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Updated by Paul Shillito on Dec 10, 2015
Headline for Top 10 4K Consumer Video Cameras
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Top 10 4K Consumer Video Cameras

What are the best 4K consumer video cameras on the market today ? vote up your favourite 4K video camera

Panasonic GH4

The Panasonic GH4 was the first consumer mirrorless DSLR to not only offer 4K video mode but also to record 4k to the internal SD card. The 4k footage is recorded at 100Mb/s with minimal compression artifacting which not only gives a very good quality but also doesn't take up too much space, certainly compared to formats like ProRes 4:2:2 HQ or CinemaDNG RAW. The sensor is micro 4/3 which makes for a small format camera and allows for a wide range of lenses to be used from the likes of not only Panasonic but also Olympus, Voigtlander, Toknia, Kowa.

The GH4 will record in UHD 3840 x 2160 and true 4K at 4096 x 2160, the output from the micro HDMI port is an uncompressed 4:2:2 format which can be captured by a recorder like the Atomos Shogun.

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Sony A7s

The Sony A7s mirrorless DLSR has redefined quality video with a full frame sensor that is super sensitive giving it the ability to film in low light conditions that would unthinkable for all but a tiny handful of specialist cameras.

This not only gives you ability to shot in just moonlight but also on a more practical level with minimal lighting to give a much more natural look in low light situations with very low noise.

It has the smallest full frame mirrorless body currently available. The Sony A7s uses the Sony E mount but there are adapter rings available that allow lens from many makers including other Sony lenses, Canon, Nikon, Contax, Exatca, Hasselblad, Kodak, Konica, Leica, Minolta, Olympus, Pentax, PL mount, M39, M42, Yashica. This makes it probably one of the most versatile came systems available and also allows the use of older and now obsolete but still very usable fully manual lens like the Canon FD and Nikon F range which can be picked up at good prices on Ebay.

The only drawback that this current version is that you will need an external recorder like the Atomos Shogun to record the 4k output as it does not record 4k to the internal SD card. The video out from the mico HDMI port is also a clean 4:2:2 output with no compression applied which makes for very high quality 4k that is captured by the external recorder.

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Sony FDR-AX100

The Sony FDR-AX100 is a 4k video camcorder with many of the features of the professional Sony cameras but with a price aimed at the consumer.

Unlike many consumer video camcorders it uses a 1" image sensor which give it better low light capabilities and also with the f2.8 lens the background blurring ability that you normally only find in a DSLR camera. It also has alot of manual controls and assignable buttons in line with it's semi-pro user market but with a high end consumer price tag.

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Sony AX33

The Sony AX33 is probably one of the best truly hand-held camcorders available and was designed with that portability in mind.

It is often quoted as the little brother to the AX100 but it is completely different camera. For starters it has a much smaller 1-2/3 sensor compared to the AX100's 1 inch sensor but the main feature of the AX33 is the BOSS or Balanced Optical Stabilisation System. This is an advanced optical image stabiliser where the entire sensor and lens floats in a gimbal like device in the camera body.

This gives the camera an almost unrivalled ability to smooth out the jerky movements when it is being carried in the hand and can produce when combined with the electronic stabilizer, images that would need an external stabilization rig to achieve.

The quality of the 4K footage may not be quite as good as the AX100 due to the smaller sensor and lens but if you are more likely to use it on the move it would make a more sensible purchase, that and its about half the price of the Sony FDR AX100.

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Panasonic WX970

The Panasonic WX970 is Panasonic's flagship 4K consumer camcorder. It has a several features that are unique to it and include not one but two cameras with the second one being mounted on the outer edge of the fold out screen. This allows you to video the subject and yourself or anything else that is in view from the second camera.

The second lens is not 4k but another trick which the WX970 has is the ability to link vis WiFi to a mobile device like an iPhone or Android and use that as the second camera instead of the built in one. Now you can be recording from two completely different places at the same time so long as you can maintain a wireless connection.

The Panasonic is also the first camera to feature real-time HDR or High Dynamic Range video but only in 1080p mode and not 4k. When filing in high contrast situations, HDR mode aims to give you footage that will be equally exposed even if parts of the scene would normally be either under exposed or over exposed by blending two different exposures together to get a balanced video.

There is also a smaller brother of this camera available without the extra selfie camera called the Panasonic VX870, it keeps the second camera ability via WiFi and its also about $100 cheaper than the WX970 but is pretty much the same camera other wise.

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Panasonic FZ1000

The Panasonic FZ1000 is a step down from the flagship GH4 with a fixed lens system so its not a true DSLR but follows the same form factor but is still has the ability to record 4k UHD 3840 x 2160 in MP4.

One of the main features is that is has a 1 inch sensor so you don't loose too much of the background blurring capabilities that main of its bigger brothers have and sets it above the similar low cost pint and shot camera's with fixed lenses. The larger sensor also means better low light performance with less noise in your footage.

On the subject of the fixed lens it has a Leica DC Vario-Elmarit 25mm - 400mm zoom with a maximum aperture of f2.8 dropping to f4.0.

Probably the biggest selling point of the Panasonic FZ1000 is the price which is about half price of the GH4 body alone and although is 4K footage may not be up to the best it still going to better than most HD camera's.

