These days if you want to create a quality music video on YouTube, your video quality needs to match your sound quality. Gone are the days of using a cheap webcam or your laptops camera. If you want to get a lot of YouTube views and come across as professional to your audience, you need a high-definition video.
While HD video cameras have become much more common and their prices have dropped significantly, you will probably need to drop a few hundred dollars to really get that professional look. The good news is that if you, or someone you know, is into photography and has a DSLR camera, then you may already have access to a video camera capable of producing the recordings you need.
My wife got a Canon Rebel T3 camera a couple years ago for her photography hobby and it works great as a HD YouTube camera. In fact the Canon Rebel line tends to be the most used cameras out there for recording YouTube videos. These days the Canon Rebel T5 is the most popular YouTube camera for professionals, but getting started with that camera will cost you over $500. If you can afford it, then that is really the best way to go and what I recommend. If that doesn’t fit in your budget, then take a look at my guide detailing what kind of features and gear you should look for to make the best YouTube videos.
If you revel in all the research and want to know all the details about the best camera for YouTube video, then read my in-depth explanations below.
For those that don’t care about the research and just want a recommended camera I give you a quick list of cameras I for various price ranges:
- $240 – GoPro Hero 3+ Silver
- $300 – Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ70
- $440 – Canon EOS Rebel T5 (55mm Lens included)
- $650 – Canon ESO RebelT5i (55mm Lens included)
- $1200 – Canon VIXIA HF G30 HD Camcorder
Recommended Camera Features For YouTube Videos
The import thing to know is that basically if the camera you’re looking at is a DSLR and can shoot video, then it will probably work to make YouTube music videos. Most of them tend to have the minimum specs needed to shoot HD videos. They also tend to be pretty expensive ($200-$300) and usually require you to buy separate lenses for another couple hundred dollars. The Canon Rebels are all DSLR.
Buy a DSLR camera if you can afford it. Check out below for recommendations for lenses and other gear.
Video camera resolution simply means how clear and detailed your recorded video will be. The crappy videos people make with their laptop’s webcam are a great example of low resolution, and a perfect example of what kind of video you DON’T want. YouTube can display videos with a resolution of up to 1080p. The higher the resolution you camera can record in the better. At an absolute minimum you can get by with 720p, but 1080p is highly recommended.
If your primary goal is to make music videos for YouTube, anything higher than 1080p is unnecessary.
Auto Focus on a video camera allows you to move the camera, or whatever your filming, while recording without having to manually focus the lens constantly. This is a very important feature if there is going to be movement during the filming. Something as simple as swaying back and forth while your singing can cause you to move in and out of focus. Unless you will be almost completely still while performing (which would look unnatural and weird), you need auto focus.
You should look to get a camera with the fastest auto focus speed that you can.
Depth of Field Control
This is additional focus control dealing with the distance between the things closest to the camera and those farthest away. By changing the depth of field you can control how “deep” the camera focuses. For instance you could adjust it so that the camera only focuses on things closer than 8 feet, keeps everything between 3 and 4 feet in front of the camera in focus, or only things that are exactly 10 feet away are in focus.
Even if you don’t think that this is something you will need right now, you will be glad you have this option once you start making anything other than the most basic recording.
DSLR cameras have excellent depth of field control.
This can be a feature of the camera body, the lens, or both. Zoom comes in 2 flavors: analog and digital. Analog zoom works like a sliding scale. As you adjust it it will smoothly go in and out. Digital zoom will be listed like: 2x, 4x, 10x, …. Using digital zoom will immediately jump you to the selected zoom level without a smooth transition. You will be at one level and then BAM! the image is 4 times bigger.
Obviously analog zoom is better than digital for our purposes, though zooming is not as important as you might think. Usually the camera is either fixed on a tripod and maintains the shot with only the focus changing, or someone is holding the camera and will simply walk closer to whatever needs to be “zoomed” in on.
Low Light Capturing
This is simply the cameras ability to be able to record video in low light environments. The better the camera can handle low light situations the better looking and detailed your video will be. If you don’t plan on setting up light boxes or recording outside during a sunny day, then you should pay special attention to how well the camera can handle darker than normal recording.
