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Best Cheap 4K Camcorders

Expert Reviews & Buying Guide

quadcopter reviewsBest Cheap 4K Camcorders

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How to Choose a 4K Camera

To help you find a great cheap 4K camera, we’ve researched and reviewed 20 new and bestselling products. The result is a premium top pick and a great budget option, plus eight other products that offer excellent quality and value. Before we get into the real-world 4K camera reviews, let’s quickly cover what you should look for when buying yours. Here are the specs and features you need to know to buy your 4K camcorder. Knowing what to look for is half the battle, as any pro will tell you. And remember that right now, there’s no such thing as a truly budget 4K camera--any UHD camera worth having is an investment, but it’s worth it because of the amazing, future-proof videos you will be able to take.

Best Cheap 4K Camcorders

Video Formats - Besides UHD resolution, most 4K camcorders offer additional video formats. Manufacturers like to describe these formats in different ways like offering “Full HD” and “HD,” but we’ve tried to simplify it by listing them by resolution. The main ones to know are 1080p, which is Full HD, and 720p, which is HD. Filming in these formats creates smaller files, which is convenient for getting high-quality video when 4K isn’t necessary. These HD formats also tend to have higher FPS options, ideal for slow-motion shots.

Best Cheap 4K Camcorders

FPS - The frames per second show you how quickly a camera can record. You’ll see 120 FPS referenced for slow-motion video because it takes twice as many frames per second as the more standard 60 FPS that many cameras use. This 120 FPS rate provides more frames (meaning more detail) when the video is slowed down. More FPS is not necessarily better. 30 FPS is fine for most videos, especially when you don’t plan to slow it down, but you may want higher FPS if you want to use your 4K camcorder for professional use.

How to Choose a 4K Camera

Zoom - Some 4K camcorders don’t come with optical zoom, although due to their intense resolution they have better digital or edited zoom than most standard cameras. If you want to use your 4K camera for action-packed scenes, zoom is an unnecessary feature, but zoom comes in handy for filming athletic events, people, and nature scenes. These zoom capabilities are generally around 5x or 10x optical, but can range as high as 20x or more. Digital zoom is especially extensive in some 4K cameras, given their large resolution, going up to over 100x in some cases.

Best Cheap 4K Camcorders

Touchscreen - Since 4K camcorders are some of the newest technology around, many of them come with touchscreens for easy editing and settings adjustments. Touchscreens offer a point of vulnerability, however, so if you want to use your 4K camcorder in rough conditions, you may prefer one that has a more limited screen or just push-button operation. Otherwise, touchscreens can be helpful for casual filmers and professionals, especially for using in-camera editing tools.

Best Cheap 4K Camcorders

Dimensions - New technology can be bulky. If you’re looking for the smallest 4K camera, you can find several here that fit in the palm of your hand. However, small 4K cameras tend to lack the features of ones with larger designs, like optical zoom, night modes, and flexible manual settings. If you want to hook up your equipment, big 4K cameras are more likely to have extensive setup options for shoes, mics, and a flash. If you just want to pick up your camera and go, a smaller camera makes sense.

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Weight - Weight is another issue to consider when choosing the best 4K camcorder for you. Many of the full-featured 4K cameras that made our list are around two pounds, but more basic 4K cameras can be even lighter. Unless you’re going to be using a dolly or tripod most of the time, it’s important to pick a camera that you can carry for long shots as well as short videos, and that is easy to store away between uses. The ultra-small 4K cameras are often built for GoPro-style adventures and offer maximum portability. You can even attach them to your helmet, bike, and other objects for a first-person experience.

