4K camera choices from low to high costs?

ToddGrovesToddGroves Website User Posts: 227

I was wondering if anyone knew of some good 4K camcorders, ranging from low to high costs.

The reason why I'm shooting for 4K is that I will likely have a lot of greenscreen shots for some scifi shorts I'm writing. (Actors over CG sets / environments.) 

Obviously, the higher priced 4K cameras will have the better lenses / chips. But, I thought I'd look over my choices in the meantime.

Thanks in advance.



  • TriFlixFilmsTriFlixFilms Website User Posts: 925 Just Starting Out

    The following are under $3000, if you are looking for anything over that price let me know and I'll go back through.


    • A6300
    • A6500
    • Several A7, A7S, and A7R models


    • GH4
    • GH5
    • G7
    • G85
    • GX85


    • XC10
    • XC15
    • 80D (modded)


    • Design Production Camera

    Samsung (Dont recommend):

    • NX500
    • NX1


  • ToddGrovesToddGroves Website User Posts: 227

    Thanks for the recommendations. I'll look into those.


  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator Moderator, Website User, Ambassador, Imerge Beta Tester, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 18,331 Ambassador

    Should be noted most of these cameras are not "camcorders," but DSLRs/Mirrorless bodies. Most of them require additional outlay on lenses, and few of them will have decent audio.

    That said, in the under $3K range most of those bodies will provide better image quality than the dedicated camcorders.

    BUT--Most of these camera are also recording 8-bit 4:2:0 video, and if you're buying a camera specific for greenscreen work, you really want something shooting 4:2:2, if not 4:4:4 (this is a reference to how the camera is encoding chroma/luma data. Long story short, human eyes pick up more detail in luma than chroma, so a lot of codec cheap out on the chroma data. It's not that noticeable to the eye on playback, but you'll notice the difference when keying or grading. 4:2:0 video it just harder to key because it's only storing 1 bit of chroma data for every 4 bits of luma. but Chroma data is kind of important for CHROMA keying.)

    Anyway, I'll do some more research myself, although the cameras I'm eyeing for myself are all in the 4K and up range... With the Exception of the EF-mount Blackmagic Ursa Mini. Two issues with that--it shoots to expensive media, so you'll end up spending as much on storage as the camera to be able to shoot a decent amount of time, and the Ursa Mini seems more suited to studio use than field. Too many story about failure in the field for me to be comfortable with it.


  • TriFlixFilmsTriFlixFilms Website User Posts: 925 Just Starting Out
    edited March 2017

    Best DSLR Body

    Personally I think the GH5 will meet your 4k/60fps, 4:2:2, and 10 bit needs. However you'll want to buy an external mic and maybe an external viewfinder.

    A Great competitor is the XC15:

    • All in one design
    • Permanent zoom lens
    • Good attached external mic
    • Primary purpose was run and gun news broadcasting as well as studio work
    • Codec is 4:2:2, which like @Triem23 said, is the borderline minimum for good green screening. 

    You won't need to buy a mic or lenses and while you can use the cheaper SD cards to record, to achieve 4K you must use C-Fast cards which can be a bit pricey at $2400. 

    Camcorder Body

    If you want to steer away from the DSLR type of cameras, here are some great 4k camcorders. 

    The Best 2015-2017 4K Ultra HD Camcorders:

    Best Camcorder body

    Out of those, my favorite (spec wise) is the Panasonic X1000. It can achieve 4k at 60p, large built in screen, XLR ports, 200mbps, twin SD card slot, options of 4:2:0/4:2:2/4:4:4 and 8/10/12 bit. At the price of $2100+ you get a LOT for the money.


     Conclusion (Best to worst bang for the buck):

    1. GH5 ($2000)
    2. X1000 ($2100)
    3. XC15 ($2400)
    4. The remaining cameras


  • ToddGrovesToddGroves Website User Posts: 227

    Thanks everyone for the suggestions!! I got some researchin' to do.

