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If you want to get a camera today, you wouldn't want to settle for anything less than 4K. If it’s not already the standard, it’ll be at any moment. Besides the quality, 4K recording gives you more room to reframe and edit your videos in post-production. Still, there’s more to a 4K camera than just the resolution.
You’d have to consider the camera’s sensor, lens, light sensitivity, and processor. Besides the obvious, these features would allow you to shoot in different conditions without additional lighting.
But which camera has it all? Do you need to spend a small fortune to get a 4K camera? Luckily, you don’t. Keep reading for our reviews of the best 4K camera options. Yes, we’ve taken the budget into consideration as well.
Best 4K Camera Reviews
Panasonic Lumix FZ80
The Panasonic Lumix FZ80 is an SLR-style camera with superzoom capabilities. Compared to the older models, the current production FZ80 offers superior sensor, megapixels, and features.
The Lumix FZ83 has a decent 1/2.3-inch 18.1-megapixel CMOS sensor. The Venus Engine processor powers the FZ80 and is partly responsible for the superior image quality.
As for the lens, this is a point-and-shoot camera with built-in superzoom DC VARIO with 60x zoom and optical image stabilization. Not too many budget 4K cameras can match its shooting range. It starts at ultra-wide 20mm and goes up to 1200mm. For a fixed lens, the DC VARIO gives you almost unparalleled versatility and shooting power.
The FZ80 is capable of capturing 4K QFHD video at 3840 x 2160 and 4K Lumix photos. On top of that, this camera allows focus stacking and post-focus. This gives you the creative freedom to switch focus points and change the depth of field. Plus, you get to shoot 30 fps bursts for amazing action stills.
There are a 1,170K-dot viewfinder and a 3-inch LCD touch display. Low-light performance is one of the camera’s best assets. The aperture range of f/2.8-5.9 and the CMOS sensor allow for clear sharp images even at higher ISO.
Finally, the FZ80 is Wi-Fi enabled for easy pairing with your mobile device. You can also charge the camera via USB (Micro USB and USB 2.0) and output video with the micro HDMI Type D slot.
What's to like about the Panasonic Lumix FZ80
Overall, the FZ80 is a great entry-level 4K camera that’s a no-brainer to use. The camera performs great in Spot, Center-Weight, and Multiple metering modes. In addition, the autofocus is quite fast even at wide focal lengths.
What's not to like about the Panasonic Lumix FZ80
The superzoom is a digital zoom that comes with all of its flaws. At the extreme, you might see some chromatic aberrations and fringing.
Akaso V50 Pro Action Camera Kit
If you are looking for a compact 4K action camera, the Akaso V50 Pro stands out as a well-built and versatile GoPro spin-off with shooting capabilities that can satisfy most aspiring videographers and at a price that won’t burn a hole in your pocket. This one is a full kit that gets you started right away.
For such a small camera, the V50 comes with some impressive hardware for the money. It has a 20-megapixel Panasonic sensor paired with the Sunplus iCatch chipset. But what does this mean to you?
Simply put, this Akaso is capable of capturing true 4K video with surprising clarity and color accuracy. Plus, the built-in lens allows you to adjust the shooting/view angles from narrow to super wide. In numbers, this translates to 140° field of view for narrow shots to 170° for super wide.
The V50 has a 6-axis gyroscope that offers electronic image stabilization (EIS) which works well even if you use the camera to record extreme sports adventures. Shooting 2K or 4K at 30 fps is where the EIS shines — you might be able to get away with some levels of shake and movement. You can also capture 120 fps at 720p.
True to its adventurous nature, the V50 comes with underwater capabilities. With the waterproof case on, you should be able to dive down to 98 feet and use this camera. In addition, you can turn on the red filter for better underwater clarity and color balance.
The Akaso has an HDMI output and Wi-Fi. You can connect it with your smartphone or tablet via the iSmart Pro+ app. You’ll be able to instantly share photos and videos on social media with the app.
What's to like about the Akaso V50 Pro Action Camera Kit
The V50 offers consistent image quality for stills and video. It also supports external microphones, which makes it a good option for aspiring vloggers. The kit includes a number of mounts, waterproof case, two battery packs, and more.
What's not to like about the Akaso V50 Pro Action Camera Kit
In all honesty, you’d be hard-pressed to find too many things to complain about here, especially at this price. It’s a budget-friendly 4K action cam after all.
One thing to note is that the smartphone app could benefit from some improvements.
It’s cheap enough but the price of the camera might be inflated by the kit. You might never have a use for all the accessories.
Dragon Touch Vision 3 Action Camera Kit
Are you looking to get a good 4K action camera on a very tight budget? No problem, the Dragon Touch Vision 3 offers a lot of premium features at a fraction of the price of its competitors. But is it too good to be true? Let’s find out!
