There’s never been a better time to shoot 4K. We live in the 4K production to 1080P consumption golden age, where one can fully reap the benefits of shooting high resolution (massive flexibility in post), but few have to worry about exporting in 4K (as not many people have 4K displays).
No one can deny that 4K just plain looks better. Fortunately, many affordable devices now shoot 4K, and one can capture great quality footage at a low price. Here we have included a variety of cameras: compact mirrorless, camcorder, and action camera. No matter your choice, each of these cameras offers advantages and disadvantages, but be sure to note our editor’s choice, a camcorder which offers the most overall value for shooting video in 4K.
Here are our top 10 cheap, 4K cameras.
1. GoPro Hero 6 Black (Best action camera)
If it’s in your budget and an action camera is aligned with your shooting, there’s no reason not to get the GoPro Hero 6 Black. It boasts everything people love about the original GoPro series and much more. Waterproof out of the box, robust apps (and better smartphone integration than ever), LCD screen to monitor your shots, and Cineform (GoPro’s log equivalent) meaning it’s a professional camera in action camera form factor. Users love it for its ease-of-use, simple interface, and overall approach which says, “Set it and forget it.” What’s new in this update are tons of features like voice control (think Siri for recording), video stabilization (gimbal-like quality), and most importantly: footage quality. Check out the video below.
The footage speaks for itself: GoPro is ready for the cinema with this latest update. The humble maker has ascended well into the realm of top camera makers with clarity, sharpness, and dynamic range that mimics much more high-end cameras with none of the complicated headaches.
- Easiest to use and most flexible GoPro yet
- Throw it in the water; waterproof out of the box
- Stabilization in-camera is acceptable
- Audio is best in action camera class
- Excellent app ecosystem
- Battery life is only an hour and 20 minutes
- Wide angle isn’t appropriate for all shot types
2. Sony A6300
This may be the most expensive camera on our list, but it’s also the best cheap 4K camera, at least if $1,048 is cheap (which for high-end cameras, it definitely is). The A6300 offers amazing value as it’s definitely the best stills shooter in this Top 10. It also boasts robust filming options, including the unique capability of 1080P at 120 FPS. It has a tiny profile as a compact mirrorless, but unfortunately this is where the trouble starts. The A6300 is known to overheat if used for longer than 20 consecutive minutes; the instruction manual itself says this. Therefore, it is not practical for videography nor for some professional shoots. Still, if that doesn’t hit your ears an immediate deal-breaker, then there isn’t a better camera on this list. It may not be a workhorse, but it does have superb dynamic range, detail, and low noise (see video below). It’s a pocket pistol and a half; but no, you can’t shoot a wedding on it, even a short modern one.
- 4K footage, 11FPS raw stills, 24.2 megapixel sensor
- Best-in-class compact mirrorless camera
- Sony claims “world’s fastest auto-focus”
- Improvement to insanely popular A6000
- Weather-sealed metal body
- Superb image quality in every way with robust options
- Compact camera ergonomics
- Burns through batteries, tough to use for videography
- Some users have issues while shooting 4K with overheating
- One user had noise issues
- Camera can only record for 20 consecutive minutes in 4k
3. Panasonic 4K Camcorder Kit
For those who want a swath of features in a camera that takes awesome footage, this Panasonic camcorder is not to be missed. Boasting solid image quality and great zoom (20x), you won’t miss the action. It also has a slew of gimmicky (but useful) features included picture-in-picture recording, and live stream capability. That said, a few minor drawbacks include noisy lowlight performance and for some, the UI was difficult to navigate. Still, at this price point, with its in-camera editing features, and high footage quality, this camera is very practical for those looking for quick shooting and robust capabilities.
- Ultra sharp 4k recording
- Built-in “twin” camera for selfie mode
- 20x zoom & 5 axis optical stabilization
- Ability to edit in-camera
- Numerous Wi-fi features and app capability
- Users say it’s as “simple or complex” as you want
- Kit includes 10 products: Camcorder, SDXC card, Sunpak LED light, lens filters, 2.5x telephoto & .45x wide lens, case with rain cover, cleaning kit, card reader, memory card case, LCD screen protector
- One user complained lowlight quality was poor
- Some users had issues with the peripherals and accessories
- One user was underwhelmed with the footage quality
- Live streaming online is difficult
- Initial setup can be challenging for some
4. Sony FDRAX 53 Camcorder
Boasting excellent features and 20x zoom, this Sony model is a serious contender. It offers 16.6 megapixels for stills and great clarity. Users love its convenient touch screen, and unique manual focusing ring. Perhaps its biggest weakness is its relatively short battery life, but a replacement can be purchased at low cost. Not without its flaws (especially for live streaming, as it only does playback via HDMI and Wi-fi connectivity is spotty), this camera offers decent bang for the buck and superb image quality.
Price: $848 (15 percent off MSRP)
- 3 inch touch screen, Zeiss lens
- 16.6 megapixel sensor for crisp stills
- 4K is praised as clear, autofocus as quick
- Optical stabilzation works well
- Focus ring allows for manual focusing, unique among camcorders
- Users find low light quality acceptable
- Battery life is subpar but replacements are only $20
- One user said the photos were too sharp
- One user found manual confusing
- Live streaming quality said to be poor as HDMI output is only for output for TV playback NOT streaming
5. Sony FDRAX33 (Editor’s Choice)
The little brother to the above camera, the FDRax 33 has only a few, minor downgrades. Its optical zoom is only 10x. Also, some users have issues with its touch screen. Beyond this, however, the FDRAX33 offers great value at a significant reduction in price. Users love everything about it that they do about the FDRAX 53. That said, some of the same issues persist. Outputting HDMI and using via Wi-fi are limited. Users say it just won’t do for live streaming. For everything else, however, this camera offers a lot of bang for the buck.
