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Best 4K Camera? GoPro vs 7 Best 4K Video Cameras (8 Factors)

Sorting out the best 4K camera can be confusing. In this post, you’ll learn how to choose the best 4K video camera – and see them compared against the best GoPro camera. You’ll also learn about the 8 most important factors when choosing the best 4K camcorder for vlogging, filmmaking, or travel.

best 4k camera

Best 4K Camera? GoPro vs 7 Best 4K Video Cameras

There’s a lot to consider when choosing your next video camera. Do you need a weatherproof (even waterproof) camcorder or will you be shooting inside?

Does size matter or will you be vlogging from a studio? Do you need tons of features and shooting modes or do you prefer to just start shooting?

I don’t need to tell you that this process can feel overwhelming. But fear not. We’ve sorted the options and organized them so you can quickly find the best 4K camcorder for your adventures.

In this guide, you’ll learn about eight 4K camcorders. They range from super compact (GoPro) to full size and much pricier Nikon SLR at more than $3000.

My 4K Camera Recommendations:

Which 4K camera is best? My recommendation is to get two: the latest GoPro and a decent second camera with good zoom. If you are traveling, it’s always good to have a backup camera.

  • If you can only afford one, I recommend the Hero8 Black.
  • If you can afford two cameras, you can’t go wrong with adding the Canon Powershot SX740 as your second camera.

Why get two 4K cameras? The Powershot has more features and is great for dry settings. The Hero7 Black has fewer features but is perfect for rain, dust, and underwater. It also functions well as a second camera or for b-roll footage.

Because applications vary, we have chosen two camcorders as our top picks. They both shoot 4K video and are both similar costs – but have quite different functions.

Here they are:

Best 4k camera for filmmakers

1. Best Waterproof 4K Camera: GoPro Hero8 Black

GoPro Hero8 Black: It probably comes as little surprise that we favor the GoPro camera. We own five of them, including the latest version. The Hero7 Black shoots 4K60 Video + 12MP Photos.

Check price on Amazon

The Hero8 Black comes with features like Time Warp Video (increase speed up to 30x), Super Photo, and HyperSmooth video stabilization.

If you’re going to vlog and make travel videos with your GoPro, a stabilizing gimbal goes a long way. Here are a few more accessories to consider.

2. Best 4K Camera: Canon Powershot SX740

Canon PowerShot SX740: This is a portable, low cost (compared to some of the other options) and powerful 4K video camera.

Check price on Amazon

Shoot in 4K video, 20.3 megapixel stills, with up to 40x optical zoom. This is the perfect camera for travelers and beginner vloggers.

If you have been shooting with your phone, it might be time to upgrade to something like this.

4k video cameras

8 Factors to Choosing the Best 4K Camcorder

Here are the eight factors to consider when shopping for your new 4K camcorder. Understanding the basics will help you sort out the specific features that matter to you.

1. Maximum Recording Resolution

All the cameras in this guide shoot in 4K resolution. There are a few slight variances the resolution, but all are true 4K. I’ll explain more below.

Shooting video in 4K means quality and flexibility. Each camcorder in the list below notes if it shoots in 4K UHD (the most common) or 4K DCI (usually on higher-end video cameras).

What is 4K Video?

The term “4K” refers to any video resolution with an approximate horizontal pixel count of 4,000.

And while there are a number of standardized 4K resolutions, the 4K standard is 3840 x 2160. This is known as 4K UHD and is used in TV and consumer video equipment.

What is the benefit of shooting in 4K?

The massive resolution of 4K video camera footage allows some flexibility in editing. For example, you can crop the footage by 200% and still maintain full HD resolution (1080p). You can also pan, crop and zoom into the footage without affecting your end product resolution.

While GoPro can zoom, remember that it is only a digital zoom. Learn more about GoPro zoom in our detailed guide.

Drawback to shooting in 4K: Required storage space. You’ll require about double the storage space when shooting in 4K when compared to 1080P. For example, 1 hour of 1080p footage in MP4, will take up 23GB of space. In 4K resolution, you’ll need about 45GB.

What’s the difference between 4K UHD and 4K DCI?

