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The best 4K camera for video in 2021, for both photographers and videographers

Best 4K camera

If you want. the best 4K camera for video, you need to be very clear about the kind of video you want to shoot! We've split our guide into cameras for photographers who also need to shoot 4K video, and cameras for filmmakers who don't really care too much about stills. Or, if you're into vlogging, we've got a separate guide to the best vlogging cameras!

We've updated this buying guide to include two important new cameras. The Panasonic Lumix GH5 II is an update to Panasonic's top-selling GH5, with numerous important and worthwhile improvements – though we suspect the Lumix GH6, due late in 2021, will quickly steal the limelight. 

And then there's also the remarkable Sigma fp L with its combination of 61MP stills resolution and powerful cine features too – and a simple switch on the top swaps from one operational mode to the other. It's far from perfect, but the Sigma fp L is a very affordable, very compact and very likeable alternative to mainstream mirrorless cameras.

In this guide we concentrate on regular interchangeable lens cameras with strong 4K video capture. These are ideal for photographers moving into video, or for filmmakers who don't want or need dedicated cinema cameras, and all the expense and technical complexity that goes into them.

The world of video is now incredibly diverse, of course. If you think this guide doesn't quite describe you, then maybe you might want to take a look at these:

Best cinema cameras: for professional filmmakers and studios
Best vlogging cameras: for independent content creators
Best camera for film students: powerful and affordable cameras to start with
Best action cameras: for filming adventures and action
Best 360 cameras: for cutting edge filming and VR techniques
Best drones: for aerial photography specialists

This guide concentrates on the rapidly growing list of hybrid stills/video cameras that can handle all types of content creation. This is where all the action is happening at the moment, as mirrorless cameras move upmarket and start to eat into the territory of professional cinema cameras – but at a fraction of the price.

Regular mirrorless cameras are starting to mount a serious challenge to professional cinema cameras, led by the powerful Panasonic Lumix S1H (which also has the rather remarkable little Lumix S5 nipping at its heels). Much of the talk right now is around 8K cameras like the Canon EOS R5 and the Sony A1, but while 8K sounds spectacular on paper, it's way beyond the needs of most vloggers, content creators, commercial photographers and filmmakers. For most real world use, a camera that shoots 4K really well is more important than one that can shoot at a resolution no-one can currently edit or share effectively.

For this, there is the incredibly well sorted Sony A7S III. This is the opposite of the Canon in terms of specs. Its resolution is capped at 4K, and it can only shoot 12MP stills, but Sony has produced what many consider the best 4K mirrorless video camera on the market. 

Read more: Key 4K video jargon explained

The best 4K cameras for video in 2021

Stills and video

In this section we list the best 'hybrid' cameras – fully functional stills cameras that can also capture 4K video at a professional level. These are cameras that are split 50:50 between stills and video (all right, some may be 60:40!) for photographers, videographers and content creators who need to capture both.

(Image credit: Fujifilm)

1. Fujifilm X-T4

More affordable than full frame for 4K video, and at least as powerful

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 26.1MP | Lens mount: Fujifilm X | Screen: 3in articulating touchscreen, 1,620k dots | Viewfinder: EVF, 3.69 million dots | Max continuous shooting speed: 30/15fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Expert/professional

6.5-stop in-body stabilisation
4K video at up to 60/50p
High-speed shooting
New and expensive

The world's attention seems focused on full frame cameras right now, but the X-T4 is a much cheaper proposition while also boasting very advanced 4K video capabilities. These include the capacity to shoot 4K video at up to 60p, for a smooth 2x slow motion effect. Not only that, it can also capture the slightly wider Cinema 4K format at the same speeds. There's more. Most 4K cameras capture 8-bit video internally to memory cards, but the X-T4 can capture higher-quality 10-bit video internally and, if you connect an external recorder, it can save video at a higher 4:2:2 colour sampling quality. The big step forward with the X-T4, however, is the new in-body stabilisation, which can reduce or eliminate the need for a gimbal, especially when used alongside the digital image stabilisation system. For all-round size, performance, power and price, the X-T4 is hard to beat.

