- Pro Video
- Lighting & Studio
- Pro Audio
- TVs & Entertainment
- Security & Surveillance
- Binoculars & Scopes
- A/V Presentation
- Shop Categories
- Used Dept
In an age where even consumer cameras record progressive 1920 x 1080 HD video in a standardized video codec and in a wide variety of frame rates it may be easy to forget how complex early HD production was. Early HD adopters had to navigate a wide array of early HD video resolutions and formats, often specific to the camera manufacturer. Most early “1080” video formats, like HDV and DVCPRO 100, were actually 1440 x 1080, not the 1920 x 1080 that is common today. HDV was 60i by default, but both Sony and Canon had different proprietary ways of recording progressive footage to the 60i tapes (much to the frustration of anyone who has ever tried to playback a Canon HDV tape in Sony HDV camera or deck). Eventually 1080P standardized and today everything generally tends to just work. But it took time to get that way.
4K video cameras are in a similar position that HD cameras of 10 years ago. On the surface 4K cameras aren't very different from their HD siblings. They have the same types of settings, design, and for the most part can be operated in the same way. But picking out a 4K camera today is much tougher then picking out an HD camera because every manufacturer does 4K a little differently, and the differences can lead to vastly different workflows. In the same way that shooting on a HVX200 when P2 cards maxed out at 2 GB necessitated a dramatically different workflow from any HDV based HD camera, the differences between how various cameras record 4K can have an effect on every stage of the production chain. So when looking at 4K cameras be sure to keep certain key differences in mind. Some things to look out for are discussed below.
While all HD content is shot in a 16:9 aspect ratio there are still two competing aspect ratios and resolutions for 4K content. The digital cinema initiatives, referred to as DCi, define 4K as being 4096 x 2160 at a 17:9 aspect ratio. This format is currently more common in 4K cinema projectors. The competing 4K format is ultra high definition, also known as quad HD, UHD, or QFHD. UHD is 3840 x 2160 at a 16:9 aspect ratio. UHD is more common in 4K televisions since the 16:9 aspect ratio makes it easier to display 16:9 HD content on. Some 4K cameras can shoot both Dci 4K and UHD. Some can only shoot one type of 4K. And while the difference between the two is relatively minimal, it is something you should keep in mind while selecting a camera since either format could end up being the 4K standard in the future.
Many 4K cameras are unable to record 4K internally and require an external recorder. Having to use an external recorder decreases the cost of the camera, but the cost of the recorder needs to be factored into your budget. Having to use a 4K recorder also increases the complexity of the camera rig and makes it harder to shoot with a small crew or in a run and gun situation. One advantage of 4K external recorders is that you can rent them, and if you aren't shooting in 4K very often that can save you money overall. 4K also tend to work with more than one camera making them flexible.
In reality 4K is just a resolution, and how that resolution is stored varies widely among different cameras since there is still no agreed upon standard. The different 4K recording formats implemented in some cameras can lead do drastically different workflows, so it is important to make sure the camera or recorder you purchase records 4K in a method that best works for you. RAW allows for tremendous flexibility in post since you can set things like contrast, sharpness, white balance, and even ISO (most of the time) in after shooting. But RAW requires a larger amount of storage space and computer processing power to work with. Some 4K cameras can only record 4K in RAW, some can record in RAW as well as a 4K video codec, and some can only record in a 4K video codec.
HD video’s frame-rate is standardized for TV at 60i. And while many HD cameras offer different frame-rate options it can be assumed that all HD cameras will at least shoot at 60i. 4K has no broadcast standard and thus one should not assume anything with regards to what frame-rates a 4K camera can shoot at. Some 4K cameras are unable to shoot slower then 60P and some are unable to shoot faster the 15P. If you plan on downscaling your 4k content to HD for distribution on TV, you should look for a camera that shoots at 30P because that will convert to 60i more easily then 24P. If you plan on only distributing in theaters or on video then 24P is all you need.