Just as “HD” was the buzzword a decade ago, now it’s “4K”. Televisions, cameras, lenses, workflow – everyone is gearing up.
But many people are also a bit confused. What is 4K, exactly? And why does it matter?
It’s actually quite simple: 4K is a term used to describe a horizontal resolution of about 4000 pixels and a vertical resolution of about 2000 pixels. There are different 4K standards for cinema and television, and different names for the technology depending on who you talk to in which industry, but the basic fact is the same across the board: 4K delivers a picture with about four times more detail than HD.
The benefits are obvious. Everything about image quality is better in 4K. Dynamic range is vastly improved – you can see more in the shadows and the highlights – and colour rendition is mind-boggling. We’re talking about millions of shades of a particular colour – probably more shades than your eye can tell apart, but what the hell. It’s awesome!
So what are the drawbacks?
Basically, you need new gear. A camera that shoots 4K is hungry for data. Terrabytes of data. Everything from hard drives to cables to post-production facilities need to be able to handle this increased data.
Obviously, on the other end, people also need televisions capable of displaying 4K. This is happening and it’s happening faster than HD uptake did, especially in countries like the US, the UK and Japan.
In those countries, broadcasters are taking 4K very seriously. While 4K live is still in its infancy, it’s only a matter of time before sport and news is delivered in this format. And the results will be incredible.
So do I need a 4K lens?
This is a good question, and a contentious one. The truth is that you don’t need a 4K-specific lens to shoot in 4K; you can use any lens with a compatible mount. The one thing you don’t want to do, however, is muddy the image quality by using inferior glass.
Top-quality lenses made by the likes of Cooke and Zeiss will still serve you well. These lenses are more than capable of dealing with the increased resolution, although there may be coverage issues as sensors get bigger and bust out of the 35mm format.
That said, if you own a professional production company or if you’re involved in broadcasting, it makes sense to invest in modern 4K lenses. Workflow is simplified because these lenses are designed for the format. There are no coverage or distortion issues, the controls are seamless and they deliver magnificent resolution across the zoom range.
Why am I still so terrified?
Because 4K costs money. Most times a lot of money. And you don’t want to make the wrong decision.
That brings us to the point of this post. We’re here to answer all of your 4K questions. At least we’ll try to! We’re the agents for Fujifilm lenses in South Africa but we won’t try to sell you a lens for the sake of it. Let’s chat about your 4K requirements first and see what needs to be done. What kind of camera are you using? How mobile do you need to be? Are you shooting for the web or for a cinema screen?
Give us a shout. The future is waiting…