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Best YouTube camera 2021: the 12 finest video cameras for your new channel

Sony ZV-1
(Image credit: Sony)

Looking for the best YouTube camera you can buy? From actions cameras to flagship mirrorless models, we’ve tested all of the top video options for YouTube content creators. So whether you’re a novice vlogger hoping to ace the algorithm or an established videographer with a popular channel, you’ll find your perfect YouTube camera recommended in the list below.

Almost any device can capture content for YouTube and resolution alone doesn’t guarantee the popularity of a video. That’s why smartphones and compact cameras can be such accessible gateway tools when starting a YouTube channel. But if you want to take your content to the next level, improving production values with sharp, high-resolution footage makes a lot of sense. And the best YouTube cameras will help you do exactly that.

The type of content you produce will determine the kind of camera that’s right for you. If you plan on sharing your skydiving pursuits, for example, you’ll want a rugged, action-focussed camera like the GoPro Hero 9 Black. Walk-and-talk vloggers, on the other hand, should look for something with reliable image stabilization and the option of connecting an external mic for improved audio quality, such as the Sony A6600.

Whichever category your channel fits into, any decent YouTube camera should satisfy a few key requirements. It should be capable of capturing sharp, dynamic video and crystal clear audio. It should also be able to keep your subject in focus and counteract shaky motion. The importance of other features will depend on your preferences. You might want something pocketable, a camera that can livestream, a model with interchangeable lenses or an option which offers the very highest resolution available.

This buying guide covers the very best cameras for every type of YouTuber, with options of several shapes and sizes, to suit every budget, skill level and style of content. Our overall top pick is currently the Sony ZV-1, which is the best compact camera for YouTube content creators so far. It offers excellent autofocus, outstanding image quality and the versatility of a hotshoe and microphone input, all in a pocket-sized package.

But that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the perfect camera for your YouTube channel. Whether you’re looking for something affordable, something tough or something that’s simply the best, read to the end of the list below and you’re sure to find your perfect YouTube camera. Want to create and share video content for other platforms? Check out our list of the best vlogging cameras.

Our top picks

The best YouTube cameras you can buy in 2021:

Sony ZV-1

(Image credit: Future)

1. Sony ZV-1

The ultimate compact for YouTubers

Specifications
Type: Compact
Sensor size: 1-inch
Resolution: 20.1MP
Effective focal length: 24-70mm
Viewfinder: None
Monitor: 3.0-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 0.921 million dots
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Max movie resolution: 4K 30p
Size, weight: 105.5 x 60.0 x 43.5mm, 294g
Reasons to buy
+Excellent autofocus+Hotshoe and mic input+Pocket-sized
Reasons to avoid
-Average video stabilization-Limited touchscreen controls-microUSB rather than USB-C

The Sony ZV-1 delivers pretty much everything the roaming YouTuber needs, all in a pleasingly compact package. Sony’s class-leading Real-time tracking and Real-time Eye AF systems will keep you in focus as you move around the frame, while the bright lens and large 1-inch sensor size mean clear, crisp images in most conditions as well as attractive background bokeh – both something of a rarity on pocket-sized cameras.

You’ll find thoughtful touches everywhere. The hotshoe can accommodate an external mic or LED light without blocking the side-flipping touchscreen, the video record button is much larger than on regular compacts, and a built-in ND filter helps you to shoot smooth movement on brighter days. It even offers a feature aimed specifically at reviews-based YouTubers, ‘Product Showcase’, which quickly alters settings for optimal shooting of objects, while YouTube livestreaming will be added via a software update in July 2020.

It’s not completely flawless – the touchscreen controls are a little limited and Sony’s stuck with the aging microUSB rather than a more versatile USB-C port. The video stabilization also falls just short of the best and there’s no weatherproofing either. But unless you're mostly shooting out in challenging conditions, it's the best pocket YouTube camera around.

