Filmmakers hear the term 4K video… a lot. We searched around, but could not find a comprehensive list that broke down the definition, history, and practical application of 4K video. So we decided to make our own.

We’ve cross-checked features, specs, and prices to bring you the definitive resource for the best 4K video cameras. Once you’ve finished reading, you will have an in-depth understanding of what’s available to filmmakers today, with prices ranging from $150 to $10,000.

In short, you will be ready to capture cinematic 4K video right away.

Let’s jump in!

1

4K Video Camera BASICS

4K VIDEO introduction & 4k CAMERAS

1.1  4K VIDEO CAMERA basics

Breakdown of 4K Video

4K video is an oddly confusing topic, but there are some relatively simple answers that will clear things up. This will not only help you understand 4K cameras, but also some helpful info for working with 4K images.

This article isn’t about file management or storage, but you will make weird mistakes in your NLE if you don’t understand why 4K is… 4K.

4K VIDEO DEFINITION

What is 4K video?

4K video refers to video that is recorded with a horizontal (width) display resolution of 4,000 pixels. The exact number varies when used for television broadcast vs. cinema projection, but the basic idea is that the horizontal pixel count lands around 4,000.

4K Video Resolutions:

  • Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI) | 4096 × 2160
  • Ultra High Definition (UHD) | 3840 × 2160

Digital video formats commonly use vertical resolution (i.e. 1080) to describe the specific format rather than using the horizontal resolution like the filmmaking community does with 4K (i.e. 4096).

Again, the resolution axis used to identify 4K (i.e. 4096) is horizontal

While the resolution axis used to identify HD video (i.e. 1080) is vertical.

The reason for this is that before digital video was a viable option for use in cinema, film scanners would use the horizontal resolution measurement.

4K was a film format before it was a digital video format, and thus manufacturers relabeled the new 4K digital video format to fall in line with an existing label used by the film community.

4K could be referred to as 2.1K, but this isn’t the case so… here we are.

1.2  4K VIDEO CAMERA basics

Is your camera true 4k?

Netflix has their own set of 4K requirements for their 4K streaming service, and they have strict specifications for the cameras and sensors used to capture footage.

NETFLIX 4K CAMERA REQUIREMENTS

4K UHD RESOLUTION: A camera must have a true 4K UHD sensor (equal to or greater than 3840 photosites wide).

RECORDING FORMAT: Minimum of 16-bit Linear or 10-bit Log processing. Bitrate of at least 240 Mbps (at 23.98/24 fps) recording.

The reason we’ve added these specifications is to provide popular standards that exist in the arena of professional entertainment and streaming services. If you are ever in doubt or want to know how to practice 4K for future professional work, we suggest you start there.

Based on the specifications above, the ARRI Alexa Mini would not be considered a true 4K camera because it does not have a true 4K sensor.

C200 vs EVA-1 vs URSA Mini Pro vs FS5 - Vistek | Your Visual Imaging Experts

1.3  4K VIDEO CAMERA basics 

Notes about our list

This list is for intermediate to professional filmmakers. For the sake of avoiding budget depression, we’ve set our price range from $100 to $10,000.

For some context, the ARRI Alexa SXT camera body alone costs $74,000.

We have included 4K action cameras, 4K drones, 4K DSLR, 4K mirrorless, and 4K cinema cameras to our list. We listed them in order of price from lowest to highest in each category, but that doesn’t imply any camera superiority.

Also, all stats listed are in the context of 4K video, so while a camera may have impressive capabilities for HD video, it may be underwhelming with the 4K video specs.

Keep that in mind while reading.

2

Best 4K Action Cameras & Drones

From $150 — $1,430

2.1  BEST 4K ACTION CAMERAS & DRONES

YI Technology 4K

YI Technology 4K footage [Sean Cannell]

  • Price: $150
  • Mount: YI Technology
  • Format Size: 1-Chip
  • Max FPS: 4K @ 30fps

The cheapest 4K camera on this list. Action cameras are useful for stunt work and action shots, but can also be attached to vehicles.

Be careful when securing an action camera to anything that moves at high speed.

2.2  BEST 4K ACTION CAMERAS & DRONES

GoPro HERO5 Session

GoPro HERO5 Session 4K footage [Filip Vanek]

  • Price: $200
  • Mount: GoPro
  • Format Size: 1-Chip
  • Max FPS: 4K @ 30fps

GoPro is the standard for 4K action cameras for good reason.

The GoPro HERO5 Session is a 4K camera with the lowest price, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t get great footage. You could get six of these and shoot the best GoPro videos.

The advantage with this GoPro is that it's considerably smaller than most other GoPro's, but there isn't a touchscreen which makes it more difficult to use. Also, since this action camera is the smallest, it also has a smaller battery which means faster battery consumption.