    I'm definitely shooting for the one with 4:4:4 option. The $2,100 price for the X1000 looks good. Gotta start saving my pennies. :P

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator Moderator, Website User, Ambassador, Imerge Beta Tester, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 18,331 Ambassador

    Mmmm. Not a fan of the Panasonic XC-1000. That tiny sensor gives it wide depth of field and terrible low-light. 

    The UX-180 or DVX-200 are much better cameras and worth the extra money. It's the difference between 1/2.8", 1", 4/3" sensors. The DVX-200 has four times the low-light response of the XC-1000. 

    I've used both of them. I'd not buy an XC-1000. If I had the finances, I'd buy a DVX-200 today. 

  • TriFlixFilmsTriFlixFilms Website User Posts: 925 Just Starting Out

    Start getting into DVX-200 price points and I'd start suggesting Canon C-XXX series or Blackmagic Ursa's.

    Take note that I can only go by spec and review while @triem23 has been able to work with these cameras first hand. His word carries more weight than my own. 

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator Moderator, Website User, Ambassador, Imerge Beta Tester, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 18,331 Ambassador

    @TriFlixFilms but now there's tge differences between a Cinema camera and a ENG camera. Get a Canon Cxxx or something in the Ursa line (and, on paper, and Ursa is my second choice), and you have to kit out the sucker for tripod and/or handheld operations, buy expensive C-Fast cards (those I can get now for $600...well under the $1200 they were a year ago) and get lenses. 

    To kit a $4k Ursa mini to function as an ENG camera, you need the viewfinder ($1500) the shoulder mount kit ($200) arm extension ($200) battery plate V-lock batteries (a few hundred), and your C-fast cards ($600 each), plus lenses (variable cost), and other things like follow focus. Kitting out an Ursa Mini is REALLY closer to $7k-$8k. Still an amazing price for the system, but... 

    The DVX-200 is my first choice for ENG camcorders, but that's a particular type of camera. 

    For cinema cameras I do like the Ursa lineup...

    For DSLR/Mirrorless I'd go Sony A7sII and get an Atomos or Blackmagic external recoder for 4:2:2 output. That gets you up into the DVX-1000 price range. 

  • TriFlixFilmsTriFlixFilms Website User Posts: 925 Just Starting Out

    Great advice Triem, I think we could really narrow down the results if the OP gave price cap for his set up and whether or not he needs audio/lighting/camcorder vs dslr body. 

    What price you looking for? @ToddGroves

    The more money you can spend, the better results but in youtube you reach a point of diminishing return around the $5000 mark. To some this may be ludicrous and you'd rather stick to $3000 or possibly even lower. 

    • Gh5 $2000
    • A7S II $3000
    • DVX-200 $3400

    If you're not limited by price, take Triems advice and snag that beautiful DVX-200 :) Hope that helped.

  • ToddGrovesToddGroves Website User Posts: 227


    At the moment, I'm thinking about the $2,000-$3,000 range. Maybe lower if I'm able to pull decent greenscreen keys with a camera that can give me at least 4:2:2 sampling.

  • WilliamRWilllerWilliamRWilller Website User Posts: 1

    earlier on TriFlixFilms put down the Canon 80d as being 4k capable when modded. any more info on that?

  • tddavistddavis Moderator, Website User Posts: 4,208 Moderator

    @ToddGroves  Maybe I am less discerning or completely uneducated in the ways of camera specs (I woefully am, the latter) but I use two little consumer grade point and shoot type cameas (A Sony HDR_PJ340 and a Toshiba Camileo x416) and I have no problem with pulling keys as long as I light the green screens properly.  I'm not so sure the camera model will have much effect there other than the resolution it shoots at as always.  But again, I don't keep up at all with the intricacies of specs.  I just shop by my bank account and a vague idea of what I want to do. 

