A couple of years ago you’d have to spend thousands of dollars to get a big, bulky camera that could record 4K videos.
A couple of years ago, we also didn’t have mirrorless cameras.
Mix 4K video with mirrorless cameras, and you’ve got perfection. Guess what, as of 2018, you have a ton mirrorless models that can not only record 4K videos, but also cost less than $1000. Brands such as Panasonic, Sony and Olympus are among them. Just like Full HD is more or less a standard in current cameras and devices, 4K is on its way of becoming more and more popular.
Advantages of Mirrorless Cameras for 4K Video
Size – They’re compact, light and easy to carry around. With plenty of compact lenses to choose from, you can easily travel anywhere and not raise attention.
Weight – No one wants to carry around a ton of equipment. You can record for a longer amount of time without getting tired.
Features – You’ve got focus peaking that shows you what’s in focus, built-in image stabilization to help when you have no stabilized, and much more. This is not exclusive to mirrorless only, but it’s great to have it all in one package.
Price – As we mentioned, you can get a 4K-capable camera for less than a thousand bucks. Some of the models on this list are more expensive, but that’s in case you’re looking for more control over your video files or need better photography features as well.
Best 4K Video Mirrorless Cameras in 2018
- Panasonic GH5
- Sony A7R III
- Olympus OM-D E-M1 II
- Sony A6500
- Sony A9
- Fujifilm X-T2
- Panasonic G85
- Olympus OM-D E-M10 III
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1. Panasonic GH5
For advanced video recording, the Panasonic GH5 is your ultimate choice. You won’t find anything better, even at higher prices.
Sitting just below $2000, the GH5 has everything you’d like for video, but it’s also really good for photographs as well.
It has a 20 megapixel micro four thirds sensor and is capable of recording 4K videos at 60p in 4:2:2 with 10-bit color at a maximum rate of 400mbps. You’re getting a lot more detail and depth than any other 4K capable camera on this list, without the need to add any external devices. The same goes for Full HD videos, where the GH5 allows you to record at a whopping 180fps (although the quality drops a little bit here).
As you’d expect, the Panasonic GH5 has a microphone and headphone port, an HDMI port (not mini, but standard size). It can accept 2 x SD memory cards that support UHS-II, and best of all, there’s no time limit for how long you can record videos. None of that overheating or 29 minute limit as many other cameras may have.
Another excellent addition is sensor-shift 5-axis image stabilization so you don’t have to worry whether your lenses are stabilized to get cleaner footage. The number of focus points has gone up to 225 compared to 49, and the overall speed and accuracy have been improved.
Like the GH4, the body is weather sealed, and the screen is fully articulated although slightly bigger (3.2″ vs 3.0″). Touch screen is of course an included feature.
Compared to the GH4, the GH5 brings better low light performance for both video and photos, but is slightly heavier and can take 410 vs 500 shots. Not a huge difference, but still a nice reminder to always carry extra batteries!
How to know whether the GH5 is the right camera for you? If you find videos exciting, and want a 4K capable (with tons of bells and whistles) camera that can deliver beautiful, detailed footage regardless of the situation, this is the right choice. It’s not cheap, but it’s by far the cheapest option compared to other models that offer similar features. This is a camera that’s ready to work from the moment you pick it up.
2. Sony A7R III
The Sony A7R III is a camera that delivers in every department.
First, it’s got a 42.2MP sensor, just like its predecessor. However, the A7R III has an improved image processor, which makes this 42 megapixel sensor perform better in low light (maximum ISO of 102,400). With such a high resolution, the entire Sony A7R line continues to be a perfect choice for landscape, studio, commercial and portrait photography.
Second, the A7R III can shoot 10 frames per second. That’s blazing fast, especially for a camera with so many megapixels. Many other models can’t come close, even with less pixels, although this is a benefit of the mirrorless technology. Because of the 10 frames per second, you can use it for sports, action and wildlife, and expect a lot of different shots to choose from.
These 2 improvements alone would be worth the higher price tag, but there are a lot more features to the camera. It’s got 425 vs 399 contrast AF points and focuses a lot faster, especially in low light. The built-in 5-axis image stabilization has been improved and now helps up to 5.5 stops, instead of 4.5. As you can see, the A7R II is great, but the new model is even better.
If you want to record videos, you’ll be happy to know that the A7R III can comfortably record 4K at 30fps and 1080p at 120fps. Because of the new image processor, videos shot at higher ISO should look better now. One excellent addition is the touch screen capability that allows you to focus/operate the camera simply by pressing anywhere on the screen. This is slowly becoming a standard for all cameras, regardless of their price.
For transferring images, the Sony A7R III finally has a USB 3.0 port. When a camera has 42MP, the files it creates are huge, so you’ll really want fast transferring in this case. Speaking about files, it now features 2 x SD memory card slots (one supports UHS-II speeds). To top it of, you’ve also got an AF joystick on the back of the camera so you can choose your focus point/group quicker, while the battery lasts up to 650 shots compared to 390.
To sum up, the A7R III is not the cheapest camera, but if you’re looking for the absolute best in almost every department, you will love it, especially if high megapixel count is important.
