Picking the best 8K camera is pretty easy right now, because there aren't that many to choose from. We're going to leave out proper cinematography gear that costs tens of thousands because that's TV studio and film industry territory, where the costs are through the roof. We're going to stick to cameras within reach of individual filmmakers or small independent studios looking to shift up a gear from 4K capture. 4K... that's sooooo yesterday.
It will be a surprise to no-one that the two stars of this particular guide are the Canon EOS R5 and the Sony A1. Neither is strictly speaking a cinema camera and both have well-documented issues (and responses) to the tricky topic of temperature control. But it's a sign of the times that hybrid stills/video shooters like these are nipping at the heels of full-on cinema cameras and making some of them look a bit silly into the bargain.
The camera that started the whole 8K commotion was the Sharp 8K camera revealed way back in 2019. Like practically every other photo/video site, we've picked one up at a show and written about when it will arrive... but the fact is that it still hasn't. And given that the EOS R5 and Sony A1 have now stolen the show, we don't give much for its chances when (or if) it does.
But we have included a couple of 8K 360 cameras. Is that cheating? After all, once you crop an 8K spherical view to a flat video, you've got a lot less than 8K. But these cameras do have 8K capture systems (which counts, in our book), and 360VR capture is just as exciting technically. Here is one instance where 8K is directly useful right now, because of the inherent cropping and resolution loss of 360 'flattening'. The great thing about 360 is that you don't have to worry where you point the camera, because you can crop and pan at will later – and the more resolution you start with, the better the result.
And then we decided not to stop at 8K. 6K is a more practical proposition for many, yet still offers a substantial resolution increase over 4K. 4K video is broadly equivalent to 9 million pixels, whereas 6K is around 20 million pixels. It depends on whether you're talking about 4K UHD, C4K, 5.9K vs 6K etc, but it's still roughly double the resolution.
What's interesting here is that while the list of 6K cameras is still relatively short, that could change quickly. The latest Panasonic firmware updates bring 6K Blackmagic RAW output via a BM Video Assist recorder to the Lumix S5 and S1. If Panasonic can add 6K with a firmware update, it's a sign that the leap from 4K to 6K capture might actually be a smaller step than we thought.
We also HAD to mention the Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 12K. This doesn't instantly make it the best cinema camera to get, for various reasons, but if you're buying into 8K purely for the numbers, then Blackmagic might just have pulled out the rug from under you.
The best 8K cameras in 2021
As a stills camera, the Canon EOS R5 is simply Canon's finest product ever. It’s the perfect amalgamation of the EOS R’s form, the EOS 5D’s function, and the professional-grade autofocus of the EOS-1D X. If you're a stills or hybrid shooter who flits between photography and videography, it's one of the best cameras you will ever have the pleasure of using. It has attracted some attention for the wrong reasons, notably overheating (or the threat of it) when recording 8K video, but this shouldn't detract from this camera's extraordinary capabilities, and a subsequent firmware update has extended its 8K recording times. It's not perfect at everything, but given its resolution, its frame rate and its video capabilities combined, this is genuinely a landmark camera. What's more – and this might sound a little strange – it's taken the arrival of the much more expensive Sony A1 to realize just how good the Canon EOS R5 actually is.
Read more: Canon EOS R5 review
This could be the ultimate mirrorless camera. There is literally nothing it can't shoot. Sports? Check, thanks to its unreal 30fps continuous shooting. Fine detail? Check, thanks to its 50.1MP resolution. Video? Check, thanks to its 8K recording capability (even though it's hampered by not having a fully articulating screen). The Sony A1 is far and away the most advanced and most powerful camera on the market… yet this comes at a cost, literally. It's about twice the cost of the Sony A9 II, and it's even more expensive than the 100MP medium format Fujifilm GFX 100S. There are also caveats on the 30fps burst, which isn't always achievable (sometimes topping out at 15-20fps, which is still impressive but less impressive than the spec sheet). Looked at purely as an 8K video camera, it appeared initially to be way better at heat management than the EOS R5. However, you still have to know where to look to set its heat tolerance setting to 'High' and the latest updates for the EOS R5 mean the recording time gap is not what it was. You also need the A1 Version 1.10 firmware update to make the A1's in-body stabilization to work as intended and not 'go to sleep'.
