Last year, I was looking for a vlogging camera.
The word vlog is a portmanteau combining “video” and “blog.” When most people think of vlogging, they think of YouTubers like Casey Neistat, who document their daily lives. But the term has evolved. Nowadays, anyone can be a vlogger. You can hold the camera at arm’s length, use a tripod, or set it down and look into it. You’re the director, producer, and star. It’s just you and your story.
I’ve been interested in leveraging YouTube for a long time to add video content to my sites.
When I searched Google for the best vlogging camera, there were no reliable resources.
The sites showed no real-life experience with the cameras, and there were no side-by-side comparisons between different models.
Most of the pages I looked at only gave a “spec dump” with the specifications you find on Amazon and a wordy explanation of vlogging.
After striking out with Google, I consulted my favorite YouTubers and found what they shot with (most YouTubers say what they use on their channel’s main page). If the camera is good enough for them, it’s good enough for me.
Casey Neistat is vlogging royalty and one of my idols. Since you’re on this page, he’s probably one of your idols too.
But his go-to point and shoot camera was the Canon G7X.
I bought the Canon G7X and loved it.
Now, I want to create the definitive resource for aspiring YouTubers who are trying to find the best vlogging camera with a flip screen.
First, let’s lay out some guidelines before we get into the cameras.
Content should take priority over the equipment. If you don’t have a good story to tell, it doesn’t matter if you use a $6,000 DSLR rig.
Most smartphones have amazing cameras. A smartphone is all you need to get started as a beginning vlogger.
Make sure you have traction and that people are digging the content you’ve got to offer first before investing in a new camera.
My iPhone X outperformed both of the budget vlogging cameras that I tested. (Check my video here.)
But there are downsides to using your phone:
- It’s going to eat up your battery.
- You won’t have access to your phone while making videos.
- Importing videos to your computer isn’t as easy as it is with an SD card.
- You can’t use the selfie camera. You have to use the rear camera, and you won’t have a flip screen so you can’t see if your face is in the frame.
- Stabilization is not ideal with phones.
Now that we’ve established a foundation, here are six things to look for in a quality vlog camera:
- A flip screen. You need this to check if your face is in the frame.
- A wide angle lens. You want to get your face in the shot while still being close to the camera. If the focal length of a lens is lower than 35mm, it’s considered a wide angle camera, but the smaller the focal length, the more you’ll be able to fit in the frame.
- Good autofocus. The camera should lock to your face and remain stable as you move.
- Works in all types of lighting. It needs to be versatile. Video should look good when you have the perfect lighting and in dim spaces.
- Lightweight. You don’t want to carry around a bulky DSLR. (Unfortunately, one trade-off for this portability is you can’t connect external mics with a compact camera.)
- Zoom and flash features are useless for vlogging.
I did a ton of research on how cameras work, then bought three more cameras (to go along with my G7X) and shot a bunch of content.
During my pre-buying phase, I concluded that the following four vlogging cameras with a flip screen are best: Canon G7X Mark II, Panasonic LX10, Panasonic ZS70 and Sony WX500.
From first-hand experience, I can say all four cameras are excellent and will serve their intended purpose.
My job is to find which one is the best fit for you.
For mid-range cameras (under $400), it’s the Sony WX500 vs. Panasonic ZS70. (Video: I did a test where I switched between these two cameras.)
On the higher end (around $600), it’s the Canon G7X vs. Panasonic LX10. (Video: I did a vlog of my day where I switched between the G7X and LX10 on each shot.)
If you just want to see the results, skip to the end of this post.
Non-Ideal Conditions (F):
- If there’s any interference, like movement or dim lighting, this camera struggles.
- The autofocus is reliable, but it doesn’t always stay locked on your face.
- The lowlight is awful. You might as well do an audio recording in some instances. It does a poor job of transitioning brightness levels too.
Ideal Conditions (B-):
- You can shoot in 4K. It’s incredible that you can shoot in 4K for $400.