This 4K camera is equipped with a 16-megapixel Sony sensor which shoots 4K and 2.7K at 30fps and 1080p at 60fps. The lens is fixed at a 170° field of view and the zoom is 4X. However, it’s better to get closer to your subject (rather than relying on the zoom) to retain optimal image quality.
The Vision 3 has a 2-inch screen with a user-friendly interface which allows you to preview the footage and navigate through the menus. It is also Wi-Fi-enabled with a range of up to 33 feet. The XDV app pairs the camera to your smartphone or tablet, plus you get a wrist remote control to record action shots on the go.
There are a good number of shooting modes such as loop, slow motion, time-lapse, burst photos, and more. The driving mode is particularly cool. You can install the Dragon Touch on your dash for use as a dash cam. You can bring the Vision 3 on your water sports adventures as well.
The camera is waterproof up to 100 feet (with the case on, of course). But there are no filtering modes when underwater (hey, can’t expect to have everything for nothing, can you?). Regardless of shooting conditions, you can rely on the battery life.
One charge is good for about 60 minutes at 2K and 4K or about 90 minutes at 1080p. The camera uses a 1050 mAh battery pack and you get two of them in the package. So, get a memory card of the right size for two sets of batteries.
What's to like about the Dragon Touch Vision 3
For a highly affordable 4K camera, the Dragon Touch Vision 3 offers good image quality, battery life, and versatility. It also records audio at a good enough quality that you might not need an external mic if you have the proper audio processing app. This is a full kit of accessories that’s ready to shoot out of the box.
What's not to like about the Dragon Touch Vision 3
The camera body and lens might be prone to scratching. The wrist remote is not waterproof, which is something to be considered if you are to shoot in rainy or damp conditions (just don’t use it).
Kicteck 4K Camcorder
The Kicteck 4K camcorder has all the bells and whistles you need for creating great-looking videos. It’s a throwback to the camcorders of old. It looks the same, works somewhat the same (the way you hold it), and comes with every you need. The main difference is the much higher quality, as you’ll be able to get great action shots and stills with this camcorder.
The Kicteck camcorder has a 13-megapixel CMOS sensor which is capable of shooting video at 2880 x 2160 (24fps). As for photos, you can get up to 9212 x 5184 interpolated if you are to utilize maximum image resolution. In addition, this camera has an IR-CUT filter and fill-in IR light for better night shots.
The exposure compensation falls in the -2.0 EV to +2.0 EV range and the light sensitivity goes up to ISO 400. Due to a relatively small sensor, it’s best to go for ISO 100 or 200 to not lose any of the details. The white balance is very good and the following modes are included: tungsten, daylight, fluorescent, cloudy, and automatic.
This Kicteck comes with an f/3.2 aperture lens and 7.63mm focal distance. That said, both wide angle and macro lenses are available for this camera, which has a proprietary lens mount. This means that you won’t be able to install third-party lenses.
The 3-inch touchscreen works as an accurate viewfinder. It flips out like an old camcorder at up to 270° rotation, which is great if you are looking for a vlogging camera. The camcorder works with the NovaCam app which is available for both Android and iOS.
What's to like about the Kicteck 4K Camcorder
The Kicteck 4K camcorder has solid specs for its reasonable price. It comes with night shot capabilities, two lenses, and 16x digital zoom. In general, it works great for interviews, sports events, symposium, and such. Some users even use the camera to make indie films.
What's not to like about the Kicteck 4K Camcorder
With this off-brand camera, you might not want to max out the zoom or ISO.
Campark ACT74 Action Camera Kit
The Campark ACT74 is among the most popular action cameras for its no-brainer price. Sure, it’s not exactly a GoPro, but can it hold a candle to one? Keep reading to find out.
The ACT74 has a 16-megapixel Sony sensor which shoots 4K video at 30fps and 16-megapixel stills. By default, the field of view is set to 170°, but you can choose different angles to frame your shots better. It also comes with a few shooting modes.
Besides 4K, you can record 1080p at 60fps, 720p slow motion at 120fps, and time-lapse video. The light sensor is located under the lens so you get excellent auto-exposure. There’s a small LED light (also under the lens) for better night shots.
This action cam supports Wi-Fi paring with your mobile device, but it’s not remote-capable. This action camera kit includes a number of mounts, waterproof case, clips, two batteries, and more. Like most budget 4K action cameras, the ACT74 is waterproof up to 98 feet as long as you keep the case on.
What's to like about the Campark ACT74
The Campark ACT74 offers excellent bang for the buck. The shooting modes work well at different resolutions and frame rates. The color reproduction is good enough, as well as the low light performance (all of which are judged with the price in mind.
What's not to like about the Campark ACT74
The camera doesn’t have image stabilization or a touchscreen. The Wi-Fi app is no great shakes either. (But, look at the price!)