Read more: Fujifilm X-T4 review

Best video editing sofware for vloggers and filmmakers

(Image credit: Canon)

2. Canon EOS R5

With improved 8K recording times, the EOS R5 looks even better

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 45 | Lens mount: Canon RF | Monitor: 3.15-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 2,100k dots | Viewfinder: OLED EVF, 5,690k dots, 100% coverage, 0.76x magnification | Max continuous shooting speed: 12fps mechanical shutter, 20fps electronic | Max video resolution: 8K | User level: Professional

Best AF on the market
Best full-frame IBIS
8K video is astounding
Video recording limitations
Standard 4K is just okay

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. It's not perfect at everything, but given its resolution, its frame rate and its video capabilities combined, this is genuinely a landmark camera. It's expensive, and it feels like there's still a bit of development work to be done on the video side, but as a crossover pro stills/video camera, it's a dramatic step forward. The only reason this camera isn't number one in our list is price. This is an expensive professional purchase, especially when you factor in the cost of the best Canon RF lenses.

Read more: Canon EOS R5 review

(Image credit: Panasonic)

3. Panasonic Lumix S5

Serious 4K video power in an affordable full frame camera

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full frame | Sensor resolution: 24.2MP | Lens mount: L-mount | 4K frame rates: 60, 50, 30, 25, 24p | 4K sensor crop factor: 1x | Standard ISO range: Dual Native ISO, 100-51,200 | Memory cards: 2x SD/SDHC/SDXC (1 UHS II, 1UHS I)

Best in-class video performance
Compact full-frame quality
Magnesium frame and vari-angle screen
Dual SD card slots
Only Contrast AF

Despite its compact size, the Lumix S5 shares the impressive 24MP CMOS sensor housed in the Lumix S1, but with improved autofocus. It also has a tough weather-resistant body and delivers up to 6.5-stops of image stabilisation with compatible lenses. Its standout features include class-leading dynamic range and 4K video recording, as well as 96MP high resolution RAW+JPEG capture. It’s tough to beat in this category, and if you had your eye on the Lumix S1H (or the Lumix S1), you should take a look at this first. Panasonic has made a brilliant content creator's camera at an affordable price and in a portable package. Bravo! Panasonic's autofocus tech isn't quite on the same level as other brands, particularly Sony and Canon, but that's not the only factor in choosing a camera for 4K video.

Read more: Panasonic Lumix S5 review

(Image credit: Sony)

4. Sony A7C

Not exactly adventurous, but a really competent 4K camera!

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full Frame | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens: Sony E mount | LCD: 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 921k dots | Viewfinder: EVF, 2,359k dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 10fps, 115 raw, 223 JPEG | Max video resolution: 4K 30p | User level: Enthusiast

Small(ish) body
Excellent retracting lens
Side-hinged vari-angle screen
Unambitious video specs
Unappealing silver and black finish
Not especially cheap

The Sony A7C's specifications are unambitious to say the least, particularly in terms of its video capabilities, but its practical performance, from its handy vari-angle screen to its excellent AF system, make very effective. But why have we included this and not the mighty Sony A1? Because the A7C does the right job at the right price, where the A1 is overkill for most users. We will leave it to you to decide if the silver  A7C's two-tone design is appealing, but for us it does not have the quality ‘feel’ of the other A7 models. With that new 28-60mm retracting lens, the A7C is also compact. The main thing for video shooters is the very useful vari-angle screen, the in-body stabilisation and Sony's superb autofocus system.

Read more: Sony A7C review

(Image credit: Nikon)

5. Nikon Z6 II

It's an evolutionary upgrade of the original Z6, but still worthwhile

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full frame CMOS | Megapixels: 24.5MP | Monitor: 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen, 2100k dots | Continuous shooting speed: 14fps | Viewfinder: EVF, 3,690k dots, 100% coverage | Max video resolution: 4K UHD at 30p (60p via update) | User level: Enthusiast/Professional

Two memory card slots
Improved burst shooting
Superior AF performance
No articulating screen
4K 60p will be cropped

The Nikon Z6 II is a light refresh of the original Z6, with a second memory card and processor bringing a bump to burst shooting, now up to 14fps, and the promise of 4K 60p video via an update. However, 60p video will cropped (and not here until February 2021) and the camera still lacks an articulating screen, limiting its appeal for video and vlogging. Existing Z6 owners won't see a need to upgrade, but new buyers will get a very capable camera at a pretty good price. The dual card slots are a definite plus point, Nikon's in-body stabilisation is very good, and the list of Nikkor Z lenses is growing steadily.

Read more: Nikon Z6 II review

(Image credit: Nokishita)

6. Sigma fp L

A 61MP stills camera that makes a great 4K cine camera too!

