Top 12 smartphones with 4K video recording capabilities

Top 12 smartphones with 4K video recording capabilities
Although smartphones that can shoot 4K video have been around since 2013 when Qualcomm launched the Snapdragon 800 chip series, it was only in 2015 that 4K video capture became a must-have feature for high-end smartphones. 

At its origins, 4K is a term that defines a resolution of 4096 by 2160 pixels at an aspect ratio of 16:10, but since 16:9 is the standard aspect resolution for smartphone camera sensors, manufacturers market 4K videos as having a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels. 

While some argue that 1080p videos offer sufficient detail, especially since 4K TV sets have yet to take off in popularity due to their prohibitive price, the added detail that can be captured in such high-resolution videos makes everything look sharper and clearer. 

With this in mind, we've decided to take the time and analyze the current smartphone offering and pick out the 5 best smartphones that can shoot 4K videos.

Apple iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus


The latest iteration in the iPhone series has brought a much-needed improvement in terms of primary camera resolution. The old 8MP sensor was updated to a 12MP sensor with 1.22-micron pixels, while the lens is now 5-element piece with an aperture of f/2.2. On top of that, the sensor also supports phase detection autofocus.

In terms of video, the iPhone 6s series can shoot  30fpsvideos at a resolution of 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels). On top of that, it also supports 1080p video capture at 120fps, or 720p capture at 240fps, frame rates that allow for some radical slow-motion effects. Unfortunately, only the iPhone 6s Plus comes with hardware optical image stabilization. The standard iPhone 6s only relies on software to smoothen videos, which isn't as efficient.

During our review of the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, we observed that the quality of the 4K video recordings coming out of the latest iPhones is up to par with anything that the Android ecosystem has to offer.



Sony Xperia Z5 | Z5 Compact | Z5 Premium


The new Sony Xperia Z5 family, which consists out of the standard Xperia Z5, the Xperia Z5 Compact, and the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium, comes with 4K recording abilities, which is hardly surprising given that the feat was available on last year's Xperia Z3 family as well. 

We have to note that the new Xperia line-up comes with new 23MP 1/2.3" Exmor RS sensors. Furthermore, the Z5 family also comes with hardware OIS system that Sony markets as the SteadyShot Intelligent Active Mode, as well as blazing-fast hybrid autofocus system.

We have yet to extensively test the new Sony smartphones, but reports prove that Sony has partially solved the overheating problems which occurred when shooting video in 4K on the Xperia Z3. Furthermore, Sony's 4K video samples show a clear improvement compared to what the Xperia Z3 family had to offer.

As an added bonus, the Xperia Z5 Premium is the only smartphone out there that lets you view 4K videos at their native resolution.


Samsung Galaxy S6 family | Galaxy Note5


Samsung was one of the first smartphone makers to jump on the 4K bandwagon, and it doesn't surprise us to note that all of the company's 2015 flagship handsets came with the ability to shoot videos at this resolution.

The standard Galaxy S6, the Galaxy S6 edge, the Galaxy S6 edge+, and the Galaxy Note5 all come with 16MP primary sensors with phase detection autofocus and optical image stabilization. 4K video capture is done with clear audio recordings, continuous autofocus, great color reproduction and all of the details that fit inside a 3840 x 2160 pixel matrix.


LG G4


The LG G4 features a 16MP 1/2.6" primary sensor with laser autofocus and optical image stabilization. During our review of the LG G4, we found that 4K video capture yields produces good results overall, with lots of detail, no brutal shakes, and low digital noise in low light conditions. 

Unfortunately, the LG G4's manual camera controls, which have made the handset very popular among smartphone photography enthusiasts, do not extend to the video side of the camera. Check out the 4K video samples in our full LG G4 review.


Both the LG-made Nexus 5X and the Huawei Nexus 6P come with 12.3MP Sony sensors with an aperture of f/2.0 and large 1.55-micron pixels. The sensors are actually capable of shooting 4K video at 60fps per second, but current-generation smartphone chips, including the Snapdragon 808 and the Snapdragon 810 - are limited at 60fps. 

We have yet to test the two new Nexus handsets for ourselves, but the technical specifications sure look promising. 