  • ToddGrovesToddGroves Website User Posts: 227


    Thanks. I'll look into those. 

  • tddavistddavis Moderator, Website User Posts: 4,208 Moderator

    Oh, you want better than these, I just was referencing the low end cameras I have and that I can get a good key with them.  Don't waste time looking into them.  

  • Aladdin4dAladdin4d Moderator Website User, Imerge Beta Tester, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 2,509 Enthusiast

    @tddavis You're right lighting the green screen properly to begin with makes everything else easier regardless of the rest but recording in 422 or better makes keying even easier still.

  • tddavistddavis Moderator, Website User Posts: 4,208 Moderator

    @Aladdin4d  I'll have to look into what what exactly that measures because I have no idea what these two I use are, but I would be absolutely shocked if they were even close to that.  My big wishlist item for a new camera is one that can shoot at high frame rates at minimum 120 but higher would be ideal.

  • TriFlixFilmsTriFlixFilms Website User Posts: 925 Just Starting Out
    edited March 2017

    @WilliamRWiller I saw the article on the 4k 80d hack earlier but I wasn't able to finding it upon looking again, perhaps I misread the document. Fairly certain I recall it saying "hacked 80d for 4k 4:2:2"

    If I find it again, I'll be sure to share it with you.

  • Aladdin4dAladdin4d Moderator Website User, Imerge Beta Tester, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 2,509 Enthusiast

    @tddavis The numbers represent the sampling rate of each channel in a YUV/YCrCb color space so check Triem's explanation @ 04:08 - Understanding Color Space: YUV first

    Early on it was realized that the human eye is much more sensitive to differences in luma (brightness) than it is differences in chroma (color) so a lot of color information can be chucked before the average human is able to perceive the difference. 444 means no information is tossed.

    422 means the Cr and Cb channels are sampled at half the horizontal resolution of the luma channel cutting down the amount of information and bandwidth needed significantly

    420 takes it a step further by sampling only half the vertical resolution as well reducing the information and bandwidth even more.

    While we may or may not be able to notice the difference software can especially when it comes to things like keying and color correction and grading. 


  • WhiteCranePhotoWhiteCranePhoto Website User Posts: 911 Enthusiast

    Echoing what some of the other folks have said, and summarizing it... the chroma subsampling and recording codec will make more of a difference than resolution for chromakeying. Lighting the backdrop and talent correctly will help a lot, though; that's always going to be true.

    It's worth also looking at Kinefinity.com; there's a listing for used KineMini's there for $2500... which can record raw and 4K, and Kinefinity's media are more reasonably priced than most.

  • tddavistddavis Moderator, Website User Posts: 4,208 Moderator
    edited March 2017

    @Aladdin4d  Thanks for the breakdown. I'll admit when I watched Triem's latest previously that part went over my head.  I tried finding out about my little point and shoot cameras but nowhere could I find the specs on color sampling.  Which for me confirms their being totally inadequate, but they do what I need for now.  In the past, I have seen that arrangement listed for video equipment but never understood it's significance before now.

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator Moderator, Website User, Ambassador, Imerge Beta Tester, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 18,331 Ambassador

    @tddavis chances are your camera is 4:2:0. It's only been in the last few years that 4:2:2 has been creeping into cheaper cameras. It is why I keep my Canon XF-305. It's my only 4:2:2 camera. 

    YUV isn't an intuitive color space. RGB is pretty close to the color wheel we all got taught as kids, but YUV is just... weird.

  • Aladdin4dAladdin4d Moderator Website User, Imerge Beta Tester, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 2,509 Enthusiast

    It's probably worth mentioning that strictly speaking YUV is a purely analog construct that could be created and modified by voltage manipulation. It's also a planar construct meaning the final value of any one point is dependent on the values contained in multiple planes. It saves a lot of bandwidth and some manipulations are very easy for example changing one voltage or plane would affect the entire image. Other things though are a lot more complicated because it's hard to target a small group of pixels or a single pixel. Doing so means repeating calculations, sometimes recursively, for each plane before you get the result you want. YCrCb is the digital representation of the analog YUV space. 