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: full frame | Sensor resolution: 61MP | Lens mount: L-mount | 4K frame rates: 30, 24p | 4K sensor crop factor: 1x | Standard ISO range: 100-25,600, exp 6-102,400 | Memory cards: 1x SD/SDHC/SDXC, UHS-II compatible

Small size and weight
Industrial, functional design
Incredible 61MP stills
Just one SD card slot
Awkward with bigger lenses
Poor continuous AF

Previously we included the original 24MP Sigma fp in this buying guide in the 'Video first' section, but the Sigma fp L has moved the goalposts. It's not a lot more expensive than the fp but comes with a 61MP sensor and yet sacrifices very little in video capabilities The Sigma fp L’s tiny body does bring some handling issues and places a lot of reliance on external accessories – not least its optional clip-on EVF – and while the new phase-detect AF system is great for stills, the video AF remains slow and unreliable. But what this camera can do, with both stills and video, is remarkable at this price. This is a proper little cine camera – and how many of those can also shoot stills at the highest resolution of any full frame camera on the market alongside the Sony A7R IV?

Read more: Sigma fp L review

(Image credit: Panasonic)

7. Panasonic Lumix GH5 II

This refresh of the classic GH5 brings it right up to date

Type: CSC | Sensor: Four Thirds | Megapixels: 20.3MP | Screen: 3.0-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1.84m dots | Viewfinder: Electronic, 3,680k | Lens: Micro Four Thirds | Continuous shooting speed: 12fps (6k 30fps, 4k 60fps) | Max video resolution: 4k | User level: Professional

6.5-stop image stabilization
Powerful 4K video capture
Fast continuous drive rates
MFT sensor smaller than APS-C rivals
As big as an APS-C DLR!

Many will be disappointed that the GH5 II is not a bigger leap forward from the GH5. In reality, it’s probably not meant to be an upgrade, but a ‘refresh’ that keeps the GH5 concept fresh and competitive for new buyers. And it certainly does that. This is big and chunky camera, but none the worse for that, and it doesn’t feel unbalanced even with premium zoom lenses like the Leica 12-60mm. Its still image and video specifications don’t break any boundaries these days, but it’s the way they are combined in a single camera that’s impressive. According to the specs, what the GH5 II does is unremarkable, save for some more advanced video modes. In practice, its combination of still image quality, video quality, stabilization, burst mode, wireless streaming capability and all-round handling mark it out as a camera that is so much more than just the sum of its parts. It's very new and currently available for pre-order only, but as soon as it becomes more widely available it's going to climb up in our list.

Read more: Panasonic Lumix GH5 II review

Video first

This section contains cameras that are designed for video first and stills second (or, in the case of the EOS C70, video only). The Sony A7S III is a classic example; a stellar 4K camera that can also capture 12MP stills. The Lumix S1H is another; a big, heavy beast that does have a 24MP sensor but leans so far towards video that the stills capability is more of a bonus. The Canon EOS C70 looks like a mirrorless camera, but it's really a cinema camera. We include it as an example of one of the best cinema cameras for handheld video, vlogging and one-person filming.

Best 4K camera: Sony A7S III

(Image credit: Sony)

8. Sony A7S III

The 12MP stills may not be useful, but the 4K video specs are great

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 12.1 | Lens mount: Sony FE | Monitor: 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen, Fully articulating 3-inch touchscreen 1,440K dots | Viewfinder: OLED EVF, 9,437K dots | Max continuous shooting speed: 10fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Professional

Incredible low light performance
Stunning AF, even for video
No 6K or 8K video
Still images only 12MP

It’s taken Sony five years to upgrade the video-centric A7S II to a Mark III, but the wait has been worth it for keen enthusiast and professional moviemakers. It might not boast 6K or 8K video resolution of some of its rivals, and with only 12.1MP it’s not a powerhouse super-stills machine either. But apart from a big and expensive cinema camera, it’s the only camera that can shoot 4K at 60p full frame with no crop, recorded internally, in 10-bit 4:2:2 with no limitations on recording time and with all the advanced AF functions still working. The 12MP resolution means the A7S III is pretty poor as a stills camera, but an absolute natural at 4K, so it is tilted more towards video than stills. However, sports fans should note it can shoot stills at 10fps and has an incredible 1,000-shot raw buffer (using new CFexpress Type A cards). 

