5 Affordable Streaming-Ready Cameras
Check out these practical and affordable camera options for your next livestreaming video shoot.
None of the popular streamers began their careers with a full, top-of-the-line kit, and you don’t have to either. Whether you’re hosting a webinar or streaming video games on Twitch, it’s cheaper than ever to get into streaming. You don’t need much to set up a basic stream, but you do need a camera. There are many possible streaming-ready cameras, but we’ll focus on webcams and other affordable cameras for this article.
While the term “affordable” is subjective and relative to each person’s budget, I chose to showcase cameras in the $50 to $200 range. Buying a less expensive camera gives you the flexibility in your budget to purchase a microphone or a video capture card. Below are five affordable streaming-ready cameras for a streaming setup in 2021.
1. Aukey FHD Webcam — $40
Aukey may not be a household name, but it should be. The consumer tech brand sells dozens of products on Amazon, ranging from headphones to robot vacuums to gaming keyboards to power banks, and so much more. I’ve bought many items from Aukey over the years because they make quality products at a reasonable price. Their webcams are no different, with this model capable of streaming 1080p video for only $40.
The Aukey FHD Webcam is equipped with a 1/2.9-inch CMOS image sensor, which can output 1080p video at 30fps. This webcam also has built-in microphones using noise-reduction technology, and it has an adjustable mount that clips on to most monitors. The Aukey FHD Webcam is compatible with most major video conferencing and streaming platforms and streaming software such as XSplit and OBS Studio.
Although the Aukey FHD webcam isn’t feature-packed, it’s one of the best deals around for a budget, entry-level 1080p streaming-ready camera. It won’t look as good as the cameras below, but it’ll get you started.
2. The GoPro Hero 5 Black — $120+ (Video Capture Device)
You can use almost any GoPro to stream, but the Hero 5 Black is the most affordable one with a screen, making it the clear front-runner. You can find used GoPro 5s on eBay for around $120, but I’ve seen some sell for cheaper. On top of purchasing a GoPro, you’ll also need to get a video capture device and an HDMI to Micro HDMI cable.
If you want to stay on budget, this unassuming capture device does the trick for $20. All you need after that is to download OBS Studio. You can check out our guide on how to set up a GoPro as a webcam, which has all the information you need to set up the GoPro for streaming.
The GoPro 5 makes for a solid webcam, which can output 1080p video at 60fps. I’ve used it, and the video quality is much better than any webcam you could get at the price point. Better yet, you also have a GoPro that you can use for vlogging or on a trip.
3. Logitech StreamCam — $169
Although every one of Logitech’s webcams is stream-ready via OBS, the StreamCam captures high-quality 1080p video at 60fps, and has a 78-degree FOV, which is wide enough for most streamers.
To access the features available on the StreamCam, you’ll need to download and install Logitech Capture. From there, you can control features such as smart autofocus and auto exposure. The latter adapts the video’s exposure based on lighting conditions, quickly adjusting if the lighting changes without user input.
The StreamCam is Logitech’s best camera for streaming, with excellent autofocus and auto exposure features that streamline the setup process. While you need to run Logitech Capture to stream, the software allows for adjustments on-the-fly, which you can’t do with cheaper webcams. Those looking for a high-quality camera with a simple setup process should consider the StreamCam.
4. Razer Kiyo Pro — $199
Debuting in February of 2021, Razer’s Kiyo Pro is the newest entry on this list, replacing the original Kiyo that came out three years ago. Though it lacks the original Kiyo’s signature adjustable ring light, the Kiyo Pro has improved hardware and software that makes up for the missing ring light. ]
With big shoes to fill, Razer went all in on this stream-ready camera, equipping the Kiyo Pro with a 1/2.8” CMOS sensor with STARVIS technology capable of capturing detailed video in low light. In this demo, the Kiyo Pro puts out a great image in extremely low light, which other webcams will struggle with. For those who can’t invest in a proper lighting setup, this feature alone makes the Kiyo Pro worth it.
The Kiyo Pro can output video at 1080p resolution with a max frame rate of 60fps. When enabling HDR, the frame rate drops to 30fps. Streamers have the option to adjust the FOV between three settings, allowing more customization when framing the camera for streaming.
Positioning itself as a high-end webcam made for streamers, the Kiyo Pro has an asking price of $200, doubling the original Kiyo price. Though the original is still a good entry-level stream-ready camera, the Kiyo Pro’s higher frame rate, adjustable FOV options, and adaptive light sensor make it the clear winner.
5. Your Smartphone — Free
That’s right, with a free app, you can turn almost any Android or iPhone into a legit camera for streaming. With about 80% of the US population owning a smartphone, chances are you have one, and you can start using it as a stream-ready camera right now.
Several apps can turn your phone into a webcam, but I used DroidCam OBS and tested it on my Pixel 3. DroidCam OBS works with both Android and iOS devices. The free version works fine, but the $5.50 upgrade to the “Pro” version removes the watermark and unlocks every feature.
I won’t go into a full tutorial on setting it up, but it’s fairly straightforward. Download the app and install the OBS Plugin on your computer—the plugin works on Windows, macOS, and Linux devices. From there, add DroidCam OBS as a source, and transfer over some info from the app to OBS. On the app, you can switch between using the front and back camera, choose manual or continuous autofocus, and you can even turn on the backlight on your phone to use as an impromptu lighting source.
Streaming can be expensive to get into, but DroidCam OBS makes it more accessible to just about anyone.
This post was originally published in September of 2017. We’ve updated it to reflect changes in the industry.
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Cover image by Twinsterphoto.