Read the full review: Sony ZV-1 review

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III

(Image credit: Future)

2. Olympus E-M5 Mark III

A lightweight, feature-packed video master

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor size: Four Thirds
Resolution: 20.4MP
Effective focal length: N/A
Viewfinder: EVF, 2.36 million dots
Monitor: 3.0-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1.04 million dots
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Max movie resolution: 4K 30p
Size, weight: 125.3 x 85.2 x 49.7mm, 414g
Reasons to buy
+Rock-steady image stabilization+Stellar video specs+Compact body with good handling
Reasons to avoid
-No headphone jack-Small hand grip

YouTubers rejoice: with its lightweight polycarbonate construction and impressive in-body image stabilization, the E-M5 Mark III is one interchangeable lens camera that feels engineered for long handheld recording sessions. It also touts some seriously impressive video specs, including the option of shooting Cinema 4K at 24fps and a bit-rate of 237Mbps, plus the ability to capture slo-mp 1080p video at 120fps. 

The Four Thirds sensor isn’t as large as those on many mirrorless rivals but, while the E-M5 Mark III might not be the most impressive camera in its class when it comes to outright image quality, its video footage boasts great color rendition and rich detail. A vari-angle touchscreen, meanwhile, makes self-shooting a cinch.

One thing we’d have liked to seen on a camera this pricy is a headphone jack for real-time audio monitoring, and a slightly larger hand grip to make handheld shooting a little more comfortable wouldn’t have gone amiss – but neither of these caveats prevent the E-M5 Mark III from being an incredibly powerful package for making videos.

Read the full review: Olympus E-M5 Mark III review

Sony A6600

(Image credit: Future)

3. Sony A6600

Accurate autofocus and in-body stabilization make this a fine chice

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor size: APS-C
Resolution: 24.2MP
Effective focal length: N/A
Viewfinder: EVF, 2.36 million dots
Monitor: 3.0-inch tilting touchscreen, 0.921 million dots
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth
Max movie resolution: 4K 30p
Size, weight: 120 x 66.9 x 59mm, 503g
Reasons to buy
+Excellent tracking AF+In-body image stabilization+Long battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Awkward controls-Over-elaborate menu system

At first glance you might wonder why we’re recommending the A6600 over its significantly cheaper Sony stablemate the A6400. After all, on first glance the A6400’s video specs are almost identical – both cameras come with the same 24.4MP Exmor APS-C sensor and Bionz X processor, allowing them to shoot 4K at 30fps with support for S-log3 and S-log2 profiles and hybrid log gamma HDR. 

Look closer and you’ll find several key features that make it the superior YouTube camera. Firstly, there’s in-body image stabilization (IBIS), which helps smooth out handheld shooting no matter which lens you’re using. Secondly, the A6600 has mic and headphone ports, while the A6400 has only the former. Thirdly, there’s the excellent Real-time Eye AF for movies, which keeps faces in focus even if they move back and forth in the frame. And finally, the battery capacity on the A6600 is about twice the size, giving you a lot more shooting time per charge.

Those unaccustomed to Sony’s convoluted menus and tiny buttons may find it a little frustrating to use and the touchscreen controls limited. It's worth bearing in mind that the screen also flips up to face forwards, which means anything mounted on the hot-shoe will block your view. But aside from these quibbles, the A6600 is one of the best YouTube cameras around. 

Read the full review: Sony A6600 review

4. Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III

A small camera packed full of great video features

Specifications
Type: Compact
Sensor size: 1.0-type
Resolution: 20.1MP
Effective focal length: 24-100mm
Viewfinder: None
Monitor: 3.0-inch tilting touchscreen, 1.04 million dots
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, NFC
Max movie resolution: 4K 30p
Size, weight: 105.5 x 60.9 x 41.4mm, 304g
Reasons to buy
+YouTube livestreaming +Microphone input+Excellent image stabilization
Reasons to avoid
-No hotshoe for mic-Slightly outdated AF

The latest incarnation of Canon’s G7 X series ups the video ante by adding 4K recording and a microphone socket. These slot in nicely beside the large 1-inch sensor, superb image stabilization, tilting touchscreen and USB charging to make this a very capable compact for making YouTube content. 

