Getting together the necessary equipment for YouTubing can pose quite a problem for those of us on a budget.
After all, cameras are expensive, and lighting rigs? What about acoustic treatment? All of these things cost money, and buying low-quality equipment most likely won’t improve the quality of your videos, and may even harm your channel overall.
Still, YouTube is far from a sure thing when it comes to generating an income, so spending significant amounts of cash on cameras and microphones can be hard to justify. Fortunately, “budget” doesn’t have to mean poor quality—you just need to know what you’re looking for. Of course, if it were that easy, there’d be no need for posts like this one!
Now as long as you have mastered YouTube Equipment for beginners – maybe you want some cost effective ideas for some upgrades – let’s get into our guide to the world of YouTube equipment on a budget.
Let’s start with your primary bit of kit. Camera’s are not just essential if you want to record video, they can also be the only piece of gear you need if you are trying to make the most of your budget.
Here are three great options for YouTubers on a budget.
Starting our list off, we have the Logitech C930e, a webcam. Now, webcams are not the best option when it comes to YouTube… or any kind of video capture situation for that matter.
For reasons perhaps known only to webcam manufacturers, there has been very little improvement in the standards of webcam video quality for nearly a decade. In fact, the only thing webcams really excel at is live-streaming. Still, when it comes to budget video recording equipment, the C930e offers the best bang for your buck, and if you pair it with a decent budget lighting setup, you should be able to get some very respectable video out of it.
Obviously, there are some physical limitations with a webcam. If you want to shoot videos on the move, you’re going to need something that can operate standalone, and this isn’t it.
So, on to our next pick.
GoPro Hero6 or Hero7
GoPro has made a name for themselves in the sports footage market. They are typically the first name to come to mind whenever someone wants to strap a camera to their head and jump off a mountain, or something similar. What doesn’t always get as much attention is just how good it is as a pure camera.
You’re going to be looking at 3-4x the cost of the c930e, but that is still around half the half to a third of the cost of a Canon EOS 80D with a lens, which is a popular camera for YouTubers who aren’t on a budget. And the difference in quality is significant.
Furthermore, the Hero is much better at getting a great shot out of any environment and lighting situation.
We’re stretching the definition of “budget” here. Still, given that the next tier of cameras easily crosses into the four digits in the price department, we think it’s fair to include this one as a higher-end budget camera.
The Canon T7i is a fully-fledged DSLR, which is the top dog when it comes to camera quality. While this may be a budget DSLR, it will still produce better results than just about anything you might find cheaper.
It should be noted that DSLRs are a little more involved than something like a webcam, or a GoPro. For one thing, you need to buy lenses for your camera. If you hit eBay and find a T7i that’s heavily discounted over the average price, you might be buying one without a lens. Like the GoPro, these cameras are standalone, so you can take them out for shooting on location.
Cameras like this are designed to handle a range of additional components, such as camera-mounted lighting, and external audio sources, making them ideal for portable filming setups.
|1080 @ 30fps
|GoPro Hero 7
|4K @ 60fps
|1080 @ 60fps
For further cameras and equipment suggestions check out my equipment lists on my resources page – I list all my current equipment and some killer discounts on cheap starter gear.
It’s important to remember that all of the above suggestions for cameras have their own built-in microphone. Now, these are far from the best audio ever recorded, but they are more than serviceable if you can’t afford to pair them with a separate audio setup.
However, if you are looking to maximise your quality, you will want to get yourself a microphone.
Unlike our camera picks, all of our microphones are approximately equal in price. They are, however, considerably different in execution. Don’t worry; we’ll explain as we go.
Our first pick goes to the Blue Snowball, a distinctive looking USB microphone that produces excellent audio quality. The advantages of the Snowball mainly lie in its simplicity of use. You simply plug the mic into your computer, let the drivers automatically install, and you’re good to go. This makes it an ideal pairing with something like the Logitech C930e we mentioned above.
The downside is that you cannot plug a USB mic into something like the Canon T7i. If you want to go portable with the Snowball, you’re going to need to take a laptop with you.
The Snowball is available in a few different variants and supports several pick up patterns. If your YouTube setup never leaves your desk, this is a great microphone to have.
BM-Condenser Microphone plus Preamp
The BM-800 is a little tricky to explain. This microphone is actually an unbranded Chinese product. Sellers in various parts of the world buy this product in bulk, often with their own branding, and resell it. We’re explaining this because if you Google “BM-800 Microphone”, you could get a dozen different brands selling identical looking microphones. It doesn’t make a difference, however; they’re all the same product.
