Once reserved only for high-end enthusiasts and professional-grade cameras, in recent years, 4k recording capability has become a common feature even on beginner-oriented models. Since this feature has become more and more commonplace, the best 4k cameras shouldn't only capture sharp well-rendered videos, but should also include features to make your recording sessions a little easier. These include effective autofocus systems, in-body stabilization, and a wide selection of inputs and outputs for different videography accessories, like headphones, auxiliary microphones, or external recorders.
It's worth noting that a camera's overall performance can vary drastically depending on what kind of lens you use. Your lens influences the amount of light entering the camera, depth of field, autofocus behavior, and stabilization performance. That's without mentioning the physical aspects of your lens: a larger lens with a longer zoom length and a wider maximum aperture might make it easier to record the kind of videos you want, but it could make your camera more of a hassle to carry around. For the sake of consistency and user-friendliness, we currently test each camera with its standard kit lens.
We've tested over 65 cameras, and below you'll find our recommendations for the best 4k cameras to buy for most people. These picks were selected not only based on their overall performance but also their feature set and price. If you're looking for alternatives, you can take a look at our list of recommendations for the best digital cameras, the best cameras for vlogging, and the best cameras for YouTube.
The best 4k camera for studio video that we've tested is the Panasonic LUMIX GH5 II. This mirrorless Micro Four Thirds camera feels amazingly well-built and is remarkably comfortable to use, with well-spaced controls and a highly intuitive menu system. It does a good job smoothing out camera shake, thanks in part to its in-body stabilization feature. Depending on your choice of settings and usage habits, battery performance is excellent, too, and it can be charged via USB while in use, which is handy for longer recording sessions.
4k video quality is fantastic in well-lit environments, with well-rendered object textures and edges, though you may notice some noise when shooting in darker settings. This camera can shoot in 4k at up to 60 fps without a crop and can record 10-bit 4:2:2 color video internally, yielding more accurate color information. It also supports All-I compression, handy for users who want to work with high-quality video files for frame-by-frame editing, as well as a wide variety of recording formats to better suit your workflow and editing equipment. It's also capable of shooting anamorphic 6k video in a 4:3 aspect ratio, rather than true 6k.
Unfortunately, its autofocus system delivers only mediocre face-tracking performance when shooting in 4k. This is a heavy, bulky camera, though its large size does allow for the inclusion of USB-C and full-size HDMI ports as well as jacks for headphones and an auxiliary microphone. Overall, its dense feature set, long battery life, and fantastic ergonomics make it a great option for videographers.
If you prioritize the superior low-light performance of a full-frame camera, you may want to consider the Panasonic Lumix DC-S5. Unlike the Panasonic LUMIX GH5 II, it doesn't support All-I compression, and shooting 4k video at 60 fps incurs a noticeable 1.5x crop. However, its larger sensor yields better overall video quality, especially when shooting in dark environments, where noise and graininess are kept to a minimum. It can also record 10-bit 4:2:2 color video internally, and its autofocus system is more effective in tracking subjects' faces. Its in-body image stabilization feature helps the camera do a great job of smoothing out camera shake, and there's a full complement of inputs and outputs for mounting any videography accessories, like an external recorder, headphones, or an auxiliary mic. While this can vary depending on your settings and usage habits, battery performance is similarly excellent as it uses the same DMW-BLK22 battery. You can also charge it while in use. Unfortunately, this is a large, bulky camera that can be a bit of a hassle to travel with.
Get the GH5 if you prioritize slightly more advanced videography features, but consider the DC-S5 if you value sharper, less noisy video quality in low light.
The best camera for 4k vlogging that we've tested is the Fujifilm XT-4. This mirrorless crop-sensor camera features an amazingly effective in-body stabilization system that helps minimize camera shake, even when you're recording handheld. It has a fully-articulated touchscreen, allowing you to monitor yourself even if the camera is pointed at you. Its autofocus system also delivers fantastic face-tracking performance, maintaining focus even as you move around or pop in and out of the frame.
The camera's 4k video quality is impressive, with well-rendered object surfaces and edges and little in the way of noise or graininess. The camera can record in 4k at up to 60 fps with a minor 1.16x crop, handy for recording smooth action video. Its max bitrate of 400Mbps and 10-bit F-Log internal recording capability should result in highly detailed video files that you can adjust extensively in editing. While battery performance can vary with settings and usage habits, its single-charge battery life should still be sufficient for fairly long recording sessions. If you're vlogging on the go, you can even charge it over USB while in use with a mobile battery pack.
Unfortunately, while this camera isn't quite as large as some full-frame alternatives, it's still heavy, which can cause fatigue if you're carrying it around handheld for extended periods. Also, the rolling shutter effect is somewhat noticeable when quickly panning side-to-side, though it isn't too noticeable overall. Summarily, this camera's rich feature set, superbly effective autofocus system, and impressive video quality make it one of the best sport video cameras that we've tested.
