by Alex Wrigley
Over the past few years vlogging has transformed from endearing yet often shoddy videos uploaded from a smartphone to a bona fide online phenomenon. Everyone and their dog has a vlog now, and maybe you want to get in on the action but aren’t sure what the best vlogging camera to buy is.
Of course, you can still record genuinely good quality footage on your smartphone, especially if you purchase a gimbal to help with smooth transitions. So if you don’t have the budget for a dedicated vlogging camera right now, don’t let that put you off.
But once you get a little more serious about vlogging you’ll want a setup with a bit more creative freedom and flexibility. But what sort of camera do vloggers use?
The makes and models will vary, but the vast majority of vloggers use either an APS-C mirrorless camera or a Micro 4/3 camera for recording. They have the advantage of being much smaller and lighter than DSLRs while often boasting specialist features geared towards video capture.
Their portability means they can easily be transported without all the extra weight associated with camera gear, especially since many vloggers also have to cart around drones and other props.
But before you dive in and buy the first small camera you find, there are a few things to take into consideration.
We’ve got a whole article explaining the different types of cameras here, but the most important thing for a vlogging camera is the balance between sensor size and resolution and its size.
Smartphone cameras, while improving, still retain very small sensors and as such their video quality will always be restricted. Full-frame cameras, while offering unparalleled quality, come with the significant disadvantage of weight, size and cost.
The sweet spot is in the APS-C and Micro 4/3 range. The sensor is big enough to capture astounding quality footage but the cameras are significantly reduced in size.
What’s more, Micro 4/3 cameras are often geared heavily towards videographers and vloggers, meaning they boast an array of video-centric features such as 8k recording, ultra slow motion and more.
Basically, if you want the best vlogging camera you should be looking at mirrorless APS-C and Micro 4/3 systems.
You can also opt for a slightly smaller compact system or an action camera (a few of which we’ve actually recommended below), but the trade off here is that you won’t have the flexibility in terms of interchangeable lenses. That being said, many vloggers simply don’t need a wide range of focal length.
The specific features you require from a vlogging camera will vary depending on what sort of content you’re producing, but there are some that are probably applicable across the board.
Here’s some features you’ll definitely want to consider seriously before buying, and I urge you to have a think about any others that might be specific to your own circumstances:
The level of portability you need will depend heavily on the type of footage you want to capture.
Are you a landscape photographer wanting to start a vlog? You’ll want a small and lightweight option since you’re already carrying your other camera gear around.
Wanting to start a vlog focused in the home? Portability won’t be such a deciding factor.
Looking to capture candid footage? You want something small and discrete.
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mk III is, quite simply, the most well-rounded and best vlogging camera you can get right now.
It’s compact, discrete and portable. It’s jam-packed with video features, including 4k/30fps and 1080p/120fps capability. The in-camera stabilization system is class-leading and the autofocus is the best on offer in the Micro 4/3 range.
Not only that, but it looks absolutely stunning with its retro styling.
We’ve split our list of the best vlogging cameras up into three distinct categories:
The Panasonic Lumix series has long been a class leader in the videography scene, and the Panasonic S5 pushes the bar even higher for its competitors.
The S5 comes equipped with a full-frame sensor despite being smaller than some Micro 4/3 cameras and it packs a huge punch in the video department.
An articulating touchscreen LCD allows you to see yourself while recording while the 5-axis in-body stabilization makes those transitions seamless. As for the actual videos, you can record in cropped 4k at 60p (uncropped at 30p) as well as anamorphic 4k. There’s also features such as a 96MP High Resolution mode for stills, 180fps slow motion video and V-Log support with up to 14 stops of dynamic range.
That being said, there are downsides. The autofocus, which is still contrast based, has improved on others in the Lumix range but isn’t quite class-leading yet, and the larger lenses associated with full-frame sensors do make the compact size somewhat redundant.
For a long-time it seemed like Fujifilm were actively fighting back against the rising tide of videography, but they’ve finally brought it to the fore in their recent models and it’s definitely been worth the wait.
What they have done is produce possibly the best vlogging camera for APS-C sensors. The superb image quality from their 26.1MP sensor is present and correct, while their famous Fujifilm filters output excellent footage straight out of the camera.
The features are up there with the best too, offering in-body stabilization of up to 6.5 stops, 4k recording at 60p (1.18x crop) or uncropped 4k recording at 30p and 240fps slow motion recording in Full HD. They’ve also made some significant interface improvements to make switching between video and stills a breeze.