FEATURED VIDEO

20 Comments

1. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

All worthy choices of high end flagships.

2. Dudes

Posts: 9; Member since: Oct 12, 2015

Hmmmm

3. bustafone

Posts: 20; Member since: Feb 08, 2015

And as usual, iPhonearena puts the iPhone, which was the last to have 4K video, on top. And Nexus 6 that had 4k for a year is ignored.

8. VVayne

Posts: 103; Member since: Oct 01, 2015

There are more phones 4K capable, I personally would prefer Lumia 930 with it's superb sound quality over anything listed here. Except for new Nexus phones. I'm looking forward to their camera performance.

18. Danny86PV

Posts: 11; Member since: Oct 05, 2015

youtube.com/watch?v=yOBDEft1O_0 (2160p) youtube.com/watch?v=1wKeNF7pC-E (1080p) I really hope that when it's time for the next cameraphone they offer higher bitrates (because lossless IPB editing is still very rare, for some reason), uncompressed PCM audio and laser focus.

12. ogee4life

Posts: 105; Member since: Apr 12, 2014

You couldn't have said it better, a phone that just managed to put 4k video recording late 2015, sony and samsung have had it since early 2014. The worst part seems they rank it as no 1, what a joke. To make it worse they say the quality is on par with what its competitors on android have to offer, but as usual fail to tell us how many minutes it can record without shutting down.

20. DozyC

Posts: 2; Member since: May 04, 2016

Actually Samsung Note 3 released in 2013 had 4k video too.

4. gameRO25

Posts: 2; Member since: Oct 10, 2015

Cool but how many of this phones have or dont have the 5 minute limit for recording in 4K?

5. buccob

Posts: 2973; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

I think only the iPhones and the Xperias... And out of those 2, the Xperia is the only that records audio in stereo at a high bitrate. I wonder why the Lumia was left out

19. DozyC

Posts: 2; Member since: May 04, 2016

I have a Samsung Note 4, not listed here, but it has 4k video, with 5 minute limit.

6. Penny

Posts: 1859; Member since: Feb 04, 2011

Hmm, except the iPhone 6S doesn't have optical image stabilization, which kind of is a big deal. And neither the 6S nor 6S Plus have expandable storage, or the ability to zoom in 4K video mode. The best thing about iPhone's camera for video is its slow-motion capabilities. Other than that, I think it's pretty average among modern higher-end phones (esp. in quality). Sorry, I don't think the iPhone deserves a free pass on reputation alone. There are better phones out there for this job, some of which you noted. They should be at the top of this article.

13. ogee4life

Posts: 105; Member since: Apr 12, 2014

Spot on, it can't even zoom what a joke.

7. SIGPRO

Posts: 2817; Member since: Oct 03, 2012

PA please stop this BULLSH!T, every freaking time the iPhone is on top why? The iPhone 4K recording is not that good and it still records mono sound! Were are the Lumia's? 930 and 1520 can record 4K with Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 sound! They should be in the list!

16. akki20892

Posts: 3902; Member since: Feb 04, 2013

i agree........!!! we don't care if lumias are not there, but we know they are the best in class.

9. Michael.Parker

Posts: 273; Member since: Aug 22, 2015

They should leave out phones that can only handle 5 minutes of 4K from the list because 5 minutes makes it into just a novelty feature.

10. SYSTEM_LORD

Posts: 1168; Member since: Oct 05, 2015

Again, PA fails to mention the camcorder capabilities of the Z5 family. They're top notch among these phones, with the iPhone family being the worse. I think the iPhone family has the worst camer performance of all these phones, really

11. kkmkk

Posts: 699; Member since: May 06, 2013

where is the note 4 ? it shoot better 4k videos than 6s/s6plus & the nexus 5x

14. 2faraway

Posts: 75; Member since: Mar 26, 2014

What about V10!!

15. Coconut00

Posts: 485; Member since: Jan 13, 2015

There actually should be 13 smartphones on this list. S6 family is listed but the S6 Active was forgotten.

17. LionStone

Posts: 1048; Member since: Dec 10, 2010

Such a silly article, flaunts the iphone on top to make it appear like it's a leader in this area, when it's really a follower, as usual...

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