While 4K UHD is slightly under 4000 pixels (3840 x 2160), 4K DCI is just over (4096 x 2160).

In the image below, you’ll see that the vertical pixel count is identical in both 4K resolutions, at 2160.

The difference is in the horizontal pixel count where 4K DCI has an additional 256 pixels. While this doesn’t sound like much, it captures an additional 6.25% of the horizontal image.

4K DCI was developed by the Digital Cinema Initiative (hence, DCI). It is also referred to as C4K (Cinema 4K) and is the resolution you would see in a 4K movie at the theatre.

4K video resolutions compared

Video resolutions compared: From VCD to 4K UHD

If you’re shooting in UHD or 4K, you should learn what HEVC video is.

2. Price

Of course, this varies significantly across the different cameras. You can expect a range of $350 to over $4000.

If you want the standard 4K resolution of 4K UHD, you’ll find great options in the $350 to $1000 range. To step up to 4K DCI resolution, you’ll need to look at the traditional camcorder – and these can start at $1500+.

These cameras usually have higher end features and more flexibility for a more polished look.

3. Brand of 4K Camcorder

This is more important than you might think. While there are tons of companies making 4K cameras, they certainly aren’t created equally.

You’ll find tons of unknown brands selling 4k cameras online. There are two issues to consider.

  • First, how important is your video quality? While some of these brands likely make a decent product, I’m not a fan of getting a dud and ending up with unusable video (or audio) after returning from a trip.
  • And second, what about servicing? Most of these unknown brands have offices only in China. That means that it’ll be difficult and time-consuming to get your unit serviced, if at all.

GoPro vs

Planning a trip? Here’s how to choose the best travel camera.

Best 4K Camcorder Brands: 5 Options

Here are the 4K video camera brands that I recommend.

  1. GoPro: They are famous for the Hero8 Black.
  2. Panasonic: They take 3 spots on our list. They have a nice range of compact, mirrorless and point and shoot.
  3. Canon: Aside from our GoPro cameras, we own more Canon cameras than any other brand. Their Powershot SX740 makes our top pick for 4K cameras.
  4. Sony: They make a full range of 4K cameras, including a nice superzoom that takes position #7 in our list below.
  5. Nikon: They make a nice quality compact and their top line SLR camera has position #6 on our list.

4. Image Sensor Size

The image sensor in your camera is where the image is converted from light to electrons. Generally speaking, the larger the sensor, the better images (footage) you’ll capture. But as with most things related to photography, video quality depends on many factors.

There are two types of image sensors in video cameras: CCD and CMOS. See video below for more detail.

Here are some of the most common digital image sensor sizes.

  1. Full Frame (35 mm)
  2. APS-C (Cropped) Used in both DSLR and mirrorless.
  3. MFT 4/3″ (Micro Four Thirds)
  4. 1″
  5. 2/3″
  6. 1/2.3″
  7. 1/3.2″

Curious about the difference between CCD and CMOS image sensors? Here’s a quick overview to geek out on.

5. Zoom

A solid zoom can also add a dramatic touch or give great context by showing subject up close and then zooming out and including the surrounding area in the frame.

Of all the cameras on the list, only the GoPro doesn’t have the capability to zoom. This is a major drawback to this camera if you like zoom. Of course, if you carry a couple of cameras like me, this becomes less of an issue.

There are two types of zoom: optical and digital. The only one that matters is optical zoom.

What is optical zoom? Optical zoom refers to the decreased visual distance between the camera and it’s subject by an actual lens adjustment. This is important for travel videos and other topics that don’t allow you to be in every setting.

In contrast, digital zoom is a joke and only gives the appearance of decreasing distance by actually destroying the video quality.

Avoid using digital zoom if your camera comes with this feature.

Cheapest 4k camera

6. Connectivity: WiFi with NFC, and Bluetooth

Wireless connectivity is becoming standard in most video cameras. Even tiny action cameras come with both WiFi and Bluetooth for file transfer and camera control.

  • Bluetooth is a great way to transfer images and clips because it uses less energy than a WiFi connection.
  • With a WiFi connection, you can remotely control your camera with your phone. This includes adjusting zoom, focus point, exposure compensation, and starting/stopping recording. This is great if you are traveling or vlogging alone – you don’t need an assistant or to be running back and forth to your camera.

