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Podcast Camera: Choosing The Best One For Video Podcasting

Podcast Camera: Choosing The Best One For Video Podcasting

What type of camera is the best for your video podcast? Should you get a camera that can record in 1080p or even 4K? Can you use your phone to record a video podcast?

Regardless of whether you are new to video podcasting or are thinking of upgrading your video podcasting setup, choosing the right kind of camera for your video podcast is undeniably crucial.

Keep on reading and we’ll take you through the essentials of choosing your video podcasting camera…


TL;DR (Summary):  

A resolution of 1920×1080 (1080p) and frame rate of 24fps or 30fps would do the trick for most podcasts. Higher resolutions and frame rates have larger file sizes, which may not be ideal for live podcasts if your upload Internet speed is slow, or if you are streaming to a platform (e.g. Facebook) that does not support higher frame rates. 

To get the best video quality, a still camera plus a capture card or a camcorder plus a capture card would be your best bet. However, some external webcams can be quite affordable and deliver great video quality - a fantastic bang for your buck!

How can this article help you?

  • This article curates the most important information about cameras, specifically for podcasting
  • You will be able to understand what resolution and frame rate you need
  • You will learn about the pros and cons of using different types of cameras (external webcams, still cameras, and video cameras) for your podcast
  • You will be able to confidently decide what type of camera suits your podcasting needs the most

What is resolution?

Resolution is the number of pixels that can be displayed on a screen. Pixels are the little squares that form a digital image.

Resolution is normally represented in a width x height format. For example, a 1280x720 video is thus 1280 pixels in width and 720 pixels in height.

Resolution can be also represented in an “X”p format. For instance, a 1280x720 video is thus 720p. Here, the “p” represents progressive scan, where all lines in the frame are captured in sequence rather than odd lines and then even lines as when you see an “i” or an interlaced scan. 

Resolution is important because resolution affects video quality - The higher the resolution, the clearer the video.

Common resolutions:

  • 360p - 480x360 
  • 480p (“SD”) - 720×480 
  • 720p (“HD”) - 1280×720 
  • 1080p (“Full HD”) - 1920×1080 
  • Ultra HD 4K - 3840×2160 
  • Cinema 4K - 4096×2160 


What kind of resolution do you need for your video podcast?

We recommend a resolution of 1920×1080 (1080p). 

You may be thinking… if higher resolutions give you clearer pictures, why stop at 720p? If I can afford it, can’t I just get a camera that records in 4K?

Indeed, not only do higher resolutions give you clearer videos, capturing high-resolution videos can also give you more flexibility post-production, allowing you to crop, zoom in or out or pan across the frame while still maintaining good video quality. So yes, you can potentially record at higher resolutions.

However, do note that higher resolution = larger file size

That is why we believe that in general, 1080p would give you a good balance between video quality and file size for podcasting.


What is frame rate?

Frame rate is the number of individual still photos, or frames, that your camera captures per second. Frames per second, or fps, is thus the number of frames captured per second.

Common frame rates: 24, 25, 30, 48, 50 and 60

Source: Techsmith


What kind of frame rate do you need for your video podcast?

In general, there is no one best frame rate for shooting video. Different frame rates impact the viewing experience differently, and thus suit different purposes. The standard for movies is generally 24fps. Sports videos do well with 30fps. Slow-motion videos and video game footage work well with 60fps. So, what frame rate should you use on your camera to record your podcast? We recommend a frame rate of either 24 or 30 fps. 

Do keep in mind that a higher frame rate = larger file size. Make sure that you have enough storage space for when you record your video.


Balancing between resolution and frame rate for live podcasts

In an ideal world, the highest resolutions and frame rates would give you the best video quality for your podcast. However, in our world, where Internet speed can often be slow, you need to balance between resolution and frame rate.

Let us explain…

  • Bitrate is a live podcast’s audio and video processed over time.
  • Problems arise when your live podcast’s bitrate is HIGHER than your upload bandwidth (e.g. Mbps).
  • What happens? Choppy and unreliable video served on a platter to your audience. Yikes!

