Want to know what the best 4K camera you can buy right now is? We’ve got your back. Picking a 4K camera can be a difficult task, especially as things aren’t as straightforward as they once were. After all, 4K itself used to be a flagship, class-leading specification, but now you’ll find it even on relatively basic compact cameras and smartphones. So, just because a camera is capable of recording 4K, it doesn’t mean it’s the right one for you.
Perhaps you’re an amateur videographer who’s just starting to contemplate getting pretty serious about your shooting, or you’re a more experienced enthusiast who’s in the market to upgrade. Whichever applies to you, there’s a lot more to think about than just resolution. You’ll also need to consider frame rates, codecs and a host of other factors when picking the right 4K camera for you.
The vast majority of current cameras can record 4K at at least 30fps, but better 4K cameras can shoot at a smooth 60fps, or even faster. High-end 4K cameras can also do nifty tricks such as supporting log profiles, which you’ll need if you want to do some color correction in post production. Accessories for your camera will also be important, so you’ll need to ensure that there’s a good range of ports for external microphones, headphones and other add-ons.
Now we know that not all 4K cameras are equally adept, you might need some help separating out the options. That’s where we come in. We’ve dedicated lots of time to reviewing, rating and ranking the top 4K models so we can recommend the best in every format just for you.
Here you’ll find flexible mirrorless options which are well-suited to those who like to shoot a bit of everything, right through to high-end videography tools which come with a high-end price tag to match. Panasonic has for a long time been the go-to brand for 4K filmers for quite a while, but with a diverse and thriving market, there’s lots of alternatives to choose from right now. As well as the Japanese giant, you also have a good selection available from Sony, Nikon, Blackmagic and Fujifilm.
Read on to see which models have made our list…
What about Black Friday 2020?
If you’ve been saving up for the best 4K camera you can buy, you’ll likely find some great deals during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, which are now upon us. These officially will kick off on November 27 and, with most of the major retailers set to get involved, they’re likely to include a host of camera deals. Last year saw a range of discounts offered on 4K cameras, especially slightly older options. Both the Panasonic Lumix GH4 and GH5 were given big reductions, for example.
Best 4K cameras 2020 at a glance:
- Sony A7S III
- Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K
- Panasonic Lumix GH5S
- Panasonic Lumix GH5
- Panasonic Lumix S5
- Fujifilm X-T4
- Sony A6400
- Panasonic Lumix G9
- Panasonic Lumix S1
- Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III
- Nikon Z6
Before we look at our round-up of the best 4K cameras, we wanted to highlight a slightly more affordable alternative. It might have since been succeeded by the Panasonic Lumix G90 / G95, but the Lumix G80 (known as the Lumix G85 in the US) is still a very capable and cost-effective option for those looking for a budget 4K camera. There’s 4K video capture up to 30p (with a bit rate up to 100Mbps) and a dedicated microphone socket. Focusing is fast, while the vari-angle touchscreen should make framing footage nice and easy. The G80/G85 is also weather-sealed to protect it from the elements. It successor brings features like unlimited 4K recording, but if you don’t mind being restricted to 30 minutes per clip then this model offers great value.
Best 4K cameras in 2020:
The Sony A7S III is almost definitely the best hybrid camera you can currently buy. It keeps resolution low and caps the output at 4K (as opposed to the 6K/8K capabilities of some other models), with the ambition to be the best 4K camera you can buy.
As well as stunning output, up to 120fps shooting for super-smooth recording, there’s a host of other highlights on offer here too. There’s the ability to capture 16-bit raw over HDMI (plus a full-sized HDMI port), a stunningly high-resolution viewfinder, and a fully-articulating screen with an improved touch-interface.
Videographers will also enjoy other ports such as a headphone and microphone socket, compatibility with the XLR-K3M hot-shoe accessory from Sony, for up to four audio inputs.
This is a pricey camera, make no mistake, but if you want something that does the job extremely well – we don’t think you can get better than this.
