The 10 Best 4k Camcorders

Updated December 16, 2017 by Daniel Imperiale

10 Best 4k Camcorders
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 38 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top options for this wiki. Whether you're a budding filmmaker, a video hobbyist, or just a parent who wants to capture the magical moments of your family's life in as much detail as possible, a 4K camcorder can give you all the tools you need to make outstanding movies. Our selection has been ranked by available features, image quality, ergonomics, and overall value. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best 4k camcorder on Amazon.

10. RainbowDay CC534K

If you're willing to cut corners on features and video quality, but you insist on capturing your movies in 4K, the RainbowDay CC534K is one of the better budget options on the market. Just be aware that its sensor is on the smaller side.
  • screen rotates 270 degrees
  • very lightweight and easy to carry
  • liable to suffer from moire
Model pending
Weight 1.8 pounds
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

9. Canon XC10 Professional

More a B-camera for pros than a casual unit for home users, the Canon XC10 Professional is an extremely well built option that makes it very easy to rapidly jump between high-end video capture and still photography, thanks to its DSLR-like body and function switch.
  • viewfinder included
  • integrated nd filter
  • special cards required to write uhd
Brand Canon
Model 0565C013
Weight 5.8 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

8. Sony FDRAX53

The Sony FDRAX53 is, without a doubt, one of the best options on the market in its price range. It includes some pretty incredible things in a small and easy-to-use package, like UHD time lapses, image stabilization, and 5.1 Dolby audio capture.
  • 30x optical zoom
  • very fast autofocus
  • needs a neutral density filter
Brand Sony
Model FDRAX53/B
Weight 2.3 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

7. Panasonic HC-WXF991K Multi-Scene

The Panasonic HC-WXF991K Multi-Scene offers incredible image quality and a 20x optical zoom lens that is suitable for most scenarios. While the built-in mic is excellent, you can use the 3.5 mm audio input for a high-end shotgun, if you prefer.
  • fast-charging battery
  • modern electronic viewfinder
  • weak image stabilization
Brand Panasonic
Model HC-WXF991K
Weight 1.9 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

6. Canon XA30 Professional

The most compelling feature on the Canon XA30 Professional is undoubtedly its viewscreen, which is essentially a tiny little OLED television with a 10,000:1 contrast ratio, allowing you to see your image clearly, even in the presence of bright, glaring lights.
  • 20x optical zoom
  • two sd card slots
  • circular aperture
Brand Canon
Model 1004C002
Weight 5.7 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

5. Sony FDR-AX100

The Sony FDR-AX100 is a good choice for beginners who don't want to deal with a steep learning curve while shooting high-end UHD video. However, this model doesn't have as capable of a sensor as some slightly pricier options from the same company.
  • 20 megapixel still image capture
  • small enough for single-hand use
  • no hdr capabilities
Brand Sony
Model FDRAX100/B
Weight 3.1 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

4. Canon XF405

The Canon XF405 is one of the few options in the company's impressive lineup that features a 1-inch CMOS sensor, which brings its image quality to new heights. It also boasts a 3G-SDI output that allows you to run BNC cable to monitors that require it.
  • full uhd recording at 60 fps
  • 15x optical zoom
  • outdated internal compression
Brand Canon
Model pending
Weight pending
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

3. Sony PXWZ150 XDCam

The Sony PXWZ150 XDCam is designed to offer high-end audio recording capabilities on top of its stellar video capture. While many other options bury mic level adjustments deep in their menus, this unit's dual sound channels can each be controlled by physical dials.
  • built-in neutral density filter
  • hd slow motion at up to 120 fps
  • microphone mount included
Brand Sony
Model PXWZ150
Weight 8.4 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

2. Sony FDR-AX700

In addition to the large, 1-inch sensor that really sets this compact option apart from many others, the Sony FDR-AX700 also features a High Dynamic Range shooting mode that renders extra detail from portions of the frame that would otherwise be under- or overexposed.
  • smooth focus throw
  • 273-point hybrid autofocus
  • shoots in s-log3
Brand Sony
Model FDRAX700/B
Weight 3.7 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

1. Panasonic HC-X1

The high-performance lens on the Panasonic HC-X1 has a 20x optical range that takes you from 24 to 480 mm. When fully extended, it maintains a maximum aperture of ƒ/4.5, allowing you to shoot from a distance, even in poor lighting.
  • 5-axis image stabilization
  • built-in timecode
  • excellent autofocus
Brand Panasonic
Model HC-X1
Weight 9 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

The Fight Against Phony 4K

In the early days of personal video recording, one might have seen a few tech-savvy parents at the school talent show equipped with camcorders that were absolute monstrosities. These video cameras shot on full-sized VHS tapes, which necessitated large housings, bulky motors, and more. At the time, this was cutting-edge stuff, and the people who owned the devices were at the forefront of a very real desire to capture our memories in the highest possible fidelity.

Today, that fidelity of 4K, there’s an enormous amount of difference between capturing a 4K video on your smartphone and recording at the same resolution on a 4K camcorder. And while the trend since the days of those behemoth video cameras has been to make everything about our technology smaller, the fact that these cameras outsize your cell phone is the very thing that makes them superior.

