I remember when I was looking for an action camera with 4K, I had many difficulties because I did not know the different image sensors and action cameras well enough and nowadays there are many action cameras that claim they are 4K but aren’t TRUE 4K. Hence, today I am going to explain to you everything I understand about what a true 4K and a fake 4K and some examples of action cameras with fake 4K.
A true 4K is…
- Recorded Resolution: 3840 x 2160 pixels
- Not interpolated or upsized (will be explained later)
Now to the variations of fake 4K…
Many action cameras especially those of a lower price point usually falsely advertise their 4K cameras because it would attract more people to buy it as they believe that it is 4K. Although technically not wrong, their 4K most of the times are somewhat 4K but it isn’t usable due to the following reasons I am going to give you.
1. Low Frame Rate
Many of the times, because the cheap action camera chipset or image sensor isn’t good enough, the recorded resolution is 4K or 3840 x 2160. However, it records at 10fps or 15fps and these frame rates are actually too slow and don’t equate to a normal video which minimum frame rates are usually 24fps.
To counter this issue and at the same time make their specifications look nice, they usually program their camera such that it will fit more frames of the same content in between each frame to look as if there is 30fps. Hence, each frame will be repeated twice and cameras at 4K 15fps will look like 4K 30fps inside the video specs but in actual fact, its not. An example would be the video below.
2. Resized or Interpolated
Many of the times, cheap action camera sensor has only an output resolution of 1080p or 1920×1080. However, to achieve 4K resolution, many companies actually use interpolation, resulting in the output resolution to be 3840 x 2160, which makes it 4K.
So what is interpolation? It is, in layman terms, stretching the image to a larger size. How do they do that? Computer software that has the ability to interpolate which uses an algorithm that allows the picture to have a higher number of pixels by guessing or approximating the neighbouring pixels and then digitally creating a pixel. The digitally created pixel will then add on to the total number of pixels and ultimately creating a bigger, interpolated image.
Fake 4K Action Cameras
Low Frame rate
- Eken H9/H9R 4K
- H2 Ultra 4K
- X9000 4K
Resized or Interpolated
- SJCAM SJ5000X
- SJCAM SJ6 Legend
- Ele Explorer Pro
- Eken H8R
- FireFly 6S
Chipset that does not allow 4K
- OV4689: 4MP
- AR0330: 3MP
- IMX078: 12MP
- IMX206: 16MP
*All are effective pixels of image sensors*
Image Sensors that offers fake 4K
- Sunplus 6350 (4k but only 10FPS)
- Allwinner V3 (4k but only 15FPS)
- NT96660 (24FPS but only 2880×2160)
*Credited to Mtz from DashcamTalk for the list of fake 4K cameras, chipsets and image sensors.
I understand that if you will be a little overwhelming for you at first especially if you are new to action cameras but this is one of the many ways that manufacturers have to do to stay competitive in this booming industry and also to keep themselves ahead of others.
Having said that, do not worry so much about the fake 4K or real 4K if you don’t really NEED 4K because usually, those false 4K cameras are still able to be used in 1080P or 2.7K really well and clear. This is because if you really need 4K, you would have to invest in a camera with a good chipset or image sensor which you can take a look here at my product reviews page for a reliable source for action cameras.
Lastly, if you didn’t understand or want to clarify anything that I mentioned above, please feel free to drop a comment down below! Thanks! =)