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There are many advantages to having higher resolution cameras, and now 5K and even 6K cameras are affordable to the independent filmmaker or videographer.
Whether it is the ability to crop, edit in pans, or have highly detailed and crisp images, shooting 5K and 6K videos opens your filmmaking to new possibilities.
Here are five affordable cameras with 5K and 6K capabilities.
1. Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro
Sensor Size: Super 35-Sized HDR Sensor (6144 x 4356 pixels)
Highest Video Resolution: 6K 50fps
Pros: The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro is an affordable cinema camera with 6k video capabilities.
The BMPCC 6K Pro is an updated version of the popular 6K, and it is obvious that BlackMagic has listened to its users.
The Pro-version includes a larger sensor, in-built 2,4, 6-stop ND filters, a bright and adjustable tilt HDR LCD screen, two mini XLR audio inputs, and a larger NP-570 battery.
You can even attach an optional electronic viewfinder (EVF), as shown in the photo above.
The camera lets you capture Blackmagic RAW footage in-camera. This gives the user much control over color grading and a high dynamic range.
Blackmagic cinema cameras are designed with video in mind first, making them a great option for indie filmmakers.
The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K also has a Canon EF mount useful for lens compatibility. Canon has a lot of quality cine lenses that would pair very nicely with this camera.
Cons: There aren’t many cons to this camera. However, given that it’s designed for filmmaking, it isn’t great for videographers who still need photo capabilities.
Additionally, the form factor of these cameras makes it difficult to build a rig and incompatible with some gimbals.
2. Panasonic Lumix S1H
Sensor Size: 24.2MP Full-Frame CMOS Sensor
Highest Video Resolution: 6K24p
Pros: The Panasonic Lumix S1H is an extremely powerful camera capable of 6K, 24fps video recording. It features a full-frame 24.2 CMOS sensor and 14 stops of dynamic range. This camera has been optimized for video, giving you many great features any filmmaker would want.
The S1H comes with V-Log, giving a flat image, allowing for maximum control in coloring. Other camera modes include Cinelike V and Cinelike D and in-camera LUT monitoring.
Cons: A downside to the S1H is its bad contrast-based autofocus, which struggles when you shoot video.
Another thing to consider is the Leica L mount. Though quite a few lenses are still available, they are certainly not as widespread or affordable as Canon and Sony. You most likely will need an adapter for your lens collection or get some new glass altogether.
Finally, this is one of the more expensive cameras on our list. Still, you can get some nice bundles that include everything from an external monitor to a cage.
3. Canon EOS R5
Sensor Size: 45MP Full-Frame CMOS Sensor
Highest Video Resolution: 8K 30fps
Pros: The Canon EOS R5 is a powerful, professional-grade DSLR. This is the only camera on our list that can shoot 8K video. The R5 can also record RAW video straight from the camera, giving you high-quality footage.
It also features the acclaimed Dual Pixel Canon autofocus and an articulating screen, making this camera an incredible choice for run-and-gun filmmakers who shoot video without a crew or can use an external monitor.
This, paired with the 5-axis internal stabilization, makes the Canon EOS R5 an incredible choice for any filmmakers on the move, shooting in uncontrolled settings or not having the time to set up their shots.
Cons: There aren’t many downsides to the Canon EOS R5 besides the price. This is the most expensive camera on our list.
However, if you can afford it, this camera will impress.
4. Z Cam E2-S6
Sensor Size: Super 35 CMOS Sensor
Highest Video Resolution: 6K 60fps
Pros: Though you may not have heard of Z Cam before, the E2-S6 is a great option for any filmmaker looking for a 6K video. It’s relatively affordable, features 14 stops of dynamic range, and can record in ZRaw and ProRes if you want RAW footage.
The Z Cam E2-S6 also has a Canon EF mount, which will be useful to many filmmakers with existing lens collections. Finally, there are some great utility features, like controlling the camera through the internet and an iOS app.
