The Four Best Camera Styles for Streaming Church Services Live

This entry is part of 4 in the series Streaming Church Services

In our previous post about streaming church services live, we looked at the best way to stream with an iPhone or Android phone. To offer a professional live stream of your church’s worship service, you’ll want a dedicated camera instead of a phone. So in this installment of our series we’ll look at picking the right camera for your needs. Again, a phone might fit your budget, but this time we’re assuming you want something that creates better quality for streaming church services.

Here are the other posts in this series:

What’s the best camera for streaming church services live?

What Kind of Camera Should You Use for Streaming Church Services?

People can pick from a few different kinds of cameras aside from their phone camera. Most people think of a webcam when they think of live streaming. However, webcams are never a good option for streaming church services because their image quality usually doesn’t compare to a dedicated camera and they don’t zoom in close enough to the subject. You’ll have to put the camera very close to the pulpit and it will distract the people attending the worship service.

The best options include the following styles of cameras:

  • A video camera or camcorder with at least 720p resolution that also has an HDMI output that shows the live view of the camera’s.
  • A DSLR or mirrorless camera that also offers a live output of the video of the camera.
  • A PTZ IP Streaming Camera that you can connect over an Ethernet cable and offers remote control of the panning and zooming of the camera lens.

Let’s take a look at some options for each kind of camera.

Video Camera or Camcorder

Before cameras on smartphones got so good, most people owned a camcorder or video camera. Basic consumer-grade camcorders made in the last few years will offer a 1080p or even a 4K video option. You can spend as little as $140 for a refurbished Canon VIXIA HF R80 Camcorder. It’s inexpensive and only includes the basics, but it has the minimum features need as seen below…

  • Optical Image Stabilization – less wiggle as the camera operator movies it from side to side.
  • HD Video – 1080p is the sweet spot, but lower quality 720p usually looks good enough and high-quality 4K video may offer too much making it harder to stream on a slower network.
  • 32X Optical Zoom – avoid using digital zoom because it gets closer to the subject, but looks horrible. Optical zoom looks much better. If your camera has digital zoom, turn it off in settings.
  • Powered via Power Adapter – you want to plug it into the wall so you don’t have to worry about your battery running out. If you do this remove the battery so you don’t ruin it by keeping it plugged in. That way you can still use the camera for recording video outside of the sanctuary.

The above Canon camera gives users an adequate option, but I’d look for something a little more expensive that has better video quality. A 4K or at the very least 1080p resolution will help you find a camera that will last and keep up with the improvements of things like video quality, Internet speeds and expectations of viewers. In 5 years people may not accept anything less than 4K video. So, I’d try to find a 4K camera if you can afford one.

Panasonic HC-WXF1 UHD 4K Camcorder with 24X Optical Zoom is the best high-end solution for streaming church services live on Facebook, YouTube or elsewhere.

Here’s a list of suggested cameras.

  • Panasonic HC-WXF1 UHD 4K Camcorder with 24X Optical Zoom and 4K video – $997.99 – a high-end camera with a decent optical zoom good for a sanctuary that’s about 75 feet long or less and the camera sits in the back.
  • JVC Everio GZ-RY980HUS Quad Proof 4K Camcorder with 10x Optical Zoom and 4K Video – $699 – a high-end camera for a smaller sanctuary.
  • Panasonic HC-W580K Full HD Camcorder with Twin Camera with 1080p and 50x zoom – $397.99 – would work well in a larger sanctuary, but doesn’t have the future-proof resolution of a 4K camera.
  • Canon VIXIA HF R800 Camcorder with 1080p video and 32x optical zoom – $249 – a budget priced camera that’s got a decent video signal and a good optical zoom rate for a sanctuary that’s about 75 feet long or less and the camera sits in the back.
Panasonic HC-W580K is a good mid-level option for streaming church services.

All of the above cameras would most likely work well for many churches. You can spend a lot more than these and get an extremely high-end camera, but few churches really need that. However, if you want a professional level camera, take a look at the list of 4K professional quality cameras that range in prices from about $1600-$12,000 or higher. They have great lenses and some of them even have interchangeable lenses.

The Blackmagic camera above is the best camera money can buy and it’s way too much camera for almost every church out there.

Mevo Camera for Streaming Church Services Live

A very specialized camera that you can use for streaming church services live, but it has to be placed close to the platform like a camera phone.

