Excellent full manual exposure control and built-in natural density (ND) filters. Amazing picture quality. Controls are easy to use.
Not great at panning.
Includes a waterproof case. The app works well for transferring images and remote control of the camera.
Quirky and takes some practice to figure out. Doesn't offer the versatility of more expensive models.
Well made with a highly protected lens. The extra features like low light performance, anti-shake, and relative light work extremely well.
May have trouble connecting to WiFi and the included app.
You can take a photo while recording or later while editing. Compact and lightweight for excellent portability. View screen rotates 180º for taking selfies.
Small view screen that is prone to glare.
Hot on the tail of the 4K TV revolution, 4K camcorders are now everywhere, so you can launch your career as YouTube’s next big thing with more pixels than ever before.
In fact, 4K camcorders have never been more affordable or portable, so whether you’re an auteur filmmaker or you just want to capture some family memories, it’s a great time to find the perfect 4K camcorder.
Read on for our shopping guide to 4K camcorders, and once you have a sense of what you’re looking for, check out our favorite models.
There’s a pretty big divide in the 4K camcorder market between so-called “action” camcorders and traditional handheld models, so make sure you know the difference as you’re shopping.
4K action camcorders are prepared for action and designed for rugged use, so you can capture your most impressive cliff-diving experiences – or a bike ride around your neighborhood. These are great for the average consumer. However, if you’re looking to tweak specific settings, or you want to shoot the highest-quality video you can (and you don’t need a rugged camcorder), a traditional 4K video camcorder may be a better choice.
Many are waterproof
Durable case to withstand quite a bit of abuse
Case easily mounted just about anywhere
Usually more affordable than 4K video camcorders
4K video camcorders are exactly what they sound like – they take video in 4K – but unlike 4K action cameras, regular video camcorders are designed for videographers and home users. Thankfully, you don’t need to be a professional videographer to use a 4K video camcorder, but if you aspire to be one, getting a traditional 4K video camcorder is a great start.
Include advanced features like manual exposure control or custom video filters
Significantly more expensive than 4K action camcorders
All 4K camcorders can handle the basics, so to set themselves apart from the crowd, many manufacturers incorporate additional features to make their 4K camcorders even more useful. Our favorite luxury features include the following.
WiFi connectivity: Being able to wirelessly transfer photos from the camera to your computer isn’t just about convenience; it means you never have to remove your memory card from the camera. SD cards and microSD cards can scratch fairly easily, and too many scratches can make your data unreadable. When you’re using WiFi to interact with your camcorder’s files, the only time you’ll need to remove a memory card is when you’re upgrading it.
Selfie mode: OK, we admit it: we love taking selfies, and we love cameras that make it easier to take them. Whether you’re promoting your personal brand or just need to see how you look in something every now and then, “selfie mode” rotates the lens so you can both act and direct at the same time – all without the embarrassment of a selfie stick.
Wireless remote control: For all of the times when you’ll need to make adjustments to the camera but do so from far away, many 4K camcorders include wireless remotes (and in some cases, smartphone apps). Wireless remotes mean you never have to yell “Action!” or “Cut!” again.
A unique corner of the 4K camcorder market has appeared in the last few years: 4K cameras mounted to drones are now used all over the world for all kinds of aerial photography, ranging from stunning landscape shots to spying on the neighbors. If you think you might prefer a 4K camcorder attached to a drone, consider the following.
Inexpensive 4K camcorder drones take terrible video, but pricier models produce stunning 4K. Price doesn’t always equal value, but in the case of 4K camcorder drones, it definitely does. While you may encounter many affordable drones advertising 4K support, low-end camcorder drones often create grainy video that’s rarely usable.
Drones can reach vantage points you can’t. Having a 4K camcorder drone means you’ll be able to capture shots from high above, and that opens up a host of creative opportunities for you and your videos. If you’re considering shooting video outdoors, and you don’t want to be constrained by the physical limitations of a handheld camcorder, a 4K camcorder drone may be the perfect choice.
Most searches for 4K camcorders will bring back a wide array of prices, as well as deals of varying value. As you’re looking at 4K camcorders, keep these price ranges in mind.
Inexpensive: Between $50 and $499, you find action camcorders – the models that produce pretty good (but not great) video and are designed to go with you on all of your outdoor adventures. If you’re looking to capture your next big thrill, or if you just need a basic 4K camcorder for making YouTube videos, there’s no need to spend more than this.
Mid-range: Between $500 and $999, expect to find the prosumer models that bring professional-level features to consumer-friendly 4K camcorders. If you want above-average video quality and the ability to change detailed settings or use different lenses, you’ll need to spend this much.
Invest in a tripod if you need truly steady shots. Even if you think you have the steadiest hand in the world, trust us: viewers can always tell the difference between smooth video and handheld footage. A tripod ensures that camera motion will never distract your audience. As you’re narrowing your search, keep a close eye on how different 4K camcorders work with tripods; some have a built-in mount for a standard-size tripod, while others require you to purchase a proprietary tripod solution.
Transfer images and video from your camera’s SD card to your computer regularly. Even if you have plenty of room left on your storage card, make a habit of clearing it off on a regular basis. This will help ensure that none of your videos get accidentally deleted from your camera, and it will free up space on your SD card so you can keep taking long videos.
Q. Will I be able to watch my 4K camcorder movies on my TV even if it isn’t a 4K TV?
A. Yes. In most cases, sending a 4K video signal to a 1080p HDTV will still display video; the TV will automatically downscale the image to its native resolution. While viewing downscaled video will diminish the quality by limiting the number of pixels you can see, it will still produce a clear, watchable picture.
Q. What software should I use to edit my 4K movies?
A. Most 4K camcorders include software for producing your own videos so you can make edits, add music, or include special effects. These included applications range in quality, so if you expect to do a lot of editing, it would be worthwhile to explore third-party options. If you’re new to video editing, try entry-level applications like iMovie (for Mac) or Corel Visual Studio (for Windows). If you’re an experienced video editor and need advanced features, consider Final Cut Pro (for Mac), Magix Vegas Pro (for Windows), or Adobe’s Premiere Elements (for Mac or Windows).
Q. Do I really need a 4K camcorder if my smartphone already records 4K video?
A. It depends. There are many significant differences between the 4K cameras found in mobile devices and those found in 4K camcorders, but they all boil down to the quality of the video they produce. A 4K video from a camcorder will be of much higher quality due to how 4K camcorders handle adverse lighting conditions, motion, and audio. A 4K video from a phone will be very clear – it can often produce videos that look good when played back on your phone but not nearly as great on any other screen. If you’re serious about making 4K videos, buy a 4K camcorder so you know you’re using dedicated hardware instead of relying on a feature of your smartphone.
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