As mentioned in the introduction, there are a number of things that affect image quality and a camera’s performance. For example, you won’t be able to take full advantage of high resolution if the camera has poor light sensitivity or lens. The following sections give you an overview of the features to look for in a good 4K camera.
The minimum requirement to get 4K is 3,840 x 2,160 pixels, the so-called UHD resolution. That said, the industry standard for 4K is 4096 x 2160 pixels at an aspect ratio of 1.9:1. Needless to say, the aim is to go for a camera with at least 3,840 x 2,160 resolution.
For example, the Panasonic FZ80 featured in this article gives you exactly that. But most of the action cams are not far behind. There are no laws that forbid manufacturers to specify their own 4K resolution at lower than UHD, and many of them do just that.
The image processor is a crucial camera component unless you plan to shoot RAW images/video. For JPEG and other formats, the processor corrects light and adjusts other settings to optimize the footage.
All digital cameras come with a processor. The brand and model of the processor may not mean a lot to those who aren’t familiar with them. In general, the faster the processor, the more it will be able to compensate for less-than-ideal shooting conditions.
All cameras on our list except the Kicteck 4K camcorder come with a built-in lens (though you can’t really say that the Kicteck uses interchangeable lenses).
With an action cam, you usually get a fixed aperture wide angle lens (170°). This is not necessarily a bad thing as long as the optics inside are at least decent. On the other hand, the lens on a larger camera offers greater aperture range, which translates to better low light performance and sharper footage.
Sensor Size and Type
CMOS is the way to go for budget-friendly action cams. These sensors come in various sizes and the ones from Sony and Panasonic are probably the most popular options.
CMOS sensors from these manufacturers found their way into many 4K action cams due to their reliability and great image quality (and easy availability). As for the size, bigger is always better for sensors. However, with affordable 4K cams and action cams, expect to get a 1/2.3” or 1/3.3” sensor.
The ISO number indicates how sensitive the camera is to light. The lower the number, the less amount of light reaches the sensor. You’d get a darker image as a result. The scale usually starts at ISO 100 and go up to ISO 3200 or more.
However, smaller sensors don’t handle high ISO well. So it’s best to stay in the 100 to 800 ISO range.
How many megapixels is 4K?
This might come as a surprise to you but 4K is actually a bit less than 9 megapixels. For example, the professional Red Dragon camera has about 19 megapixels and outputs 6K resolution. However, there’s more to 4K than megapixels.
You also have to consider the sensor size and aspect ratio. In theory, a 9-megapixel camera should be able to shoot 4K if it has a native 16:9 ratio, which would require a rather large sensor.
What is a 4K camera?
A 4K camera is any camera that can shoot at a resolution of at least 3,840 x 2,160 pixels. With today’s technology, this doesn't mean the camera needs to be bulky. As you know, some smartphones are capable of 4K resolution, as well as most action cams.
What is 4K photography?
In essence, 4K photography means retrieving stills from 4K footage. This is particularly helpful when you want to capture action or anything that moves. How do you take 4K photos?
The entire process is quite simple. Set your 4K camera to burst mode, press the shutter button, and preview the burst to see which image works best. You can also isolate a frame from a video and use it as a photo. This requires basic knowledge of editing tools, but you don’t need to be tech-savvy to do it.
How much does a professional camera cost?
How much do you want to spend?
A professional Arri or Red can set you back more than $100,000 after a lens and a few other accessories. At a lower end, professional 4K cameras from Blackmagic, for example, start at a little over $1,000.
But you don’t need to spend a small fortune to produce high-quality footage. There are many examples of viral videos and award-winning indie films that were shot on action cams or entry-level cameras.
What is a good camera for filming?
The answer to this question depends on your needs. You can create cool footage with your smartphone, but if you want more quality and greater versatility, it’s best to go for a standalone camera.
For example, if you are an adventure sports enthusiasts, an action cam would be a logical choice. In general, these cameras are tough and handle moves and shakes quite well. But if you want to shoot events or creative videos, it’s best to go for a camcorder or a larger camera.
There are winners in two different categories for this write-up. For the best SLR-style camera, the Panasonic Lumix FZ80 wins by a landslide for a few reasons.
First, the lens has exceptional zooming capabilities. The FZ80 can natively record at 3,840 x 2,160 resolution and offers excellent low light performance. In addition, the burst mode allows you to use the camera for 4K photography. Overall, this 4K camera is a steal for what it’s capable of.
On the other hand, the Akaso V50 Pro is the best budget 4K action cam. It features 20 megapixels, the ability to shoot 4K at 30fps, and different fields of view. More importantly, the V50 comes with EIS and a bunch of accessories to help you shoot great videos, be it underwater, on land, or in the air.