4K Video in Smartphones is Amazing, but it Needs to Improve

by on August 7, 2014

by Stephan Jukic – August 7th, 2014

The very fact that we’re now seeing several major flagship smartphones from the big brands come out with 4K video and photo shooting capability is nothing short of incredible –and a wonderfully cheap way to get your hands on your own 4K camera without spending $2000+ dollars. However, this emerging Ultra HD filming ability in these same phones still needs some serious improvement, particularly in terms of shooting time.

For starters, it’s a feature that’s only available in a very few select phones such as the Sony Xperia Z2, the Galaxy S5, Galaxy Note 3 and the LG G3. 

And in all four phones, the biggest problem so far with the 4K video power of their smart phone cameras is its drastic time limitation. Since smart phones aren’t quite yet as powerful as PCs or laptops, they still can’t do all of the same quantities of processing and the 4K video you can shoot on the major phones that have the technology is limited to roughly 5 minutes so far.

Seriously, the Xperia Z2, Samsung’s 4K capable phones and the LG G3 all have the same problem according to users and professional reviewers who’ve tried their cameras 4K video shooting abilities out: After just a few minutes (exactly 5 minutes in most cases) of filming in 4K resolution at a fairly decent 30 frames per second, they simply shut off their cameras automatically, some of them even heat up dramatically, such as the Sony Z2.

Now while most people aren’t going to buy a 4K capable smartphone so they can use it to film whole movies in UHD, 5 minutes really is a bit short in the clip length department. As far as anyone can tell, the reasons for this 5 minute limit vary. In the case of the Samsung and LG phones, it’s set by the machines’ internal software limitations and when it comes to the Xperia phone, the video apparently shuts off simply because the phone decides that the heating of its hardware has become too critical.

Now while having a phone that would rather ruin your video shoot by cutting it off suddenly instead of letting you ruin the phone itself through a meltdown is great, it does raise the question of why even bother including 4K video at all. At 5 minutes it only really serves as a sort of novelty feature instead of something practical.

However, hope is on the horizon. The soon to go on sale Sony Xperia Z3, which is coming out in September, is supposed to address the problems of its Z2 predecessor and thanks to a better internal processing chip and superior RAM it’s rumored that it will have a more robust 4K video camera than anything currently available.

We’ll have to wait and see but in the meantime, if you want to create 4K films that are longer than a few minutes, there are several excellent and surprisingly affordable Ultra HD video cameras on the market right now.

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