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Best 4K camera 2021: the 12 top cameras for shooting 4K movies

Included in this guide:

Panasonic Lumix G80
(Image credit: Future)

Want to know what the best 4K camera 2021 is? Whether it’s movies you want to make or high-resolution video content you’re keen to create, the ideal 4K camera for you is sure to be found in our list.

The best 4K cameras cover a broad spectrum. You’ve got a choice of different sizes, specs and price brackets to consider. With 4K being a very common spec now, you’ll find models all the way from beginner-friendly and highly portable mirrorless models all the way up to professional-level models that have been certified as good enough enough for Netflix.

If all of that sounds a little bit much to get to grips with, don’t worry, we’ve tested all of the top 4K cameras in 2021 to help you discover which is best for both of your budget and your needs. 

And if budget is your primary concern, then you might want to consider holding off on any purchases until Amazon Prime Day 2021. We’re expecting lots of lovely discounts from a range of manufacturers, including those with a penchant for 4K video. 

Choosing the best 4K camera isn’t always an easy task. You need to be aware of a number of factors. Although this is a roundup of 4K cameras, 4K itself is no longer the class-leading spec it once was. We’re now seeing an increasing number of models capable of shooting footage at up to 8K. The average person may not need that kind of resolution, but it depends on the kind of work you’re doing. Most enthusiast videographers will likely find aspects other than resolution to be more important.

One such factor is high frame rates, which you’ll need to create smooth video. The best 4K cameras can record at 60fps or faster, with many giving you the option to also drop resolution to shoot at 120fps for slow-motion footage.

Other factors to consider may come down to your skill level, and how you shoot your videos. Image stabilisation is a must if you’re trying to capture b-roll handheld, but is less of an issue if you’re already using a gimbal. Tracking autofocus comes in handy for enthusiasts who are upgrading, but anybody who is used to dealing with manual tracking may find it less beneficial. 

A large sensor is great for those who like to video in low light conditions, while the physical controls of the camera are worth taking into consideration as well. Easy to access controls, a tilting touchscreen and an ergonomic handgrip are all useful tools. 

Let’s not forget about accessories too. Particularly important for videographers, most of the best 4K cameras include ports for attaching external microphones and headphones, but those requiring specific peripherals, such as a battery grip, or hot-shoe attachment should make sure to check compatibility before you buy.

Almost all of the top 4K cameras support log profiles, such as V-Log, giving leading videographers the opportunity to adjust color grading in post-production. The top-of-the-line models can also record 10-bit video internally, resulting in a greater depth of color, but with the trade off of larger file sizes.

Our list below contains everything every amateur videographer or experienced enthusiast might be looking for. There’s something here for every skill level and expectation, so you’ll almost certainly find the right one here for you.

We’ve chosen the Sony A7S II as our current pick for the best 4K camera of the moment. This full-frame model offers fantastic low-light capability, a fully-articulating touchscreen and 4K recording at up to 120fps. We’ve also been very impressed by the recent announcement of the Panasonic GH5 II, along with the development announcement of the Panasonic GH6. A long-favoured brand with video creators, these could be the cameras to reinvigorate the Micro Four Thirds market.

However, there are plenty of other models out there that might suit you better. Whether that’s because they’re smaller, cheaper or more powerful - the list below contains the best 4K cameras from video stalwarts Panasonic and Sony, as well as very convincing alternatives from the likes of Nikon, Fujifilm and the niche brand Blackmagic.