Lastly, it has a slightly less sensor and photo resolution than the GoPro HERO5 (10MP vs. 12MP).

2.3  BEST 4K ACTION CAMERAS & DRONES

GoPro HERO5

GoPro HERO5 4K [TheBuffNerds]

  • Price: $235
  • Mount: GoPro
  • Format Size: 1-Chip
  • Max FPS: 4K @ 30fps

This specific GoPro will not get you 4K slow-motion video. If you need to shoot at higher frames per second, we suggest looking at the GoPro HERO6.

2.4  BEST 4K ACTION CAMERAS & DRONES

GoPro HERO6

GoPro HERO6 4K [Sam Evans]

  • Price: $326
  • Mount: GoPro
  • Format Size: 1-Chip
  • Max FPS: 4K @ 60fps

Finally, we get to a GoPro that captures 4K at 60fps. This will allow you to have slow-motion video. You could buy three of these for around $1000 and get some crazy footage running at the same time.

Whichever GoPro you choose, it's important to specify the details on your shot list to plan more effectively. If you end up shooting at a higher frame rate, mention this on the specific shot with StudioBinder's Shot List Builder.

Just add all the shots, then click on FPS (Frames Per Second) to specify it.

StudioBinder Storyboard Software - The Martian - Frames Per Second - 1

2.5  BEST 4K ACTION CAMERAS & DRONES

Sony FDR-X3000

Sony FDR-X3000 [CodyS423]

  • Price: $400
  • Mount: Sony Action
  • Format Size: 1-Chip
  • Max FPS: 4K @ 30fps

Unfortunately, Sony’s action camera does not do 4K above 30fps, but it’s nice to see that there are other action camera options beyond the GoPro.

2.6  BEST 4K ACTION CAMERAS & DRONES

GoPro HERO7

GoPro HERO7 4K [Hector Toro]

  • Price: $400
  • Mount: GoPro
  • Format Size: 1-Chip
  • Max FPS: 4K @ 60fps

The GoPro HERO7 allows you to capture in 60fps which can give you slow-motion video. These are really great for action shots and you can even throw this camera off a cliff while it records - just be careful.

2.7  BEST 4K ACTION CAMERAS & DRONES

DJI Phantom 4 Pro Version 2.0

DJI Phantom Pro 4K footage [Daniel Schulz]

  • Price: $1,430
  • Mount: Built-In “35mm Equivalent” Lens
  • Format Size: 1-Inch
  • Max FPS: 4K @ 60fps

This drone is super useful for establishing shots or big sweeping footage captured over the countryside. If you’re really clever, you can find some creative ways to film your narrative scenes as well.

3

BEST 4K DSLR & MIRRORLESS CAMERAS

FROM $1000 — $3,560

3.1  BEST 4K DSLR & MIRRORLESS CAMERAS

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 4K footage - TheBuffNerds

  • Price: $1000
  • Mount: Micro Four Thirds (MFT)
  • Format Size: Micro Four Thirds
  • Max FPS: 4K @ 30fps

This is the first ILC (interchangeable lens camera) we find on our list, and it’s a great little machine. This Panasonic isn't as versatile as its big brothers, but for $1000, you can get some seriously crisp images.

3.2  BEST 4K DSLR & MIRRORLESS CAMERAS

Sony Alpha a6500

Sony a6500 4K footage [Pascal Eckhardt]

  • Price: $1,100
  • Mount: Sony E-Mount
  • Format Size: APS-C
  • Max FPS: 4K @ 30fps

This Sony is such a great camera, and while the 4K capabilities are limited, the camera itself is quite fantastic. If you’re unsure of how much you want to shoot 4K, but you’re sure you want a nice mirrorless camera, grab this.

3.3  BEST 4K DSLR & MIRRORLESS CAMERAS

Fujifilm X-T3

Fujifilm X-T3 4K footage [DSI Pictures]

  • Price: $1,500
  • Mount: Fujifilm X-Mount
  • Format Size: APS-C
  • Max FPS: 4K @ 60fps

This mirrorless 4K camera is a great tool for every kind of filmmaking, which includes cinematic filmmaking. Fujifilm has a really nice picture profile for skin tones as well. On top of that, you can shoot at higher frame rates to get slow motion footage.

3.4  BEST 4K DSLR & MIRRORLESS CAMERAS

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark ii 4K footage [Mathieu Gasquet]

  • Price: $1,700
  • Mount: Micro Four Thirds
  • Format Size: Micro Four Thirds
  • Max FPS: 4K @ 30fps

This mirrorless cannot do 4K slow motion, and it uses an M43 (micro four thirds) sensor, but neither of these things disqualifies it as a great 4K option.

Watch the video to see just how nice the image quality can be.