The best 4k camera that we've tested with a compact design is the Fujifilm X100V. This rangefinder-style camera features an APS-C sensor that delivers excellent 4k video quality, especially in well-lit environments. Its F-log shooting mode effectively gives you more flexibility in color grading your footage in editing. If you have an external recorder, you can use its ability to output 10-bit 4:2:2 color video through its HDMI port. There's also a range of film simulation modes to give your videos a bit of artistic flair.
The camera's portable design makes it easy to slip in and out of a pocket or a purse for spontaneous recording sessions. It also feels very well-built, with milled aluminum top and bottom plates as well as responsive controls. Its built-in lens has a fixed focal length of 23mm, which should be enough for framing everyday scenes, though it has a digital zoom feature that can simulate a 50mm or 70mm lens. This camera also has a wide assortment of inputs, especially for a compact model, with USB-C, micro-HDMI, and mic ports. You can purchase a USB-C to analog adapter separately if you want to connect a pair of headphones too.
Unfortunately, this camera can only record 4k videos in increments of 10 minutes. Worse still, it exhibits serious overheating issues when recording high-resolution video, to the point where the camera may shut down before reaching that recording limit, though the risk of this occurring can vary in the real world. Overall, its compact size and wide selection of video features make it one of the best point-and-shoot cameras we've tested.
If you're looking for a 4k-capable compact camera that has a zoom lens, consider the Sony ZV-1. Its 1-inch sensor results in inferior low-light video quality compared to the crop-sensor Fujifilm X100V, but its built-in lens has an approximate full frame-equivalent focal range of 24-70mm, which should help you zoom in a little tighter on everyday scenes. Its autofocus system is remarkably effective in 4k video, as it easily tracks moving subjects. The autofocus system also features dedicated modes for tracking animals and objects held up close to the frame, the latter of which is helpful for product vloggers. It also offers far superior video stabilization performance, which is great if you plan on recording handheld. Like the Fujifilm, it has a Log-profile recording mode and supports HLG shooting, effectively allowing you to record a video and then play it back with an expanded dynamic range on compatible displays. Unfortunately, it lacks a headphone jack. Its battery life is middling, though this can vary in the real world.
Get the Fujifilm if you prioritize better low-light video quality and a headphone jack, but consider the Sony if you want a zoom lens, superior video stabilization performance, and notably better autofocus tracking capability.
The best 4k action camera that we've tested is the GoPro HERO9 Black. This compact camera can record 4k video at up to 60 fps without incurring a crop, which is great for shooting smooth action video. It also delivers impressive video stabilization performance in this resolution, allowing you to record handheld without needing to worry too much about camera shake. Battery performance is very good too, depending on your choice of settings and usage habits, and can be charged over USB while in use.
This camera is small enough to be stored in a pocket or a bag and is designed to be mounted to a wide variety of objects, from chest and helmet rigs to suction cup mounts for cars, motorcycles, and watercraft. It's rated as being waterproof and feels exceptionally well-built. It also features a secondary screen at the front of the camera to allow you to monitor what's being recorded when the camera is pointed at you. Its menu system is amazingly intuitive, and you can control the phone remotely by using the GoPro smartphone app.
Unfortunately, while videos recorded in well-lit environments are reasonably sharp and well-rendered, you may notice quite a bit of visual noise when shooting in dimmer settings. Still, its excellent build quality, remarkably portable design, and relatively advanced 4k video capability make it one of the best cameras for vlogging that we've tested.
The best 4k camera at a budget-friendly price that we've tested is the Sony α6400. This APS-C mirrorless camera is impressively small, making it easy to slip into your coat pocket or a small carrying bag. It also feels very well-built, courtesy of its weather-sealed construction, and offers great ergonomics. Depending on your choice of settings and usage habits, it has a fairly long battery life and can be charged over USB while in use, which is great for longer recording sessions.
This camera can record 4k video at up to 30 fps, though shooting at this frame rate does incur a minor 1.22x crop. 4k video quality is great overall, with well-rendered object textures and edges as well as very low noise levels, even in dimly-lit environments. You can also shoot with S-Log for an expanded dynamic range in video, and if you plug in an external recorder to its HDMI port, it can record higher-quality 8-bit 4:2:2 video. The camera's autofocus system also delivers exceptional face and object tracking performance too.
Unfortunately, this camera doesn't have an in-body stabilization feature, and 4k video stabilization performance with its 16-50mm 3.5-5.6/PZ OSS kit lens is terrible. It also lacks a headphone jack. In addition, while its menu system is fairly configurable, it can still be hard to find some functions, and you can't navigate the interface with its touchscreen. Still, if you're looking for a relatively affordable, portable camera that offers impressive 4k capability, it's a great choice.
Oct 08, 2021: Ensured that all main picks are still in stock and represent the best choice for their given category.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best 4k cameras for most people to buy, according to their needs. We factor in the price, feedback from our visitors, and availability (no cameras that are difficult to find or almost out of stock in the US).
If you would like to choose for yourself, here's the list of all our reviews for 4k-capable cameras. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. There is no single perfect camera. Personal taste, preference, and shooting habits will matter more in your selection.