Shooting in 1080 in 2020: A Bad Idea or Still the Way to Go?

It's been several years since the first predictions that 4K was going to be the new HD in the near future. It is 2020, and here, Tony Northrup tests his own prophecy against the current reality.

For those who haven't jumped on the 4K bandwagon yet, you need to have a solid foundation of hard drives and computing power, especially the former. If you switch to filming and editing in 4K, you will have video with gorgeous resolution that you can crop without hesitation, because there's so much pixel data you can play with. You can have shots that are slightly not in focus that you can keep when you know you're going to scale the video down anyway. All those good points, and yet, Tony Northrup decides to go back to good ol' HD. If you think that's an easy decision, think about the thousands of dollars he invested in infrastructure and computing power that could be saved and invested in something of a greater value. By greater value, I mean something that will be appreciated and would have a solid return on investment in a reasonable period of time. I personally agree that 4K is still not a profitable switch. It is like using a medium format camera. If you have clients that appreciate the results and pay you accordingly, you are at the right spot. Otherwise, using a camera with smaller files will be more than enough for you and your business. As a writer who posted articles on the topic that the market is not ready for 4K yet, I agree with the conclusion of this video.

What is your opinion? Is the market ready for 4K, and if you have done the switch, have you been returned your investment? What if you worked with 2K footage? Would it make a difference for your business profits?

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I agree. Every metric shows that single digits % use 4k.

Even if you shoot 1080p, by using a decent camera you will get jaws to drop.

Public broadcast is capped at VERY low bitrate and few use more than 720p and a few cable and satellite services that do serve 1080p are still worse than even Netflix and Amazon Prime 1080p, as highly compressed as that is.

Clean 1080p from a DSLR 5years old is still much better than 95%+ of all videos people will see today.

My lowly Canon SL2 with a cheapo 24mm f2.8 still makes jaws drop, even from people using their 4k TVs and video from high end phones. They say it looks like a movie theater quality.

Outside of that they have never seem good quality photage because either it is not available because of streaming compression, or because they lack the means to watch high quality image.

Andrew Broekhuijsen's picture

I tend to agree that if you nail your lighting and cinematography, your resolution stops getting noticed by anyone but pedants.

I'm still thrilled with the quality I can get out of my 5D Mk II. Sure I have to focus manually, but that hasn't stopped me from making videos I've been very happy with.

Kirk Darling's picture

It depends on whether your market will pay for it. For sure, if your market is YouTube, it won't pay the cost of 4K.

Some wedding photographers report that their clients are requiring 4K, but I suspect that comes from the same place that some wedding clients require photographers to shoot with Canon or Nikon and nothing else.

There certainly are a few markets that demand 4K and actually would make good use of 4K, but their overall requirements are so high-end that we shouldn't be talking about it being necessary in but a few higher-end cameras. Photographers who have a valid 4K market should be charging enough to shoot with a solid professional video camera.


I would make a wager with you that an upscaled 1080p would not be differentiated from native 4k or even downscaled oversampled 8k.

But I understand that some people will demand it even if they don't know what it means and agree again that you should charge accordingly.

Foto Toad's picture

So true. There's forever been people on YouTube showing how most people can't tell anyway. Like this one

But personally I will shoot in 4k whenever possible because I'm a pixel peeping fool I guess. One day in the future maybe I will be glad for the hours I have lost editing 4k (and 8k timelapses)... And all the money lost storing all this footage. Maybe

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

I watch Youtube on a 12" Macbook so it's pretty pointless for me to go above 1080p. There's no appreciable difference. Hell, even 720p is still good.

Nicolas Thulliez's picture

I watch Youtube videos in 1080p on my tv (it is still a 1080p tv) using my shield tv...

I think the quality is pretty good. But, in this video, this depth of field so thin... the autofocus of the camera is not so smooth at f1.2, it adjuts all the time, it is very disappointing (and a little upsetting)... I love shallow depth of field but in this case, this is too much... don't shoot videos at f1.2, keep it at f2/f2.8, it will be more consistent.

Dennis Johnson's picture

what happend to 2k ? when you upload anything higher than 1080, youtube gives you the option to view it in 1080. do love the crispy 4k video's.

Riswandi Koedrat's picture

2K is basically 1080. Remember that 1080 is the vertical resolution and the horizontal resolution is 1920 which is pretty much 2K
4K is also from the horizontal resolution.

David Love's picture

For me it's more about cropping in or doing panning in post. I do this a lot with behind the scenes videos of shoots where the camera is on a tripod and never moves. Being able to give it some movement in post helps. I shoot with the BMPCC 6K, render as 4k. I can always render as 1080 if I ever wanted but I remember VHS, I have 720 videos that I wish weren't shot in 720. The stuff on Netflix is shot so high in quality that it can afford some degradation if needed. My stuff, I want to look as good as it can for as long as it can.

Lenzy Ruffin's picture

Same here. It’s the composition flexibility I appreciate.

And it comes with no penalty (for my purposes).

I record interviews and one to two-minute talking head videos.

I use a Fuji X-T3 and record in 4K at 100Mbps and the files are the same size as when I record at 1080.

If I go to 200Mbps, the files get bigger, but there’s no improvement in quality for what I’m doing, so I just use 100Mbps.

I export in 1080 and it looks great on Vimeo and YouTube, according to paying clients.

Spy Black's picture

I tried uploading a 5 minute, 4k footage to YT, and it seemed to be loading up at dial-up speeds. It was stating hours to upload. I re-rendered at 1080 and it went up in seconds. Is YT charging for 4k uploads or something?

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

That is strange indeed. Have you tried a little later with the same 4K file? How about with another shorter 4K file?

Spy Black's picture

It was a short, quick project that worked as well in 1080 so I didn't really follow through. I'll try it again with the same file and a different file and see what happens.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

Alright. Let us know.

Dennis Johnson's picture

maybe its your Mexican internet connection or you should up your plan to the Arriba, arriba! Ándale,
ándale! package.

Andrew Broekhuijsen's picture

I'm not set up to capture 4k, although my system could probably limp along okay with editing it. So I'm still shooting 1080p. I'd like to go to 4k, but I'm not letting it stop me from making the videos I want to make. I shot 480p for a long time after all the "serious" videographers were on HD. I can live with 1080p until a good deal comes around on 4k.