    RGB on the other hand is a "chunky" construct. Each pixel is a chunk of bits that determines the pixel's value and any one pixel or group of pixels is easily manipulated independently of the others. On top of that manipulating bits is what computers do so relatively speaking RGB operations have a low computational overhead despite the added bandwidth. 

  • JazzyLevFilmsJazzyLevFilms Website User Posts: 21

    Sure, you guys are talking about $2,000+ super advanced cameras, but I personally own the Panasonic Lumix G7 with the kit 14-42mm along with the 25mm f/1.7. For me, this works well, especially considering the price I got it for (on sale for $600). The price is unbeatable, and this camera can achieve 4K at 100Mbps. So if anyone's looking for under $1,000, check this out.

  • ToddGrovesToddGroves Website User Posts: 227

    Thanks for your suggestion. That looks like a good camera. I have bookmarked it on Amazon. There is one for sale with 14mm-40mm lens for $597. And another version with a 14mm-140mm lens for $898. Pretty good choices for the money.  Clearly, you can always get another lens for this model. Cheers.

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator Moderator, Website User, Ambassador, Imerge Beta Tester, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 18,331 Ambassador

    The only issue with the Lumix G7 is that it's recording 4:2:0. Otherwise, it's a pretty **** good camera for its price range. 

    @JazzyLevFilms part of the reason some more expensive cameras have come up (and $2k isn't even close to "super-advanced." That's still lower end) is Todd is specifically planning on a lot of chroma key. 

    I'm going to put up this comparison video on testing. If note here is test 3, which deals with keying and artifacting. Specifically, note the difference between a $1500 gh4 and a $3000 BMCC. The BMCC is a better camera FOR GREENSCREEN. 

    The G7 would perform around the same (or worse) than the GH4. 

    As always, the individual artist has to set budget for him/herself, but my recommendations are specifically based around trying to find something that shoots 4:2:2. 

    Now... The G7 records 4:2:0 internally, but outputs 4:2:2 over its HDMI port, so one could get a G7 AND something like an Atomis Shogun or Blackmagic Video Assist (external recorders that can record 4:2:2 via HDMI) for under the cost of many cameras listed here, so it's a viable option. 

    Camera and recorder tech has really taken a jump forward in the last couple of years! 

  • WhiteCranePhotoWhiteCranePhoto Website User Posts: 911 Enthusiast

    $2000 isn't super expensive... it's not chump change by any means, but still... a $2500 KineMini has features that only a few years ago were only available in $40,000+ cameras. 


  • kevin_nkevin_n Website User Posts: 1,935 Enthusiast
    edited March 2017

    Isn't buying a equiv priced 1080 camcorder better in terms of image quality than buying 4k? I'm asking because there's obviously more to image quality than resolution.

    I respect people that use 4k camcorders I'm not the one that gets to decide what people should buy, but in my opinion I think it's only worth it for reframing purposes later.

    I have seen a side by side comparison, and 1080 at high bitrate streaming looks better than 4k high bitrate streaming, but the screen was fairly big.

    A lot of people shoot with DSLRs though, me included. I've actually never been into the camcorder game. The main reason I got a DSLR was so that I could take nice pictures with lots of settings to play around with, the video recording was just a nice bonus, I can record in 1080 with my 600D.

    Hope you'll find what you're looking for. Lots of talented people helping you. :)

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator Moderator, Website User, Ambassador, Imerge Beta Tester, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 18,331 Ambassador

    @CNK Oh, Kenin, what a bag of cats you open with a simple question...

    There's a lot of factors that can affect the quality of the camera's image.

    The lens: I mean a $5000 cinema lens is just going to have less distortion, chromatic aberration, and vignetting than a cheap hundred dollar lens.

