4K Video is the new rage in town, and as with when cameras went from SD to HD (yes I was around then) — the arguments for why you should upgrade really revolve around necessity vs. cost vs. desired output.

What I’d like to do with this post is take a look at a list of pros and cons for 4K video and let you decide what is right for you.

First, a caveat, I shot 4K this entire Spring and thus — have become well adapted to the 4K workflow. This has also caused me to experience many of the struggles and benefits first hand. Much of what I talk about are things I’ve experienced and are very real.

With that said, lets get to it.

Why You Shouldn’t Shoot 4K

  • Not many people can watch it — not many people will watch it in an environment which allows them to see the benefits. Here’s the deal, 4K is a huge deal for content creators going forward, for content consumers I’m not as sold on it. First, you need a HUGE TV to really get the full effect. The smaller your screen (most computer screens fit this), the less of an effect the extra resolution in the video has for you. In fact, the resolution could work against you on smaller screens with increased moire.
  • The Hardware Requirements. Whatever you are storing and editing video on for 1080, it’ll almost certainly not be enough for 4K. Video at 4K requires quite a lot of horsepower, and my five year old iMac has struggled with it a few times this year. Almost certainly, you will have to upgrade your hardware or buy more storage to work with 4K.
  • You’ll need faster cards. Most likely, you own SD cards which won’t shoot video at 4K. That means you need to upgrade to the UHS-3 cards. Again this is a hidden cost which you have to take into account.
  • Much of the 4K video being shot by cameras won’t compare to the 4K being shot in a few years. As with the early days of HD, 4K technology still isn’t where it could be. If you are happy with your camera, why upgrade? Better cameras will be here in a couple of years at the same price points (and today’s will be cheaper).
  • Editing Fast is Almost Not an Option. Need to offload video and get it somewhere in a pinch? Almost certainly that won’t happen with 4K. Good luck with that and all of those sayings.

Why You Should Shoot 4K

  • If you plan to grade your footage, 4K offers a lot more room to work. Grading footage is incredible. The extra space and room to work really gives you A LOT of latitude. Pulling up shadows or pulling down highlights, fine adjustments to color, etc. is just so much better at 4K than 1080p.
  • Your footage will simply look better, especially downscaled to 1080p. I would estimate a 15-30% improvement in IQ across the board for my 4K shots vs. the 1080p shots I used to get. They’re sharper, have moe detail, and generally just look better.
  • You can capture stills that are 8mp large. 4K video is the equivalent of shooting 24-30-60 JPG stills a second. Filming a tornado and a lightning strike or power flash happens right before your eyes? You can get that still and edit it like any other still and put it up on the web — and it will look great. 4K Stills are not a replacement for RAW shooting, but they’re good enough that you should opt for video if the choice is ever video is stills so you can ensure you are getting both at the same time.
  • You future proof footage. We are heading towards a 4K and eventually 8K future. That means that shooting video in 4K now means you will have footage which looks better in the future. Upgrading earlier has its benefits in that regard.
  • At least for one more year, your footage will have some novelty. Hey, some people are into this. Your footage having some novelty and a built in interest isn’t anything to scoff at. If you are the type of person that likes to put (xyz tornado in 4K!) in your video titles, that’s as good as any reason to go 4K.

The Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, the convenience and cost questions are the biggest factor. I upgraded my cards, bought a new 5TB HDD, and had a computer that while old, was fast enough to edit proxy files. Doing that allowed me to put together TT Season 4 at about the same clip I’ve always put together TT productions.

The future is in 4K and 8K video, and the sooner you begin shooting at the higher resolutions the sooner you’ll be on the future train and have stock video which will be marketable (if you are into that).

If you are pinched for cash, don’t have the hardware, etc. — its not necessary to upgrade to 4K just yet and probably won’t be for a couple more years. If you have the cash, have the hardware (or can have it) then I say go for it.

I’m a big time fan of 4K, and think that someday soon, you will be too.