If you want the best camera to shoot 4K videos, then this is it. Blackmagic’s Pocket Cinema Camera 4K is designed for film makers through and through and is not something to consider if you’re looking to shoot stills as well. Based around a Micro Four Thirds sensor and lens mount, it features a huge 5.0-inch touchscreen, it head and shoulders above other MFT shooters from a video-centric operational point of view. The range of connections on-board is also class-leading, and the fact there’s a dual card slot trumps much pricier cameras like the EOS R. That’s not forgetting decent on-board audio recording capabilities and of course, the sweetener to the tune of $299 worth of software – a license for DaVinci Resolve Studio, it really is a gift that keeps on giving. Finally, and most importantly, the fundamental quality of its 4K video takes on much pricier cameras and, when you know how to work it, handles noise better than some full frame sensors too, thanks to its the dual native ISOs.
While it can shoot stills quite happily (although at a pretty limited 10.2MP resolution), this should be seen first and foremost as a video camera; if you want to do both you’ve got the Lumix GH5 (below) to fill that brief. While the absence of built-in image stabilization might be a disappointment for some, that issue aside the breadth of video features is incredibly impressive. If you want to shoot broadcast-quality footage without remortgaging your house to buy a pro video camera, you won’t find a better video-focused camera right now.
Until the arrival of the Lumix GH5S, the GH5 was the pick of the bunch for those looking to shoot video. Quite a bit cheaper than the newer GH5S, the GH5 is a bit more versatile for those wanting to shoot both stills and video, and the video specification is still very impressive, allowing you to shoot Cinema 4K (4096 x 2160) at 60p with a bit rate of 150Mbps, while Full HD video can be captured up to 180fps. That’s not all, as the GH5 offers color subsampling at 4:2:2 and a color depth of 10-bit, delivering greater color information and richer graduations. The GH5 also offers live output to external recorders such as Apple ProRes via HDMI, as well as simultaneous internal recording. We’re looking forward to testing the new Panasonic S1 (and its S1R launch partner), as it also boasts strong video specs but adds the further delight of a full-frame sensor, which bodes well for low-light work and shallow depth of field. Until we see exactly what it’s made of, we’re sticking with the GH5.
Smaller and lighter than the Lumix GH5 (above), yet equipped with a full-frame mirrorless sensor, the Panasonic Lumix S5 is a lesson in hybrid versatility. A delight to hold and control, its fully articulating touchscreen makes the S5 a fantastic videography tool. So, too, does the 24.2MP full-frame sensor, which is capable of capturing cropped 4K footage at 60p or uncropped 4K at 30p. It can also record 10-bit 4K internally (though with a maximum clip length of 30 minutes). As you’d expect from Panasonic, video quality is excellent: there’s plenty of detail, while in-body image stabilization keeps everything smooth. Contrast-based autofocus isn’t cutting edge, but it’s perfectly capable of following subjects around the frame. Add V-Log, time-lapses, dual native ISO and anamorphic 4K into the mix and the S5 shapes up as an impressive option for 4K film-makers. A second battery is advisable for day-long shooting sessions, but the only real compromise is the use of Micro HDMI over the full-size equivalent. Which, given the in-built Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, isn’t much of a compromise at all.
Fujifilm’s X-T3 drastically improved its video performance compared to its predecessors, and the X-T4 makes a similar leap to make it one of the best 4K cameras you can buy.
The biggest boost comes from the inclusion of in-body image stabilization (IBIS). This makes it a little larger and heavier than the X-T3, but still significantly lighter than an enthusiast-level DSLR. It doesn’t completely replace the need for a gimbal, but does mean it’s a superb option for the run-and-gun filmmaker.
Combine this with the same 26.1MP back-illuminated APS-C sensor as its predecessor, and you have a fantastic performer for both stills and video. The latter is a particular standout thanks to inclusion of a very modern movie shooting spec that includes Cinema 4K movies up to 60fps, 10-bit internal recording, and up to 400Mbps bit-rate and with F-Log and HLG profiles included as standard.
You can also shoot slow motion Full HD movies up to 240fps, while that IBIS system provides up to 6.5EV (or exposure value) of stabilization when used with one of Fujifilm’s stabilized lenses (18 out of its 29 X Series lenses fit this description). Overall, the Fujifilm X-T4 is the best APS-C mirrorless camera you can buy – and a major reason for that is its video performance.