7. Weight and Size

For most people, this probably isn’t a huge consideration.

Weight: But if you are hiking long distances, you probably won’t want the Lumix GH5 because it weighs almost 6 lbs and you’ll start to notice that after the first few miles of your 2,190 mile Appalachian Trail hike.

For this type of an adventure, you’ll probably want a lighter weight and even a waterproof video camera.

Remember to take the lens weight into account when comparing weight. The body of a SLR camera might look light, but it can change when you attach a large zoom lens.

In contrast, if you’ll always be filming inside and on a tripod, weight isn’t even a factor.

Size: Similar to the weight factor, size matters most for travelers and vloggers. When we lived in Ecuador, I would often shoot, and then want to tuck my camera out of sight until the next location. A full size video camera wouldn’t have worked for me.

If you are shooting close to home, or aren’t worried about theft as you film, size might not be that big of a factor. A larger camera is easier to control and change settings and you’ll probably get a larger image sensor too.

8. Audio

Most video cameras have decent audio recording, including a jack for mic input. Wired mics can make a significant difference in audio quality – especially on windy days or when there are crowds around.

You might even consider this to be one of the most important features. While a 4K video is pretty, it could be rendered unwatchable if it has really bad audio.

You can improve the audio of most cameras by simply plugging in a decent mic. Here are the best mics for YouTube.

best 4k video camera

8 Best 4K Video Cameras Compared

1. GoPro Hero8 Black (4K Action Camera)

This is one of the most versatile 4K video cameras. It is waterproof without housing. And there is a full set of accessories available that increase its functionality.

This is the lightest, smallest, and most versatile 4K camera I’ve seen yet. It drops well. And it shoots exceptional, wide-angle video. If you want trouble-free filming with a durable camera, then you should consider the Hero7 Black.

  • Maximum Recording Resolution: 4K60 / 1080p240
  • Price: Check current price on Amazon
  • Brand: GoPro
  • Image Stabilization: HyperSmooth 2.0 Video Stabilization
  • Image Sensor: 1/2.3 Sony IMX277
  • Total Pixels: 12 megapixel
  • Optical Zoom: None
  • Connectivity: WiFi and Bluetooth for remote control and image transfer. You can sync to the GoPro App (iOS and Android) for control.
  • Weight: 4.2 oz (0.2625 lbs)
  • Size: 1.8 x 2.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Audio: On board mic. Mic input jack with 3.5mm mic adapter by GoPro. Audio quality is decent when above the water and outside of waterproof housing.
  • Other features: Waterproof, voice control, super photo, live streaming, TimeWarp 2.0 video, 8x slo-mo video, and the ability to adjust capture settings.

This makes a great principal vlogging camera – or even a solid second camera. You can use this for wet conditions or for b-roll footage. For filmmaking, a quality gimbal is important. If you’re on a budget, the built in image stabilization is great.

One of the best features of the GoPro is that it is small and can be mounted almost anywhere. There are hundreds of mounting options.

Here are some GoPro accessories to help your video capture and creation: batteries, software, tripods, backpacks, selfie sticks, car mounts, helmet mounts, and backpack mounts.

GoPro vs 4k cameras

2. Panasonic Lumix FZ80 (4K Point and Shoot)

The Lumix FZ80 by Panasonic is a powerful point-and-shoot 4K camera that also shoots 18.1-megapixel photos.

It boasts a huge 60x optical zoom. This is perfect for travel bloggers or even that dramatic pan and zoom-out shot. Add in touch screen controls, 4k video to stills feature, and impressive low-light performance, you have one of the most versatile 4k video cameras available.

  • Maximum Recording Resolution: 4K UHD 2160p
  • Price: Check current price on Amazon
  • Brand: Panasonic
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Image Sensor: 1/2.3-inch
  • Total Pixels: 18.1 megapixels
  • Optical Zoom: 60x
  • Connectivity: WiFi for remote control and image transfer. You can sync to the Panasonic Image App (iOS and Android). Has both micro HDMI and micro USB ports for in-camera charging and viewing footage on external monitor.
  • Weight: 1.36 lbs
  • Size: 4.69 x 5.13 x 3.71 in
  • Audio: On board mic. No mic input jack.
  • Other features: Optical image stabilization, DC VARIO lens (20-1220mm), bright touch screen, max camera resolution of 4896 x 3672. Wide angle 20mm lens setting for stunning landscapes.

