With the best camera for streaming, you can seriously improve your streaming game in terms of both visuals and audio. While a built-in laptop camera will do the basic job of putting your face in front of people, it will likely severely limit you in terms of image quality and in terms of how the camera can be set up. A good standalone camera gives you flexibility in both regards.
When picking your streaming camera, it's worth looking at the specs to figure out what you want. Having a decent amount of resolution is a plus, but there's no need to overdo it – streaming in 4K is very data-intensive, and most of your audience probably won't watch it in that resolution anyway. Ideally, you want to shoot for Full HD (1920x1080), but HD (1280x720) will do if you're up against it budget-wise.
The other half of the picture is the frame rate of the video. Having 30fps is good, and having 60fps is better, though once again, you'll need to balance your budget to determine what you can get away with.
We've included three types of streaming camera in this guide. We've got general webcams, which are great for streaming from a computer setup. Next, we've got PTZ cameras, short for pan-tilt-zoom, which provide a much wider field of view and are great for streaming events or conferences. Lastly, we've got dedicated cameras and camcorders, which are ideal for vloggers and filmmakers who also want to stream.
Want a more general-purpose camera? We’ve also got a round-up of the best cameras overall. And if you want to stick with a smartphone, our best camera phones guide will help you find the best ones for video.
The best camera for streaming
Webcams are the best choice for PC streaming. They tend to be simple to set up and use, and while they don’t offer much in the way of manual control or accessory compatibility, they’ll do everything that most streamers need. There’s a reason they’re so popular!
The Logitech C922 is likely to be the best choice of streaming camera for most users. It's not the cheapest webcam that Logitech offers, and nor is it the most advanced – it hits an optimal sweet spot in the middle to provide the ideal balance between price and functionality. It can capture Full HD 1080p video at 30p, or HD 720p at 60p, and what's more, in a real boon for streamers, it comes with its own tripod.
It's super easy to set up and use, with good autofocus and light correction that will automatically optimise the image to make you look your best. You can easily alter these functions in Logitech's software if you want to, and while you can't attach an external mic to the camera, you do have the built-in dual omnidirectional microphones that record audio in excellent quality.
Elgato has spent quite some time building up a stable of products for a streaming studio, from lights to microphones, so it was inevitable that we’d eventually get an Elgato-branded webcam. As competition to the likes of Logitech, the Elgato Facecam impresses – that price tag gives you an indication that it’s targeting a slightly different stripe of user, but if you want 60p video, you gotta pay for it. While having your Full HD video run at 60 frames per second is hardly necessary, you can’t argue against how smooth it looks.
The eight-element prime lens on the front of the camera also helps the image look as sharp as possible. You’ll undoubtedly look fantastic on streams captured using the Elgato Facecam – really it’s just a question of whether you want to pay the premium for it.
You don’t need to spend big money to get started with streaming. The Microsoft Lifecam HD-3000 is available for a fantastic budget price, and really it has all the basics you need to get started. It only captures video in HD 720p, not Full HD 1080p, but this is absolutely fine for smartphone viewing and basic setups, so if you’re streaming more for fun than to make a career, it’ll do the job. One piece of advice though – don’t bother with the digital zoom, as 720p doesn’t provide enough pixels for it to look anything other than bad. The built-in mic is decent quality and even has some noise cancellation, which is a nice touch. For a straightforward PC streaming setup that keeps things cheap, we’d definitely recommend the Lifecam HD-3000.
Many streamers and TikTokers find themselves buying a ring light to make the image of their face look the best it can – well, the Razer Kiyo webcam has a multi-step LED built right in! Allowing you to consolidate your setup earns this webcam brownie points right off the bat, and it continues to impress with full manual camera controls and Full HD 30fps video that looks excellent. If you take the resolution down to HD 720p then you can up the frame rate to 60fps (and if you simply must have Full HD 60fps, there is a doubly expensive Razer Kiyo Pro offering this). If you’re the kind of streamer who likes to tweak and fiddle with their image until happy with how it looks, the Razer Kiyo will let you absolutely go to town.
Short for ‘pan, tilt zoom’, PTZ cameras have motorised stands that allow them more freedom of movement than a fixed webcam. They are excellent for streaming large-scale events in conference rooms or lecture theatres, and are a good choice if your streaming plans are a little more ambitious than you at your computer. The downside is that they cost more, and many don’t offer audio support, meaning you also need to factor in the cost of a mic.
