1080p vs. 4K: Which Resolution Is Best for Videos?

3 January 2022

Only recently, Full HD video recording, or 1080p, was the absolute best quality you could ask for from a consumer-level camera. The quality was so good, you wouldn’t have asked for more. That is until 4K became a feature. With modern digital cameras now being released with 4K video resolution, is it time to upgrade? Is it necessary for you to record at this high quality for the type of videos you’re producing? Is 4K worth it, and how much memory does 4K take? Let’s delve in to find out.

So, what is the difference between 1080p and 4K?

First things first, what is 4K, and what is Full HD? A 4K camera allows you to take videos with very high resolution, making video footage super realistic. HD, or 1080p, packs fewer pixels into the image - it’s still great, but not quite as sharp. Although, for general video, the human eye would find it hard to tell the difference.

When buying your first camera for video or upgrading to a new one, whether it’s a mirrorless or DSLR camera, you’ll no doubt consider 4K vs 1080p. Put plainly in numbers, 1080p videos contain 1920 x 1080 pixels, and 4K videos contain 3840 x 2160 pixels. If you’re a bit out of practice mathematically, this means the 4K videos contain about four times the amount of information as 1080p. The name, you guessed it, comes from the nearly 4000 pixels on the horizontal axis, but what does this increase in resolution mean for use and how much “better” is 4K? We’ll dig a little deeper to help you figure out what’s best for you and the type of things you want to film.

1080p vs. 4K: Which Resolution Is Best for Videos?1080p vs. 4K: Which Resolution Is Best for Videos?

The advantages of 4K over 1080p

1080p vs. 4K: Which Resolution Is Best for Videos?1080p vs. 4K: Which Resolution Is Best for Videos?

4K offers extra resolution, so the file will contain more detail and subtle nuances of colour, which become particularly evident when viewing the 4K vs 1080p comparison on a screen. In professional uses like fashion videos, moiré becomes an issue when honing in on certain fabrics, as fabrics that contain repetitive details such as dots, lines, checks, and stripes, can exceed the sensor resolution, resulting in a strange, blurry, wavy pattern that is very distracting. You won’t get that with a 4K video camera. Plus, If you’re viewing close-up footage, 4K is considerably superior.

It begs the question, though: if you can’t present your footage in 4K, wouldn’t Full HD suffice? Full HD cameras are still immensely popular and will be more than enough in a number of situations, such as filming for smaller screens like social media or YouTube. But it does make your footage look more professional when shot on 4K, then reduced to Full HD. When downsampled to Full HD, 4K still looks sharper than footage originally shot on Full HD, as the video was produced using four times the detail.

Why would I not always shoot in 4K then?

With all these positives, why then would anyone shoot in Full HD when 4K is an option, and so far, sounds superior? There are a few reasons, such as the time and effort required to downsample, which can be too time-consuming for vloggers and those who like to upload content quickly. Here are some more considerations:

  • Storage

All that increased information with 4K video we’ve been bragging about has to be stored somewhere, and that means 4K video files are considerably large. That can become an issue when it comes to backing up and storing your work. These file sizes take up a lot of space on your memory cards and hard drives, which can be a problem, particularly for those working on location.

  • Battery

Of course, filming in 4K will also burn through a large proportion of battery pretty quickly, as it requires your camera to function at the top of its powers for a prolonged period. If you’re about to capture 4K videos, it’s worth packing a few extra batteries just in case.

    1080p vs. 4K: Which Resolution Is Best for Videos?1080p vs. 4K: Which Resolution Is Best for Videos?
    • Speed

    It’s worth mentioning that most 4K-enabled cameras can only film at 30 or 60 frames per second, which rules out slow motion and other footage requiring high frame rates. For this reason, many videographers find themselves lowering the recording quality of their camera anyway.

    Start taking video seriously with these cameras

    Full HD or 4K: a final thought

    Knowing about the two heavy hitters in the video resolution realm, you can make an informed choice when choosing a camera, and when setting your camera up for filming. If it’s the absolute best image quality you’re after, you’ll benefit from 4K, and you could start with something like the Sony A6400 with 16-50mm lens and Vlogging kit, but there is definitely room for Full HD in the modern video world.

    With all this in mind, head to our blog all about The 5 Best Camcorders for Video in 2022 to find the camera that’s right for you.

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