Your guide: Angela Nicholson
Photographer and journalist Angela Nicholson is our former Technical Editor and the founder of SheClicks, a community for female photographers. She’s been testing camera gear since 2004 and is regularly behind and in front of the camera, shooting stills and video for a variety of platforms.
At its simplest, vlogging is the practice of posting short videos online, but there’s usually a motive behind it such as documenting an activity or location or explaining a point of view. In some cases, the vlogger talks directly to the camera throughout the video a bit like a newsreader, however many vloggers take their cameras out and about, shooting a wide variety of subjects, which is more interesting from a photographic standpoint. Vloggers with a large following make serious money and vlogging is high on the list of career aspirations for schoolchildren – but it isn’t just about cash, it can be a great creative outlet too. It also needn’t be complicated; you can record a vlog with just about any camera that can shoot video, and many vlogs are shot on a phone.
However, as with still images, the larger sensor and greater level of control means that you get better results with a dedicated camera. Naturally, some cameras are more suited to vlogging than others, so here are a few features to look out for, and later on, you’ll find our top choices for vlogging cameras.
Key Considerations for vlogging cameras
Easy-to-reach controls: a large easily accessible record button is helpful, and some cameras are compatible with a grip that has a few controls.
Mic port: for the best audio quality use an external mic. If your camera has a mic port, usually a 3.5mm connection, you can record the audio directly onto the camera.
Vari-angle or 180° screen: to see yourself when talking to camera, a vari-angle screen, or one that can be flipped 180° so it’s visible from in front of the camera, is ideal.
Reliable Autofocusing: eye detection is fairly new to video. Face detection is the next best alternative. The key is that the camera keeps the focus on you when you’re talking to the camera.
Stabilisation: If you’re going to handhold the camera it’s helpful if it or the lens has stabilisation built-in to take out some of the shake and wobble.
Easy-to-reach controls: A large easily accessible record button is helpful, and some cameras are compatible with a grip that has a few controls.
Buyer’s Guide to vlogging cameras
Sony ZV-1 (£699)
Although it has quite a bit in common with Sony’s RX100 series of compact cameras, including the 1-inch type stacked Exmor RS CMOS sensor with 20.1million effective pixels and Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* 9.4-25.7mm f/1.8-2.8 lens with an effective focal length of 24-70mm, the ZV-1 has been designed specifically for vlogging. Typically Sony, the ZV-1 is capable of producing 4K video with full-pixel readout and has a total of 315 phase detection AF points, giving good coverage across the scene. This is accompanied by Real-time Eye AF which does a brilliant job of spotting eyes in the frame and focusing on one.
There’s also an excellent stabilisation system and a few novel features designed to meet specific requirements of vloggers. For example, Product Showcase mode primes the camera to watch out for items being held up to the lens and to switch from focusing on the eyes to focusing on the item. It’s perfect for product demonstration or explanation vlogs. There’s also Face Priority auto exposure and Background Defocus to help inexperienced vloggers get good results. However, Sony hasn’t forgotten that experienced vloggers may also want a small, light camera and the ZV-1 has advanced options including full manual control over exposure and both Log and Gamma control to optimise the footage for grading.
For high-quality audio a windshield can be slipped into the hotshoe to cover the onboard microphone. Alternatively, there’s a 3.5mm mic port and the ability to connect an external XLR microphone via an adapter in the multi-interface hotshoe. Frustratingly, although the ZV-1 has a vari-angle touchscreen, Sony makes limited use of the touch capability, but thankfully the key features are within easy reach and there’s a compatible shooting grip (Sony GP-VPT2BT).
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III (£1,049 body only or £1,399 with 12-45mm lens)
As a Micro Four Thirds camera, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III accepts a huge range of lenses from Olympus and Panasonic as well as third-party manufacturers. However, with a 2x focal length magnification factor you need a short focal length if you want to shoot with the camera pointing towards you at arm’s length. Olympus sells the E-M5 Mark III in a range of kits but the M. Zuiko Digital ED 12-45mm f/4 Pro lens makes a good choice for vloggers, giving an effective focal length range of 24-90mm.