Let’s start by examining one of the more obvious external size differences: the lens. Go ahead and take a look at the lens on your cell phone camera. Its diameter is probably that of a pea. Compare that to even the smallest of the lenses mounted on the camcorders on our list, and inevitable feelings on inadequacy begin to arise. Any astronomer will tell you that one of the most important specs on a good telescope is the size of its front lens element, which they often refer to as the light collecting area. The bigger the element, the more light can reach the sensor at any given moment, making for better image quality, particularly in low light. Ever wonder why your cell phone takes such miserable pictures in the dark? This is one reason.

Another reason brings us to the other size-based difference between your phone’s 4K and that of the camcorders on our list. Behind that tiny lens on your phone is an even smaller sensor. Sure, it contains just as many pixels as the sensors in these bigger cameras, but those pixels have to be that much smaller to fit on such a little sensor.

It’s important to think of pixels like buckets. Each time you expose your sensor to light, the buckets fill up. The larger sensors, like those in these camcorders, can absorb more light energy. The smaller buckets on your smartphone sensor can absorb far less energy. Less light always makes for a lower quality image.

Finally, if you’re a filmmaker, or you simply prefer to have direct and easy access to a number of adjustments as you shoot, you need a good camera. Sure, there are a few apps that give you power over aperture, shutter speed, focus points, etc. while shooting with your phone, but these all necessitate interactions with your phone’s screen that inevitably disrupt your shot. With a good camcorder, you can make adjustments on the fly, even in the middle of a shot, without jostling the frame.

Know Thyself; Know Thy Camera

There are rare instances in the world of high-end consumer electronics where paying more money doesn’t get you a better product, so spending toward the top of your budget on a camcorder is usually a good bet. Just make sure you leave enough room for memory cards, extra batteries, a case, etc.

The other thing about a camcorder purchase is that you want to make sure you aren’t paying for features that you’re never going to use. For example, some camcorders include a kind of shield around the front of the lens. In some cases, it merely makes the lens itself look recessed into the body of the camera, while other shields resemble the professional matte boxes you see in the film industry.

These matte boxes work wonders in highly lit areas where light sources would otherwise cause visible and unattractive lens flare in your image. Of course, if all you really shoot are family interiors like birthday parties, as well as the occasional kids’ sports game, you probably don’t have to worry too much about lens flare.

The best of these camcorders also offer manual focus controls. If you’re serious about gaining proficiency as a videographer, perhaps going so far as to sell your services at weddings or similar events, you’ll want the added level of control that manual focus provides, so long as you have the patience to get good at it. Budding filmmakers should also demand that their cameras have manual focus controls, as your focal plane is a big part of your storytelling. Again, though, if you’re just trying to capture your family’s memories in as high a resolution as possible given today’s technology, this is a feature you can easily bypass.

If you’re picking up on a trend here, it’s not in your imagination. As the prices of these cameras go up, the models begin to cater more toward amateur filmmakers and budding professionals than to the common parent with a bent toward high-tech memories. The exact placement of that line will depend on the individual, though, so put a little thought into the kind of shooter you want to be, and start your selection from there.

From Whence 4K Came

With most innovations in the resolution of digital imagery, capturing methods far outpace the means for display. Around the time that HDTVs capable of displaying images in 1080p began to become a mainstay in the homes of average Americans, a specialty electronics company in Canada brought the first camera with 4K capture to market.

The DALSA Corporation, best known perhaps for the imaging sensor technology that they developed for a number of NASA’s Mars rovers, produced a camera with a 4096×2048 resolution that they unveiled at the NAB Show in Las Vegas in 2003. They called it the Origin.

It would be more than a decade before more established camera companies produced consumer cameras equipped with the kind of resolution and dynamic range that the DASLA Origin provided. The linear exposure latitude alone was worth more than 13 stops, meaning that, in addition to showing more detail in a sharper image, the Origin was capable of gathering more light information from shadowy and over-lit areas of a frame alike.

At this point in the film industry, digital capture had barely established itself as a feasible means of production. Thanks largely to a company called Red, however, the quality of digital video soon matched that of film to the point where seasoned filmmakers could barely tell the difference. By 2011, enough movies were being shot digitally that 4K projection began to make its way into theaters. Just two years after that, Netflix had a hit on their hands with House of Cards, a show shot entirely on Red’s 4K cameras. Around this time, the prices of 4K televisions began their steady decline, and Netflix soon announced plans to stream content in 4K, while Red announced cameras capable of capturing video in 6K and 8K.

You'll often see a lower case 'i' or 'p' after the 1080 on cameras and displays, or after a number indicating available frames per second, like 30, 60, 120, or 240 on camera spec sheets. These little letters stand respectively for interlaced and progressive, and I'm going to save you a lot of time here:

You want to shoot with the 'p'. Progressive scanning TVs are significantly more common than interlaced monitors, and an interlaced video displayed on a progressive screen looks like it's strung with a couple dozen thin, black horizontal lines, like the Hamburgler.

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Last updated on December 16, 2017 by Daniel Imperiale

Daniel is a writer, actor, and director living in Los Angeles, CA. He spent a large portion of his 20s roaming the country in search of new experiences, taking on odd jobs in the strangest places, studying at incredible schools, and making art with empathy and curiosity.

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