Cheap vlogging cameras

There are many reasons to begin a YouTube vlogging career, but whatever your reason, starting out can be overwhelming. Let’s kick off with the most important part of the process: filming yourself with a camera.

If you are new to vlogging, it doesn’t make sense to buy a really expensive camera. Sure, if you have a high-end camera just laying around, pick it up and use it, but don’t go out and spend big money right away. Instead, pick up a cheap vlogging camera that works well first, and see if vlogging is for you. After you have made some videos, and decided you’re in it for the long haul, then you can upgrade your camera.

So, let’s review five vlogging cameras so that you can make an informed decision.

5. Kodak PIXPRO Friendly Zoom FZ53

Price range: $$$$

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Pros Cons
16 megapixels, 5x optical zoom 720p HD video, no flip-out screen

Portability: 4 stars

This camera is light, weighing just 3.7 ounces. It is by far the lightest camera on this list. It’s small, too, measuring 0.9 x 3.6 x 2.2 inches. The FZ53 gets a 4/5 for portability, but this rating comes with a caveat: If you have big hands, this camera could be difficult to hold. It does come with a wrist strap, which comes in handy, and which I recommend using if you find the FZ53 a little hard to grasp.

Video Quality: 2 stars

The FZ53 shoots video at a resolution of 720 HD—that means your videos will have a resolution of 1280 pixels by 720 pixels. (Pixels are essentially dots on a TV screen, or YouTube video.) That’s below the current standard of most YouTube vlogs, which is 1080p, or 1920 by 1080 pixels, but pretty standard for a budget vlogging camera. The FZ53 shoots these videos at 30 frames per second (fps), which means it takes 30 images a second, then stitches them together to create smooth video footage (that’s how most cameras work). All of this means that if you vlog with the FZ53, your videos won’t look spectacular, but they’ll still be watchable, as most cameras still default to 30 fps.

The LCD screen on the FZ53 is relatively low quality, but don’t be fooled: This does not reflect the quality of the actual video footage. The low-quality LCD screen is part of the reason Kodak is able to sell the FZ53 at such a low price. Another downside is the tiny memory card that comes with the camera, meaning you’ll only be able to shoot one short video before it’s full. For that reason alone, it’s imperative you buy a memory card separately.

Sound Quality: 3 stars

The FZ53 has impressive sound quality for its price, but like most other point-and-shoot cameras, and every other camera on this list, I recommend avoiding noisy areas, or areas with a lot of wind, or other extreme weather conditions. For best results, try to film indoors, or in quiet areas outdoors.

Battery Life: 2 stars

The battery life on the FZ53 is slightly lower than on most point-and-shoot cameras. While video recording time varies, depending on whether you’re filming continuously, or turning the camera on and off (or taking still photos in between), the FZ53 is good for about 200 shots. As with all point-and-shoot devices, I recommend buying a second battery as a backup. The last thing you want is a dead camera when you’re in the middle of filming. (Seriously, it’s the worst!)

Usability: 2 stars

Kodak’s FZ53 is designed for someone who has never owned a camera. If you want to start out small and make sure vlogging is for you, then this is your camera. It’s cheap, and doesn’t have many features, but that means it’s very easy to use.

4. Samsung WB35F

Price range: $$$$

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Pros Cons
16.2 megapixels, 12x optical zoom 720p HD video, no flip-out screen

Portability: 4 stars

Having done professional photography, I can tell you portability and how a camera feels in your hands is so, so important. Portability is often overlooked in the scramble for more features and connectivity, but as you lug the camera up a difficult hike to get that amazing shot, its size and feel make all the difference.

This isn’t the lightest camera on the list, at 6.9 ounces, nor is it the heaviest. But it does have a textured case, making it easier to hold. At a little over an inch thick, this camera isn’t a big bulky affair that you’ll want to leave behind. I was surprised Samsung managed to make a pretty portable camera that still has a 12x optical zoom, which is more than on some higher-end point-and-shoot cameras.

Video Quality: 2 stars

The Samsung WB35F shoots 720p HD videos, which is a fair resolution. Video footage looks very respectable, especially considering most YouTube vlogs are now recorded in 1080p Full HD. In Samsung’s defence, the camera also manages to shoot at 30 frames per second, the current standard fps rate, meaning movement in your videos will appear smooth and life-like.

The below video provides an example of the video quality, and zoom quality, of the Samsung WB35F.