What’s more, it comes with YouTube livestreaming support out of the box, so tether it to your smartphone or a Wi-Fi network and you can broadcast live to the world. The camera is sturdily built, sits nicely in the hand, and the touchscreen controls feel responsive. 

Despite the microphone socket there’s no hotshoe, however, so you’ll have to mount your mic elsewhere, while the contrast-detection autofocus system is a little less advanced than the hybrid setups on rivals like the Sony ZV-1. Still, YouTubers looking for a pocket-sized camera should definitely consider this a worthy alternative.

Read the full review: Canon PowerShot G7X Mark III review

Fujifilm X-T4

(Image credit: Future)

5. Fujifilm X-T4

The best APS-C mirrorless camera is brilliant for YouTube videos

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor size: APS-C CMOS
Resolution: 26.1MP
Effective focal length: N/A
Viewfinder: EVF, 3.69 million dots
Monitor: 3.0-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1.62 million dots
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Max movie resolution: 4K 60p
Size, weight: 135 x 93 x 64mm, 607g
Reasons to buy
+Excellent video specs+Five-axis image stabilization
Reasons to avoid
-AF performance limited by lens-No headphone port

Its sturdy shell might look retro, but the X-T4 is the opposite of old school. Fujifilm’s most advanced APS-C camera yet packs a catalogue of features that make it excellent for capturing YouTube content. Solidly built and weather-resistant, the X-T4 is a lovely camera to handle, with a fully articulating touchscreen that proves a boon when framing shots. Across the board, video performance is superlative: besides Cinema 4K at up to 60fps, the X-T4 supports 10-bit internal recording, HMDI out, up to 400Mbps bit-rate and F-Log and HLF profiles as standard. In simpler terms, it’s a very versatile solution for filming footage for YouTube, especially when you add super slow-motion into the mix (Full HD at up to 240fps). There’s also five-axis image stabilization for those whose channels are more walk-and-talk than slow-mo magic, with sensor shift and digital stabilization noticeably reducing shake. Bolstered battery life and improved eye- and face-detection autofocus are also useful for YouTubers, while Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity should make up for the absent headphone port. It might be pricey, but the X-T4 is a seriously capable tool for YouTube vloggers.

GoPro Hero 9 Black

(Image credit: Future)

6. GoPro Hero 9 Black

A smart dual-screen action cam for shooting anywhere

Specifications
Type: Action
Sensor size: 1/2.3-inch
Resolution: 23.6MP
Effective focal length: 16-39mm
Viewfinder: N/A
Monitor: 1.4-inch display (front), 2.27-inch touchscreen (rear)
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Max movie resolution: 5K 30p
Size, weight: 71 x 55 x 34mm, 158g
Reasons to buy
+Detailed 5K video+Useful front display
Reasons to avoid
-Laggy touchscreen-No 4K/120p option

Action cameras are designed to be easy to use in all kinds of situations, which also makes them excellent cameras for YouTubers – and the GoPro Hero 9 Black is no exception. The most powerful and versatile action cam on the market, it’s tough enough to survive extreme exploits, while the new full color front display is a gift for self-shooters. Its touchscreen interface is a little laggy, but the combination of easy presets, a range of recording modes and full manual control options means the Hero 9 Black caters to all kinds of creatives. Image stabilization is better than ever, with the strongest boost setting available at all resolutions. And courtesy of an upgraded sensor, the Hero 9 Black can capture detailed 5K footage at 30p – though the maximum 4K frame rate remains 60p. Built-in mics provide decent wind noise reduction, while Mod support allows for optional upgrades to suit your shooting. Software tricks such as TimeWarp make it easy to capture dynamic B-roll for YouTube, plus the ability to Live Stream in 1080p will please vloggers. The Hero 8 Black might represent better overall value, but the Hero 9 Black is the best all-in-one YouTube action camera you can buy.

