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6 INCREDIBLE things that you didn’t know 4K video could do

4K video benefits hero

From improving your stills photography to making better Full HD videos, 4K Ultra HD isn't just about higher resolution video

Ultra HD (or 4K as it’s often commonly referred to) may, on the surface of it, just seem like an updated video standard that gives you four times the pixels of Full HD. Thinking like that doesn’t make the most of the standard, though, as the high-resolution video format can be used in a variety of ways to give you some rather clever creative effects. So, here’s our round-up of the smart ways that 4K can be used to deliver stunning effects, starting with still photography effects, and moving onto video modes.

Better stills photography

You probably associate 4K with video; quite right, it is a video standard, after all. However, as there’s so much detail in each frame, the video you shoot can be used to improve your stills photography in a couple of ways.

High-speed 4K photography

While most high-end cameras have a burst mode, it’s still surprisingly easy to miss the key moment. Burst modes start fast but slow down dramatically once the camera’s memory buffer is full, particularly if you’re shooting in RAW mode. Instead, you can use 4K video to do the job for you. By shooting at 4K (3,840×2,160), every single frame of the video is equivalent to an 8-megapixel image. In other words, any camera you’ve got that can shoot 4K is effectively capturing 8-megapixel photos at a continuous burst rate of 30fps: show me a camera that can do that in stills mode.

Depending on the product you use, you’ve got a choice of how to get the photos out of the video. First, you can copy the video file to a computer, step through it frame-by-frame and save or screengrab the one that you want to keep. Secondly, if you’ve got a Panasonic camera with built-in 4K photography, you can step through the video frame-by-frame on the camera and simply export the ones you want to keep to a JPEG. So, how good is it?

In a simple demonstration, I pitted my Nikon D610 against a Panasonic GX8, which has a built-in 4K video mode. The aim was to capture fruit being dropped into a clear vase full of water. As you can see from my Nikon examples (one shot is directly followed by the next), even running at high-speed mode, I missed the fruit’s impact with the water, only capturing the before and after.

Nikon D610 high speed shot 1Nikon D610 high speed shot 2

Switching to the GX8, I had a lot more choice and the two frames I’ve picked show the exact moment the fruit hit the surface of the water, followed by the aftermath.

Panasonic GX high speed shot 1Panasonic GX high speed shot 2

Of course, running your camera at high-speed burst at full resolution will result in better quality images, particularly if you want the RAW images to edit. Above, my Nikon D610 shots look better exposed, as I could process the images in Lightroom; of course, the GX8 could have been used in burst mode with RAW shots for similar points. However, the point of 4K photography is to provide extra options, particularly when dealing with high-speed action that’s incredibly hard to time and capture accurately. Besides, once you get outside into better lighting, the quality will improve as you can see from the sample shot below.

Panasonic 4K photography sample


This one is a Panasonic exclusive, and my demonstration is taken from a TZ-100, although I wouldn’t be surprised if other manufacturers decided to implement something similar in the future. The idea, with this technology, is to shoot an image that you can refocus after you’ve taken it. While we’ve seen something similar with the Lytro camera, that was low-resolution and had to capture the direction that light hit the sensor, as well as the pixel information. With Panasonic’s implementation, it uses the 4K video mode.

Effectively, the camera takes a video of the scene, adjusting the focus each time, so you end up with multiple 8-megapixel images all focussing on different parts of the scene. You can then use the camera to choose which part of the scene to focus on, simply by tapping the screen, as you can see from the images below. Obviously, anything moving, will move from frame-to-frame, but as each frame is an individual shot and not a composite you don’t get strange errors as you would from a panorama, such as a person with no head.

Panasonic Refocus Demo shot 1

Panasonic Refocus Demo shot 2

The top and bottom shots were taken at the same time, but focus on different parts of the image. You can refocus on this camera simply by tapping the area of importance on the screen.

As clever as this trick is, it has a couple of real benefits. First, it can help people understand composition, by refocussing to see how it changes a scene. Secondly, it’s a great backup. For example, the pro photographer we spoke to said that she uses this mode at weddings as a back-up for the ring shots: that way, she can ensure that she has a perfect shot of the rings in focus.

Better video

Of course, as you’d expect from 4K video, it can also be used to improve the quality of the video you shoot, not just still photos. Again, the techniques below largely rely on the high-resolution nature of the video, giving additional flexibility, provided that you’re willing to drop quality to 1080p for the final output. A lot of these tricks can be done in software after you’ve shot, but some cameras, such as most of Panasonic’s line-up, let you do all of this in-camera.


One of the hardest things to do with any video is to track a moving subject, particularly when you’re zoomed in to get the maximum amount of detail. If you’re prepared to drop to Full HD quality, then you’ve got a great option with 4K. What you do is shoot wide at 4K, but then crop around your subject at 1080p, so you’ve got excellent tracking without having to follow your subject. Effectively, you move a 1080p box around the 4K frame to keep track of the subject of interest.


Sometimes you can shoot a load of footage, only to realise that what you really needed to fill it in is a nice panning shot. Well, if you shot in 4K, you can fake this later. Essentially, you draw a 1080p box and move that around the scene, adding panning, where before you had just a regular, static 4K shot. Effectively, this technique fools people into thinking that the camera was moving.

4K video tracking

Extra zoom

Shooting in 4K gives you so much more resolution that you can use it to zoom in or zoom out to a 1080p image without losing any quality. This can either be for an effect, or you can simply crop into your subject to give you the effect of a longer telephoto lens. Provided that you don’t go a 1080p crop, you won’t lose any quality, either.

4K video zooming


Although you may have shot your footage on a camera that has built-in stabilisation, some footage can be a little shaky, still. Fortunately, if you shoot at 4K, you have options. Effectively, you draw a 1080p box around the area you want to focus on; the box is then moved around the full 4K frame, keeping the image inside stable.

4K video stabilisation

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