The 8 Best 4K Cameras to Buy in 2018

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If you're thinking about shooting video for anything more than personal use, it's worth investing in a camera that can handle 4K resolution. Referring simply to the number of horizontal pixels (roughly 4,000), this format offers a much higher-quality viewing experience, especially as consumer 4K monitors and television sets become increasingly popular. Along with that resolution comes a recording rate, typically expressed in frames per second (fps), and 30fps is the minimum for good video, with some cameras going as high as 60fps for silky-smooth action footage. With 30fps 4K video now available even in small compact cameras and drones, as well as mirrorless and DSLR models, there's a wide range of options available, with an even wider range of prices. Whether you're looking for something that fits in your pocket or your backpack, that costs a few hundred dollars or a few thousand, we've got you covered. These are the best 4K cameras on the market right now. 

Our Top Picks

Best Value: Sony Alpha a6500

Sony Alpha a6500 Mirrorless Digital Camera w/2.95" LCD
Courtesy of Amazon.com

While the Sony Alpha a6500 isn't a cheap camera, it represents exceptional value for all but professional-level videographers. Incredibly fast to focus, with high-quality image stabilization built right in, you're guaranteed smooth, sharp footage even in difficult and fast-changing situations.

The a6500 lets you capture 4K video at either 25 or 30fps, and actually records at 6K resolution before downsampling the footage. The end result is better image depth and detail, and it makes a noticeable difference.

Weighing about a pound (without lens), it's a solid and well-designed device that's not overly cluttered with buttons and dials. You can use either the electronic viewfinder, or the touchscreen on the back, to see what you're shooting. That touchscreen also lets you control the focus point with a single tap, as well as navigate through the thick forest of menu options.

Throw in dust and moisture-resistance, a wide range of compatible lenses, and a multi-hundred dollar discount from when the camera first launched, and you end up with our top value-for-money pick.

Best Budget: Panasonic Lumix FZ300

Proof that you don’t need to spend a fortune to get a good 4K camera, Panasonic’s Lumix FZ300 combines impressive image quality, weather-resistance and a long zoom, with a wallet-friendly price tag.

Shooting at 30fps in 4K, the relatively small size of the camera makes it comfortable to hold and easy to use. It's splash- and dust-proof, so won't get damaged even in difficult conditions, and the 25-600mm lens lets you zoom right into the action when you can't get physically close enough.

Five-axis image stabilization means shaky hands or quick movements won't ruin your shots, even when using that big zoom, and built-in Wi-Fi lets you control and download video from your smartphone or tablet via the companion app.

The only thing to be aware of is low-light performance — while far from terrible, it's not as good as the more-expensive competition. If you'll be shooting a lot of video in dim conditions, it's something to bear in mind. 

Best All-Rounder: Panasonic Lumix GH5

If you're serious about still and video photography, and want a versatile camera that yields great results for both, look no further than that Panasonic Lumix GH5.

You'll get 4K video at 60fps, but unlike some of the other high-end competition (including from Panasonic itself), traditional photographers haven't been forgotten. As well as high-quality traditional shots from the 20.3MP sensor, the camera also lets you extract large 18MP single images from 30fps 4K video, or 8MP images from a 4K 60fps stream.

There's a top-notch electronic viewfinder, a built-in anti-shake system that pairs with Panasonic's optically-stabilized lenses and it all has a rugged construction that's fully weather-sealed and can handle temperatures down as low as 14 degrees Fahrenheit for those freezing winter shooting sessions.

As befits a camera aimed at the high end of the market, the GH5 includes professional-level features like XLR jacks, real-time HDMI output to external video recorders, and dual high-speed SD card slots.

Best Design: Fujifilm X-T2

If you'd like your 4K camera to look as good as the video it creates, head straight for the Fujifilm X-T2. The gorgeous retro styling gives little hint of the array of high-end features hiding inside, but rest assured: This is one seriously impressive device.

