Pho­to: digistream.ru

8K video is the new black, but is 4K obso­lete? Is it worth throw­ing out your cam­era right now and urgent­ly run­ning for some­thing that can shoot in a new for­mat? Or maybe it’s bet­ter to wait a bit? Let’s deal with this increas­ing­ly pop­u­lar video res­o­lu­tion togeth­er.

More recent­ly, 8K video has become avail­able not only on pro­fes­sion­al cam­corders, but also on advanced “civil­ian” mod­els. Canon became a pio­neer with its EOS R5 hybrid, and a few months lat­er Sony made its mark with its a1. Try­ing to keep up is Nikon, which has announced the arrival of 8K video in its upcom­ing Z9 full-frame mir­ror­less cam­era. In par­al­lel, this video res­o­lu­tion is also becom­ing avail­able for fans of shoot­ing from the air — 8K is already in the Autel Evo II and is expect­ed in the new DJI Mav­ic 3 Pro. And all this, it seems, is only the begin­ning of the tri­umphant pro­ces­sion of the new for­mat.

Autel Evo II is the first quad­copter capa­ble of shoot­ing 8K video. Pho­to: lacasadeldron.mx

The appear­ance of 8K in pop­u­lar prod­ucts gives man­u­fac­tur­ers addi­tion­al oppor­tu­ni­ties to dis­tin­guish their lines, and mar­keters a new fea­ture that can be used in adver­tis­ing. And of course, this is anoth­er way for sell­ers to push you to replace your old cam­era.

Familiar advantages of the new format

8K has a lot of pos­i­tives. Con­tent cre­ators get bet­ter video, more options for crop­ping (crop­ping), zoom­ing and pan­ning in post-pro­cess­ing, you can save even bet­ter pho­tos from videos, as well as add in-post sta­bi­liza­tion and so on. Con­tent con­sumers expe­ri­ence more detailed and sharp­er, more real­is­tic video.

But it seems that we have already heard all this before … Yes, yes, man­u­fac­tur­ers once told the same thing about 4K.

8K TVs are no longer exclu­sive, maybe it’s time to start shoot­ing suit­able con­tent? Pho­to: flatpanelshd.com

Of course, in 8K you get a lot more detail than in 4K. How­ev­er, to the human eye, the dif­fer­ences are much less notice­able than when going from HD to 4K, espe­cial­ly when viewed from a stan­dard dis­tance (more on that below). There are sev­er­al rea­sons for con­tent cre­ators to choose 8K, let’s take a clos­er look at them.

8K for content creators

Con­tent cre­ators will ben­e­fit the most from the new for­mat and, yes, these are the same ben­e­fits we heard about when 4K became pop­u­lar. An impor­tant dif­fer­ence is that the “default” res­o­lu­tion expect­ed of video­g­ra­phers and con­tent cre­ators has shift­ed from HD to 4K in recent years. TVs and com­put­er dis­plays are get­ting big­ger, audi­ences want 4K, and if you shoot video on demand, your cus­tomers may be demand­ing 4K even if they don’t real­ly need it.

Shoot­ing in 8K in this case is just anoth­er step that gives con­tent cre­ators more options dur­ing post-pro­duc­tion, while still allow­ing you to save 4K res­o­lu­tion for the final prod­uct. If you need 4K for your work, it’s hard to argue with the ben­e­fits of shoot­ing footage in the more flex­i­ble 8K res­o­lu­tion.

Youtube also sup­ports 8K, there are even sep­a­rate 8K chan­nels. Source: Youtube chan­nel 8K World

In addi­tion to the basic crop and zoom tools, 8K expands oth­er pos­si­bil­i­ties. Thanks to social net­works and mobile devices, ver­ti­cal videos are becom­ing more and more pop­u­lar and it looks like this trend will be with us for a long time. What if you need to shoot con­tent that needs to look equal­ly good in both land­scape and por­trait ori­en­ta­tions? At 8K, you will have enough pix­els to keep 4K res­o­lu­tion when cropped to por­trait aspect ratio. For those who need to post their work on dif­fer­ent plat­forms in dif­fer­ent for­mats, 8K sounds like a very inter­est­ing option.

The new res­o­lu­tion also allows for intra-frame pan­ning and the addi­tion of arti­fi­cial shak­ing to footage (that is, adding motion effects to footage from a sta­t­ic cam­era in post-pro­cess­ing), while still pro­duc­ing a 4K final file.

An exam­ple of zoom­ing capa­bil­i­ties from 8K footage. Youtube chan­nel Cars And Cam­eras

Also, in the­o­ry, 8K footage will pro­duce bet­ter 4K video due to over­sam­pling and improved col­or sub­sam­pling. But with the naked eye, these improve­ments are almost impos­si­ble to notice — you are unlike­ly to see the dif­fer­ence between “good” and “excel­lent” 4K. In addi­tion, today many cam­eras already receive 4K video with over­sam­pling from the orig­i­nal 6K mate­r­i­al.

