There used to be a time when 4K technology was new, rare, and very expensive. Nowadays, things are quite different. Now a television, monitor, or camera isn't complete without having 4K capability.
And what's more? You don't even have to break the bank or empty your account to get it. Thanks to its increased availability, you're able to get cameras capable of shooting in 4K at budget prices, all without trading off any features.
It's one thing to get a budget 4K camera knowing that you'll be missing out on other key features. It is another to get a budget 4K camera while also enjoying all other functions.
The latter is what we offer in our comprehensive list of the best budget 4K cameras below.
Shooting in 4K itself offers a host of advantages. It offers a significant increase in resolution, clearness, and depth over standard high-definition footage. And when you add all these to the traditional qualities of a great camera, you give yourself the opportunity to enjoy the fullest benefit of what technology this decade has to offer—all without worrying about affordability.
If all this sounds good to you, all you have to do is read on, and you're sure to find the best budget 4K camera for you on our list in no time.
Table of Contents
TL;DR – Our Top 3 Budget 4K Cameras
1. Sony Alpha A6100
The A6100 brings a much-needed level of sophistication and stronger performance to the already-popular Sony A6 line of cameras. And what's even more impressive is that it manages to get this done without losing its core simplicity.
It is characteristically lightweight, compact, and offers real-time tracking autofocus and 1:1 aspect ratio option, but most importantly, it is capable of 4K recording with full-pixel readout.
It also offers the option of capturing in quick as well as slow motion up to 120 frames per second. It also includes a 3” tilting screen with flexible orientations, which makes selfies and vlogging quite convenient.
With regards to its physical specifications, as mentioned earlier, the A6100 is compactly built, has a grip-friendly exterior, and weighs about 396g, which is good enough for average portability.
In terms of performance, the A6100 also lives up to expectations. Its autofocus is fast and accurate, its low light functioning is very satisfactory, and it boasts of a durable battery life.
Along with all of that, the A6100 also has a 1440k dot electronic viewfinder and an external microphone port for better audio.
Sony Alpha A6100
2. Canon M50
The Canon EOS M50 is not just the second on our list; it is the most versatile and moderate device of them all. It offers just everything you'd need for a great 4K camera in just the right proportion.
The device can perform quite impressively as an entry-level camera for people who aren't necessarily in need of numerous sophisticated functions apart from solid 4K videos and amazing entry-level features.
Breaking down these technical features, we have an APS-C sensor with a brilliant autofocus, slow-motion functionality available in 720p, and a regular 4K recording that is undeniably impressive for the money.
The M50 also does well in the physical aspect of things, featuring a 3-inch fully articulated screen, 390g light body, and a 59mm thick bulk, just a little above the average thickness of similar cameras.
Other notable features of the M50 include a 2360k dot electronic viewfinder, 10.0 frames-per-second continuous shooting, digital video stabilization (which is a really handy feature when shooting outdoors), and a selfie-friendly LCD screen.
Its three connectivity options include wireless, Bluetooth, and NFC connectivity.
3. Olympus E-M10 MIII
The Olympus E-M10 MIII, an SLR-style mirrorless camera, has gotten quite a reputation since its debut—both positive and negative. When considering it, also consider that there is no perfect camera.
If you're searching for a camera that boasts of both quality and a good bargain, the Olympus E-M10 MIII should be your go-to, as it comes with a 16 megapixel Four Thirds CMOS Sensor, a fast continuous shooting of up to 8.6 frames per second, while also priding itself on its compatibility with fast UHS-II cards.
The device also has an average thickness of about 50mm and weighs up to 410g with external dimensions of 4.8x3.31x1.97, putting it right in the average range in terms of size.
It has an built-in electronic viewfinder with 100% coverage, which pretty much guarantees that whatever you get in your image was what you saw in the E-M10 MIII's viewfinder. And of course, one of the advantages of this is that you don't have to minimize and crop your shots later—they are already in frame and ready to go.
Finally, if you happen to be going outdoors with the Olympus E-M10 MIII, you might want to be a tad bit careful. It has no environmental sealing, but sort of makes up for this with its wide range of MFT lenses.
The Olympus E-M10 MII viewfinders' magnification ratio is 35mm.
Olympus E-M10 MIII
4. Fujifilm X-T200
First introduced in the early parts of 2020, this 24 megapixel Four Thirds CMOS sensor camera offers the luxury of choice in pretty much any dimension you'd like.
First, it offers the luxury of choice in its lens selection thanks to the availability of 53 native lenses. But of course, it doesn't just end there.
Just like the Olympus E-M10 MIII, this device has a solid electronic viewfinder, can shoot continuously at 8.0 frames per second, and has a built-in mono speaker and a microphone. It also has a port for both external headphones and microphones.
