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9 Best Cameras for Live Streaming in 2021 [Expert Picks]

Live streaming is a great idea, especially if you have lots to talk about. It’s also very easy and nearly everyone does it. And that’s the problem, isn’t it? How do you create a stream that stands out? What kind of camera gear do you need for live streaming? How much money should you invest in the venture?

Fret not! We’re here to help. We took our time with this one, even taking the trouble to attempt live streaming ourselves with a variety of equipment to learn the ins and outs of the streaming business and to understand the technical hurdles that wannabe streamers face.

A piece of friendly advice we can give you, dear streamer, is that lighting is everything. If you’re just starting out, we suggest investing in good lights first and then pick a camera with the remainder of your budget, not the other way around. Even cheap cameras can do wonders with good lighting conditions.

Best Cameras for Live Streaming in 2021

Live streamers need a camera that won’t let them down mid-stream. When finalising this list, we shortlisted cameras based on the preferences and experiences of influencers and professional Twitch & YouTube streamers.

These streaming cameras run the gamut of high-end mirrorless ILC to pocket-friendly USB webcams, and each is designed to excel at a particular task. Rest assured, you’ll find the best streaming camera on this list.

  • Type: Mirrorless ILC
  • Video: 4K UHD @ 30FPS (3840 x 2160)
  • Interface: USB, HDMI
  • Weight: 1.43 lbs

The Sony a7 III is for those who seek the best image quality possible for live streaming. With impeccable AF, support for 4K 30p video streaming, and a wide range of lenses to choose from, this camera is the perfect choice for high-end streams.

Video Resolution and Frame-Rate

Sony employs a full-frame CMOS sensor rated at 24MP in this camera. While it’s a great sensor for stills, it’s even better for movies. The camera uses the entire width of the sensor to deliver sharp, 4K video at up to 30fps, and FHD video at up to 60fps. The former is great for shooting make-up tutorials, and the like, while the latter is well suited for gaming.

Provided you have a good quality capture card, you can grab a 4:2:2 8-bit sampled image for your stream. The 4:2:2 sampling is particularly useful for gamers who need to use a green screen. Sony’s legendarily accurate AF system supports features like face and eye tracking to ensure that you’re always sharply in focus no matter how you move about.

Interface and Features

You can use the camera directly as a USB webcam with Sony’s proprietary software, but we’d recommend investing in a high-end USB capture card that can grab a clean HDMI output from the camera. This will ensure the best quality for your streams.

The built-in stereo mic is good, but you’ll want to invest in a good quality shotgun mic like the Rode VideoMic Go to capture better dialogue. The camera supports a 3.5mm mic input so XLR mics requiring phantom power are best avoided.

Conclusion

Overall, A7 III is the best live streaming camera out there. The full-frame sensor will give you superb subject isolation and superior imaging in any kind of light. A good lighting setup will, of course, further enhance the quality of the stream.

Pros
  • Full-frame awesomeness
  • No overheating when streaming
  • Supports USB-C charging and dummy batteries
  • Superb 4K mode
  • Great for vlogs as well as game streams
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Requires capture card for best quality
  • Type: Mirrorless ILC
  • Video: 4K DCI @ 30 FPS (4096 x 2160)
  • Interface: USB, HDMI
  • Weight: 1 lbs

While a full-frame camera is a worthy indulgence, such cameras tend to be expensive and require expensive lenses. The X-S10 from Fuji is a cheaper alternative that promises the same performance as a high-end mirrorless camera in a body that’s more friendly on the pocket, both literally and monetarily.

Video Resolution and Frame-Rate

The 26.1MP X-Trans IV sensor used here downsamples 6K video to 4K for crystal-clear imagery. Pair it with a good streaming lens like the XF 16mm F1.4 and you’re looking at one of the best kits ever made for streaming. F1.4 ensures great bokeh, and if you’re on a tighter budget, there’s even an F2.8 variant of the lens.

The X-S10 is among the few mid-range cameras that can output a 10-bit 4:2:2 DCI 4K30 video stream (over HDMI only). With 10 bits to play with (that’s over a billion colors to 8-bit’s 16.7 million), you’re guaranteed clean images with great dynamic range and no banding.

The one downside is that this camera can overheat in multi-hour 4K streaming sessions. Thankfully, FHD sessions are mostly unaffected and the camera does recover quickly when it overheats.

