If there is one piece of equipment that you would need above all others to vlog, what would be it? Your camera. Vlogging without a camera simply doesn’t exist, period. Being that professional cameras can range anywhere from $400 and up (easily toppling the $1,000 mark for something truly good), you might be tempted to use your already camera-enabled smartphone in place of a separate camera.
Is that really a smart idea? Can you actually vlog with your phone? The short answer is yes, but there are some pros and cons to consider, along with a few limitations that you’ll be dealing with while recording.
Let’s talk about where your phone falters in the vlogging arena. The first and most palpable problem is the lack of a flip screen. This might not seem like a big issue at first, but it will make it harder to shoot your videos. The vast majority of phones have two cameras: front and back. The front camera is low-resolution and good for video chatting, but not nearly good enough for YouTube. So, we are forced to use the back camera, which is high-resolution and makes very clear videos.
When you’re filming, you won’t see where you are in the shot. This means that you won’t know if you’re center until you’re done recording and you check the playback. Not only that, but if you put the phone on a tripod and step back to capture more of the background, you won’t be sure if you’re too close or too far away from the camera.
Aside from not having a flip screen, we have some other limitations to deal with. First of all, your phone doesn’t have the best microphone, plus it doesn’t have a lens built for professional-level vlogging. This means that your sound might be come through properly unless you buy an external microphone, and your lens likely lacks the wide-angle or focusing capabilities that a camera would normally have.
Lastly, video recording takes a lot of memory, battery life and keeps you from accessing the device while recording. Be sure to have a larger microSD card to accommodate the large video files (if you don’t have expandable memory, then cloud services might be necessary to hold the files) and consider an additional battery so that you don’t run out of juice while filming.
While a phone is acceptable as a vlogging camera, you must be ready to face the limitations. They aren’t that hard to get around, but they may keep you from the being the best.
Pros and Cons of Buying a Camera
Now that you know the major limitations surrounding your smartphone, let’s get into the pros and cons of buying a real camera. While they certainly solve most of the problems above, there are of course some cons to go along with them that present some interesting issues here and there.
The first benefit is that you finally get a flip screen. This shows you what the shot looks like so that you can easily move to the right, left, back or forward until it looks perfect. You can also see if anything is going on behind you that would interfere with the shot. This means no more retakes for being slightly to the side and out of the center.
Perhaps the biggest con is that camera cost money, and you’ll be paying a pretty penny for them. You can usually get a good mid-tier device for around $300-$400 that should get the job done, with some more expensive models having stronger features. Unless you are making most of your money from vlogging (and many people do) you probably won’t want to spend more than $600 for a camera.
The next benefit is the addition of better microphones. Whether it has a better microphone built-in or you need an adapter, these microphones tend to work better with cameras rather than smartphones. You need a good microphone because people want to hear you. They might excuse a video that isn’t up to par, but no one will like a video where they can’t hear you.
On the con side, with the extra hardware comes extra weight. Instead of carrying a smartphone around in your pocket, you have to lug around the camera. While modern cameras wouldn’t be considered heavy, they are certainly heavier than a smartphone. Not only that, but they are also more fragile than a smartphone. You’ll need a special case to ensure that your camera is properly cradled during transportation.
Cameras have a better lens, plus there are tons of additional lenses that you can buy for better effects and shots. You should have no problem getting a good wide angle shot, easily focusing yourself or other objects and in general just having clearer videos.
However, those extra lenses cost money. While some are relatively inexpensive, you might find some that are just as expensive as the camera itself. You shouldn’t have to invest in super expensive lenses, but it’s not uncommon to buy at least a few to enhance your shots.
Lastly, real cameras will almost always have better resolution. For example, most can record in 4K and some even in 5K, while only a limited number of smartphones can record 4K video (like the iPhone). That’s because cameras are dedicated hardware made specifically to record video. They aren’t phones with cameras put on for extra functionality, they are made to give you great videos that will enhance your vlogging experience.
Choosing your camera can be tough, especially when you’re starting out and you may not be sure how long you’re going to produce videos. In general, smartphones are adequate if you’re just starting out. Most of them have good cameras that can record HD videos suitable for YouTube. However, you will be missing out on the flip screen, plus the hardware isn’t made for video recording like how a real camera is.
While there is some give and take when it comes to getting a real camera (such as cost and extra weight), it more than makes up for this with extra quality, the flip screen and some other great benefits.