Comparing the 10 Best 4K Cameras for Live Streaming in 2021
Table of Contents
With the growth of professional broadcasting, the demand for high-quality cameras is greater than ever. This is especially important since video quality affects the users’ experience.
In this post, we will review the top ten best 4K cameras for live streaming. There are a lot of 4K cameras on the market, but not all of them are suitable to stream live video. We’re going to look at several different types of cameras with different use cases, so there’s a camera here for everyone.
This post is specific to 4K HD streaming has been updated to reflect the best 4K streaming cameras available in June 2021.
Table of Contents
- What is a 4K Streaming Camera?
- Features to Look for in a 4K Streaming Camera
- Best 4K Cameras for Streaming
- Encoder Settings for 4K Live Streaming
What is a 4K Streaming Camera?
A 4K streaming camera is one of the most recently perfected capturing technologies in the world of videography and broadcasting. The “4K” is short for 4000, which is the maximum resolution these cameras can capture. 4K cameras can produce television-quality broadcasts.
Many cameras fall into this category which means there are tons of options for every need. As we mentioned, the growing broadcasting industry comes with the need for reliable, high-quality cameras. Due to this demand, 4K live streaming is becoming more and more important.
In addition to this demand, there are a few reasons we expect to see an explosion of 4K live streaming soon. The two biggest reasons are AV1 and 5G.
AV1 is a newer video codec that aims to resolve the licensing issues of HEVC. AV1 is progressing towards being production-ready and will provide the best alternative to H.264 and HEVC in the near future.
The second factor that makes 4K live streaming ready to shine is the rise of 5G internet. The coming 5G cellular networks will provide speeds roughly 100 times faster than the best available 4G LTE networks. And they’re already rolling out to consumers.
Although 4K streaming cameras are currently the most standard options for ultra-high-definition streaming, 5K streaming technology is slowly emerging.
Features to Look for in a 4K Streaming Camera
Since broadcasting looks a little bit different for each broadcaster, there is not one single best streaming camera. However, there are a few common features to look out for.
The first thing to look out for is the quality of the video the camera can produce. 4K streaming is great at this point, but we’re teetering on the brink of 5K streaming. Look for at least 4K streaming.
Next, look for battery life. You do not want your camera battery to die midstream, so you need to make sure that there is an AC power adapter that you can use to keep your streaming camera charged and ready to go.
It is also important to consider a camera’s run time. Some cameras have limits on the length of videos that they can capture, so you don’t want to risk your camera stopping before you’re ready to be done streaming.
Last but not least, make sure you choose a camera that is reliable for extended use and doesn’t overheat. You do not want your camera to become overworked and fail midstream.
Best 4K Cameras for Streaming
Determining the best 4K camera for live streaming is challenging. Since different types of live streams call for different types of cameras, there is not one single answer.
In this post, we’re going to look at the top 4K video cameras in different categories in order to help you find the camera that will best suit your streaming needs. In other words, we’re looking for the best average fit.
We’re going to look at some of the best cameras for live streaming in the following categories:
- Action camera
- Professional camcorders
- PTZ camera
Let’s start out by looking at a couple of options for 4K webcams.
1. Webcam: Logitech Brio Ultra HD
Since social distancing has become important, many presenters have been forced to move live events online in a matter of days or weeks.
Seminars, live streaming conferences, online lectures, graduations, sports drafts, and other live stream events have been broadcast over the past year, and presenters have been forced to tune in from the comfort of their home offices.
While these people may be professionals in their own industries, setting up a professional camera for live streaming may be difficult. Using a webcam is far more manageable and affordable in these scenarios.
The best 4K webcam for live streaming is the Logitech Brio Ultra HD. This camera is $199 and has everything beginner broadcasters need for a professional-grade stream.
Here are a few of its top features:
- 4K Ultra HD video calling (up to 4096 x 2160 pixels @ 30 fps)
- 5x zoom in Full HD
- Lighting support
- Pan, tilt, and zoom support
- Built-in microphones
- Privacy shutter
- Clip and tripod mounting options
- Supports USB 2.0 Type-A and USB 3.0 Type A and C connections
- Custom carrying case
2. Webcam: Sigma fp
As we mentioned, webcams are more important than ever because they allow professionals without elaborate streaming set up to reach their audiences in UHD.
