If you’re serious about buying the best camera for your needs, chances are you’re not just going to waltz into your neighborhood Best Buy and pick a model off the shelf. A 4K video camera is an investment of hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.
If you’re going to make that kind of investment, you need to know not just what you hope to get out of your camera, but also what kind of features will help you make the most of your purchase.
Blackmagic Design URSA Mini Pro Camera is one of the most expensive cameras on our list but it surely lives up to anyone ‘s expectations, whether you’re a semi-pro filming your snowboarding adventure or a pro looking to record other extreme sports.
Remember, there is no one camera that is going to be perfect for everyone. We all have different requirements and expectations. As you read this, think about what kind of filming you intend to do, and which features are the most important to you.
What You Need to Know About 4K Video Cameras
Whether you’re a professional photographer or aspiring to be one, there are some things you just can’t do without. Most professionals will already be familiar with these points, but if you’re new and not sure what to expect, here are some things you need to consider before you make your purchase.
One of the most important features of a camera is the size of its sensor, as they help influence the quality of the video footage. While sensors are related to resolution, they are not one and the same. A 4K camera with a 1” sensor will have marginally better video quality than a 4K camera with a ½” sensor.
Sensors are especially important when filming in low-light conditions. If you’ve ever watched an old black-and-white movie, you’ll notice the film quality is often quite poor when shot at night. Low light levels affect the quality even of modern cameras, so if you plan or expect to film in low-light conditions on a regular basis, you’ll want a larger sensor.
If you’re a computer geek like me, you’re probably already familiar with bit rate. Bit rate refers to the rate at which a video or audio file is encoded, and is a good way to compare the video quality of two cameras with the same resolution.
Bit rate refers to how much a file is compressed. Highly compressed files take up less storage space but also tend to have a lower quality. Cameras that record at a higher bit rate will produce better-looking videos, especially when viewed on larger screens. The downside is that they will more quickly consume storage space, meaning fewer video files can be stored at any one time. This leads us to our next point.
Memory refers to the available storage space on your camera. Most cameras will have a certain amount of memory built-in, and all of them have memory cartridges for SD or USB cards for additional memory. Cameras with large amounts of internal memory tend to be more expensive, but they also mean you won’t have to buy as many external memory cards or forget to take them with you if you’re shooting somewhere.
Unless you’re filming from a tripod, it is impossible to keep your camera perfectly still. The types of shots you can obtain from a tripod are somewhat limited, however, and you want a camera that’s going to film well while you’re holding it as well. For this, you need image stabilization.
All good professional 4K cameras have at least some degree of image stabilization. Image stabilization seeks to limit the visual effects of a shaky camera. There are two kinds of image stabilization: electrical and optical. Electrical image stabilization is often found in cheaper 4K cameras and is not nearly as effective as optical stabilization, which actually adjusts the lens in your camera to compensate for movement.
Of course, there may be times when you don’t want to use image stabilization, so it can be helpful to be able to turn it off. Cameras are assigned an image stabilization rating, depending on how many types of movement the camera is rated to minimize.
Unless you’re filming a mime or a silent movie, you’re going to be recording audio. The more professional you want your videos to appear, the higher the audio quality needs to be. More expensive cameras are going to have better microphones, but to get the best audio, you’re going to need an external microphone.
While some cameras do come with external microphones mounted, you might want to buy your own and attach it. This will generally improve the quality of your audio even further. This brings me to one last, more general point.
Accessories and Compatibility
Sometimes professional video cameras are sold in a bundle with a variety of other accessories, such as a carrying case, tripod, XLR cables and a variety of other tools. One thing you want to consider is how compatible your camera is.
Does it use universal ports, or is it designed to work with a particular brand or product. In general, the greater the number of ports – and the greater variety of ports – your camera has, the better.
This list of features and capabilities to look for is far from exhaustive. There are a number of other features that you need to consider as well, including aperture, WiFi support, lenses, zoom, and other features. All of these things should be taken into consideration before you buy a video camera.
