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The Ultimate Guide to Live Streaming Cameras in 2021

By Max Wilbert

13 Min Read

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Max Wilbert

Max Wilbert is a passionate writer, live streaming practitioner, and has strong expertise in the video streaming industry.

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      If you are new to online broadcasting, you may be wondering what the best camera choice for live streaming is. Since live streaming is used or such a wide range of use-cases, there is no definitive answer to this.

      Live streaming cameras vary widely in quality, price, and the details of how they connect to your system. The one you choose will depend on what exactly you’ll be using it for.

      In this post, we will review five types of cameras for live streaming. We will discuss price ranges and use-cases for each. We will also take a look at specific camera models that are best equipped for streaming in 2021.

      The goal of this post is to help you find the camera that best suits your live streaming needs.

      Table of Contents

      • 5 Types of Cameras Used in Live Streaming
        • Webcams
        • Smartphones and Tablets
        • Wireless Cameras
        • IP Cameras
        • Professional-Quality Cameras
      • Live Streaming Camera Recommendations: A Recap
      • Conclusion

      5 Types of Cameras Used in Live Streaming

      cameras for live streaming
      Not all live streaming cameras are created equally.

      There are several different types of cameras for live streaming. Some are more user-friendly than others, and some provide a higher-quality image. Different models are available at different price points.

      As with so many other questions involved in broadcasting live video, which live streaming camera you choose depends on what exactly you want to do. In order to make your search easier, it is a good idea to start with a clear idea of what you want to achieve.

      Do you want to simply stream live video on your website via your online video platform? Have plans to do professional live streaming in a business context? Do you have other live streaming goals and needs in mind? The answer to these questions will also influence your choice.

      With that in mind, let’s take a look at five popular types of cameras for live streaming. Let’s start with webcams, which are the most basic and inexpensive live streaming cameras.

      1. Webcams for Live Streaming

      webcam camera
      Webcams are great for live streaming content you create while seated, such as podcasts and video game streams.

      Webcams are cameras that are connected to a computer. These days, they’re built into most computers. However, some are external and connect to the computer via USB. A live streaming webcam doesn’t typically have its own internet connection, so a computer is required to connect to a network and process the image into a format suitable for streaming.

      The advantage of webcams is that they are easy to use and can be purchased at a very reasonable rate. You can find a decent-quality webcam for around $100.

      The controls are simple, the direct connection to the computer means you don’t have to worry about power sources, and no capture card is required. Using a webcam for live streaming is very straightforward.

      On the other hand, webcams don’t generally deliver high image quality. Most come with built-in microphones, but the sound quality is not high. You’ll need a separate mic and sound channel if you want professional sound quality.

      The simplicity of webcam controls is as much a liability as it is an asset. Typically, they lack zoom capability, variable focus, and any ability to customize the image.

      Whether any of that is important depends on what you are trying to do. If you just need to embed a video of a conference or lecture to provide information to viewers, webcams might provide all the power you need. For serious professional-quality video, though, you should consider other options.

      Webcam Recommendations

      Logitech Brio Ultra HD is one of the top webcams for live streaming at the moment. It is capable of capturing 4K video content, and it costs $199.

      The Logitech C922x Pro Stream is a slightly older option, but you can get your hands on one of these for under $100.

      2. Smartphones for Live Streaming

      smartphone live streaming
      Smartphones are great for simple broadcasts.

      Today, smartphones are a dime a dozen. Most professional broadcasters have them, whether it’s for work or personal use. With built-in video cameras, microphones, internet connections, and the ability to run apps, a smartphone can serve as an all-in-one device for live streaming.

      It’s possible to get a decent stream quality from a smartphone. That’s especially true with newer smartphones that can capture video in 4K and 5K.

      However, many of the same drawbacks of webcams apply here. The sound quality is generally poor on smartphones and image quality suffers in low-light conditions. Zoom and other image customizations are generally absent or basic.

      In general, a smartphone is fine for basic consumer-level streaming, but professionals are better off with an IP camera or dedicated professional-grade camera.

      Smartphone Recommendations

      The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro are both great options with high-quality cameras. They cost $799 and $999, respectively.

      Google Pixel 5 is another option that starts at $699.

      iPads are also an option. The cameras on iPads are not as great as iPhones, but newer models include split-screen functionality that could help you manage your live stream while recording.

      3. Wireless Cameras for Live Streaming

      wireless live streaming camera
      Wireless cameras are great for live streaming outside of the studio.

      Some broadcasters cover developing events that require them to head out of the studio and record on the go. In these situations, a wireless camera comes in handy.

