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 GH5 II is an update to Panasonic's top-selling GH5, with numerous important and worthwhile improvements – though we suspect the Panasonic 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 likable 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 DSLR for video: traditional interchangeable lens cameras for video & stills
• 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 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.
• Don't know bitrates from framerates?: 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.
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 color sampling quality. The big step forward with the X-T4, however, is the new in-body stabilization, which can reduce or eliminate the need for a gimbal, especially when used alongside the digital image stabilization system. For all-round size, performance, power and price, the X-T4 is hard to beat – though its autofocus system does have a habit of hunting from time to time.
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.
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 stabilization 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.
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 stabilization and Sony's superb autofocus system.
Read more: Sony A7C review
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 is cropped 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 stabilization is very good, and the best Nikon Z lenses are some of the best on the market right now.
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?
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.
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.
It took 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).
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.
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.
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