The first ideas for a camera came over 1000 years ago. Since then, humanity has been fascinated with capturing moments and being able to relive them at a later date. With the introduction of video cameras, we went from capturing a split second to a whole event. This technology is advancing rapidly and now almost anyone can start live streaming, but the big question is which streaming cameras to use?
The invention of the camera is one of the most significant leaps in communication humans have made in recent history. Just like any language or communication tool, cameras were developed to address specific challenges or situations. As a result, we now have many different camera types, each strong at doing some things, but weaker at doing others.
In this article, we will look into some of the more common camera types, how they work with live streaming, and give you an overview of what you should consider when deciding what camera you should use for your digital worship services.
Not All Cameras are Created Equal
Over the many years of developing cameras, engineers discovered that they often needed to sacrifice some features to strengthen others. While the divide between video and photo cameras is clear, within each, there are smaller subdivisions where cameras get designed for specific tasks.
For fast action paced environments, Action Cameras are fine-tuned to work in small spaces and capture a wide view, but they often lack detail and suffer from terrible audio. For artistic style videos, Cinema cameras capture beautiful details in a variety of environments, but they are bulky and can cost more than a car. The list goes on and on, with each type making some sacrifice to strengthen other features.
As technology has advanced, engineers have managed to make fewer sacrifices and still maintain a wide variety of features. The average smartphone now has a camera built-in capable of capturing video in a wide range of situations, all in a quality that leaves the cameras of 10 years ago looking like they belong in a museum.
Types of Cameras for Live Streaming
There are books dedicated to all the hundreds of cameras you might come across when shopping online. The truth is the majority are probably not suitable for live streaming.
Instead of listing them all here, we will cover the most common kinds of cameras used for live streaming. We will share strengths and weaknesses, and provide our recommendations on what you should use to live stream.
If you’ve ever used a laptop, then you have probably come across a webcam. Almost every laptop sold over the last 20 years has had a webcam built-in, usually located at the top edge of the display. If your device doesn’t have a built-in webcam, you can purchase external ones from £30 and connect easily with a USB cable.
The primary purpose of webcams is for video calls; they are always there and always looking at you. Their mission is simple, so quality is not a priority. Because of how small webcams need to be, they sacrifice quality and clarity for size.
Webcams operate best in well/lit rooms at a short distance from a person, giving an average quality video feed designed for a video call. But as soon as you change some things, webcams suffer. If the light isn’t enough, or too much, webcams can go from looking ok to looking so terrible you will want to switch it off.
- Built into Laptops
- Convenient location
- Work well in suitable environments
- Suffer terribly in high or low light
- Only provide average quality
- Colours can look washed out
- Majority only output Standard HD (720p)
- Must be attached to a computer by cable to work
Smartphone technology has advanced so much in recent years that most people now carry a super-powerful machine in their pockets, capable of doing almost anything we need.
Smartphone cameras are “Jack of All Trades” cameras, allowing us to take high-quality photos and videos in a wide variety of situations. Most smartphones on the market today have more than just a couple of cameras, with specific lenses for different conditions. After the popularisation of “selfie” style photos and videos, manufacturers started to install better cameras facing the users. This lead to most smartphones having better front-facing cameras than most laptops.
Due to their size and wireless nature, smartphones make a great all-in-one device for live streaming. With just installing an app and adding a tripod for support, you can stream with high-quality video for hours on end.
- All in one unit
- Small size
- Higher quality than webcams
- You will need a tripod for streams longer than a few minutes
- Older models can lack in quality
- Can be expensive to upgrade to a recent model with good cameras
Nothing beats the right tool for the job; you wouldn’t use a butter knife to remove a flat-head screw (unless you had to), you would use a screwdriver. Most cameras are designed for multiple use-cases, like a swiss army knife, making some sacrifices for a broader feature set. But if engineers build a camera for a specific purpose, they don’t need to sacrifice features that matter.
Dedicated streaming cameras are a relatively new type of camera on the market with only a handful of products being available today. They do one thing, and they do it well – live streaming. With built-in mini computers, camera chips that work in a variety of situations, and lenses that produce a clear picture, dedicated stream cameras beat webcams and smartphones for live streaming.
Stream cameras are stand-alone devices which means you can put them almost anywhere with a WiFi connection, control them using your phone, and stream to the world in high quality.
- Cheaper than a new smartphone
- Great high-quality video (Full HD, 1080p)
- Can be used for recording as well
- Have great live streaming features built-in
- A smartphone is essential (up to 5 years old)
- Must use a phone to control them
- The only video preview is via a phone
DSLR and Video Cameras
In recent years, the world of photo cameras and video cameras has become one. There are still dedicated devices for each, but most new models fall right in between.
DSLRs and Video cameras can record the best quality videos with excellent clarity. Filmmakers, documentary makers, and professional live streamers love them because of the flexibility they offer.
There is no doubt that if you want the highest quality video, you will need a DSLR or Video Camera. But once you have the camera, you’re faced with a new set of challenges for live streaming. DSLRs and Video Cameras only record video, but we need to capture it and transmit it across the internet.
Using a dedicated video capture device, you can connect a professional camera to a computer (or phone in some cases) and use the power of your computer to transmit the video. This means that the machine does need to be within 5 meters of the camera with a cable between them.
All together a typical live streaming setup with DSLRs or Video Cameras involves multiple devices, lots of cables and often a lot of settings to be configured – it can get quite messy and confusing quickly, even for seasoned professionals.
- The highest quality video possible
- The best clarity video possible
- Can be used to record great short videos
- Most models are bulky
- Not all models can give a suitable video feed
- Needs a separate device to “capture” the video
- Needs a laptop or PC to upload the video
- Can be very finicky to get the settings right
- Can be very expensive with costs adding up
What’s the Best Camera to Start Live Streaming?
The best cam to start is the one you have now. You will find thousands of articles online telling you that you should use a DSLR camera for live streaming, but the truth is live streaming digital worship services differs greatly from streaming a product review or an art class.
For churches, we suggest starting with whatever camera you already have to hand and upgrade down the line. If you only have a laptop with a webcam, use it, if you also have a smartphone, then use that instead.
What We Don’t Recommend if You’re a Beginner
In general, we do not recommend purchasing a DSLR or Video Camera when starting to stream. They are expensive and can add a lot of additional complexity with setting things up. If you already have one available to use, and you or someone on your staff can take the time to learn how to get it working, then DSLRs and Video Cameras can be a great choice – but not all are compatible with live streaming so it will be essential to check that they can work.
You will also need to purchase a capture device to connect your camera to a computer or phone. You can find these for as little as £50, but they are only compatible with some smartphones and need specific cables.
What We Do Recommend if You’re a Beginner
Starting with a webcam or smartphone is a great way to get online and streaming to the world. After your first few live streams, you can increase the quality and clarity of your streams by buying a dedicated streaming camera. They offer a great feature set at a much lower cost than a DSLR or Video Camera setup.
Dedicated streaming cameras are easy to use and give you the best of both worlds.
Taking it to the next level, we’ve put together a live streaming starter kit that includes not only a streaming camera but microphones, lights, support, and more. Check it out and let us know if you have any questions!