Cons: There isn’t much to complain about with this camera. It is designed explicitly for filmmaking, so if you’re looking for a crossover camera, this isn’t for you. Besides that, there are some compatibility issues with the ZRaw format.
You may need a plugin to import ZRaw footage into your editing software. Fortunately, there are plenty of tutorials online on how to navigate this!
5. Panasonic LUMIX S5IIx Full-frame Mirrorless Camera
The Panasonic LUMIX S5IIx Full-frame Mirrorless Camera builds on the success of its predecessor, excelling in autofocus and offering a wide array of features appealing to professional videographers and photography enthusiasts alike.
A newly developed full-frame sensor paired with an advanced image processing engine ensures the S5IIx captures images of stunning quality, boasting impressive dynamic range and superior low-light performance.
You can shoot in 5.8K Pro-Res internally, but you’ll have to crop to 4K at 60 frames per second, allowing creators to produce high-quality content.
The excellent In-body image stabilization guarantees smooth, steady footage, even when shooting by hand or under difficult conditions.
The LUMIX S5IIx is compact and weather-sealed, and a reliable and user-friendly option for anyone creating content on a professional set or during an outdoor adventure.
The S5iix also boasts unlimited video recording and live streaming capabilities, putting it ahead of its rivals (including the S5ii).
- 24.2MP 35mm Full-Frame CMOS Sensor
- Excellent Phase Hybrid Autofocus
- Excellent I.B.I.S. and O.I.S. image stabilization
- 5.8K Pro-Res, Pro-Res internal, RAW over HDMI
- V-Log/V-Gamut capture for more options in color grading
- Superior autofocus capabilities
- High-resolution image capture
- Smooth video stabilization
- Unlimited video recording and live streaming
- The L-mount is a fairly new mount, meaning you’re limited regarding lens choices.
- No internal RAW video recording
5K and 6K Video Cameras. A Buyer’s Guide.
5K and 6K video cameras record ultra-high-resolution footage, exceeding the standard 4K quality.
- 4K video cameras capture 3,840 x 2,160 pixels
- 5K video cameras capture video at 5,120 x 2,880 pixels
- 6K video cameras capture video at 6,016 x 3,384 pixels
The resolutions integrate well with high-end post-production workflows and are great for cropping and reframing your subject.
In this guide, I’ll walk you through what you should consider when purchasing a 5K or 6K video camera.
- 5K and 6K video cameras offer superior video quality and surpass traditional 4K cameras.
- These cameras provide significant post-production leeway and crop flexibility, allowing precise edits without compromising image quality.
- Considerations such as frame rate limitations, image stabilization, autofocus, recording formats, storage media, battery life, and price are essential when buying a 5K or 6K video camera.
- The large resolution is ideal if you want to future-proof your content.
Why Choose A 5K And 6K Camera?
Considering most video viewing methods barely support 4K, you may wonder why a higher-resolution camera is necessary.
I assure you it’s not just future-proofing your cameras if YouTube suddenly supports 6K video. You will experience many benefits with 5K and 6K immediately.
The first benefit is the ability to crop in and edit in pans without a drop in resolution.
Especially if you’re hoping to export 4K resolution video, having a 6K camera will allow you to crop in significantly, edit in pans, and do zooms in post-production without a visible loss in quality.
This is significant and allows for a massive amount of control. Perfect tracking shots or the ability to mimic two camera angles via cropping is extremely useful for independent filmmakers.
Especially in documentary settings, this technique can help hide jump cuts as you edit out the ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ from your subject’s interview.
There is also the benefit of stabilization in post. Because stabilization requires cropping, 5K and 6K cameras will allow for higher stabilization without losing resolution.
Finally, having a higher resolution and more pixels helps with post-production.
Using a green screen tends to be more effective the more detailed the image is, and visual effects will have more information to work with. This is helpful, provided your editing rig is powerful enough to handle VFX in 6K.
Let’s look at these aspects in more detail.
