Is 4K Video Even Worth It? These Test Results May Surprise You

Aug 17, 2015

Allen Mowery

Allen Mowery is a Nationally-published Commercial & Editorial Photographer with over 20 years of experience. He has shot for major brands as well small clients. When not shooting client work or chasing overgrown wildlife from his yard, he loves to capture the stories of the people and culture around him.

Is 4K Video Even Worth It? These Test Results May Surprise You

Aug 17, 2015

Allen Mowery

Allen Mowery is a Nationally-published Commercial & Editorial Photographer with over 20 years of experience. He has shot for major brands as well small clients. When not shooting client work or chasing overgrown wildlife from his yard, he loves to capture the stories of the people and culture around him.

Join the Discussion

Share on:

4k-video-worth-it

A trending topic right now across the photography world is 4K video and the amazing quality that cameras such as the Sony A7s II and Panasonic GH4 can produce.  But, along with this, many people seem to be giving off the vibe that anything less than 4K is simply amateurish.  So, is 4K video all it’s cracked up to be, or is it just an over-hyped ploy?

The guys at LinusTechTips decided to take that question head-on, testing native 4K, 1080p, and “up-sampled” 4K video to see what the truth may be.  The results vary just a bit, but the conclusion of their experiment is not what I was expecting.

YouTube video

A Few Highlights

What the team was trying to determine was the practical application of 4K video.  Is it better than 1080p?  Does it provide better playback online?  Do genies magically pop out of your video editor and freely grant wishes?

Shooting on a GH4:

  • They were unable to find any distinguishable difference between footage recorded as native 4K and 1080p.
  • Up-sampling 1080p to 4K in post-production produced the same visual results as shooting native 4K footage.
  • Down-sampling 4K to 1080p produced no distinguishable results.

Shooting on a Sony FS700:

  • Only when shooting with a professional-grade 4K camera were they able to find any difference in quality between 4K and 1080p footage.

4K on YouTube

How do these findings translate to footage uploaded to YouTube?

  • Shooting 1080p footage on a 1080p camera “will not result in a degraded experience for your viewers.”
  • The only real “benefits of your fancy [4K] camera are better green screen performance and better color grading” options in post-production.
  • “Up-sampling to 4K for your final export is worth the extra file size and extra rendering time,” says Linus.  This is due to the fact that when YouTube detects a 4K resolution, they will offer a 4K quality setting which results in a higher bitrate and, therefor, sharper image quality on both native 1080p and 4K footage.
  • “4K YouTube delivers a higher bitrate no matter what resolution your monitor is.”

Conclusion

Linus advises online content creators to not become too focused on the 4K debate “or resolution in general,” for that matter.  According to him, 4K entry-level cameras do not produce the same quality “as their 4K, pro-grade brethren”…much like a 12MP point-and-shoot doesn’t produce the same quality as a 12MP full-frame camera.  And, surprisingly, most professionals who shoot in 4K are simply doing it for more post-production flexibility when creating their 1080p final product.

So, which do I choose?

If you are looking for better video quality, Linus’ advocates putting your money into a higher-quality 1080p camera because there are more variables that affect video quality than simply resolution.  And, in the end, the story/content and how its presented far outweighs a simple increase in pixel density.

[via Reddit]

Filed Under:

Tagged With:

Find this interesting? Share it with your friends!

Allen Mowery

Allen Mowery

Allen Mowery is a Nationally-published Commercial & Editorial Photographer with over 20 years of experience. He has shot for major brands as well small clients. When not shooting client work or chasing overgrown wildlife from his yard, he loves to capture the stories of the people and culture around him.

Join the Discussion

DIYP Comment Policy
Be nice, be on-topic, no personal information or flames.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

2 responses to “Is 4K Video Even Worth It? These Test Results May Surprise You”

  1. theSUBVERSIVE Avatar
    theSUBVERSIVE

    For online content creator 4K is really not a must have and I don’t even know if they are really questioning themselves about it but 4K is really not for non-video focused people in general. But highlighting it that way it gives the impression that 4K doesn’t offer benefits in general. As Linus said 4K does offer quite some benefits for video, more pixel=more info=better color grading, it also gives you 1080p flexibility for crop, digital pan, chroma key, etc. But I find it odd that he said that he found no visual difference between downscaled 4K 1080p vs the native 1080p and upscaled 1080p 4K vs 4K since I’ve seen several tests that do show the difference. Anyway, in general advances tech hardly makes much difference for the average user, even more in such early days.

  2. Mark Avatar
    Mark

    The sensor size and lens makes a big difference but the bitrate plays a big part in the appearance of the playback. Much more difference than say running 24fps instead of 30. Too low a bitrate can make your HD footage look like VHS.