Then there's the fact that it offers users videos with a high level of crispness and attention to detail, all thanks to the 4K Ultra HD feature that brought us here in the first place.
Moving on to physical specifications, the X-200 weighs an average of 420g with a thickness of 55mm.
Now all in all, when it comes to high-quality videography, the Fujifilm-X-T200 camera is right up there. With its immense AF ability, the option to use smartphones to control your camera—by using a remote control app on your phone to transfer files, release the shutter, and change camera settings—easy connectivity with Wi-Fi, solid low light performance, and a whole lot more, the X-T200 is a worthy buy indeed.
5. Panasonic GH4
If you're on the lookout for one of the best budget 4K cameras for either a photography career, vlogging, or just for fun, the Panasonic Lumix DMC GH4 should be high on your consideration list.
Launched in February 2014, this 16 megapixel mirrorless camera has, among other things, an MFT lens that offers compatibility with up to 105 lenses, along with high optical quality.
It also boasts of a proper environmental sealing, making it a solid weather-resistant camera that is safe against dust, water, frost, and all other elements. If you're one who tends to take your camera for a spin in not-so-optimal weather conditions, the Panasonic GH4 would serve you perfectly.
Like the other best 4K budget cameras listed here, the Panasonic GH4 also boasts of built-in wireless connectivity, a USB 2.0 port, and an HDMI port for seamless file transfer and feeding.
It also has a decent battery life at 500 shots and a fully-articulated 3" LCD screen with touchscreen capabilities.
And if you're wondering how this would come in handy, the answer lies in the ease of setting focus points and accurately with fingertips and changing camera settings seamlessly.
Surpassing the Fujifilm-X-T200 and the Olympus E-M10 MII, the GH4 has a high continuous shooting speed of 12 frames per second and a max shutter speed of 1/8000sec. It also, as a matter of fact, has a built-in electronic viewfinder with a magnification ratio of 35mm. It’s robustness also means it is a quite big camera with a weight of 560g and thickness of 84mm.
6. Nikon 1 J5
The Nikon 1 J5 sports a 21MP-1 inch BSI-CMOS sensor, one of the attractive, entry-level mirrorless cameras with a low-pass optical filter that produces a palpable increase in details and sharpness—for both videos and pictures!
Among some of its desirable features are a tilting 3" LCD screen with a 1037k dots resolution touch screen capacity, 4K ultra-HD video, built-in wireless, and solid grip with easy-to-use features.
A shortcoming of the Nikon 1 J5 is that it doesn't come with external microphone connectivity. While the built-in option is no slouch at all, if you want a mirrorless camera with external microphone connectivity, the 1 J5 is not it. You are better off sticking with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II and Fujifilm X-A7 for this feature. The difference here in other aspects isn't that great, anyway.
Moving on, the Nixon 1 J5 has a selfie-friendly screen, a high continuous shooting speed of 20 frames per second, 13 native lenses, a weight of 231g, and a thickness of 32mm. For a camera in its class, it is also quite lightweight, but carries an underwhelming battery life, shooting at a max of 250 shots.
Nikon 1 J5
7. Canon SL3
Moving on, the next entry on our list is the Canon SL3, which is also popularly known as the EOS 250D, with a 24 megapixel APS-C sensor and a 449g light frame.
The EOS 250D SL3 is particularly noteworthy for its high performance and ruggedness. It sits at an impressive 449g and, with a battery life of 1070 shots, it doesn't fail to deliver when it comes to quality and dependability.
Of course, as with all the entries on our list, the most appealing part of the camera is the fact that you can shoot 4K with it and get it at a really affordable price.
Furthermore, the SL3 gives great quality all along the way, with built-in wireless and Bluetooth connectivity, fully-articulated screen, optical built-in viewfinder, and flash sync port.
Physically, it boasts of a compact, highly traditional exterior, and offers a tight grip (as is now traditional among Canon devices of this class). Other noteworthy features of the camera that make it deserving of a place on our list are its max ISO of 25600, expandable to 51200, selfie-compatible LCD screen, high video bit rate of 120 megabytes per seconds, and an external microphone port for even better audio.
8. GoPro Hero 8 Black
GoPros are one of the few cameras in the video world with a truly legendary reputation. That is, for the most part, thanks to stabilization features, their impressive ability to get the best angles, and other shooting options that you don't get with other devices.
Of course, most people associate GoPros with skating and daredevil videos, or mountain climbing and other related activities. But the Hero8 Black transcends this stereotype.
With a lot of improved features, a highly responsive interface, shooting options, and built-in mounting attachment, you can use the GoPro right in your apartment, or even take it for that snorkeling trip.