Top 10 Products

There are enough specs listed for any camera on the market to make your eyes cross, but we hope we’ve simplified it a little in our list of basic specs to look for and details about each camera’s capabilities. These 4K cameras held up very well in our reviews and, most importantly, produced stunning footage. Some, like the Panasonic HC-X1000 4K, perform especially well at night, while others, like the GoPro HERO5 Black, are made for rough-and-tumble adventures in and out of the water. You’ll find that most are Wi-Fi enabled and have touchscreens, and they can all shoot a range of video resolutions at different FPS. Our lightest full-featured 4K camera pick is the Panasonic HC-WXF991K, coming in at an impressive one pound despite a powerful 20x optical zoom, among other features. Whether you want a 4K camera for professional use, hobby videos, or documenting a family vacation, the odds are good that you’ll find one that suits you in our list. Happy filming!

Sony FDRAX53/B 4K

Top Pick
Our top pick for all-around best 4K camcorder is the Sony FDRAX53/B, a 4K camera with impressive 20x optical zoom and 250x digital zoom. It has a premium mic with five-directional sound, ideal for capturing great audio as well as brilliant video without involving extra equipment. You can shoot 4K at 24 or 30 FPS, and high-speed 120 FPS at 1920x1080 resolution for slow-motion and other uses. It has Wi-Fi connectivity, and the included NFC technology allows you to control the camera remotely. Balanced Optical SteadyShot technology provides image stabilization as you move while filming. It can also shoot in light conditions as low as 1.2 Lux. We found this camera was full-featured yet easy to use, with enough automatic elements that beginner users wouldn’t feel overwhelmed. It’s a fantastic product, packed with high-end tech.
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GoPro HERO5 Black

Budget Pick
Our budget pick for a cheap but very good 4K camera is the GoPro HERO5 Black, which can shoot in 4K Ultra HD at 30 FPS up to 120 FPS in 1080p. This rugged camera is waterproof to 33 feet (10 meters) without a housing, and it’s super light at only about four ounces. It lacks a zoom function, but you can edit on the go with the free app or the two-inch touchscreen and also control the HERO5 Black with voice commands. This is a simple but high-performing 4K camcorder, and its image stabilization and compatibility with other GoPro accessories make it ideal for action-packed adventures. It comes with a mounting buckle and both curved and flat mounts, and with a GoPro Plus subscription, it automatically uploads your files to the cloud. If you want a simple, ultra-rugged, and great 4K action camera, this is it!
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Panasonic HC-X1000 4K

The Panasonic HC-X1000 is a more technical 4K camera with lots of manual settings and 20x optical zoom. The Night Mode uses infrared rays and IR-LED lighting to allow you to shoot in 0 Lux (total darkness). This Wi-Fi enabled, NFC-compatible 4K camera has a 3.5-inch touchscreen. It uses POWER O.I.S. to stabilize images for 4K and Cinema 4K settings, and 5-axis HYBRID O.I.S.+ with Active Mode with the other settings. This is our heaviest pick at 3.4 pounds, but its many features and amazing Night Mode make it more than worth it and a great buy. It is also pretty user-friendly despite its manual focus, zoom, and iris rings. The two SD card slots allow a seamless switch when one reaches full capacity.
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Sony FDRAX33 4K

This 4K camera is a little lighter than the Panasonic HC-X1000 and has manual controls as well as audio controls for the 5.1-channel surround sound mic. It is Wi-Fi and NFC2-enabled so you can easily share videos and control the camera remotely. Balanced Optical SteadyShot image stabilization technology helps to keep your shots smooth. It can shoot 30 FPS in 4K and 60 FPS in Full HD (basically, any other video mode besides 4K). It has a nice 3-inch touchscreen, a dial with assignable manual controls, and Sony’s UStream live streaming capabilities. The 5.1-channel surround sound mic combined with manual audio controls help you get the best sound out of this 4K camera. It’s a fantastic product worth checking out.
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Panasonic HC-WXF991K

This relatively lightweight 4K camera still has tons of features, including HYBRID O.I.S.+ automatic image stabilization and in-camera editing options like cropping and zoom. The camera can also downsample to 1080p HD for displays that aren’t compatible with 4K. It has a 3-inch touchscreen and can record 4K at 30 FPS or at other HD settings at up to 60 FPS. It features Wi-Fi connectivity, but no NFC. The 5.1-channel surround sound from Dolby Digital can capture a lot of auditory detail, and it also offers built-in Twin Camera functionality. It can be purchased with or without an Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) depending on your preference. Its digital zoom is also pretty impressive!
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Canon XC10 4K Pro