Best 4K cameras 2021 at a glance:

  1. Sony A7S III
  2. Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro
  3. Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K
  4. Panasonic Lumix S1H 
  5. Panasonic Lumix GH5S 
  6. Panasonic Lumix GH5
  7. Panasonic Lumix S5
  8. Fujifilm X-T4
  9. Canon EOS R5 
  10. Sony A6400 
  11. Panasonic Lumix G9
  12. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III

Best 4K cameras in 2021:

Sony A7S III

(Image credit: Future)

1. Sony A7S III

A superb camera that's primed for 4K shooting

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor Size: Full Frame
Resolution: 12.1MP
Lens: Sony E
Viewfinder: 9.44MP EVF
Monitor: 1.44m-dot articulating screen
Maximum continuous shooting speed: 10fps
Movies: 4K at 120fps
User level: Intermediate / expert
Reasons to buy
+Fantastic low light capability+Fully articulating touchscreen+Good battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Pricey -Less well-suited for stills

The Sony A7S III is almost definitely the best hybrid camera you can currently buy. It keeps resolution low and caps the output at 4K (as opposed to the 6K/8K capabilities of some other models), with the ambition to be the best 4K camera you can buy. 

As well as stunning output, up to 120fps shooting for super-smooth recording, there's a host of other highlights on offer here too. There's the ability to capture 16-bit raw over HDMI (plus a full-sized HDMI port), a stunningly high-resolution viewfinder, and a fully-articulating screen with an improved touch-interface.

Videographers will also enjoy other ports such as a headphone and microphone socket, compatibility with the XLR-K3M hot-shoe accessory from Sony, for up to four audio inputs. 

This is a pricey camera, make no mistake, but if you want something that does the job extremely well - we don't think you can get better than this.

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro

(Image credit: Future)

2. Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro

A compact, versatile videography tool for enthusiasts

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor Size: Super 35
Resolution: N/A
Lens: Active EF mount
Viewfinder: Optional
Monitor: 5.0-inch tilting touchscreen, 2,037K dots
Maximum continuous shooting speed: N/A
Movies: 6K at 50fps
User level: Enthusiast/expert
Reasons to buy
+Fantastic image quality+Huge, bright tilting screen
Reasons to avoid
-Not for beginners-No real stills abilities

A substantial upgrade over the Pocket Cinema Camera 6K, the 6K Pro is a fantastic, relatively affordable tool for the professional videographer. With improved battery life, a brighter screen that’s now tilt-adjustable, plus the option of adding an OLED electronic viewfinder, the 6K Pro is a compact yet adaptable maestro. 

Its 6K sensor is the same as before, which means you still get exceptional 6K footage at up to 50fps. The Super 35 format is smaller than full frame, but large enough to handle low-light situations with ease, while built-in ND filters mean you can happily film in bright sunlight with wide open apertures. Plus the sheer breadth of formats, profiles and resolutions available make the 6K Pro a properly flexible camera for editors. 

That said, it’s clearly not a camera for casual users: its controls might be simple, but there’s no image stabilization, no tracking autofocus and stills performance remains rudimentary. But as a first professional video camera, the 6K Pro is a fantastic package for the price, with superb image quality and relative accessibility making it one of the most rounded enthusiast options.

2. Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K

90s looks, but packed with the latest tech

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds
Resolution: N/A
Lens: Micro Four Thirds
Viewfinder: N/A
Monitor: 5.0-inch touchscreen display
Maximum continuous shooting speed: N/A
Movies: 4K at 60fps
User level: Expert
Reasons to buy
+Excellent 4K video capture+Huge, sharp screen
Reasons to avoid
-Weak battery life-No articulating screen

If you want an affordable to camera to shoot 4K videos, then this is as good as it gets right now. Blackmagic's Pocket Cinema Camera 4K is designed for filmmakers through and through – just don't get one if you're looking to shoot stills as well. 

Based around a Micro Four Thirds sensor and lens mount, it features a huge 5.0-inch touchscreen, it head and shoulders above other MFT shooters from a video-centric operational point of view. The range of connections on-board is also class-leading, and the fact there’s a dual card slot trumps much pricier cameras like the EOS R. 

That's not forgetting decent on-board audio recording capabilities and of course, the sweetener to the tune of $299 worth of software - a license for DaVinci Resolve Studio, it really is a gift that keeps on giving. 

Finally, and most importantly, the fundamental quality of its 4K video takes on much pricier cameras and, when you know how to work it, handles noise better than some full frame sensors too, thanks to its the dual native ISOs.