    The sensor: Larger sensors have more light gathering potential. That's just physics. A lower resolution sensor of the same size will have higher low-light response than a higher resolution of the same size. Again, physics (It's why the a7s-series has great low-light. 4K is 12 megapixels, and that thing has a 12 megaspixel sensor. Putting 24 megapixels on the same sized sensor cuts low-light to 25%. Physics!). A larger sensor also has shallower DoF than a smaller sensor. Again, physics. Behind that, is the software--how many stops of exposure can the sensor resolve, what's the RGB pattern, etc...

    The recording codec: All things being equal, larger bitrate better than smaller bitrate. Now, 4K is 4 times the pixel density of 1080, so... most 1080 cameras (DSLR/Mirrorless/Prosumer ENG body) record 1080p at 28 or 35 mbps. 4K cameras... well at 100mbps, we can see that 100 is less than 4x28... So, yeah, a compromise is being made there. Besides that is the codec color encoding--8-bit vs 10 or 12-bit. 4:2:0 vs 4:2:2 or 4:4:4. Most cameras in the range we're discussing are going to record 8-bit, 4:2:0, but adding something like an Atomos Shogun or BlackMagic Video assist can take an image directly off the sensor better than the camera's internal recording. Sticking with that G7 as an example, yeah, it can record 100mbps 8-bit 4:2:0, but with the external recorder you can take advantage of the sensor's 4:2:2 space by recording to the appropriate ProRes codec--BUT that camera's sensor isn't 10 or 12 bit...

    Edit Color Space: Editing in 8-bit is going to limit a lot of what you can do. Sorry Express owners. 16-bit is usually good enough for a prosumer cameras, but for a real boy-boy, like a RED or ALEXA, then 32-bit is the way to go.

    Export codec: Finally, the chances are after all is said an done the final version goes out to 8-bit 4:2:0 mp4... That's fine, once you're done messing with it. Youtube will mangle it down to 12 mbps (4K) or 8mbps (1080) anyway... But... oh, Youtube 4k is 400% the pixel data in 150% of the bandwidth? Ooops... crappy 4K!

    BUT, even with the generally lower recording bandwidth, a 4K camera will usually look better than a 1080p camera IF the 4k is scaled down to 1080p, since any existing artifacts get compressed away in the rescale...

    In my opinion, 1080p is still the sweet spot for output fidelity on streaming and web services, but a 4K camera downscaled to 1080 will usually look better (assuming similar sensor/glass quality), and the 4k camera gives a little bit of refaming room in post, which can be vital for event work and vlogging. Just don't get lazy on set and count on a crop zoom saving you, because a crop zoom looks different from an optical zoom or moving the camera. Someone with a good eye (I'm thinking @WhiteCranePhoto ) will spot that a mile off!

  • WhiteCranePhotoWhiteCranePhoto Website User Posts: 911 Enthusiast

    Yep... resolution isn't everything. And crop zooms usually aren't aesthetically pleasing. 

    As a case in point, most of what I end up recording with my new camera is in 2K or HD... and its maximum resolution is 8K. The 8K stuff looks wonderful, but since most projects are aimed at web delivery, it's largely wasted...  so why record it?

    There are benefits to having resolution for VFX shots, that's why a lot of productions using Alexas as A cameras bring in Epics for the VFX shots... resolution is part of it, but part of it is the 16-bit codec.

    Another thing to remember for chromakey work is motion blur, btw. Raising your shutter speed for that helps, especially for people with long hair. Then you can add motion blur back when you render.

  • JazzyLevFilmsJazzyLevFilms Website User Posts: 21
    edited March 2017

    @Triem23 I'm not saying that $2,000 is so incredibly advanced... I mean relatively, when compared to the G7, I think you can safely say advanced. And I get what you're saying about green screen, but Panasonic really did something great for the price. Plus, not everyone has a $3,500 budget here.

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