When you get to a certain level with your filmmaking, you’ll want to look at the best 4K camcorder options. If you’re experienced with DSLRs, then you’ll most likely want to consider the best 4K DSLR on the market and look at the options from there.
4K video looks stunning, as I’m sure you’re aware. It’s the future and more and more people are moving towards it.
In this guide, we want to give you some ideas for your 4K DSLR purchase, as well as give general tips about working with the format. Along with this, we’ll have some cool videos to wet your appetite for 4K video.
It’s been almost two decades since the emergence of the first 4K camera (an Ultra high definition (2160p). It had a resolution of 3840 pixels x 2160 lines (8.3 mega pixels, aspect ratio 16:9).
There has been a lot of talk about whether or not the 4K format is the future of television and cinema, but no one has been able to deny the amazing image quality that the 4K format produces.
Since 2014, the industry’s leading companies have released multiple models that allow their users to produce a video of the highest quality at affordable prices.
Let’s look at some of the best video cameras that offer 4K video.
Best 4K DSLR – The Cameras
In this guide, we hope to highlight the best 4K DSLR, as well as the best 4K camcorder overall. Here we go!
The D850 is Nikon’s next-generation high resolution, full-frame DSLR.
Image sensor: It features a 45.7 Megapixel BSI CMOS sensor with no optical low-pass filter and an Expeed 5 image processor, which allows for fast burst rates from taking photographs and 4K video capture.
The D850 has an ISO range of 64-25,000, expandable to 32-120,400 and a burst rate of 7 fps with continuous AF, and 9 fps.
Power source: Battery life is rated at over 1800 shots straight out of the box, and over 5100 shots with the optional grip and EN-EL18a/b battery.
Body quality: D850 is lightweight for its class, with a redesigned grip similar to that of the D750. The body is sealed against dust and moisture and has illuminated buttons for shooting at night.
Viewfinder: It has the ‘widest and brightest’ viewfinder of any Nikon DSLR as well as a tilting 3.2″ touchscreen display with 2.4 million dots.
Memory card slot: It has dual memory card slots, supporting both UHS-II and XQD media. Video features include UHD 4K video capture, slow motion and 4K/8K time-lapse models, focus peaking and more. The D850 has built-in Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth, which the company brands ‘SnapBridge’.
Good for filmmakers who work with anything anything from weddings to sports to narrative film and want the best possible image quality in a DSLR.
The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is the latest addition to the legendary EOS 5D family. With a long and storied history of making video DSLRs for filmmakers and videographers, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV features:
The image sensor features a 30.4 megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor paired with a DIGIC 6+ processor to provide internal DCI 4K video recording at up to 30 fps.
It can transition from taking still photographs to shooting videos in a near instant, capturing Digital Cinema (DCI) 4K Motion JPEG videos of 4096 x 2160 pixels at up to 30 fps.
ISO sensitivity range of ISO 50-102400 (expanded), and 7 frames per second (fps) high speed shooting.
The 5D Mark IV is easily the most versatile DSLR camera from Canon yet. Having roughly the same dimensions as a 7D or 6D, but packing video and photo features from the much larger 1D X Mark II, the 5D Mark IV will never feel out of place or underpowered.
Whether you’re shooting sports indoor or recording/tracking a fast moving subject, the EOS 5D Mark IV will deliver professional results.
Wi-Fi/NFC connectivity, GPS, Dual Pixel CMOS AF, 61 autofocus points, Movie Servo AF, Dual Pixel RAW, and a 3.2″ 1.62m-dot touchscreen LCD.
61-point autofocus with f/8 AF for tele converter/extender setups: The Canon EOS 5D Mark 4 has a new AF sensor, with 61 AF points covering a broader vertical area of the image than its predecessor.
This autofocus system delivers excellent accuracy and performance, with up to 41 cross-type AF points available, and extra-high-precision AF at up to 25 points on the AF array (when wide-aperture lenses are used).
DIGIC 6+ processor: This processor controls autofocus, metering, video data, and image data. It then uses that data with advanced algorithms to provide autofocus and metering that is quick and accurate.
This produces images and videos that are rich in detail and low in noise, with accurate colors and skin tones.