Connectivity, Battery life, Features

As with most cameras, you can connect the X-S10 to your PC via USB. As usual, we’d recommend a high-quality video capture card that’s capable of capturing and processing the 4:2:2 10-bit output from the X-S10.

A bonus feature is that unlike most Sony mirrorless cameras, the X-S10’s flippy LCD screen remains on while you’re streaming over HDMI, allowing you to monitor your output. You can plug in a 3.5mm mic and charging can happen via USB-C. You can also use a dummy battery if you like.

Conclusion

The X-S10 is one of Fuji’s best video cameras and great for streaming. At the price it’s going for, it’s a steal, especially when you look at the stunning video output that’s available. This is a camera for amateurs or pros looking for high-quality output at a reasonable price.

Pros
  • 10-bit video output for clean video
  • 4:2:2 sampling is great for green-screen work
  • Superb image quality
  • Reasonably priced
  • Excellent AF system
Cons
  • Small battery
  • Requires expensive accessories
  • Type: Point-n-Shoot
  • Video: 4K UHD @ 30 FPS (3840 x 2160)
  • Interface: USB, HDMI
  • Weight: 0.65 lbs

While professional cameras with interchangeable lenses are great when you don’t mind meddling, sometimes you just need a simple, powerful compact camera for your streaming video needs. And that’s exactly what the Sony ZV-1 was designed to be.

Video Resolution and Frame-Rate

The ZV-1 is a compact point-n-shoot camera with a 20.1MP BSI-CMOS sensor that’s capable of shooting 4K videos at 30fps. You’re not getting 10-bit colors or 4:2:2 chroma subsampling, but you are getting a great 8-bit mode, excellent image quality, and a superb AF system that’s just as good as the fancy systems of Sony’s more expensive APS-C cameras.

Speaking of, the AF system features ‘product focus’ and bokeh modes. The former will help the camera focus faster on objects held closer to the screen — essentially ignoring your face — and the latter will try to use the largest aperture possible.

Low light performance does suffer a bit when compared to cameras with bigger sensors, but you’re good up to ISO 400. Just invest in a couple of half-decent lights and a nice mic and you’re all set for some high-quality 4K or FHD live streaming.

Connectivity, Battery Life, Features

The ZV-1 is among the most feature-rich compact cameras out there, and it’s tailor-made for vlogging and live streams. There’s a built-in ND filter for streaming in bright sunlight or well-lit rooms, there’s an HDMI clean feed for output via a capture card, there’s support for USB mode, and you’ll even find a pair of excellent mics.

Sony also supports digital mics mounted to the hot-shoe, ensuring clean, high-quality audio indoors or out. Other features include a flip-out screen that helps with framing, USB-C with support for PD chargers, and a mini HDMI out.

Conclusion

The ZV-1 is easily the best compact live streaming camera you can get. It’s a simple, light, powerful camera that’s great for streaming on location or from the comfort of your home. Whatever your intentions, it’s one of the best investments you can make.

Pros
  • Powerful hardware in a compact body
  • Features to rival premium APS-C cameras
  • Superb AF system
  • Built-in ND filter
  • Support for digital mics
Cons
  • Low-light performance
  • A wider lens would have been nice
  • Type: Mirrorless ILC
  • Video: 4K UHD @ 30 FPS (3840 x 2160)
  • Interface: HDMI
  • Weight: 0.66 lbs

If you’re looking for a good camera for streaming with a large sensor, but without the bulk associated with it, then the Canon EOS M200 is a great option. It’s an APS-C mirrorless with great video features and a body that will fool you into believing that you bought a compact p-n-s camera.

Video Resolution and Frame-Rate

The M200’s 24.1MP APS-C CMOS is capable of shooting 4K 30p and FHD 60p video, but if you’re streaming, we’d suggest you stick to FHD30 or 60 for AF performance. Canon’s Dual Pixel AF system is present, but the camera isn’t capable of using DPAF when outputting a 4K feed over HDMI. While this won’t be a problem most of the time, the camera can occasionally lose focus in 4K mode. FHD will work exactly as expected.

Given the FHD limitation for in-focus streams, we’d say that the M200 is a great camera for gaming live streams. Pair this sensor with a nice ultra-wide, or just use the bundled 15-45mm kit lens, to get great imagery for your streams.

