Best Cameras for Live Streaming in 2021

May 13, 2021 | How To, Live Stream

Ask These Questions Before You ‘Add To Cart.’

If you’re like us, it’s easy to see why the allure of ‘New Gear Day’ can blind even the most seasoned production tech guru. However, with such a wide variety of options in the ‘cameras for live streaming’ category, it is crucial to ask yourself the following questions:

Genlock Signal Flow

What’s The Purpose of Your Live Stream?

The first and most important question is, what is the primary purpose of your live stream? Cameras are essentially tools that can either enhance or inhibit your production’s overarching vision. Are you going for a more cinematic feel to pull on a few heartstrings? Is it all business all the time with a lot of information to communicate? Or is it more of a business-up-front-party-in-the-back situation with a variety of sequences that could benefit from different looks?

What’s In Your Gear Closet?

Sometimes the best camera for live streaming is the one you already have on hand. You may be building a system from scratch, which gives you tremendous freedom, yet, if you already have SDI cable run throughout your venue, you may determine that it is worth buying or upgrading to a camera that plays nicely with BNC connectors. Oh, and all of Resi’s encoder models sport industry-standard SDI inputs, so if the camera you do end up with only has HDMI out, an inexpensive HDMI to SDI converter like the Decimator MD-HX will get you up and streaming in no time.

What Comes First: the Body or the Lens?

The cost of a camera is more than just the body. So, keep in mind that quality glass can quickly overrun any budget while chasing the best look for your live stream. If you already have Canon lenses, you may consider staying in the Canon ecosystem. Of course, there are plenty of adapters on the market and brands of cameras that work with common lens mounts, but if you’re keeping lenses, make sure you know what type of mount you’re looking for.

Where is This Thing Headed?

Are you looking to use more than one camera either now or in the future? Set yourself up for success and plan on purchasing the same type of camera. Matching camera specs make you look like a genius when cutting in-between angles. Plus, it’s much easier to explain one camera’s settings when training your team. Oh, and you might want to avoid going all-in on your dream camera rig and then having to wait six years to add Camera 2 because there’s nothing left in the budget.

What Else?

Some additional questions can help you narrow down your search for the perfect camera as well, so here’s a short, non-exhaustive list:

  • Does the depth of field matter for the image?
  • Are you hoping to stream in 720p, 1080p, 4K?
  • How much zoom do you need?
  • Will you be shooting in low-light situations?
  • Do you need on-camera audio options?
  • What frame rate do you want to use?
  • Are you sharing gear with another team in your organization?

Ready to Choose

Asking yourself these questions is not intended to hamper your creativity! Crossing this ocean of camera choices is just easier with a guide. And there’s no better guide than the choices you get to make. So, you’re prepped, informed, and ready to choose your next camera; let’s dive into our top picks for the best cameras for live streaming.

$5,000+

RED DIGITAL CINEMA KOMODO 6K

If you’re looking for a plug-and-play solution for live streaming, then just keep scrolling. If you’re looking for unmatched color science, stunning imagery and don’t mind following the new trend in the streaming industry, then the RED KOMODO 6K is right up your alley.

Sensor Type: Super35

Lens Mount: RF

Interface: SDI

Canon EOS C200

The Canon C200 is a workhorse. Brilliant visuals, familiar controls, and a massive selection of glass make this cinema camera a no-brainer for live streaming.

Sensor Type: Super35

Lens Mount: EF

Interface: SDI or HDMI

Panasonic Cinema VariCam LT 4K S35

This legendary line of cameras from Panasonic is Netflix-approved for a good reason. 4K, VFR, 240FPS, ISO 800, V-Log, AVC-Intra, ProRes, and many other abbreviated features all come together to create a gorgeous look for any production.

Sensor Type: Super35

Lens Mount: EF

Interface: SDI

$3,000 – $5000

Blackmagic URSA Broadcast

Blackmagic has truly cornered the market when it comes to affordable, fully-featured cameras. Though the Blackmagic URSA Broadcast Camera can struggle in low-light productions, it does offer many of the same features as cameras 2x its price point. Plus, the Blackmagic world of video products is vast, and some of us find it easier to dive head-first into an ecosystem that, for the most part, ‘just works.’

Sensor Type: 4K CMOS

Lens Mount: B4 (options EF, PL, or F)

Interface: SDI

Sony A7s III

Sony’s successor to the beloved A7III added an ‘s’ and a whole lot more. The A7sIII was worth the wait, even if just for the full-size HDMI port. This is NOT a camera for large venues, but the insane low-light performance, blazing fast auto-focus, and small form factor all put this ‘perfect’ camera in a class of its own.

Sensor Type: Full-Frame Exmor R BSI CMOS

Lens Mount: E

Interface: HDMI

$1000 – $3000

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro

The ‘Pro’ version of Blackmagic’s popular Pocket Cinema camera line has finally hit the mark in terms of must-have features, tweaks from user feedback, and lens selection. Gone are the under-powered LP-6 batteries and low-light crippled MFT lens mount. It’s time for real EF lens options, built-in ND filters, and long-lasting NP-F570 to get you through a long day of streaming.

Sensor Type: Super35

Lens Mount: EF

Interface: HDMI

Canon XA45 Professional UHD 4K

The Canon XA45 offers a complete streaming workflow in a small package, and yes, it comes with a lens! Despite its compact design, the XA45 still provides onboard XLR inputs plus optical image stabilization with a 20x zoom.

Sensor Type: 1/2.3″ CMOS

Lens Mount: Built-in

Interface: SDI

Under $1000

GoPro Hero9

Yes, you can stream with a GoPro. You’d be surprised by where your live streaming adventures may take you now that satellite internet is a real thing. And who wants to lug a full-size camera into the wilderness anyway? With the optional Media Mod accessory, the GoPro Hero9 can output a super-smooth image to your audience, wherever you are.

Sensor Type: 23.6MP Sensor

Lens Mount: Built-in

Interface: micro HDMI through Media Mod accessory.

Marshall Electronics CV344 Compact HD Camera

Whether you’re looking to add some POV cameras to your production or just looking for a camera that can connect via SDI and not take up a ton of desk space, the CV344 is for you. With full 1920×1080 resolution and some pro-ish features like digital noise reduction, auto white balance, and digital zoom, this small but mighty piece of gear fills out our list quite nicely.

Sensor Type: 1/2.8″ 2.5MP CMOS

Lens Mount: C/CS

Interface: SDI or HDMI.

Conclusion

So, even if your head is swimming with three-letter abbreviations and alphanumeric model numbers, we hope you feel empowered. It’s exciting that you get to decide with confidence based on your budget, creative needs, and future streaming plans what camera will help you reach your audience.

And yes, gear is still great, and ‘New Gear Day’ is even better. But, keep this thought in mind while you’re browsing B&H; no one is going to care if you choose the ‘best cameras for live streaming,’ only that you chose the best cameras for YOUR production.

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