Cheap Cameras Suitable For Multi-Cam Live Streaming

Podcasts used to be little audio nuggets delivered direct to your ears but in 2024 they’re also videos of talking heads. I assume this is because there’s no popular way to share audio clips, but people love 30-60-120s video clips on TikTok and Instagram and YouTube’s massive user base can expose your show to way more people than any podcasting app.

The purpose of this article is to explore the camera options available for professional-ish multi-cam video recording of a podcast.

  • 3 camera setup - two close ups, one wide
  • Excellent auto-focus, ideally with face/eye detection
  • Live streaming support for broadcast to YouTube/Twitch/etc.
  • 1080p 60fps minimum, 4K nice to have, 4K 60 even nicer
  • Clean HDMI output, SDI output even nicer, NDI even better
  • Mains power support, USB power even better, PoE single cable the best

I’ll explore NDI cameras (smartphones, PTZ cameras, other NDI options), cameras with SDI output and cameras with HDMI output. It’s a long article so I’ve split it over a few posts in this thread as you’ll see below!

NDI Cameras

NDI, if you’re not familiar, is a way to get video from one place to another via IP/Ethernet instead of SDI or HDMI with low latency and high quality (almost lossless “full” NDI, high bitrate AVC/HEVC with NDI HX3).

It’s cool because it allows for a single cable for power, video and remote control and can run over long lengths (100m) using commodity gear. It also means you can use something like vMix or OBS without any additional ingest/mixing hardware, which can be quite expensive for multiple cameras. Computers can be added to the mix without any hardware too, simply install an NDI capture app on it and whatever is on screen is sent over the network. Incredibly flexible and easy!

The main thing I’m not a fan of with NDI is that you’ve got compressed video out of the camera going to a streaming platform or local recording, where it will be compressed again. I kinda wish they’d adopt a proper lossless video codec. I’m also unsure on the long term status of NDI when SMPTE 2110 is gaining prominence.


Get a couple of cheap refurb Android phones with decent cameras, some smartphone tripod mounts off Amazon, plug in a USB-C Ethernet dongle with power pass-thru, install an NDI app and off you go.

I personally like the Samsung S10e as you can get them for ~$260 refurbished and they do 4K 60fps video and have USB-C for an ethernet dongle. Not many smartphones out there with 4K 60fps video cameras for that kinda money!

I have a spare Samsung Note 10 with a cracked screen and a gigabit USB-C dongle, so tried out a few NDI apps to see what they’re like.

NDI HX camera and NDI Camera Pro are the two main ones on Android and while they work, they leave a lot to be desired. Both lack decent camera controls (AE/AF lock, white balance, ISO, etc.) and while NDI Camera Pro lets me select 1080p60 output (NDI HX doesn’t), it drops frames and the phone gets super hot, leading me to believe it’s not using hardware acceleration as there’s plenty of bandwidth (gigabit ethernet all around).

I did a bit of testing on iOS too as I have an iPhone 13 Pro. NDICam is nice in that it lets me send full NDI or NDI HX3 at multiple bitrates (even Ultra), but it’s capped at 30fps 1080p and also lacks decent camera controls. It’s probably the best app of the lot but it’s still not ticking all the boxes. I wish an app like Blackmagic Camera or Filmic Pro let you stream to NDI!

All up my impression with using a smartphone is that it works and is cheap, but the lack of camera controls really makes life difficult. I can’t lock in a shutter speed, iris and ISO and can’t lock a face to focus on like on a camcorder. Quality wise, it’s a step up from a webcam, but not a good as an APS-C/MFT sensor with a proper lens.


  • Small & light, unobtrusive
  • Excellent autofocus
  • As good quality as any other sub-1" sensor camera
  • Hardware 4K 60fps capable
  • Cheap (~$1000 all up with Android)
  • No need for capture hardware or video mixers


  • Lack of camera controls in various NDI camera apps
  • Can’t stream 4K or 1080p60 reliably from any smartphone apps
  • Can’t local record on device and live stream via NDI at the same time
  • Quality not as good as larger sensor & lens setups

PTZ cameras

These are cameras that let you plug in a single ethernet cable to send an NDI stream and power the device over PoE. They can be remotely controlled and are “proper” cameras that have manual adjustments unlike smartphones. They’re split into two categories “box” and “PTZ” cameras. PTZ cameras can do tilt/pan and the box ones don’t. Some have zoom lenses, some have fixed lenses.

I only looked into PTZ cameras as they would be super useful for another related project and found that box cameras weren’t really much cheaper anyways.

The usual suspects like Canon, Panasonic,JVC & Sony make PTZ cameras, along with brands I’d never heard of until now like Birddog, AIDA and Marshall. I made a shortlist of cameras that have NDI HX3 (not just HX or HX2, which are kinda crappy) & PoE and 1080p60, with 4K60 thrown in for fun, just to see what the price difference is.