3.5  BEST 4K DSLR & MIRRORLESS CAMERAS

Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5

Panasonic Lumix DC GH5 4K footage [DPReview]

  • Price: $1,700
  • Mount: Micro Four Thirds
  • Format Size: Micro Four Thirds
  • Max FPS: 4K @ 30fps

This mirrorless camera has the best internal stabilization feature so your 4K video will look incredibly smooth out of this machine.

This camera has a low price tag, and will always be one of the best mirrorless cameras ever.

3.6  BEST 4K DSLR & MIRRORLESS CAMERAS

Sony Alpha a7 iii

Sony A7 iii movie mode review [Gordon Laing]

  • Price: $2,000
  • Mount: Sony E-Mount
  • Format Size: Full-Frame
  • Max FPS: 4K @ 30fps

This is the king of mirrorless video cameras so the fact that it shoots 4K is just an added bonus. Doesn't do slow-motion 4K which might be the only negative of the best mirrorless video camera on the market.

3.7  BEST 4K DSLR & MIRRORLESS CAMERAS

Nikon Z6

Nikon Z6 breakdown [DSLR Video Shooter]

  • Price: $2,146
  • Mount: Nikon Z-Mount
  • Format Size: Full-Frame
  • Max FPS: 4K @ 30fps

Brand new mirrorless that shoots 4K at 10-bit. Doesn’t do slow motion in 4K, but it easily beats out the Canon EOS mirrorless as far as 4K capability. Even better than the big brother Nikon Z7.

3.8  BEST 4K DSLR & MIRRORLESS CAMERAS

Sony Alpha a7S ii

Oahu, Hawaii in 4k [TheBuffNerds]

  • Price: $2,200
  • Mount: Sony E-Mount
  • Format Size: Full-Frame
  • Max FPS: 4K @ 30fps

This was one of the big punchers in the early days of mirrorless cameras, and it is still used as one of the best low light cameras out there. Limited by its 4K capabilities, but a great camera for any filmmaker.

3.9  BEST 4K DSLR & MIRRORLESS CAMERAS

Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5s

Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5s footage

  • Price: $2,300
  • Mount: Micro Four Thirds
  • Format Size: Micro Four Thirds
  • Max FPS: 4K @ 60fps

You lose some stabilization from the earlier model, but you gain the ability to shoot 4K at 60fps. The Panasonics are the arch-rival to the Sony mirrorless cameras, and some swear by them completely.

3.10  BEST 4K DSLR & MIRRORLESS CAMERAS

Canon EOS R

Canon EOS-R 4K footage [DSI Pictures]

  • Price: $2,300
  • Mount: Canon RF-Mount
  • Format Size: Full-Frame (1.8x Crop)
  • Max FPS: 4K @ 60fps

This camera is Canon’s mirrorless option with some expensive lenses and some new features. The camera allows 4K at 60fps, but there is a 1.8x crop which sort of defeats the purpose. Consider this with the price.

3.11  BEST 4K DSLR & MIRRORLESS CAMERAS

Sony Alpha a7R iii

Sony a7R iii 4K [Max Yuryev]

  • Price: $3,000
  • Mount: Sony E-Mount
  • Format Size: Full-Frame
  • Max FPS: 4K @ 30fps

This camera is very much the photography favorite from the new Sony mirrorless series, and it is great for all of the same reasons minus the price and the low light capability.

Wedding photographer and videographer? Here you are.

3.12  BEST 4K DSLR & MIRRORLESS CAMERAS

Nikon Z7

Shooting a music video with the Nikon Z7 [DPReview]

  • Price: $3,546
  • Mount: Nikon Z-Mount
  • Format Size: Full-Frame
  • Max FPS: 4K @ 30fps

Another wedding photography tool.

The Z7 is the big brother to the Z6, and it definitely is made for photographs with video tacked on. This is a very expensive 4K video camera in comparison.

4

BEST 4K CINEMA CAMERAS

FROM $1,300 — $10,000

4.1  BEST 4K CINEMA CAMERAS

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera: First Impressions [Videomaker]

  • Price: $1,300
  • Mount: Micro Four Thirds
  • Format Size: Micro Four Thirds
  • Max FPS: 4K @ 60fps

Blackmagic has made some of the best cameras available today. The pocket cinema camera is a crazy machine with a reasonable price tag. You can get slow-motion in 4K, but there is an M43 (micro four thirds) crop from the sensor size.

4.2  BEST 4K CINEMA CAMERAS

JVC GY-LS300 4KCAM

JVC GY-LS300 4K footage [EVS | Gear for Filmmakers]

  • Price: $2,500
  • Mount: Micro Four Thirds
  • Format Size: Super 35mm
  • Max FPS: 4K @ 30fps

Really great camera for videographers and those looking for 4K footage with documentary and news implications. That isn’t to say this camera can’t be used for narrative filmmaking, but it probably wouldn’t be.