Panasonic G100

(Image credit: Future)

7. Panasonic G100

A strong video contender with excellent sound and a few foibles

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds
Resolution: 20.3MP
Lens: Micro Four Thirds
Viewfinder: EVF, 3.69million dots
Screen type: 3.0-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1.84m dots
Maximum continuous shooting speed: 10fps (electronic shutter), 6fps (mechanical)
Movies: 4K/30/25/24p, FHD/60p/50/30/25/24p
User level: Beginner/Intermediate
Reasons to buy
+Small, compact design+Impressive audio skills+Decent value
Reasons to avoid
-4K has a large crop-Lacks phase-detect autofocus-No headphone jack

If you're looking for a YouTube camera that also doubles as a fine travel camera for photos, then the Panasonic G100 is one of the strongest contenders around.

Unlike compact cameras like the Sony ZV-1 and Canon G7X Mark II, the G100 has a viewfinder – and a very decent, 3.69-million dot EVF at that. While this isn't generally necessary for vlogging or shooting videos, it is a useful addition for shooting photos in bright conditions.

What about its video skills? These are also strong, if not quite class-leading. One standout feature is the G100's Nokia Ozo-equipped triple microphone setup, which does a better job than most cameras in this list of isolating voices from background noise, and also cleverly works with the camera's face-tracking.

Video quality is also very good, with good colors and plenty of detail. The reason why the G100 isn't higher up this list is because it has a rather large 1.6x crop in 4K mode (which may be an issue if your YouTube channel is of the 'walking and talking' variety) and it also relies on the slightly older contrast AF system, rather than the hybrid phase-detect variety offered by the likes of the Sony ZV-1.

Still, this might not be a major issue if you or your subjects tend to stay relatively still in your YouTube videos, the G100 is otherwise one of the best 4K all-rounders at this size and price point. 

Read our in-depth Panasonic G100 review

Canon EOS M6 Mark II

(Image credit: Future)

8. Canon EOS M6 Mark II

Small, nimble and ideal for vlogging

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor size: APS-C
Resolution: 32.5MP
Effective focal length: N/A
Viewfinder: None
Monitor: 3.0-inch vari-angle touchscreen
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth
Max movie resolution: 4K 30p
Size, weight: 119.6 x 70 x 49.2mm, 408g
Reasons to buy
+Compact size+Handy tilt-up touchscreen
Reasons to avoid
-Limited native lens range-No built-in viewfinder

Compact even by mirrorless standards, the EOS M6 Mark II sports an APS-C sensor with a high 32.5MP resolution. Video-focussed users may not get as much out of all those megapixels as stills shooters, but there’s plenty for YouTubers to admire besides. 

The flip-up touchscreen is handy for self-shooting, and it can shoot crisp uncropped 4K at 30fps or 1080p at a smooth 120fps. You get pleasing color and detail straight out of the camera, while Dual Pixel CMOS AF with eye detection is on hand to keep your face in focus.

The lack of a viewfinder and the (currently) small selection of native lenses for the M6 Mark II’s EOS M system aren’t huge drawbacks for shooting YouTube content, as you can use the screen for shot composition and likely only need one or two lenses to cover most situations. But if you do want to broaden your shooting horizons, there's always the option of adapting Canon's huge range of EF lenses. 

Read the full review: Canon EOS M6 Mark II review

Panasonic Lumix S5

(Image credit: Future)

9. Panasonic S5

Panasonic's full-frame series finally finds its feet

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor size: Full-frame
Resolution: 24.2MP
Effective focal length: N/A
Viewfinder: OLED EVF, 2.36 million dots
Monitor: 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1.8 million dots
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Max movie resolution: 4K 60p (cropped)
Size, weight: 133 x 97 x 82mm, 714g
Reasons to buy
+Small size and weight +Fully articulating screen+Good video specs for vloggers
Reasons to avoid
-No full-sized HDMI port-Large proprietary lenses-AF could be better 

Panasonic's full-frame mirrorless cameras arguably failed to catch the world's attention, thanks to a number of key problems. Keen to address those issues, the Panasonic S5 brings a smaller and more portable body, better autofocusing, but still keeps the video-friendly specs that vloggers and YouTubers have come to love the company for. 

