You need a good camera if your church is going to live stream. You going live on Facebook means a lot more people are going to “happen across” your church service.
People that may have never, ever decided to walk through your doors are going to see into the sanctuary on Facebook and YouTube. This means, your live stream is your first impression.
A blurry or distorted video stream at low-quality is not a good impression. To them, it means you don’t care enough to invest in equipment that the every-day videogamer on YouTube has found a way to acquire.
But which camera out of the hundreds of choices is best for your church live stream?
Choosing the Best Church Live Streaming Camera
Don’t worry, we’re going to help you sort through all the options and make a good choice. But, you should know, our recommendations are based on our opinions. “Best” is subjective, and sure as we make some recommendations, there will be someone else who has a different opinion.
With that said, here are the ways we look at cameras for church live streaming:
Quick Note on Low-Light
And a note on low-light, every church regardless of lighting will be low-light to a camera. Just trust me, your platform is considered low-light in 90% of all sanctuaries.
Don’t Use a Camcorder
Now, there are some good camcorders out there. But there are a whole lot of really bad ones. They will promise 4K, and technically deliver it, but just because an image has 4000 pixels doesn’t mean those pixels are good quality.
If you’re going to use a camcorder for a church live stream, be prepared to pay a lot of money – like $2,000 or above to get one that delivers a great image in low-light.
What About the Shoulder Rigs?
You’ve probably seen in some churches or other venues, these camera operators walking around with huge shoulder rigs. Most of the time, the reason they are using those big rigs is that they’ve owned them for 10 years, and they don’t want to invest in new equipment.
Unless you need a huge cinema rig (99.99% of churches don’t), you can get an amazing image in a small rig. Even hand-held.
It’s 2020 (gasp! what a year!), and video equipment has advanced by leaps and bounds over the last few years.
Use a Mirrorless Camera
The small-form “DSLR” type cameras are the most versatile, in my opinion. They have amazing sensors that capture beautiful images in low-light, and their lenses are interchangeable.
Now, they are starting to all come with in-body stabilization while also featuring in-lens stabilization plus digital stabilization. With newer models, it can often look like you’re using a gimbal when you’re holding the camera in your hand. So, if you want to “man” the camera, you will have a steady shot.
There are a few brands we love when it comes to live streaming setups:
Sony Alpha Cameras
Now, Sony Alpha cameras are great. And the Sony A7SIII is a beast, but probably overkill for most churches.
An a6100 or a6400 is more than enough to deliver amazing video footage for your church stream.
Panasonic MFT Cameras
Micro-four-thirds is a sensor type Panasonic has chosen to use. The GH5 is a beast of a camera, and it’s little cousins (G85 and G7) also deliver great images.
The reason we like Sony cameras better is because of one thing: autofocus. It’s not even a close comparison.
Most churches choose a static focus area (safest option), which means autofocus doesn’t matter. For me, I like using autofocus in our sanctuary – especially for the cameras focused on the speaker.
Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Cameras
If you want to jump out in front of everyone in terms of quality, Blackmagic Design has two cameras that will make your live stream incredible – the 4k Pocket Cinema and the newer 6k Pocket Cinema.
The benefit of 6K is that you get another 2,000 pixels of digital zoom range before you get signal degradation. You can digitally crop into your 6K frame to get a close-up, and wide shot from the same camera without doing anything to the camera.
These take a little more customization and settings work than the Sony or Panasonic, so most people dislike these cameras out of the box. But, if you have someone in your church that knows about ISO, White Balance, Aperture, etc. etc. – the Blackmagic cameras are absolutely amazing.
Oh, and these cameras also use the micro-four-thirds sensor.
So, if anyone tells you that you need a full-frame camera to get good quality, they don’t know what they’re talking about.
These, I believe, are going to become a must-have for churches moving forward. The other cameras are static without an operator at the camera. However, PTZ cameras are controlled remotely, through your streaming software, through a web-based app, an app on your mobile device, or a joystick control keyboard.
If you want the “follow” experience on the speaker or dynamic camera movements without a noticeable camera moving around – these are your cameras of choice.
In my opinion, every church that wants a really great live stream will have at least one of these in their setup.
Choosing the Best for the Live Stream
Personally, the most flexible camera that works in most sanctuaries, in my opinion, is the Sony Alpha series cameras.
Their lenses are not super expensive. They do great in low-light. And they have the best autofocus in the business.
If you’re going to have a hand-held, wireless rig that moves around, I recommend bumping up to the a6600, as it features in-body stabilization where previous Alpha models do not.
If your camera operator is good at pulling focus, the GH5 might even be a better option for the handheld.
Either way, if you pick a quality camera, you will probably be satisfied. Too many people try to skimp and go cheap with cameras – they buy a cheap $400 camcorder and think it’s going to work great. It never does.
Don’t try to go cheap with the camera. Don’t buy one off Wish or go for the discount knock-off brands.
Invest in a good camera, and it’ll serve you well for years to come.