Anoth­er area where 8K can be use­ful is in very large (or bet­ter yet huge) screens, bill­boards and sig­nage. On them, the increase in res­o­lu­tion will be real­ly notice­able.

Also, the new for­mat is good for sav­ing pho­tos from videos. But today, many mir­ror­less cam­eras can shoot bursts in RAW at 20–30 fps, so this is hard­ly a seri­ous rea­son to go to 8K.

Reserve for the future

The argu­ment that your con­tent will look good not only today, but also in the future, is made about every time a new res­o­lu­tion appears in cam­eras.

The tran­si­tion from stan­dard def­i­n­i­tion (SD) to high def­i­n­i­tion (HD) was a very big and notice­able step. It did­n’t take long for SD con­tent to appear on high-res­o­lu­tion screens as an arti­fact of a bygone era. The dif­fer­ence was clear and well marked. Every­one, from pro­fes­sion­als to ama­teurs, quick­ly learned the ben­e­fits of HD. In this case, the noto­ri­ous “future proof” real­ly worked.

But the tran­si­tion from HD to 4K, although it took place under the same head­ing, was hard­ly notice­able to the aver­age user. Many top YouTu­bers are still film­ing in Full HD with­out any com­plaints from their view­ers.

Where the dif­fer­ence between 4K and 8K will be notice­able is on huge adver­tis­ing screens. Pho­to: investopedia.com

Very few peo­ple will be able to catch the dif­fer­ence between 4K and 8K by eye, unless they watch the record­ing from a huge screen or sit­ting close to the mon­i­tor. In order to see the full ben­e­fits of 8K when watch­ing TV from a stan­dard 3 meters, you need to get a screen with a diag­o­nal of about 300 inch­es some­where.

All of this makes the “head­room” argu­ment for 8K a lit­tle less com­pelling than for pre­vi­ous for­mats. Of course, in the future we will cer­tain­ly use full-wall dis­plays (or dis­plays instead of walls), but how rel­e­vant will our today’s con­tent be in this hap­py time?

Should I shoot in 8K?

Just as it was with 4K at one time, to work with 8K you will most like­ly need to change not only the cam­era (unless you want ter­ri­ble brakes and ren­der­ing for a week). Off­hand — plus a more advanced com­put­er and video card, as well as a bulky SSD. This is the most obvi­ous thing that comes to mind, but some­thing else will prob­a­bly be need­ed in prac­tice. Of course, at some point every­thing will be sim­pli­fied, and any smart­phone will be able not only to shoot in 8K (as some high-end mod­els already do), but also process such video with­out any prob­lems (this is already more dif­fi­cult). In the mean­time, you’ll have to pay (slight­ly) more. At the same time, as we dis­cussed above, some of the advan­tages of the new for­mat at the moment look very doubt­ful.

Also, do not for­get that while TV screens are get­ting big­ger, a huge part of the con­tent, in par­tic­u­lar from social net­works, is viewed from minia­ture screens of smart­phones. It is impor­tant to under­stand who your tar­get audi­ence is and what devices they use. It is unlike­ly that a con­ver­sa­tion­al vlog will often be watched on a huge Ultra HD dis­play.

How­ev­er, if you absolute­ly must get your con­tent in 4K and still want more flex­i­bil­i­ty in post, shoot­ing in 8K has its advan­tages. This is an option for com­mer­cial video­g­ra­phers. And 8K can be inter­est­ing for inde­pen­dent film­mak­ers who want their films to look decent on any screen, includ­ing ten years from now.


One of the flag­ships that made the new for­mat more acces­si­ble was the Canon EOS R5. Pho­to: canon.ru

Of course, one day 8K will become the new base­line stan­dard. But today you don’t have much incen­tive to become one of the pio­neers. You’ll get some of the same ben­e­fits that 4K promised over HD, but the pay­off will be small­er, not because of tech­no­log­i­cal lim­i­ta­tions, but because of the lim­i­ta­tions of the human eye. In addi­tion, work­ing with 8K files is still dif­fi­cult due to their size and the resources required for pro­cess­ing.

There­fore, if you do not yet have any objec­tive rea­sons for switch­ing to a new for­mat, there is not much point in chas­ing addi­tion­al megapix­els. Most like­ly, your audi­ence will sim­ply not notice the dif­fer­ence. But the increase in dynam­ic range and col­or repro­duc­tion is notice­able to the naked eye, but for this it is not nec­es­sary to switch to 8K.

For the fore­see­able future, shoot­ing in 8K will no longer require any addi­tion­al effort and invest­ment from you, but that time has not yet come. Might be worth the wait.

* in prepar­ing the arti­cle, mate­ri­als from the resource dpreview.com (Dale Baskin) were used.