You get 4K recording, with a crop applied at 60p (but not at 30p), a fully-articulating screen, V-log support, and dual memory cards. The standard kit lens starts at 20mm, making it well-suited to filming clips to camera (even with a crop applied). It's also a neatly compact optic that matches well to the small size of the S5 - which is now smaller than its Micro Four Thirds cousin, the G9.

One of the big downsides of the S5 is that other cameras can outclass it when it comes to super-fast autofocusing, while another is the fact that other lenses for the system are much bigger and bulkier. If you're somebody that likes to shoot stills as well as video, this is a good hybrid all-rounder though.

(Image credit: TechRadar)

10. Fujifilm X-T200

The entry-level model boasts some YouTuber-friendly features

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor size: APS-C
Resolution: 24.2MP
Effective focal length: N/A
Viewfinder: OLED EVF, 2.36 million dots
Monitor: 3.5-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 2.78 million dots
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Max movie resolution: 4K 30p
Size, weight: 121 x 83.7 x 55.1mm, 370g
Reasons to buy
+3.5-inch adjustable touchscreen+Digital gimbal mode+USB-C charging
Reasons to avoid
-No video subject tracking

Fujifilm’s entry-level mirrorless model is an affordable all-rounder, with some interesting features for video makers. YouTube creators will love the widescreen touchscreen, for instance: not only does it flip round to face forward, it’s large (3.5 inches) and sharp (2.78-million dots). There’s also the new digital gimbal feature, which uses a gyroscope and clever cropping to smooth out handheld footage taken while you’re moving. It’ll only work with 1080p or lower resolution videos, though.

USB-C charging is a great addition too, but sadly the camera’s excellent AF technology seems designed primarily with stills in mind, not video: the face and eye detection tracking tech doesn’t work while filming, so you’ll have to do your best to keep your head from weaving about too much when filming to-camera pieces.

(Image credit: Future)

11. Panasonic Lumix G90/G95

A versatile weatherproof workhorse with options aplenty

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor size: Four Thirds
Resolution: 20.3MP
Effective focal length: N/A
Viewfinder: OLED Live Viewfinder
Monitor: 3.0-inch fully articulating OLED touchscreen
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Max movie resolution: 4K 30p
Size, weight: 130.4 x 93.5 x 77.4mm, 533g
Reasons to buy
+Advanced video features+Flip-out touchscreen
Reasons to avoid
-Rolling shutter sometimes visible-Somewhat expensive

Designed very much with video in mind, the G95 (known as the G90 outside North America) has a raft of features and functions that make it great for shooting YouTube content. Its new, smaller Panasonic G100 sibling is now here (see above), but this model is well worth considering because it offers in-body image stabilization (IBIS).

The flip-out OLED touchscreen, headphone output, mic input, hotshoe, IBIS, weatherproof build and variety of video formats (which include V-Log L for perfectionists who want to dabble in post-shoot color grading) make it a powerful and versatile performer.

There’s some evidence of rolling shutter at points, which you'll have to take some care to avoid. The G90 is also fairly pricey for a mid-range model, especially when bought with the (good quality) power zoom kit lens. That said, it’s easier on the wallet than Panasonic’s GH5 and GH5S video flagships, while offering many of the same benefits.

Read the full review: Panasonic G95 / G90 review

Canon EOS 90D

(Image credit: Future)

12. Canon EOS 90D

Don’t discount DSLRs – Canon’s mid-ranger is a very capable video tool

Specifications
Type: DSLR
Sensor size: APS-C
Resolution: 32.5MP
Effective focal length: N/A
Viewfinder: Pentamirror
Monitor: 3.2-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1.04 million dots
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Max movie resolution: 4K 30p
Size, weight: 140 x 104.8 x 76.8mm, 701g
Reasons to buy
+Articulating touchscreen+Huge native lens range+Weatherproof build
Reasons to avoid
-No image stabilization-Bulkier than alternatives

There’s plenty of life in DSLRs yet and some make for great video tools. While these cameras aren’t quite as new, shiny and small as mirrorless models, they have plenty to offer photographers and, yes, video makers. Canon’s EOS 90D records lovely uncropped 4K footage at up to 30fps and 1080p at up to 120fps, works in adverse weather conditions, comes with a flip-forward screen and has access to a vast range of EF and EF-S native lenses – all things that make it ideal for YouTubers.