It also, naturally, shoots in 4K, which is why it’s on the list, and has the advantage of a highly portable design to give it even more appeal. Add all these to the fact that it can take impressively stabilized time-lapse videos, and you’re starting to get closer to appreciating the quality of its design.
If you’re still not a fan of the Hero 8 Black, all you have to do is consider its streamlined interface, a battery life that is longer than its predecessors, and its unmatched image stabilization, and you’re finally over the edge.
If you're going to be shooting with lots of vibrations and movements, then the GoPro Hero8 Black will literally come in handy for you.
Other notable features of the Hero8 Black include built-in flash, microphones, and USB-C cable. The device comes with two GoPro rechargeable batteries.
GoPro Hero 8 Black
9. Panasonic LX10
The Panasonic LX10 fuses a fast 24-72mm equivalent built-in F1.4-2.8 zoom lens, with a 20.1 megapixel 1" sized BSI-CMOS sensor to create a compact camera that many would agree is well deserving of a place on our list.
It saves files in RAW format, along with the flexibility that comes with that, has a continuous shooting speed of 10.0ps, and a max shutter speed of 1/4000s.
Along with its obviously 4K capabilities, the LX10 affords users a touchscreen display and the ability to control the camera from an app on your smartphone. It also has wireless connectivity, and a fast 1.40 lens at wide, and equally fast 2.80 lens at tele.
Moving on to physical specifications, the Panasonic LX10 has an average weight of 310g and a thickness of 42mm. Its 3" tilting LCD screen, live-view, manual focus mode, and others make it a particularly interesting choice for those who have an affinity for street photography.
Other attractive features of this device can be found in its articulating screen, solid image stabilization for balanced shooting in unstable environments, good-enough AF, and an impressive overall performance on low light for a camera in its class.
10. Olympus TG-6
The last entry on our list, the Olympus Tough TG-6, is also, perhaps, one of the most rugged.
It is a pretty simple camera with loads of impressive features, standing out most especially in the area of performance and durability.
The TG-6 has the privilege of being the latest in a line of rugged cameras known as the Tough Series. And trust us when we tell you, the name is quite well-deserved. These babies are strong!
Not only are they waterproof (up to 15m), dustproof, and freeze-proof (up to -10°), they are also shockproof and can handle being crushed under a weight of 100 kg or less.
In terms of other consolidating features and performance, the TG-6 doesn't fall short in this area, either. Underneath its rugged exterior, you have a cool 12 megapixel sensor with a solid focal range of 25 to 100mm, and, the reason why we’re here—solid 4K Ultra HD capability at a budget.
You also get a number of state-of-the-art technologies, such as the optical stabilization that helps achieve smooth photos and videos, and automatic modes that make it an easy-to-use camera that is good for kids and adults alike.
In terms of ISO capabilities, the TG-6 offers an ISO range of 100-12800, and an aperture range of f/2 to f/4.9. For easy connectivity, you have wireless options, along with a GPS, temperature monitor, and a compass.
The TG-6 also shoots 20.0 frames per second continuously, and has an amazing sensor-shift image stabilization, time-lapse recording, and face detection focus. It is powered by rechargeable Lithium-ion battery packs.
What to Consider Before Buying
Making the right decision of which 4K camera to go with requires a solid understanding of 4K cameras in general. To make an informed decision, you need to understand what exactly it is you're getting at the price, and what exactly you're letting go of.
To help arm you with this much-need knowledge, we have provided below a detailed guide on everything you have to know about 4K cameras, and getting a perfect one at a budget.
Everything You Have to Know About 4K Cameras
Everyone loves higher resolutions with improved quality and clearness. And we all know this is what 4K offers, but that's about it.
Most people don't even know what makes 4K special, how the name came to be, or what it really means. Below, we'll be breaking these down for you so that when you're done, you have the fullest understanding of 4K and its characteristics.
4K technology is simply the ability of a camera to capture videos or images at a minimum resolution of 3840x2160 pixels, or, more commonly, at 4096x2160 pixels at a 1:9:1 aspect ratio.
Either of these two resolutions are generally known as 4K resolution.
As mentioned earlier, thanks to the significantly higher number of pixels in 4K, the final picture quality is usually of higher quality than lesser resolutions. This is thanks to the fact that the camera is able to capture more details and depth in this mode.
It is also worth noting that some cameras are able to go above 4K, with some capable of capturing still images at 5K resolution (5120x2700) and some as high as 8K.
Shooting in 4K is also not enough in itself to be able to enjoy 4K tech. You have to render the final video on a monitor or any device capable of displaying the images on and rendering the 4K resolution in all its gloriousness. If you don't have such a device, your file is still quite useful, but will only be displayed at a lower resolution, like 1080p for instance.
