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Best cameras for live streams

I have a solid experience in live streaming. Last year I started capturing concerts from iconic venues in London. I described my personal live stream setup on my blog and this attracted some traffic for a series of live streaming-related queries. So I thought it would be worth elaborating on the topic, sharing my hands-on expertise for various aspects of the live streaming process: software, cameras, network requirements, etc.

In this piece I’m reviewing a series of 10 cameras which can be considered as the best cameras for live streams at time of writing, from various manufacturers: Panasonic, Canon, Sony, Nikon, PTZ Optics, BlackMagic Design. I will update the list when I’ll come across new live streaming cameras. All cameras in this list are under $2000.

What makes a camera great for live streams?

To be part of your professional live stream kit, a camera must have the following features: 

  • great image quality, at least 1080HD (4K is great but most of the time you won’t stream in 4K since it will use far too much upstream bandwidth). That’s why I haven’t added any webcam to my list (+ webcams don’t have a HDMI output)
  • clean HDMI output: you don’t want to see any user interface (UI) element on the screen when you capture the feed of your camera
  • possibility to run the camera on the mains. You don’t want your stream to be interrupted if you run out of batteries
  • unlimited runtime: no automatic cut-off after 30 or 45 minutes, which is often the case with mirrorless cameras

If you want to use multiple cameras in your live stream setup, don’t buy cameras from different manufacturers, otherwise you’ll have a hard time fine tuning the color settings to deliver a consistent image between your different angles. Stick to one manufacturer to build your live streaming kit. My personal preference, in terms of price & features, goes to Panasonic Lumix cameras (even if I’d be tempted to use PTZ Optics cameras in the future). 

How to connect a mirrorless / hybrid / DSLR camera or a camcorder to your computer?

The best affordable solution is the Elgato Camlink 4K, which enables you to connect one HDMI device to your camera via USB.

How to connect multiple HDMI cameras to your computer?

You can either connect multiple Camlinks (one for each camera) or use a more advanced external device like the BlackMagic Design ATEM Mini Pro (use the Pro version to have a multiview control on the cameras).

Can you use Canon EOS cameras for live streaming?

As much as I’m a huge fan of my EOS M50 in terms of image quality, I would strongly advise against using it in a live stream setup, for the simple reason that you can’t keep the autofocus on while streaming since it displays focus guides on the screen. In other words, you won’t get a fully clean HDMI output unless you switch to manual focus which can be problematic for moving targets. 

You’ll face the same issue with most Canon mirrorless cameras. If you’re a Canon fan, consider buying the Canon Vixia HF R800 camcorder, pictured below. I haven’t added the EOS 1D X Mark II to the list since it’s far too expensive ($4K+) for a basic live streaming setup, especially if you want to use multiple cameras.

Can you use Panasonic Lumix cameras for live streaming?

Yes and these are my preferred cameras to live streaming. They provide a clean HDMI output and you can easily run them on the mains via a USB-powered dummy battery. 

Can you live stream with GO Pro cameras?

Yes you can use Go Pro cameras for live streaming but they perform poorly in low light environments. Trust me, the quality is terrible: I tested them in dark venues for concerts live streaming and the result was really bad compared to what can be achieved with a Lumix G7 for approximately the same price with more advanced features. 

Is the MEVO start a good live stream camera?

The MEVO Start, marketed by Vimeo, is made for live streaming but you won’t be able to connect it to a traditional HDMI-based setup since it doesn’t feature any HDMI output. The camera streams directly to FB, Youtube, Twitch, etc. via a built-in RTPM system and can be controlled via a mobile application. You can also connect it to a NDI-compatible software. 

Selection of HDMI-compatible live stream cameras

a great choice if you want to use a camcorder for live streaming purposes. It has a 57x zoom and a full HD CMOS Sensor. this is the cheapest option on our list 

I love the Panasonic Lumix range. I have 2 models in my live stream kit, the G7 and the FZ 1000. I’m adding both to this selection

Note: you will need a dummy battery to run this camera on the mains. 

more expensive than the Canon Vixia, it’s the right pick if you want to have a slightly better picture, thanks to a larger sensor

the Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 is an amazing 4K hybrid camera with a Leica CD Lens and a 16x optical zoom, which makes it perfect for a live stream camera at the back of a venue, to focus on the main performer 

Note: you will need a dummy battery to run this camera on the mains. 

if you want to step up your game compared to the Vixia HF R800, take a look at the HF G50, with a wide 29.3mm angle of view and an intelligent 5-axis image stabilization

This camera, priced just under $700 for the starter kit, is a great live streaming pick, with a clean HDMI output, not cut off and a great image quality

Note: you will need a dummy battery to run this camera on the mains. 

this is the Sony pick in our list of live stream cameras, providing an outstanding image quality (4K HDR video). 

Note: you will need a dummy battery to run this camera on the mains. 

The mirrorless Nikon Z6 camera has a clean HDMI output and can be operated on dummy batteries, which makes it perfect for live streaming. 

Note: you will need a dummy battery to run this camera on the mains. 

We wanted to add the cheaper Nikon Z50 compact camera to the line up but, at time of writing, it was impossible to find a dummy battery to power it on the mains, that’s why it’s excluded, even if it has a clean HDMI output.

If budget isn’t an issue ($1500+ per unit), it’s worth considering the PTZ option for your live streams. It will make your filming much more appealing for the viewers since you’ll be able to control the Pan Tilt and Zoom (PTZ) of each camera.

This camera is priced around $2,000 but it’s the right pick if you’re looking for cinematic images. The image sensor is the best in our line up. The only issue is that you’ll need a very strong upstream bandwidth to use this gem at its full resolution capacity.

Note: you will need a dummy battery to run this camera on the mains.