Looking for the best 4K camera you can buy? What was once a niche feature reserved for high-end equipment has now become a standard skill on all but the most basic of entry-level cameras. Most flagship smartphones can record 4K footage, too.
But not all 4K-capable cameras are created equal. From sensors to output formats, there’s a lot more to good quality 4K video than a high image resolution. Take frame rate, for example: most mainstream models can shoot 4K at a maximum of 30fps, but the very best can do it at a silky smooth 60fps. Likewise, if you’re planning to correct colors with post-processing, you’ll want a camera that supports log profiles.
Add features such as zebra patterning into the mix, as well as a range of potential accessories, and it soon becomes clear that some 4K cameras are much better than others. Not sure where to start? After thorough testing, we’ve brought together the very best models you can buy in the list below.
While Panasonic has long been the brand of note for 4K movie makers, our round-up also includes some outstanding options from big names such as Sony, Nikon, Olympus, Fujifilm, Leica and Blackmagic.
Best 4K cameras 2020 at a glance:
- Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K
- Panasonic Lumix GH5S
- Panasonic Lumix GH5
- Fujifilm X-T4
- Sony A6400
- Panasonic Lumix G9
- Sony A7S II
- Panasonic S1
- Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III
- Nikon Z6
Great value option: Panasonic Lumix G80 / G85
Big features squeezed into a small body
Type: Mirrorless | Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds | Resolution: 16MP | Lens: Micro Four Thirds | Viewfinder: EVF | Monitor: 3.0-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1,040K dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 9fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Beginner/intermediate
Strong AF performance
Relatively poor battery life
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:
1. Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K
90s looks but is packed with the latest tech
Type: Mirrorless | Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds | Resolution: N/A | Lens: Micro Four Thirds | Viewfinder: N/A | Monitor: 5.0-inch touchscreen display | Maximum continuous shooting speed: N/A | Movies: 4K at 60fps | User level: Expert
Excellent 4K video capture
Huge, sharp screen
Weak battery life
No articulating screen
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.
2. Panasonic Lumix GH5S
This is one uncompromising video tool
Type: Mirrorless | Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds | Resolution: 10.2MP | Lens: Micro Four Thirds | Viewfinder: EVF | Monitor: 3.2-inch vari-angle display, 1,620,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 12fps | Movies: 4K at 60fps | User level: Expert
Multi-aspect sensor design
Brilliant video spec
Absence of IS not for everyone
Battery life could be better
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.
3. Panasonic Lumix GH5
The Lumix GH5 is a feature-laden 4K workhorse
Type: Mirrorless | Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds | Resolution: 20.3MP | Lens: Micro Four Thirds | Viewfinder: EVF | Monitor: 3.2-inch vari-angle display, 1,620,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 12fps | Movies: 4K at 60fps | User level: Expert
DCI 4K and UHD 4K
Great fully articulating screen
Limited ISO range
Bulky for a mirrorless camera
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.
4. Fujifilm X-T4
A superb all-rounder for shooting a balanced diet of video and stills
Type: Mirrorless | Sensor size: APS-C | Resolution: 26.1MP | Lens: Fuji X | Monitor: 3-inch articulating, 1,620k dots | Viewfinder: EVF, 3.69 million dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 15fps/30fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Intermediate/Expert
IBIS system works well
Class-leading APS-C sensor
Good battery life
No headphone jack
AF performance limited by lens
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.
5. Sony Alpha A6400
Excellent autofocus make this a brilliantly accessible option
Type: Mirrorless | Sensor size: APS-C | Resolution: 24.2MP | Lens: Sony E mount | Monitor: 3-inch tilting touchscreen, 921k dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 11fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Beginner/intermediate
Highly advanced autofocus
Good video features
No built-in image stabilization
No headphone jack
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.
6. Panasonic Lumix G9
Panasonic’s best all-round mirrorless model to date
Type: Mirrorless | Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds | Resolution: 20.3MP | Lens: Micro Four Thirds | Monitor: 3-inch free angle touchscreen, 1.04-million dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 60fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Enthusiast
6.5-stop image stabilization
Dual UHS-II card slots
Reduced screen size compared to GH5
ISO range could be broader
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.
7. Sony Alpha A7S II
Excellent footage, huge dynamic range and a compact size
Type: Mirrorless | Sensor size: Full-frame CMOS | Resolution: 12.2MP | Lens: Sony E mount | Monitor: 3.0-inch tilting display, 1,228,800 dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Expert
Superb dynamic range and low noise
Useful Log options included
Only 4K UHD (no 4K DCI)
8-bit rather than 10 or 12-bit video
At the time of the A7S II’s review we said it was the best video-shooting stills camera available – and while the Sony A7S III is now imminent, we still think it’s a compelling option for the videographer at current prices.
One of its major selling points at launch – internal recording of 4K footage – has since been matched by many others, but it’s the modest pixel count of its sensor that splits it from its rivals. We found its dynamic range to be very high, and consistently better than rivals at higher sensitivities, while noise was also shown to be lower than cameras with more populated chips.
It also has the advantage of using the whole sensor width for recording video, and of being able to record to the memory card while outputting 4:2:2 footage to a HDMI recorder, but proves itself to be capable for stills shooting too. Autofocus is generally fast and built-in image stabilization is a huge bonus, while the body is sturdier than its predecessor’s too.
Overall, while it may not be the newest model, its sensor and video specs give it a handful of advantages over its rivals. Hopefully the imminent A7S III will be even stronger with its video credentials.
8. Panasonic S1
A first-gen full-framer that’s no video novice
Type: Mirrorless | Sensor size: Full-frame CMOS | Resolution: 24.2MP | Lens: N/A | Viewfinder: OLED EVF, 5.76M dots | Monitor: 3.2-inch tri-axis touchscreen, 2.1 million dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 9fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Beginner/intermediate
Effective image stabilization
Well-built and weather resistant
Superb video quality
Large, heavy body
No DCI 4K, V-Log is a paid upgrade
AF can be inconsistent
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.
9. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III
A 4K performer that ticks all the boxes
Type: Mirrorless | Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds | Resolution: 20.4MP | Lens: Micro Four Thirds | Viewfinder: EVF | Monitor: 3.0-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1,037K dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 18fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Intermediate
Great build quality
Excellent image stabilisation
Improved AF performance
Limited low-light image quality
EVF could be better
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.
10. Nikon Z6
Strong video specs matched by equally impressive performance makes the Z6 shine
Type: Mirrorless | Sensor size: Full frame | Resolution: 24.3MP | Lens: Nikon Z | Monitor: 3.2-inch display, 2,100,000 dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 12fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Expert
Effective VR systems for video
Detailed electronic viewfinder
No 4K at 60p
Single XQD card slot
Nikon’s joint first full-frame mirrorless camera is its most serious assault on the video market to date. While the Z7 remains an excellent choice for stills shooter users 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 10bit 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, and a little rolling shutter remains, but we were otherwise very impressed by the way Nikon has launched its new system.