If you’re on the hunt to acquire the best camera for your live streaming set-up, you may be feeling a little overwhelmed by the seemingly endless options out there. Should it be a smartphone, DSLR or mirrorless camera, or perhaps a webcam - and if it’s a webcam, should you opt for a standard or AI-enabled model?
As you’re likely discovering, you are well and truly spoiled for choice when it comes to narrowing down the best cameras for live streaming. Luckily for you, however, we are on hand to guide you through a deep dive into the wonderful world of cameras, and assist you in finding the one that best suits your needs.
Naturally, your budget is an important consideration to make before investing in a new piece of technology equipment. No matter how flexible you can afford to be with your finances, there should be a decent camera within your reach. In this post, we will talk about the best cameras for live streaming. We will cover criteria for selecting cameras, types of cameras, and the importance of lighting. Let's get started!
Criteria to assess cameras
Let’s first take a look at the criteria to assess any potential cameras against, so you know what to keep an eye out for.
1. Image quality
Image quality is largely determined by the video resolution. Using the standard aspect ratio for TVs and computer monitors (16:9), video resolution is represented by the number of pixels within each frame.
For instance, 1080p is named as such, due to displaying 1080 pixels vertically (and 1920 pixels horizontally). Following the same logic, 720p resolution is also named after the number of pixels in its vertical plane (and it displays 1280 pixels horizontally).
Bucking the trend slightly, 4K resolution takes its name from its (almost) 4,000 horizontal pixels. The specifications of most 4K displays are 3840 x 2160 pixels, making it a significant step up from its 1080p counterpart.
If you remember one key fact about image quality when shopping around for a camera, let it be this. While the best cameras for livestreaming tend to stand out in more ways than one, image quality will always be one of the most important. As camera resolution gets higher, the detail will increase, resulting in a more realistic video (and livestream). This will be particularly noticeable when viewed from close-up.
2. Color grading
Color grading is essentially used to create a stylistic effect by adjusting the image in a way. You may choose to darken or lighten certain elements in order to make the features shine. Apps such as Instagram have introduced very basic color grading through the use of filters.
Some cameras offer in-built features like color grading, allowing photographers to capture shots in a new aesthetic such as an old-school film stock vibe, or the classic black and white look.
3. Lens and focus
In simple terms - because there’s a lot of technology that happens behind the scenes - the function of a camera lens is focusing the light from a scene and directing it toward the sensor.
The focal length of your lens is a crucial factor in the quality of your images and videos and determines how much of the scene you’ll be able to capture. In addition, it will impact the depth of field, which allows you to focus on small objects at long range, as well as the perspective and scale of your shots.
One of the key influences that focal length can have is image shake - the blurriness and drop in image quality that is triggered by the vibration of the shutter release. Having said that, it’s not the end of the world as a decent tripod can alleviate image shake.
4. Frames per second
To the average person watching a film or video, it appears as one continuous recording. In reality, cameras record multiple images or frames. When played back at a high enough speed, they will appear in a smooth and fluid motion.
Whether you’re looking for the best camera for live streaming, or your needs lie with photography or videography, frame rate is of the utmost importance. Frame rate is the measurement of how many frames appear on the screen per second, which is why it’s also known as frames per second, and often abbreviated to FPS. The standard frame rate for smartphones, TV broadcasts, motion pictures, and yes, streaming video content, is 24 fps. The golden rule to keep in mind with FPS is the higher, the better.
4 types of streaming cameras to choose from
While the best livestreaming camera may vary from person to person depending on their specific needs, there are ultimately four main categories of live streaming cameras to choose from: smartphones, standard webcams, AI-powered webcams, and DSLRs/mirrorless cameras.
Using a trusty smartphone to kickstart your live-streaming career can be a great idea for several reasons. These include, but aren’t limited to:
- The affordability that you won’t find with some of the bigger ticket recording setups on the market
- The accessibility to start right away, as the phone will already have a camera and microphone built-in, as well as app support for any software you need
- The convenience that comes with the mobility of a smartphone, allows you to create live streams on the go from anywhere in the world with little need for planning
- The ability to jump into a live stream at a moment’s notice and take advantage of the very minimal set-up required
One final note worth making is that if you plan to go live on TikTok and haven’t yet unlocked a TikTok stream key, then choosing the right smartphone camera is especially important. Because streaming from a PC is only possible if you have been granted a TikTok stream key, you will initially be stuck streaming directly through the TikTok app using your phone’s camera. If TikTok is a part of your streaming plans, then the best live streaming camera for you could simply be a smartphone!