Olympus stuck with the same 20.4MP Live MOS sensor as is in the E-M1 Mark II for the E-M5 Mark III and it’s paired with the TruePic VIII processing engine to enable C4K (4096 x 2160) video at 24P, 4K (3840 x 2160) video at 30/25/24P and Full HD (1980 x 1080) video at up to 60P or 120P in high-speed mode.
There’s also a 121-point (all cross-type) hybrid autofocus system that can cope with low light. In addition to its small size (85.2×49.7×125.3mm) and low weight (414g with a battery and memory card), one of the most attractive features of the E-M5 Mark III for vloggers is its superb image stabilisation system which transforms handheld footage. Even footage shot as you walk up and downstairs is watchable. Add in the fact that the OM-D E-M5 Mark III has a 3in vari-angle touchscreen and is weather-sealed and you can see its appeal as a go-everywhere camera.
There’s also a host of Art Filters to give a more interesting appearance in-camera and a flat mode that, while not as low-contrast as Log mode, gives you more scope for post capture-grading. There’s also a 3.5mm mic port for connecting an external microphone.
Panasonic Lumix G100 (£589 body only, £679 with 12-32mm lens)
Panasonic designed the Lumix G100 with vlogging specifically in mind. Consequently, it has a 3in 1,840,000-dot vari-angle touchscreen that can be flipped around to face forwards and OZO Audio tracking by Nokia. The latter can work in tandem with the camera’s face-detection system to track a subject around the frame and decide which of the three internal microphones to use. The microphones can also be set to Auto, Surround, Front or Back depending upon where the most important sounds are coming from. It works well provided that there’s no wind around but there’s also a 3.5mm mic port.
Other nice features include a Rec Frame Marker, that shows the framing for different aspect ratios to help you to compose footage for a variety of platforms including Instagram stories; in-body stabilisation; and V-Log L that produces low-contrast, low-saturation footage.
As well as making the footage more gradable, it’s easier to match it to video from other cameras. There’s a slight crop applied to 4K footage on top of the 2x focal length magnification factor caused by the G100’s Four Thirds type sensor. That means that the 12-32mm lens actually looks a little longer than the 24-64mm effective length that it is for stills photography. However, it’s just about okay for handheld vlogging, especially if you mount the camera on Panasonic’s optional DMW-SHGR1 Shooting Grip.
Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III (£699)
The PowerShot G7 X Mark II was a surprise success amongst vloggers, so for the Mark III version, Canon made vlogging a key focus. Consequently, the G7 X Mark III can shoot 4K (3840 x 2160) video at 29.97/25fps without cropping. That means when you get the full width of the 24-100mm (equivalent) stabilised lens, which is important if you’re holding the camera at arm’s length and pointing it towards yourself.
Further good news is that the maximum aperture range is f/1.8-2.8, which enables some blurring of the background when you shoot wide open. Handily, there’s also a 3-stop ND filter built-in that helps you to use the widest apertures in bright conditions. A collection of autofocus modes enable you to get the subject sharp. Significantly, these include Face Select and Track which works well in video mode, putting a box around your face when spotting you. You can see this as the 3in 1,040,000-dot touchscreen tilts up through 180° making it visible from in front of the camera.
There’s no viewfinder though. As usual, there’s Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity onboard, but uniquely, the G7 X Mark III can live-stream direct to your YouTube channel. To do this, you need to create a free image.canon account, then input the relevant information and tap the connection details into your camera.
Then, provided that you have a decent Wi-Fi signal (or a hotspot from your network-connected smartphone), you’re free to stream. All of this would count for nothing if the PowerShot G7 X Mark III didn’t produce high-quality results but thanks to its 20.1MP 1in type stacked CMOS sensor, it delivers excellent stills and video. It has a sensitivity range of ISO 125-25,600, but ideally, keep to ISO 3200 or lower.
