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How to Buy an Affordable Ultra HD Camera

cheapest_4k_camera_-_best_quality_ultra_hd_devicesWith home videos and 4K-enabled playback devices being release more , it was a matter of time for the affordable 4K/Ultra HD camera market to catch on.

However, as 4K cameras are still a new commodity, they’re expensive compared to the their low resolution counterparts. In our review, we explore the options when buying a 4K camera.

Ultra-HD Camera Comparison

 Panasonic G7Sony AX100Sony FDR-X1000V/W
100-panasonic_lumix_dmc-g7ks_dslm_mirrorless_4k_camera_review100_sony_fdr-x1000v-w_4k_action_cam_review
100_sony_fdr-ax100-b_4k_video_camera_review
Rating4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)4.1 Stars (4.1 / 5)4.4 Stars (4.4 / 5)
FormfactorMirrorlessCamcorderAction Camera
Video Res
3840 x 2160p/30 fps (100 Mbps)3840 x 2160/30P, 24P (100 Mbps)3840 x 2160p/30 fps (100 Mbps)
Format
MPEG-4, AVCHDavchd, xavc_sxavc_s
Microphone
Built-in stereo mic, Optional ExternalBuilt-in stereo mic, Optional ExternalBuilt-in stereo mic
ViewfinderLCDLCDLCD

Best 4K Mirrorless Camera

panasonic_lumix_dmc-g7ks_mirrorless_4k_cam_reviewIf you are on the market for one of the top 4K cameras, our strong recommendation would be the ¾-inch-chassis ones from Panasonic. They combine excellent video quality with competitive pricing, especially in comparison with the upper level models from Sony.

Panasonic G7 4k Sample Video

Panasonic models score top ratings in all sites that offer buyer reviews, e.g. Amazon and Digital Photography Review. Their best-seller G7 model is placed in the $500 range and offers brilliant quality in a family model, without asking for a premium.

Panasonic’s G7 model is a popular ¾-inch still camera design which combines great-quality photography with HD and 4K video capabilities

Unquestionably, the G7 stands outs due its video capabilities. Besides 4K, it includes a great range of features and support tools to streamline the video shooting process, even if you aren’t going up from 1080p. In addition to zebra and focus peaking, the G7 also features a flip-out display with touch controls, that bypass the vibrations and sound of the camera’s manual controls, and a microphone input to upgrade your sound quality.

You get full exposure control with the G7 during video recording, but only P, A and S modes allow Auto ISO functionality, which prohibits setting shutter speed and aperture and letting the camera handle brightness. It supports auto-focus while recording and it generally does a pretty good job at it, with decent results, yet you are better off opting for manual focus instead.

Best 4K Camcorder

sony_fdr-ax100b_4k_video_camera_reviewThe Sony AX100 camcorder is a video camera that only offers photography on the side. If you require good still image capabilities, you should go for one of the Panasonic G7 models.

  • Capture 4k/30fps video way above the HD standard
  • 1″ Exmor R CMOS sensor with Direct Pixel Read Out
  • 14-megapixel video and 20-megapixel photography

Sony AX100 Sample 4K Video

The camera looks very beautiful and its build quality is of premium level. It packs considerable weight for its size, but compared to its recording capabilities it’s simply amazing, especially if you are used to older HDV models. It has a great 3.5-inch LCD display and a brilliant OLED viewfinder.

It also includes a comprehensive selection of independent manual controls and even includes with the full version of Sony Vegas Movie Studio Platinum. WiFi capability is a welcome add on!

The camera is a breeze to set up, with a brilliantly controllable zoom rocker and an excellent, amazingly smooth focus/manual zoom ring. A great feature is that the device includes a wealth of physical controls, despite the touch-screen display. It is a camera that doesn’t miss a single thing.

Best 4K Action Cam

sony_fdr-x1000vw_4k_action_cam_reviewIf you are on the market for a cheap 4K action cam, the Sony FDR-X1000V/W 4K is a close competitor to the GoPro Hero4 but usually costs substantially less.

FDR-X1000V/W 4K Cample Video

In our book the Sony X1000V gets a higher mark than the GoPro Hero4 due to the following:

  • No time limit on 4K shooting and no overheating issues that lead to unwanted shutdowns
  • Better reported image quality, albeit by only a little
  • Superior menu system compared to the GoPro one

The only problem with the Sony device is its poor battery performance, allowing a mere 25-minute recording time on a full battery.

However, you can outfit the Sony cam with an external USB battery back for added battery juice, provided that it supplies at least 1.5A power.

Finally, both the camera and the UW housing include a tripod socket.

Which features are included with an affordable 4K Camera?

When looking for a 4K camera, first you need to decide whether you’ll be shooting still images as well. If yes, then you should opt for a DSLR or a mirror-less model. On the other hand, if video recording is your main concern, with only a few stills on the side, then a regular 4K camcorder will server you just fine –and also save you money.

In our guide for the most affordable 4K cameras we’ve broken down our selection in three categories: Camcorders, Mirror-less and Action Cams.

Mirrorless cameras are the most inexpensive way to upgrade to 4K. With prices generally ranging between $500 and $1500, you get excellent 4K video recording and high-quality pictures. Camcorder prices sit at the higher price range, but they are still considered affordable 4K camera alternatives, although their still photo capabilities are limited.

Our recommendation goes with Mirror-less, especially if photography is something you overly enjoy doing. Their lack of interchangeable lenses or viewfinders is of minimal consequence to most buyers. Finally, the best cheap 4K capable action camera is the Sony FDR-X1000V/W 4K, however it has limited battery life on 4K mode, compared to the competition.

With a DSLR model camera you also get a viewfinder and interchangeable lenses (except in the low range Mirror-less models, which don’t have viewfinders), it’s a fact that almost every professional photographer in the press, sports and wildlife chooses a full-frame DSLR over the other chassis types. Our list doesn’t include any DSLR units due to their cost, with even the basic models priced over $1,500.