Is newer always better? Some people do think so. The ones in the videography field are no exception. Too many people think a 4K camera is a must-have so they can shoot better movies. In reality, 4K isn’t always better than HD.
Does anyone need a 4K camera?
4K videos are sharper and clearer than mere HD videos, but to many videographers, especially new ones, hastily chasing 4K videos may not be the best move.
Think about gadget users
Let say you want to start vlogging with a brand new 4K video camera. On what device the majority of your audience will watch your content? That’s right, on their gadgets.
Full HD content looks awesome on current smartphones and tablets thanks to the improvement of display technology over the years. Since 4K display on phones and tablets won’t be the norm in the foreseeable future, anything you make using your expensive 4K camera will always be downscaled to HD. That sounds like wasting the full potential of your brand new 4K camera, doesn’t it?
When you’re making documentaries, future-proofing is paramount. It’s another story when you’re making videos for YouTube. There’s so much content floating on the internet right now that there’s only a minuscule chance twenty years from now someone will still watch your videos you shoot this year.
For many people, including you, the best way to future-proof videos is to take the best video possible using the gear you already have. Make sure they’re all sharp so that upscaling won’t ruin much of the quality.
4K videos take a lot of space. You can fill up a 128GB card after shooting 4K/30fps for roughly 4 hours. Shoot in full HD/30fps and you fill that card after roughly 60 hours. That’s a huge margin, don’t you think?
Of course, when we’re shooting 4K, it’s only logical to use a codec with the highest possible bitrate. It’s such a waste to shoot 4K using low bitrate codecs. However, using higher codec bitrate means the data storage will shoot up dramatically.
We haven’t even talked about the storage you need on your PC and the backups. We’re talking in Terabytes territory here. If you don’t have enough storage to keep all that 4K footage, you better stick with HD.
OK, so let’s go back to our initial question: do you need a 4K camera? We know 4K is more than just marketing hype. Many professionals shoot in 4K even though some still deliver in HD. But if you’re just starting out, whether you need a 4K camera or not is mostly up to the tasks at hand.
For most tasks, HD will suffice for years to come. HD videos are also easy on the hardware when you need to convert them to other video formats. If you’re on a tight budget, stick with the gear you have and focus on polishing your video skills. That shiny 4K video camera can wait for later.