Sony A6600 (£1,399 body only, £2,599 with 16-55mm f/2.8 lens)
The A6600 sits at the top of Sony’s APS-C format range of mirrorless cameras and has a stabilised 24.2 MP chip paired with the Bionz X processing engine. These combine to produce high-quality 4K footage although you may wish to avoid fast pans and some high-speed subjects because rolling shutter effect can be an issue. While the lack of a joystick to shift the AF point around is a pain for stills-shooters who like to use the viewfinder, it’s less of an issue for videographers who tend to use the screen to set the point with a tap.
However, the real joy of the A6600 is its Face and Real-time Eye AF which works for humans in video mode. It’s very reliable even when the subject is moving and is briefly obscured or turns away from the camera. Unfortunately, the record button is very awkwardly placed on the A6600 – it’s on the top right corner of the back of the camera which makes it difficult to find by touch. However, Sony had the foresight to enable different customisation options in stills and video mode, and you can set another button such as the large ‘centre’ button on the back of the camera to start and stop recording – that’s much easier to find, even when you’re in front of the camera.
The A6600’s 3in 921,000-dot screen flips up though 180° so it’s visible from in front of the camera but it’s worth bearing in mind that any hotshoe-mounted accessories will obscure the view. Sony has been generous with the video controls. There’s a selection of Gamma and colour options including S-Log2, S-Log3 and S-Gamut3 to give the maximum amount of data for post-capture grading while Gamma Display Assist sets the viewfinder and screen to show an adjusted preview to make it easier for you to assess exposure and colour.
Canon EOS M6 Mark II (£869 body only, £1,048 with 15-45mm IS STM lens)
The Canon EOS M6 Mark II has the same 32.5MP APS-C format sensor as the Canon EOS 90D DSLR but it’s mirrorless and has the EF-M mount. It’s also capable of recording 4K (3840 x 2160) video at 29.97/25fps with no cropping. Alternatively, Full HD (1920 x 1080) video can be shot at 119.88/100/59.94/50/29.97/25fps, which gives users plenty of scope for slow-motion playback. As Canon has used its Dual Pixel CMOS AF sensor design, the EOS M6 Mark II has phase detection focusing and there are up to 143 AF points covering the majority of the imaging area.
This system is an excellent performer and it copes well with low light, keeping fast-moving subjects sharp and staying with your face when the camera is at arm’s length. There’s a 3in ClearView II touchscreen LCD with 1,040,000 dots that can be tilted 180° up for viewing from in front of the camera. There’s no viewfinder built-in, but the M6 II is compatible with an optional external viewfinder, the Canon EVF-DFC2, which is a worthwhile addition if you want to shoot in very bright conditions.
Despite being small for an APS-C format camera the M6 Mark II has a reasonably good collection of buttons and dials and excellent touch-control. As a rule the Standard Picture Style delivers attractive colours, but there are three user-defined options that you can tailor to suit your own preferences. The Auto white balance setting is also a good default option, but if it’s cloudy you might want to warm things up using the dedicated setting. The only niggling doubt about the EOS M6 Mark II is the limited range of lenses, but at least all the zooms are stabilised.
Getting Started with vlogging
The first step in creating a vlog is deciding what you want to vlog about and what your key messages are. You might, for example, want to create a vlog about a local beauty spot and explain aspects such as how to find it, where to park, the best time to visit and the best shooting locations. By making these decisions you can think through (and write down) the shots that you need to capture so that you’ll be more organised when it comes to shooting.
You also need to think about your script. Some people like to write a complete script while others prefer bullet points; however, when you’re starting out, I’d encourage you to write down everything that you want to say because this will help you ensure that you record enough footage. It’s also worth timing how long it takes you to read your script at a nice steady pace.
Getting the shots
When you’re thinking about creating a video there are usually a few key shots that pop into your head. These are your main clips that tell the story, and they will need to be supported by B-roll footage that help set the scene.
