These days, 4K is quite the thing. As you’ll know, it’s the latest and highest-quality resolution available on TVs, managing four times the pixels of High Definition.
Now, many cameras, camcorders and mobile phones shoot video at this resolution, so you can play back your own creations on a 4K telly. When you’ve tried shooting at this resolution, it’s hard to go back as the results can be strikingly good.
While the advantage of using your phone to shoot video is obvious (it’s always in your pocket or bag), the benefit of a dedicated camcorder is the excellent picture quality that an optical zoom offers. The improved ergonomics of not shooting with a flat sheet of glass are considerable, too.
Action cameras are a specialised subdivision of the camcorder world, offering light weight and small size to make up for the lack of features like a big viewfinder and so on. If that’s the kind of 4K footage you’re after, action cams are king and we’ve included a few here.
1. Panasonic HC-VXF990: £649, John Lewis
Panasonic’s latest camcorder has a great lens from Leica, and an advanced sensor to go with it. The results look fantastic, with clear, sharp images boasting faithful colours. There are lots of features to make it easier to shoot video, like automatically tracking your subject and stabilisation that can be added after you’ve filmed. Difficult manoeuvres like zooming slowly can be done by the camera, too. It also has an HDR movie function for more dramatic video by combining two images shot with different exposures, though this only works in HD, not 4K, resolution.
2. Sony FDR-AX100 4K camcorder: £1,499, Amazon
Sony brings all its considerable digital imaging skills to bear with this highly capable camcorder. It’s not cheap but includes much tech usually found in professional models costing much more. The viewfinder is an OLED display which looks tremendous, while the microphone is capable of Dolby surround sound recording. It’s lightweight and compact compared to professional versions, too. There are plenty of image effects, such as background defocus so your subject is the place you want to look, and the manual controls are extensive, including shutter speed, white balance and more.
3. GoPro Hero 5: £347.65, Amazon
The latest GoPro flagship is an advanced action camera that’s perfect for shooting active sports which you can play back on your TV. This model improves the audio as well as the visuals with noise reduction, even in wind. Since you’ll be moving as you film, it also comes with strong video stabilisation and is waterproof, for those off-road adventures. It’s all very easy to set up and use, too.
4. Nikon KeyMission 360: £419, Currys
If you want to shoot 360-degree video, this small action camera can do so in 4K resolution. It’s waterproof and shockproof and once you’ve filmed it, you can play your footage back on a Virtual Reality headset, online or through an app. Since it’s freeze-proof too, it’s especially suitable for activities like skiing. Like many camcorders, you can also capture still images during filming, in this case at 23-megapixel resolution. Since there isn’t a display on the camera, the app connects it to your Apple or Android smartphone by Bluetooth so you can see what the camera is looking at when you’re setting up your shot. You can also wirelessly transfer content to your phone this way. The KeyMission 360 only shoots in 360-degree format.
5. Canon XC10: £1,799, Canon
This is a great choice if you want a camcorder that takes the best still images, too. It’s ergonomically designed to be good for shooting video but familiar in shape to DSLR camera users. It comes with a 10x zoom lens and a remote control so you can shoot from a distance. It takes 12-megapixel stills as well and has optical image stabilisation so your footage will be steady even when you’re not. Compact and effective.
6. Sony FDR-AX53 4K Handycam: £729, Amazon
The Zeiss lens is impressively good on this advanced consumer model. It’s meant as a strong all-rounder with handy features like optical image stabilisation so you can walk and shoot without the image shuddering. If you’re feeling more adventurous, there are lots of manual settings. The autofocus is especially fast which is handy if you need to switch from distant to near subjects quickly.
7. Sony FDR-X3000R: £438.98, Amazon
The new Sony action cam is very accomplished and has a wrist strap accessory with a remote display that’s lightweight, small and very efficient at showing you what you’re shooting. It can also be clipped onto the back of the main unit. It shoots 4K at 30fps and has effective optical image stabilisation. The camera is only water-resistant but is supplied with a special casing to make it properly waterproof to a depth of 60 metres.
8. Kodak PixPro SP360 4K Action Cam Explorer Pack: £299.99, Jessops
This is another 360-degree view camera which shoots all around, viewable in the app or on computer screens in multiple ways. But the SP360 4K also shoots conventional wide-angle footage when you point the lens directly at your subject. It’s freeze-, shock- and dust-proof, plus water-resistant. It is fun to use, and works with a smartphone thanks to the remote viewer apps for iOS and Android.
The Verdict: 4K camcorders
For really pristine footage, simple usability and a good price, Panasonic’s HC-VXF990 is a worthy Best Buy. Of course, the results are even better if you spend more on something like the Canon XC10. And if it’s action you’re after, the diminutive but powerful GoPro Hero 5 is great.
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