This Canon XC10 4K Pro Camcorder uses exclusively manual adjustment of its 10x optical zoom settings, ideal for people who want the manual feel of a DSLR or other high-end camera. The wide-angle lens also allows for manual focus adjustment as well as zoom. It can shoot 120 FPS slow-motion video in 1280p, 60 FPS in 1920p, and 30 FPS in 4K UHD. It has built-in image stabilization and Wi-Fi connectivity for remote operation. The camera is a bit heavy but has a large 3-inch touchscreen which makes up for it. You can take video or 12MP still photos, and the comfortable rotating handgrip makes it easier to get shots at odd angles. It’s also compatible with certain Speedlite models like the 320EX.
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JVC GY-HM170U Ultra 4K

You may not recognize the JVC brand name, but they perform pretty well when it comes to 4K camera production. This 4K camera model comes with a mic attachment, a 64GB memory card, a card reader, and a cleaning kit. It shoots 4K UHD video at 30 FPS and in HD and SD at up to 60 FPS. Tip: With a free firmware upgrade, you can shoot 120 FPS in HD for slow-motion 4K video. We found that it performed slightly worse than most of our other choices in low light but excellent during the day. It also lacks a touchscreen (though the LCD display is 3.5 inches) and Wi-Fi connectivity, but it is otherwise a good size and fit for professional HD and Ultra HD video recordings. The handle with microphone attachment can be removed for simple shoots.
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Canon XC15 4K Pro

The Canon XC15 has a detachable viewfinder for those who miss more traditional recording methods and a mechanical shutter to take 12MP still photos. Shoot at 24 or 30 FPS in 4K and up to 60 FPS in HD. It has built-in image stabilization and a 3-inch touchscreen. It has Wi-Fi connectivity, but no NFC, and a mic input option. This 4K UHD camera might be a better option if you’re a pro at heart and would rather shell out for a high-end mic than use a built-in one. Happily, this camera includes an MA-400 mic adapter for easy mic hookup that works for beginner and pro external microphones alike. We liked the Waveform Monitor display to help us keep track of the video signal even in bright light when the display screen was hard to see.
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TomTom Bandit 4K

The TomTom Bandit is a waterproof 4K camera designed for action-adventure use. With the dive lens, it is waterproof up to 40 meters (131 feet). It can film nonstop for three hours, then you can recharge with the “Batt-stick:” a combination USB and charger for restoring the camera’s battery and offloading files when you still have more filming to do. This piece of tech works great and is an incredible innovation that really improves convenience. The TomTom Bandit can shoot up to 120 FPS in 720p and 15 FPS in 4K. In-camera sensors for G-force, speed, altitude, rotation and GPS automatically tag exciting moments in the video for you based on how fast you were going and whether you were, for example, upside down. Plus, it comes with an adapter that makes it compatible with GoPro mounts.
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Sony FDRX3000/W

Another lightweight 4K camera designed for adventure, the Sony FDRX3000/W, has an included waterproof housing that makes the camera dustproof, shockproof, and waterproof up to 60 meters (197 feet). The body itself is also splash proof and freeze proof. The camera can take 12MP stills and steady video thanks to the Balanced Optical SteadyShot image stabilization. It can also be connected to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC, and can track your film journey with GPS, including how fast you were going as you moved. This makes the camera great for travel, families, adventures, and documentary filmmakers. It shoots 4K at up to 30 FPS, HD up to 120 FPS, and 240 FPS at 800p. Plus, it’s the lightest camera on our list by a hair. Last but not least, the built-in stereo mic has Wind Reduction technology, too. This makes the camera optimal for indoor and outdoor use.
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Review and Buying Guide GeekWrapped