Connectivity, Battery Life, Features

Connectivity is limited to micro USB and micro HDMI. The onboard mics are decent but there is no support for external mics. For streaming, just make sure you’re using a high-quality external mic that’s plugged directly into your PC or an audio interface. You’ll also need to check audio sync because of this.

The camera will not overheat when streaming FHD content and supports dummy batteries. Get some good lights, hook this camera into a dummy battery, and you’re set for streams that’ll go on for as long as you like.

Conclusion

The M200 is a compact APS-C mirrorless for Canon’s EF-M mount that delivers great FHD performance for live streams. It’s also a great budget camera for YouTube or Instagram Lives.

Pros
  • Dual Pixel AF works great in FHD
  • 60fps mode for game streams
  • Compact design
  • Good value
  • Fully articulated LCD
Cons
  • No external mic support
  • USB 2.0 interface
  • Type: Mirrorless ILC
  • Video: 4K UHD @ 30 FPS (3840 x 2160)
  • Interface: HDMI
  • Weight: 0.91 lbs

The Panasonic LUMIX G7 is for those who need the flexibility of an interchangeable lens mount but would rather not empty their bank account in the bargain. As an added bonus, that smaller sensor is better for live streams than a larger one.

Video Resolution and Frame-Rate

The DMC-G7 uses a micro four-thirds sensor (about 2x crop vs full-frame) that’s capable of 16MP stills and 4K30 or FHD60 video. The smaller sensor, of course, means less heat, which means longer, high-quality live streams for when you need them.

Unlike Sony and Canon, Panasonic has gone for a contrast detect AF system that does tend to be a bit slow and unreliable when it comes to tracking subjects. Still, for live streams, where your face will likely occupy most of the frame and the range of movement is limited, it should be enough.

Connectivity, Battery Life, Features

For streaming, you’ll need to use HDMI. CDAF works in both 4K30 and FHD60 modes, making this a great hybrid camera for personal vlogs and similar lives and for game streams. Other I/O includes micro USB 2.0, a 2.5mm remote trigger jack, and a 3.5mm mic input.

There’s a built-in stereo mic if you want to record the music from a camera, and it even features a wind filter for use outdoors. Obviously, you’re better off using an external mic. Lastly, there’s a fully articulated LCD that’s great as a secondary display for monitoring your stream.

Conclusion

The Lumix DMC-G7 won’t stretch your budget and will deliver excellent 4K or FHD video to spruce up your streams. Getting lenses for the micro four thirds lens mount isn’t easy, but for live streams, you’re not going to need more than an ultra-wide to begin with.

Pros
  • High quality video output
  • Stereo mic with wind filter
  • Clean HDMI output
  • Good value
  • Relatively light and compact
Cons
  • Contrast detect AF isn’t reliable
  • USB 2.0
  • Type: Action Cam
  • Video: FHD @ 60 FPS (1920 x 1080)
  • Interface: USB-C, HDMI with adapter, WiFi
  • Weight: 0.35 lbs

Why should live streaming be limited to complicated desk setups at home or the inconvenience of a phone held at arm’s length? With the GoPro Hero 9, it doesn’t have to be. Strap the camera anywhere, sync it with your phone, and now you can stream from literally anywhere in the world.

Video Resolution and Frame-rate

When it’s not live-streaming, the GoPro Hero 9 Black is a veritable beast of a camera. It can record 5K 30 fps video, 4K60, and even slo-mo at FHD240. You also get 20MP stills.

None of this translates to live streaming, however, which is limited to FHD60 whether over Wi-Fi, USB, or HDMI. While the resolution is limited, features like HyperSmooth 3.0 and Horizon Levelling will remain active, letting you shoot wonderfully smooth video while gliding off a cliff in a wing suit or when pounding through the undergrowth towards an uncharted beach.

You get a tiny sensor and an ultra-wide lens, but the quality of the video is impeccable. The ultra-wide look might look a bit off for home use, but it’s still better than anything you’ll get from a webcam.

Connectivity, Battery Life, Features

There are three ways you can stream from the GoPro: via WiFi when contacted to a smartphone, via USB-C from a PC, via HDMI from a PC. For the latter, you’ll need to purchase the Media Mod kit.