The only drawbacks are the lack of a headphone jack and the 20-30 minute time limit on 4k recording, with the exact limit dependant on settings and the temperature you’re operating at.
All in all, Fujifilm have blazed from nowhere to produce one of the very best vlogging cameras out there, and if you’re looking for a stills/video hybrid camera this is practically unbeatable.
It may not be the latest in Sony’s popular A6000 lineup, but the Sony A6400 is still a powerful beast and has all the features you might need on a vlogging camera.
As always with Sony’s Alpha series, image quality is phenomenal and 4k shooting is a given. Add a tilting touchscreen that can face forwards and a fantastic autofocus system and you have a fairly well-priced option in the middle of the vlogging camera sector.
The more advanced features on newer models aren’t present, but you do get Full HD recording at up to 120fps for slow motion video and if you don’t plan on doing any overly fancy videography this will hit the target nicely.
One potential dealbreaker is the lack of any in-body camera stabilization though, so unless you plan on mounting on a tripod you might want to look at some other options.
If you’re looking for maximum resolution and minimum size the Canon EOS M6 Mk II has you covered, with it’s portable and lightweight frame packing a monstrous 32.5MP APS-C sensor.
Of course, 4k recording at 30p is as standard and it can go up to 129p in Full HD resolution. The Dual Pixel autofocus system is lightning fast and accurate and features both Face Tracking and Eye Detection, while the 3 inch touchscreen is vari-angle.
The downsides include a lack of built-in viewfinder, which is a dealbreaker for some purists, and this is another one that doesn’t include a headphone socket. Some argue that the small selection of lenses is an issue, but they cover all the important focal lengths and are good quality on the whole.
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mk III is our overall winner for good reason, and that reason is not because it has a catchy and easy-to-remember name.
It’s because this is pretty much the complete package when it comes to vlogging cameras, and it all comes wrapped in a gorgeously retro body.
The OM-D E-M5 Mk III boasts an impressive 20.4MP Micro 4/3 sensor and an in-built viewfinder to complement the vari-angle touchscreen. Add on a fantastic autofocus system and top-of-the-range in-body camera stabilization and you’re already on to a winner.
As far as video features go, it’s one of the most comprehensive Micro 4/3 packages. You can obviously shoot 4k at 30fps and Full HD at 120fps, but they also add in a fantastic Cinema 4k feature.
Sure, it doesn’t shoot 4k at 60fps like some of its Panasonic rivals, but the autofocus performance more than makes up for this and means you can rest assured that everything you want will be sharp.
Targeted squarely at the vlogging market and with an aim to be heralded as the best vlogging camera, the Panasonic Lumix G100 certainly isn’t a let down.
The features are geared heavily towards video features, boasting 4k recording at 3-fps on top of a state-of-the-art microphone system developed by Nokia. It massively improves on the in-built audio recording capabilities of other cameras, although it’s still not as good as a dedicated microphone.
The Lumix G100 will appeal to the social media enthusiast as well thanks to a heavy focus on making sharing videos and images between camera and smartphone as quick and easy as possible.
Again, it’s another camera lacking a headphone jack and the in-body stabilization and autofocus just isn’t as good as Olympus’s offering.
The Panasonic Lumix G95 isn’t quite as portable as the newer G100, but the release of the G100 has brought its price down and it packs a useful set of features for the aspiring vlogger.
The 20.3MP sensor is the same as the one in the fantastic Panasonic G9 and it boasts an articulating touchscreen, dual axis in-body camera stabilization and 4k recording at up to 30fps. It’s also one of a dying breed that actually comes with a headphone jack
The drawbacks? Full HD only records up to 60fps, the EVF isn’t particularly high resolution and it suffers from the same dodgy autofocus problems as other Panasonics.
It might look like a compact camera but the Olympus PEN E-PL9 packs a 16.1MP Micro 4/3 sensor inside a stylish and discrete body.
It’s aimed largely towards beginners in the camera world and as such is very easy to use and uncomplicated, and it’s compact size makes it perfect for putting in your pocket on your way out the door. It also manages 4k recording and a host of features to make sharing your images and footage with your smartphone easier.
There are some pitfalls, though. There’s no electronic viewfinder so you’re limited to using the rather dated touchscreen, and the lack of a microphone jack could be a sticking point for many searching for a vlogging camera.