      Some wireless cameras are internet-enabled and can be controlled by an app. This sort of mobility and flexibility can certainly come in handy.

      Wireless cameras are relatively cheap with options under $500.

      Wireless Camera Recommendations

      We recommend Mevo if you are going the wireless camera route. This camera costs $399 for one, and packs of three are available at a discounted rate.

      4. IP Cameras for Live Streaming

      ip cameras for live streaming
      IP cameras are very powerful and well-suited for live streaming.

      An IP camera has an IP address and its own ability to link to the Internet separately from a computer. Using IP cameras is a little more complicated than using webcams, but they are much more versatile.

      Because they connect via Ethernet, they can be positioned anywhere you need them. Additionally, many IP cameras include power over ethernet (PoE), so you can run them 24/7. This combination makes them ideal for many uses.

      IP cameras are commonly used for 24/7 streaming, permanent installation in churches or conference rooms, and other similar setups.

      One thing that makes streaming with IP cameras a little more complicated than using webcams is that it requires an encoder. This is because the protocol that most IP cameras use isn’t suitable for live streaming.

      IP cameras are also significantly pricier than the other cameras we’ve mentioned. Costs vary quite a bit, but a good IP camera is likely to cost several thousand dollars.

      An IP camera is a good choice of live streaming camera if you need a lot of flexibility in where the camera is located relative to the computer processing the image. Provided the camera has access to the Internet over a wireless network, it can be located just about anywhere.

      IP Camera Recommendations

      If you decide to use an IP camera for streaming, we recommend checking out the Panasonic AW-UE100W/K. This camera is available through third-party distributors, and it runs upwards of $8000. 

      5. Professional-Quality Cameras for Live Streaming

      best cameras for live streaming
      Professional broadcasts call for the use of the best quality live streaming cameras.

      The best quality option for live streaming at the professional level is to use a professional-quality HDMI or SDI camera.

      Professional cameras offer more flexibility and power than any of the cheaper options. You can change and upgrade lenses, use zoom and wide-angle focus, and do all of the things you’d expect from a professional camera. This includes the ability to use external monitors, hot-swap storage and batteries, use filters, and so on.

      Another major advantage is support for XLR audio, which is the professional standard. While not as portable as a webcam or IP camera, professional-quality live streaming cameras are fairly easy to transport and use on-site.

      Of course, versatility and ease of use generally don’t go together. Professional video cameras aren’t as simple to use as a webcam. If you don’t already have experience with them, you may face a learning curve.

      This option requires a “capture device” to facilitate using the camera for live streaming. A capture device is either installed inside a desktop computer or connected via USB. It converts the video signal from your cameras into a form that can be used for live streaming. It’s also important to ensure that your capture card will work with your camera’s input. Check the particulars of the card and accompanying software before buying.

      Aside from this, the only downside to professional-grade cameras is the cost. A good quality HDMI camera will run you close to $1000, while the price for a top-of-the-line HD-SDI camera runs into the several thousand dollars range.

      Professional Camera Recommendations

      We have two recommendations for professional-quality live streaming cameras: Panasonic AG-CX350 and Panasonic AG-DVX200.

      Both are only available through third-party retailers, and they cost about $3700 and $3400, respectively.

      Live Streaming Camera Recommendations: A Recap

      Now that you’re familiar with the most popular types of live streaming cameras on the market, let’s quickly recap our recommended cameras in each category:

      The camera you choose will depend on your specific broadcasting goals and budget, but you can create a high-quality stream with any of the cameras we’ve mentioned above.

      Conclusion

      It is hard to determine what the “best” camera is for live streaming since every broadcaster has different goals and needs. Depending on your specific needs, a camera that’s wonderful for another user may be unacceptable to you.

      Hopefully, this post has given you a good idea of the cameras on the market today so you can make an educated decision on which camera will work best for your live streaming needs.

      As with everything else involved in how to broadcast live, knowing your audience and the purpose of your production is crucial to making this decision. Whether you plan to stream live video on your website, do live streaming of sports or business events, or anything else, there’s a camera out there for you.

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      As always, thanks for reading, and good luck with your broadcasts.

      Please note that this post was originally written by Max Wilbert. It was revised in 2021 by Emily Krings to include the most up-to-date information. Emily is a strategic content writer and storyteller. She specializes in helping businesses create blog content that connects with their audience.

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      Max Wilbert

      Max Wilbert is a passionate writer, live streaming practitioner, and has strong expertise in the video streaming industry.

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