Who Should Buy a 4K Video Camera?
Right now, 4K cameras and televisions are still something of a novelty. While 4K resolution is certainly popular, there are a lot of people who simply haven’t upgraded to 4K from 1080p yet. Whether they’re waiting for the cost to go down or they’re simply can’t afford to upgrade, there are plenty of reasons.
If you just want a camcorder for personal use, to record ball games, birthday parties, classical concerts and cute videos of your cats, you might not need to invest in a 4K video camera. This is especially true if you haven’t upgraded your television or computer to 4K technology. If you can’t watch your videos in 4K, why record them that way?
If you are a semi-professional or professional sports videographer, however, you absolutely need to shoot in 4K. Even if you can’t watch videos in 4K, you have to assume your audience can. So if you’re ready to find a great 4K camera, let’s take a look at our top picks.
The Best Professional 4k Video Cameras
Blackmagic Design URSA Mini Pro Camera is one of the most expensive 4K cameras on our list but it surely lives up to anyone ‘s expectations, whether you’re a semi-pro filming your snowboarding adventure or a pro looking to record other extreme sports. In a crowded market full of great professional 4K cameras, this is definitely the winner.
Best Professional 4K Video Cameras Under $400
GoPro HERO8 Black Digital Camera
- 12 MP resolution
- Able to record at 4K at 60 fps
- PRICE RANGE: Under $400
When it comes to action cameras, GoPro is the biggest name in the business. Their action cameras are some of the only ones that can compete on a professional level, and they are a favorite of outdoor enthusiasts due to their small size and weight. The GoPro Hero8 Black is far and away from the most popular action camera on the market and is arguably the best video camera you can get for less than $400.
The most immediate improvement the Hero8 offers over the last-gen Hero7 is the SuperPhoto and improved HDR for better contrast and less blur, as well as the added LiveBurst feature that enables you to film 1.5 seconds before and after the video and decide which frame you like best afterward.
Moreover, it has improved video stabilization and uses HyperSmooth 2.0. That acts almost like a gimbal and helps you to capture extremely stabilized videos when you move, so it’s perfect for professional snowboarders, car videos, or commercials.
Also, the advanced TimeWrap 2.0 video feature in this model enables you to take time-lapse videos in motion, while the built-in directional mic reduces noise and delivers clear audio. You can add an external mic with a 3.5mm mic port.
The Hero8 offers 4K, 2.7K, 1440p or 1080p resolutions, and supports 1080p live streaming. There’s also the Night Lapse Video feature that lets you film beautiful night scenes. You can also use it with 14 voice commands, such as “GoPro, turn on” that come in handy in the middle of the action.
The touchscreen interface makes it easy to zoom, change your shooting settings, review footage and more through the simple GoPro app. The Hero8 is waterproof up to 33 feet, letting you take cool underwater shots as well – though if you want to go scuba diving, you’ll have to buy protective housing. Plus, the camera has frameless mounting to set your Display, Media, or Light Mods.
The Hero8 is also outfitted with 5.0 GHz WiFi, dramatically speeding up video transfer times to phones that support 5.0 GHz wireless signals. If you want to take professional-grade photos and videos without spending a fortune on a camera, the GoPro Hero8 Black is a surefire bet.
Best Professional 4K Video Cameras Under $1000
Blackmagic Design Micro Cinema Camera
- Super 16mm Full HD image sensor
- 60 fps continuous shooting speed
- PRICE RANGE: Under $1000
Blackmagic Design Micro Camera is one of the most popular professional remote action cameras on the market. It combines powerful action photography tools with impressive 4K video technology, giving you a whole new arsenal of tools at your disposal.
For a compact camera weighing just 10.7 ounces, Blackmagic Design Cam has a lot going for it. It features a Super 16mm Full HD image sensor and boasts 13 stops of dynamic range, making this a great camera for catching the action as it happens.
Whether you want to catch an exciting aerial ski jump at the perfect moment, photograph a hummingbird in flight or capture panoramic fly-overs, this Blackmagic is the way to do it. With ISO up to 1600, you can film even in the low-lighting conditions.