Panasonic Lumix S1H

(Image credit: TechRadar)

3. Panasonic Lumix S1H

A cinematic 6K camera that’s good enough for Netflix

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor size: Full-frame CMOS
Resolution: 24.2MP
Lens: L mount
Viewfinder: OLED EVF
Monitor: 3.2-inch articulating touchscreen, 2,330K dots
Maximum continuous shooting speed: 9fps
Movies: 6K
User level: Expert
Reasons to buy
+6K 10-bit full-frame video+Brilliant in low-light
Reasons to avoid
-Lacks raw video capture-Large and heavy

Panasonic’s Lumix S1H is the smallest, cheapest camera to make the list of cameras approved by Netflix for use in original productions – which is a measure of just how fantastic its motion picture skills are. 

Video quality is practically perfect in all conditions, with excellent noise performance thanks to Dual Native ISO. There’s a staggering range of resolutions and frame rates to play with – from 6K/24p to 4K/60p – and every resolution is available with 10-bit color, which offers plenty of editing flexibility. 

There’s also the option to use anamorphic lenses, while recording modes include Cinelike Gamma, V-Log/V-Gamut and HDR in HLG, with color profiles adjustable in-camera. Despite the variety available – as well as the range of monitoring and display options – the S1H is remarkably accessible thanks to a redesigned interface, aided by a flip-out rear display. 

It is big and heavy for a full-frame mirrorless camera, but that’s partly to account for the silent fan and cooling vent, which eliminate recording time limitations: you can film flawless footage until the battery or storage runs out.

4. Panasonic Lumix GH5S

This is one uncompromising video tool for the price

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds
Resolution: 10.2MP
Lens: Micro Four Thirds
Viewfinder: EVF
Monitor: 3.2-inch vari-angle display, 1,620,000 dots
Maximum continuous shooting speed: 12fps
Movies: 4K at 60fps
User level: Expert
Reasons to buy
+Multi-aspect sensor design+Brilliant video spec
Reasons to avoid
-Absence of IS not for everyone-Battery life could be better

While it can shoot stills quite happily (although at a pretty limited 10.2MP resolution), this should be seen first and foremost as a video camera; if you want to do both you've got the Lumix GH5 (below) to fill that brief. 

While the absence of built-in image stabilization might be a disappointment for some, that issue aside the breadth of video features is incredibly impressive. 

If you want to shoot broadcast-quality footage without remortgaging your house to buy a pro video camera, you won't find a better video-focused camera right now. 

5. Panasonic Lumix GH5

The Lumix GH5 is a feature-laden 4K workhorse

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds
Resolution: 20.3MP
Lens: Micro Four Thirds
Viewfinder: EVF
Monitor: 3.2-inch vari-angle display, 1,620,000 dots
Maximum continuous shooting speed: 12fps
Movies: 4K at 60fps
User level: Expert
Reasons to buy
+DCI 4K and UHD 4K+Great fully articulating screen
Reasons to avoid
-Limited ISO range-Bulky for a mirrorless camera

Until the arrival of the Lumix GH5S, the GH5 was the pick of the bunch for those looking to shoot video. 

Quite a bit cheaper than the newer GH5S, the GH5 is a bit more versatile for those wanting to shoot both stills and video, and the video specification is still very impressive, allowing you to shoot Cinema 4K (4096 x 2160) at 60p with a bit rate of 150Mbps, while Full HD video can be captured up to 180fps. 

That's not all, as the GH5 offers color subsampling at 4:2:2 and a color depth of 10-bit, delivering greater color information and richer graduations. The GH5 also offers live output to external recorders such as Apple ProRes via HDMI, as well as simultaneous internal recording. All in all, it remains a fantastic hybrid for those can't stretch to a full-frame alternative. 

The GH5 II was recently announced, which in many ways is a minor upgrade from the previous model. However, it adds live-streaming capability which shows that the company is keen to appeal to the growing number of vloggers using platforms such as Instagram and YouTube to broadcast live. 