A feature I love is the USB charging – allowing you to charge your camera on the go with a power bank.

While it’s always more convenient to have multiple batteries (and charge with a wall charger) it’s nice to have the ability to charge on the go. Here’s a power bank that our readers have been loving.

Combine the 60x optical zoom, app connectivity, 4K video and 18.1-megapixel photos and you have a solid 4k video camera for filmmaking.

3. Canon PowerShot SX740 (4K Compact Camera)

Canon’s Powershot series has been around for many years. We’ve owned many versions of this camera – our first one back in 2009 just before we moved to South America.

Their 4K camera comes loaded with all the standard features – including impressive optical zoom, tiltable touch screen, and super lightweight.

This one comes in at just over half of a pound.

  • Maximum Recording Resolution: 4K 30p
  • Price: Check current price on Amazon
  • Brand: Canon
  • Image Stabilization: Dual sensing IS
  • Image Sensor: 1/2.3-inch
  • Total Pixels: 20.3 megapixels
  • Optical Zoom: 40x
  • Connectivity: WiFi and Bluetooth for remote control and image transfer. You can sync to the Canon Camera Connect App (iOS and Android).
  • Weight: 0.61 lbs
  • Size: 1.6 x 4.3 x 2.5 in
  • Audio: On board mic. No mic input jack.
  • Other features: 3.0 inch tiltable LCD touch screen (flips 180 degrees so subject can see composition), Zoom Framing Assist for recomposing at long focal lengths, and 4K timelapses.

If you’ve never owned a camera with huge optical zoom, you’ll really appreciate the Zoom Framing Assist function. This helps to track (and find) a subject when the lens is fully extended. It can be harder than it sounds.

The SC740 comes with a couple of great shooting modes, perfect for travelers and filmmakers. Self portrait, food, style settings, and video snapshot will save you time in editing and help you get the footage you need.

4. Panasonic LUMIX DC-ZS70 (4K Compact)

At just 0.71 lbs, this compact 4K camera is a powerful unit. I’m loving the optical image stabilization, 30x optical zoom, and post focus features. Here’s more about what this camera can do:

  • Maximum Recording Resolution: 4K UHD 2160p (3840 x 2160)
  • Price: Check current price on Amazon
  • Brand: Panasonic
  • Image Stabilization: 5-axis Hybrid o.I.S. (Optical image stabilizer)
  • Image Sensor: 1/2.3-inch
  • Total Pixels: 20.3 megapixels
  • Optical Zoom: 30x (24-720mm equivalent)
  • Connectivity: WiFi for remote control.
  • Weight: 0.71 lbs
  • Size: 1.62 x 4.4 x 2.64 in
  • Audio: On board mic. No mic input jack.
  • Other features: The 180 degree flip-up LCD touch screen makes selfies and solo vlogging super easy. Also, the Post Focus function allows you to focus after you’ve taken the shot.

For stable footage, you’ll love the 5-axis optical image stabilization feature. It detects and compensates for five types of movement. And helps to maintain a level horizon. This helps reduce a number of beginner mistakes and allows you to capture usable footage early.

Like the larger Panasonic (FZ80), this model also allows charging via USB powerbank. And while it’s more convenient to have multiple batteries (and charge with a wall charger) it’s nice to have the ability to charge on the go.

Here’s a power bank that works for many of our readers.

5. Panasonic LUMIX GH5 (Mirrorless 4K Camera)

This unit is more than a step above the compact and point and shoot options above. This is for serious vloggers and filmmakers.