The fp Series from Sigma is a highly capable streaming camera for broadcasters that are looking for a trusty webcam.
A few of the top features of the Sigma fp include:
- 4K streaming
- Continuous shooting for up to 2 hours
- HDMI external output
- Contrast detection and manual adjustments
- Image stabilization system
- Built-in flash
- Battery lasts 70 minutes while streaming
3. Entry-Level: Panasonic HC-VX981K
The best-selling entry-level 4K video camera on B&H Photo Video is the Panasonic HC-VX981K 4K Ultra HD Camcorder.
Currently priced at $797.99, this camera averages 4.5 stars from a couple of dozen reviews. It features a Leica Dicomar lens with a 20x optical zoom. In 35mm equivalent, the lens reaches 30.8mm on the wide end and will zoom in to more than 600mm.
Some features of this camera include:
- 1/2.3″ MOS, backside-illuminated 18.91-megapixel sensor
- Built-in 5-axis image stabilization
- HDR (High Dynamic Range) recording mode
- Records to SD cards
- Supports 49mm filters
- Micro-HDMI video out
- Support for external mic via 3.5mm jack
Check out some sample footage from this camera.
4. Action Camera: GoPro HERO9 Black
An action camera is small, durable, and ready for sports and hard use. They tend to be easily portable and record surprisingly good quality video.
Action cameras are incredibly useful whether you’re broadcasting from a studio, mounting a camera on a drone, or on a mountainside. They allow you to get shots that would simply be impossible with a full-size camera.
The best 4K camera for live streaming in this category is the GoPro HERO9 Black ($349.98). Although this camera is suitable for 4K streaming, it can actually capture videos in up to 5K.
The HERO includes a lot of great features such as the following:
- 4K and 5K video recording
- Built-in image stabilization (digital)
- Waterproof to 33ft.
- Touchscreen and voice controls
- Customizable ISO and other manual settings
- Preview via a smartphone app
- Supports external microphone via 3.5mm jack
- Compatible with dozens of accessories
- 20 mp photo capture
5. DSLR: Sony Alpha a7 III
Choosing a DSLR live streaming camera for live streaming makes sense for some users. If you have to use unusual lenses, or already have a great lens collection, it can be a good option.
A DSLR camera is good for users that prioritize still photography, but you want to be able to do 4K live streaming on the side. Either way, a DSLR is a great choice.
The best 4K camera with a DSLR form-factor is actually not a DSLR. It’s the Sony Alpha a7 III, a mirrorless camera.
The Alpha a7 III costs $1,998 for the body, but it includes a wide range of features useful for live streaming. These features include:
- 24.2-megapixel backside-illuminated CMOS sensor
- Full-frame 35mm equivalent
- ISO up to 204800
- 4K video up to 30 fps
- Silent autofocus
- Built-in 5-axis image stabilization
- Dual SD card slots
6. DSLR: Panasonic LUMIX DMC-G7 Mirrorless
The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-G7 mirrorless is another DSLR that is available for broadcasters for smaller budgets. This camera is $797.99, which is just a fraction of the cost of the other DSLR we’ve reviewed.
Since it is available at a lower price point, this camera is suitable for broadcasters who are just getting started.
Some notable features of this camera include:
- 4K streaming
- LCD display
- 1.4x viewfinder
- Integrated flash
- Audio recording
7. Professional Camcorder: Panasonic AG-CX350
There is a huge range of professional cameras available, different professionals will need different form factors and features.
By choosing two necessary features—support for SDI and XLR connections—we can provide a rock-solid choice in a mobile format suitable for most professional 4K live streaming.
Our pick is the Panasonic AG-CX350 4K Camcorder. With a price of $3,695, the AG-CX350 provides excellent image quality and expandability.