Speaking of mods, that’s one of the strengths of the GoPro platform, The Media Mod kit, for example, not only adds an HDMI output, but also includes a handy external mic for capturing better quality audio. Other mods add wider or narrower lenses, LED lights, and more. Plus, the folding fingers let you mount the GoPro to virtually any accessory.

The battery is powerful enough to let the camera stream for several hours in the wild, you can charge via USB-C, and the camera is waterproof down to 33 feet.

There’s a touchscreen, voice control, a ton of Power Tools that add features like digital lenses, Time-lapse, Night-Lapse, scheduled capture, and more. This is a feature-packed camera that’s meant for more than just live streams.

Conclusion

If it wasn’t already obvious, this is a camera that’s meant for the outdoorsy type of person, the kind of person who doesn’t have time to settle in front of a PC and stream games or vlogs everyday. It’s designed to be rugged and portable and that’s how it’s best used.

Pros
  • Superb stabilisation
  • Records live streams to microSD
  • Tons of software enhancements
  • Voice control
  • Excellent battery life
Cons
  • Streaming resolution is limited to FHD
  • Media Mod required for HDMI output
  • Type: Camcorder
  • Video: FHD @ 60 FPS (1920 x 1080)
  • Interface: HDMI
  • Weight: 0.67 lbs

You might be surprised to hear that camcorders aren’t dead. In fact, when it comes to shooting video or live-streaming for hours on end, they’re a remarkable sensible choice. This Vixia HF R800 from Canon is one such device, and a rather excellent streamer cam at that.

Video Resolution and Frame-Rate

The Vixia HF R800 uses a tiny little 1/4.85-inch sensor that can capture 2MP stills and FHD60 video at a maximum bit-rate of 35Mbps. This sensor is paired with an F1.8-4.5 lens with a 32x optical zoom and OIS.

The result is a compact camera that can shoot good quality 1080p video without overheating. 2MP stills are laughable, but it’s a streaming camera we want, and the Vixia delivers on that front.

Given it’s small sensor, bokeh isn’t exceptional, but AF is fast. For streaming, especially for gamers, this is more than enough quality.

Connectivity, Battery Life, Features

The Vixia is an old camera design and connectivity is limited to HDMI C, USB Mini-AB, and a 3.5mm A/V headphone mini-jack terminal. There’s a 230k-dot, 3-inch LCD for monitoring the feed.

The camera is small, but much larger than a compact point-n-shoot, giving it the capacity to house a larger, 2760mAh battery. This battery will easily last 4+ hours when streaming 1080p content, and over 17 hours when streaming 720p video.

Conclusion

Who would have thought that a camera designed for video would be the best choice for, well, video? The Vixia HF R800 is an old-school camcorder, but its video credentials are impeccable.

Pros
  • 17-hr battery life for HD video
  • OIS support
  • 32x optical zoom
  • Clean HDMI output
  • Fast AF
Cons
  • Low-light performance
  • No external mic input
  • Type: Camcorder
  • Video: FHD @ 60 FPS (1920 x 1080)
  • Interface: HDMI
  • Weight: 0.47 lbs

If you’re looking for a good video camera for live streaming that’s cheap but offers better quality than a webcam, you might want to consider the Panasonic HC-V180K. This compact device is surprisingly capable, given its price, and a great buy for budget streamers.

Video Resolution and Frame-Rate

The 1/5.8-inch sensor used here is one of the smallest you can find on a handicam. The small size should result in trouble when shooting in low light, but Panasonic decided to use a BSI MOS sensor that should mitigate some of the quality issues.

Video is recorded or outputted at FHD and 60fps max, but this can be dropped to a higher quality 540p mode if necessary. This is useful when streaming games because your face is going to sit in a corner of the screen anyway.

The lens starts at a reasonably wide 28mm equivalent, and offers up about 50x optical zoom, not that you’ll ever need that much when streaming. OIS and automatic levelling takes care of any shake.

Connectivity, Battery Life, Features

The camera outputs a clean feed over HDMI and you’ll need a capture card of some kind to use it. Unfortunately, unless you already have a capture card, you might end up spending as much on the card as on the camera itself.

There’s also no support for an external mic, so make sure you’re recording separately or have one connected to your stream deck. At this price, you have to make some compromises.

