Out of all of the ways to capture video and send it out to the world on a live stream, webcams and high-end photography cameras are two of the most commonly used devices. However, choosing one can be pretty challenging, because there is a metric boatload of “cameras for live streaming” on the market. To make matters worse, they are littered with marketing jargon and confusing technical specifications.
…a great many DSLR and Mirrorless cameras are unsuitable for the demands of the 3+ hours of constant use required by live streaming content.
Further still, a great many DSLR and Mirrorless cameras are unsuitable for the demands of the 3+ hours of constant use required by live streaming content. For example, a lot of older cameras have a limited timeframe in which they can remain in video mode before powering down due to overheating. Even some brand new ones suffer from this issue. Others simply auto-shut-off to preserve power every 30 minutes of “Inactivity”, with no way of turning this power-saving feature off. In a live stream, you aren’t exactly fiddling with the camera to tell it that it is in use, so this tends to happen a lot.
As for webcams? They are a much simpler beast and do not suffer from overheating or the auto-shut-off feature that their big brothers do. Their drawback is their relatively low-quality video feed, and lack of a modular lens system. For most of you though, that won’t matter all that much. A webcam is a solid option for any live streamer, and tens of thousands of streamers utilize one every day for their content creation needs.
I’ve gone through this muck and confusion and found 5 of the Best Webcams & Cameras for Live streaming that don’t suffer from these issues, so that you can make your choice more easily.
Table of Contents
What Makes a “Good” Camera for Live Streaming?
Before we get started in earnest, there is something you need to know. In order for a high-end Mirrorless/DSLR camera to be used for live streaming, it must meet three specific criteria:
- Unlocked auto-shut-off feature –
- Live streaming is a multi-hour work, and an auto-power-off feature can interfere with this, even when a dummy battery is used.
- Does not Overheat –
- If your camera overheats, it will power down to prevent hardware damage. This is bad for the same reason as above.
- Clean HDMI-Out –
- Nobody wants to see the OSD(On-Screen Display) on a stream. Not a 100% deal-breaker, but if you’re spending the money, get one that does support this feature.
If a camera is capable of all three of these for a long duration content session, then it is a viable camera for live streaming. Every other feature is a bonus.
Breakdown of the Best Cameras for Live streaming
|Camera Model:||Sony A6000||Sony A6100||Canon EOS Rebel SL3|
|Extra Equipment necessary?||Yes; Data Micro-USB cable or Capture Card||
||<—- See A6000|
|Software for USB support:||
Sony Imaging Edge Desktop
(Windows & Mac only)
|<—- See A6000||
EOS Webcam Utility
(Windows & Mac only)
While these cameras do not require a capture card to be used as a streaming camera, unless you are using Linux, there is still some benefit to using one. See, most cameras were designed to handle video by recording to internal storage: an SD card, CF card, or various other formats. They were never intended to be used for live video. However, for live streaming, this simply isn’t an option, because it is live video.
With that said, thanks to the massive demand generated from the “Work-from-home” movement created by the global human malware crisis, a Video-over-USB feature was introduced to many of these cameras. Unfortunately, using this feature will result in a drop in video quality due to the bandwidth limitations of USB 2.0, which is what almost every camera on the market is equipped with. They simply weren’t designed with live video in mind, it was patched into them as a band-aid to answer colossal market demand.
On the other hand, a capture card has existed for quite a while as a very niche product. They will allow you access to the highest quality that the camera is capable of, resulting in the best resolutions & FPS that the camera has to offer; Assuming, of course, your capture card itself is equipped to handle it, and the camera has an HDMI-Out port that the Capture card can interface with.
What About Used? Are Used DSLR / Mirrorless Cameras Viable?
After seeing the prices of DSLR and Mirrorless cameras, you may have been quite shocked. This is a fairly normal reaction, they are pretty expensive. With that said, you should consider the fact that these cameras are a sort of investment into future income. They will eventually pay for themselves from the content & photos that you can create with them. However, I never said you had to buy them new…
Typically, these kits are sold by somebody simply looking to upgrade to the next best thing and are trying to bridge the cost of buying it…
Used cameras are one of the most effective ways to bolster the quality of your content, without breaking the bank in the process. Typically, these kits are sold by somebody simply looking to upgrade to the next best thing and are trying to bridge the cost of buying it, and by going used, you might just score a whole kit. This may include multiple lenses,(the real win of a used kit) a tripod, and everything else you need, for a great deal!
