fake or real 4k?

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…

What is true 4K in action cameras? Real Vs Fake 4K

  • 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.

Interpolation in action cameras? Real vs Fake 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

  1. Eken H9/H9R 4K
  2. H2 Ultra 4K
  3. X9000 4K

 Resized or Interpolated

  1. SJCAM SJ5000X
  2. SJCAM SJ6 Legend
  3. Ele Explorer Pro
  4. Eken H8R
  5. FireFly 6S

Chipset that does not allow 4K

  1. OV4689: 4MP
  2. AR0330: 3MP
  3. IMX078: 12MP
  4. IMX206: 16MP

*All are effective pixels of image sensors*

Image Sensors that offers fake 4K

  1. Sunplus 6350 (4k but only 10FPS)
  2. Allwinner V3 (4k but only 15FPS)
  3. NT96660 (24FPS but only 2880×2160)

*Credited to Mtz from DashcamTalk for the list of fake 4K cameras, chipsets and image sensors.

Summary

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.

–> Click here to see my product reviews!<–

–> For other guides, tips and tricks, click here!<–

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! =)

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17 Comments

  1. Its incredible what does some companies to stay in the market, and to be able to “race” to other companies which is making real 4K cameras, and somebody who is not familiar with this what you wrote down here, he probably needs a real 4K, but he is buying a fake 4K featured camera, and thats sad. Thank you for writing this, Is so useful. Keep up the good work!.

    1. Thank you really much and all the best to you too!

  2. This is good to know. I’m actually in the process of looking for a camera and 4k was one of the things I was considering. I didn’t know that they did this and so if I decide to go with a camera that claims it produce 4k video, I’ll make sure not to get ripped off. Thanks for the info.

    1. Glad that I have enlightened you about the fake 4K cameras in the market. Also, if you are looking for a camera and not sure if it is 4K, you can simply ask me either through my email which is kaiferng@actioncamguides.com or simply leave a comment down in any of the post. Once again, thanks for reading and have a nice day!

  3. Last year i bought an SJCAM SJ5000X it kind of does the job i was more disappointed with the sound sometimes can’t coop with a lot of wind or people shouting, i didn’t know about fake 4k and this is a really good post to avoid wasting money, i’m in the uk i was thinking about spending around £150 do you have any suggestion?

    1. Oh I see. As for the price range of well under £150, I feel Yi 2 would be my best pick, because it is real 4K and has a solid build as well and really worth in terms of the specs in general. Will write a review on this soon, so stay tuned.

      Cheers, Kai

  4. Hi,
    Thanks for the info. I’m always looking for new options when it comes to cameras. Being that I live in Colorado I’m a huge fan of taking scenery pictures of the mountains so this is very helpful. I appreciate that you talk about the difference between an actual 4K and a fake. Good to know.

    All the Best,

    Devon

    1. Sure no problem, glad you found this post useful! If you need to clarity anything else, please feel free to let me know through the comments or the contact me section. Thanks!

  5. I mount my action camera on a kick scooter. A kick scooter can go at more than twice the speed of walking. What I find is that when I video record at 2.7K@30fps, the image is clear and crisp if I am not much above walking speed. When I go faster, the image will not focus.

    Is this because I don’t have a true 4K camera?

    1. Hi KK Aw, is it possible to show me a sample of the video? Just to confirm, your problem isn’t it being shaky but the focusing problem right?
      If that’s the case, try increasing the frame rate of your action cam.
      This should solve the problem! If it did not help, feel free to drop a reply.

  6. Good observations. I have verified the notchy 4k video myself on the cheap 4k action cameras and agree that they duplicate frames to achieve 24fps or 30fps frame rates.

    The actual sensor is often only 15fps (or 10fps or 12fps) at 4k resolution. So calling the camera a 4k camera isn’t lying, exactly… only highly deceptive.

    To produce quality 1080p at 60fps, as many of the 4k cameras do, I suspect they offset the sensor timing to staggered quadrants, each providing the data input at 1/60 second intervals . When you page through each video frame they are indeed different and not just a duplicate or interpolated transition. Also, on the cheap 4k cameras, the 1080p 60fps video looks pretty good, while all the other resolutions are quite poor. This supports this likely method. The downside is the image sharpness is compromised due to the position of each quadrant not being on the same focal point. When I tested this theory with a high end digital camera on 1080p 60fps of the same scene, the video was always sharp. When you view each frame independently, they were similar in sharpness to the action camera. However, once you apply the motion of multiple frames, the lack of true frame alignment degrades the image quality.

    All said, if you stick to only 1080p at 60fps you will be reasonably satisfied with the results.

    I havn’t tested the 2k or 1080p only cameras to see if they produce reasonable 720p at 60fps video. It would be interesting to see.

    1. Really accurate and you seem to know a lot about this! Do you have a blog or article about this? If so, can I take a look?
      Also, really looking forward to your test on 720p!

  7. Pls Kai I am really impressed with your work with the reviews but pls can you tell me which is the best among these (Eken h9r,Elephone ele explorer 4K action cam,mg cool explorer 2).Pls give the reason also if you can.
    Waiting…

    1. Hi Siddh, sorry for the wait.

      Anyways, I will try my best to tell you which is best, although it’s honestly quite difficult because each has their strength and weaknesses.

      First of all, all of them are unable to record true 4K because their chipset does not support it.

      For image quality, I’d think explorer pro is the best because it has a larger image sensor (8MP) than the other 2 (4MP).

      However, at the same time, the explorer pro 2 does not come with as many accessories as the other 2. Eken H9R also comes with a remote too.

      As for the general interface, all 3 of them are pretty much on par.

      Comparing the smartphone app, the Explorer Pro 2 wins hands down, It is more reliable than the other 2 because the app is specialised for this camera only, whereas the Ele explorer and Eken H9R use a general app, shared with other action cams, thus it’s not that reliable and fast.

      Therefore, overall, if you were to ask me, I’d recommend the Explorer Pro 2, which has a touchscreen, a reliable smartphone app and all the basic accessories that you’ll need, although lacking the accessories that the other 2 has to offer.

      Hope this helps and if you have any more questions, feel free to reply.

      Lastly, thanks for your feedback and really appreciate it! 🙂

  8. I have a Panasonic FZ-1000 camera, is this a genuine 4K?

  9. […] cameras by manufacturers have made fake 4k resolution for their cameras to attract more people. I wrote a post about what is fake and real 4K […]

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