Battery life is limited to 1 hour of runtime on the 1940 mAh battery. You can of course run the handicam while charging if you need to use it for longer streams.

Conclusion

The USP of the V180K is its price, and the fact that it offers better image quality than a webcam. It’s certainly not a powerful camera, or even a very nice one, but it does its job and works without complaint. At this price, one couldn’t ask for more.

Pros
  • Value for money
  • 50x optical zoom
  • 5-axis OIS
  • Automated levelling
  • BSI sensor
Cons
  • Low battery life
  • External capture card required
  • Type: Webcam
  • Video: FHD @ 30 FPS (1920 x 1080)
  • Interface: USB
  • Weight: 0.35 lbs

The easiest way to start your career in live-streaming is by using a webcam, and one of the best webcam you can get is the Logitech C922 Pro. FHD video and the convenience of USB are just hard to ignore.

Video Resolution and Frame-Rate

The 2MP sensor in this webcam can shoot FHD video at 30fps, or HD video at 60fps. Choose one or the other depending on whether you’re streaming a talking head video or planting your face in the corner of a game stream.

The lens on this webcam has a 78° field of view and while low light performance is expectedly poor, the camera has a few software tricks up its sleeve that can produce usable images in bad lighting. These include an AF system, a rarity in webcams, and a light correction system to compensate for inadequate lighting and color temperature.

Moreover, if necessary, the bundled software can even be used to isolate you from your background, emulating a green-screen effect.

Connectivity, Battery Life, Features

The C922 plugs into your computer via USB-A rated at 2.0 speeds. This isn’t very fast, but the 480Mbps USB 2.0 bandwidth is more than enough for live streaming 1080p content.

Since it’s designed as a streaming webcam, the stereo mics on the C922 are surprisingly good. Good enough, at least, to focus on your speech and ignore as much background noise as possible. The design also allows the camera to be mounted on a tripod or clipped to virtually any surface.

Conclusion

A pro camera will give you superb image quality, but it will never offer the convenience of a webcam. The C922 offers that convenience while generating a far better image than most webcams can manage. For streamers, that’s a win-win situation.

Pros
  • Autofocus
  • Universal clip and tripod mount
  • Stereo mics
  • HD 60fps mode for games
  • Green-screen emulation
Cons
  • Low light performance
  • 30fps limit for FHD streams

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it worth investing in a capture card?

If you’re serious about live streaming, absolutely. A capture card will not only let you capture the best possible feed from your fancy camera, it will also take a load off your PC by transcoding the footage on the fly.

Should I use an external mic or the one on my camera?

Where possible, use an external mic that’s as close to your mouth as possible. Mics work best the closer they are to you, and external mics can be placed a lot closer than a camera can.

What resolution should I be streaming at?

If you’re streaming yourself, or products, for a vlog or streams involving, say, fashion accessories or make-up, stream at the highest resolution and quality settings you can. For gaming, 1080p is more than enough, though you could easily get away with 720p as well.

What do I do if I don’t have a green screen?

Most GPUs, especially NVIDIA GPUs, will automatically remove the background when streaming, and they do this rather well. Some cameras like the PS5 HD cam even use depth-sensing to do this. None of these options are as good as a green screen, but they’re better than not having one.

Verdict

Live streaming should not be a challenge. It should be a fun, relaxing experience for both you and your audience. Whatever camera you choose, pick one that suits your style, and take some time out to understand your gear. It’ll make a world of a difference to your streams.

If you’re unsure about what to start off with, here are some quick recommendations of the streaming cameras from us:

  • For the ultimate in image quality, get the full-frame Sony a7 III or the APS-C Fujifilm X-S10. They both offer stellar image quality in their price ranges and your streams will look spectacular.
  • For a reasonably priced 4K stream, consider the Panasonic LUMIX G7. It’s one of the most feature-packed 4K cameras you can get, and it’s a steal at the price it’s currently going for.
  • If you’re looking for quality on a budget, the Canon Vixia HF R800 should have you sorted.
  • For the more budget-conscious buyer, we’d recommend the Logitech C922 Pro.

Whatever your budget and whatever the camera you choose, remember one thing: it’s the story that counts, not just the quality of your stream. Don’t invest unnecessarily and learn to make the most of what you have before splurging.