Read more: Sony A7S III review

(Image credit: Panasonic)

9. Panasonic Lumix S1H

Panasonic's video-focused 6K cinema camera also shoots 24MP stills

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full frame | Sensor resolution: 24.2MP | Lens mount: L-mount | 4K frame rates: 60, 50, 30, 25, 24p | 4K sensor crop factor: 1x | Standard ISO range: Dual Native ISO, 100-51,200 | Memory cards: 2x SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS II)

6K video capture
Effective as a stills camera too
V-Log, LUTs and cinema features
No raw video capture
Continuous AF not that reliable

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 expensive, though, and specialized too, so not necessarily the first choice if you need to keep the cost down – though it does make the 'regular' S1 seem like second best now. Its official Netflix accreditation is a major plus point, but its continuous AF proved pretty patchy in our tests so that, combined with this camera's considerable size and weight, rules it out for vlogger style run-and-gun style videography. However, a recent upgrade to offer ProRes RAW output via HDMI to Atomos Ninja V devices adds to the credentials of the S1H as a cinema camera offering at a regular camera price point.

Read more: Panasonic Lumix S1H review

(Image credit: Canon)

10. Canon EOS C70

Canon's RF mount cinema camera uses the popular Super35 format

Sensor size: 26.2 x 13.8 mm (Super35) | Sensor resolution: 4096 x 2160 (8.85 MP) | Card slots: SDXC x 2 | Lens mount: RF | Max shooting resolution: 4K | Display size: 3.5-inch | EVF: No

4K up to 120fps, 2K up to 180fps
Dual Gain with 16 stops dynamic range
No RAW output
Cannot use PL lenses

The Canon EOS C70 is like a remixed version of Canon's C300 Mark III cinema camera, and a very powerful RF mount camera for video. It packs Canon's Super35 sensor, Dual Gain Output, 16 stops of dynamic range and 4K 120fps / 2K 180fps performance into a compact form factor more like a traditional stills camera. It also packs a touchscreen that changes the game for Cinema EOS cameras, with touch control making it so much easier to maintain focus. For lone shooters, the C70 boasts the iTR AFX system from the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III, with head detection and spookily accurate autofocus. The only cinema camera to use Canon's RF mount, it opens up a world of cutting-edge optics – and not only can you still use EF lenses, but a new Canon speed booster enables you to use them with an extra f-stop and a full-frame angle of view! However, it doesn't record in RAW and there's no option to use PL lenses – for that, you'll need to step up to the C300. 

Key 4K video jargon explained

4K UHD vs Cinema 4K: What most people refer to as ‘4K’ is actually UHD, or 3840x2160 pixels; it’s not quite 4,000 pixels (or 4K) pixels wide. However, it does have the same 16:9 aspect ratio as Full HD, with twice the horizontal and vertical resolution. Actual Cinema 4K, which is often referred to as DCI 4K, has a resolution of 4096x2160 pixels, with a slightly wider 17:9 aspect ratio.

8K: see What is 8K?

Autofocus: Most camera makers now offer fast hybrid phase- and contrast-detection autofocus systems, though Nikon DSLRs still use contrast-detect autofocus in live view and during video recording, and Panasonic’s Depth From Defocus (DFD) contrast-detect AF is really fast. In reality, though, many videographers prefer manual focus.

Bit depth: Most cameras capture 8-bit video, which has similar limitations to 8-bit JPEGs and can start to break up and show banding or posterisation effects with heavy editing (or ‘grading’, to use the video term). Some cameras can capture 10-bit video, which offers more scope for editing later.

Bitrate: The level of compression applied to video footage. As a general rule, higher compression (a lower bitrate) produces smaller files but lower quality, while lower compression (higher bitrate) produces larger files but better quality.

The Fujinon MK50-135mm T2.9, mounted here on a Fujifilm X-H1 body

Cine lenses: Regular lenses are fine for video but cine lenses have special adaptations that can make video easier or better. They use T-stops (actual light transmission values) rather than F-stops, and many have ‘declicked’ aperture/iris rings for smooth and silent exposure adjustment. Some also have toothed rings that engage with professional pull-focus mechanisms.

Colour sampling: Video is recorded as a luminance channel and two chroma channels. Compressing chroma (colour) data is less harmful to the image quality and this compression is quoted as a ratio. In the perfect world, cameras would record 4:4:4 video but usually the chroma channels are compressed, for example to 4:2:0 (basic) or 4:2:2 (better). 

