stable video and pocketable size. In turn, it’s an obvious choice for anyone who wants a pull-out-and-shoot small camera for handheld video work. Bought as part of the Creator Combo, adding external audio to the mix is a piece of cake, and there’s also a handy ultrawide lens attachment that definitely drops quality, but adds field of view. Despite some real highlights: shallower depth of field than expected and nippy focusing, not to mention great object tracking and color reproduction, noise handling isn’t a highlight on the Pocket 2. That aside, the convenience, versatility, and stabilization offered by the DJI Pocket 2 can’t be overstated. After all, nothing much can do all the things it can and still slip into a jacket pocket. You can even plug it into your smartphone and get big-screen control and playback via the DJI app.

Read more: DJI Pocket 2 review

(Image credit: GoPro)

Best YouTube action camera for pros

Specifications
Type: Action camera
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch
Megapixels: 23MP
Screen: 1.4-inch color (front); 2.3-inch touchscreen (rear)
Max video resolution: 5K
Mic input: With adapter
Headphone jack: No
Reasons to buy
+Excellent stabilization+Plenty of accessory options
Reasons to avoid
-Pricier than competition-Mediocre microphone

The original action camera brand, GoPro is still a YouTuber favorite, with a world-class flagship product that delivers excellent image quality and stabilization for die-hard action fans and globetrotters. It may be more expensive than the DJI Osmo Action, but the GoPro Hero10 Black has the same 1.4-inch front-facing screen (first introduced on the GoPro Hero9 Black now) for easy framing of selfies and videos, and there’s a wide range of third-party accessories. However, this version has the all-new GP2 processor, which files a faster user interface and doubles the frame rates compared to the GoPro Hero9 Black. 

It’s also got some really neat features, the most useful being HyperSmooth 4.0, an image stabilization system that works so well. The result is super-smooth handheld shots. It’s also really hard to resist the option to capture in 5.3K video, and in 60 frames per second. There’s more in store from the GoPro Hero10 Black in the shape of the brand’s Max Lens Mod, which makes use of the camera’s removable lens cover by bringing an ultra wide 155º field of view that will be useful for group-vlogging, yoga classes, and education. Max Lens Mod will also bring a 360º modes pioneered by the GoPro Max; 360º horizon lock, which means you can  rotate through 360º. GoPro now has a suite of modular accessories; the Media Mod wraps around the Hero9 Black and enables Light Mod and Display Mod (if you need an even bigger front-facing screen) to be attached. 

Read Best GoPro accessories •  GoPro Hero 9 vs 10 Black

(Image credit: DJI)

Best YouTube action camera for novices

Specifications
Type: Action camera
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch
Megapixels: 12MP
Screen: 1.4-inch color (front); 2.2-inch touchscreen (rear)
Max video resolution: 4K
Mic input: With adapter
Headphone jack: No
Reasons to buy
+Fantastic image stabilization+Premium waterproof design
Reasons to avoid
-Viewfinder lag in 4K with EIS enabled-Mediocre audio quality

DJI has managed to create an action cam that stacks up to the best out there when it comes to stabilization and picture quality, and thanks to its all-encapsulating ultrawide angle, it’s also the perfect vlogging camera for YouTubers – provided audio quality isn’t a priority. 

Despite being the first of its line, the Osmo Action is already giving GoPro’s Hero7 Black (above) a run for its money, innovating in the action cam space with a front display that's very handy for framing. 

While video captured on the GoPro is a touch flatter, lending itself to being edited – which means video professionals could well prefer it, the Osmo Action’s footage is a bit more YouTube-ready, and it warms up skin tones that bit more too. 

It isn’t perfect – there are live view lag issues at max resolution when the camera’s RockSteady stabilization is active, while the app experience was also nothing short of terrible in our time with it. That said, if you’re looking for an action cam that’s going to give you maximum bang for your buck, the Osmo Action is it.