4.3  BEST 4K CINEMA CAMERAS

Sony PXW-FS5M2

Sony FS5 II - Overview [ProAV TV]

  • Price: $4,748
  • Mount: Sony E-Mount
  • Format Size: Super 35mm
  • Max FPS: 4K @ 30fps

We finally dip into the cinema cameras for 4K. The FS5 is a great tool for narrative filmmaking, but be aware of Sony lens limitations. This camera does not do 4K slow motion.

4.4  BEST 4K CINEMA CAMERAS

AJA CION 4K/UHD

AJA CION Camera Review [Bradidimus]

  • Price: $5,000
  • Mount: PL
  • Format Size: Super 35mm
  • Max FPS: 4K @ 60fps

AJA has thrown its hat into the 4K cinema camera ring, and they brought slow-motion with them. There have been some mixed reviews for this camera, but we really enjoyed their originality to the camera body.

4.5  BEST 4K CINEMA CAMERAS

Canon EOS C200B

Canon C200 Review [Caleb Wojcik]

  • Price: $6,000
  • Mount: EF/PL
  • Format Size: Super 35mm
  • Max FPS: 4K @ 60fps

Canon cinema cameras with C-log get you some really fantastic footage, and you should always consider these cameras if you want to be a digital narrative filmmaker. This one does slow-motion 4K video as well.

4.6  BEST 4K CINEMA CAMERAS

Blackmagic Design URSA Mini Pro

Blackmagic URSA Mini Review [Film Riot]

  • Price: $6,000
  • Mount: EF/PL
  • Format Size: Super 35mm
  • Max FPS: 4K @ 60fps

Possibly the best camera on the list, and when you consider the dynamic range, lens compatibility, and slow-motion capabilities in 4K… why not? Remember that cinema cameras require extra accessories.

4.7  BEST 4K CINEMA CAMERAS

Panasonic AU-EVA1

Hands-On Review | Panasonic AU-EVA1 [B&H Photo Video]

  • Price: $7,345
  • Mount: EF/PL
  • Format Size: Super 35mm
  • Max FPS: 4K @ 60fps

Panasonic brings a really great cinema camera with 4K slow-motion and some really great image quality. All of these cinema cameras will be amazing options, so just get the one that looks best to you.

4.8  BEST 4K CINEMA CAMERAS

Canon EOS C200

Canon C200 Review [Caleb Wojcik]

  • Price: $7,500
  • Mount: EF/PL
  • Format Size: Super 35mm
  • Max FPS: 4K @ 60fps

Another great machine from Canon with even better specifications that the C200B. The extra $1500 gets you some picture quality for sure, which matters when you’re talking 4K. Could you get more from accessories?

4.9  BEST 4K CINEMA CAMERAS

Sony PXW-FS7M2

Sony FS700 Review: Pros and Cons [Philip Bloom]

  • Price: $9,000
  • Mount: Sony E-Mount
  • Format Size: Super 35mm
  • Max FPS: 4K @ 60fps

The FS7 is a $4,300 jump from the little brother version, and while you gain a ton in picture quality you do not gain much as far as 4K capability.

4.10  BEST 4K CINEMA CAMERAS

RED RAVEN 4.5K

RED Raven 4.5K | Things to Know [LensProToGo]

  • Price: $9,000
  • Mount: EF
  • Format Size: Super 35mm
  • Max FPS: 4K @ 120fps

This RED Raven with Dragon sensor will allow you to record 4K at 120fps which means your footage can be slowed down to 4x speed while in 4K. Get ready to buy a hard drive as well to support the file size.

4.11  BEST 4K CINEMA CAMERAS

Canon Cinema EOS C300 Mark II

Canon EOS C300 Mk II Camera Overview and Setup Guide [BrainBox Cameras]

  • Price: $10,000
  • Mount: EF/PL
  • Format Size: Super 35mm
  • Max FPS: 4K @ 60fps

This Canon tops off our list because it comes in right at $10,000. This camera is relatively brand new, so at least you won’t be upgrading too soon. Canon does a lot right with this camera, and you get 60fps.

UP NEXT:

Top Video Camera Stabilizers Guide

Now you know everything you need to get your new 4K camera. You may even feel good enough to buy one of these beautiful dream machines, but don’t forget that great images require more than just high resolution.

Crisp footage and camera shake rarely go together, so we invite you to check out our video stabilizer guide for filmmakers. You can rig your 4K camera to one of these stabilizers to get super smooth footage, and you can be off to shooting your project as soon as possible.

Up Next: Top Video Camera Stabilizer Guide for Filmmakers →

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