This action camera has a number of other impressive features. At 60 fps, it has one of the world’s fastest continuous shooting speed, letting you capture image after image in quick succession. A full battery charge gives you approximately an hour and a half of filming.
The camera has a built-in SD card recorder for capturing up to 1080HD in CinemaDNG RAW or ProRes and offers a remote focus control via the expansion connector when using compatible lenses. Plus, it has an integrated stereo microphone, a USB 2.0 Mini-B port, 1 HDMI Type A, and 1 composite video output.
If you’re looking for a compact but professional action camera for vlogging or extreme sports filming, Blackmagic Design Micro Camera is a perfect choice.
Best Professional 4K Video Cameras Under $1500
Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera
- 4/3 image sensor
- 60 fps continuous shooting speed
- PRICE RANGE: Under $1500
Housed in a lightweight carbon fiber polycarbonate composite body, Blackmagic Design Pocket Camera, measuring 7 x 3.4 x 3.8 inches and weighing 1.53 pounds, is small enough to be portable and large enough to give you a lot of different options.
It is outfitted with a 4/3 sensor which reduces crop factor to give you a wider field of view. The cam has a dual gain ISO up to 25,600. That means it is optimized to minimize grain in your images while maintaining the full range of the 4/3 sensor. Moreover, the cam gives you a 4096 x 2160 resolution and an MFT lens mount, enabling you to capture Hollywood-like quality film.
You can use lightweight and affordable lenses because of the MFT mount, which lets you take the camera to remote locations for professional action filming. The MFT lens mount can be adapted to PL, C, EF or other lens types.
The Pocket Cam has 4096×2160 video resolution and a full 13 stops of dynamic range for superior digital film quality and can record up to 60 fps at 4K and up to 120 fps in HD, meaning you can film real action shots with it, be it extreme skiing or paragliding.
The multifunction handgrip offers a comfortable hold that puts essential features such as ISO, shutter buttons, and WB and just at your fingertips. You can easily reach other control buttons, like focus zoom, high frame rate, playback, and menu operation buttons. It has a 5-inch touchscreen LCD and 4 built-in microphones so all your videos get good sound quality.
This is one of the best $K video cameras in this price range on the market. To get the most out of it in a professional setting, you’ll need to purchase the lens, but the camera itself is a must-have if you’re a semi-professional or a professional videographer.
Best Professional 4K Video Cameras Under $2000
Canon XA40 Professional Video Camcorder
- 4K UHD CMOS Pro Image Sensor
- UHD at 30 fps
- PRICE RANGE: Under $2000
Canon XA40 is a lightweight camcorder for professional uses, such as for filming documentaries, journalistic pieces, as well as for higher education purposes. It features 8.29-megapixel 4K UHD CMOS Pro Image Sensor that lets you have 3840×2160 pixel-image, 20x high-definition optical zoom lens and DIG!C DV 6 Image Processor.
This camera makes high-quality 4K UHD videos and has dual SD card slots so you can save all the videos externally. They are compatible with SD, SDHC and SDXC cards.
The XA40 has a 3.0-inch capacitive touch panel LCD and an electronic viewfinder to help you in any filming occasion. It also has 2 XLR audio inputs, 3.5mm stereo mini input, and 1 mini-HDMI output for all your journalistic videos.
In case you need long continuous recordings, the Relay Recording feature goes from one SD card to another when the first one becomes full. Moreover, it offers slow motion recording down to 0.4x of the original speed and time-lapse recording of up to 1200x.
The XA40 has 5-axis image stabilization for smoother shooting and prforms good in low-light setting. This is an affordable camera for those who need professional videos at low cost.
Sony a7 III
- 2 MP image sensor
- Able to record at 4K and 1080p
- PRICE RANGE: Under $2000
The godfather of action cameras, the Sony a7 III Mirrorless Camera is one of the best compact cameras money can buy. Combining breathtaking still photography with exciting 4K camera footage, the Sony a7 III is everything you could ever want in a camera.