It’s the editor’s choice because live-streaming isn’t a priority, and the reality is that this camera takes excellent quality footage at a reasonable price. Below one can see that the dynamic range is solid, the low-light is great, and nothing makes shooting video easier than the form factor of a camcorder. While the price may be on the high side for casual users, shooting 4K is future-proofing at least for the next few years.
Price: $698 (18 percent off MSRP)
- 4K at 30 and 24fps
- Manual control ring allows one to adjust iris, shutter, and exposure
- Touch screen and evf for robust viewing and control
- Camcorder form factor easy to carry
- Video length limit longer than 30 minutes
- Low light quality is acceptable
- Touch screen can be annoying to use
- One user said EVF is too tiny to be usable
- On remote Wi-fi operation, HDMI does not output
- No RAW capability for stills
6. Panasonic FZ300
With its splash and dust-proof body, the Panasonic FZ300 is an interesting choice. It may not be the best for stills, but it boasts great zoom range, and a mirrorless camera form factor. Users love it for its ease of use and feature set. It has built-in stabilization and great ergonomics. That said, some found processing its files cumbersome. Low light quality isn’t great either. Still, for the price, the FZ300 is a fantastic way to shoot 4K footage, though for stills the camera below (same price) will perform better.
Price: $497.99 (17 percent off MSRP)
- Splash and dust-proof body
- 4K video, 12 megapixel stills
- 24x zoom range with fast 2.8f lens
- 5 axis stabilization for steady shots
- Shoots raw photographs
- Decent on-board audio
- Using the manual focus can be tough
- One user had difficulty processing the large files
- One user despised the included lens
- 12 megapixels isn’t much these days
- Low light quality is poor
7. Panasonic G7
While many may opt for pricier mirrorless or DSLR models, the G7 4K offers huge capability with tremendous quality. Users love its fast auto-focus and sharp 4K. For the photographers, it’s a fairly common feature that camcorders let you shoot photographs, but not RAW; this is where the G7 shines. The camera also boasts integrated wi-fi sharing and a DSLR build, for that convenient handheld feel. Users love its output and claim it “punches above its class.” At this price, it’s a great alternative to number one on our list, and offers more capability, but with more complexity via interchangeable lenses.
- DSLR profile preferable for some
- Fast auto-focusing
- Interchangeable lenses mean one can get a variety of looks
- Integrated wi-fi sharing to easily distribute pictures and footage
- 4K photo function for sharing specific moments
- Shoots RAW 16 megapixel photos for high quality photographic output
- One user had an issue with the auto-focus
- Camera has issue with external monitor usage; when one hits record, monitor turns off, not suitable for pro usage
- Some users found photo quality to be subpar
8. Panasonic FZ80K Kit
For those looking to get sweet zooms and who don’t need the practical functionality of a camcorder, the FZ80K offers a unique proposition. What it lacks in image clarity and, it makes up for in zoom. Stabilized 60x zoom means one can get closer to the action than with any other camera on this list. Sure, it’s ultimately a point and shoot, so the sharpness and color quality pale compared to say, the A6300, but for those who like to shoot from far away and want something affordable and practical, this camera offers a fun time. It’s not great for indoor shooting, but it should do as an outdoor camera in almost any situation.
Price: $449.99 (10 percent off MSRP), Standalone Camera $347.99
- 18.1 megapixel sensor
- Beastly 60x optical zoom
- Compact camera form factor
- Can record 4k photos at 30FPS to capture precise moments
- Focus stacking feature lets one focus in post
- Image quality and low light abilities praised by users
- Kit includes memory cards, small tripod, carrying case, card reader, and more
- One user said low light performance is very poor
- Some users had issues with the lens quality, claiming chromatic abberation was evident
- 4K video is solid but not the crispest out there
9. Yi! 4K Action Camera
If you’ve ever seen GoPro footage and thought, “I’d pay half as much for footage that’s 80% as good,” the Yi is the perfect camera for you. It boasts 4k shooting and superb clarity and color, just a notch below GoPro. Another tradeoff to the king of action cameras is its inferior app quality which makes distributing footage a bit more challenging. Still, Yi! offers the best bang for one’s buck in the action camera department if you have demanding needs and need footage that really pops.
- Robust recording options
- Battery life of up to two hours with included battery
- Low light quality is decent if shrinking from 4K to 1080P resolution
- Great quality at half price of GoPro
- Action camera form factor with large screen
- Variety of capture options includes 4K at 30fps, 1080p at 120fps and 720p/240fps
- Sound quality isn’t great
- Low light quality is poor
- Some users had issues with battery life
- Yi app inferior to GoPro for quick uploading etc
10. AKASO EK7000
It’s the budget action camera that’s tough to beat. Boasting solid 4K footage, waterproof housing, two batteries, and a remote, the Akaso offers insane bang for the buck. It can’t take great photographs, but the footage quality (below) speaks for itself. For action footage, this camera may not be the best, but at 1/4 price of a top of the line GoPro, it’s certainly much better than 25% as good.
- Budget action camera gets the job done at great detail
- Waterproof up to 100 feet
- Includes two batteries for long shoot time of around two hours
- Great footage quality at a highly reasonable price
- Photographs are poor quality
- Lowlight performance is poor
- Videos require conversion in post
Still looking for the right 4K camera? Browse more top-rated 4K cameras on Amazon.