When talking to streamers and content producers, one question I often receive is "which camera works best with Solo?" And I usually reply with, "It depends".
LiveU Solo works with virtually any camera source that outputs SDI or HDMI (including phones with an adapter), but there are some important specifications to know about before you get something. There are also a lot of options available for different budgets, features and workflows so before I just give you a list, let’s take a look at those factors so you choose the right camera that not only works with Solo, but works for you.
Budget: What’s in your wallet?
One of the biggest ways to narrow your camera search is deciding on a budget. You don’t want to waste your time sifting through tech and spec on 100 different cameras when only 20 of them fit in your budget. This also helps you really think about what is important to your streams. If you don’t have the biggest budget you may have to compromise some component of the camera in order to stay within your means. For example, “good enough” might win over “perfect” when it comes to all the bells and whistles (especially when budget is the deciding factor). In most cases you will have the chance to add on better mics, lighting or other accessories later that will more than make up for a special built-in filter.
Making the (use) case
Once a budget is established, you need to think about how you’re going to use the camera. Where will you be streaming and what is your camera setup? Will you be in-studio and have the camera mounted on a tripod? Will you be outside the studio but stationary? Or will you be moving in and around a location or event for your live videos? For example, if the camera screen can flip around you can also use it as a “confidence monitor” when streaming yourself - important feature if you will be both behind the camera sometimes and on camera other times. If you are doing sporting events you may want a camera that has a great zoom and can skip the one that has a shoe mount to add a light. Once you know how you want to use the camera, you can decide what features are key to invest in. However, if it fits in your budget, having features such as the ability to add an external mic, are good ideas to get now so the camera you choose can grow with you as your production needs and style changes. Regardless, always make sure you have room in your budget for accessories – your use case will dictate what ELSE you need: extra batteries, cables, tripods, lights, etc. We have a streaming toolkit blog about some ideas on this too. Whatever you decide to get, whether it’s a camera or accessories, make sure your skill level matches the equipment. You don’t want to spend that hard-earned money on gear that you aren’t comfortable using. You want to be able to utilize your gear and be comfortable using it in all situations.
Determine Your Final Output
Something that often get’s overlooked is determining what your destination will be (OVP, Facebook, Twitch, Youtube, etc.) and understand the limitations and specifications involved with each one. For live streaming, resolutions and formats are more important than video on demand. While you can technically stream very high resolutions with Solo, not everyone will be able to watch it at full resolution . Also, depending on what live streaming service you use, they may have limitations on resolutions and/or frame rates. Be sure to check the recommended settings for your streaming provider. The Solo will automatically downscale your video for you in these cases. So if you are recording in 1080p, the Solo will downscale the video automatically to meet Facebook's 720p requirement. So don't invest in the high-end 4K camera, unless you really need to!
High-End Encoding & DSLRs
LiveU Solo provides a lot of added benefits to your stream and ensures that highest quality video streams flawlessly, so you really can use this high-end encoding technology with a DSLR and have it look just as good as some production cameras out there that will cost you 10x as much. BUT, there are some quirks that prevent everything from working perfectly. Most DSLRs have 'caught up to' video cameras and now have video output features, but in some cases, they are still not 'video first' cameras - meaning they have many features when it comes to taking great photos, but lack a few basic video features that you might consider important, or might even interrupt the operation of your Solo. So here are a few things to check first:
#1: Make sure the camera outputs audio and video on the same channel. Solo takes the single channel feed from your camera over HDMI so both audio and video need to be output together over that connection.
#2: Make sure your camera allows you to remove camera controls from the stream. The last thing you need is having the camera controls visible in the finished stream. Some DSLRs do not allow you to turn that feature off, so check! Note: if you still want to use your iPhone with an encoder, you will want to check out the free SoloCam app. It allows you to work the camera on your phone but removes the controls from the live stream.
#3: Frames Per Second: Most platforms, such as Facebook, don't accept lower frame rates than 30 frames per second (or FPS). And trying to "up-convert" from 24fps can result in a really bad looking video depending on the algorithm you use to do it. Your goal should be to have a camera natively support the frame rate you want to use for your online destination - usually 30 or 60fps. So don't choose a camera that is limited only to 24fps.
Bottom line, there are lots of camera reviews and options out on YouTube, so do your research! But to narrow it down here are some ideas:
These will get the job done, but you will be limited in functionality and in the ability to add accessories. So keep this in mind if it will be your only camera source for now. But, having them in your toolkit is also smart even when you primarily use a more professional camera - always great to have options for quick pop-up live stream events.
The easiest and most cost-effective camera to connect with the Solo is the GoPro. They have cameras as low as $100 and have audio too. GoPro gives you just the right number of features to get the job done.
Sony Action Cam HDR AS300
This Sony camera is great for really mobile live streamers that want to use something better than their phone, but have their hand's (and brains) free to just roam and stream “on the go”. GunRun from Twitch pairs this camera with the LiveU Solo in his "in real life streamer" IRL Backpack. For under $500, it offers audio that is good enough to pick up people that are around and shoots 1080p 60!
Level-Up (For under $3K)
On top of asking what type of cameras work with the LiveU Solo, I get asked specifically, what DSLR camera works with Solo. This Nikon camera is a great price point and is Solo-ready.
This camera is for those users want SDI output. It is a little bit on the pricier end but not really when talking about professional grade cameras.
If you are looking for more information on cameras, check out Episode 2- The Best Cameras for Live Streaming of Nick Nimmin's Live Streaming Crash Course. Sign up Now for the free course to access all the videos.
Luis Lebron is a Solo Specialist and the go-to for all your mobile live streaming questions. Luis jumped into the streaming game after college and never looked back. He speaks with content producers from different walks of life daily and is plugged into live video trends and challenges. Luis' motto is "Anything can happen when you're live!" When Luis isn't making sure you've got the right live streaming gear, he is watching his hometown favorite (Go Mets!), spending time with his wife, or hanging out down the Jersey shore.