Since we understand what 4K technology is, it is easier to understand what 4K cameras are. 4K cameras are simply cameras that are able to capture images and videos at any of the 4K resolutions mentioned above.
There are generally two kinds of 4K cameras—the 4K video production cameras, whose function is mainly geared towards professional filmmaking, and the DSLRs/Hybrid cameras, which are just like any other DSLR but with 4K resolution.
The hybrids, as the name implies, are a sort of conjunction between portable DSLRs and professional video production cameras.
4K Cameras General Pricing
4K cameras vary in pricing, since resolution alone doesn't entirely determine the value of a camera.
A consequence of this is that you can have a really expensive camera with 4K capacity that isn't as suitable for your needs as a cheaper 4k camera.
In other words, just because a camera is expensive doesn't necessarily mean it is better for you than another camera that is less expensive.
And there's the question of what the camera is meant to be used for. Video production cameras tend to be more expensive than hybrid cameras, which, in turn, tend to be more expensive than DSLRs.
Of course, there are also a number of smartphones now capable of shooting 4K videos, some of which can be just as expensive as a DSLR. Some of these might suit your needs just as well as any dedicated camera.
What to Look For in a 4K Camera
Now that we understand the general meaning and technology behind 4K cameras and 4K technology as a whole, here are some of the other related factors that you have to be on the lookout for when making the final decision as to which 4K camera to buy.
Obviously, the first thing you have to keep in mind when getting a 4K camera is to ensure that you, well, get a 4K camera.
As mentioned above, cameras with 3,840 x 2160 pixels are generally regarded as 4K, but the most popular form is the 4096 x 2160 pixels, known as Ultra High Definition, or UHD.
Your sensor is the physical part known as the "photoreceptor array" through which light is received and pixels are created. The size and type of your sensor matters a lot when it comes to the outcome of your shot.
Generally, the bigger the sensor, the higher the quality of the pictures.
Just like the sensor, the lens of a camera also plays a huge role and should be taken into consideration when deciding on a camera for purchase.
The most important thing here is to make sure to get a camera with a good margin of lens compatibility.
Lenses are quite expensive, and you definitely won't have to buy all the available ones, but you should make sure that you have as many options in that regard as possible.
4. Light Sensitivity/ISO
The ISO settings of your camera are a measure of its sensitivity to light, and it goes a long way in separating the great photographers from the mediocre ones.
The broader the ISO range of your device is, the better the quality you get in different lighting conditions.
ISO can get as high as 400,000 for some devices and can start from as low as 50.
Ideally, when choosing the best budget 4K camera, or any camera for that matter, you want to pay attention to the connectivity options. Most modern cameras offer wireless connectivity, Bluetooth connectivity, as well as NFC in some cases.
Also, having HDMI inputs/outputs doesn't hurt for direct 4K feeding to your TV screens or monitors.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I really need 4K?
Well, there really isn't a definitive answer for this because it all depends on you. Most people want to have 4K because it is the cool thing to do. That's alright anyway since these are all affordable devices.
It is worth considering that if you're shooting videos for platforms that are generally consumed on mobile, like Instagram and other mobile-app-based platforms, shooting in 4K might be overkill.
But in any other case, then yes, by all means, shoot in 4K. Its advantages in professionalism, clarity, and higher entertainment value make it the new standard for professionals.
Another great aspect is that as long as your video is shot in 4K, the consumers have a choice as to what format it is served in and may choose to enjoy in a lower format should they choose. But if you don't shoot in 4K, they will have no option to consume in 4K.
Are there other benefits of shooting 4K?
Apart from the entertainment value, clearer picture, more depth, more professionalism, and all the other benefits we’ve already mentioned on the list? No, not really.
But obviously, all of these benefits alone are enough to make shooting in 4K a thrilling experience, for both you and your audience.
Are there inconveniences associated with 4K shooting?
Shooting in 4K generally requires a tougher post-processing session. You're going to be dealing with generally heavier files that are much harder to export and get onto a video editor.
Plus, you probably won't be able to work with just any low-grade video editor out there. Instead, you may have to use specialised tools capable of handling all the 4K awesomeness.
This concludes our list of the best budget 4K cameras. All devices mentioned above are sure to give maximum satisfaction in terms of value and performance.
In our opinion, the Sony A6100 leads the pack in terms of overall performance and sophistication. The Canon M50 perhaps has the most balanced features of all, and the TG-6 Olympus is renowned for its toughness. For special video uses, the GoPro Hero8 Black and the Panasonic GH4 are perfectly capable of getting a remarkable job done.