Can you tell the difference between 1080p and 4K?

We’re told that 4K is better 1080p resolution. But can you tell them apart in a lineup? Matt Haapoja doesn’t seem to think so.

The video is titled ”Can you REALLY SEE the DIFFERENCE 1080 VS 4K?” and in it he shows a number of clips shot in 4K and 1080p. He doesn’t say which are which and makes us guess which ones are in which resolution. While we all may think seeing the difference between the two would be easy, the result will surely shock you. See if you can tell the difference:

Not as easy as you thought?

While the question of the video may be whether or not you can tell the difference between 1080p and 4K. The real question that should be asked is if you can tell the difference between 4K, 1080p and 720p. Haapoja tricks us and throws in a few 720p clips in the reel as well. Ultimately, he believes most wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the clips, aside from a few lucky guesses. He himself couldn’t really see a difference and that’s on his 5K Mac Retina screen.

4K 1080p comparison
Shot on the Sony a7 III, the left one is 4K and the right one is 1080p. Image courtesy Matti Haapoja.

The industry tells its creators that if they want to have the best quality, they need to upgrade to 4K. But after seeing Haapoja’s experiment, it doesn’t seem like there’s a big reason that you couldn’t use 1080p with 4K footage. Now, obviously 4K does offer a better image. It just isn’t likely if someone casually watching a 4K / 1080p mixed video, even if they’re pro filmmakers, could see the difference unless told.

Now, you may be thinking that it could be just the camera Haapaoja was using. That is a valid point. He used the Canon EOS R for the video and he believes it does a great job shooting 1080p. Mid-video though, he decided to test the Sony a7III, because he believes its 4K and 1080p would be as close to each other as possible. It turns out that while you could see less detail in the 1080p, he still felt like there wasn’t a substantial difference between the two.

So, what it comes down to is that of course that 4K offers a better image than 1080p. But it isn’t a huge gap in quality. If you don’t have the funds to upgrade to 4K or just want to stick with the 1080p camera you have now, you won’t be sacrificing a lot when it comes to your project’s quality.

Image courtesy Matti Haapoja

Sean Berry
Sean Berry
Sean Berry is Videomaker's managing editor.

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