Read more: Sony A1 review
We haven't reviewed this camera so we can't tell you too much about it aside from the maker's own specifications. It follows the same 'box cam' design we've seen in the Panasonic Lumix BGH1, and this is good in that it's a modular design that can be adapted to all sorts of filming situations, but on the downside this is not a complete, ready-to-go camera because it needs rigging up with accessories, including an external monitor, first. It uses a full frame 61MP CMOS sensor (which sounds like the one used in the Sony A7R IV and Sigma fp L, maybe) and Z Cam claims the camera's heat dissipation system allows for unlimited recording times up to the capacity of the memory card. Storage is via a single CFast 2.0 card slot, a format not used on stills and hybrid cameras, but still found on pro video gear.
8K 360 cameras
The QooCam 8K the best 360 camera right now for image quality. A massive (by 360 standards) 1/1.7-inch CMOS sensor, 10-bit colour and, of course, that 8K resolution make sure of that. When it comes to the quality of its photos and videos, the QooCam 8K is peerless in the 360º market. Photos have plenty of color and contrast like nothing we’ve seen before from a camera like this. The ability to spit out a great-looking photo from a 360º video is welcome, while the detail, sharpness and smoothness of video – whether in 360º or cut-down to widescreen – itself makes the QooCam 8K a giant leap forward for creative filmmakers. It does have an audible fan, however, the battery life isn't great and it's not waterproof without a housing. It's also pretty expensive.
Read more: QooCam 8K review
We haven't reviewed the Insta360 Pro II because it's a specialised device that's outside our regular territory, but we are familiar with Insta360's consumer 360 devices like the Insta360 One R and One X2, and the Pro II extends this 360 3D VR expertise into professional territory, with no fewer than six 200-degree fisheye/camera units, four mics for 360 audio, a Farsight remote control system and built in GPS. It's a big old beast compared to Insta360's pocket sized consumer cameras, but packs in way more power, including the ability to stream 360 3D VR 4K video live to YouTube, for example, while still recording 8K internally. The size, shape and weight make this more of a tool for commercial projects than random vlogging, and while it can stitch 4K 360 video internally, you need to stitch 8K 360 in software later.
Read more: Best 360 cameras
If you really must have the bragging rights that comes with owning the highest-resolution video camera on the market, then the Blackmagic Ursa Mini Pro 12K is it. With a 79.6-megapixel CMOS sensor, it shoots 12K Blackmagic Raw files which give stunning quality with 14 stops of dynamic range and very filmic colours. Reduce it to a more reasonable 8K and 4K, and not only is the quality incredible, but you can shoot at fast frame rates that no other cameras can. But a camera is more than just its headline resolution and the Ursa Mini Pro 12K is based on the original Ursa Mini Pro launched almost four years ago and is starting to show its age. For example it has a Super35mm sensor, no IBIS, no codecs other than Raw, no continuous autofocus at all and certainly no phase-detection AF. It’s really a camera for experienced cinematographers shooting narrative drama such as feature films and VFX specialists rather than all-rounders.
Read more: Blackmagic Ursa Mini Pro 12K review
The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro is an evolution of the original 6K model which adds features missing from the first, including in-built ND filters. First of all, though, you have to get used to the handling from the odd size and large shape of the Super35mm Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro – which is certainly far from being pocket size. And the lack of continuous autofocus, image stabilization or any auto-exposure can be an issue for some. It’s definitely not a run and gun camera. But if you use it as a tool for considered, cinematic shooting then it’s a bit of a steal as it produces rich, detailed files in raw or ProRes from its dual native ISO sensor.
With the Lumix S1H, Panasonic has used its considerable video experience to bring many of its high-end VariCam features to the Lumix S range. The controls, the interface and certainly the hardware have been build for video and cinematography, and the fact it’s also a very serviceable 24MP stills camera is a bonus. It’s a truly compelling ‘bridge’ between conventional system cameras and higher end cine gear, especially for existing Panasonic videographers. It's designed like a stills camera rather than a cine camera, though, so the handling is compromised in that respect, but its specifications, performance and dedicated video-centric UI make this a strong challenger to more conventional cine camera designs.
Read more: Panasonic Lumix S1H review
As with the Z Cam E2-F8 above, we haven't reviewed this model so we can't say too much about it beyond the specifications and the maker's claims. With its 6K capture, it doesn't match the resolution of the F8 version, but it is significantly cheaper and comes with a 26MP sensor that offers benefits for video capture, including a slightly higher claimed 15 stops of dynamic range (the F8 offers 14 stops). It can capture 6K internally, but RAW capture and external HDMI output is capped at 4K. The Z Cam E2-F6 has a single CFast 2.0 card slot and comes in both Canon EF and PL mount versions.
• Read more: Best cinema cameras