The Sony RX100 series cameras are widely viewed as the best compact cameras out there, and the Sony ZV-1 builds on the success of this series but targets the features squarely at the vlogging market.
The result is possibly the camera for vlogging in the compact space, with a fantastic 1-inch, 20.1MP sensor and a very handy 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 lens.
The autofocus is superb in action, it shoots 4k and it even comes with its own microphone shield to really hammer home who this camera is aimed at.
Admittedly the touchscreen isn’t the highest resolution and the stabilization system isn’t exactly world-beating, but for such a tiny camera it’s a real joy to use.
Following closely behind the Sony ZV-1 is the old favourite, the Canon Powershot G7 X Mk III. This is another camera clearly aimed at vlogging and content creation, even going so far as to allow you to stream directly to YouTube.
Canon have also added a microphone jack to the mix and the 20.1MP, 1 inch sensor can shoot 4k (uncropped), while the 24-100mm lens offers enough flexibility to cover most eventualities.
The only thing that lets the G7 X Mk III down is the autofocus system, which isn’t even in the same league as Sony’s excellent offering.
It might not pack an articulating touchscreen or a microphone jack, but the DJI Pocket 2 is one of the most fun-to-use vlogging cameras around.
You can tell just from looking at it. The upgraded 1/1.7 inch, 16MP sensor can shoot 4k video at 60fps and the 20mm lens provides a nice wide-angle view to work with, and there’s a high resolution photo mode that produces 64MP files.It also has four microphones facing in different directions to try to make up for the lack of microphone jack, but the real star of the show is yet to come.
The DJI Pocket 2 features the same sort of 3-axis gimbal system used on their drones, eliminating the need to purchase a separate gimbal and allowing you to go straight in to shooting silky-smooth footage. It’s also absolutely tiny, as you might have guessed from the name.
It’s a vast upgrade on the original DJI Pocket Osmo thanks to the improved sensor and lens, and the only downsides are natural limitations of the system such as the lack of optical zoom and tiny screen. Of course, you’re not going to get the same image quality as the cameras above, but the gimbal system makes this a fantastic addition to your vlogging arsenal.
The original action camera brand is slowly adding features to make their products more attractive to the growing band of vloggers, and the Hero 9 is the best iteration yet.
The upgraded sensor can shoot 5k video at 30fps and is by far the best GoPro image quality to date, and their stabilization system (HyperSmooth 3.0, if you’re interested) works very well indeed. It also shoots 4k at 60fps and up to 240fps at 1080p!
GoPro have also added a front-facing display to appeal to the vloggers and you can livestream up to 1080p straight from the camera. The typical ruggedness remains, however, meaning the GoPro Hero 9 is waterproof up to 33ft and is compatible with a host of accessories to match any activity you want to record.
Both the front and rear touchscreens are pretty poor though, and the front-facing screen is noticeable laggy at points.
We’ll dive into this topic a little more deeply in a future article, but if you’re just getting started with vlogging there are some useful accessories to consider getting your hands on.
First is an external microphone, which is practically essential if you film outdoors and want any semblance of usable audio quality. The built-in mics on vlogging cameras are acceptable, but still not great, when indoors or in very still conditions, but as soon as the breeze picks up you’ll want something with a little more quality.
There’s plenty to choose from across all ranges of budget, but Rode are a well-respected brand and their VideoMic GO is a nice low-medium end solution.
While in-camera stabilization is advancing at a rapid pace right now, nothing beats the smooth transitions of a real gimbal. Gimbals basically use sensors to detect movement and motors to negate that movement, creating silky-smooth footage. Depending on your budget (good gimbals aren’t cheap, unfortunately) you might want to stick with the in-camera stabilization for a while, but if you want that cinematic, smooth finish you can’t go far wrong with this offering from DJI.
Next up on our list is a mini tripod, which can not only be used as a stable platform to shoot from but also as a handle for when you’re filming. The Manfrotto PIXI mini below is my favourite option, but a lot of people swear by the GorillaPod range.
About Alex Wrigley
Alex is the owner and lead writer for Click and Learn Photography. An avid landscape, equine, and pet photographer living and working in the beautiful Lake District, UK, Alex has had his work featured in a number of high profile publications, including the Take a View Landscape Photographer of the Year, Outdoor Photographer of the Year, and Amateur Photographer Magazine.