Here are some of the features of the AG-CX350:
- 4K recording up to 60fps
- 1″ MOS sensor
- 35mm-equivalent 24.5 to 490mm zoom lens, 20x optical zoom
- HEVC recording option
- 5-axis image stabilization
- Manual control rings for iris, focus, and zoom
- Two XLR mic connections
- 3G-SDI, HDMI, and Ethernet/NDI video outputs
- Intelligent autofocus setting
- Built-in live stream support, no need for an external encoder for one-camera streaming
8. Professional Camcorder: Panasonic HC-WXF991
The Panasonic HC-WXF991 is a professional camcorder that is capable of 4K streaming. It includes all of the features that broadcasters need to create a high-quality broadcast. This is a much cheaper alternative to the Panasonic AG-CX350.
Some of the top features of this camera include:
- 4K video streaming
- Tiltable viewfinder
- LEICA Dicomar lens
- Distortion suppression
- EVF and cinema-like effect
- Photo and video capture
- Picture-in-picture recording
This camera is no longer being made by Panasonic, but it is still being sold by a wide variety of vendors, including Adorama and Amazon. These sell for around $1000.
9. Digital Film Camera: Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro
The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro is a high-quality handheld camera that is capable of more than 4K streaming. This camera can shoot up to 6K, which is groundbreaking in the world of broadcasting.
This camera is available for $2,495.
Some of the top features of this camera include:
- 4K, 5K, and 6K streaming
- LCD touch screen
- Built-in microphone
- Supports a wide variety of codecs
- Color correcting tools
- Compatible with macOS and Windows
- 60-minute battery life
10. PTZ (Pan-Tilt-Zoom): Panasonic AW-UE150K
PTZ (Pan-Tilt-Zoom) cameras are designed to be permanently installed in concert halls, conference centers, churches, and similar venues. They can be remote-controlled, allowing a single engineer to lead a complex multi-camera shoot from a central booth.
Some of the top features of the AW-UE150K include:
- 4K output at 60 fps
- 1″ MOS sensor
- 20x optical zoom, with support for 24x optical + digital zoom while retaining 4K quality
- 12G-SDI, HDMI, Fiber, and IP outputs
- Built-in optical image stabilization
- Built-in ND filters
- Power-Over-Ethernet compatible
Encoder Settings for 4K Live Streaming
Once you’ve chosen a 4K camera for live streaming, it’s time to start setting up your live stream. Live streaming on your website requires more than just a good camera. One of the most important live streaming tools is a video encoder.
An encoder is a hardware or software tool that converts your 4K video signal into a streaming-compatible file format. It sends that video stream to your streaming platform, which distributes it to your audience in real-time.
Here are Dacast’s required encoder settings for 4K (or ultra-high-definition) live streaming via Dacast:
|VIDEO CODEC||H.264 (x264 may work)|
|FRAME RATE||25 or 30|
|KEYFRAME INTERVAL||2 secs (or 2x frame rate)|
|RATE CONTROL||Constant (CBR)|
|AUDIO BITRATE||128 kbps|
|AUDIO CHANNELS||2 (Stereo)|
|AUDIO SAMPLE RATE||48 kHz (48,000 Hz)|
Resolution & Bitrate Settings for 4K Streaming
In addition to the required encoder settings, here are the suggested video configurations for 4K streaming:
- Video Bitrate (kbps): 1900 – 4500
- Resolution Width (px): 1920
- Resolution Height (px): 1080
- H.264 Profile: High
Video tech is moving forward rapidly. Just a few years ago, 4K was a blip on the horizon. Now the future is here, and it’s time to move to 4K workflows if you haven’t done so already. Streaming with a 4K camera is more accessible than ever since as video quality gets higher and higher, prices for cutting-edge technology fall.
We hope this post has provided you with a useful introduction to the ten best 4K cameras available for live streaming today.
Please remember that a good camera isn’t the only thing you need for streaming. You also need a robust online video platform with support for 4K streaming. Here at Dacast, we support multi-bitrate streaming, global content delivery, and a range of other professional video hosting features.
Ready to give Dacast’s streaming solutions a try? Create a Dacast account to sign up for our 30-day free trial. No credit card required. We’ll have you up and streaming in a matter of minutes.
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