Despite shooting somewhat lower quality video than the industry standard, your memory card will still relatively quickly, so it’s a good idea to purchase a larger memory card.

Sound Quality: 3 stars

This Samsung WB35F comes with a built-in microphone that works well—audio is particularly crisp when recording voices, either indoors or in quiet areas outdoors—but the camera doesn’t have a port to add an external microphone, a common downside of point-and-shoot cameras (hey, portability always has its drawbacks). As long as you’re not trying to shoot a video near a busy road or in extremely windy conditions, your sound quality will be solid.

Battery Life: 3 stars

The battery on this camera is right in the middle of the pack, with 194 shots on a single charge. Battery life while filming depends on whether you’re shooting continuously, or powering down the camera between shots, but don’t expect more than one hour of shooting. I definitely recommend buying a backup battery. If the battery dies, you’ll need to take it out of the camera in order to charge it, which means you’ll have to stop filming unless you have a second battery waiting in the wings.

Usability: 3 stars

This camera is designed to be used right away, without having to read the manual from cover to cover. If you are not super computer savvy, then you might want to download the instruction manual off the manufacturer’s website.

The Samsung WB35F has Wi-Fi connectivity, and can transfer videos to your computer wirelessly via its PC Auto Backup function. That’s an incredible feature you won’t find on most high-end cameras.

My favorite feature of this camera is the remote viewfinder that allows you to control the camera from a distance, similar to a feature available on the GoPro HERO Session. If you connect the camera to your smartphone, you can use the phone as your viewfinder. This feature allows you to see the footage you’re shooting, and also lets you adjust camera settings, like the 12x optical zoom.

 3. Canon PowerShot ELPH 160

Price range: $$$$

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Pros Cons
20.0 megapixels, 8x optical zoom 720p HD video, no flip-out screen

Portability: 4 stars

The Canon PowerShot ELPH 160 weighs almost a pound, but it’s slim and easy to carry. Most point-and-shoot cameras are around four inches in length, but this Canon is over six inches. The larger size is a trade off, because it does have a larger LCD screen, which can help you improve your shots. The extra length makes it slightly harder to transport, and it might stick out if you put it in your pocket. I personally like a longer camera because it doesn’t seem to slip out of my hands as often.

Video Quality: 2 stars

The ELPH 160 shoots at 720p HD at 25 frames per second, which is standard for an entry-level point-and-shoot camera. Videos have a slight tendency to appear dark, so you will want to make sure there is ample lighting when setting up. The ELPH 160 has a decent 8x optical zoom, but comes with one downside: If you zoom in while filming, you’ll hear the noise of the optical zoom working when you play back your footage. This doesn’t matter if you zoom in before you begin filming, or if you intend on playing music over the video, which renders any audio problems irrelevant.

Sound Quality: 3 stars

If you’re shooting video indoors, the ELPH 160 takes solid audio and you won’t have any issues. Go outside, however, and you’ll find that the microphone is highly sensitive to wind. To overcome this problem, I recommend buying a small wind muff, and placing it over the microphone holes, such as Micover’s mini windscreens.

Battery Life: 2 stars

The battery on this camera lasts less than one hour, although it charges in about two hours, so you don’t necessarily have to own a spare battery. Still, two hours of waiting to shoot could be annoying, and picking up an extra battery is never, ever a bad idea. The best part about the battery on this camera is the ability to change the screen setting on the camera to save battery life. It comes with an ECO mode to conserve energy.

Usability: 4 stars

This camera is extremely user friendly, and has Canon’s famously simple user interface. Its sleek design is a little bit slippery, so make sure you have a good grip on the camera while using it. It has an auto mode which allows the camera decide how to set the best filming conditions. Best of all, it has a dedicated movie button allowing you to quickly shoot a video.

The downside to buying this camera is that you will have to make some additional purchases right away. It doesn’t come with a memory card, and it is required to use the camera. The good thing about having to buy the memory card is you can get one that is made for taking and storing a lot of video, such as this SanDisk 32 GB memory card.

The biggest downside to the ELPH 160 is definitely its lack of connectivity. With no Wi-Fi, you’ll have to plug it into a computer the old-fashioned way. That said, when the low price and all the features of the ELPH 160 are taken into account, this camera holds its own and is a solid purchase.