Small enough for easy one-handed use, with a weather-sealed magnesium frame, the X-T2 is as tough as it is attractive. The continuous autofocus system, a weak point of the previous model, has received a major upgrade, and can now handle fast-action scenes with ease. Shooting 4K video at 24, 25, or 30fps, the automatic white balance and exposure are both excellent, meaning you'll get quality footage with little effort in a wide range of situations.

There's a bright and speedy electronic viewfinder, an articulated rear display equally useful whether shooting in portrait or landscape, as well as support for an external microphone, audio monitor and HDMI output.

Most Compact: Sony Cyber-shot RX100 V

There's a well-known saying among photographers that the best camera is the one you have with you. If it's too big or heavy to regularly take outside with you, you'll miss an awful lot of shots.

Sony's Cyber-shot RX range has been packing high-end specifications into tiny camera bodies for years, and the fifth iteration of this camera is no different. Despite weighing just 10.5 ounces, the RX100 V records 4K video at 30fps (downsampled from 5.5k)​ and includes features like RAW file support and an electronic viewfinder that you rarely find on cameras this size.

The 20MP sensor shoots remarkable still and moving images through the Zeiss 24-70mm lens, and the automatic focus and exposure systems are fast and reliable, even in challenging conditions.

The only real downsides of the RX100 V are the lack of a touchscreen and the high price for a compact camera. You get such a versatile, high-end piece of equipment, however, that it's worth paying the premium for.

Best Under $500: Panasonic Lumix G7

Looking for a mirrorless camera that shoots great 4K video, without the high price tag that often accompanies those requirements? The Panasonic Lumix G7 should be right at the top of your list.

It packs in many of the features found in high-end competitors, at a lower cost. You can easily extract 8MP images from its high-quality 30fps 4K video footage or shoot limitless shots at the same resolution in burst mode. The camera ships with either a 14-42mm or longer 14-140mm lens, but is also compatible with a wide range of Panasonic lenses. Adapter kits for third-party lenses are also available.

There's an electronic viewfinder and a range of accessories from stereo microphones to external flash kits and more. Wi-Fi connectivity lets you easily control recording options and pull footage from the camera via the Panasonic Image app.

You don't get weather sealing or built-in image stabilization, but if those aren't deal-breakers, the Lumix G7 is an awful lot of camera for not a great deal of money.

Best for Action Footage: GoPro Hero 5 Black

GoPro practically invented the action camera category, and while it has plenty of competition these days, there’s a lot to be said for sticking with the market leader due to the huge range of accessories, and exceptional quality of still and moving images.

The Hero 5 Black is no longer the latest model, but it still takes excellent 4K video at 30fps, at close to half the price of the current version. Unless you know you’ll need the upgraded specs of the Hero 6 Black (4K at 60fps, digital stabilization, and better slow-motion video), spend your money on useful accessories instead.

Waterproof to around 30 feet, the Hero 5 Black is about as rugged as a caseless camera gets. There’s a built-in touchscreen viewfinder, plus handy voice control to save messing around with buttons or screens when you’re in a hurry.

Throw in simple in-camera editing and a useful mobile app with solid automatic or manual video creation tools, and you’ve got a winning combination at a very reasonable price.

Best for Aerial Footage: DJI Mavic Air Quadcopter

Sweeping aerial footage of beautiful beaches and wide-open landscapes is everywhere, and it's the strong competition in the drone market that's driving it. Market leader DJI offers a range of high-end consumer drones, with the pint-sized Mavic Air quadcopter being the model to beat right now.

Noticeably smaller and lighter than most of its competitors, it folds up to fit in a jacket pocket, making it ideal for travel or anywhere you'll need to carry your drone a significant distance. Thanks to its three-axis gimbal, the Mavic Air shoots vibrant, crisp and stable 4K video at 30fps, but that's just the beginning. The drone has a top speed of 40mph, with an upgraded collision avoidance system that means you're more likely to get your expensive investment back in one piece afterward. There's a bundled dual-joystick controller for easier flying, with a range of up to 2.5 miles.

Flying for up to 21 minutes on a single charge, the Air will automatically return to you when the battery level gets dangerously low. If that's not long enough, it's worth investing in the "Fly More" bundle, which among other things, adds an extra pair of batteries.