6 Best 4k Camcorders | March 2017
- cfast and sd card support
- integrated nd filter
- easy to acquire spare batteries
- high bit rate quality
- manual lens adjustments
- wifi and nfc connectivity
- 30x optical zoom
- full 30p capture in 4k resolution
- unbelievably fast autofocus
Where 4K Came From
The way we talk about resolution is pretty simple, and can often times be misleading. I don't want to go ahead and say the industry is pulling a fast one here, but it's important to note that 4K isn't nearly 4 times the resolution of 1080 HD as the uninformed math would indicate.
I'll use televisions as a baseline for understanding 4K in our video capture, because the bulk of the steps in between your recording the video and displaying it are optimized to maintain the original resolution, and it's more familiar territory for everybody.
"Sure," says the uninitiated consumer to the misinformed salesman at the local TV store (yeah, they don't have TV stores anymore, do they?), "4000 pixels is almost four times 1080 pixels."
Well, it turns out that up until 4K came around, we used the vertical pixel count to identify the resolution of a screen.
So, early widescreen HDTVs with a resolution of 1280x720 were identified with a resolution of 720, the vertical measurements. Later HDTVs at 1920x1080 were similarly identified with a resolution of 1080, again, the vertical measurement.
4K televisions use their horizontal pixel count instead. It's the bigger number. Their true dimensions are 3840x2160. That's still twice the resolution of 1080 HD, but I want us all to be clear on that before moving forward.
You'll often see a lower case 'i' or 'p' after the 1080 on 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 1000% 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.
Know Thyself; Know Thy Camera
You've got plenty of options in front of you, and it's understandable if you feel overwhelmed. But there's good news!
We've gone ahead and whittled this whole thing down to a few cameras, one or two of each in one of three categories.
If you know what category is right for you, you can make an informed decision based on the specs above and the final price. Well, then, what category is right for you?
Are you a daredevil? Do you jump out of airplanes, ride motorcycles at the speed of sound, kayak over massive waterfalls, etc.? If so, you want an action camera like the GoPro or the Sony Action Cam. They're small, powerful, and can be mounted literally anywhere.
Are you an filmmaker in need of a small footprint for your gear? Maybe you shoot weddings or guerrilla-style Dogma '95 movies. You'll want to work with one of the fixed lens camcorders like the Panasonic X1000 or the Sony AX100B.
Are you taking your time? Do you set your shots slowly and meticulously, without being bothered by the size of your kit or the need to change lenses? You'd love the video quality and options available to you on the GH4.
It's that easy. Of course, if you answered yes to all three of those questions, well, you're going to need to buy three cameras, aren't you?
4K For All
The eggheads all agree: by 2025, more than half of all the households in the Unites States will have a 4K TV in place of their current HD units.
And here I remember a time when HD seemed like a luxury.
When they first started targeting 4K resolution to the consumer market, there was a fascinating commercial involving a woman in a red dress playing piano, except both she and the piano were floating on top of a stoic ocean. Oh, and there was a cute little bird and an alien mother ship.
In retrospect, I wonder if the strangeness of the commercial really worked. Sure, they had to advertise an image resolution on people's home televisions–televisions that could not display this resolution–so the oddities in the commercial evoke a certain intrigue.
But they also imply a distance from reality that I think might have hurt consumers' confidence that the technology would ever take off.
In the end, the numbers don't lie. More and more people understand what 4K is. They've seen it and they want it, and that desire is beginning to drive prices down and sales figures up.
Of course, the camera industry is already evolving to 8K and beyond, but there's an increased interest in building cameras whose sensors can be upgraded, potentially eliminating obsolescence.