Everything You Can Do With a 4K Camera in Your Pocket, Right Now

You can have a 4K camera in your pocket right now without even realizing it. Even if you don’t have a 4K TV to watch these videos, you can use this camera to make even better 1080p videos right now.

You probably already have a 4K camera

4K displays may not be enough, but 4K cameras are everywhere . The latest flagship smartphones have built-in 4K cameras. Here are some of the most popular models capable of recording at this ultra high definition:

This list is not exhaustive, but it is easy to see that you have no shortage of cameras that can record 4K video. That said, 4K is a resolution, not a measure of quality, so be sure to check out a few smartphone video comparisons before buying something new.

There are also many high quality 4K devices available, such as the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-LX100K , Nikon DL24-85 line , DL18-50 and DL24-500 , and the Sony RX100 . If you don’t mind spending some money on a quality camera, you have several options without a second mortgage. While you can see professional YouTube users using the most expensive hardware to do the same job, you can get started with relatively inexpensive hardware until you have a real need for an upgrade.

If you don’t have a 4K display, you may be wondering why you even need to record in 4K at all. However, 4K recording, even for viewing on a 1080p display, is generally better . Since you are writing additional data, you have some editing flexibility that you would not otherwise have. Here are just a few of the ways it can help, and a few interesting things you can do with your original 4K video. Note: All of my videos below were shot on a Nexus 6P with 4K recording.

Get the best 1080p video with 4K downsizing

You might think that upscaling 4K video to 1080p is really no different than shooting 1080p to begin with. However, because 4K cameras record much more detail, downscaling to 1080p can retain much finer details with less noise than the original 1080p footage.

As you can see in the video above from videographer Dylan Lieer, just how dramatic this difference can be. In side-by-side comparison, downscaled 4K footage is much better at capturing fine details on distant objects or complex images such as grass or trees. Sometimes the quality isn’t much better, but right from the start, you have something to work on.

Update: As one commenter pointed out, the labels in the first half of the video appear to have been reversed. However, they are corrected later. Here’s anothervideo demonstrating the same principle .This video also explains why this effect occurs.

Get high quality cropped footage after shooting

Composing your footage correctly is the key to creating high-quality video . When you shoot in 4K, you have extra flexibility. You can crop the photo tighter to get a better view of the subject, or re-center another part of the frame. Since you are working with footage that has about four times the pixels, you can select a much smaller portion of the frame and still crop to 1080p video without significantly losing overall quality.

In the video above, I filmed my drone flying in my backyard. In the original shot, I am very far from my drone (yes, it is flying). However, I was later able to decide how close I want to crop the video. Since I’m working with 4K footage, I was able to get close to it without degrading the video quality. Despite pruning to nearly a quarter size, you can still see a lot of detail in the branches of the trees in the background.

Stabilize shaky footage

When you stabilize digital footage in the usual way, you lose a little quality. This is because the program zooms in slightly and crops each frame in the opposite direction to the movement in the frame. If the camera shakes to the left, the frame is cropped to the right. The plus is that your footage is less shaky. However, you lose a little bit of resolution to get this kind of effect.

As you can see in the first half of the video above, my hands were shaking as I filmed my cat on the back porch. However, I ran the same clip through the After Effects motion stabilization tracker . In the second half of the video, you can see the result. The camera shake is almost completely gone, but the video resolution is no less.

It is worth noting that stabilizing footage is not a panacea. Using After Effects took a ton of time to analyze the motion, and there is still a little camera drift. Your mileage will also depend on which method you use . However, having extra pixels in the frame gives you a lot more room to maneuver.

Adding panning and zooming to stationary shots

Since you have so much raw data to work with, you can add effects to segments of the frame without reshooting them to get the effect. On a still shot of a subject, you can zoom in to add emphasis, or pan the landscape to add movement, as if you were shooting a long pan when you actually zoom in and go one frame at a time. This gives you the ability to later decide what type of movement you want in the final video. You can also use one camera to get multiple compositions of the same scene.

For example, in the video above, I shot a general shot of the cosplayer Amber Alertt . I later modified the shot to add a pan. Again, despite scaling and cropping, there is no loss in quality. I could also choose to flip the panorama, crop close-ups, or spend the entire frame looking at the trees if I wanted to.

Use frames for photos

A still frame of 4K video is roughly equivalent to 8.3 megapixels . That’s enough to take great pictures for anything from social media to printing some photo sizes . While you can capture stills from 1080p video, the lower resolution is not as convenient for photography. Every single frame of 4K video can be used as a high-quality photo, without the tedious need to capture exactly the right time. Just set a highscore and take the perfect shot later.

In the video above, I asked cosplayer Laila Antagonist to experiment with poses while recording. The video lasted about twenty seconds. Subsequently, I was able to take several photos that would be ideal for a regular photo shoot:

They don’t replace a good photographer (and my phone still doesn’t replace a normal camera), but they are still high quality photos that I could import into Photoshop to play with. By recording in 4K, I gave myself the option to later turn the video frame into a usable photo. If I tried this with regular 1080p video, I would have a lot less work to do.

There are tons of advantages to shooting 4K video, and chances are you already have a device that can do it. In fact, recording at a higher resolution than you need can give you much more flexibility in video editing and help you capture better pictures.


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