The best vlogging cameras of 2018

Starting a vlog? Here are the best cameras to buy

best vlogging cameras thumb

Any camera that shoots video can technically be used to create a vlog (which is just short for video blog, but we’re guessing you know that already if you wound up here). However, there are certain features that make some cameras better suited for the task — even cameras that may not otherwise offer the best performance or image quality.

If you’re a seasoned vlogger, you likely have a good idea of which features are important and which you could live without, but if you’re just starting out, you’ll want to consider the specific requirements of your blog. Is it a travel blog? A daily journal? Will you be shooting primarily indoors or out?

Audio quality is one thing that new vloggers may not immediately think about, but this can actually be more important than video quality. While your viewers will easily forget if you’re shooting in 4K, 1080p, or 720p, they won’t likely be able to ignore distracting background noises or difficult to understand speech. We’ll be sure to draw attention to any audio limitations in cameras mentioned on this list.

Panasonic Lumix GH5

The best vlogging camera for professionals

Panasonic Lumix GH5
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: Exceptional image quality, no recording limits.

Who’s it for: Experienced shooters who need full control over the look of their videos.

How much will it cost: $2,000 (body only)

Why we picked the Panasonic Lumix GH5:

With a 20.3-megapixel Micro Four Thirds, high-bitrate 4K video capture, and internal five-axis image stabilization, the Panasonic GH5 is one of the best video cameras on the market (not to mention, a very capable still camera, as well). But while all of those features are potentially important to vloggers, what really makes the GH5 stand out on this list is its lack of a recording time limit. While many cameras put strict caps on individual video clip lengths, the GH5 lets you keep on rolling until the memory cards (yes, it has dual slots) fill up or the battery dies. For long-winded monologues or interviews, this is a huge benefit.

The GH5 also packs a lot of other features useful to vloggers, like a fully articulating monitor that lets you watch yourself when you’re on screen, a microphone jack for adding a high quality external microphone, and a headphone jack so that you can actually check and monitor audio quality before it’s too late. The electronic viewfinder will also come in handy when shooting b-roll outdoors, where bright sunlight could make it difficult to see the LCD. And thanks to the weather sealed body, you won’t have to worry about rain or snow, assuming you also have a weather resistant lens.

Overall, the GH5 is simply one of the most versatile vlog production tools available. That said, it skews toward the professional end of the spectrum and is likewise expensive and comes with a steep learning curve. For those reasons, this camera is best reserved for experienced videographers or those comfortable taking the time to learn.

Read our full Panasonic Lumix GH5 review

Sony Cyber-shot RX100 IV

The best vlogging camera for 4K video in your pocket

Sony Cyber-Shot RX100 IV
Jessica Lee Star/Digital Trends
Jessica Lee Star/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: Great image quality, compact design.

Who’s it for: Travel and vacation vloggers.

How much will it cost: $900

Why we picked the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 IV:

Sony’s RX100-series has always been a favorite among amateur and professional photographers alike for its compact size and great 20-megapixel images. It boasts a 1-inch-type, smaller than what’s found in the GH5 above, but still bigger than what’s commonly used in compact cameras. That means better detail and less noise indoors or in low light situations.

But the Mark IV version of the RX100 took a big step forward for video by adding 4K resolution. It also introduced Sony’s new stacked sensor design that increases speed and performance, as well as improved light capture. Combined with an excellent 24-70mm (full-frame equivalent) f/1.8-2.8 lens, this little camera can hold its own against much larger interchangeable lens cameras. It even offers some professional video quality settings, like a log profile for capturing greater dynamic range, that generally aren’t found on consumer cameras.

What’s more, you can take it anywhere, as it will easily slip into a jacket pocket, purse, or any camera bag. The combined optical and electronic stabilization make it easy to use handheld, and the LCD screen flips up a full 180 degrees so you can keep yourself in the frame during those “walk and talk” shots that are ever so popular among vloggers. Sony even managed to squeeze a viewfinder into the compact body.

However, for everything the RX100 IV does well, it has one very serious drawback: No external microphone input. While the camera records audio via a built-in microphone, this simply won’t due for environments with lots of background noise, or if you need to place the camera a fair distance away from your subject or audio source. For this reason, you may want to consider adding an external recorder, like the compact Zoom H1, or simply using a primary camera for all critical audio shots and relying on the RX100 IV as a secondary for B-roll only.

Yes, Sony now has two newer versions of the RX100 — the Mark V and VI — but the $100 and $300 premiums probably aren’t worth it for most vloggers as the video features haven’t changed much. The Mark VI does introduce a longer 24-200mm lens (albeit, with a slower aperture) so that may give some users an advantage, however.

Read our Sony Cyber-shot RX100 IV hands-on review

Panasonic Lumix G7

The best vlogging camera for high quality on a budget

Panasonic Lumix G7
Les Shu/Digital Trends
Les Shu/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: Great image quality, solid feature set.

Who’s it for: Suitable for anyone.

How much will it cost: $600 w/ kit lens (at time of writing, after $200 instant rebate)

Why we picked the Panasonic Lumix G7:

Released “way back” in 2015, the Lumix G7 may not be the newest model, but it still packs a punch when it comes to video. Like the higher-end GH5, the G7 shoots 4K video from a Micro Four Thirds sensor and is compatible with the full range of MFT lenses. It also features a 180-degree tilt screen and a microphone jack. There’s no headphone jack, but the mic input is definitely the more important of the two.

One potential red flag for vloggers is that the G7 makes due without the impressive in-body image stabilization found in the GH5, meaning you’ll need to rely on lens stabilization for your handheld shots. Fortunately, the bundled kit lens is stabilized, although as always, you’ll get best results with a tripod, monopod, or gimbal.

