For a budget limit of £500, you can get a good quality vlogging camera that can provide you with most of the features needed to make great online videos. Of course, there are cameras that cost more than £500, but as the price increases, the cost-benefit ratio starts to come down and raises the question of whether much more expensive cameras are really worth their extra cost. Some very good vlogging cameras are to be had in the £200 - £500 price bracket - we focus on those here.
What to look for in a vlogging camera under £500
If you have read the 'what to look for' section on our 'Good Vlogging Cameras under £200' article, then many of the same features that one looks out for in a sub-£200 camera are obviously needed on a sub-£500 vlogging camera as well, and some of the description below might be a little repetitive. However, if you are a newcomer to the Refused TV universe, then you may not have read any of our previous articles, and so for that reason we going re-examine the basic features of what to look for in a vlogging camera, but with a focus on vlogging cameras in the £200 - £500 range.
First and foremost, our general advice is to get a well-known brand of camera that you yourself have heard of - this should be easy since almost everyone knows the likes of Canon, Sony, Nikon, Panasonic, etc. The reason why these companies are so familiar to us is because they have been in the photography game for many years and most of these companies we have grown up with (we often know almost instinctively that they make still and video photography possible). These brand-name companies have many years of experience of making cameras, giving them an edge when it comes to making equipment that can produce professional-looking videos.
720p, 1080p, and 4K
Typical resolutions of today's videography are 720p (HD), 1080p (Full HD), and 4K (UHD). Ideally, you want to shoot video in the highest possible resolution so that your movies look amazing on any of today's screens no matter what their size and capability. However, in today's market for under £500, cameras that shoot video in 4K which is currently the top-of-line in video screens available to the everyday consumer are not very common. This is not a major problem as most people will not be using 4K screens anyway, especially when viewing videos uploaded on to the likes of YouTube and other online platforms. Today most displays and TV screens are the 1080p Full HD screen variety with 4K screens the preserve of more wealthy consumers. In the £200 - £500 vlogging camera category, the decision of which video resolution your new vlogging camera should be able to shoot movies in is a simple one as almost all of them can shoot video in 1080p with just a handful that can shoot in 4K. So really you just have to confirm that the camera is capable of at least 1080p Full HD video and you are good to move on to the next feature. It should be noted that some cameras are capable of taking stills in 4K and this should not be confused with videography.
Image stabilisation is an important characteristic in any vlogging camera. Fortunately in the sub-£500 category, most, if not all, have some form of video image stabilisation. Keeping, it simple, there are broadly two types of image stabilisation, electronic or software-based image stabilisation (sometimes referred to as EIS), and then there is the optical variety that involves physically shifting the lens proportionally to counteract any camera shake and is often referred to as 'lens-shift' image stabilisation. In general, the optical lens-shift type of image stabilisation is better than the software-based one but it is also more expensive to implement by the manufacturer. As a consequence, lens-shift image stabilisation is only found in higher-cost cameras, typically alongside the electronic version as well. Fortunately, in the £200 - £500 price range, most brand-name vlogging cameras are capable of some form of optical stabilisation.
Only worth a quick mention, as Wi-Fi is almost omnipresent in vlogging cameras of the £200 - £500 price range. In addition, most cameras in this price range also possess NFC which provides for a more efficient process of establishing a Wi-Fi connection between the camera and an Android mobile device. Wi-Fi is needed to make the process of getting your finished movies off the camera as hassle-free as possible. One should just need to verify that their potential new camera is capable of Wi-Fi before moving on to analysing the next feature of their future camera.
A screen for taking selfies
A 'selfie screen' is one in which you can flip it completely around so that it is facing you when you are taking a selfie shot. Not all sub-£500 vlogging cameras, especially those which were not designed specifically for vlogging, have a 'selfie screen'. Consequently, this is one feature to look out for. A 'selfie screen' is very useful to be able to frame yourself perfectly within the shot, and although some vlogging cameras have other ways of helping you achieve this involving connecting external displays, none are more convenient than having quick access to what the selfie shot looks like right there and then on the camera. As the presence of a 'selfie screen' is not uncommon at this price level, we feel that any camera in the £200 - £500 price range worth its vlogging salt should have a 'selfie screen'.
Another simple feature decision is the microphone. If you have got great sound, then you are halfway to making a great movie for online publication. This means having a stereo microphone at a minimum. Not all video-capable cameras come with a stereo microphone especially those which were not designed specifically for vlogging, so ensuring that they have one is essential. Alternatively, those video cameras with only a monaural microphone built-in should instead have the capability of attaching a more professional external microphone, although one has to remember that it does come with the extra cost of having to buy a separate microphone as well.
Most cameras in the sub-£500 range have a similar number of pixels. In addition, pixel number importance is more the preserve of still photography rather than videography as video screen resolutions on which videos are played back on are well within the number of megapixels of most of today's digital cameras. As a consequence, this is not a feature that one should pay too much attention to as a videographer. A small difference in the number of pixels between cameras is not going to make a difference in your ability to make great vlogging videos.
