Six cam­eras for 4K video

If you want to shoot the high­est res­o­lu­tion video avail­able on con­sumer cam­eras, you’ll be want­ing one of th­ese

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Once, 1080p was the king of video im­age qual­ity – the idea of film­ing in Full HD with its boun­ti­ful de­tail was al­lur­ing to all film­mak­ers. Of course, we weren’t sat­is­fied for long – now we all want to film in 4K.

4K is a short­hand way of de­scrib­ing video with a hor­i­zon­tal res­o­lu­tion of roughly 4000 pix­els, though of­ten the ac­tual fig­ure is the UHDTV (Ul­tra High Def­i­ni­tion Tele­vi­sion) stan­dard of 3840x2160 pix­els, used ex­ten­sively by the BBC for the 2012 Olympics. True 4K cin­ema cam­eras ac­tu­ally have a slightly higher res­o­lu­tion of 4096x2160.

While you can ar­gue a fi­nal video size higher than 1080p is cur­rently wasted on the majority of view­ers (though we looked at some great af­ford­able 4K screens back in MF278), it’s al­ways worth start­ing with a source video that’s as high qual­ity as pos­si­ble if you want to make some­thing that looks spec­tac­u­lar.

There are things to keep in mind when con­sid­er­ing 4K as your video for­mat, though. The most ob­vi­ous is file size, as well as stor­age dif­fi­cul­ties. 4K video footage can be enor­mous and so your record­ing me­dia – be it SD cards, Com­pactFlash or an ex­ter­nal

Does 4K ca­pa­bil­ity make the ad­di­tional cost over a stan­dard 1080p cam­era worth­while?

recorder – must be se­lected with this in mind. Ar­chiv­ing af­ter­wards can also be prob­lem­atic, es­pe­cially if you’re a doc­u­men­tary maker or have the ten­dency to shoot a lot of footage.

Back in 2007, the Red One pro­fes­sional video cam­era blew our minds, and it’s tempt­ing to look at 4K cam­eras and won­der if any of them will beat it. The cam­eras tested here aren’t de­signed for that, how­ever – they’re mostly con­sumer-tar­geted cam­eras with prices at the lower end of the spec­trum.

The key ques­tion is whether the 4K ca­pa­bil­ity makes the ad­di­tional cost over a stan­dard 1080p video­ca­pable cam­era worth­while, or whether it’s just a gim­mick to stay one fea­ture above their com­peti­tors in the tech war. We put a se­lec­tion of six to the test. Alun D Pughe

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