Panasonic has also announced the development of the GH6, to come later in the year. This model should represent a much more exciting overhaul of the GH line. 

Panasonic Lumix S5

(Image credit: Future)

6. Panasonic Lumix S5

Full-frame 4K in a surprisingly compact camera

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor size: Full-frame
Resolution: 24.2MP
Lens: L-Mount
Viewfinder: EVF, 2.36 million dots
Monitor: 3.0-inch articulating touchscreen, 1.84 million dots
Maximum continuous shooting speed: 7fps
Movies: 4K
User level: Beginner/Intermediate
Reasons to buy
+Small size and weight+Excellent video specs
Reasons to avoid
-30-minute limit on 10-bit 4K-Autofocus isn’t cutting edge

Smaller and lighter than the Lumix GH5 (above), yet equipped with a full-frame mirrorless sensor, the Panasonic Lumix S5 is a lesson in hybrid versatility. 

A delight to hold and control, its fully articulating touchscreen makes the S5 a fantastic videography tool. So, too, does the 24.2MP full-frame sensor, which is capable of capturing cropped 4K footage at 60p or uncropped 4K at 30p. It can also record 10-bit 4K internally (though with a maximum clip length of 30 minutes). 

As you’d expect from Panasonic, video quality is excellent: there’s plenty of detail, while in-body image stabilization keeps everything smooth. Contrast-based autofocus isn’t cutting edge, but it’s perfectly capable of following subjects around the frame. 

Add V-Log, time-lapses, dual native ISO and anamorphic 4K into the mix and the S5 shapes up as an impressive option for 4K film-makers. A second battery is advisable for day-long shooting sessions, but the only real compromise is the use of Micro HDMI over the full-size equivalent. Which, given the in-built Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, isn’t much of a compromise at all.

Fujifilm X-T4

(Image credit: Future)

7. Fujifilm X-T4

A superb all-rounder for a balanced diet of video and stills

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor size: APS-C
Resolution: 26.1MP
Lens: Fuji X
Monitor: 3-inch articulating, 1,620k dots
Viewfinder: EVF, 3.69 million dots
Maximum continuous shooting speed: 15fps/30fps
Movies: 4K
User level: Intermediate/Expert
Reasons to buy
+IBIS system works well+Class-leading APS-C sensor+Good battery life
Reasons to avoid
-No headphone jack-AF performance limited by lens

Fujifilm's X-T3 drastically improved its video performance compared to its predecessors, and the X-T4 makes a similar leap to make it one of the best 4K cameras you can buy.

The biggest boost comes from the inclusion of in-body image stabilization (IBIS). This makes it a little larger and heavier than the X-T3, but still significantly lighter than an enthusiast-level DSLR. It doesn't completely replace the need for a gimbal, but does mean it's a superb option for the run-and-gun filmmaker.  

Combine this with the same 26.1MP back-illuminated APS-C sensor as its predecessor, and you have a fantastic performer for both stills and video. The latter is a particular standout thanks to inclusion of a very modern movie shooting spec that includes Cinema 4K movies up to 60fps, 10-bit internal recording, and up to 400Mbps bit-rate and with F-Log and HLG profiles included as standard. 

You can also shoot slow motion Full HD movies up to 240fps, while that IBIS system provides up to 6.5EV (or exposure value) of stabilization when used with one of Fujifilm's stabilized lenses (18 out of its 29 X Series lenses fit this description). Overall, the Fujifilm X-T4 is the best APS-C mirrorless camera you can buy – and a major reason for that is its video performance.

Canon EOS R5

(Image credit: Future)

8. Canon EOS R5

An 8K hybrid with outstanding specs – and some limitations

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor size: Full-frame
Resolution: 45MP
Lens: RF mount
Viewfinder: OLED EVF
Monitor: 3.15-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 2,100K dots
Maximum continuous shooting speed: 20fps
Movies: 8K
User level: Intermediate/expert
Reasons to buy
+Outstanding video specs+Incredible autofocus
Reasons to avoid
-Video recording limits-CFExpress cards are costly

On paper, the Canon EOS R5 is arguably the best hybrid camera available today. Adopting a tried-and-tested form factor that’s easy to handle, the R5 serves up blistering performance: a 45MP full-frame sensor is supported by the speedy Digic X chip, paired with Canon’s fastest ever autofocus motor. 

