As 2021 draws to a close rumors about the new camera models capable of capturing moving images in 8K resolution are starting to pile up. A few years have passed since Guardians of Galaxy Vol. 2, the first full-feature movie shot in 8K was released, but in the meantime, only a few 8K cameras have emerged.
The industry-leading camera manufacturers like RED, Sharp or Ikegami have already released 8K cameras, but their prices are still too high for most cinematographers. So in this article, we are going to take a look closer look at some of the best 8k cameras you can find on the market in 2021 and see what they have to offer.
The resolution determines the maximum quality of pictures a video camera can capture. Each frame an 8K camera records can either have 7680 or 8192 pixels on the longer side of the frame and between 2160 and 8192 pixels on the shorter side of the frame depending on the video’s aspect ratio. Commonly an 8K video with the standard 16:9 aspect ratio has 33.9 million pixels or a resolution of 7680x4320 pixels.
It is worth noting that the resolution of still images is different than the video resolution, as it is measured in megapixels. Technically, any camera that has more than 25 MP can capture photos that have 7680x3200 pixels, which means that models like Hasselblad X1D II 50C or Canon EOS 5DS R can already take photos that have the same number of pixels like 8K videos. However, these medium format cameras cannot record videos in 8K resolution.
8K video cameras function on the same principle as 4K or Full HD cameras as they utilize a lens and a sensor to record images on the camera’s memory card. Currently, the size of the files 8K cameras produce is one of the major reasons why cinematographers are still reluctant to embrace them since 40 minutes of footage can take up to 2 terabytes of storage space.
The images recorded with 8K cameras can be used for live broadcasts, in cinemas or they can be displayed on 8K television sets. Even so, 4K and Full HD videos are still the industry standard and it remains to be seen if 8K technology is going to change that.
Which Aspects Should You Consider When Choosing an 8K Camera?
How Much Is An 8K Camera?
At the moment only professional cinematographers have any reason to purchase an 8K camera, as the price of the least expensive models varies between $24,000 and $50,000. To make matters worse, the difference between 4K and 8K footage is only visible on TV sets and monitors that can display videos that are recorded in 8K resolution.
Which parameters should consider in choosing 8K camera?
During the process of selecting an 8K camera you must go through the list of features, and check which sensor the camera has, how much storage space it offers or find out its maximum frame rate. Most of the 8K camera models can capture footage at 60fps, although their bit rates can vary, which impacts the speed at which data is transferred. Furthermore, you should pay attention to the camera’s lens mount type, since you must also acquire lenses for the 8K camera you are considering.
In case you are looking for a camera, you can use for broadcasting the speed at which the camera transfers the data or its SDI output are among the most important features you should consider, while if you are searching for a camera you will be using to shoot movies you must look into features like the maximum frame rate, camera’s shutter speed or the storage capacity.
Best 8K Cameras on the Market in 2021
Even though 8K cameras have been on the market for the larger part of this decade, there are only a handful of models to choose from in 2021. Furthermore, most of the 8K camera models are too expensive, as it is still much more affordable to rent them than to purchase them. Here’s what some of the most prestigious camera manufacturers have to offer when it comes to 8K cameras.
The rumors that Canon is working on its first 8K camera surfaced in early 2019, but as the year’s end approaches it is still unclear when and if the manufacturer will present its first 8K camera to the world. The Canon’s first 8K full-frame camera should have a CMOS sensor that resembles the Super 35mm sensor, although the exact specifications are still not available to the public.
Image resource: Cannon
This camera should be capable of recording 8K footage at 60 fps, as well as 4K footage at 120 fps, but whether or not this will turn out to be true still remains to be seen. However, a number of Canon’s models are already equipped with 50MP sensors that can capture still images in resolutions that go as high as 8712 x 5813 or record videos in 4K resolution at 60fps.
Models like EOS 5DS or EOS R, are powerful enough to enable you to take still images at resolutions that resemble those provided by 8K cameras. However, the exact date when Canon is going to unveil their first 8K camera is still not known, but if any of the rumors are true it could easily happen that we are going to see the Canon’s first 8K camera in 2020.
Even though Nikon is one of the leading camera manufacturers in the world, there are still no 8K Nikon cameras. After Apple’s WWDC event information surfaced that Nikon is developing a new 8K model, but this information has been dismissed as false soon after the event.
At the moment the Nikon D850 is the closest to an 8K camera this manufacturer has to offer since this 47.5 MP camera can record time-lapses in 8K resolution, although only by combining the footage captured with two D850 models.
Image resource: Nikon
This Nikon’s camera has also 7fps continuous shooting mode as well as the capability to record 4K UHD videos at 30, 25 and 24 fps. Nikon D850 has an FX CMOS sensor that can capture images that have 8256 x 5504 pixels and the ISO sensitivity that ranges from ISO 64 to ISO 25,600.
The camera is compatible with G, E, and D AF Nikkor lenses as well as DX and AI-P lenses, which provides you with enough versatility to shoot virtually any scene you want. Whether or not Nikon is going to add 8K cameras to their assortment of products is not yet clear, and it may be a while until one of the largest camera manufacturers in the industry releases its first 8K camera.
