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

best YouTube camera
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Picking best YouTube camera won't automatically give you thousands of subscribers, but it will make it easier to create great-looking content that rises above the rest. Having the right kit to hand is incredibly important for both building your channel and your following.

We've updated this guide to include some of the latest and best cameras for YouTube, including the excellent little Sony Z-V1, the even more excellent DJI Pocket 2 and the powerful Panasonic Lumix GH5 Mark II. We've also added the Samsung Galaxy Ultra S21 and iPhone 12 Pro for smartphone fans.

Our guide is split into four sections – compact cameras, action cams, mirrorless cameras and smartphones – to reflect the growing diversity of YouTube content, filming styles and content creators.

The fact is, the best YouTube camera isn't simply the most expensive or advanced. You need a camera that makes it as easy as possible to shoot the high quality footage you need and then transfer it from your device and into your editing program and YouTube Studio. 

One of the best examples of a YouTube camera that's simple to use is the Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III, which can livestream directly to YouTube. This means that you don't even need the middle-man of a computer to get your content out to your subscribers. Livestreaming is a growing trend amongst confident performers who want to get their content out there with no time delay at all.

Choosing the best YouTube camera will also come down to the kind of content you're producing. If you're shooting in a home studio, you'll need a different camera than if you're doing an adventure vlog in the mountains. Cameras come in many different shapes and sizes, from compact, waterproof cameras such as the DJI Osmo Action, to action cams such as the GoPro Hero9 Black, to camera phones with fantastic optical zoom such as the Huawei P30 Pro, to mirrorless cameras with flip-out screens that are perfect for everyday vlogging, such as the Canon EOS M6 Mark II.

We haven't included the best cinema cameras or the best cameras for filmmaking in this guide, as these are high-end pieces of kit that most YouTubers won't need. However, YouTube supports HDR content, so if your cinematography is really important to you, why not consider investing in a premium film camera such as the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K.

Ultimately, whatever you choose will come down to your budget and your needs. If you're a vlogger that's always on the go, many camera phones offer great video quality. You can supplement any of the handsets in this guide with a Shure MV88+ mic, which will instantly upgrade your audio. As long as you've got decent lighting, smartphones can prove to be powerful cameras in their own right.

However, if video quality or rugged exteriors are more important to you, then definitely check out all of the 'proper' cameras we've got in our guide as well. Just remember that while image quality is important, audio quality is arguably even more important. Your followers will definitely thank you for investing in the best microphone for vlogging.

• 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)

1. Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III

The best YouTube camera for livestreaming at this price

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

Easy live streaming to YouTube
Microphone input
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)

2. Sony ZV-1

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

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

Vari-angle screen
Clip on wind shield
24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 zoom
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)

3. DJI Pocket 2

Incredible portability, simplicity, stabilization and quality!

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

Sensational stabilization
Fantastic pocketability
Simple operation
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)

4. GoPro Hero9 Black

Best YouTube action camera for pros

Type: Action camera | Sensor: 1/2.3-inch | Megapixels: 20MP | Screen: 1.4-inch color (front); 2.3-inch touchscreen (rear) | Max video resolution: 5K | Mic input: With adapter | Headphone jack: No

Excellent stabilization
Plenty of accessory options
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 Hero9 Black now has a 1.4-inch front-facing screen for easy framing of selfies and videos, and there’s a wider range of third-party accessories.

It’s also got some really neat features, the most useful being HyperSmooth 3.0, 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 5K video, even though it’s ‘only’ in 30 frames per second (it also fills-up SD cards pretty quick!). There’s more in store from the GoPro Hero9 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-vloging, 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 full GoPro Hero9 Black review

(Image credit: DJI)

5. DJI Osmo Action

Best YouTube action camera for novices

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

Fantastic image stabilization
Premium waterproof design
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)

6. Sony A6600

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

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

Unlimited 4K video recording
Microphone and headphone jack
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.

(Image credit: Canon)

7. Canon EOS M6 Mark II

Best for Canon lens owners

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 32.5MP (effective) | Lens mount: Canon EF-M | Screen: 3-inch tilting touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots | Viewfinder: Electronic clip-on (sold separately) | Max video resolution: 4K | Mic input: Yes | Headphone jack: No

Uncropped 4K video
Eye tracking
No in-body stabilization
No weather sealing

With its 32.5MP sensor, the Canon EOS M6 Mark II sports the highest resolution of any APS-C camera, along with the Canon EOS 90D that was announced alongside it. It’s also the first mirrorless stills camera from Canon to capture uncropped 4K video, a boon for YouTubers who need a wide angle for vlogging. With Dual Pixel AF, it’s also a great choice for solo shooters who don’t have a camera person on-hand keeping everything looking sharp.

As with the original M6 there’s no viewfinder, which will suit YouTubers just fine, and the screen flips out, visible over the top of the camera. This isn’t much use if you intend on using the hotshoe for a shotgun mic, but if you have a lav mic for audio it’s a great setup.

With a microphone jack and a USB-C port it’s off to a good start from a connections point of view, and while Canon doesn’t have a wide range of lenses for the M6 Mark II’s EF-M mount, with the addition of an inexpensive adapter the camera can take EF lenses, although still with that APS-C 1.6x crop factor.

(Image credit: Panasonic)

8. Panasonic Lumix GH5 II

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

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

6.5 stop in-body stabilization
60fps/10-bit 4K recording
A great stills camera too!
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)

9. Sigma fp

The smallest full-frame camera also streams over USB

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 24.6MP | Lens mount: L-mount | Weight: 90.7g

Can stream over USB 
Full-frame sensor
Modular, customizable design
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)

10. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

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

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

Fantastic camera zoom
Beautiful display
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)

11. Apple iPhone 12 Pro

New photo features make the iPhone 12 Pro serious crative tool

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

Triple-camera unit
New Apple ProRAW file format
LiDAR scanner
5G
'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.

In full: iPhone 12 Pro review

Read more:

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