Video specs are similarly outstanding. The EOS R5 can capture 4K footage at a silky smooth 120fps, with the option of shooting raw, while resolution maxes out at a headline-grabbing 8K/30p. Results are gorgeously sharp, while the combination of IBIS with stabilized RF-mount lenses delivers decently smooth handheld shots – plus log files provide incredibly flexible when it comes to color grading. 

There is a caveat: the EOS R5 features recording limits to combat overheating, with a published maximum of 35 minutes for 4K/60p video. That’s a significant limitation for professional filmmakers, but there’s a good chance those who shoot a selection of shorter clips won’t ever encounter that barrier (we didn’t). 

Provided that’s the case for you – and you’re happy to shell out on CFExpress cards to unlock peak performance – the R5 is a fantastic 4K hybrid.

Sony Alpha A6400

(Image credit: Future)

9. Sony Alpha A6400

Excellent autofocus make this a brilliantly accessible option

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor size: APS-C
Resolution: 24.2MP
Lens: Sony E mount
Monitor: 3-inch tilting touchscreen, 921k dots
Viewfinder: EVF
Maximum continuous shooting speed: 11fps
Movies: 4K
User level: Beginner/intermediate
Reasons to buy
+Highly advanced autofocus+Good video features
Reasons to avoid
-No built-in image stabilization-No headphone jack

The A6400’s lack of in-body stabilization and headphone jack may make it seem under-equipped when it comes to video recording. But its excellent image quality (smooth motion, impressive levels of detail), tough magnesium alloy construction, affordable price tag and, most importantly, its superb, highly advanced autofocus setup go a long way towards making it a contender for most accessible 4K camera round. 

The autofocus, which includes excellent real-life eye and face tracking, takes a lot of the work out of both video and stills work, particularly if you’re frequently shooting other people – or yourself. Sony’s A6600, the step-up model in the range, keeps much of the A6400’s specs and features but adds in-body stabilization, a headphone jack and longer battery life. But right now the A6400 is our pick from Sony when you factor in value for money.

Panasonic Lumix G9

(Image credit: Future)

10. Panasonic Lumix G9

Panasonic’s best all-round mirrorless model to date

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds
Resolution: 20.3MP
Lens: Micro Four Thirds
Monitor: 3-inch free angle touchscreen, 1.04-million dots
Viewfinder: EVF
Maximum continuous shooting speed: 60fps
Movies: 4K
User level: Enthusiast
Reasons to buy
+6.5-stop image stabilization+Dual UHS-II card slots
Reasons to avoid
-Reduced screen size compared to GH5-ISO range could be broader

This isn't Panasonic's most video-centric camera – see the Panasonic GH5S and GH5 above – but the Lumix G9 is a fantastic all-rounder for stills and video, particularly thanks to recent firmware updates. 

This added pro-friendly treats like 10-bit 4:2:2 video capture to some already tasty video credentials, which included the ability to shoot Cinema 4K video at a smooth 60fps frame rate. The G9 also boasts superb in-body image stabilization that equates to 6.5 extra stops of exposure, as well as two UHS-II SD card slots. 

It’s also weatherproof, great to handle and boasts a wealth of stills-focussed features, including a burst mode that shoots at 20fps with autofocus and an astonishing 60fps without. Overall, we think it’s Panasonic’s best all-round mirrorless camera – especially given its recent price drop.