Mirrorless

(Image credit: Sony)

Fast and reliable AF, a vari-angle screen and in-body stabilization

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: APS-C
Megapixels: 24.2MP (effective)
Lens mount: Sony E
Screen: 3-inch tilting touchscreen, 921,600 dots
Viewfinder: Electronic
Max video resolution: 4K
Mic input: Yes
Headphone jack: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Unlimited 4K video recording+Microphone and headphone jack
Reasons to avoid
-No 10-bit video-Mounted shotgun mic blocks screen

The Sony A6600 is the ultimate camera for anyone who wants to shoot video all day long with as little battery swapping or charging as possible. Its NP-FZ100 battery can record for in excess of three hours at a time – that’s three times as long as the video capture time of the Canon EOS M6 Mark II (above) and roughly five times as long as cinema cameras like the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K

It’s also one of the first Sony A-series cameras to feature a fully-articulating screen, and while microphone ports are commonplace now, the A6600 also has a headphone jack, so you can monitor your audio.

While the A6600 is anything but cheap, given that it has in-body stabilization and can record unlimited 4K, if you’ve got the money and want the ultimate vlogging camera this could well be it.

Best travel camera: Sony ZV-E10

(Image credit: Sony)

Sony's vlogger-oriented mirrorless camera offers terrific value for 4K

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: APS-C
Megapixels: 24.2MP (effective)
Lens mount: Sony E
Screen: 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 921,600 dots
Viewfinder: No
Max video resolution: 4K UHD
Mic input: Yes
Headphone jack: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Excellent video autofocus+Clip-on wind muffler
Reasons to avoid
-'Jello' effect in 4K-Cumbersome Sony menus

Following the success of the vlogger-oriented compact ZV-1 (seen earlier in this guide), Sony tried to repeat the trick with a mirrorless camera. Step froward the Sony ZV-E10, an E-mount APS-C mirrorless model capable of shooting beautifully detailed 4K UHD 30p video, and bursting with vlogger-aimed features like a 3-directional capsule mic, a clip-on wind muffler and a fully adjustable vari-angle screen.

It's smartly done, and the camera impresses. Minus a bit of rolling shutter here and there, it shoots excellent-looking 4K video, and its sophisticated mic system means you can produce great-sounding vlogs without having to fork out for too much extra gear. There's no viewfinder, but as a YouTube shooter you're probably not going to use one anyway, and this helps keep the cost of the camera down. Sony's video autofocus is class-leading, and it's present and correct on this capable camera.

Like many Sony cameras it can be a pain to control, with a slightly labyrinthine menu system that can take some navigating, but this is an impressive budget offering for vloggers. The bottom line is that it has everything you need to get started shooting video for YouTube, and then some. 

(Image credit: Panasonic)

A terrific hybrid stills/video camera, though the video AF is patch

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Four Thirds
Megapixels: 20.3MP
Lens mount: MFT
Screen: 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1.84m dots
Viewfinder: Electronic
Max video resolution: 4K
Mic input: Yes
Headphone jack: Yes
Reasons to buy
+6.5 stop in-body stabilization+60fps/10-bit 4K recording+A great stills camera too!
Reasons to avoid
-Video AF lags behind rivals

The clue is in the name. A Mark II version of anything is likely to be a refresh rather than a whole new camera, and it’s the same here. But while the GH5 II might appear superficially similar to its predecessor, it incorporates a large number of improvements and additions that make quite a difference when you add them together – and they are even more impressive given the price.

Panasonic has stuck with its own DFD contrast based autofocus even though rival makers have switched to faster and more reliable phase AF. Panasonic's DFD AF has steadily improved, but it still tends to hunt and lose contact with subjects – which is bad news if you are trying to film yourself. 

With an articulating display that opens out to the side it won’t be blocked by a shotgun mic mounted on the hotshoe, so you can vlog obstruction-free, and it also has a full-sized HDMI-out, for easy-to-access clean video – perfect for pairing with an Atomos Ninja V, for example. The Lumix GH5 II would be best suited to a more advanced YouTuber who can make the best use of its advanced video settings and won't be fazed by its quirky AF.

(Image credit: Sigma)

The smallest full-frame camera also streams over USB

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Full frame
Megapixels: 24.6MP
Lens mount: L-mount
Weight: 90.7g
Reasons to buy
+Can stream over USB +Full-frame sensor+Modular, customizable design
Reasons to avoid
-Autofocus can be tricksy-No EVF-Single card slot

The Sigma fp may not be the obvious choice for YouTubing, but thanks to its modular makeup it's an incredibly versatile camera – and it really shines in the video department. Indeed, it also has a very special party trick: it can natively stream over USB. So if you want to a camera for streaming but don't want to invest in an HDMI capture card, you're looking at it. 