So yes, I do recommend that you take a good look to see if you can find one of these three cameras used, before buying new. Just remember, used gear always carries some level of risk.
Useful Attachments & Tools for the Sony Cameras
Settled for the Sony a6000 or a6100? Here is a short list of components for them that will make your life easier:
- A Dummy Battery – Very Highly Recommended
- Tripod or Gorillapod – Recommended
- An HDMI Capture Card – For better quality than USB
The dummy battery will allow you to run the camera indefinitely, as it draws power from the wall. For long-duration content, this is pretty important, as you don’t want to be mid-stream when your camera suddenly drops from a dead battery, so I strongly recommend getting this. As for the tripod, that will give you a substantial boost to the number of angles and positions that you can place the camera in your setup. The versatility of such a tool is extremely beneficial.
In fact, this list applies to any DSLR or mirrorless camera you decide to go with, or already have laying around. Just make sure you get a dummy battery that is compatible with the camera that you use, and that it qualifies based on the list of features regarding cameras for live streaming.
On a Budget? Take a Look at the 2 Best Webcams for Streaming
|Webcam:||Razer Kiyo||Logitech StreamCam|
|USB Connection Type:||
|Extra Equipment Necessary?||No; Plug & Play||No; Plug & Play|
Those high-end cameras can be pretty steep for many individuals, so to offer you a valid alternative, I decided to include two webcams on this list in addition to the three cameras. These Webcams are purpose-built for PC camera interfaces, so many of the odd quirks and issues that come with the Mirrorless cameras above, simply aren’t present.
Of course, These webcams come with their own drawbacks and caveats, mostly related to the quality of the video. You can’t really create any shallow depth of field with them, so in order to get a bokeh effect, you’d need to utilize a green screen, or use something like the NVIDIA Broadcast app to fake it. Additionally, they have a tendency to not keep any exposure/gain settings intact on reboot. This has been a personal gripe for myself and my C920, specifically when recording a video over multiple days. Matching the lighting between shots is a pain, even if you use all of the same values.
But you can’t beat the ease-of-use that webcams offer over every other solution. It is, for the most part, plug and play.
A Cheap Alternative: Use Your Phone as a Webcam Using an App
Even webcams even beyond your reach? Well, you might already have a camera or two you can tap into. If you have an old phone sitting in a drawer doing nothing except collecting dust, you might be able to use that! Fun Fact: there are a few special apps available on the phone designed to latch onto the camera built into modern phones. With it, you are able to send the phone’s video feed to your PC, and from that, into your live streaming program of choice. I recommend either SLOBS or OBS Studio, but if you prefer another, It will most likely work with them too.
Please note that using a phone as a webcam will introduce a level of video latency. You will need to adjust the sync offset ratio for it in the Advanced audio properties. Additionally, you’ll need to employ the use of a special kind of tripod for your phone. Even still, this is easily the cheapest option of the bunch, assuming you are anything like me and have a bunch of old phones sitting in a drawer for nostalgia’s sake. Or, you could just use your current phone, assuming it isn’t a dinosaur.
I won’t be going into detail for these, just letting you know about what app you would need to accomplish this.
For Android phone users – Newtek HX Camera & DroidCam
To access the camera within an android device, you will need to download one of two apps: Droidcam, or Newtek HX Camera. There are others in the store, however, they are untested, so your mileage may vary.
The Newtek HX Camera is based on the NDI interface and is super new. There are a few kinks to work out regarding it, according to some reviews on the play store, but with their track record with the Desktop and iPhone apps, I have faith that it will improve dramatically.
As for Droidcam, that one has been around for awhile, and has had the chance to fix a lot of the bugs. It is a solid application.
For iPhone users – EpocCam & NDI HX Camera are your options
Finally, we reach the iPhone Users. You guys have access to the NDI HX Camera from NewTek, and EpocCam. The iPhone version of the NDI app is a bit more mature and works a bit more smoothly than the Android counterpart. The EpocCam app is designed by Corsair and has an OBS integration built right into the app itself, so setting it up is probably the easiest out of the many options that I have researched.
The iPhone camera on models newer than 8 is a work of art, and far exceed the quality of even the best webcams on the market.
And that about covers it for this article; Thanks for reading, and see you in the next one!