Live Streaming Cameras: Select the Best for You

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So you have decided to create a live stream broadcast and I am sure you are very excited to get started. The biggest step now is to select the live streaming camera that is best for you. We understand that choosing a camera for live streaming can be overwhelming, and it’s hard to tell which live streaming video cameras are the perfect fit for your needs. It feels like there are a million different makes & models to choose from and the prices range from $100 into the thousands. Not to mention all of the cards, cables and technical terms that go along with it. Megapixels? Optical Zoom? ISOs & F-Stops? Walking into an electronics shop and asking a salesperson can be intimidating, but tackling the decision solo can also be a lot of work. Before you start your journey, we have some tips that will help you get started, and technical lingo that will make you sound like a professional videographer.

Before you make live stream camera commitment, keep a couple of things in mind:
  • What is your current computer workflow?
  • Do you only want to stream live?
  • Would you like the flexibility to shoot on the go?
  • What is your budget?

Just like introducing a new member to the family, your video camera for live streaming most importantly has to get along with your current hardware set-up. The key thing to pay attention to are the existing camera connections available on computer you are using whether that be on a laptop, desktop or even a tricaster. Regardless of your technology preferences, it’s a whole lot easier to pick a camera for live streaming that is compatible with your hardware than having to re-adjust your hardware gear based on the hottest video camera on the market. 

Live Steaming Cameras USBLive Steaming Cameras USB cable

USB Camera
This is the best live streaming camera option for entry level broadcasters because basically all computers, whether they be mac or windows, has this connection already built in. If you are just starting out with live streaming, this is an hassle free first camera choice. With so many USB cameras on the market, it’s not hard to find one that will fit your budget and your needs. If you use our Pro Broadcaster or Ustream Producer, both of these encoding programs should automagically recognize your USB camera. You just “Plug & Play” so they say.

Camera: Logitech Webcam Series
  • Pros
    • Low cost
    • Easy or no setup involved
    • Can connect directly to most computers, no capture cards or boxes required
    • Usually no batteries or AC power required, can be powered directly from computer
  • Cons
    • Typically lack zoom, manual focus, iris, white balance and gain controls required for more precise shots
    • No ability to upgrade lenses
    • No ability to record locally
    • No ability to input professional audio and pass through to encoder

Live Steaming Cameras analogLive Steaming Cameras Analog cable

Analog (Component/Composite)
Nothing like the classic. If you have ever looked at the back of a newer model TV, you may have seen the red/green/blue cable ports. Most video camera for live streaming have some option for analog output, however most laptops do not have these inputs built in, meaning you would need a switcher or capture card to accept the analog connection.  

Camera: Panasonic P2 HD Series
  • Pros
    • Very common connection type, available on almost any camera, new or old
    • Lowest cost, particularly with all the older used video cameras available
    • Easy to source and replace cables and cameras
    • Relatively easy to find capture cards, switchers and encoders that support this connection type
  • Cons
    • Many analog connections only support SD resolution. Only newer cameras support HD over analog component connections
    • Not recommended for long cable runs. Analog cables can be prone to interference and signal degradation.
    • Most camera brands have proprietary connectors on the camera, these cables are not as easy to replace and typically you need to connect an additional cable to reach your switcher or encoder

Live Steaming Cameras HDMILive Steaming Cameras HDMI cable

This interface was designed for home theater systems, but has become super popular in the live stream camera world due to the fact that they are a bit less expensive than the SDI cameras but still have a lot of bang for your buck. Video cameras with HDMI outputs are a great choice because there are many inexpensive models available that shoot and record in HD and output over HDMI. Not to mention the price point makes them great for multi camera live streaming. Instead of buying one $1,000 camera, you can purchase five $200 cameras!

Camera: Canon VIXIA series
  • Pros
    • Wide range of options, from affordable entry-level camcorders to professional, full-featured cameras
    • Widely available and easy to buy
    • Easy to convert to SDI for more capture / encoder options
  • Cons
    • Might require conversion to SDI for compatibility with some switchers and encoders
    • Cannot do cable runs as long as SDI
    • Cables do not lock, can get disconnected if you are not careful
    • Some consumer-level HDMI connections have built in copy protection which will prevent signal transfer

Live Steaming Cameras SDILive Steaming Cameras SDI cable

These are the Cadillac of live streaming cameras and in our opinion the best. SDI output cameras are the most professional live streaming camera option, and of course typically the most expensive. Since SDI cables lock into place they provide a stable & reliable connection and are the best for long cable runs. Because cameras with direct SDI output can be expensive, many people choose to use HDMI output cameras and then use an HDMI to SDI converter. But if you have the means, we highly recommend the SDI route.

Camera: Canon C100 Series
  • Pros
    • Most professional and robust connection type
    • Can do the longest cable runs
    • Locking connectors
    • Most common connection type for capture cards and encoders
  • Cons
    • Cost

“But wait, can’t I just use my current DSLR for live video streaming?” 

Great question! The answer is both yes and no.

DSLR cameras are considered in the same category as HDMI cameras in regards to using them for live video streaming. They need to have a HDMI output from the camera, as well as a capture device or capture card between the camera and your computer. But be aware that there are limitations to using DSLR cameras:

  • They do not provide a clean output over their HDMI port
    • Many DSLR cameras are not great for streaming because some models use a mirror of what is in the viewfinder, which means your broadcast may include an overlay that reveals settings like battery life, etc. Some DSLR models provide an option to turn off the overlay and provide a true “clean” output over HDMI, but not all, so make sure you should check your specific make and model.
  • They offer less audio capabilities than a true live streaming video camera
    • Since the built in mic on DSLR cameras are usually low quality, you will want to make sure that the camera you are using can input live audio from an external microphone or audio source and output that audio over the HDMI port.
  • Not all DSLR cameras are designed for extended live use
    • Some camera models have the tendency to overheat and will automatically shut down if shooting video for extended periods of time, which will be unsuitable for applications where you plan to stream for longer than 2-3 hours.

Now that the hard part is taken care of, all you need to do is sign up for Ustream Pro Broadcasting and start streaming! Please do not hesitate to drop us a line if you have any questions, or need assistance setting things up. We are more than happy to help get you started.