While it may look like quite a price jump from the webcam, believe us, the Logitech PTZ Pro 2 is pretty cheap for a PTZ camera. It’s capable of capturing great-looking Full HD video, and thanks to its high-quality lens unit, can also optically zoom up to 10x, meaning you can get closer without the loss in quality that comes with digital zoom. This makes it great for streaming a conference or speaking event, as you can move from a wide room shot to a tight speaker shot with ease, controlling the camera via the hand-held remote. It plugs in via easy USB, and while the autofocus is sometimes a little temperamental, overall it offers excellent value for a PTZ camera.
For wireless streaming and seamless connectivity, it’s hard to beat the Mevo Start. Using the Mevo Camera App, or the Mevo Multicam App for multiple-camera setups, you can control the settings of your stream, switching between shots and editing on the fly. The Mevo Start has excellent built in microphones that capture audio in great quality from considerable distance, and it has pan, tilt and zoom functionality – though the maximum zoom is only 2.3x so it’s not exactly a game-changer. Thanks to the Wi-Fi integration, it’s possible and even easy to stream completely wirelessly with the Mevo Start; the only reason to plug it in via the USB-C connection would be if you’re worried about battery life.
Cameras and camcorders
If you want to do more with your camera than just live stream, it makes sense to get a more sophisticated camera or camcorder that provides you with greater depth of control than a webcam. Many of these cameras also offer higher resolutions, in case streaming in 4K is something you need to do. Here are the cameras and camcorders we think are best for streamers and vloggers.
Sony's "ZV" cameras are specifically designed for vloggers who want a well-specced video setup without spending a fortune. The ZV-E10 steps forward as a mirrorless alternative to the fixed-lens ZV-1, giving you a host of great video features as well as access to the excellent E-mount stable of lenses.
In use, we appreciated the ZV-E10's excellent built-in mic setup. While you'll probably want to wire in your own mic to ensure optimal audio quality, having the built-in 3-capsule mic is a great backup, and means you've always got a decent option if your go-to mic packs in. It's easy to set the ZV-E10 up for streaming thanks to the USB-C connectivity, and the footage is right at the quality it needs to be. Some may bemoan the lack of proper optical stabilisation, but as a streamer, you're likely to have the camera locked off anyway and probably don't need to worry about it.
We do wish the menu system was touch optimised, as Sony's famously awkward menu system is difficult enough to navigate as is. Also, be aware that the ZV-E10 is known for some rolling shutter problems when panning – again, since you're probably not moving the camera when streaming, this shouldn't be much of an issue.
YouTubers love the Canon G7 X series, and this latest iteration is the most video-focused yet. The fact that it has a clean HDMI out means it’s easy to stream high-quality video, even in 4K UHD if you so desire, and having a 3.5mm mic input means you can attach a high-quality microphone for superior audio (though with no mic hotshoe on top of the camera, you’ll need to find somewhere else to put it). Its 24-100mm equivalent lens provides a broad range of framing options, and there’s a pleasing range of frame rate options in Full HD. It’s definitely on the pricey side for a compact camera with a 1-inch sensor, but if you’re a streamer, the video features just about justify the price.
A dedicated camcorder can be just the thing for all sorts of different types of streaming, from solo desktop streams to large-scale events. We’ve picked the Panasonic HC-V770 as a typical and affordable camcorder that will work for most streaming needs – it doesn’t have 4K, but most streamers won’t need it, and this keeps the price down. A 20x zoom lens, a portable and well-designed body and top-notch Full HD video all add up to a very versatile all-rounder of a streaming camera. It’s easy to use with an ergonomic control ring, and the footage generally looks very good. The 1/2.3-inch sensor is on the small side, and if you want more dynamic range you’ll get it from the other cameras in this section.
The Lumix GH6 is one of the best consumer video cameras ever made. Dig into its options and you start to gain an appreciation for the sheer breadth of shooting options it puts on the table. It's got Apple ProRes, 5.8K anamorphic, 5.7K resolutions and variable frame-rate recording, and pretty much everything is 10-bit rather than 8-bit. The wide range of picture styles includes Cinelike D2, Cinelike V2, Like709, V-Log and HLG, and there are anamorphic video options. There's more than most users will need, but if you're a streamer and filmmaker who wants to have the best camera in class, this is a serous contender.
Once you use the GH6 you also gain an appreciation for the ergonomics, and the extent to which Panasonic has thought about filmmakers' needs when designing how the camera operates. It's truly an excellent camera, and perfect for the demanding filmmaker.