A few years ago, Sharp introduced 8C-B60A, the world’s first 8K camcorder and a few years later there are only a few cameras that have the features that can be compared to those you can find on the 8C-B60A camcorder.
The Super 35mm equivalent single-plate CMOS sensor has approximately 33 million pixels, while the quad-link 12G-SDI output terminal enables capturing and broadcasting footage live while the recording session is still in progress.
8C-B60A can record 8K 10-bit videos at 60fps, although you can set the frame rate to 50, 30 or 24fps. The camcorder is also equipped with a 2TB SSD pack that can store up to 40 minutes of 8K footage and it offers the possibility to use the SDHC card for proxy recording. 8C-B60A utilizes the Grass Valley HQX Codec to compress the raw video files at a 6 Gbps compression rate.
It features two AUDIO IN XLR type 3 pins and one MIC IN XLR type 5 pin. The camcorder doesn’t have batteries and it is powered through a 130W 13V DC output AC/DC adapter XLR 4-pin. The Sharp’s 8C-B60A 8K camcorder is undoubtedly one of the best 8K cameras you can buy in 2021, despite the hefty price tag.
Professional cinematographers don’t need an introduction to Sony’s cameras, as the Japanese camera manufacturer has been at the forefront of the digital camera market for decades. Their F65 CineAlta was released in 2016, but it is still one of the best 8K cameras you can buy in 2021. This speaks volumes about the F65’s capabilities, much like the fact that professional cinematographers have nothing but praise for this Sony’s camera model.
Image resource: Sony
The 1-chip 20MP Super 35mm type 24.7mm X 13.1mm CMOS sensor enables you to capture videos in 8K, 4K or 2K resolutions. The camera’s PL lens mount is standard for all film cameras, which means that you won’t have too much trouble finding the lens you can use with F65 CineAlta.
The camera has 14 stops of exposure latitude, so if you are shooting RAW video files F65 will utilize the S-Log3/S-Gamut3 gamma curve to ensure accurate color depiction. In addition, this 8K camera can capture 275,000,000,000,000 color variations even while you are shooting in full resolution at 60fps. Unsurprisingly, F65 CineAlta costs more than $60.000, but it is still a great investment for all professional filmmakers in need of a camera that can deliver great performances regardless of the available light.
Ikegami is a well-known manufacturer of professional broadcast cameras, so it comes as no surprise that the first handheld 8K UHD Television Camera System was produced by this Japanese television equipment manufacturer. Their SHK-810 8K Super Hi-Vision Camera System features a Super 35mm 33 million-pixel CMOS Sensor as well as 4,000 TV lines which enables the camera to capture highly-detailed images.
Image resource: ikegami
This broadcast camera has a PL lens mount with a back-focus adjusting mechanism that helps the camera operator to keep the image sharp even while recording rapidly moving figures and objects. The SHK-810’s output signal features are equally impressive since you can choose between SHV Dual Green SDI Interface, 4K SMPTE 424M (3G-SDI) Level B and HD SMPTE 292M options.
In addition, you can choose between 2-channel x 4K and 4-channel HD return signals or opt for Tri-Level Sync or VBS external sync signals. However, SHK-810 is bulky and heavy, as it weighs 9kg or 19.6 lbs without a viewfinder which makes it difficult to use without a tripod during events that last for several hours. Moreover, the camera is aimed at large television networks rather than filmmakers and cinematographers, and at the moment Ikegami doesn’t offer any 8K camera models that are designed for filmmaking purposes.
The list of TV shows and movies shot on RED cameras is seemingly endless and it includes some of the best movies made over the last ten years. Models like Monstro 8K VV, Helium 8K S35Helium 8K S35 Monochrome are all modular DSMC2 cameras that can be used with different types of lenses. Each of these 8K cameras has a 35.4 MP CMOS sensor, however, the size of the sensor depends on the model. All RED’s 8K DSMC2 cameras can write data at 300 MB/s and they have an incredibly high dynamic range that varies from 16.5+ to 17+ stops, which enables them to capture a broad spectrum of colors.
Image resource: red
Furthermore, each of the Red’s 8K cameras can record 8K videos at 60fps while they also offer the possibility to capture 7K, 6K, 5K or 4K videos at different frame rates. In addition, these modular cameras are equipped with the Apple ProRes codecs that ensure high image quality throughout the video recording and editing processes.
The body of an 8K Red camera can cost between $24,000 and $50,000 which makes these cameras available only to professional film and TV productions. It is also worth noting that the footage captured with any of the 8K RED camera models can be edited in only a handful of professional video editing software products.
2021 is going to be an exciting time to shop for a new camera, although your choices are still going to be limited if you would like to buy an 8K camera. Red, Sharp or Sony are going to continue to be the best option for cinematographers who want to shoot their footage in 8K resolution, even though it is highly unlikely that the prices of 8K cameras are going to go down in the foreseeable future.
In addition, Canon and Nikon only offer 50 MP cameras that can capture still images that have the same amount of pixels as 8K videos, but there are no indications that these manufacturers are going to release new models that can record 8K videos. Which 8K camera are you planning to get in 2021? Leave a comment and let us know.
Max Wales is a writer and a lover of all things video.
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