What Is an 8K Camera?

You can't have 8K TVs without 8K Cameras

An 8K camera is a digital camera that can take still or video images in 8K resolution.

8K resolution consists of 7680 x 4320 pixels (4320p - or the equivalent of 33.2 Megapixels). 8K has four times the number of pixels as 4K and 16 times the pixels of 1080p.

How an 8K Camera Works

Person filming a sporting event with 8K cameras
Lifewire / Tim Liedtke

An 8K camera uses a lens and sensor chip to capture the digital image on a technical level.

The digital image is then stored on a memory card or removable hard drive, or outputs the image signal to an external hard drive or a printer, display device, or a live broadcast that can be received and viewed.

The challenge for camera makers is cramming at least 33.2 million pixels in a sensor chip small enough to fit inside a camera housing (or make a camera large enough for the sensor).

There are both still and video cameras that capture images in 8K resolution.

8K Still Images vs. Video

Taking still images with an 8K camera is the same as with other digital cameras.

In addition to the sensor chip and lens assembly, 8K cameras typically incorporate the same setting options as other cameras, such as auto and manual focus, exposure, aperture, and shutter speed. Depending on the brand and model, you may also be able to take pictures at resolutions lower than 8K.

Nikon D580 digital still camera
Nikon

Although a camera may take 8K still images, or a series of still images in quick succession, the requirements for taking moving video images are more complicated.

For 8K video images to be viewed on display devices or projected onto a screen, the camera needs to have fast processors that can send the captured pictures to a storage device or live broadcast without interruption. The camera needs to move the image data at high speeds (the bit-rate), which may be as much as several Gbps (gigabytes-per-second) depending on if the images are compressed or uncompressed. Also, storage or receiving devices need to be compatible with those incoming speeds.

Storage for 8K video needs to be large. Forty minutes of 8K video may require 2-Terabytes of storage or more depending on whether RAW or compressed.

Red Monstro and Helium 8K Cinema Camera Brains
Red

Uses for 8K Cameras

8K cameras can supply images for several applications:

  • 8K TV – With the trend towards larger TV screens, 8K resolution video still and video images are well suited for TVs 85-inches and larger.
  • Cinema display – Image quality that is closer to 35mm film than the 2K and 4K digital cinema cameras and projection systems used in cinemas.
  • Digital Signage – Digital billboards, retail displays, and large indoor and outdoor displays that look as smooth as images on a TV or projection screen.
  • Live Events – Although not broadcast in 8K, 8K cameras have been used in events such as the Super Bowl. 
  • Medical imaging – Provides the detail needed for the precise imaging of medical conditions.
  • Space and Astronomy – 8K imaging capability can provide more detail for telescope and space probe cameras.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was the first movie shot using an 8K camera.

Who Makes 8K cameras?

Several companies make 8K-capable still image cameras, including Canon and Nikon.

Canon EOS 5DS Digital Still Camera
Canon

SharpSonyIkegami, and Red are the significant players in 8K video cameras. Red and Sony cameras are primarily used in cinema production. In contrast, Ikegami and Sharp cameras are mainly used in production where the content is, or eventually, in streaming or TV broadcasts.

Sharp 8C-B60A 8K Camcorder
Sharp Global

Are 8K Cameras For Sale?

8K-capable still cameras are available for consumers if you have the cash ($3,000 to 5,000 or more when you include the camera and additional lenses), but 8K video cameras are currently reserved for professional use and are very expensive, priced at $50,000 or more.

Sharp has demonstrated an 8K video camera with a less than $5,000 proposed price point, so hopefully, more manufacturers will follow.

Sharp Compact 8K Camera
Sharp Global

However, in another breakthrough, Samsung has taken the bold step by incorporating an 8K video capable camera in its Galaxy S20 Series android smartphones. To support the space required to shoot and store the videos, the top end S20 Ultra can expand to accommodate 1 TB of memory. 8K videos shot with an S20 series phone can be uploaded to YouTube and streamed to select Samsung 8K QLED TVs. The S20 Series prices range from $999 to $1399. 

S20 series prices don't include any extra memory. You might need more to store many 8K videos.

Samsung S20 Series Android Phones
Samsung