2. Standard webcams
The world of live streaming creators is a competitive one, so in order to get the edge, you may want to step up your game and upgrade from your laptop or desktop computer’s built-in camera. Not only will this provide added flexibility with the positioning of the camera for your streams, but an HD webcam will make your content look sharp and high-quality.
Regardless of your niche or budget, there is a webcam out there for you. If you’re looking to invest in your live streaming, there are some great selections on the market that can support HD, 4K, and up to an impressive 60fps. For the perfect streaming setup, any extra resolution or boost to frame rate can certainly come in handy, but they do of course come at a cost.
The webcam you choose will probably come down to your brand of content. For instance, a makeup creator focused on capturing their latest looks in close-up style may have different preferences than a gaming content creator.
3. AI-powered webcams
It’s no secret that over the last few years, technology has been forced to carry the responsibility of the vast majority of our personal and professional social interactions like never before. We have been working, playing, keeping in touch with loved ones, and discovering new online side hustles all from the comfort of our own homes.
Thanks to this, webcam technology is evolving at an epic rate. Gone are the days of blurry, pixelated, laggy video calls. The latest style hitting the market is the AI-powered webcam, and it’s geared to be the way of the future for webcams. These webcams use AI in real-time, in order to improve picture quality, focus, and more.
With an overall mission to keep you perfectly situated within the frame, and providing automatic adjustment of brightness, contrast, and color levels, some of the exciting features to improve your live streaming capabilities are:
- Tracking your every move, or glance, away from the camera
- Utilizing software or a pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) gimbal to keep you in the center of the frame, no matter how you move around
- Blurring distractions or backgrounds to focus on the action
- Responding to gesture controls in order to perform simple functions without the need for buttons
- Automatically adjusting the lighting, color balance, contrast, and brightness, and performing auto-exposure functions, to ensure you always look your best
4. DSLRs and mirrorless cameras
You wouldn’t need to be very far into your search for the best cameras for live streaming to have heard the terms DSLR and mirrorless mentioned. On the surface, you may want to write it off as just another bit of tech jargon, but in reality, the differences between these two camera types may make your decision that much easier.
It’s important to note that depending on your very specific needs, both of these types of cameras can be a great investment on your live streaming journey.
- DSLR cameras
- The abbreviation DSLR represents digital single-lens reflex, which, in a nutshell, is how this type of camera operates. Light passes through the lens and hits a mirror at a 45-degree angle, before bouncing onto an optical viewfinder (OVF), allowing you to see exactly what the lens is capturing.
- When you trigger the shutter button, it is actually the flipping of the mirror mechanism that makes the iconic, satisfying sound that you probably associate with having your photo taken.
- Mirrorless cameras
- As you’ve probably guessed, a mirrorless camera is missing the mirror mechanism that you would be familiar with in the abovementioned DSLR camera. Instead, light passes right through the sensor, sending the image to the electronic viewfinder (EVF) and/or the camera’s screen. Due to the lack of a mirror system, these cameras can be made with a smaller and more compact body.
Connecting a DSLR or mirrorless camera to your computer
Using a DSLR or mirrorless to your device for the purpose of live streaming is quite easy. When it boils down, you’re presented with two main options. They are
- Using a capture card, such as Elgato
- Installing the manufacturer’s camera utility software, connecting your camera via USB, and setting it as a video source on your computer
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Ranking the best cameras for live streaming
The top 5 smartphones for live streaming
- iPhone 14 (Pro)
One impressive feature of the iPhone 14 (Pro) that makes it a prime candidate to be your new live-streaming sidekick, is the extended battery life. In addition, of course, it wouldn’t have made it to this list without impeccable video capabilities.
With a main lens of 48MP and intelligent software that delivers exceptional camera performance time after time, the photo and video experience on this device really are second-to-none.
2. iPhone 13
It’s not entirely an Apple-exclusive list, we promise. However, second place does need to be awarded to the iPhone 13. Its video quality can only be described as excellent, and again, the battery performance is noted.
With crisp and vibrant colors, and no screen issues even when in direct sunlight, it has certainly earned its praise.