- If you have perfect shooting conditions (lots of light and you’re not moving around), the ZS70 looks fantastic! It looks much better than the Sony, and it’s similar to the expensive Panasonic LX10. Colors are vibrant, and the video quality is crisp.
Design & Function (B-):
- The grip feels great in your hands.
- Smart button placement. It’s easy to see and hit the record button when looking at the lens because it’s on top of the camera. Also, the SD card/battery door is far away from where the tripod screws in, so you can take out the SD card without unscrewing your mini-tripod.
- This is the only camera a viewfinder. Some people will like this because it’s helpful to see if it’s bright outside, but I don’t think it’s useful for shooting video.
- By default, the LCD screen goes away whenever anything gets close to the viewfinder. You’ll inadvertently turn off the LCD screen all the time. Make sure you switch this setting off.
- It’s bulky. It’s almost twice as thick as the Sony and weighs an extra three ounces. You won’t be putting this camera in your pocket.
- Like the LX10, the ZS70 is slow to start up and shoot.
- I got 2 hours and 15 minutes of battery time shooting video in 1080p at 30fps.
Focal Length (C):
- The focal length in 1080p is only 30mm compared to 24mm with the Sony.
- Although you can shoot in 4K, the widest you can go is 35mm with the lens.
Non-Ideal Conditions (C+):
- The WX500 doesn’t work very well with low light, but it’s a little better than the ZS70.
- It’s better at stabilizing video than any other camera except the G7X. It’s impressive for the price.
- It has a 30x optical zoom. This isn’t always a consideration for a vlogging camera, but it’s nice to have.
- It adjusts to light and tracks your face better than the LX10.
- When set to automatic, the screen shows you what it’s optimizing for. For instance, there’s a portrait symbol, moving symbol, and low light symbol.
Ideal Conditions (D):
- Under ideal conditions, the WX500 shot the worst quality videos. It’s the equivalent of a nice 1080p smartphone video, but the picture sharpness isn’t anything remarkable.
- This is the only camera with which you can’t do a timelapse. But you’re better off doing those with your phone anyway.
Design & Function (D):
- The Sony WX500 is by far the smallest and lightest of those I tested. It’s only eight ounces, which is insane! It comfortably fits in my jeans pocket.
- Because of its size and portability, it feels strange in your hands. The grip isn’t the best. However, if you’re using a small tripod, it doesn’t matter.
- There’s no toggle dial for focusing or zooming in and out.
- Like the G7X, if you’re in movie mode, you can’t hit the shutter button to start shooting, and you can’t see the record button.
- There’s no touchscreen. The only time I find a touchscreen on a camera useful is when you want to focus on something manually.
- The display isn’t great and can trick you. It’s a dark screen even with the brightness set to the max. You might think you’re not getting a great shot by looking at the screen, but once you upload it to your computer, it’ll look fine.
- I got 2 hours and 15 minutes of battery while shooting video in 1080p at 30fps. We’re talking about an extra hour of video relative to the expensive cameras. That’s an incredible battery life for this form factor.
Focal Length (A):
- It has a 24mm wide angle lens, meaning you won’t need to step back as far to get your face in the shot.
Non-Ideal Conditions (C-):
- The image stabilization is better than the cheap cameras, but it’s got nothing on the Canon.
- The low light shooting is better than the cheap cameras, but it gets much grainier than the GX 7. The lighting adjustment is worse when moving from light to dark during the shot.
- The autofocus is faster and quieter, but it’s more prone to coming out of focus than the G7X.
- There’s no ND filter, which means your shots during bright daylight are going to be overexposed.
- The widest you can set the lens is 36mm when in 4K. If you’re holding the camera, it’s hard to get your whole face in the shot.
Ideal Conditions (A):
- Under ideal conditions, the picture quality is impressive. I’m talking about the 1080p and the 4K options.
- You can shoot in 4K (I shot this experiment in 4K with the LX10.)
- You can do more things with the manual focus, like set the size of the area.
- Canon oversaturated the face, but the LX10 doesn’t give enough color. My skin looked extra pale. This is personal preference and nit-picky, but I wish there were a middle ground.
