For your content to sell well, you know you have to look good and feel good.
But what about your videos themselves?
In the information age, any content creator in any niche, mainstream or otherwise, has to raise the bar for production standards to get noticed.
That means, whether you’re a YouTuber, a musician, or a model, production quality needs to be on your mind at all times.
But not everybody has thousands of dollars to spend on a pro home studio setup.
So what can content creators do to make sure their videos and photos look as professional as possible?
It all starts with your setup.
We know that your equipment and room setup depends a lot on your budget. So we broke it down for you by budget. Can you afford $5000 for a camera? Great – we’ve got you covered. Capping out at $100? No prob – we’ve got you, too.
Regardless of your budget, there are a few key features you need in a camera. So no matter what you end up getting, make sure it has:
1080p recording (at least)
It’s also important to remember that the best camera in the world is useless without good lighting. You’ll also probably need an external microphone for capturing great audio.
For pretty much every camera on this list, there are YouTube reviews available with example footage. So for a better idea of what you’re getting into, just search the camera model name on YouTube.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the best home recording cameras for any budget:
The gold standard for streamers. Keep in mind this is a webcam, so you’re not getting cinematic-level quality. But it’s got autofocus, it shoots 1080p, and it’s under 100 bucks.
VERY similar to the C922x. Officially discontinued, but if you can find it, it’s more or less the same thing as the 922x - but cheaper.
One of the only well-recommended webcams that isn’t made by Logitech, the LifeCam Studio shoots 1080p, has autofocus, and has a built-in microphone (but you’ll want an external one anyway).
It has a tripod mount, too, so you can set it up in different locations.
The best autofocus on the market for anything with lots of motion. Wink wink. You’ve seen these used for extreme sports, but let’s not discount our own athleticism. The integrated microphone is decent, so you might get away with only using that. However – you’ll need a case for it that lets sound into the mic. The stock waterproof case is sealed, so the sound doesn’t work great. We recommend The Frame – GoPro’s camera mount gives easy access (again, wink wink) to both the microphone and USB/HDMI ports.
If you don’t mind a pre-loved camera, check local buy-and-sell websites for deals on used gear. You can probably find any of the cameras in our <$1000 category for around $500 if they’re used. Just make sure you trust the seller, since you won’t get a warranty with it.
In this price range we’re getting into DSLR camera bodies and HD Camcorders. This is for when you’ve got a bit of money to throw around, and you wanna seriously upgrade your production value. If it’s good enough for the world’s top YouTubers, and even some indie filmmakers, it’s good enough for you.
Canon G7 X mk2 - ~$679 USD
This is a workhorse of the home video production world. It’s got a flip-out viewscreen (so you can see yourself as you’re recording), shoots in 1080p, takes amazing photos, and it’s got auto-focus. Think of it as a c922, but with a major upgrade in terms of video quality. The stock settings for white balance do a great job, and it’s got remote shooting controls for your smartphone or tablet. Pretty sweet.
Your camera should be like you: Ultrafine.
Optimized for video, camcorders are gonna give you a more consistent image when shooting video as compared to a DSLR, which is designed primarily for still photos.
This is the perfect option if you want premium-quality HD video with minimal interference. It’s user-friendly, the autofocus is great, and you don’t need to fiddle with too many settings to get good results.
It’s got all the main features you need: flip-out viewfinder screen, 1080p video, autofocus, tripod mounts, et al.
Check out this decidedly strange test footage (my fav shot is at 0:29).
Canon EOS Rebel SL2 DSLR Camera (with lens)
With a lens, this one clocks in around $600. This is more or less the baseline for shooting good-quality video without a production-grade camcorder.
BestBuy has a good little starter kit including a memory card, additional lens and condenser microphone for juuuust under a grand (see the Frequently Bought Together section). If you don’t feel like thinking too much about what you’re gonna buy, this is a great out-of-the-box setup. Can’t go wrong.
The big guns. This section is for when you’re ready to take your content to new cinematic heights. Or maybe you want something that doubles for your career as a budding feature film director.
This is about as good as it gets for a point-and-shoot camera. It’s small, super-lightweight, and produces really incredible video quality. It’s equipped with Fast Hybrid AutoFocus, meaning your shots will stay in focus even with tons of movement.
Clocks in around $1200 for the base model.
We’re getting into cinematic quality here. The FDRAX53 shoots ultra-HD 4K and 20 megapixel still photos, it’s super light making for easy handheld shots, it’s got a flip-out viewscreen, good autofocus – this has more or less everything you need for incredible quality video. It even records Dolby 5.1 surround-sound, but I still wouldn’t rely on the built-in mic.
Amazing autofocus. Professional-grade image stabilization. Full HD recording quality. This camera is firmly in the realm of “pro-sumer,” which means it’s good enough for professional applications but still (kinda) affordable.
A heavy-duty camera for serious filmmakers, the Canon XF400 tops our list for most expensive, but also most full-featured, home camera.
Just shy of $3000 (that’s with NO accessories), this definitely isn’t a budget option. However, its professional-grade features, like a 1-inch photosensor, make it worth every penny – if you need the best video quality possible, that is. Honestly, this is probably overkill for most content creators, but if you want the very best, this is it.
Clearly, there’s a solution for any content creator on any budget.
Before you buy, do your own research – one of the best things you can do is check YouTube for sample footage. That’ll give you an excellent idea of what real-life results you can expect from your new camera.
And don’t forget – if you wanna save some cash, you can always buy used. Just make sure the camera seems to work well, since you won’t get a warranty that way.
Above all, remember that if you’re shooting indoors, the best camera in the world won’t help you without good lighting.
What do you shoot with? Let us know in the comments.