The A6400’s lack of in-body stabilization and headphone jack may make it seem under-equipped when it comes to video recording. But its excellent image quality (smooth motion, impressive levels of detail), tough magnesium alloy construction, affordable price tag and, most importantly, its superb, highly advanced autofocus setup go a long way towards making it a contender for most accessible 4K camera round. The autofocus, which includes excellent real-life eye and face tracking, takes a lot of the work out of both video and stills work, particularly if you’re frequently shooting other people – or yourself. Sony’s A6600, the step-up model in the range, keeps much of the A6400’s specs and features but adds in-body stabilization, a headphone jack and longer battery life. We’ll be reviewing that soon to see if it’s worth the premium, but for now the A6400 is our pick from Sony.
This isn’t Panasonic’s most video-centric camera – see the Panasonic GH5S and GH5 above – but the Lumix G9 is a fantastic all-rounder for stills and video, particularly thanks to a recent firmware update in November 2019. This added pro-friendly treats like 10-bit 4:2:2 video capture to some already tasty video credentials, which included the ability to shoot Cinema 4K video at a smooth 60fps frame rate. The G9 also boasts superb in-body image stabilization that equates to 6.5 extra stops of exposure, as well as two UHS-II SD card slots. It’s also weatherproof, great to handle and boasts a wealth of stills-focussed features, including a burst mode that shoots at 20fps with autofocus and an astonishing 60fps without. Overall, we think it’s Panasonic’s best all-round mirrorless camera – especially given its recent price drop to below £1,000.
It might be the junior of the two launch models in Panasonic’s fledgling S system, but the S1 is arguably the better option for videographers.
For starters, it captures 4K UHD footage using the whole width of its full-frame sensor – no crop factor here – and offers full pixel readout at up to 30p. It can also record 10-bit 4:2:0 footage internally using the HEVC/H.265 codec, with an update due later this year set to unlock even higher specs. Videos can be shot in 4K at up to 60p (with a 30-minute time limit) and there are several gamma curve profiles on-board, including Hybrid Log Gamma.
In the real world, that all translates into very high-quality video. Its body might be heavy, but sensor-based image stabilization helps keep handheld footage smooth, while rolling shutter is only an issue if the S1 is jerked suddenly. The on-board microphone is surprisingly capable, too, even if the external mic and headphone ports will prove more popular.
Arguably the biggest issue is the autofocus performance which, due to an absence of phase-detection pixels, can be a little inconsistent and jerkier than rivals. The S1 promises plenty, though, provided you’re comfortable using manual focus.
Picking up where its predecessor left off, the OM-D E-M1 Mark III is an outstanding all-round package – and that’s as much the case for shooting video as it is for stills.
On paper, the Mark III’s video specification is solid enough to cater for both casual recorders and more serious videographers: it can shoot Cine 4K video at 24fps (237Mbps) and Full HD at up to 120fps, with an OM-Log 400 colour profile that’s little short of lovely.
And it all comes good in action. Powerful image stabilization keeps footage smooth and sharp, while capable continuous autofocus with face- and eye-detection proves impressively effective. Headphone and external mic ports are a welcome presence for those looking to upgrade their setup, too.
If there’s one thing we’d like to see, it’s the availability of the Live ND mode – which simulates the effect of a real neutral-density filter – while shooting video. But such is the depth of what the E-M1 Mark III can do when you dig into the options, it’s hard to pick any real faults.
When it launched in November 2018, this full-frame mirrorless camera was Nikon’s most serious assault on video. It’s since been succeeded by the new Nikon Z6 II, but we haven’t yet reviewed that camera, so in the meantime it retains its place. While the Z7 remains an excellent choice for stills shooters looking to capture video alongside their images, the Z6 is arguably better for the videographer as it can capture oversampled 4K footage without a crop (which the Z7 can’t do). Perhaps most crucially, the presence of both sensor-based and electronic VR mean that the camera does great job to keep things stable, whatever the lens you’re using, while 293 sensor-based phase-detect AF points that are available during video recording do very well to keep everything focused and transitions nice and smooth. The 10-bit N-Log shooting option, which is also absent from the D850, gives you a better starting point for grading footage. We’d like to have seen a 4K60p option (which you get in the Nikon Z6 II), and a little rolling shutter remains, but we otherwise remain very impressed with the Z6’s video skills.