Higher Resolution Pros and Cons
A 5K or 6K video camera will significantly enhance the clarity and detail of your footage, offering numerous post-production benefits.
However, these benefits come with increased screen requirements for proper monitoring, the need for faster (and more expensive) storage media, and more intensive editing demands.
Before committing to such advanced technology, ensure your existing hardware can handle the data-rich files produced by 5K and 6K cameras.
- Exceptional detail enhancement for superior image clarity
- Increased flexibility in cropping and digital panning without loss of quality
- Future-proofing content for next-generation displays
- Enhanced digital stabilization possibilities in post-production due to additional pixels
Different types of 5K and 6K video cameras
Three types of 5K or 6K video cameras are relevant today.
Hybrid mirrorless cameras offer a blend of portability and high-resolution imaging, appealing to professionals and enthusiasts seeking quality without the bulk of traditional DSLRs. Plus, they offer video and photo capabilities in a small package.
Cinema cameras are designed with a focus on advanced video capabilities and color fidelity, catering to the needs of filmmaking professionals.
Action cameras provide rugged, compact solutions for capturing high-resolution footage in dynamic, movement-intensive environments.
Mirrorless Cameras (hybrid cameras)
Mirrorless cameras like the Panasonic Lumix DC-S5IIx cater to both photographers and videographers.
These hybrids balance weight and ergonomics, with portability with handling, and include innovative features such as in-body stabilization and high-resolution electronic viewfinders for precise composition.
With the trend toward full-frame cameras, many also offer outstanding low-light performance for capturing crisp, noise-free images in challenging conditions.
Cinema cameras such as the RED Komodo 6K and the Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 12K (that’s 12,288 x 6480 pixels, by the way!) represent the pinnacle of portable (and somewhat affordable) high-resolution video capture technology.
The RED Komodo, with its Super 35mm sensor and the URSA Mini Pro’s Super 35mm 12K sensor, offer filmmakers vast creative freedom, excellent dynamic range, and superior low-light performance.
The BlackMagic Pro Cinema Camera 6K line also fits into this category, although the ergonomics and handling are similar to mirrorless hybrid cameras.
High-resolution action cameras are now available and are a great option for travel vloggers, indie filmmakers, and videographers looking for a crash cam or small camera they can mount everywhere.
I find one particular feature a great improvement to action cameras: the inclusion of gyro stabilization data, which makes a big difference – fx when mounting your camera to the side of your motorcycle.
Other benefits include:
- Rugged Build: Engineered to resist water, shock, and dust.
- Modular Design: Customizable with a variety of action camera accessories.
- Voice Control: For hands-free operation during intense activities.
Things to consider when buying a 5K or 6K camera
When selecting a 5K or 6K camera, there are several things to consider and weigh against your preferences, needs, and price.
Sensor size affects image quality, low-light performance, dynamic range, depth of field, and field of view. So it’s the first thing to consider.
- Low Light Performance: Larger sensors perform better in low light conditions, capturing more light and reducing noise.
- Dynamic Range: A camera with a larger sensor often has a wider dynamic range, allowing for more detail in shadows and highlights.
- Depth of Field: Sensor size influences depth of field, with larger sensors having a sharper line between background blur and focus.
- Field of View: The same lens will provide a wider field of view on a camera with a larger sensor.
- Image Quality: Larger sensors can produce sharper images with finer detail, which is essential for high-resolution video.
Lens Mount and Lens Selection
In choosing a 5K or 6K video camera, you should also consider the lens mount system, as it dictates the range and compatibility of lenses available for use with the camera.
A robust ecosystem ensures a broad spectrum of lens compatibility, from versatile zoom lenses with extensive zoom range to high-quality prime lenses known for their superior sharpness and lens speed.
Check out this guide to affordable cinema lenses.
The latter is crucial for professionals seeking to capture crisp images in low-light conditions without sacrificing image integrity.
Check out if third-party lens manufacturers such as Sigma, Meike, Laowa, or Sirui make lenses for the mount.