1.62 million dot 3.2″ touch panel LCD monitor: It features a 1.62 million dot, low-reflection 3.2-inch Clear View LCD II monitor for bright, sharp display in a wide variety of shooting situations.
The LCD’s touch panel surface facilitates fast, intuitive operation, including AF frame switching, menu and setting changes plus image magnification during Live View shooting and movie shooting. Still photographs can also be captured quickly with the touch panel’s shutter release function.
SD and CF card slots: It uses SD and CF card slots accepting fast UDMA 7 cards for a write speed of up to 167 MB per second. It should be noted that fast cards are essential when recording either 4K or high frame-rate videos.
Microphone and headphone sockets: Microphone and headphone sockets let you record superior audio in your videos and monitor audio for the perfect level.
This is a much improved series of audio options, especially compared to the audio setup on some of the Canon cameras of the past that met with much criticism.
High dynamic range (HDR) video mode: The Canon 5D MK IV’s HDR movie mode can alternate between normal and under-exposed frames, compressing the brightest parts of a scene to retain more highlight detail – thus delivering videos with a wider dynamic range.
Anti-flicker Function: The EOS 5D Mark IV features a camera anti-flicker function that detects the frequency and phase of a light source’s flicker and captures images near the point of peak brightness when the subject is most likely to be properly illuminated.
Built-in Wi-Fi and NFC: The 5D Mark IV features built-in Wi-Fi and NFC to connect to your smartphone, tablet or laptop.
This makes posting to social media platforms easy, as you can send a file from your camera to your mobile device, and from your mobile device to a platform. FTP/FTPS support is great for those shooting in Wi-Fi equipped venues when added security is required.
Built-in GPS: GPS data helps when cataloguing images and video footage and lets you retrace your steps to find specific shooting locations.
Remote Operation: The 5D Mark IV can be controlled wirelessly from an iOS or Android smart device running the free Canon Camera Connect App. Remote operation is extremely useful for producing stable video or sharp pictures, as most camera operations can be done without touching the camera.
Intelligent Viewfinder II: This offers a bright, customizable view that displays AF points, an electronic level and current camera settings.
Digital Lens Optimizer: The Digital Lens Optimizer uses optical design values to correct various lens aberrations, diffraction, and the softening of resolution caused by the low-pass filter.
If I had to sum up the Nikon D500 in one line, it would be: Fast Speed, Reach and Connectivity.
The D500, a DX-format DSLR with pro-level features that gives photographers nimble handling, speed and extreme processing power in a compact and lightweight body. With amazing imaging capability, robust build quality and lightning fast performance.
- It has a powerful 153-point AF, approximately 10 fps for up to 200 shots.
- The Compact DX system adds agility in telephoto shooting, 4K UHD video, suitable for professional productions.
- EXPEED 5 image-processing engine.
- Achieves sensitivity up to ISO 51200, expandable to Hi 5.
- Touch-screen, tilting 8-cm/32-in high-resolution monitor
- Nikon D500 DSLR Body AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR Lens (20055).
- EN-EL15 Rechargeable Li-ion Battery, MH-25a Battery Charger.
- USB Cable Clip, UC-E22 USB Cable,
- HDMI Cable Clip,
- DK-17 Eyepiece,
- AN-DC17 Strap
- BF-1B Body Cap
- HB-75 Bayonet Lens Hood, LC-72 72mm Snap-On Front Lens Cap, LF-4 Rear Lens Cap
Not a DSLR, this is a bonus on the list we’ve put together. The Panasonic HC-X1 is one of the best 4K camcorder options on the market, so we felt a need to include it here.
The HC-X1 doesn’t have a huge sensor, but it’s not tiny either. Its one-inch MOS sensor is very typical for a camcorder. It’s also a very common size for fixed-lens cameras in general.
After the 1/3-inch sensors of the CCD era, 1-inch sensors have fallen into the same status as a standard that three 1/3-inch CCD chips once held.
Video quality: Size aside, the picture and color reproduction is very nice. Shooting up to DCI 4K as well as UHD 4K at up to 60p, the camera records to dual SD card slots in MP4, MOV and AVCHD formats.
Memory card slot: If you’re considering this camera, make sure you have either SDHC or SDXC memory cards. One of the stand-out features in the HC-X1 is that it lacks expensive SDI outputs. If you need SDI, this camera isn’t for you, but if you don’t, it’s an affordable option.
