Full HD Panasonic HC-W858 and 4k Panasonic HC-VX870

I was walking around the Mega Media store in Heidelberg, Germany looking to buy a new camcorder for my upcoming film project traveling the world with a vacuum cleaner
“So should I buy the Full HD Panasonic HC-W858, or the 4k Panasonic HC-VX870?” I asked the sales attendant. 

“Well, you have ask yourself what you’re doing with the camera, and remember the camera is only one part of the complete media package. You will need a 4K monitor to play it on and 4K SD cards cost twice as much as HD SD cards, and the technology isn’t quite up to being perfected yet,” said the associate with a thick German accent.

4K is only the resolution of the sensor capturing the data and the file storage, transfer and processing units also have to be upgraded to make sure the whole media package works flawlessly together. Most all movies, TV and the Internet, with a few exceptions, use HD (1920 x 1080) as the standard resolution format.

There are many different manufactures of 4K camcorders that use their own technologies, which are created for specific workflows and distribution. There are also currently two types of 4K: DCI (Digital Cinema Initiative) using 4096 x 2160 pixels with an aspect ratio of 17:9, which is what cinema projectors use, and UHD, using 3840 x 2160 pixels with an aspect ratio of 16:9, which is what most TVs use.

4K is only the resolution of the sensor capturing the data and the file storage, transfer and processing units also have to be upgraded to make sure the whole media package works flawlessly together.

Some other variables to consider when thinking about making the move to 4K is what content is already available in 4K? Right now only Netflix, Amazon, Sony and a new network called HIGHT TV offer limited content with large files sometimes creating problems for consumer broadband connections. Since 2013, YouTube has offered videos to be uploaded and viewed at 4K using Google’s video converter, VP9 compressor, moving away from High Efficiency Video Coding or HEVC. 4K platforms are growing, but there aren’t currently enough to convince me to convert to a 4K workflow as an independent producer.

It’s true that if you shoot with a 4K camera, you can down convert the footage into HD and it will actually turn out better than traditional HD, but the change is minimal to my eyes.

In the end, I decided to purchase the Panasonic Full HD HC-W858 instead of the Panasonic 4K HC-VX870, mostly because I was on a budget and I would need to purchase expensive media cards to store the larger files and my 2009 MacBook running OS X would not be able to process this much data. I’ll to wait to get a 4K camcorder when there is a standardized format and the footage becomes easier to store, share, compress, convert and watch on a variety of displays.

I presume 4K will be the norm within the next 5-15 years, as technology takes time to completely infiltrate the marketplace and become common use. I’m super excited to see 4K catch up and become the norm — until we have 8K, then holograms, digital reality, Google Glass… And who knows what then: Dream Cameras? Or movie space suits where your whole body is hooked up so you become part of the film? We’ll have to wait and see.

For now, I’m sticking with 1080p.

Willow Jon has traveled to more than 12 countries to create short videos, play music, and live the dream. 

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10 COMMENTS

  1. I have the droid turbo, which shoots 4k. I thought, great, I can shoot 4k. Let me see what it looks like. Well, my monitor is 1080, my phone won’t play back the 4k files, and my computer wouldn’t play them either. But, I sure can take some 4k shots. Its overrated, and its unlikely to take off. Mainly because the whole infrastructure is not built for it. πŸ™

  2. 4K is not a novelty, gimmick, or passing fancy. Do you *need* it to make great video, no. Will it help you make great video, yes.

    One of the biggest arguments against shooting in 4K is lack of playback devices. Do you need a 4K display/monitor to benefit? Absolutely not. The real value is in the data it captures and the flexibility it gives you in your production workflow.

    Adobe Premier, FinalCut, and even iMovie can work with 4K files and provide deeper, richer and “truer” colors – even when down converted. More pixels means more data, and digital format is ALL about the data. The Author may not have been able to tell the difference (he never does detail the test he performed to arrive at his conclusions) – but the differences are visually noticeable.

    I shoot fast paced sports video – 4K is a huge benefit. It captures a level of detail traditional HD cameras do not. It has made the inevitable highlight reel much more engaging and the slow motion sequences are crisper when slowed to 240fps than any HD clip I have worked with.

    As with everything – your budget should dictate your choice. However, if 4K is an option – get it. There were a number of additional arguments the author makes against 4K – media cost, storage requirements, etc. The media required for 4K is roughly 10% more per GB – not enough to base your 4K decision on. The storage requirements are more realistic – 4K files are roughly 2X an equivalent HD file, but the value is well worth the expense if it is in your budget.