The latest camera lens mounts from Panasonic, Sony, and Canon are as follows:
- L-Mount: Panasonic Leica and Sigma are part of the L-Mount Alliance. The L-Mount is used for full-frame mirrorless cameras, such as the Panasonic Lumix S series.
- E-Mount: Sony’s E-Mount remains their primary lens mount for their APS-C sensor cameras (like the Sony α6000 series) and full-frame mirrorless cameras (like the Sony α7 and α9 series).
- RF Mount: Canon’s RF Mount is the latest lens mount for their full-frame mirrorless cameras, the Canon EOS R series, and is also used on cameras like the RED Komodo. This mount was introduced in 2018, and Canon has been expanding its lineup of RF lenses since then.
- RF-S Mount: Canon introduced a new lens mount category in 2022 called RF-S, explicitly designed for their APS-C sensor mirrorless cameras in the EOS R system. However, it’s important to note that RF-S lenses are compatible with the RF mount but are optimized for cameras with APS-C sensors.
Lens mount adapters
You should also consider the availability of mount adapters that can expand the camera’s compatibility with various lenses, potentially bridging proprietary gaps.
However, this may sometimes come at the cost of automated functions such as auto-focus and electronic aperture control.
Also, remember that you’ll get more lens choices – fx if you’re adapting vintage lenses – with a Super 35 sensor because many lenses will cause vignetting on full-frame sensors.
Modern digital video cameras offer various frame rate options for shooting scenarios, creative preferences, and output standards.
If slow-motion is important, check whether your camera crops in when shooting higher-frame rates.
It might very well be, that your camera can shoot fx 6K in 120 fps, but will crop in to 4K or even 2K when shooting in 240 fps or above.
You should also check what codec is available for higher framerates because you might have to sacrifice 12-bit and 10-bit colors if you crank up those frames per second.
Here is a list of common frame rates found in new cameras:
- 24 fps (frames per second) – The traditional frame rate for cinema. It often achieves a cinematic, film-like motion blur and look.
- 25 fps – The standard frame rate for PAL (Phase Alternating Line) television broadcasts in many countries outside of North America.
- 30 fps (29.97 fps) – A common frame rate for NTSC video (National Television System Committee) used in North America and parts of Asia. It provides smoother motion than 24 fps and is often used for television and online video content.
- 50 fps – A higher frame rate is often used in PAL regions for sports broadcasts or slow-motion effects when the footage is back at 25 fps.
- 60 fps (59.94 fps) – Similar to 50 fps but for NTSC regions. It’s used to capture smoother motion for sports, action scenes, or slow-motion playback when shown at 30 fps.
- 120 fps – A high frame rate used for smooth slow-motion playback. When footage shot at this frame rate is played back at 30 fps, it provides a 4x slow-motion effect.
- 240 fps and above – Very high frame rates used for extreme slow-motion effects. Some specialized cameras or high-end models can shoot at 480 fps, 960 fps, or even higher for ultra-slow-motion video.
- Variable frame rates – Many cameras can shoot at variable frame rates, allowing videographers to select a wide range of frame rates, often between 1 fps and the camera’s maximum frame rate.
It’s important to note that while these are common frame rates, not all cameras will offer all of these options.
High-end cinema and specialized high-speed cameras will generally provide the widest selection of frame rates, including very high frame rates for slow-motion footage.
Consumer cameras, mirrorless cameras, and even smartphones may offer a more limited selection but typically include several common frame rates for video recording.
Image stabilization technology is paramount when selecting a 5K or 6K video camera. It significantly enhances footage quality by reducing unwanted shake and motion blur.
Mirrorless cameras often include different types of image stabilization, fx O.I.S. (optical image stabilization), IBIS (in-body image stabilization), and hybrid systems that combine both.
Action cameras traditionally rely on electronic image stabilization, which isn’t very good, but including gyro data in the latest GoPro cameras has improved this immensely.
Mirrorless hybrid cameras come with both autofocus technologies for photo and video.