(Image credit: Future)

11. Panasonic Lumix S1

A first-gen full-framer that’s no video novice

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor size: Full-frame CMOS
Resolution: 24.2MP
Lens: N/A
Viewfinder: OLED EVF, 5.76M dots
Monitor: 3.2-inch tri-axis touchscreen, 2.1 million dots
Maximum continuous shooting speed: 9fps
Movies: 4K
User level: Beginner/intermediate
Reasons to buy
+Effective image stabilization+Well-built and weather resistant+Superb video quality
Reasons to avoid
-Large, heavy body-No DCI 4K, V-Log is a paid upgrade-AF can be inconsistent

When it launched in early 2019, well before the arrival of the cheaper Panasonic Lumix S5 (see no.6), the Lumix S1 was the junior model in the company's fledgling S system. But the S1 was arguably the better option for videographers. 

For starters, it captures 4K UHD footage using the whole width of its full-frame sensor – no crop factor here – and offers full pixel readout at up to 30p. It can also record 10-bit 4:2:0 footage internally using the HEVC/H.265 codec, with an update due later this year set to unlock even higher specs. Videos can be shot in 4K at up to 60p (with a 30-minute time limit) and there are several gamma curve profiles on-board, including Hybrid Log Gamma.

In the real world, that all translates into very high-quality video. Its body might be heavy, but sensor-based image stabilization helps keep handheld footage smooth, while rolling shutter is only an issue if the S1 is jerked suddenly. The on-board microphone is surprisingly capable, too, even if the external mic and headphone ports will prove more popular.

Arguably the biggest issue is the autofocus performance which, due to an absence of phase-detection pixels, can be a little inconsistent and jerkier than rivals. The S1 promises plenty, though, provided you’re comfortable using manual focus.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III

(Image credit: Future)

12. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III

A 4K performer that ticks all the boxes

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds
Resolution: 20.4MP
Lens: Micro Four Thirds
Viewfinder: EVF
Monitor: 3.0-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1,037K dots
Maximum continuous shooting speed: 18fps
Movies: 4K
User level: Intermediate
Reasons to buy
+Great build quality+Excellent image stabilisation+Improved AF performance
Reasons to avoid
-Limited low-light image quality-EVF could be better

Picking up where its predecessor left off, the OM-D E-M1 Mark III is an outstanding all-round package – and that’s as much the case for shooting video as it is for stills.

On paper, the Mark III’s video specification is solid enough to cater for both casual recorders and more serious videographers: it can shoot Cine 4K video at 24fps (237Mbps) and Full HD at up to 120fps, with an OM-Log 400 colour profile that’s little short of lovely.

And it all comes good in action. Powerful image stabilization keeps footage smooth and sharp, while capable continuous autofocus with face- and eye-detection proves impressively effective. Headphone and external mic ports are a welcome presence for those looking to upgrade their setup, too.

If there’s one thing we’d like to see, it’s the availability of the Live ND mode – which simulates the effect of a real neutral-density filter – while shooting video. But such is the depth of what the E-M1 Mark III can do when you dig into the options, it’s hard to pick any real faults.

Alternatively...

Great value option: Panasonic Lumix G80 / G85

Big features squeezed into a small body

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds
Resolution: 16MP
Lens: Micro Four Thirds
Viewfinder: EVF
Monitor: 3.0-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1,040K dots
Maximum continuous shooting speed: 9fps
Movies: 4K
User level: Beginner/intermediate
Reasons to buy
+Excellent EVF+Strong AF performance
Reasons to avoid
-Relatively poor battery life-Over-complicated controls

Before we look at our round-up of the best 4K cameras, we wanted to highlight a slightly more affordable alternative. It might have since been succeeded by the Panasonic Lumix G90 / G95, but the Lumix G80 (known as the Lumix G85 in the US) is still a very capable and cost-effective option for those looking for a budget 4K camera. There's 4K video capture up to 30p (with a bit rate up to 100Mbps) and a dedicated microphone socket. Focusing is fast, while the vari-angle touchscreen should make framing footage nice and easy. The G80/G85 is also weather-sealed to protect it from the elements. It successor brings features like unlimited 4K recording, but if you don't mind being restricted to 30 minutes per clip then this model offers great value.