2. Fujifilm FinePix XP80 Waterproof Digital Camera

Price range: $$$$

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Pros Cons
1080p video, 16.2 megapixels, Water proof to 50 feet/15 meters No flip-out screen

Portability: 4 stars

At a full pound, the Fujifilm FinePix XP80 is pretty heavy for a point-and-shoot camera, thanks to the water-tight case. However, the camera is also longer than most point-and-shoots, making it easier to hold. The XP80 looks less sleek than other cameras on this list, but its rugged look is there for a reason. If you happen to drop the XP80, there’s no need to wince—this camera can take a hit.

Video Quality: 3 stars

With such a rugged case you might be fooled into thinking this camera doesn’t perform well with video, but nothing could be further from the truth. With a resolution of 1080p at 60 frames per second, the XP80 takes some of the highest quality videos of any camera on this list. One caveat: If you’re looking to shoot high-octane vlogs and you’re filming both overground and underwater, be sure to clean the lens once you take the camera back on land again, as the water may leave spots on the lens.

Sound Quality: 2 stars

The XP80 uses a noise filter to help reduce wind and background noise, and even works underwater. However, the microphone on this camera isn’t as strong as it is on other point-and-shoots in this price range, so your audio won’t be as clear or crisp.

Battery Life: 2 stars

The battery life on the XP80 is pretty good, at 210 shots. That said, turning up the LCD screen to full brightness will drain the battery considerably faster. When shooting video, battery life depends on whether you shoot continuously, or whether you’re turning the camera off and on between shots, but don’t expect much more shooting time than an hour on a single charge.

Usability: 4 stars

The FinePix XP80 is water proof, freeze proof (props to you if you’re thinking of filming in the Arctic), shock proof and dust proof. While this camera is usable under most circumstances, being able to shoot videos underwater is the biggest plus. It also means you won’t need to pick up an action camera in order to shoot vlogs underwater. The XP80 is a true all-in-one machine.

The camera also has an auto setting, so the camera can automatically pick the best lighting settings for your vlog. With a rubber grip on the side, it is easy to handle too. It is definitely designed to be taken along with you, no matter where you plan to shoot.

1. Nikon COOLPIX S6900 Digital Camera

Price range: $$$$

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Pros Cons
1080p video, flip-out screen, 12x optical zoom, touch screen Slow shutter speed for photos

Portability: 5 stars

This camera is lightweight and small. It weighs less than half a pound and is shorter than 4 inches. The S6900 has a built in kick stand, and a shutter button on the front of the camera. It even has the ability to take pictures with hand movements, though it’s a little difficult to get the camera to recognize your hand movements.

Video Quality: 4 stars

This camera shoots videos at 1080p Full HD at 30 frames per second. That resolution is really impressive for a camera within this price range, putting it right up there with some expensive point-and-shoot cameras.

It’s nice to have stability when shooting video, but not everyone has a tripod sitting around. The kick stand definitely helps hold the camera stable for you, but the image stabilization is an added bonus. The camera utilizes a 4-axis hybrid vibration reduction, which is a fancy way of saying it digitally reduces vibrations.

Sound Quality: 3 stars

The audio quality on the S6900 is solid, particularly for capturing the sound of your voice in relatively quiet areas. However, it fares worse in windy areas, and like most other point-and-shoots, it doesn’t have a connection for an external microphone, meaning there is no way to upgrade the sound. If you intend on filming in particularly noisy areas, one remaining option is to purchase an external audio recorder, and sync it up with the video from the S6900 afterward.

Battery Life: 3 stars

The battery on the S6900 holds up well taking photos, but drains quickly when shooting video—we’re talking no more than 45 minutes of shooting time on a single charge. However, the upside is that the battery does charge in about an hour. I recommend picking up a second battery, such as this cheap deal on Amazon.com for two batteries and a bunch of accessories.

Usability: 5 stars

The flip-out LCD screen is a great feature for shooting vlogs, as it lets you see what you’re shooting, even when the camera is facing you. That can be immensely important, depending on how serious you are about shooting vlogs.

The sleek design of the S6900 makes it great for carrying in your pocket. The gesture recognition, flip-out screen and kick stand allow you to direct, even if you’re alone. This is a must for vloggers who typically shoot without the help of others. The camera’s user interface is very user friendly. It also comes with Wi-Fi, and has an impressive 12x optical zoom.

I love the S6900, and it is easily my favorite cheap vlogging camera, ever.

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