Although manual control of shutter speed is not essential for vlogging, it can provide more experienced vloggers and videographers with some great special effects that can add to their creativity tool box and provide them with a creative edge over more standard vlogging videos. For instance, shooting with a slower than normal shutter speed introduces motion blur which can give the shot a more 'dreamy' look. On the other hand, shooting with higher than expected shutter speed gives the shot a more 'tense' feel to it. Only some cameras in the £200 - £500 price range provide this manual control of shutter speed during movie-making.
Once again manual control of the aperture setting is not essential for the majority of vlogging. However, having control of the aperture setting during movie-making can allow a vlogger to introduce more creativity into their shot by changing the depth of field. Opening up the aperture leads to a shallower depth of field which means that the background is going to be more out of focus relative to the foreground. This creates the special effect of getting the viewer to focus more on the main subject of the video, an effect more the preserve of professional cinematic productions. Once again, only some cameras at the £200 - £500 price level have the ability to manually control the aperture during video-making.
The ISO setting determines how much light hits the camera's image sensor. The higher the ISO setting, the more light is allowed to hit the sensor while a lower ISO setting means less light to the sensor. This obviously has an effect on how bright the final shot is. Having manual control of the ISO setting is not essential for most vloggers, however some more advanced videographers may like to tweak the exact brightness of their videos while also ensuring that the shot is not too grainy from using too high a setting. Once again as for shutter speed and aperture control, only some cameras at the £200 - £500 price level have the ability to manually control the ISO setting during video-making.
Some of the best vlogging cameras for under £500
Sony Alpha 5100
The Sony Alpha 5100 is one of the best vlogging cameras that you can get for under £500. It has a large APS-C-sized sensor that can capture more light than competitor cameras with smaller sensors giving the camera better performance in low-light conditions. The camera shoots video in 1080p resolution at either 24, 30 or 60 FPS at a bit rate of 50 Mb per second and the movie can be recorded in Sony's premium XAVC S format as well as either AVCHD or MP4 formats.
The body of the Sony Alpha 5100 is mostly made of high-grade plastic making it a relatively lightweight camera, with the lens E-mount made of metal. The display is a touchscreen, used for focusing, zooming and photo-taking but not for menu selecting, and can be rotated fully 180° to act as a true selfie screen, clearly having been designed specifically with vloggers in mind. The Sony Alpha 5100 sports an integrated stereo microphone that provides decent enough audio, especially important since the camera lacks a port for attaching an external microphone.
The camera can shoot video for approximately one and a half hours on a full battery charge, with the battery recharged in-camera via USB. The camera can also be powered directly from the mains using a separately purchased AC power adapter. The camera is Wi-Fi enabled which can be used to transfer video to another connected device as well as allowing the camera to be remotely controlled from a mobile device. Unsurprisingly, the camera also has the usual wired connections of USB and HDMI ports allowing it to be physically connected to a computer or a TV if necessary.
Key vlogging features of the Sony Alpha 5100
For FAQs, recommended YouTube reviews to watch, and other info on the Sony Alpha 5100, check out our Sony Alpha 5100 details page.
Panasonic Lumix DC-GX800
The Panasonic Lumix DC–GX800, also known as the GX850 in North America, is another top candidate for being one of the best vlogging cameras under £500. It has a smaller but still competent Micro 4/3 sensor and can shoot video in 4K at either 24 or 30 FPS allowing it to shoot video for almost all display screen sizes in the market today. The camera also has a true selfie screen that can be fully rotated to face the person in front of the camera, and the screen itself is a fully capable touchscreen they can be used for all aspects of camera control including menu-diving.
The Panasonic DC-GX800 also incorporates integrated Wi-Fi which can be used to control the camera remotely including starting and stopping movie recordings. It does lack an NFC capability but if you are not an Android smartphone user this won't matter at all, and if you are an Android user, it just means that it will take a little more work to make a Wi-Fi connection. The camera also has the standard USB and HDMI connection ports that can also be used if a wireless connection is not possible.
Similar to other cameras in this price range, the Panasonic GX800 houses an integrated stereo microphone but also lacks the ability to attach an external one if even more professional audio is desired. As for power, the camera battery is recharged over USB, however the camera can also be powered permanently from the household mains using an optional AC adapter that can be purchased separately.
Key vlogging features of the Panasonic Lumix DC-GX800
For FAQs, recommended YouTube reviews to watch, and other info on the Panasonic GX800, check out our Panasonic Lumix DC-GX800 details page.
Canon EOS M100
The Canon EOS M100 is one of Canon's candidates for the best sub-£500 vlogging camera category. As with most other cameras in its price range, it delivers video at a maximum of 1080p resolution. However unlike most other cameras in this price range, it has a relatively large APS-C-sized sensor giving it the ability to shoot superior quality video.
The camera has all the trimmings one would expect from a vlogging camera in this price range including the ability for optical image stabilisation if the attached lens incorporates such functionality, as well as a true 180° tiltable selfie screen, WI-Fi, USB and HDMI connection ports. In addition, it has an integrated stereo microphone and also has a port that can attach an external microphone, something less commonly seen on cameras of this price range. Finally, in addition to on-board battery power, the camera can also be powered from household mains by separately purchasing an optional AC adapter accessory.
Key vlogging features of the Canon EOS M100
For FAQs, recommended YouTube reviews to watch, and other info on the Canon EOS M100, check out our Canon EOS M100 details page.