With our beauty spot video, a wide shot of the location would be part of the main footage, for instance, while close-ups of details such as leaves waving in the breeze, tumbling water in a stream and a squirrel gathering nuts make nice B-roll, helping the viewer to experience the location without actually visiting. You will be in a lot of the main footage, talking to the camera. Many vloggers do this with the camera handheld, often mounted on a mini-tripod, but if the camera is on a full-size tripod, then you can be a bit further away and more of the background will be visible.
A standard photographic tripod is fine to start with, but a fluid video head like the Manfrotto 500 (£172.95) comes in handy for making smooth tilt and pan movements. When you’re in front of the camera, look into the lens. The screen is useful for checking that you’ve nailed the composition, you’re standing in the right place and the camera has focused on you. However, once you start speaking, don’t look at it.
Recording the audio
A shotgun mic fitted with a windshield that can be mounted in the camera’s hotshoe or other convenient point is ideal for capturing ambient sounds when you’re outside. Provided you’re close, it can also be used to record your speech, but it’s often best to use a lavalier or wireless clip mic connected to your camera. The easiest way to get good footage of you speaking is to memorise short sections of your script and repeat them to your camera a bit at a time. You can use B-roll between the clips. Even if you plan to make the majority of the audio a voiceover, it’s worth recording it on location as you’ll capture the ambience of the place.
Editing and publishing your vlog
After you’ve downloaded all your files, watch through everything and make a note of the best footage and audio before importing the relevant clips into your video-editing software. There are lots of options for editing video but Adobe Premier Pro Elements makes a great starting point. Adobe Premiere and Apple’s Final Cut Pro X (Mac only) are both excellent step-ups used by many professionals. As a general rule, tighter (i.e. shorter) vlogs are better received than long videos with little action. There are alternatives, but YouTube is the go-to platform for vlogs. After you’ve created an account you can create a channel to host your videos. Then it’s just a case of uploading your first video and following the steps to publish it. Once your channel is 30 days old and has at least 100 subscribers, you can set a custom URL. You need at least 1,000 subscribers to start making money from your channel.
Manfrotto Pixi (£24)
This inexpensive mini tripod doubles as a comfortable grip to hold your camera at arm’s length and it locks tight enough to hold quite large SLRs and mirrorless cameras. When you’re not holding it, you can use the Pixi as a tripod and support your camera on a table or desk as you record your audio, looking into the lens.
X-Rite ColorChecker Passport Video (£124)
It might seem expensive but the ColorChecker Passport Video can save you a heap of pain, especially if you’re shooting Log footage, as it enables you to set a consistent white balance whatever the lighting. Some video grading software such as DaVinci Resolve, Color Color Finale, 3D LUT Creator and CinemaGrade can even use a clip with the Passport in it to get colour spot-on.
PolarPro Peter McKinnon Variable ND Filter – 2-5 Stop (from £249.99 for 67mm)
If you want to blur the background, you need to use a wide aperture. However, you can’t push the shutter speed up in video like you can with stills so you need a good-quality neutral density filter – this one is first rate and doesn’t introduce a colour cast or vignetting. A variable ND saves you having to swap filters throughout the day and allows subtle adjustments in exposure.
Rode Videomic NTG (£239)
This shotgun mic has a built-in rechargeable battery that gives over 30 hours of life but only takes 2 hours to charge. It comes with a Rycote shock mount to mount it in your camera’s hotshoe or other convenient point. It connects to the camera via a 3.5mm cable but it can also connect to a computer via USB-C, making it nice and versatileRode Wireless Go (£179)
This inexpensive, easy to use and great-sounding wireless mic kit links to your camera via a 3.5mm connection in the receiver. You can use it with a lavalier mic if you like, but the transmitter has a mic built in and there’s clip to attach it to your clothes. You can even connect the Videomic NTG to the transmitter to use it as a wireless boom mic.
Rotolight NEO 2 (£199)
Sometimes you need extra light and the Rotolight NEO II is a great LED solution that runs on mains power but can also run on AA batteries. It has simple control over the brightness and colour temperature, and comes supplied with a small selection of gel filters and diffusers as well as a hotshoe adapter. It can be handheld or mounted on a stand or tripod.
Rotolight rolls out vlogging kits