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4

Blackmagic 4K Production Camera

Blackmagic 4K Production Camera

The Blackmagic 4K Production Camera is more of a professional video camera than the others on this list because it was designed to be used in a professional environment but at a price tag which come in at the high end of consumer 4k video cameras.

It is a true video camera, it doesn't take photo's, so it's not a photo camera which has been adapted for video and this goes for the way in which is records the footage. Firstly it uses 2.5" SSD hard drives instead of the SD cards which all the consumer cameras use and secondly it only records in ProRes 4:2:2 or CinemaDNG RAW,

Both of these formats are designed to be used in an editing programs and not for viewing directly on a TV as you would with H264 based MP4 format in the consumer cameras. The only way you going to get your footage into MP4 format it to convert it on your computer after you have edited it.

The use of SSD's which slot in to the body of the camera from the side means that the camera is bigger than all the others on this list.This large size does have a benefit in that it has a 5" LCD viewer on the back of the unit.

The Blackmagic 4K Production camera comes uses a super 35 sized sensor and the Canon EF mount giving you access to the wide range of Canon EF lenses or third party ones that use the EF mount system. Lenses are not supplied with the camera so you need to get a lens too before you can use it.

Another feature that the Blackmagic 4K Production camera has that you normally only see in professional cameras is a global shutter. This gets rid of the rolling shutter effect that you get when you do quick moving pans from side to side with a nearly all consumer grade video cameras have making it ideal for fast moving footage.

If your looking to use this in a home based system then the lack of an HDMI output means your going to need to get an SDI to HDMI converter if you want to view the live output on a TV or computer monitor. This camera has the professional SDI output which uses a BNC connector but then it will connect directly to the Atomos Shogun 4K recorder which has SDI and HDMI inputs. Audio outputs are 1/4" jack plugs instead of the smaller 3.5mm in consumer cameras or XLR connector in Pro cameras which is unusual but not a major issue.

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GoPro HERO4 BLACK 4K

The GoPro Hero 4 Black is at the other end of the 4K video camera range. Its ultra small size, weight and fixed ultra wide angle fish eye lens makes it ideal for its primary use as an action camera.

It has built in Wifi and can connect to an Iphone or Android device to not only see a live feed but also control and setup the camera.

The quality of the footage is not the best that you will come across due to the heavy compression and the wide-angle lens but it will still give you the ability to digitally zoom in up to 200% without any loss of detail.

There are a huge range of fixings to allow it to mounted almost anywhere from a quad-copter drone to a bike helmet or the end of a surf board and almost everything else in between.

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Panasonic HC-X1000E

The Panasonic HC-X1000 is the first camera to record 4K 50p/60p to its internal SD card, at the moment the competition can only record 4K up to 25p/30p. It records the higher frame rates at 150MBps which is pushing it on the SD cards so you'll need the fastest one you can get.

It also features full manual control with not one but three control rings for the Zoom, Focus and Aperture together with the 20x Leica Dicomar lens and built in ND filters this has a lot of the Pro features which are missing from the consumer models.

You also get a plethora of manual control buttons and switches which are placed around the body of the camera so there is much less need to dig in to menus for common function.

The downside is that you only get a small 1-2/3" sensor so you wont be getting the low light and shallow depth of field capabilities that you will from the larger sensor cameras.

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Blackmagic Design URSA Camera

Blackmagic Design seem to be determined to shake up the professional camera market and with their URSA Camera they are certainly doing a pretty good job of it. It takes on a lot of the basic features that the Blackmagic 4K production camera introduced, like the super 35 sensor, global shutter but then adds a larger format factor with a 10" monitor screen, and a host of other features aimed at making it fitting it in to a full blown studio or a one man outfit, there are also two further 5" screen, one on each side of the camera for the main control.

It comes with either a EF or PL mount so again its aiming for the semi pro to pro users, it also records at upto 4.6k ( 4608 x 2592 pixels ) with upto 15 stops of dynamic range which allows the you to get the most of of the ProRes 4:2:2 and CinemaDNG RAW 12 bit recordings. There is a 4K model which records at the standard 4K with a slightly less sensitive sensor with 12 stops of exposure.

Unlike the 4K production camera which uses SSD drives, this camera uses CFcards which can record at upto 350Mbps and a smaller than SSD's, this is a requirement for the CinemaDNG RAW footage which at 4.6k makes for very big, very high bandwidth files. It has not one but two CFcard recorders built in so when the first card fills up it will automatically start to record on the second one.

Professional SDI input and output along with XLR mic in and out and timecode are also on the back of the camera body and built in rack mount so it can go straight on to a set of rails.

Extras include a shoulder mount and an electronic viewfinder adding to the ENG (Electronic News Gathering) abilities of this already impressive camera. The Blackmagic URSA uses a standard 4-pin 12V to 30V XLR broadcast power connector for plugging into external power supplies. There are also mounting points and a power transfer connector for mounting third party V-Mount and Anton/Bauer gold mount back plates and batteries onto the rear of the camera itself.

And the most amazing thing about this camera is the price at under $5000 so professional users or those making the jump from consumer to semi pro or pro equipment this is certainly worth a serious look at.

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