We should also draw attention to the Lumix GX85, a sort of little sibling to the G7 that is based on a similar sensor. The GX85 is considerably more compact, shoots 4K video, and features internal stabilization. However, it lacks a microphone jack, so we still recommend the G7 over it. But if you need a good run-and-gun camera, the GX85 may be the way to go.

Read our Panasonic Lumix G7 hands-on review

Canon EOS M6

The best vlogging camera for ease of use

Canon EOS M6
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: Excellent autofocus, compact, simple to use

Who’s it for: Anyone who wants a straightforward camera, and doesn’t need 4K

How much will it cost: $800 w/ kit lens (at time of writing, after $100 instant rebate)

Why we picked the Canon EOS M6:

Canon’s mirrorless efforts may have gotten off to a slow start, but the company really hit its stride with the EOS M5 and followed through with the M6. Of the two, we lean slightly toward the M6 for vlogging simply because of its lower cost and slightly more compact design (it loses the electronic viewfinder of the M5). Otherwise, it’s a nearly identical camera, built around the same 24-megapixel APS-C sensor, the largest of any camera on this list.

However, while the sensor is great for still photos, video resolution is limited to Full HD 1080p at 60p. There’s no 4K to be found here, but then again, most of the content you watch on YouTube is probably still in 1080p. Plus, 1080p is easier to work with, taking up less space on a memory card and requiring less computing power to edit. And at the end of the day, when it comes to any type of documentary filmmaking, content is what counts, and the EOS M6 makes it easier to get it.

Thanks to Canon’s excellent Dual Pixel Autofocus (DPAF) technology, the M6 focuses very quickly and smoothly, with virtually no hunting. We also found the face detection to work very well, meaning you can constantly keep yourself in focus even as you move about the frame. The LCD screen also flips up 180 degrees so you can monitor yourself while you’re on camera, and — crucially — there is a mic jack.

We were tempted to include the lower cost EOS M100 on this list, but the lack of a mic jack kept it off. Otherwise, it offers virtually identical video features to the M6 and might be worth picking up as a B-camera if you need a second angle.

Read our full Canon EOS M6 review

GoPro Hero6 Black

The best vlogging camera for extreme adventures

GoPro Hero6 Black Review
Daven Mathies/Digital Trends
Daven Mathies/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: Rugged, waterproof, and easy to use.

Who’s it for: Extreme adventurers who need a go-anywhere camera.

How much will it cost: $400

Why we picked the GoPro Hero6 Black:

GoPro made a big fuss about shooting 4K video at 60 frames per second with the new Hero6 Black, but that might not be a feature you really care about. What matters more is the incredible electronic image stabilization (EIS). Thanks to a custom GP1 processor, the EIS on the Hero6 Black is leagues ahead of the Hero5 Black, which makes any kind of moving shot much better, whether you’re handholding the camera or have it mounted to your car, bike, helmet, etc.

There are plenty of reasons for using a GoPro to shoot a vlog. You can mount it anywhere, the compact size and light weight make it easy to hold, and it’s simple to set up and use. It won’t give you as much control over the look of your image as an advanced compact or interchangeable lens camera will, but the Hero6 Black does include some more powerful settings via GoPro’s Protune feature. You also don’t get a mic jack, or at least not a standard one. GoPro sells an audio adapter that will let you attach an external microphone, but it adds another $50 to the price.

GoPro has also reduced the price of the Hero6 Black to just $400, making it a more attractive buy than it was at launch. And if you don’t need the fancy stabilization or high frame rates, the Hero5 Black is now available for just $300.

Read our full GoPro Hero6 Black review

What about the camcorders?

If you’re over the age of 25, you may recall a time when people shot videos on dedicated devices called camcorders. Perhaps your parents owned one and used it to record embarrassing memories of you on your birthday, Halloween, or prom night. All joking aside, such devices still exist, and while they may be better than ever, camcorders have simply fallen out of vogue as traditional still cameras have gotten better at video.

In camcorders there are three things you should look for: Sensor size, zoom range, and a mic jack.

Cameras like the GH5 are true hybrid machines, excelling in both video and still photography, leaving little reason for a dedicated video camera. Large-sensor cinema — or “digital film” — cameras have also gotten cheaper, replacing professional camcorders at the high end of the market.

But camcorders do still have some advantages, like powered lenses for smooth zooms and generally better built-in zoom range. However, interest in camcorders just isn’t where it used to be, and Digital Trends has not reviewed one in years, unless you count action cameras and 360 cams.

For that reason, we decided to stick with mirrorless and compact point-and-shoot style cameras for this list. If you are interested in checking out camcorders, however, we recommend looking for three key things: Sensor size (larger is better), zoom range (generally more is better, but your needs may not require as much), and, of course, a microphone jack.

Can’t you just vlog with a phone?

Of course. In fact, many people do. A phone is conveniently always in your pocket and easy to set up and use, which makes it more accessible for spur of the moment vlogging. And the best phones are adept at handling video, with many capable of shooting 4K — some even at 60p. Keep in mind, however, that the front-facing (selfie) cameras tend to be inferior to the one on the back, and even though the microphone may be able to record stereo, you’re still better off with an external mic (they can be had for cheap, like the Movo PM10 lavalier mic).

Also, if you’re moving around, something like a selfie stick might actually work better than holding the phone in your hand. If you can, try to use a gimbal like the DJI Osmo Mobile 2 to keep the phone smooth and steady. You will get better quality footage with a dedicated camera, but sometimes the convenience of a phone will be the difference between getting a shot or not getting it all.

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