3. Google Pixel 7 Pro
The Google Pixel 7 Pro benefits from its powerful processor custom-built with Google AI. This device is fast, efficient, and secure.
Boasting a signature pro-level triple rear camera system, comprising a 12MP ultrawide lens, 50MP wide lens, and 48MP telephoto lens, you’re bound to be impressed by the photo and video-capturing capabilities of this smartphone.
4. Samsung Galaxy S22
As far as smartphones go, the Samsung Galaxy S22 is an aesthetically pleasing device that is also powerful and can deliver a solid performance.
With Vision Booster tech, glare won’t be an issue, allowing you to film until your heart’s content with the triple rear camera (12MP ultra-wide, 50MP wide-angle, and 10MP telephoto) and 10MP selfie camera.
5. Huawei P30 Pro
The Huawei P30 Pro makes it a breeze to capture the best moments in high-quality. Partnering with Leica for this model, Huawei is aiming to up the game of smartphone photography.
The quad camera system features a super zoom lens, a 40MP super sensing camera, a 20MP ultra-wide angle lens, and a TOF camera, and it could just be your new favorite streaming camera.
The top 5 webcams for live streaming
1. Dell UltraSharp 4K
The Dell UltraSharp 4K is the one to beat at this present time in the webcam game. Along with 4K streaming, HDR (High Dynamic Range) support, and auto-framing powered by AI, this camera boasts an adjustable field of view up to 90 degrees.
Whilst the video quality is immaculate, remember to grab an external microphone if you don’t already have one, as there isn’t one present on this device.
2. Logitech 4K Pro 90 FPS Webcam
Every detail is sure to be captured in 4K HD quality with the Logitech 4K Pro 90 FPS Webcam. With RightLight3 and HRD technologies providing auto-adjustment for any lighting environment and smooth frame rates up to 90 fps, you can elevate your streaming channel above the competition.
Additionally, thanks to the dual-integrated omnidirectional mics and noise-canceling technology, your audio will sound sharper than ever.
3. Elgato Facecam
There’s no doubt about it - the Elgato Facecam was made with live streaming in mind. Recording and editing are a breeze with their aesthetically pleasing, user-friendly webcam software, and you can even transform your phone into a second webcam, by launching the Epocam mobile app.
It’s worth noting that as most content creators have no need for a built-in microphone or autofocus, these features aren’t present with this camera.
4. Razer Kiyo
The Razer Kiyo brings with it a unique selling point, a ring light that promises even and flattering lighting to illuminate you in all of your live streaming glory.
With 1080p streaming capabilities at 30 fps and 720p streaming at 60 fps, you will find it carries a higher price tag.
5. Logitech C920 HD Pro
Whichever way you look at it, the Logitech C920 HD Pro is a great budget-friendly option as a live-streaming companion. You’ll be all set with full HD 1080p and built-in dual stereo mics with automatic noise reduction.
In addition, we can’t forget about the automatic low-light correction, video compression, and of course the universal tripod attachment ready-made for any laptop or monitor. All in all, at this price point, you really couldn’t ask for much more.
The top 5 AI-powered webcams for live streaming
1. Lumina 4k webcam
For supreme, 4K, DSLR-quality without the hassle of the setup, the Lumina 4k webcam may just be your pick of the bunch. And that’s before we even get to the AI features - automatic adjustment of depth, background blur, and lighting, for peace of mind, so that you’ll always look your best.
Its AI-powered functions and sleek design secure its position on the list as one of the best cameras for live streaming.
2. OSBOT 4k webcam
The 4K, detail-rich quality captured by the OSBOT 4k webcam is sure to impress any live streamer. The intelligent gesture control function leaves no reason to worry about pressing buttons, and the auto-focus keeps you in the frame at all times - even when you’re on the move.
And, did we mention the 4x digital zoom and HDR? All of these features, along with the promise of 4K streaming at 30 fps and 1080p at 60 fps, really make this a top contender for all of your content needs.
3. Insta360 Link
AI tracking, 4K resolution, and gesture control are just the beginning with Insta360 Link. In addition to making you look amazing in crystal clear quality, it promises life-like detail, excellent dynamic range, and versatile DeskView, Whiteboard, Portrait, and Overhead modes.
Additionally, the built-in privacy protection will position the 3-axis gimbal lens downwards within ten seconds of inactivity.
4. Opal C1
The Opal C1 is an upcoming release that is worth getting excited about. It’s said to bring many promising features to the table, including exceptional performance, a great design, and DSLR-like image quality.