3. Olympus OM-D E-M1 II
The Olympus E-M1 II is the most advanced Olympus up to date. Unlike Fuji and Sony, Olympus uses Micro Four Third (MFT) sensors in their mirrorless cameras. Instead of a 1.5x crop factor, it’s 2x, so any lens you mount has a field of view that’s twice as long as if you would mount it on a full frame camera.
Is that a big deal? No, because there are a lot of ultra wide angle lenses for MFT to compensate for that, and you’ll actually appreciate the longer crop factor when shooting wildlife and sports.
Onto the E-M1 II. The camera has a new 20.4MP sensor and weighs a mere 20.2 oz (574g) with the battery. A big reason for the small weight and size is because of the smaller sensor. The E-M1 II is weather-sealed and up to standards of any nature photographer, so no need to hide when it starts, snowing or when the temperature drops.
What we really love about Olympus is their in-camera image stabilization (up to 5.5 stops). It makes the E-M1 II a much better choice for shooting on the go compared to cameras without it, simply because you don’t need to carry a tripod or raise the ISO when shooting in low light situations. Naturally a tripod is always the best choice for sharp results, but the built-in IS is something we all want in a camera. It works very well for video too, otherwise your footage may look shaky if you don’t have any support.
Speaking about video, it offers DCI 4K at 24p, a headphone and microphone jacks and of course the built-in 5-axis stabilization. Unfortunately Full HD video looks soft, so if you’re going to record, do it in 4K for maximum sharpness.
The ISO range goes from 100 to 25,600 but can expend down to 64. Image quality at 6,400 is still quite good, and the shots look usable. Go over and you’ll see the limitations of a small sensor for noise performance, so stick to levels below that. For sports photography, it manages to shoot an impressive 18fps with a JPEG buffer of 118 shots (102 for RAW). It’s faster than others on this list because it has a smaller sensor.
It has a better LCD screen than the X-T2 above. Same size at 3.0″ , but it offers touch-screen control and can fully tilt and swivel, making it easier to shoot in difficult positions (subjects way below or above you). Battery life is also impressive with 440 shots. Not only that, the battery recharges 50% faster than the previous model.
4. Sony A6500
The announcement of the Sony A6500 was quite a surprise. We expected the camera of course, but not so soon as it came out only a few months after the A6300 was released.
It uses the same 24.2MP APS-C sensor so image quality, colors, dynamic range and noise are all identical. The amazing 425 phase-detection AF point system is still as fast as ever.
The 3 biggest improvements are:
- 5-Axis Built-in Image Stabilization
- Touch-Screen LCD
- Bigger JPEG and RAW Buffer
The built-in stabilization is a huge huge advantage, especially if you own lenses that don’t have any. If you use a lens that does have OS then the two work together. For video, telephoto and low light situations, anything that can compensate for your movement is a welcome addition. 5 stops is a difference between shooting at 1/8 instead of 1/250, while still getting a crisp shot. It depends on each situation of course, and it does not freeze a moving subject, only a fast shutter speed does that.
Having a touch-screen LCD monitor (same size and resolution) makes the process of selecting the focus point quicker and easier, especially when recording videos.
Both cameras shoot at 11.1 frames per second, but the Sony A6500’s buffer is bigger. In JPEG mode, you can now take up to 231 instead of 44 shots, and 110 instead of 22 RAW files. All of this thanks to a new LSI chip (it basically handles most operations of the camera). The shutter lag time has also been slightly reduced and the camera turns on 0.1s quicker.
It can record 4K videos at 30/25/24p and even 120fps in Full HD, perfect for slow motion clips. If you’re interested in video capabilities of the new A6500, check out the NoFilmSchool preview. Unfortunately it seems like recording 4K videos for too long still sometimes results in overheating.
We really like the A6500, even though there aren’t many new features added. The ones that are new though, such as 5-axis IS and touch-screen, are super helpful and will result in less blurry photos and videos. It does cost $400 more but it’s worth it.
5. Sony A9
The Sony A9 is one of the most exciting cameras on the market right now, for a very good reason. It’s very similar to the A7R III in the sense that it can do it all.
The A9 has a 24.2 megapixel full frame sensor with ISO up to 204,800. Because of the lower resolution, the A9 shows less noise at high ISO compared to the A7R III.
It can shoot 20 frames per second! That’s crazy fast, which is why this Sony is ideal for wildlife, sports and any other type of action. To top it of, the A9’s fastest shutter speed is 1/32000. All this speed wouldn’t matter if the buffer would be small, but it’s the opposite. You can take up to 362 JPEGs or 241 RAW files before the buffer empties, so make sure to get a really good memory card.
One other feature where the A9 is unique is its auto focusing system. There are 693 phase-detection AF points and they cover 93% of the viewfinder, meaning you expect accuracy in center and corners.
The rest is very similar to the A7R III. There are 2 SD memory card slots, an AF joystick for focus point selection, 4K video recording, an articulating 3.2″ LCD touch screen, big battery life up to 650 shots and environmental sealing.
