How to tell the difference between Real and Fake 4K

Posted on May 07 2019

How to tell the difference between Real and Fake 4K

So you’re in the market for an Action Camera and want one with 4K so you can shoot sharp, epic footage. A quick Google search will bring up a variety of 4K cameras for you to choose from, but buyer beware - it’s not always as it seems and there are now many fakes out on the market claiming to be 4K when they’re really not.
 

First, what is 4K? 

4K is the term used to describe the screen resolution of devices. Shooting in 4K means your camera is capturing significantly more pixel information with the result being a much crisper, sharper image quality that will allow you to see more detail than ever.
It is important to note that the recorded resolution for Real 4K cameras is 3840 x 2160 pixels.

Tech Radar sum it up perfectly with the following statement:
Think of your TV like a grid, with rows and columns. A full HD 1080p image is 1080 rows high and 1920 columns wide. A 4K image approximately doubles the numbers in both directions, yielding approximately four times as many pixels total. To put it another way, you could fit every pixel from your 1080p set onto one quarter of a 4K screen.
  

What is Fake 4K:

Otherwise known as:
  • Upscaled 1080P
  • Interpolated or Upsized 4K
The loop hole lies in the fact that you can actually upscale a Full HD/1080P camera (1920x1080 pixel) to 4K (3840x2160) through interpolation (or “stretching” the footage). However, because it has been scaled this way and not shot in the Native 4K, means the image quality is significantly reduced.
 

How to tell the difference?

Without getting too overly technical, there are a few ways you can work out if your camera is a legitimate 4K or not.
 

The Cost:

4K cameras require a better sensor than 1080P cameras out on the market. Consequently, if your camera costs under $100 USD, then the chances of it being a Fake 4K is higher and you likely won’t get the results you were hoping for.
 

Frames Per Second (fps):

Real 4K cameras should highlight that it can shoot at least 30fps and in some cases like our X500 Action Camera, go upwards to 60fps.  If your 4K camera is saying it has a maximum of 24fps, then it is likely fake.
 

Resolution:

If your 4K camera is displaying a resolution of anything under 3840x2160 pixels, then it is likely an Upscaled camera. Only True 4K devices can shoot at a resolution of 3840x2160 pixels.
 
It is worth noting that many standard 1080P cameras will have an output resolution of 1920x1080 pixels.
 

The Chipset:

The top end cameras should highlight what chipset they use, which will help you identify they're using one that will give you the quality you’re paying for.
 

Some key chipsets that support real 4K are as follows:

  • Ambrella series
  • Sunplus V50 (used by Kaiser Baas)
  • Hisilicon 3559
  • Allwinner V316

Chipset that cannot produce 4K:

    • Alwinner V3
      • Being marketed as 4K 30FPS. Both the resolution and frame rate is interpolated. You can only tell that it is not 4K when you watch the video quality.
    • Mstar 8328Q
      • Being marketed as 4K 30FPS. Both the resolution and frame rate is interpolated. You can only tell that it is not 4K when you watch the video quality.
    • Novatek 96660
      • Being marketed as 4K 24FPS. The resolution is not 2880x2160P nor 3840x2160. So while they advertise it as 4K, it's not but it is interpolated 3K.
    • Sunplus 6350
      • Selling as 4K 15FPS.  
    Shooting in 4K isn’t for everyone and you can capture high quality footage on 1080P cameras. However, it is important to understand the difference so you can be mindful during purchase and ensure you’re buying from a reputable brand that will provide you with the quality you seek.
    In the meantime, have a browse of our range of Action Cameras and if you have any questions or require further information, please contact our help desk.

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