The L-mount offers a good selection of lenses, though some come with hefty price tags – though the fp is very adapter-friendly, and bolting on glass (especially vintage) from other brands feels like exactly what this camera is made for. And with 4K up to 30fps and 1080p up to 120fps, the Sigma fp should cover virtually all your video demands – though if you're a lone vlogger, it does have a couple of handicaps. 

Firstly it has a fixed display, meaning you can't flip the screen around to see your framing while you film to camera. This leads to the second shortcoming, which is that the continuous AF is pretty unpredictable, and this is a camera that's best for experienced videographers rather than run and gun novices.

Smartphones

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli/Digital Camera World)

Not just a great phone all round, the S21 Ultra can even shoot 8K!

Specifications
Release date: January 2021
Rear cameras: 108MP f/1.8, 10MP f/2.4, 10MP f/4.9, 12MP f/2.2 ultrawide
Front camera: 40MP
OIS: Yes
Weight: 227 g
Dimensions: 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9 mm
Storage: 128/256/512GB
Reasons to buy
+Fantastic camera zoom+Beautiful display
Reasons to avoid
-A little pricey-No microSD card slot

If you're looking for a handset with an excellent camera, then the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra could be exactly what you're looking for. This camera phone features four rear cameras, including a 108MP f/1.8 main camera, a 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide camera and two 10MP telephoto cameras – one with an f/2.4 aperture and 3x optical zoom and one with an f/4.9 aperture and a huge 10x optical zoom. 

Video shot on the S21 Ultra is beautifully steadied across resolutions, is optimized for the phone’s screen, and is a treat to capture and watch back. It can be shot at up to 30fps in 8K, 60fps in 4K, and with directional audio as well as a combination of OIS and EIS at play, is reliably good across the board. 

Shooting at 8K might sound totally overkill, but stills pulled from an 8K video look decent enough to share, so it does afford S21 Ultra owners with a bit of extra versatility. As for the 40MP front camera, in a turn for the books, Samsung actually applies less softening and processing to selfies, so they pick up more grain in auto mode than photos from the main camera. Results are sharp though, and shareable, though if you want the most flattering selfies on the scene, Huawei’s front cameras are still our choice. 

In full: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review

(Image credit: Apple)

New photo features make the iPhone 12 Pro serious creative tool

Specifications
Release date: October 2020
Rear cameras: 12MP 13mm f/2.4, 12MP 26mm f/1.6, 12MP 52mm f/2
Front camera: 12MP, f/2.2 TrueDepth camera
Dual OIS: Yes
Weight: 189 g
Dimensions: 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.4 mm
Storage: 128/256/512GB
Reasons to buy
+Triple-camera unit+New Apple ProRAW file format+LiDAR scanner+5G
Reasons to avoid
-'Only' 12MP camera sensors

The iPhone 12 Pro is one of the best camera phones currently available, featuring an impressive triple camera unit, including an ultra wide f/2.4 camera, a wide f/1.6 camera and a telephoto f/2 camera. Meanwhile, the front-facing TrueDepth camera features a 12MP sensor as well. There are plenty of new features on the iPhone 12 Pro, such as a LiDAR scanner – which will mean faster focusing in low light situations. The iPhone 12 Pro will also be able to use the new Apple ProRAW file format, which means users will be able to combine the great computational photography effects Apple is known for with the power of RAW files. 

Video recording has long-been impressive from the iPhone series, and Apple has made much of the fact that you can use it as a professional tool. The addition of HDR Dolby Video is an exciting step forward for anybody who wants to use their phone for advanced content creation. Although the average user might not notice a huge difference for everyday or ordinary videos, having this tool available in a pocketable device such as your phone is great news for those that do.

That said, the difference is only quite so obvious when viewing videos next to each other - look at a non-HDR video in isolation and you’ll likely be impressed as it is.

UPDATE: Bear in mind that the iPhone 13 Pro Max has recently made its debut. The absolute king of battery life, this phone uses a similar camera array to the 12 Pro Max, but its ability to shoot for longer without needing a charge may tempt YouTubers in particular. We may find it earning a spot on this list once we've finished our full test.

In full: iPhone 12 Pro review

Read more:

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