Beginner digital photography: 4K cameras

This week we will focus on beginner level entry cameras that shoot video at 4K (or UHD). A very common mistake is distinguishing between 4K and Ultra-high definition. 4K has a resolution of 4096 x 2160 whereas UHD has a resolution of 3840 X 2160. Your 4K televisions are actually UHD, however for the stake of this article, we will refer to 4K as UHD. 4K cameras started to appear on the market as early as 2015 and have now become the standard video format for cameras. A Lot of professional cameras have moved to 4K in 2017 and there are more cameras that will move to this format very soon. You may be starting out a vlog, filming some cinematic clips or even just filming your family member’s birthday party and you’re unsure as to which camera to buy, l have compiled a list of the best budget and beginner 4K cameras that are on the market today for you to use. Trust me, all these cameras produce killer 4K video and will throw the traditional HD 1080p footage out the window.


Panasonic G7


This has to be the best bang for buck 4K camera on the market today, with amazingly crisp 4K footage and fast autofocus, this camera is a definite buy. Not only this, it also produces some amazing still photography. Many view this camera as the younger brother of the GH4, which makes this little camera a best for filming and photography. The lenses have optical image stabilisation and the camera itself is very light, allowing you to stabilize the camera and hold it for long periods.  Footage itself can be recorded at up to 30p, at a bitrate of up to 100Mbps, and you can also call upon zebra patterning and focus peaking to help when recording. Not only this, chuck on a hotshoe mic and you have a complete package. Did I forget to mention the touch swivel screen? It’s got one of them, perfect for vlogging.


Sony A6300


The Sony A6300 mustn’t be looked over despite its replacement, the A6500, already on the market. With prices falling due to the updated version, the Sony A6300 is a very solid choice with a huge range of features and it’s an APS-C sensor. Furthermore, there are Log gamma modes, 120fps HD recording (also at 100Mbps) and enhanced zebra patterning to keep an eye on exposure, which can be extremely beneficial. You also benefit from a highly advanced focusing system for rapid focus and a 2.36-million-dot OLED viewfinder all inside a dust- and moisture-resistant body. I would highly recommend the A6300, if you have the extra money go for the A6500 as it contains inbuilt image stabilisation which helps with recording footage, however the battery life of both these cameras is relatively low compared to the competing mirrorless cameras.


Panasonic GH4/GH5

This bad boy was the 4K camera that changed the way people viewed mirrorless cameras, many youtubers and film-makers starting use this camera for their 4K videos due to its huge capabilities and very very impressive battery life. The battery is able to record nearly up to 4 hours of 4k footage and produces very impressive 4K for the user to color grade. This is a little more expensive than the other recommendations, however buying this second hand would be a good idea especially as the GH5 has come out onto the market. It is a powerhouse and has a wide range of lens selection, plus you can always get an adapter to use your current glass on your camera. Remember to purchase a large and fast enough SD card as you don’t want the camera to be buffering or create any distortions. It also has 12fps continuous shooting and the list of functionalities is very impressive.


Sony RX 100 (versions 4 and up)

The Sony RX100 was a camera that surprised many photographers. It was a compact camera for starters and we were told it could shoot 4K and take amazing stills. It did everything it was set out to do and did it very well, apart from overheating in the 4th variation. The RX100 shoot incredible 4K footage and has stabilised images and it also holds up very well whilst taking stills. The new version has a continuous shooting rate of 16 frames per second and has a tilting screen. This camera is a very popular backup camera which it’s very small form factor and many youtubers take this camera to events where they can’t fit their main rigs. The best part about this camera is how it can fit inside your pocket and has a surprisingly good battery life. The only downside to this camera is it’s non-removable lens, but apart from that it is a very solid camera that many enthusiasts have bought.


Xiaomi yi M1


When we talk about budgets, this is a real budget superhero. It is a 4k 20MP mirrorless camera and sells for around 300-400 USD, which is incredible. It has a very sleek and minimalistic build like the leica cameras and offers a range of functionalities. It is an interchangeable lens camera and can be bought with the kit lenses. It is an almost fully touchscreen interface with hardly any dials or buttons, which I dislike, however the interface is easy to use and even has a hotshoe for a flash! Shoot the camera is Aperture priority mode for the best result, however the autofocusing is rather poor and you can’t change focus whilst in video mode. It has an impressive ISO range and uses a sony sensor. If this camera got any cheaper, I would recommend to buy it just as a backup or a camera you can throw around. However, this camera does not get my recommendation to buy IF you have a larger budget and can buy the other cameras.


GoPro Hero 5 Black

Right now, the GoPro Hero 5 Black is a very promising action camera to purchase. Not only is the price dropping, but it has a range of functionalities and recording modes. The Hero 5 didn’t get off to the best of starts when it ran into production problems, which some still lurk today, but this doesn’t take away the incredible performance it has. The 4K footage from the gopro is crisp and sharp and also produces some very nice colours. With a touchscreen interface, the gopro is easy to use and control and also has inbuilt stabilisation which makes the footage a whole lot better to watch and use. I must warn you to not take your gopro hero 5 in the water, most of the batches have cracks in the waterproof sealing and I would recommend to buy a waterproof housing for the gopro hero 5. If you aren’t taking it in the water, it is a very promising and cheaper alternative to have 4K footage.


Your Phone

If your phone has 4K capabilities, get a rode mic to plug into your phone and boom, you have a 4K camera. Make sure you have a big enough SD card to fill up and also spare battery packs to charge your phone!


These are budget options to get into the 4K scenes and hopefully there is something in the mix for you!


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