The Best Vlogging Cameras and Tools in 2021
Panasonic Lumix G7 , Fujifilm X-T4, DJI Osmo Action , GoPro Hero8 Black With Media Mods, Sony RX100 VII, Sony a7 III, Atomos Ninja V, DJI Mavic Air 2 , Rode Video Mic Go , DJI Osmo Mobile 3 , Continuous Lighting , Tripod , Monopod, or Selfie Stick , More Ways to Improve Your Vlog
It seems like everyone has a vlog these days. It's enticing to join the fray, chasing YouTube views and hoping for likes, subscribers, and the all-important revenue that comes from the ads your viewers will sit through in order to share in your adventures virtually. But how do you get started? Well, you need an idea, an angle, and some content—I can't help you with that. If I had a million-dollar vlogging idea, I'd be out there doing it myself. Where I can be of help is in highlighting some tools you can use to start recording. It's not all about the camera—although a camera is essential, so I've included a few good ones with different price points and capabilities. There are a few things we prioritize when recommending a camera for vlogging, as opposed to one for more general use. For starters, it must have excellent video quality. In 2020, that means great-looking 4K at a minimum. We're starting to see higher resolution displays hit the market, and more cameras will start to offer 6K and 8K recording sooner than later, but 4K is the standard. If you're recording in 1080p, you're a bit behind the times. The ability to connect an external microphone is key. (We also recommend a couple of different mics, for studio and field use.) Viewers tend to forgive video that's slightly off in quality, but bad audio will have them switching to a different channel in seconds. Autofocus during video is another key factor—it's why we don't recommend most SLRs for vlogging, as, with the exception of some models from Canon, autofocus when recording video is slow and choppy. A display that you can see when recording—one that flips forward—is also important. We do recommend a couple of cameras without a fully articulating screen, but on their other merits. Cameras with HDMI output ports support external monitors, so you can add one that's larger and positioned off-camera to ensure your framing and focus are on point. You'll also want to think about support. A good gimbal to keep things steady when recording handheld and a tripod for more stationary setups are both important. Lighting can come into play when working both indoors and out; not just in dim conditions, but also on bright days when you want to fill in some shadows on you or your subject's face.
Read on for some of our recommendations.
Panasonic Lumix G7 You don't have to buy the newest model to get a good camera or vlogging. Budget shoppers should take a look at the Panasonic G7, a Micro Four Thirds mirrorless camera we reviewed way back in 2015. It's still on sale, and for a lot less money than it cost when it debuted. You'll have a hard time finding a more capable 4K video camera for under $500. It does skip out on in-body stabilization, though, so think about spending a little bit more on the newer G85 if your vlog is heavy on handheld footage. Fujifilm X-T4 The Fujifilm X-T4 is packed to the gills with imaging features, but it's also the best video camera the company has ever made. It supports 4K capture at 10-bit quality, offers a flat profile for color grading, and five-axis image stabilization for smoother handheld footage. Support for external microphones is there, and you can connect headphones via USB-C for monitoring (a 3.5mm dongle is included in the box). If you don't want to grade your own video, in-camera profiles are vast, and offer looks ranging from Bleach Bypass to black-and-white. DJI Osmo Action The DJI Osmo Action is, as the name implies, a small action videography camera. It competes directly against the GoPro Hero8 Black in the market, and while we named the GoPro as our top pick for action cams in general, the Osmo is a fine alternative for vloggers. Its built-in front LCD lets you keep an eye on your shot when pointing the lens in your direction, and the Osmo supports external mics (via an adapter) and lens filters. Video quality is strong, in 4K with digital stabilization and HDR, to handle tricky lighting situations. GoPro Hero8 Black With Media Mods GoPro's answer to the Osmo Action's front-facing screen is a set of Media Mods, add-ons for its best-in-class Hero8 Black action cam. The Media Mod ($79) adds a microphone, while the Display Mod ($79) gets you a front-facing screen (but requires that have the Media Mod as well). The extra $160 ups audio quality and gives you a front-facing display, and the Hero8's video stabilization is the best we've seen. Sony RX100 VII You don't have to get go the action cam route if you want to vlog without the bulk of an interchangeable lens camera. Enter the Sony RX100 VII, a pocket camera with a premium lens—and price. It records in 4K, supports an external microphone connection, and offers hybrid stabilization to net better results than optical or digital correction can on its own, and its screen flips up so you can frame your shot when recording a selfie video. Sony a7 III The a7 III sports a stabilized full-frame sensor, excellent 4K video, a microphone input, a rugged build, and an affordable (for full-frame) price. Its screen doesn't swing out to face forward, but the rest of the package makes up for that shortcoming. Atomos Ninja V Today's cameras record superb video directly to an SDXC memory card, but quality is limited by your camera's processor. For footage that's a bit more flexible to edit, think about adding an external recorder. The Atomos Ninja V records footage from your camera's HDMI port and saves it in one of a variety of high-quality codecs, including ProRes 422. It also doubles as an external monitor, and supports Raw video with select cameras, including the Nikon Z 6. DJI Mavic Air 2 Putting a drone in your bag will spice things up. Aerial shots are great for B-roll and establishing shots, and if you get one with a quality camera, like the DJI Mavic Air 2, you'll be able to cut it together with video shot with terrestrial shots from your mirrorless camera and have it match. For $800 you get more than a half hour of flying time on a fully charged battery, 12 or 48MP still images, 4K footage at up to 60fps, HDR video at up to 30fps, and slow-motion at 1080p. Obstacle detection and GPS stabilization make it a snap to fly, even for a beginner, and while we just started working on a review, it's shaping up to be the best drone in its price class. Rode Video Mic Go We've talked a lot about adding a microphone to your camera, but which one? We like the Rode Video Mic series, which has models at various price points to suit your needs. I use the Video Mic Go, available for less than $100, for my on-location video needs. It's affordable, compact, and works with any camera with a microphone input. You may also want to think about a clip-on lavalier mic, either wired or wireless, for use in noisy environments where even the tight coverage of a shotgun mic picks up too much background noise. DJI Osmo Mobile 3 In-body and in-lens stabilization do a good job smoothing out jumps and jitter, but if you want more, consider adding a handheld gimbal. These devices use brushless motors to silently keep your camera level and video jitter-free at all times. For SLRs and mirrorless cameras, think about the DJI Ronin-S, which sells for about $700. If you vlog with your smartphone, the DJI Osmo Mobile 3 is the way to go, and it costs just $119. Continuous Lighting Flashes are great to brighten photos, but are ineffective or video. Many vloggers reach for an LED light panel or a small on-camera light, like the eponymous product from Lume Cube pictured above, to fill brighten your scene and remove distracting shadows from your face when rolling selfie footage. Tripod, Monopod, or Selfie Stick There are times you want to hold the camera, and times you want something to hold the camera for you. Depending on your video style you can add a tripod, a monopod, or a selfie stick. Tripods are great for rock-solid video, especially if you want to be able to move around the frame—look for one with a fluid pan head and carbon fiber materials. Monopods are one-legged, but you can get one with feet that extend from the bottom in order to keep it standing up on its own—they're the better choice if you like to stay mobile and don't want to deal with setting up and breaking down a tripod. Finally, get a selfie stick if you want the high-angle look, and don't mind having the stick itself show up in the video frame. Some, like the GoPro Shorty, will double as a tabletop tripod, so you can go from handheld to rock stable without a cut.