The viewfinder is easy to use and can be adjusted for right or left eyed shooters. The monitor tucks away for easier storage. It’s easily operated and is bright enough for most shooting situations.
Yes, you might be searching specifically for a DSLR, but don’t ignore conventional camcorders altogether when looking for a 4K camera. Camcorders can offer advantages over DSLRs, especially when it comes to long-record settings, which are ideal for event videography.
- Sensor: 1x 1”-type MOS Sensor
- Focal Length: 8.8 – 176 mm
- 35mm Equivalent Focal Length:
- 24-480mm @ DCI 4K resolution, 25.4-508mm @ UHD/HD resolution
- Maximum Aperture: f/2.8-4.5
- Zoom Optical: 20x
- Filter Thread: 67 mm
- Built-In ND Filters: Clear, 1/4, 1/16, 1/64
- Recording Media: SDHC/SDXC
- Video Format: MP4/MOV: 4096 x 2160p / 24 fps (100 Mbps), MP4/MOV: 3840 x 2160p / 59.94 fps (150 Mbps) 50 fps (150 Mbps) 59.94 fps (100 Mbps) 29.97 fps (100 Mbps) 25 fps (100 Mbps) 23.98 fps (100 Mbps)
- MP4/MOV: 1920 x 1080p / 59.94 fps (200 Mbps) 59.94 fps (100 Mbps) 59.94 fps (50 Mbps) 29.97 fps (200 Mbps) 29.97 fps (50 Mbps) 23.98 fps (200 Mbps) 23.98 fps (50 Mbps)
- AVCHD: 1920 x 1080p / 59.94 fps (25 Mbps) 50 fps (25 Mbps) 23.98 fps (21 Mbps)
- 1920 x 1080i / 59.94 fps (21 Mbps) 59.94 fps (17 Mbps)
- 1440 x 1080i / 59.94 fps (5 Mbps) 50 fps (5 Mbps)
- 1280 x 720p / 59.94 fps (8 Mbps)
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9 / 1.78:1,17:9 / 1.9:1
- Audio Channels: 2
- Audio Format: AAC
- Display: Size 3.5” / 8.9 cm touchscreen
- Type Pixel Count: 1,152,000
- Rotation: 270°
- Image Stabilization: Optical
- Power Input: 11.4-12.6 VDC EIAJ Type4
- Dimensions: 6.8 x 7.7 x 13.6” / 17.3 x 19.5 x 34.6 cm
- Weight: 4.4 lb / 2 kg (without battery or SD card)
Best 4K DSLR – In Conclusion
As always, when it comes to cameras and other filmmaking gear, there are a tonne of variables that need to be considered when making a purchasing decision.
Consider, first and foremost, the use case for the camera you need for 4K video. DSLRs will work great on corporate promo video projects, as well as narrative filmmaking, etc etc. But if you’re looking for the kind of long-record options that a lot of event videography demands, then you might want to consider a camcorder.
We really like the Canon 5D Mark IV. It comes from a long line of workhorse cameras that have always done the job for us – from the 5D Mark II onwards. Canon are, obviously, a trusted manufacturer of superior camera equipment. And the prestige of the 5D line is taken very seriously by them indeed.
Once again, they’ve created a legendary camera that will appeal to filmmakers of all kinds for many years to come. So the Canon 5D Mark IV gets our nod here.
But don’t ignore the two Nikons mentioned here. Nikon are a premium manufacturer as well, and sometimes the battle of Canon vs. Nikon just comes down to personal preference, button selection and maybe even lense choice.
Although, in recent years, some sort of parity has been reached between the respective lense ranges, so you can now find a Canon and Nikon equivalent of just about any lense you’re looking for.
If you’re going the 4K camcorder route, then the Panasonic HC-X1 is one of the best in the business. For a great performing camera, from a top manufacturer, and with the natural long-record options, this is arguable the best 4K camcorder for all your 4K needs.
As we always say, consider price and use-case first when making any kind of gear buying decision. We wish you the best of luck!
I hope you’ve found this guide to the best 4K DSLRs instructive. Did we miss out your favorite 4K camera? Let us know in the comments just below here.