Keep in mind that even with a camera that rates high in this, you might still want to set-up some special lighting to get the very best video possible.
Recommended Camera Gear For YouTube Videos
Most DSLR cameras require a separate lens to be purchased. There are many many different types of lenses and each one serves a specific purpose. For our purpose of creating professional YouTube music videos though you should primarily be looking at a 35 or 50mm fixed lenses.
These are pretty basic lenses and will oftentimes come with the camera. They are not zoomable. Most of the fancier, more expensive lenses are for photography, and I won’t pretend to know much about that.
Most of the time you will probably want to just put the camera somewhere, carefully point it where you want, and then just have it stay put. Without a decent tripod this simple task can become extremely frustrating.
Good tripods prevent shakiness and keep the camera secure. A nice one will be worth its weight in gold when you realize the ease in which you can align your shots when compared to a cheaper one.
Tripods are available anywhere from as low as $20 to over $600. Although the $600 one seems pretty ridiculous to me, if you only spend $20 to get a crappy Chinese one you shouldn’t be surprised when it falls over and shatters your $200 lens.
Personally, I use this one which goes for about $150. It is extremely sturdy and reliable. Your expensive camera and lenses will be spending a lot of time mounted on your tripod so you shouldn’t skimp on this. The difference in how easy it is to use is very apparent if you’ve ever struggled with a crap tripod from Wal-Mart.
Remember the old saying about crying once at checkout instead of crying every time you use the thing.
If you plan on having a fancy shoot with someone walking around with the camera then some sort of steady cam is required. Steady cams prevent all the unwanted shakiness and bumps that come with moving the camera when it’s recording.
I almost exclusively shoot by myself using a tri-pod, but if you want to try to up the production value with sweeping shots then you need one of these.
A decent steady cam can be found for about $65 on Amazon.
Proper lighting is a huge part of creating a professional looking video for YouTube, or where ever. It is also completely dependent on the look you’re wanting to end up with, the environment that you are recording in, and a hundred other factors.
You won’t really know what type of additional lighting, if any, you will need until you start recording and tweaking everything. If you do end up needing special lighting, you don’t necessarily need to go out and spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on professional movie photography lights. Sometimes a $20 IKEA lamp or $10 adjustable spot light from Home Depot will work perfectly.
My suggestion is to worry about getting all the other equipment first and get a couple takes. Then adjust the light settings on your camera, and then start experimenting with additional light sources.
In the future, I will have a much more in depth article detailing exactly how to go about creating the perfect lighting stage.
It doesn’t matter how expensive your video camera is, the microphone will suck. At least compared to any half-way decent microphone designed for vocals or instruments. I created a whole article about choosing the correct microphone for recording music videos.
Depending on your needs, be prepared to spend at least $100 -$300 for a decent microphone.
I will say it again: The mic on your camera will suck. It would be a huge problem for people watching your videos if you have the best high-def video, but you sound like your singing and playing in mud.
Get a microphone. If you don’t want to do the research and want me to recommend one then get the Rode NT1A if you’re recording in a studio environment, and if you’re going to be playing live then get the Shure SM58.
Making YouTube videos to showcase your music is the best way to reach an audience of millions. Lots of other artists know this as well and you will be competing with them. You need to present the most polished and best looking videos possible, which means putting as much work into creating the video as you do creating your music. If you put out a grainy video with terrible audio, people will click off your video after 5 seconds and never give you another look.
Follow this advice and you can be making your own videos that rival or surpass ones like this:
As you can see things can really add up fast. It’s much cheaper than ever to make professional music videos, but it’s still not that cheap. If you’re careful then you can buy just the basics at first, and then upgrade and buy new equipment as needed. Eventually you will be the proud owner of the best camera for YouTube.
Bottom line is that you need a video camera that shoots at least 720p resolution, a tripod, and a separate microphone. All of that can be purchased for less than $400. Which when you think of it as an investment, it really isn’t all that expensive.
If you have any questions or comments please let me know in the comment section below!