What it lacks in optical zoom (just 5x) it makes up for in an improved photosensor and video quality. Here’s what to expect from the Panasonic GH5:

  • Maximum Recording Resolution: 4K 60p/50p (QFHD 4K: 3840 x 2160 / MOV or MP4)
  • Price: Check current price on Amazon
  • Brand: Panasonic
  • Image Stabilization: 5-axis Hybrid o.I.S. (Optical image stabilizer)
  • Image Sensor: MFT 4/3″ (Micro Four Thirds)
  • Total Pixels: 20.3 megapixels
  • Optical Zoom: 5x
  • Connectivity: WiFi and Bluetooth for remote control and image transfer.
  • Weight: 5.78 lbs
  • Size: 12.2 x 10.3 x 6.7 in
  • Audio: On board mic. Plus mic input jack. Some bundles include the Rode VMGO mic for upgraded audio.
  • Other features: This model has Panasonic’s DFD (Depth From Defocus) for super fast motion detection and focus. And the 6K 30fps / 4K 60fps PHOTO Burst feature will let you capture that perfect moment when that thing happened.

This unit is rugged and listed as: splash, dust, and freeze proof – so it should be able to handle whatever you throw at it.

It is freeze-proof to -10 degrees and has weather sealing on every dial, button, and joint. Perfect for outdoor filming an variable conditions.

6. Nikon D850 (4K DSLR Camera)

This is the only DSLR camera on our list. And it is the best – if you’re into full-frame sensors, 8K timelapse video, and 45-megapixel images.

The D850 is a serious video creation tool. It features EXPEED 5 for faster image processing, lower noise, high-speed continuous shooting (9 fps) and wider dynamic range. Because of its full-frame sensor, you can shoot with zero crop factor with any full-frame NIKKOR lenses (including wide and ultra-wide angle lenses).

  • Maximum Recording Resolution: 4K Ultra HD video recording
  • Price: Check current price on Amazon
  • Brand: Nikon
  • Image Stabilization: No. Nikon DSLRs don’t have stabilization but it does come as a feature in many of the available lenses.
  • Image Sensor: Full Frame (35mm). Back-side illuminated (BSI) FX-format full-frame CMOS image sensor.
  • Total Pixels: 45.7 megapixels
  • Optical Zoom: Depends on the lens chosen.
  • Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth, and NFC for remote control and image transfer. You can sync to the Nikon’s SnapBridge app (iOS and Android).
  • Weight: 2.02 lbs (body only)
  • Size: 5.8 x 3.1 x 4.9 in
  • Audio: On board mic. You might consider the Rode VMGO mic for upgraded audio.
  • Other features: Tiltable LCD touch screen, Do Not Disturb feature for silent filming, incredible autofocus (even in near darkness), and solid subject tracking and auto focus.

Something to keep in mind: While this camera is the best one on the list, it isn’t necessarily the right one for you. As features are added, the learning curve increases. You’ll need to be pretty dedicated as a vlogger before committing this amount of money to a camera.

That being said, if video creation is an important part of your business, it would be hard to go wrong with this unit.

7. Sony Cyber-Shot RX10 IV (4K Superzoom)

Boasting the world’s fastest auto focus acquisition of 0.03 seconds, the RX10 IV is an amazing vlogging tool. It shoots 4K6 (QFHD 3840 x 2160) video and 20.1 megapixel stills.

  • Price: Check current price on Amazon
  • Sensor: 1” (1.0-type) back illuminated Exmor RS stacked image sensor
  • Weight: 2.32 lbs
  • Size: 5.22 x 3.7 x 5.02 in
  • Audio: On board mic. Plus mic input jack. A popular external mic is the Rode VMGO mic.

Has a decent 25x optical zoom with the 24-600mm F2.4-F4 ZEISS Vario Sonnar T lens. Built-in Optical SteadyShot image stabilization helps to reduce image blur caused from camera shake.

Another feature worth mentioning is the super slow-motion movie HFR7 (High frame rate) which can slow clips up to 40x slower than real time.

8. Nikon Z6 FX-Format (Mirrorless 4K)

The Z6 is a premium camera for serious vloggers. Available as body/base only or with any number of lenses. If you aren’t sure which lens, I recommend the 50mm prime – it’s perfect for shooting travel and educational videos. You can

Shoots 4K ultra-HD video and 8K time-lapse video.

For stills, you can shoot 12 fps. And slow motion video at 120fps / 1080P. Because this camera has interchangeable lenses, the optical zoom depends on the lens you choose.

