A good mirrorless camera is your best bet if you want to elevate the quality of your YouTube channel. This is why I think the Sony A6600 as the best camera for YouTube, even if it isn’t the best video camera outright. I wouldn’t choose it to shoot, say, a documentary film, but it’s 4K video, excellent autofocus, in-body image stabilization, and great price make it a no-brainer for all but the most serious video work.
There are plenty of great options out there for the aspiring YouTube star, and every camera will offer its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Here are the models you should consider first.
The best: Sony A6600
The Sony A6600 isn’t the best video camera outright, but it has everything most YouTubers need. For vloggers and other one-person crews, it’s hard to beat its ease of use.
While it’s is a relatively small and iterative step forward from the A6500, that’s just proof of how dialed-in Sony’s mirrorless cameras are. The A6600 offers a wealth of features for both the still photographer and videographer, but of note for YouTubers are the 180-degree flip screen, microphone and headphone jacks, 5-axis stabilization, and excellent eye-detection autofocus.
It’s that last feature that sets the A6600 apart. Sony’s Real-Time Eye AF, one of the few new features of the A6600, is the best autofocus system of its type that we’ve tested, and removes one of the biggest pain points for creators who have to be both camera operator and talent. With Real-Time Eye AF, you can simply turn it on and forget about it, trusting the camera to keep you in focus as you move about the frame.
It also shoots oversampled 4K video from its APS-C sensor for detail-rich output and includes a host of advanced video settings, most notably Sony’s S-Log color profiles. These flat profiles preserve more dynamic range but will require color correction in post to make them look normal again. Not every YouTuber will need this feature, but more experienced shooters looking for that edge in image quality will appreciate having it.
The biggest downside of the A6600 is that, for all the advanced options it offers, it still falls behind the competition in pure video quality. It records 4K only in 8-bit, whereas cameras like the Panasonic Lumix GH5 and Fujifilm X-T3 offer 10-bit recording. Its older sensor is also prone to “jello cam,” a type of wobbly distortion that occurs when the camera (or subject) moves too quickly. For any locked-down shots, this shouldn’t be a problem, but it may affect the ever-popular walk-and-talk shot.
Still, the A6600 remains a balanced camera that’s affordably priced and packs a lot of features into a small body. It’s the best camera for most YouTube creators.
Read our Sony A6600 review
Panasonic Lumix GH5/GH5s
This camera has been going strong for over 3 years and remains one of the most capable video cameras today. The first mirrorless camera to shoot 4K at 60 frames per second, the GH5 is often the easy answer to anyone asking for a good video camera.
It features excellent image quality thanks to 10-bit 4:2:2 recording at up to 400 megabits per second. It also shoots in either DCI 4K (4,096 x 2,160) or Ultra HD (3,840 x 2,160) resolutions.
But the best part about the GH5 as a YouTube camera is this: It puts no limit on the length of clips you can record. Need to go on a long-winded rant or shoot an uninterrupted interview? No problem. Most hybrid cameras — those are still cameras that shoot video — top out at a maximum of 30 minutes, but not so on the GH5.
Like the Sony A6600, the GH5 gives you a fully-articulating monitor, 5-axis sensor-shift stabilization, and microphone and headphone jacks.
It sounds like a winner all around, so why is the GH5 not our first pick? It comes down to autofocus.
Panasonic developed its own focusing technology called Depth from Defocus (DFD) rather than go with the more standard phase-detection autofocus that the A6600 uses. For still photography, DFD is impressively fast and accurate — but it has a problem when it comes to video. Due to how the system works, it continuously makes small back-and-forth adjustments, and these slight changes in focus can show up in your video. It’s not always noticeable, but it can be a big distraction in some situations.
While the GH5 is undoubtedly the better general video camera than the A6600, I have to contend that the Sony is going to be easier to use and more consistent, making it the better choice for most YouTube creators.
You may also want to check out the Lumix GH5S, which uses a lower-resolution, multi-aspect-ratio sensor specifically built for video. The camera sacrifices image stabilization, so you’ll want to keep it on a tripod or gimbal, but if you want the best video quality you can get short of a pro cinema camera, the GH5S is for you. It otherwise offers the same features in an almost identical body to the regular GH5.