Thus, don’t go crazy with your resolution and frame rate for live podcasts. If in doubt, sticking to our recommendation of a resolution of 1920×1080 (1080p) and frame rate of 24 or 30 fps should serve you well. Do note that live streaming platforms such as YouTube and Facebook also have maximum allowable frame rates (YouTube: up to 60fps, Facebook: up to 30fps).


Can you use your iPhone as a video podcasting camera?

We would normally advise against using your phone’s microphone to record audio. However, for a video podcast, we believe that many phones already have decent video recording capabilities.

  • The iPhone 11 Pro offers 4K video recording at 24 fps, 30 fps or 60 fps, and 1080p FHD video recording at 30 fps or 60 fps.
  • The Samsung Galaxy S20 allows for 8K video recording at 24 fps (7680x4320), 4K UHD video recording at 60 fps (3840x2160) and 1080p FHD video recording at 60 fps (1920x1080). 

Thus yes, it is possible for you to use your smartphone to record video for your video podcast! Make sure that you:

  1. Use your phone’s main camera;
  2. Have enough storage space on your phone;
  3. Ensure that your phone is hooked up to a power supply.

If you are looking to live stream a podcast using your smartphone, be sure to also install an app that allows you to live stream directly from your phone, or connects the camera to the computer.

However, to really improve your podcast’s quality, we would still recommend you to record your videos using an external camera that is built to take pictures, record video, and enable you to make specific adjustments (not run apps, enable web browsers, and get you a good phone signal).


Can you use your built-in computer webcam as a video podcasting camera?

If you already have a laptop with a camera and are on a tight budget, this option would not cost you anything. Further, if you will be editing your video podcast in your editing software on your computer, using your built-in computer webcam is also a convenient way to immediately hit record and start editing once you are done.

However, built-in computer webcams typically offer lower resolutions than dedicated webcams, still cameras, and video cameras. Why? Well, your built-in computer webcam does not have much space for the best electronics and lenses compared to a dedicated external camera.

Note: There are some laptops with high-resolution web cameras that could work, such as the Dell XPS 13 Laptop. But there aren’t a lot of these laptops around, and they normally also come with a hefty price tag…

You also pretty much get a limited range of the angles that you can use, especially if you have one of those laptops with a camera at the BOTTOM of the screen…

Thus you could use your built-in computer webcam IF you don't want to spend anything more… But it won’t look too good.

If you are serious about video podcasting, we highly recommend considering the following cameras instead!


Types of good cameras for video podcasting

Alright, what types of cameras are good for video podcasting?

External webcam

External webcams are already popular with live streaming communities. External webcams come with dedicated video recording components and normally provide you with decent-good quality videos. 

Pros:

  • Most, if not all, of external webcams that are suitable for podcasting, are USB webcams. This means that you can easily plug them into your computer and immediately use them.
  • They are great for live streaming. Want proof? Look at the number of gamers that use external webcams to stream on Twitch.

Cons:

  • If you require specific placement of the camera far away from your computer, chances are that an external webcam is not the product for you. Webcams are normally designed to connect to your computer via a cable. Unless you have an insanely long cable, do consider using a different device for such purposes.
  • Similarly, if you are doing an in-person interview or are speaking with co-hosts on-premise, a webcam would also not be the best option for you due to its limited portability.

Examples: Logitech C920, Logitech C922


Still camera - DSLR, Mirrorless and Point-and-Shoot cameras

DSLR, mirrorless, and point-and-shoot cameras offer incredible resolution and video quality.You can either record directly from the camera itself or use the camera as your computer’s camera for a remote interview or a live podcast.

Pros:

  • Amazing resolution and video quality.
  • A whole range of lenses to suit your podcast style and capture different types of shots.
  • Using any one of these cameras can significantly improve the quality of your podcast instantly, regardless if you are recording a video directly with the camera onto its SD card, or using the camera as your computer’s camera for a remote interview or live podcast.