Action cameras and even your phone have similar technologies built in.
Cinema cameras – for the most part – don’t have autofocus, and must rely on external means for pulling focus, although this has begun to change.
If autofocus is important to you, you should know that not all autofocus technologies are build the same.
For video, you want continous autofocus, which is the ability to track your object in real time. Not all technologies do this equally well though.
Most new cameras, especially those targeted toward professionals and prosumers, support a variety of recording formats.
Here’s a list of some common recording formats.
- AVCHD (Advanced Video Coding High Definition): A common format in consumer camcorders.
- MP4 (MPEG-4 Part 14): A widely used digital multimedia format that can store video, audio, subtitles, and images.
- MOV (QuickTime File Format): A multimedia container format developed by Apple and often used in the professional video industry.
- MXF (Material Exchange Format): A professional video and audio container format designed for professional digital video and audio media.
Compressed and uncompressed formats balance image quality and data storage requirements.
High-fidelity RAW recording, such as BRAW or ProRes RAW, captures the purest data directly from the sensor, offering unparalleled flexibility in color grading and editing.
However, it demands discernment regarding internal vs external recording capabilities. Cameras that enable internal RAW recording save the need for additional external recorders, streamlining the production process.
Recording codecs impact file sizes and compatibility with editing software. Always anticipate the implications of each recording format on your production’s efficiency and final output quality.
Here’s a list of some common codecs:
- H.264/AVC (Advanced Video Coding): A highly efficient codec that is widely used for recording, compression, and distribution of video content.
- H.265/HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding): The successor to H.264, offering improved compression efficiency, which is especially beneficial for 4K and higher resolution video.
- ProRes: A line of intermediate codecs developed by Apple for high-quality, high-performance editing in video post-production.
- DNxHD/DNxHR (Digital Nonlinear Extensible High Definition / High Resolution): Avid’s family of codecs designed for professional video editors, with DNxHR supporting resolutions higher than 1080p.
- XAVC: A codec introduced by Sony that supports 4K resolution and is based on H.264/AVC.
- RAW Formats: Such as Canon’s Cinema RAW Light, Blackmagic RAW, REDCODE RAW, and Apple ProRes RAW. These formats offer maximum flexibility in post-production by providing uncompressed or lightly compressed sensor data.
- MPEG-2: An older codec that is still used in some broadcasting and DVD production workflows.
- VP9: An open and royalty-free video coding format developed by Google.
- AV1: A newer, royalty-free codec designed for video transmissions over the internet and developed by the Alliance for Open Media.
- PCM (Pulse Code Modulation): An uncompressed audio format that offers high quality at the cost of larger file sizes.
- AAC (Advanced Audio Coding): A lossy codec that provides good audio quality at a lower bit rate than PCM.
- Dolby Digital (AC-3): A common format for DVDs, Blu-ray discs, and streaming services.
- Dolby Atmos: An advanced audio codec for immersive, 3D audio experiences.
It’s important to note that the availability of these formats and codecs can vary greatly depending on the camera model and brand.
Professional and cinema cameras will often support a wider range of high-quality codecs and formats, including various RAW workflows, while consumer cameras are more likely to support highly compressed formats such as AVCHD or MP4 using H.264 or H.265 codecs.
Always check the specifications of the specific camera model for the supported formats and codecs.
Selecting the appropriate storage media is a critical decision when purchasing a 5K or 6K video camera, as it directly affects your workflow and the camera’s capabilities.
Here are key considerations:
- External storage options: Assess if your production will benefit from external recorders or SSDs for enhanced capacity and flexibility.
- Compatibility with existing gear: Verify that the storage media aligns with your current equipment ecosystem for a seamless integration.
- Durability and reliability: Opt for media that can withstand the rigors of fieldwork and safeguard your footage.
- Speed and transfer rates: Ensure the media can handle the camera’s data throughput for smooth recording and efficient post-production workflows.