1080p60 options

  • AIDA PTZ-NDI3-X20B (1/3" sensor, 20x zoom, 120fps) - $2,949
  • Birddog P110 (1/2.86" sensor, 10x zoom, 4:2:2 12-bit, full NDI) - $2,890
  • Canon CR-N100 (1/2.3" sensor, 20x zoom, 4K30, USB-C, no SDI) - $2,580
  • JVC KY-PZ200N (1/2.8" sensor, 20x zoom, no SDI) - $1,750*

4K60 options

  • Marshall CV730-ND3 (1/1.8" sensor, 30x zoom, full NDI) - $5,938
  • Birddog P400 (1/2.5" sensor, 20x zoom, full NDI) - $6,999
  • Birddog P4K (1" sensor, 12x zoom, full NDI) - $14,099
  • Panasonic UE80 (1/2.5" sensor, 24x zoom, full NDI) - $8,695
  • Canon CR-N700 (1" sensor, 15x zoom, dual pixel AF) - $13,450

You’re probably noticing a lack of Sony & Panasonic cameras. Well all their 1080p/4K30 PTZ cams with NDI are too expensive, all over $4,000! So I didn’t add them to the list. Also, the JVC camera is an outlier price wise. That’s because I couldn’t find an Australian seller and that price is in AUD from B&H in the USA - which is weird because all the other cameras were basically the same price as B&H locally, or not much cheaper to justify a lack of warranty.

Of all those cameras, it comes down to the Birddog P110 and Canon CR-N100. I like the Birddog because it’s Aussie and does full NDI (less compression), but the Canon has a better sensor, better autofocus and will do 4K30. I’d really need to see them both in action before plonking down the cash for 3 of them. It’s also embarassing how little demo footage there is of these cameras in various lighting situations on YouTube - particularly the Birddog P110. You make cameras, upload video from the camera!!

I found a couple of PTZ cameras on Aliexpress, like this BLFT unit (4K60, 1/1.8" sensor, NDI HX2, PoE, PTZ, 12x optical zoom) for only $1,516, but it seems too good to be true. No warranty and can’t return it if it sucks. There’s lots of church live production dudes on YouTube showing off these Aliexpress/Amazon random brand cameras that I assume the one I found is the exact same as, but hard to know for sure.

Overall, my impressions of PTZ cameras in a price-range I can afford are that that they’re very practical (1 cable setup, NDI streaming, PTZ controls), but I’m not sold on the quality. From the limited demos I’ve seen, they tend to lack sharpness and dynamic range compared to other cameras, even smartphones, which isn’t surprising considering the lens and sensor used. At this sub $5k, less than 1"-sensor part of the PTZ market, the image looks like a glorified security camera to me.


  • Single cable setup
  • No need for ATEM switchers, capture cards or expensive HDMI or SDI cables
  • Comes with a lens already, with a long zoom
  • Full remote control of all camera settings
  • Pan/tilt/zoom, also remote, handy for unmanned operation
  • Great face tracking, even whole body tracking, auto framing
  • Make for excellent webcams via USB


  • Expensive, at roughly $2k-$3k/camera for basic 1080p60, even more for 4K
  • Niche product with limited resale value
  • Lowest quality option, tiny sensors, cheap glass

Misc NDI options

There’s a couple of little boxes that let you plug in an SDI or HDMI camera and have it spit out an NDI stream over Ethernet. All the good ones (Birddog, Kilovision, Magewell) that’ll do at least 1080p60 and full NDI or NDI HX3 output seem to be in the $800-$1200 range. Aliexpress, eBay and Amzon have this suspiciously cheap streaming box for $186 that has NDI HX output that probably works fine, but I don’t know if I’d trust it in the field.

Atomos (another Aussie company!) makes great outboard recorders and have a bunch of products that support NDI, but it’s confusing as to which type of NDI they support. I think the only products that’ll do NDI HX3 and that have Ethernet are the Shogun Connect ($1600, monitor & ProRes recorder) and the Atomos Connect ($565, piggybacks onto an Atomos Ninja). Handy if you also want to record the raw camera footage to something like ProRes, but no full NI,De just HX3.

The Z CAM E2N is a little box camera that’ll do NDI HX3 output (no full NDI), takes a micro four thirds lens and can be powered over PoE. Has loads more dynamic range than any of the cameras here and can use quality glass as it’s just micro four thirds and isn’t even that expensive at around $1,900 delivered (no lens) from B&H Photo. The main problem is - who the fuck is Z CAM, no local warranty and dubious autofocus. I’d love to try one out however.

SDI Cameras

SDI is the traditional way you connect multiple cameras to a single point over long-ish distances. More reliable than HDMI, but also more expensive and nowhere near as common. A bunch of these cameras would plug into a Blackmagic ATEM switcher or into a PC running vMix/OBS with a PCIe/USB/Thunderbolt capture device.