Let’s take a look at some of the features. It employs a stunning 24.2 MP image sensor, 15-stop dynamic range and ISO from 50 to 204,800, a mechanical shutter that moves at up to 10 fps, 425 AF contrast points and 93% image detection.
It features an interchangeable lens system, giving you enormous freedom with how you shoot videos and photographs, and 5-axis in-camera stabilization for crystal-clear movies and photographs.
The incredible features of the camera help bring movies to life when shooting in 4K as well. The a7 III uses full-pixel readout to more accurately capture footage, and its astounding ability to capture light and shadow helps to make movies that look more real than ever before. The camera uses 16-bit processing for improved image and video quality, further ensuring vivid image quality.
Due to its smaller size, the a7 III can’t support all of the accessories commonly used in filming, making it ill-suited for long, dedicated filming sessions. But if you’re looking to capture all the complexities of real life at the moment, you don’t have time to set up a professional video camera. For that, you need the a7 III.
Best Professional 4K Video Cameras Under $2500
Sony HXR-NX80 NXCAM Camcorder
- 4K UHD Bionz X image processor
- Fast hybrid AF
- PRICE RANGE: Under $2500
The HXR-NX80 NXCAM is an ultra-lightweight camcorder from Sony that offers a 4K recordings at 24p and 30p and gives you 2.6 hours of recording on a full charge NP-FV70a battery.
The XNR-NX80 has 12x optical zoom, perfect for filming activities that are far from you, like a football game. The 3.5-inch touchscreen lets you see everything that’s in the menu, while the NightShot infrared system lets you film at night.
This camcorder has 273 point phase detection autofocus, meaning it gives you extremely accurate focusing. Moreover, the dual SD card slots let you save your videos directly on the cards, and the 120 fps in Full HD give this camcorder an excellent creative flexibility.
What’s best about this camera is the fact that you can remotely control it with your tablet, smartphone, or via Wi-Fi through the Content Browser Mobile app. You can use it when shootimg with multiple camcorders to sinchronize the timecode.
The HXR-NX80 has an omni-directional stereo condenser microphone, XLR-type 3-pin, line/mic/mic +48 V selectable audio input, as well as audio and video output integrated into Multi/Micro USB jack.
- 20.0 MP camera sensor
- 24x zoom in full HD
- PRICE RANGE: Under $3000
A powerful, dedicated camcorder, the Sony PXW-Z150 opens up a world of possibilities. Featuring a powerful, innovative 1-inch stacked 20.0 MP camera sensor, the PXW-Z150 offers twice the readout speed of a standard sensor, resulting in a cleaner, better-looking footage with less blur and superior quality.
The camera doesn’t just excel in 4K, either. It offers stunning Full Definition video, including impressive 5X slow motion, allowing you to capture fine details and observe life like never before. The camcorder supports 24X zoom in Full HD and 18x in 4K mode.
This is achieved by implementing a 12X zoom lens and utilizing Pixel Super Resolution Technology to increase the images to 18X or 24X, all while preserving the fidelity of the original footage.
The camcorder offers built-in WiFi so you can instantly connect to your laptop or smartphone, and it features a 3.5” LCD panel to give you a better view of the action and make it easier for you to take control of your filming. The camera also offers dual memory slots, so you can move on to another memory card when the first is filled, or you can shoot on both cards simultaneously.
Finally, the Multi-Interface (MI) Shoe gives you plenty of connections for all the accessories you need, such as external microphones and lights for filming in dark locations.
Weighing just 4.3 pounds, the PXW-Z150 is lightweight, fairly compact and surprisingly powerful. The camera lacks any touchscreen, which seems light a major oversight, especially considering the size of the screen, but that doesn’t diminish the camera’s capabilities; it only makes it harder to take advantage of them. The camera costs a pretty penny, but the performance is worth it.