Mevo makes a unique little camera called the Mevo Plus ($399) that you can stream in 1080p or record locally in 4K. With the app used to control the camera you can set things up so it looks like you have multiple cameras. It’s small and has a battery in it but doesn’t last long enough for most worship services unless you add the Mevo Boost for $200, which adds a battery extension as well as a port for an Ethernet cable. If you don’t get the Mevo Boost you will use Wi-Fi to connect the camera to your phone or tablet app.

Mevo announced a new camera coming out soon called the Mevo Start for $399 and comes out in May 2020. It offers longer streaming time (6 hours) and uses faster 802.11ac Wi-Fi. You don’t need the Boost to get this. To get Ethernet, you’ll need the adapter that Mevo sells for $100.

You can view an example of the Mevo in action at my church’s Facebook page. Here’s the company’s ad for the newer camera.

The camera will connect either to your phone or your tablet. I’d recommend using an iPad since that’s larger and you can see more on the screen at one time. The company promises to add the option to control more than one camera in the future.

The app runs on iOS and Android. Find out more about that from Mevo.

The Mevo camera works best in smaller sanctuaries or for churches who want to stream things like interviews or events in a small room. If your room requires you to be further than about 10-20 feet, this option won’t work well for you and the image quality is lower than even a camera phone.

DSLR or Mirrorless Camera

Churches can use the above cameras for streaming church services live online, but they may want better quality images and a camera that they can take off the tripod and use for take photos of church events. A good DSLR or Mirrorless camera will fit that situation better.

What are DSLR or Mirrorless cameras? The video below explains it better than I can. If you don’t care and just want recommendations, then skip to the next paragraph.

Mirrorless camera give the user a smaller camera while still offering beautiful photos and video. The DSLR is the style of camera that’s been around forever, but now they’re digital. Mirrorless is the future.

The Canon EOS M50 is the best bang for your buck in getting a good camera for streaming church services live.

One of the best options today comes from Canon. The Canon EOS M50 sells for about $500 and has great image quality. With a pair of lenses you can pay about $700. You probably want that if you have a long sanctuary. It has a 15-45mm zoom lens, great for shooting photo and video when you’re close up. That’s great if you want to stream an event or talk in a smaller room. However, put it in the sanctuary and the longer 55-200mm lens will let you zoom in from the back.

Canon released a brand new utility called the EOS Webcam Utility (still in beta which means might have some bugs, but works fine in my experience) that lets users turn their DSLR or mirrorless camera into a webcam. You can hook your camera up to your Windows-only computer. The new utility will make it available in your software as a camera for streaming.

The Canon EOS Rebel T7i is one of the best DSLRs for streaming church services live.

If you don’t own a Windows computer, consider then take a look at the Canon EOS Rebel T7i DSLR camera which starts at $680 without a lens. Pay $1000 to get a long zoom lens like the M50 above.

I prefer Canon because they offer better color than Nikon or Sony camera. But you can find comparable cameras from those manufacturers that will work for you. Other companies like Panasonic, Fujifilm and Olympus make great camera. Here’s a list of options at Amazon.

Look for…

  • 4K resolution for shooting
  • Live video output for streaming
  • A lens from 18-250 zoom or higher
  • Stays on and offers live video for a long enough time to stream your entire service since some cameras shut off after 20 or 30 minutes.
  • An adapter for powering the camera while using it because most batteries won’t last for the full length of a worship service.

You may not be able to find the above things mentioned in the camera’s description at your store of choice. Ask the seller or post a question in a place like Amazon.

The last item on the list is a must. Get the adapter for your camera like this one for the T7i mentioned above. Here’s one that fits the EOS M50 mentioned above.

PTZ Streaming Video Cameras

Video explains one church’s experience with a PTZ camera.

A friend of mine chose to buy another kind of camera that I’ve not used. It’s called the Avipas AV-1081G 10x HDMI PTZ Camera ($620) with IP Live Streaming. PTZ stands for Pan Tilt Zoom, which describes the way it can move (panning left-right, tilting up-down and zooming in and out).

It only offers 1080p video, which is fine for now. It says it’s a 10x zoom camera, but only the digital zoom is only 5x, which is not going to be good enough for medium to larger sanctuaries.

These IP cameras are usually smaller, so you can put them in your sanctuary and they’ll seem less noticeable. You won’t need a big tripod because you can install it permanently.

The camera connects via a network cable. You can control it from a computer or with a special remote control box. The box or the software will control the panning (left right) and the tilting (up and down) while zooming in to the subject.

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