  • Blackmagic Micro Studio Camera 4K G2 - $1,470
  • Blackmagic Studio Camera 4K Plus G2 - $1,950

I love Blackmagic and these cameras are perfect for what I want them to do and so cheap - the only downside is a lack of continuous autofocus and no eye/face tracking. There are a few hacks and accessories to get CAF on the Blackmagic cameras, which I covered in a separate post here.

Need to factor in the cost of a lens too, as unlike a camcorder, they don’t have one. Good news is that MFT lenses are cheap and easy to find. The lenses Blackmagic recommend in the manual for these cameras are:

  • Olympus 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 ED M.Zuiko EZ Micro ($250-$300)
  • Panasonic Lumix G X Vario PZ 45-175mm f/4.0-5.6 Zoom OIS ($370-$500)
  • Olympus 14-42mm M.Zuiko f/3.5-5.6 Digital ED EZ ($100-$150)
  • Panasonic Lumix G X Vario PZ 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 Power OIS ($230-$300)


Dual Pixel CMOS AF probably the best autofocus in the industry, so that’s a big point for Canon cameras. The XA65 and XA75 are selling as basically the same price in Australia, so the XA65 and its smaller sensor isn’t on this list. The older XA/XF range are either rare used or don’t do 1080p60 out over SDI.

  • XA75 ($3,600) - 1" 4K sensor, 3G-SDI (1080p60 4:2:2 10-bit), zoomlens
  • XF605 ($6,000) - 1" 4K sensor, 12G-SDI (4K 60 4:2:2 10-bit), SRT output, wi-fi control, zoom lens

Their Cinema range of cameras are cool, but very expensive, even used. The earlier ones that are affordable (C100/C300) don’t do 1080p60 output either. The C300 MkII ($4000 used) can do 4k30 10bit and 1080p60 4:4:4 12-bit output over SDI, Super35 sensor, and has Dual Pixel CMOS AF, but $4000+lens is getting up there in price. Could have a side gig renting these out for like $250 a weekend.


Nothing particularly inspiring to be honest, just two cameras that aren’t the price of a brand new car and fuck all on the used market.

  • GY-HM180E ($2,500) - 1/2.3" 4K sensor, 3G-SDI output (8-bit 4:2:2, 1080p60)
  • GY-HC500E ($5,600) - 1" 4K sensor, can record direct to ProRes 4:2:2 10-bit, 40x zoom lens, SRT output, 3G-SDI output (10-bit 4:2:2 1080p60)


Sony’s eye/face detect AF isn’t as good as Canon’s (particularly in the older Sony cameras, newer ones are about the same as Canon’s) but still great and better than nothing like our friends at Blackmagic.

Their new cameras with SDI are all kinda expensive (over $4,000), the cheapest being the PXW-Z90 which has a 1" sensor and is still $4,089. Canon’s XA75 is way better value than the Z90 as the Z90 only does 1080p60 over SDI, whereas the XA75 is cheaper, has better AF and will do 4K60 over SDI.

Their older used ENG/Studio ones don’t have face detect AF.

Where the bargains lie with Sony cameras are the entry level “cinema” cameras, particularly used.

The standout is the FS5M2 or FS7. Both of these do RAW 4K60 over SDI and are quite common from overseas eBay sellers. Can get the FS5M2 for around $2,200 delivered or the FS7 for around $2,800. They’ve got face detect and use the E-mount lens system so there’s no shortage of glass on the used market. RAW output over SDI is really cool, alas you need an external recorder to take advantage of it as it’s not a normal SDI signal a capture card can interpret.


Love that all their cameras do 4:2:2 10-bit output and some even do NDI|HX! The EVA1 is very interesting with its big sensor and EF lenses (two nifty 50s and a , there’s a couple on Facebook Marketplace in Australia in the $2,500 range right now. The BGH1 is hard to go past too, at $2,700 new (plus lens). It’s pretty much the Blackmagic Studio Micro, but with autofocus and network capability.

  • HC-X2000 ($3,000) - 1/2.5" sensor, 4:2:2 10bit 1080p60 over SDI & 4K60 over HDMI, 24x zoom lens, RTSP/RTMP streaming over wi-fi
  • HC-X2GC ($4,500) - pretty much the same as X2000 but with 1" sensor
  • AG-CX350 ($5,500) - 1" sensor, NDI|HX output for US$299, 4:2:2 10bit 1080p60 over SDI & 4K60 over HDMI
  • AG-CX10 ($3,750) - same as CX350 but with a 1/2.5" sensor
  • AG-DVX200 ($2,500 - $3,000 used) - 4/3" sensor, 4:2:2 10bit 1080p60 over SDI & 4K60 over HDMI, 13x zoom
  • EVA1 (~$3,000) - Super35 sensor, 4K60 RAW 10-bit over SDI, Canon EF lens mount
  • DC-BGH1 ($2,700) - 4/3" sensor, 4:2:2 10bit 1080p60 over SDI & 4K60 RAW over HDMI, PoE power, remote camera control, RTSP streaming at up to 4K60 H265 50Mbps.
  • DC-BS1H ($3,850) - same as BGH1 but with full frame sensor