Cons:

  • Some camera sensors can overheat very fast. This might force you to drop your recording resolution to be able to keep on shooting.
  • Still cameras typically have a limit of recording 30 minutes of video at one go. You are thus limited to 30 minutes of recording per take. This is not ideal if you are recording a longer video directly to your camera and want to record everything at one shot.
  • Fun Fact: In the past, the reason for this was because camera sensors would overheat too fast. But the present reason is actually quite different from that! In the EU, video camera recorders (cameras that record 30 minutes or longer of footage) currently face an import duty of 4.9% or 14.0%. However, still image cameras are duty-free. If you were a manufacturer, what would you do? Most manufacturers thus choose to limit their camera recording lengths to under 30 minutes to avoid the EU taxes! Now you know why!
  • An HDMI capture card or HDMI interface unit is required for using a still camera as your computer’s webcam (e.g. for a remote interview or live podcast). A capture card is a device that takes an external video signal and turns it into a video signal that your computer can process. While this gives you awesome quality that can blow your audience and guests away, this also translates into extra equipment and additional costs. Do note that some capture cards can be trickier when it comes to using them as your webcam inside of certain apps like Skype.

Still Camera Examples: Sony a5100, Sony DSCHX80/B, Nikon D5300

Capture Cards Examples: Elgato Cam Link 4K, Epiphan AV.io HD


Video Camera/Camcorder

The last option is, of course, a dedicated video camera, or a camcorder. You can either record directly from the camcorder itself or use the camcorder as your computer’s camera for a remote interview or a live podcast.

Pros:

  • Best video quality.
  • Camcorders have better built-in microphones compared to still cameras. This would be useful if you are filming b-roll or on-the-go shots. However, we do still suggest that you record your audio (especially voices) with a dedicated microphone.
  • Camcorders generally have better preamps than still cameras. Some even come with XLR inputs, allowing you to directly connect your XLR microphone Although we do still recommend that you connect your XLR microphone to an audio interface instead and record your audio separately, this is something worth mentioning.

Cons:

  • Camcorders can be very costly, depending on the model. This could represent a significant financial outlay and investment towards your podcast.
  • Similar to still cameras, an HDMI capture card or HDMI interface unit is required for using a camcorder as your computer’s webcam (e.g. for a remote interview or live podcast). This means extra equipment and cost. It is interesting to note that GoPro has launched its live streaming service, allowing users to live stream from their GoPro camera to their account at GoPro.com, without a capture card.

Examples: Sony CX405 Handycam, Panasonic HC-V770K, GoPro HERO 8 Black.


What type of camera should you use?

Is budget your main concern?

If budget is one of your main concerns, you can consider either using your smartphone to record your video or purchase an external webcam.

Do you only care about improving the video quality of your podcast?

If you are not worried about price, we would recommend a still camera plus a capture card or even better, a camcorder plus a capture card. What can we say? Dedicated equipment tends to deliver the best results! However, there are also several notable external webcams that many live streamers currently use that also deliver good value for money when it comes down to video quality. We reckon that they would also be a good fit for podcasters.

Do you normally record in one location?

Your smartphone, a still camera, and a camcorder are portable to different degrees, even within their own categories. It thus depends on you to determine how much equipment you would be willing to carry around if you record in different locations.

Are you recording on-premise with multiple people (e.g. guests and co-hosts)?

If you need something that you can angle and place in different positions, you can pair your smartphone, which is extremely portable, with still cameras or camcorders. This would allow you to film you and your guests/co-hosts talking from different angles and positions, making your podcast appear more visually dynamic! 

Are you recording a live podcast?

If you are recording a live podcast, an external USB webcam is an affordable and convenient way for you to get good quality video. You can also go for a still camera plus a capture card or a camcorder plus a capture card. This would allow you to get mind-blowing video quality for a live podcast. Note that as previously mentioned, this would also depend on your upload Internet speed.

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