HD and 4K video recording on your smartphone
Capture the important events of your life in high-definition using a smartphone with HD video recording capability.
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If your smartphone has a camera, then it undoubtedly has video recording capabilities to go along with its still shot photography abilities. The quality of the footage you get out of your smartphone can vary widely, however, with some very cheap phones only shooting low quality video. The vast majority of phones at the mid-range at least are capable of shooting HD video, with more premium models frequently capable of 4K video shooting.
What is the difference between HD and 4K video recording?
HD stands for High Definition, a term which has had a somewhat rubbery history thanks largely to the way that television sets capable of showing high definition content were marketed and sold.
If you've got a device (or for that matter a TV) that advertises itself as being "HD-capable", that could mean a resolution as low as 720p (1280x720 pixels), whereas (to use the terminology of televisions again), "Full HD" covers the 1080p definition, which is 1,920 x 1,080. An increasing number of premium smartphones in the current market offer even higher 4K definition video capture at 3840 x 2160 pixels.
Each pixel count represents (at its most simple) an onscreen dot element, so the higher the overall number of pixels in a video shot, the more fine detail will be represented.
HD Video Recording: Why should I care?
The biggest benefit to higher definition video recording from a smartphone is that it gives you a video file with a lot more detail in it. That means that if you do choose to edit that footage in a software package elsewhere, you can trim down the video, perhaps cropping out sides of an image without losing large areas of the detail you want. It's perfectly feasible to do this with lower resolution video, but if you're going to crop anything and zoom in on the rest of your moving image, the lower resolution means your edited footage will be very pixellated.
For many premium smartphones, the HD (or better) video recording capabilities also come with optical image stabilisation features. Unless you're willing to mount your smartphone onto a tripod, the vibrations from your hands will be reflected in the video you capture. A phone that can handle optical image stabilisation will work to an extent to minimise that hand shake in your final video, leading to film that looks better and is a great deal more comfortable to watch.
4K video recording: Is it worth it?
An increasing number of high-end phones such as the Apple iPhone XS, Samsung Galaxy S10 or Oppo Reno 5G offer video recording in 4K resolutions, even though their display screens don't scale quite that high. That might leave you wondering what the point of shooting in 4K is if you can’t explicitly see all that detail on your phone's screen.
The core argument in favour of 4K video shooting on your phone is the ability to watch it on a larger, higher-resolution screen. An increasing number of TVs sold these days are 4K models, and the availability of 4K screens is only going to grow as the technology gets cheaper. By shooting in 4K now, you're future-proofing your videos to ensure they still look sharp in the years to come.
HD and 4K Video Recording: What are the downsides?
The biggest and most pressing downside in recording video in HD or 4K modes is that it takes up a lot more space on your smartphone. As we've seen more and more devices eschew microSD expandable storage, this means that if you want to shoot HD or 4K video on your smartphone, you're going to be limited by the space taken up by anything else you've got installed on it, whether that's photos, music, games or other apps.
So how much storage is enough? At a rough level, a minute of HD video will typically use between 100-200MB of storage, whereas the same video in 4K resolution will burn through between 300-600MB. If you shoot a lot of video, you can quickly run out of storage space for it all.
Shooting at higher definition is also something of a battery and processor hog; some devices will specifically limit 4K video recording time to stop phones from overheating due to the strain it can put on the processor. Again, if you plan to shoot a lot of high resolution video at one time, be sure to carry a spare battery or external battery pack with you.
Best mobile phones for HD and 4K video shooting
It’s possible to record live sporting performances, concerts, or any other event using a smartphone. The video images have significantly better clarity in high-definition. In the table below are some of the phones you might want to consider:
We update our data regularly, but information can change between updates. Confirm details with the provider you're interested in before making a decision.
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