The best cameras for YouTube in 2020

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The Sony A6600 makes a strong case for being the best camera for YouTube thanks to its versatile features, built-in stabilization, and excellent autofocus. It’s one of the most well-rounded mirrorless cameras on the market and the best bang for the buck.

It’s still OK to upload videos shot on your phone, but established channels and serious creators are using everything from mirrorless cameras, like the A6600, to professional cinema gear costing tens of thousands of dollars. Here are the best cameras for the world’s most popular video streaming platform.

The best: Sony A6600

Sony A6600 top with 16-55 f/2.8

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

The rest

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 video quality, recording 10-bit 4:2:2 footage 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, and puts no limit on the length of clips you can record. Need to go on a long-winded rant or record an uninterrupted interview? No problem.

Like the Sony A6600, the GH5 gives you a fully-articulating monitor, 5-axis sensor-shift stabilization, and microphone and headphone jacks.

So why is it 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 AF 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 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 and GH5S reviews

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

Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 4K
Daven Mathies/Digital Trends

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 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

Fujifilm X-T30

If you want great 4K quality on a budget, look no further than the Fujifilm X-T30. It uses the same sensor and processor as the larger and more expensive X-T3, and brings many of its best features to a much lower price.

Of note to YouTubers, the X-T30 is one of the most capable video cameras under one grand — despite looking like an analog still camera. Internally, it can shoot 8-bit 4K at up to 200 megabits per second, but if you want to hook it up to an external recorder, it can pipe out 10-bit 4:2:2 video over HDMI, something few, if any, other cameras in this class can do.

Sure, that’s not a feature many YouTubers are going to use when they’re just starting out, but it does give you an easy path to upgrading your video quality down the road.

The X-T30 also features a very good autofocus system with eye-detection that works in video mode. It’s not quite to the level of the Sony A6600, but it’s certainly not bad and is a big step up over previous Fujifilm cameras.

On the downside, you don’t get stabilization or standard microphone and headphone jacks (you’ll need adapters), but considering the price, the Fujifilm X-T30 brings a lot to the table.

Read our Fujifilm X-T30 review

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