A couple of months ago, I bought a Nikon D5600 for vlogging. My YouTube channel had gradually morphed from squirrels-stealing-GoPros into what some have been calling “daddy vlogging” (apparently there are no Quebec daddy vloggers out there! lol). While I still love the random stuff and crazy moments of life, there is also a beauty to the hectic nature of family life that I enjoy sharing with the world.
I got a “vlogging” camera because I started noticing too many problems vlogging with the GoPro. I love my GoPro and will always have a need for it, but it just had too many limitations in terms of video and audio quality – specifically for picking up conversation or for interviews when there is a lot of ambient noise. There are some drawbacks to a bigger camera, which I will get into further down. But if you’re using a GoPro to vlog, you will invariably run into the same problems I experienced.
So the question is: What camera to get? I am not pushing any one brand. I bought a Nikon out of convenience. I already have six Nikon lenses for my D800, so it would have been silly of me to get a body that would be incompatible with those awesome lenses. And as far as I am concerned, while there may be some minor differences between brands, from a question of pure audio and video quality, you can’t go wrong with any of the big names. Nikon, Canon, Sony, Kodak, Pentax – they are all incredible.
It’s not the brand that is important – it’s the functionality of the camera. And here are my observations on the four essential features of a good vlogging camera:
1. Get a camera with interchangeable lenses!
If you can afford it, just do it. You will be tempted to say that one fixed mid-range zoom lens is all you need. And I can tell you that you will not feel that way in six months to a year. You are limited by a fixed lens. Having the option to slap on a fisheye, macro, or telephoto lens is awesome, and can greatly enhance the viewers’ experience of your video. Even if you can’t afford any other lenses now, you can always borrow or rent if needed for a specific event or vlog. So unless it’s a question of missing rent payment, don’t try and save a couple hundred dollars today on a tool that you will probably be using daily for years.
2. Get a camera with an external mic jack!
This is perhaps the most important element to a good vlogging camera. It was my biggest issue with the GoPro for vlogging. Sometimes you will have a lot of ambient noise, and you will need a directional mic. Or there will be wind, and you will want an external mic with the “dead cat” fluffy cover to cut the wind. Or you will just want to be sure that you are capturing sharp, crisp audio for an interview. Most vlogging cameras have an external mic jack, but some don’t. Stay away from the ones that don’t.
3. Get a camera with a 180-degree flip-screen!
I never knew how much I needed the 180-degree flip-screen until I had one. It is not just convenient – it’s essential for a good vlogging camera. I have the Nikon D800, and it shoots impeccable video. Except I can’t see what it’s shooting when I’m in front of the lens, so I ended up having to set it up from behind the camera and start shooting. And then hope that I stayed in focus. And in frame. Some cameras will have a screen that can pivot out and up (roughly 45 degrees), but not all the way around. That’s good, but the ability to flip the screen 180-degrees and see what the camera is recording when you are on the lens side is invaluable. The risk is that you will get distracted and end up looking at the flip-screen (which is like a little television) instead of the lens. But you can train yourself to stare at the lens. Or do what Casey Neistat does and wear sunglasses so the lens doesn’t know where you are looking! (It’s a good piece of advice).
4. Get a camera with a touch-screen!
Another feature I did not know how much I would love until I got it. The ability to focus by simply tapping on the object in the flip-screen is revolutionary. Period. Not all cameras have this function, so make sure you go with a camera that does.
These are the four essentials when it comes to a good vlogging camera. Other things like connectivity, geo-tagging, HD versus 4K, size and weight… they are all questions of preference.
The pitfalls of a bigger camera for vlogging: The bigger the camera gets, the more distracting it can be for your subjects. The rule is that you want the highest quality image from a device that doesn’t interfere with what you’re shooting. You will see that the reactions you get from shooting with a GoPro versus a Nikon DSLR are radically different. People get more shy or defensive at the mere sight of a bigger camera (and so many people still have difficulty even identifying a GoPro). You’ll eventually learn how to navigate those limitations. But one thing you’ll never be able to do is squeeze good audio from staticky noise, and there is nothing worse than unusable material.