- Cost-effectiveness: Balance budget constraints with the need for high-quality, high-capacity storage solutions that don’t compromise performance.
When considering battery life in cinema cameras and mirrorless video cameras, several factors must be considered.
Here are some common considerations, along with examples of battery types and their uses, as well as their pros and cons:
- Usage: Commonly used in Canon DSLRs and mirrorless cameras such as the EOS R series.
- Pros: Compact, widely available, and relatively inexpensive. They can also be swapped out quickly.
- Cons: Limited capacity means more frequent changes and interruptions during long shoots.
NP-F Series (Sony L-Series):
- Usage: Popular in Sony cameras and many video accessories like LED lights and external monitors.
- Pros: Versatile and available in various capacities. They are also quite affordable and can be used across multiple devices.
- Cons: Larger capacities can be bulkier and may not provide enough power for more demanding cinema cameras.
- Usage: Used in professional cinema cameras from brands like RED (although the RED Komodo works with Canon BP type batteries), ARRI, and Blackmagic, and also for powering high-end monitors and lights.
- Pros: High capacity, providing long run times suitable for professional film shoots. They feature a secure locking mechanism and can power multiple devices at once.
- Cons: Expensive, heavy, and large, making them less ideal for run-and-gun or handheld shooting.
- Measured in watt-hours (Wh), a higher capacity usually means longer run times before swapping or recharging batteries. However, higher capacity can also mean greater size and weight.
Size and Weight:
- Smaller and lighter batteries are preferred for handheld or gimbal work, where added weight can hinder. Larger batteries are better suited for stationary camera setups.
- Budget can significantly influence the choice of batteries. High-capacity professional batteries like V-Mounts are costly but necessary for high-end production work.
- How quickly a battery can be recharged is important, especially when working with a limited number of batteries on set.
Battery Life Indicator:
- A reliable indicator showing remaining battery life is crucial to prevent unexpected power loss during filming.
- Some batteries can power additional accessories such as lights, monitors, and audio equipment, which is a significant advantage on set.
- Battery performance can degrade in extreme temperatures. It’s important to consider the shooting environment when selecting batteries.
- Travel restrictions for lithium-ion batteries can affect transportation. Batteries above a certain capacity may not be allowed in carry-on luggage.
Brand and Generic Options:
- While brand-name batteries often offer reliability and optimization for the camera, third-party manufacturers might provide more cost-effective alternatives. However, generic versions may not offer the same quality or reliability.
- The number of charge cycles before a battery loses its capacity significantly is crucial, especially for those who shoot frequently.
Consider your needs and weigh them against the price. Also, consider the cost of accessories to get the camera ready for shooting.
Mirrorless cameras are ready to shoot right out of the box, especially if the camera came with a kit lens included when you bought it.
The same is mostly true for the Blackmagic Cinema Pocket cameras, although they don’t have image stabilization and are a bit clunky compared to mirrorless hybrid cameras.
Action cameras also come ready to shoot out of the box. However, you’ll probably want accessories so you can mount it to whatever you want to mount it to.
Cinema cameras are another world; you must factor in many accessories you’d expect to include in mirrorless hybrid cameras.
Plus, everything is more expensive – from the storage media, the lenses, the camera cage, and the cables to the batteries.
An exception is the Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 12K, which you can actually use right out of the box. But it’s not a budget-friendly option in itself.
Five of the best 5K and 6K cameras are affordable. The next step is the RED Komodo – the entry-level camera in the RED ecosystem – or the Blackmagic 12K.
The increased accessibility of 5K, 6K, and even 8K video to independent filmmakers is awesome. It unlocks many interesting techniques that were previously not possible on low budgets.
If you typically work in 4K and have been annoyed that you can’t crop your footage, there is now a solution.
Additionally, if you’re an independent filmmaker looking for maximum control over framing, it’s now possible to do so while editing.
That said, there are always things that can never be resolved in post-production. So, even with these incredible cameras, it’s important to plan your shoot, focus on lighting, and have a great story.