These cameras aren’t as expensive as I thought. Right now on eBay there’s two Epic-X cameras, in Australia, for under $4,000 each. Autofocus is okay, but you don’t get 4K output or even proper 1080p RAW external recorders were not really in mind when this camera was being developed. For the money, something modern from Sony or Panasonic makes more sense for what I want to use it for.


The cheapest setup in this article is a Blackmagic Micro Studio Camera 4K G2 plus a $250 lens - $1720 and we are ready to rock and roll - but the autofocus sucks. We could hack on a Lidar sensor and an autofocus motor for $450 (PDMovie Live Air 3 Smart), but it’s not without its downsides. The Lidar range is only around 4m and lens calibration looks like a pain in the arse. But even with the Lidar setup, it’s still cheaper than any other camera here at under $2200.

I could hook up the Micro Studio on a DJI RS 3 Pro gimbal kit with Lidar (up to 14m) and the focus motor and it’ll autofocus any lens I put on it. I wouldn’t be using the gimbal at all, I’m using the setup for its superior Lidar feature really. That said, I could use the Activetrack feature to follow someone on a stage or giving a presentation - I would have killed for that back when I was recording conference videos! If I wanted to turn each camera into a PTZ camera, that’s possible too. Problem is, this setup is $2,200 on top of the camera and lens (~$4000 all up) and the focus probably still won’t be as good as face/eye autofocus in a Sony, Canon or Panasonic camera.

Besides the Blackmagic Studio, the most compelling camera is Panasonic’s BGH1 - essentially a Blackmagic Micro Studio Camera 4K G2 with autofocus and ethernet for $1,000 more. You even get 4K60 raw video over HDMI (only 1080p60 10-bit over SDI, so I’d probably use the HDMI output!). The autofocus and in particular the face tracking, kinda sucks unless there’s a lot of contrast between the background and the object:

It would probably be okay in a studio setting I reckon. The ability to power it over PoE and remotely adjust the camera settings is awesome. Can get the BGH1 for ~$2,500, slap on a nice MFT autofocus lens (~$250) and for under $2,800 there’s a pretty sweet studio camera.

HDMI Cameras

Now we are entering the realm of consumer grade camcorders and stills cameras that also happen to be great for video thanks to the big APS-C/full frame sensors.

After days of Googling and finding lots of inconsistent answers, it appears that all the digital SLRs and mirrorless cameras and even camcorders are 8-bit HDMI output, most 4:2:2, some 4:2:0 and the majority can do 1080p60 and some can do 4K60.

More modern cameras (i.e: released in the 2 years), particularly high end ones, can do 10-bit output over HDMI. All the cameras that claim to do raw video output actually use a proprietary format that can only be read by certain external recorders - i.e: Panasonic’s GH5S (need a Blackmagic recorder) and the Sony FX30 (Atomos recorder)

Here’s some of the interesting bang for buck cameras I’ve found that have face detection AF:

  • Sony ZV-E10 (~$700 used) - APS-C sensor, 4:2:2 8-bit, 4K30/1080p60
  • Sony a6700 ($1,899) - APS-C sensor, 4:2:2 10-bit 4K60
  • Sony FX30 ($2,488) - APS-C sensor, 16-bit raw 4K60 or 4:2:2 10-bit 4K60
  • Sony A7/A7R/A7S (~$800 used) - full frame sensor, 4:2:2 8-bit, 1080p60
  • Canon M50 II ($640 used) - APS-C sensor, DPAF, 1080p60 8-bit, only 30 min onboard recording
  • Nikon Z30 ($670 used) - APS-C sensor, 1080p60 8-bit, only 30 min onboard recording, Z mount lens
  • Panasonic G7 ($400 used) - 4/3" sensor, 4:2:2 8-bit 1080p60
  • Panasonic GH5 ($799 used) - 4/3" sensor, 4:2:2 10-bit 4K60

Pretty obvious which camera with HDMI output I’d go for here - the Panasonic GH5! For under $1,000 you get a camera with face auto detect, doesn’t overheat, gives clean 4:2:2 10-bit video, all at 4K60 while everyone else is 1080p60 and costs more.

If I wanted to spend more money I could go for a full frame Panasonic, but then I’d be better off with a Panasonic BGH1 which is way more practical than using a stills camera for live production, even though it also is a 4/3" sensor like the GH5.