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Is 4k Really Better than 1080p?

It isn’t easy comparing specs for different cameras to make sure you find the perfect camera for your needs. But if you’re an avid videographer, one of the most important specs you’ll be looking at will be the video recording capabilities: Full HD 1080p vs 4k (or even 8k these days). 

These terms crop up whether you’re shopping for cameras, video cameras, drones, or even televisions. 

Technically, the terms refer to the video resolution of a device: the quality and detail recorded and played back. 

What resolution is 4k vs 1080p?

Video resolution refers to the number of pixels contained in each frame. The higher the resolution, the more detail you’ll get and the more realistic your video will look. 

Video resolution is shown as a measurement of the number of pixels in 16:9, which is the standard aspect ratio for TV and computer monitors. 

Confusingly, both Full HD 1080p and 4k (commonly called Ultra High Definition or UHD) refer to the number of pixels in the resolution.

1080p refers to the total number of pixels running across the screen vertically (there are 1080 pixels). 4k refers to the number of pixels running across the screen horizontally (there are almost 4000 pixels). 

In total in the 16:9 aspect ratio:

  • 1080p has 1920 pixels horizontally and 1080 pixels vertically
  • 4k has 3,840 pixels horizontally and 2,160 pixels vertically

As you can see, 4k video is a substantial step up from 1080p, with four times the resolution of 1080p.

On a screen, 4k video contains more than 8 million pixels compared to just 2 million pixels for 1080p. That starts to add up with finer detail in the rendering of hair or feathers, as well as better quality overall when viewing the footage up close. 

4k vs 1080p video: What’s the difference?

man shooting video of woman

4k generally translates as highly-detailed, crisp, and cleaner-looking video than 1080p, especially when played on a 4k monitor.  

But shooting in 4k doesn’t mean you’re stuck with 4k. You can actually scale down the recording to Full HD 1080p or other formats. Yet 4k still retains an edge against source material recorded in 1080p.

Even downsampled to 1080p, 4k looks better than Full HD because it captures four times the amount of information. 

Unlike 1080p footage, 4k can be cropped, zoomed in, or reframed without any loss of quality. This means you can create the effect of a second camera, cropping up to 300% closer, creating second angles, or even panning across the video as though to create a slider effect. 

4k is also great for interviews when you only have a single camera, where you can shift perspectives between full-body shots and close-ups. 

Is 4k video really better than 1080p?

While 4k is the way forward with video technology, there are still some reasons to shoot in 1080p. 

To start, 4k file sizes are far larger than 1080p, meaning you can only record on one memory card for a limited amount of time – and processing demands a lot of power from your computer.  

Filming with 4k also generates a significant amount of heat inside the camera, which needs to be dealt with. This draws additional processing power from your camera, leading to a shorter battery life.

Finally, HD 1080p is better for slow motion, since 4k can usually only shoot at 30 frames per second. 

Should I shoot 4k or 1080p?

video shoot with camera pointed at woman in chair

If you have the option to shoot with a 4k video camera, as well as enough internal storage and battery power, it’s always recommended.

Even if you downsample your 4k video later, the higher quality will still be noticeably different – and in the long run, you won’t regret starting off with a higher resolution.

The best cameras for 1080p & 4K video recording

Now you know the difference between 4k and 1080p, you’re better equipped to start searching for a camera to meet your needs. 

There is a range of high-quality mirrorless cameras, DSLRs, video cameras, and even drones that offer superior video shooting. The models we’ve listed below are just a few of our favourites.

  • Canon EOS R5
  • Sony A7C
  • Panasonic GH5
  • Sony a7 III
  • Sony HXR-NX80 Compact NXCAM

Canon EOS R5

This camera is particularly popular among professionals with huge 8k video capability, great controls, a solid battery life, and faster speeds than ever before. The perfect camera for shooting high-quality footage out and about.

Top reasons we think you will love this camera:

  • 45 MP full-frame CMOS sensor with DiG!C X processor for superior image quality and fast processing speeds
  • Scorching 8K video capability
  • 5 axis in-body image stabilisation, particularly effective when combined with image-stabilised lenses
  • Familiar to hold and use
  • Multi-controller joystick, top mount dot matrix LCD display, and easy access to all controls

Check out the Canon EOS R5

Sony A7C

The Sony Alpha 7C is the perfect camera for the uncompromising shooter who moves fast and expects the best. It weighs in at a mere 509g and still offers 5-step image stabilisation and a powerful 24.4 megapixel 35mm full-frame back-illuminated sensor.

The hybrid options are awesome when you wish to flick rapidly to shooting 4K video. The Eye Auto Focus even tracks people while you’re shooting video! 

You can shoot all day – using the viewfinder will allow up to 740 shots on a single battery and with the convenience of a 5GHz/2.4GHZ Wi-fi connection, getting those awesome images loaded and ready to go is a breeze.

Top three reasons we think you will love this camera:

  • It has bewildering quality in such a portable body. It shoots 4k video with ease without bulky equipment.
  • Video features make this an awesome creative tool.
  • It’s cool and casual- a camera that suits your lifestyle!

Check out the Sony A7C now

Panasonic GH5

This is a powerhouse of a mirrorless camera, with incredible image stabilisation, 4K quality worthy of broadcasts, and a viewfinder with high resolution. 

Of particular note is the GH5’s advanced Depth-From-Defocus technology, which helps with subject tracking in both video and stills modes. For anyone looking to get into video production, this is a logical, affordable first step. The camera is fine for stills photography, but video is where it shines.

Top three reasons we think you will love this camera:

  • Quality 4K video recording
  • Ultra-high-speed autofocus
  • Value for money

Check out the Panasonic GH5 today.

Sony a7 III

Sony’s most affordable 4K full-frame mirrorless camera comes with five-axis in-body stabilisation and the ability to shoot slow-motion HD at up to 120 fps. It operates well in low light and has great battery life. 

Impressive features include 10 fps continuous shooting, 4K HDR video, Z series battery, dual card slots, and a joystick for adjusting focus points.

Top three reasons we think you will love this camera:

  • 693-point AF system
  • 4K/24p video recording
  • 10 fps continuous shooting

Check out the Sony a7 III today.

Sony HXR-NX80 Compact NXCAM

This Sony video camera will help you deliver corporate and events videos with the ability to record 4K at 100mbps or Full HD at 50mbps.

Built for the serious video producer, you’ll get fantastic sharpness thanks to a fast hybrid AF lock, while the camcorder supports an instant HDR workflow to help you produce stunning content quickly. 

Top reasons we think you will love this camera:

  • Built for professionals producing regular content
  • Stream live footage directly to major online platforms with easy set-up
  • Ultimate mobility with high-speed autofocus
  • Lightweight and versatile
  • Instant HDR workflows
  • Professional quality 4K (QFHD) and HD

Check out the Sony HXR-NX80 Compact NXCAM today.

Shop all your camera needs and get expert advice at Camera House

Check out our complete range of cameras, including video cameras, online at Camera House today.

If you are still not sure which camera to invest in, visit us in-store and get expert advice from our friendly team. 

Don’t forget to head over to the Camera House blog for more helpful tips and articles:

The Essential Equipment You Need for Live Video Streaming

Our 5 Favourite Sony Cameras for Video

The 5 Best Nikon Cameras for Video

7 Tips to Improve Your Time Lapse Videos

The Essential Accessories You Need for Your Video Camera

The Best Video Cameras for Every Scenario

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