This is a premium option that includes a 3.2″ screen and 4K UHD 2160p video resolution.

4k sport video camera

4K Video Camera Accessories

To help you improve the quality of your footage, here are some handpicked accessories.

If you have settled on a GoPro, here are some accessories just for your camera. These GoPro accessories will help your video creation: batteries, software, tripods, backpacks, selfie stickscar mountshelmet mounts, and backpack mounts.

If you are going to also use one of the other cameras on the list, here are a few options.

Video Tripod: Magnus VT-300

This video tripod with fluid head will give you a stable base to film from. It has a built-in pan/tilt head with independent pan and tilt locks.

Check current price on Amazon

This tripod supports up to 15 lbs and has a maximum height of 64.3″. It will support DSLRs, camcorders and all the other recommended cameras in our list.

External Video Mic: Movo VXR10

This universal video microphone will immediately improve your audio. It connects with a standard 3.5mm output cable which will work for most cameras and phones.

Check current price on Amazon

Before buying your external mic, make sure that your camera has a mic jack. Some of the lower-cost cameras don’t have them – and there is just no way to add them. The GoPro does accept an external mic if you use their adapter.

If you really want to up your game, you should consider the Rode VideoMicPro. It is one of the best quality prosumer mics and even comes on a shockmount for the best quality sound – eliminating unwanted vibrations and rumble.

Video Gimbal: Feiyu AK2000

This 3 axis gimbal has a powerful stabilizing motor that will support every camera on our list. Maximum payload is 6.1 lbs (2.8 kg).

Check current price on Amazon

Gimbal battery has 12 hours of life and comes with the following features: hunting and space mode for different effects and tracking function.

The AK2000 connects to your phone via WiFi and Bluetooth – eliminating the unwieldy control cable.

SD Memory Cards for 4K Video

Don’t forget about memory cards. One thing about 4K video is certain: it eats memory cards for breakfast.

When you’re on a shoot, remember to bring a few cards – fully cleared and formatted before the shoot.

Check current price on Amazon

I’m a big fan of SanDisk SD cards – they have served me well for years. You might consider getting a couple big cards, like this 256GB or maybe 4 or 5 of these smaller 64GB cards. You’ll never regret having a couple of extra.

A few years ago, I was on a shoot on Isabela Island in the Galapagos and I dropped my fastest/largest card into the water off the dock. It was still dark out – and it was gone. I wished I had brought a few extras…

Best waterproof 4k camera

Storage Space: Portable Hard Drive

Storage Space: When you shoot in 4K, you should allow for about 50 GB per hour of footage. This requires some significant storage capacity.

For travel, you might consider this 4TB drive by Western Digital. It is USB 3.0 for fast file transfer. And it doesn’t require an external power supply. I have a couple of these (1TB and 4TB) and love them. They are light and sturdy.

If your 4K video camera is rendering out at 50GB per hour, this 4TB should hold almost 80 hours.

If you work mostly from home (and not from a backpack) you might consider this 8TB external hard drive by Seagate. This will hold up to 160 hours of 4K video.

Tip: It’s a good idea to backup your footage. While you’re traveling, you can put one drive in your pack and a second (mirrored drive) in your partner’s pack. And at home, I always keep an on site, and cloud backup.

best 4k camcorder

Keep reading: Our Recommended Vlogging Setup

Your Turn

So there you have it. Our guide to the best 4K cameras, how to choose them, and the gear to consider for your next shoot.

Which 4K camera do you have your eye on? Have a tip or question? Join me below!

How to Format SD Card Windows 10, Mac, Camera, CMD - TECHEVANGELISTSEO | SEO Tips With YouTube Videos Infographic And How To

Friday 6th of November 2020

[…] it doesn’t take long to create a single video file larger than 4GB. Especially if shot in 4K with a high […]

James Blandchard

Sunday 15th of March 2020

All the Sony a600 series compact mirrorless cameras, starting with the A6300, blows away all the camera's you've listed above away. Not even close. Sony shoots in 6k and downsamples to 4k in those camera's. Just another reason for people to do your homework. Understand that websites need content to make money on advertising and sometimes the content isn't very good.