    As for the comment about the 4K Droid Turbo experience – let me just close by saying you get what you pay for, my iPhone 6s produces amazing 4K video for a mobile device.

  3. Right now the biggest advantage of 4K is headroom. If you have an editor that can process 4K then you have the luxury of doing post production zoom and scene cropping without loosing image quality. With normal human visual acuity you need an 80 inch screen to see the flaws in 1080p. Obviously if you are shooting for cinematic release you should go with 4K. It’s all about what you are trying to do and who or what is your audience.

  4. Yes 4K is here to stay, but it’s not quite there yet. Yes, you can take great footage in 4K and downsize, but that’s not enough for me right now. When the media world catches up over the next couple years, then I’ll sling the cash for 4K, right now I can do fine without it. And being that I’m on a budget, I have nothing but time to save up for a great 4K camera by the time the rest of the media world is ready to deliver it with ease to the general populace.

  5. Besides, I have never had a client say they wanted 4K, much less be willing to pay for the upgrade from 1080. Why would I want to spend all that money when it gets me absolutely nothing in return? Of course, as this article says, someday we will migrate to 4K, but that day is not here yet.

  6. Okay not always, but shooting 4K and re-sizing shots in post means we end up with more options. It’s like we shot more footage than we actually did. It can be really useful when shooting quick interviews – jumping in and out in post lets us cut it anyway we like quickly. One other thought, I remember the introduction of HD it seemed to take ages for the format to catch on, but then suddenly everything went HD and SD was redundant overnight.

  7. I brought my first 4K kamera last year. The Sony AX-33 which is a kind of customer camera. I have not regreted one secound. I use Sony Vegas for editing. It takes a few minutes to let the program load proxies of the full footage, but then it is just as easy to edit at regular HD footage, with the added benefit that you can croop or zoom in post, if you like, or need.
    All my videos so fra is made as regular HD since we not had have a 4K TV, but now we have ordred one, and it’s now under way. The good thing now is that I can now render most project as 4K project, to show on my new TV when it arrives.
    We have seen the difference in shops where we have put a USB in 4K TV’s to see, and it is quit a difference.
    4K will be the new standard in a year or two. So to buy a HD only camera now is not a good solution.
    I’m now ready to buy my next camera which will most likely be the Sony AX100. I have also considred the Sony PXW-X70, but since it is almost 500 grams extra, I think the AX100 will be better for my use.

  8. I couldn’t be happier. I shoot UHD on standard SDHC cards I don’t need special high end cards. I edit in Premiere CC on a mid 2012 Macbook pro and have no problems. The arguments against 4k in this thread are mostly you need this and this and this. Which Is not true. The only legit argument is budget. Not only are the options of crop and zoom amazing but in the future when HD is where SD is today everything you shot in 4k 10 years previous is still at the top of its game. Future proofing. If you can you should, and 4k on a droid?… what did you expect?

  9. I’m not sure there are as many people view in 1080 as we think. I ask routinely what the final viewing platform will be? The common answer is “at home” and “on the tv”. Followup questions get me “I don’t know, 1080 I guess. It’s a flat screen”. I really think most consumers are still overwhelmed with “HD” and really don’t see the difference between the digital signal and HD. I’m not trying to say the consumer is stupid, not at all, I think the only thing they care about is if it looks good to them. It kills me to go to the in-laws house. Her father does not like “the back strips across the screen”. He feels he’s not seeing everything so the tv stays zoomed in. IT KILLS ME! I have seen co-workers with the color setting so messed up you don’t know if it is a red, orange or purple shirt the pro golfer is wearing.

    My point is I think technology is moving so fast that it is too far ahead of the consumer. In today’s throw away society, purchases are made based on cost and not on quality. I’m not moving to 4K until there is a need for it and so far I haven’t seen a need.

    And Qwsfilms, there is no such thing as future proof.

  10. While it is true that there are few outlets for viewing 4K video (Currently few consumers with 4K or UHD computer monitors and very sparse UHD broadcasts [and bandwidth] available for UHD TVs), capturing 4K/UHD video is great for video producers — not only for the clarity and color mentioned in earlier comments, but because a 4K frames can yield a great deal of flexibility in an HD timeline, such a virtual zooming and panning to get the best “shots” from a larger field. Rather than choosing your shot at the time of capture, you can capture a much larger scene with 4K and then select the tighter “shot” in post within an HD timeline — perhaps even multiple timelines from a single 4K source.