Best Professional 4K Video Cameras Under $3000
- Professional-quality 4K video
- Shoot 4K at 60 fps
- PRICE RANGE: Under $4000
Panasonic is one of the biggest names in the business, and the Panasonic AG-DVX200 is just one example of why this is so. This isn’t a simple camera to use – you’re liable to spend hours simply learning all of its functions. But once you get a handle on this camera, you will fall in love.
Capable of shooting 4K footage at 60 fps, outfitted with 13X zoom and laden with more features than I could possibly name, the AG-DVX200 is a beast of a camera. 2 SD card slots, a vast assortment of outputs for all types of accessories, this camera has everything you need to take professional-quality 4K video.
The camera is quite heavy – it weighs 12 pounds – and the learning curve is steep, perhaps too steep for an inexperienced filmmaker. But for a seasoned professional looking for the best camera in the business, this could give you a run for your money.
Sony Super 35 FS5 II Camera System PXW-FS5M2K
- Films 4096 x 2160 4K HDR videos
- Updated color science
- PRICE RANGE: Under $6000
As one of the best professional cameras on the market, Sony’s FS5 II PXW-FS5M2K 4K Pro Super Exmor35 CMOS sensor camcorder stands out with the option of streaming HDR videos with the HLG/BT.2020 mode since there’s no need for color grading footage with the instant HDR workflow. It looks similar to the FS5, but unlike its predecessor, this camera has features that you had to pay with the previous model.
The newer model has updated color science, meaning you will get more richness of colors and facial tones, refined gamma curve, and 9 color profiles. Moreover, the dual SD card slots ensure you can film up to 4K/30p videos internally and Full HD video at 1080/120p. However, for continuous 240 fps in 2K RAW videos and higher-resolution videos, you’ll need an external recorder.
The PXW-FS5M2K comes with the interchangeable 18-105mm E-mount lens kit and has outstanding performance considering its compact size. It can film 4096 x 2160 4K HDR videos and gives you 120 fps performance at 60 Hz mode, as well as 100 fps at 50 Hz mode. The ergonomic design and the lightweight of this device are just a plus that gives the videomaker full creative potential.
Last, it delivers stunning slow-motion videos, making it perfect for web commercials or music videos, but also for documentaries and event videography.
Blackmagic Design URSA Mini Pro Camera
- Super 35mm 4.6K HDR image sensor
- 1080 HD at 300 fps
- PRICE RANGE: Under $6000
URSA Mini Pro Camera from Blackmagic Design is one of the best 4K cameras you can find on the market. It is a professional 4.6K image camera with the features of traditional cameras which makes it easier to use. Although lightweight, at just 5.1 pounds, it offers a myriad of features for professional filmmakers.
The Super 35mm 4.6K HDR image sensor gives you a higher frame rate when shooting. It produces a 4608 x 2592 video of up to 60p. This cam has an interchangeable lens mount, built-in ND filters, Blackmagic RAW support, as well as both dual CFast and SD UHS‑II card recorders. They enable you to capture images at up to 300 fps.
The USB-C port enables you to record to your flash drive or an SSD disk, while the intuitively-positioned controls on the side of the device let you adjust specific features only with the press of your finger.
This is a true pro camera since it has a dynamic range of 15 stops at up to 3200 ISO, which gives you incredibly clean pictures both in bright light and in darker shadows. The Blackmagic Design Generation 4 color science and super-wide color gamut deliver amazingly accurate skin tones and lifelike colors like you would see in cinematic images.
With URSA Mini Pro, you can record full sensor 4.6K images at up to 120 fps and 1080 HD images at 300 fps. The 5-inch touchscreen on this camera makes it extremely easy for you to review your shots. This is definitely one of the better cams on this list, but it’s well worth the price.
4K technology is still relatively new, and while there are a number of cameras that can support filming in 4K, there are fewer that do it well. I hope this helped you find what you were looking for, and if not, I wish you well with your search.
5 x 3.88 x 3 inches
2160p at 30 FPS
5 x 3.88 x 3 inches
2160p at 30 FPS