The Sony A9 is an amazing camera if you’re looking for the best combination of speed, pixels, quality and video features. It’s best suited for photographing any type of movement, but you can also use it for portraits, weddings, landscape and so on. It’s not the cheapest out there, so it depends on how serious you are about photography.
6. Fujifilm X-T2
The Fujifilm X-T2 is our favorite mirrorless camera from Fuji.
Released in 2016 and replacing the famous X-T1, it sure does bring a lot of exciting improvements. While the X-T1 is still an awesome camera with great quality, the newer model is faster at pretty much everything.
First, the resolution got a big increase, from 16 to 24MP. If you mostly share your photographs online, then the extra 8MP won’t really make a big difference. However, for cropping, printing large and still retaining plenty of details, extra 8 million pixels is a ton more information. Again, this is subjective and depends on where your photographs are displayed.
Image quality is absolutely fantastic. Colors and contrast look wonderful and you’ll love shooting in JPEG. Dynamic range is also really impressive for an APS-C camera, so hats off to Fuji. Pair the camera with any of the great Fuji’s X lenses and you’ve got a great combination for just about anything, from portraits, events, to street and sports photography.
Sports? Yes, if the X-T1’s AF performance was not that good to you, the new X-T2 definitely delivers. It boasts a 325 AF point system, with 169 of those phase-detection for improved speed. The body even has an AF point selection joystick to focus on the point you want quicker (similar to more advanced DSLRs). Simply put, the old X-T1’s priority was still images (based on the AF speed). Now, you’ve got that + action photography covered.
The Fujifilm X-T2 has also been improved for video use; it records 4K videos at 24p, has a microphone jack and allows you to choose the F-log profile. Auto focus accuracy and speed during recording are okay, but sometimes you’ll be better off doing it manually. Check out some beautiful X-T2 4K footage on Youtube.
For storing your files, you had 1 x SD slot on the X-T1. Now, you’ve got 2 x SD slots, and the first one supports UHS-II for faster writing and reading with the latest memory cards. Should you decide to use the USB, it’s now USB 3.0 vs 2.0, something we miss seeing on many newer cameras. For sharing your shots, it’s got the same Wi-Fi functionality but no NFC.
With all the exciting new features that need quite a lot of processing power, the X-T2 still manages to shoot up to 350 shots before the battery empties. That’s only 10 less than on its predecessor. The body size and weight have also increased, but by nothing drastic (from 27.2 oz (771g) to 28.8 oz (817g)). The 3.0″ LCD screen offers the same resolution and no touchscreen, so no improvements here.
7. Panasonic G85
The Panasonic G85 is not as popular as the rest of these cameras, but it’s another 4K-capable mirrorless model that offers plenty for the price.
Inside, we find the same 16.1MP sensor as in the Panasonic GH4. You’ve got sensor-shift image stabilization that helps up to 5 stops, a touch screen enabled 3.0″ articulating LCD and environmental sealing. Seeing as the G85 costs less than $1000, this weather sealing addition is great if you’re looking for a camera to use in tougher conditions.
Seeing as this is also “cheaper” version of the more expensive GH5, what do you lose? Well, you’ve still got 4K video recording, just not with as many additional features. Most people who aren’t serious about videos won’t miss them, so as long as you’re looking to get good 4K footage straight out the camera, the G85 is absolutely fine.
The number of focus points is much smaller, with 49 vs 225. It can shoot slightly slower, 9fps vs 12fps, but anything over 7 is excellent for wildlife and sports. Both of these advantages aren’t really “bad” or anything, it’s just that the GH5 offers that much more for the money. You won’t feel limited by them.
Panasonic G85 is perfect if you’re looking for an advanced mirrorless camera that doesn’t weigh too much, offers exciting features such as 4K videos, built-in stabilization, 9fps and touch screen, but doesn’t cost nearly as much as the GH5 and is also weather sealed.
8. Olympus OM-D E-M10 III
If you are looking for a small, compact and cheap camera that has plenty of exciting features, the Olympus E-M10 III is our top pick.
It’s the cheapest Olympus OM-D mirrorless model, but this little camera can record 4K videos at 30fps or even HD at 120fps.
Inside, you will find a 16MP sensor, built-in image stabilization, an articulating touch screen LCD, 8.6 frames per second and 121 AF points (compared to 81 on the previous model).
You’re probably thinking you’re losing a lot of features since the OM-D E-10 III is so cheap. Is that true?
The only negative thing we could find is the same as with its predecessor; there’s no weather sealing. Not a deal breaker since many more expensive cameras don’t offer that either, but we had to point out something. If you’re serious about video recording, you should also know that there is still no external microphone port so you’ll have to spend more if professional audio quality is a must for you.
The Olympus OM-D E-M10 III is a brilliant camera if you want to spend as little as possible, yet still receive all the latest features such as 4K videos, built-in stabilization, 8.6fps and great imaging sensor. It is extremely light and compact so it’s excellent for daily photography, traveling and also other types of photography; from sports, landscape, weddings and so on. Put it in your pocket and go!