How to Pick the Right Camera to Shoot YouTube Videos

By Rob Ciampa, Theresa Moore, John Carucci, Stan Muller, Adam Wescott

Video cameras have gotten smaller and tape formats have evolved from analog to DV and from HD to 4K, with corresponding increases in the ease‐of‐use and quality categories. Now there is a wider — some might even say “bewilderingly wide” — selection of cameras. The following list describes the major categories:

1Dedicated camcorder

Once it was the only way to capture video, but now the trusty dedicated camcorder has been relegated to simply being one option among many. Benefits include a time‐honored design for comfortable shooting, dedicated features and controls specific to moviemaking, and a wide zoom range on a single built‐in lens, as shown on the Panasonic HD camcorder.

It’s also designed to accept a variety of accessories — an on‐camera light, say, or an external microphone or a handheld rig. On the downside, camcorders lack the ability to capture a wide‐angle view. Most can cover a long telephoto range but can barely fit all the subjects in a room into the frame. Another dilemma is its monomaniacal devotion to a single task — making movies. That means some users may pass on a camcorder simply because they can’t use it to send a text or make a call.

2Digital SLR

The digital single‐lens reflex camera (or digital SLR, for short) rightly dominates the still‐photography market, but it turns out that many models provide the ability to capture pretty good HD video. That’s a great thing because the image sensor (when compared to conventional camcorders) is significantly larger, and therefore captures better quality.

The camera can take advantage of all lenses that fit its mount, so you can capture movies using a wide range of lenses, from extreme telephoto to ultrawide‐angle. In addition, you can make a movie out of still frames and add an audio track and maybe some music. Many accessories are available, from mounting rigs to external microphones to LED lighting.

On the downside, the camera controls and the way the camera fits in the hand favor still photography over moviemaking, and the accessories can be expensive.

3GoPro

This mini marvel is rugged, waterproof, and relatively inexpensive, and it’s mountable on just about anything to capture amazing quality, from a unique perspective on a skydiving helmet to the rider’s view on a BMX bike, as shown. Some models can even capture 4K video, the new standard for ultra‐high‐definition television. On the downside, the GoPro is limited to capturing an ultrawide‐angle view.

4Smartphone

Just a few short years ago, considering a cellphone as a means of capturing a serious video would earn you an eye roll because the results were often dismal. Not anymore, because serious works have been captured on a phone, including the Oscar‐winning documentary Waiting for Sugarman. On the downside, you have little control in adjusting the audio or video quality. You also have limited choices for accessories.

5Webcam

A webcam is inexpensive to purchase, on the off chance that you don’t already have one built into your computer. That makes it perfect for situations where you sit down in front of the computer. Just plop yourself down, check the lighting, and start talking. Since most can now capture in HD, you’re good to go. The downside is that you need to stay put or else you might position yourself out of the frame. The audio can sound “thin” if you’re not using an external microphone. And worse than that, if the lighting is too harsh, you can look really bad.