But onto the mic itself. The BM-800 is a condenser microphone that uses an XLR connection. That XLR connection means you will need other hardware to get the mic up and running, but don’t worry, the mic itself typically goes for a third of what the Snowball costs. What’s more, it often comes with extras, like pop shields and shock mounts. Once you have coupled it with a cheap audio interface or microphone preamp, then the price will level out at around the same as the Snowball.
Like the Snowball, you won’t be able to connect this mic to something like a GoPro or T7i, and while it can be portable, it’s not ideal.
This kind of setup is ideal for YouTubers who make music since you can easily swap out your microphone for a different style, or get an audio interface with multiple channels for recording more than one mic at a time.
Rode VideoMic Go
The VideoMic is an on-camera mic. This is a particular kind of microphone that sits on top of your camera, making it ideal for portable setups. Unfortunately, that means it only works with compatible cameras. For reference, only the Canon T7i would be compatible out of the cameras we suggested above.
Still, if you do a lot of filming in different locations and tend to hold your camera rather than set it on a tripod, a microphone like this (on a compatible camera) is the only practical solution. If you do get a camera like the Canon T7i, there really isn’t a compelling reason to go with any other kind of microphone.
After your camera and your microphone, lighting is probably the most significant piece of hardware you can buy for your YouTube setup.
If you feel your video quality isn’t what it should be, but you can’t afford to step up your camera game, take a look at your lighting. You’d be surprised at how much difference it makes.
Newer 18-Inch Ring Light
Ring lights, as the name suggests, are ring-shaped lights that are ideal for vloggers, and any situation where the subject is directly facing the camera. They cast a smooth, even light directly in front of them. This ring light comes with a stand and smartphone holder, as well as two different filters.
The CN-216 is a compact LED panel light that can be mounted on top of a compatible camera, making it an ideal camera for portable filming setups. Of course, you can still mount it on a stand or tripod. It has an adjustable colour temperature and a removable diffusion screen, and clocks in at a ridiculously low price.
It might sound like a bit of a cop-out, but natural light is one of the best lighting sources for your videos there is, and it’s free! Of course, it puts some limitations on when and where you can film, but if natural light is a practical option for your videos, it is by far the best option for YouTuber’s on a budget.
For those of us with a relatively modern smartphone—which is most people these days—our phone represents quite possibly the best quality video and audio for the cheapest cost: free. Well, not free, but unless you bought your phone just to film YouTube videos, it is effectively free.
The cameras in modern phones are something of a marvel, making use of various tricks on the software end to make up for the shortcomings of the hardware, a decent phone will blast most budget options out of the water. And some higher-end phones can even record in 4K at a full 60fps.
Of course, your phone isn’t ideal. You can’t see what you’re shooting unless you use the weaker camera on the front. You have to worry about the available storage space when most higher-end phones don’t accept memory cards anymore. Not to mention you may want to use your phone during filming.
But, for all of its shortcomings, your existing phone may well produce a better quality video than the best cameras you can afford. If you find that to be the case, use your phone for now and save up for a better camera, rather than wasting your money on something you can afford that is not very good.
And the Rest
There are plenty of other things you could be spending your money on when it comes to getting your YouTube setup ready, with varying degrees of importance.
For example – as I noted in my deep dive into soundproofing for youtubers blog – if the space you are recording in is extremely echoey, it might be worth a little of your hard-earned cash to put it right. Acoustic foam tiles are relatively inexpensive, and you don’t need to plaster the whole room with them to get the desired results.
With a bit of research and a little experimentation, you should be able to make a pack of twenty-four go a long way. Failing that, you could always borrow some thick blankets from the cupboard and put them to good use.
Another area that can sometimes get overlooked is the software department. If you are doing anything more than cutting up pieces of footage, you will need some software to do it in. There are free options available for several of the less complex tasks, such as transitions and titles.
However, Adobe is the industry standard for a reason, and its popularity ensures there will always be plenty of resources to help you get started. Before you panic at the thought of hundreds of pounds worth of software, Adobe has long-since switched to a subscription model, which is not as expensive as you might think.
Finding the best hardware is always a little tricky, as you might have noticed with some of our suggestions.
The Logitech webcam is by far the cheapest, but it lacks portability, which makes it unsuitable for YouTubers who like to film on the go.
Meanwhile, a GoPro is excellent for shooting action shots out and about, but not so great for streaming (though the Hero7 has added some limited streaming capabilities).
Be sure to weigh up all the features of any equipment you might be considering purchasing. Price is important, but even a cheap camera is too expensive if it is not suitable for your specific circumstances.