Crop factors: Not all cameras capture 4K video across the full width of the sensor. Regular stills camera sensors have a higher resolution than is needed, so some makers will crop the sensor area to reduce the image processing overhead or achieve a simple 1:1 pixel ratio for 4K video. This produces a potentially annoying crop factor.

The Atomos Ninja range record Full HD and 4K footage from compatible cameras

External recorder: Video cameras can record compressed video internally to memory cards, but you can usually record ‘clean’ (ie uncompressed) video to an external recorder via the camera’s HDMI port, too. This offers potentially higher quality and greater storage capacity, and many of these have large displays that let you see the scene more clearly. Some of the best on-camera monitors have built-in video recorders

Frame rate: The traditional frame rate for movies is 24fps, whereas for PAL broadcast TV it’s 25fps and for NTSC broadcast TV it’s 30fps. Now that most video is transmitted and viewed digitally, the old distinctions between PAL and NTSC are less relevant but the frame rate still affects the look of the video. 

Interlaced vs progressive: Interlacing is an old technology where two fields of odd and even scan lines are stripped together. It saves on processing power and bandwidth (for broadcasting) but the quality isn’t as good as progressive video, where each frame is captured in its entirety. Interlaced video has an ‘i’ suffix after the frame rate, progressive video has a ‘p’.

Intra-frame vs inter-frame (IPB): Intra-frame compression compresses each frame individually and gives the best quality frame by frame. Inter-frame compression only stores the changes between key frames. The choice may be expressed as ‘All-I’ (intra-frame) and ‘IPB’ (inter frame) compression. 

Log modes: These capture ‘flat’ video with a wider brightness range designed for editing (grading) later. All camera makers have their own versions of log modes, such as S-Log (Sony) and C-Log (Canon). Log modes are a selling point for video-orientated cameras. 

The RØDE VideoMic Pro is a high-quality, affordable microphone for DSLR and mirrorless users

Microphone: the camera’s internal microphone, stereo or otherwise, will not have the sound quality or directional sensitivity for good-quality video, so an external mic is an essential accessory. You can use directional ‘shotgun’ mics like this RODE VideoMic Pro, or a wireless lapel or ‘lavalier’ mic for clipping to clothing to record speech. See our guide to the best microphones.

The Rotolight NEO 2 is a popular light panel for filmmakers

LED lights: naturally, flash is no good for video, so if you intend using artificial light it will need to be continuous lighting. LED panels are the top choice for video because they run for a long time off battery power while providing good levels of lighting and low heat levels. Some also offer variable colour temperature for matching the colour of different light sources. See our guide to the best LED panels

Live view: Mirrorless cameras have an advantage because they offer full-time live view both on the rear screen and in the viewfinder. DSLRs only offer rear screen viewing because they have to shoot video with the mirror up.

Memory cards: memory card makers will quote a maximum transfer speed, which is useful for gauging their performance for stills photography, but for video you need a minimum sustained speed. This is not the same thing, so most memory cards now quote both. The bare minimum for 4K video is 10MB/s (Class 10, UHS Class 1, V10); 30MB/s is better (UHS Class 3, V30) and 60MB/s is ideal (V60). Learn how to understand everything written on your camera's memory card 

Oversampling: A processing technique where video is captured at a higher resolution then downsampled to 4K resolution. This can produce better quality and is sometimes used on cameras where the native sensor resolution is much higher than 4K.

Pixel binning: A way of combining the output from photosites so that a higher-resolution sensor can be used to produce 4K resolution video. It’s not considered as good, in quality terms, as oversampling.

Sensor size: 4K crossover cameras come with a range of familiar sensor sizes, including full frame, APS-C and Micro Four Thirds. Super 35mm is a sensor size used in cinematography some pro video cameras – it’s roughly the size of APS-C but with a wider aspect ratio.

Tilting screen: Very useful when filming at low angles or ground level. Fully-articulating screens are less important for video because you never shoot with the camera held vertically.

Touchscreen control: Useful in videography because you’re less likely to jog the camera if you need to make adjustments while filming.

Video tripod and head: A dedicated video tripod, such as the Manfrotto tripod above, will have twin legs for extra stability and vibration reduction, and a fluid head with a long panning arm will provide much smoother camera movements. The Manfrotto Nitrotech N8 has both these features, together with a counterbalance system that prevents the camera drooping forward when it’s released. See our guide to the best video tripods

Zebra: A tool provided by many recent cameras that's used to help judge exposure. This displays the areas of highlights in the frame, and the user will typically have control over the threshold to better manage detail in these areas.

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