This higher-ticket option will be invite-only when its much-anticipated launch rolls around.
5. Wyrestorm 4k Autofocus AI Webcam
If you’re hoping to always look and sound your best while live-streaming, this Wyrestorm 4k Autofocus AI Webcam could be the one for you. Some of its best features are the three adjustable fields of view (65, 78, and 95 degrees), presenter tracking, AI noise cancellation, and auto-framing.
This 4K ultra-HD autofocus webcam is supported by Windows and macOS for all of your video configuration and color adjustment needs.
The top 5 DSLR and mirrorless cameras for live streaming
1. Canon EOS Rebel
Canon’s EOS Rebel contains a 24.1 megapixel CMOS sensor, a wide ISO range of 100-6400 (H:12800), and built-in Wi-Fi and NFC technology that has the ability to meet your needs.
And, of course, it captures brilliant, high-quality images, even with minimal access to lighting. Its incredible specs versatility mean that, aside from being one of the best cameras for live streaming, the Canon EOS Rebel is also widely considered one of the best all-around cameras period.
2. Panasonic Lumix G7
The Panasonic Lumix G7 offers image stabilization, and high-resolution images, whilst allowing you to flexibly capture and stream video in brilliant 4K Ultra HD resolution.
In addition, it contains dust protection for the sensor, to make sure your new live-streaming companion lasts for many years to come.
3. Sony DSC-RX10 III
Equipped with a high zoom 24-600mm lens, the Sony DSC-RX10 III also features an illuminated CMOS sensor w/DRAM, allowing you to capture and stream 4K footage via a direct panel readout.
It offers a super slow-motion movie high frame rate of up to 960 fps, and an intelligent, fast autofocus (as quick as 0.09 seconds).
4. Canon GX7
The Canon GX7 can best be described as a pocket rocket. Its sleek design brings mobility and versatility, and it leaves its heavy, cumbersome counterparts in the rearview mirror.
With the ability to modify all settings in a rapid fashion, to your precise preferences, this camera promises compact compatibility.
5. Nikon D3500
In all of its Full HD, 1080p/60p glory, the Nikon D3500 is quick off the mark and easy to use. If you’re looking to capture great quality in close-up and wide-angle with fast, accurate focusing, this could be the camera you’ve been searching for.
With the capability to fine-tune your color settings, you’ll be creating beautiful, vibrant footage each and every time.
Lighting is everything
Now, this next statement may come as a shock to some people, but it’s important that it sticks with you if you want to have any success with any type of photography, videography, or live streaming.
A bad camera with good lighting is going to produce better images than a good camera with bad lighting. Be sure to let that sink in, because it’s absolutely true, and it goes to show just how important lighting is. Even if you’ve got your hands on one of the best cameras for live streaming, if your lighting is subpar you are going to be disappointed in your stream’s end result.
Lighting is crucial in creating a perfect image. It determines the mood, tone, atmosphere, texture, luminosity, the vibrancy of colors, and of course brightness and darkness within the frame. All in all, lighting is bound to set the vibe for your live-streaming channel, and ensure that your content is not only professional but aesthetically pleasing to watch.
Software that can help bridge the gap
Thankfully, even if you aren’t able to get your hands on one of the best cameras for live streaming, live streaming software like Opus Studio can help improve your stream’s production value in other ways. Opus Studio uses AI-enabled features to give your stream a lift in quality in other ways, including audience engagement features, stream overlay templates, and the ability to simulcast to multiple social media platforms.
Are you interested in joining the Opus Studio beta? If so, you can request access here
Well, there you have it. You can hopefully walk away feeling more educated and empowered on the best cameras for live streaming and feel ready to make the best decision for you and your audience.
As this article aimed to demonstrate, whilst the market offerings can be overwhelming, your decision really doesn’t need to be. Regardless of your niche or budget, there are some fantastic live-streaming camera options out there for you, and with the field narrowed down, you should be able to enjoy a stress-free shopping experience.
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About the Author
Rebecca Xu is the Product Marketing Manager at Opus, and a professional simultaneous interpreter. She is a story teller, food lover, globe trotter, and sarcasm connoisseur. She loves learning new things through reading, traveling, and exploring. Most of the time, you can find her either in an ice-cream shop, or on her way to an ice-cream shop.