Design & Function (B+):
- The buttons are easy to use and find. The record button placement is on top, so when you’re looking at the camera with the front facing screen, you can see the button. When you’re in video mode, the shutter button works as a record button. Also, the power is a switch rather than a button.
- You’re probably going to use a mini-tripod, but if you don’t, the grip is not ideal.
- The phone and computer apps are unusable. It’s easier to transfer from the SD card to your computer with most cameras anyways, but Panasonic’s interface out of the 1990s. Also, it takes 7 minutes to transfer small videos.
- The battery on LX10 and G7X are worse than the cheaper cameras. In my tests, the LX10 only shot one hour and fifteen minutes of video before dying.
Focal Length (C):
- You take pictures at 24mm with a 1.4f aperture, but unfortunately for video, 30mm is the widest you can go. This is enough to vlog, but it’s not ideal.
Canon G7X Mark II
Non-Ideal Conditions (A+):
- Shooting in low light is fantastic. There are a lot of times when the picture on the LCD screen looks better than my eyes can see in real life.
- Once it focuses on your face, it does a great job of tracking it as you move around.
- If you’re moving while you’re shooting, you’ll notice much better image stabilization with the G7X. It does an excellent job of smoothing out the video even with vibrations.
Ideal Conditions (B+):
- The video quality is excellent for 1080p.
- I would love a 4K option. Although, G7X video quality looks better than most 4K options.
- Skin colors look a little oversaturated when compared to the LX10. G7X still looks amazing, and this is mostly personal preference.
- None of these cameras have high audio quality, but the G7X is a little bit richer and deeper than the LX10.
Design & Function (C):
- The Canon G7X is the quickest of the cameras I tested to power on and start recording. This is important if you need to get the shot. The LX10 is almost a second slower.
- The grip is amazing and comfortable. This was a significant improvement over the previous version (G7X Mark I).
- The screen not only flips up, but it tilts down 45 degrees for the overhead shots. This is the only camera of the bunch that does this.
- The G7X makes a sound when autofocusing. It’s only audible if it’s dead silent, but the LX10 doesn’t do this.
- When you’re in video mode, I wish the shutter button would start a recording, rather than take a picture. You can’t see the record button if you’re looking at the camera’s lens.
- This is probably just me, but I’m still going to leave a note. I dropped the G7X while the lens was open and I still broke the lens even though it was only a three foot fall onto blankets. The lens was crooked, and I fixed it, but now the lens cap doesn’t shut all the way. All cameras are fragile.
- The battery doesn’t last long. I only got one hour and twenty minutes of video . Buying multiple batteries is critical.
- You charge the battery outside of the camera. Batteries on compact cameras aren’t good, so you’ll be charging them frequently. With the G7X, if you have two batteries, you’ll be able to use your camera and charge at the same time, whereas the others your camera is out of commission while charging. (You can charge by plugging the G7X into the wall too.)
Focal Length (A+):
- It has 24mm focal length. This is the widest angle lens of all the cameras in video mode. You’ll fit more into the frame.
Which one is for you?
The Sony WX500 is the best value of the cameras I tested. You’ll get video quality that is equivalent to a good smartphone. It’s better than using your smartphone because it has a flip screen, better stabilization, and you won’t kill your phone’s battery.
I don’t recommend the Panasonic ZS70 unless you’re shooting in perfect conditions all the time. (This isn’t realistic.)
They’re not $300 better than the Sony WX500, but with cameras, you get diminishing returns very quickly.
The LX10 does 4K and looks a little better in ideal conditions than the G7X, but the G7X is the complete package and more versatile. The G7X looks great in any lighting situation, has excellent stabilization, and has a wider lens.
Do anything you can to get your hands on a Canon G7X, whether that’s going with the new one for $680, or a used one for $500. (FYI: The G7X Mark I is a great camera, but has a worse battery, grip, and processor than Mark II.)
As I said before, the equipment is less important than you think. It’s all about the content. Go with your gut, start making content and stop putting it off. Whatever your choice of camera is, tweet me (@camsecore) with what you create after you pick!