On the downside, it doesn’t have in-body image stabilization and it’s larger and heavier than a lot of mirrorless alternatives. It’s not cheap, either, and if you’re buying it solely for video you’ll be paying for a lot of still-focussed features and performance that you’ll barely touch. You may be tempted to plump for the older, cheaper 80D instead, but note that it doesn’t support 4K or 24p video.

Read the full review Canon EOS 90D review

The alternatives

Also consider...

While it isn't strictly a YouTube camera, the Osmo Mobile 3 is a decent alternative if you don't mind shooting with your smartphone: 

(Image credit: Future)

DJI Osmo Mobile 3

Turn your phone into a YouTube Steadicam with this folding gimbal

Specifications
Type: Gimbal
Sensor size: N/A
Resolution: N/A
Effective focal length: N/A
Viewfinder: N/A
Monitor: N/A
Connectivity: USB-C, USB-A, Bluetooth
Max movie resolution: N/A
Size, weight: 157 x 130 x 46mm, 405g
Reasons to buy
+Excellent face tracking (via app)+Handy portable size+Long battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Poor object tracking-Requires use of Mimo app

No, the Osmo Mobile 3 isn't actually a camera – but it will turn your smartphone into a super-stabilized mobile vlogging maestro. 

This brilliant folding gimbal is portable enough to take almost anywhere, and once you’ve clamped your Android or iOS handset into it and paired things up using DJI’s Mimo app, it’ll make self-shooting on the move a delight. The 3-axis gimbal keeps everything beautifully steady, and your phone facing exactly where you need it.

Depending on the phone you’re using, the app’s footage may be noticeably inferior, and that can be an issue in challenging shooting conditions. It tracks faces very effectively, which is ideal for YouTubers, but struggles a little when tracking objects.

Read the full review: DJI Osmo Mobile 3

Best YouTube camera 2020 at a glance:

  1. Sony ZV-1
  2. Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III
  3. Sony A6660
  4. Canon Powershot G7 X Mark III
  5. Panasonic G100
  6. DJI Osmo Pocket
  7. Canon EOS M6 Mark II
  8. Fujifilm X-T200
  9. Panasonic G95 / G90
  10. GoPro Hero 8 Black
  11. Canon EOS 90D

Choosing your YouTube camera

How to pick the best YouTube camera for you:

While your needs will vary slightly depending on the kind of videos you're looking to shoot, there are five main features that you should look for in a YouTube camera:

1. Articulating screen

Whether it flips out to the side or pivots up to the top, an articulating screen is a godsend when trying to film yourself. By giving you a live preview of the shot composition, exposure and focus, it helps you get the basics right so you can concentrate on other aspects of your video.

2. Good autofocus

Manual focus has its place in filmmaking, but to keep everything as simple and straightforward as possible it pays to pick a camera with great video autofocus. Face and/or eye tracking helps if you tend to move around a lot in your videos, as the focus will adjust itself automatically to compensate.

3. Built-in stabilization

Filming on the hoof can result in shaky, hard to watch footage. Thankfully a lot of modern cameras come with image stabilization (optical, electronic or a combination of the two) to automatically compensates for motion. Some, it should be noted, do it much better than others. Alternatively, a gimbal can stabilize pretty much any camera, at the cost of adding bulk.

4. Audio options

A camera’s built-in microphone can record sound – but using an external microphone will vastly improve clarity and likely cut down on unwanted ambient noise. Check potential buys for mic inputs and a hot shoe for mounting mics. You might want to consider headphone sockets too: they allow you to monitor audio levels while recording.

5. Livestreaming options

This might not be vital for those making videos to upload after filming and editing, but for anyone who wants to broadcast live, it’s well worth checking to see if a potential camera supports YouTube livestreaming. It’s not just smartphones and webcams anymore – more and more cameras are coming with the technology built-in.

(Image credit: TechRadar)

(Image credit: TechRadar)