Read our Panasonic Lumix GH5 review
Read our Panasonic Lumix GH5S review
GoPro Hero8 Black
GoPro’s latest flagship is the best action camera you can buy, but calling the Hero8 Black an “action camera” isn’t the most accurate way to label it. It does much more than provide the point-of-view perspective for extreme athletes, with new “mod” accessories that turn it into a powerful vlogging tool. Add an LED light, mini shotgun microphone, and even a flip-up selfie screen.
Also important to vloggers, GoPro turned up it’s impressive HyperSmooth stabilization to 2.0 in the Hero8 Black, offering gimbal-like steadiness perfect for those walk-and-talk shots whether you’re in the middle of a convention floor or hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. HyperSmooth 2.0 is beyond impressive, and the number one reason I’d recommend the Hero8 Black to YouTubers over other action cameras.
The Hero8 Black is the first physical redesign since the Hero5 Black, incorporating a built-in mount that lets you forego a frame or case. This makes it faster and easier to set up, while also allowing you to swap batteries and memory cards while the camera is mounted to something. The camera is also thinner overall, making it more pocketable.
Read our GoPro Hero8 Black review
Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 4K
While this is a hard one to recommend to one-person crews, for growing YouTube channels with multiple creators involved, the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K is your ticket to professional-quality video without blowing your ad revenue on a new camera.
Unlike any other camera on this list, the PCC4K can shoot either Blackmagic RAW or Apple ProRes filetypes internally. With up to 12:1 compression, Blackmagic RAW offers the best quality-to-file-size ratio of any video codec, while ProRes provides edit-friendly files that you can drop onto a timeline and immediately begin to cut. Both are going to provide better quality than what you can get with other cameras, especially in this price range.
Now, given how affordable the PCC4K is, it would be easy for anyone to assume it’s the best choice and go out and buy one — but beware. While this is certainly a capable camera, it lacks many quality-of-life features that are present in the GH5 and A6600. Autofocus is basically non-existent (hence why you’ll want a dedicated camera operator), and battery life is quite poor, getting you around 25 minutes of record time.
But the PCC4K is merely the centerpiece of a larger production rig. It’s designed to integrate with external batteries, follow focus systems, monitors, and everything else you need to turn it into a professional filmmaking tool. Sure, that’s overkill for many YouTubers, but given that the most popular channels are shooting on the likes of Red digital cinema cameras, the PCC4K is a great way to give your channel the professional look even if you don’t have the MKBHD budget.
Read our Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 4K review
It would be easy to list the flagship X-T4 here — a camera we’ve been excited about since it was announced — but the much cheaper X-T30 might be the better choice for more people. If you want great 4K quality on a budget, look no further. It uses the same sensor and processor as the X-T4, but its smaller frame goes without image stabilization, a fully-articulating monitor, or a standard 3.5mm microphone input (you’ll need an adapter).
Of note to YouTubers, the X-T30 is one of the most capable video cameras that won’t break four figures — despite looking like an analog still camera. Internally, it can shoot 8-bit 4K at up to 200 megabits per second, which is already twice the data rate of the Sony A6600. It doesn’t stop there. If you plug an external recorder into the HDMI port, the X-T30 will pipe out 10-bit 4:2:2 video. For maximum dynamic range, choose Fuji’s F-Log flat color profile and you’ll be set with professional-quality video with ample flexibility for color grading. Few, if any, other cameras at this price can do that.
Those high-end features may not be a requirement for the average YouTuber, but even if you don’t care about such things now, they’ll give you an easy path to upgrading your video quality down the road. That means the X-T30 should have a longer life than most other midrange mirrorless cameras.
And while it’s not quite to Sony’s level, the X-T30 also features a very good autofocus system with eye-detection that works in video mode. It’s a big step up over previous Fujifilm cameras, and will help nail all those vlog-style or other one-person-crew shots. Just make sure you have a tripod, or put it on a gimbal for handheld shots.
Read our Fujifilm X-T30 review