4K is now Ultra HD

Ed Lee
Oct 19, 2012

Naming a new product category is always a challenge. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) appears to have its act together when it comes to high-definition televisions, unlike the digital camera industry, which has failed to standardize on a name for Compact Interchangeable Lens Cameras (Read The Difficulties of Choosing a Name blog from earlier this year)  which has hindered the development of the segment, in our opinion.

As of October 18th, the “4K” term will now be known as “Ultra-High Definition.” According to the new rules from CEA the minimum requirement for a television or projector to earn the “Ultra HD” designation is having a resolution of at least 8 million active pixels (3,840 x 2,160 minimum). Displays must also have an aspect ratio of at least 16 x 9 and a digital input capable of carrying native 4K video. Don’t get too excited about Ultra HD televisions just yet. Initial 84-inch offerings from LG Electronics and Sony will cost about $20,000 and $25,000, respectively.

Digital Cameras and 4K

From a digital imaging perspective, Ultra HD televisions will offer consumers a much better on-screen photo viewing experience. Many consumers today do not even realize that the resolution of an HDTV is only equivalent to a 2 megapixel (MP) image. As such, 90% of the pixels captured by a 20 MP camera end up unused. Upgrading to an Ultra HDTV will increase the percent of pixels used to 40%. So, consumers can expect to see more details and sharper images on-screen and better appreciate the still image quality coming from their digital still cameras.

When it comes to video capture, 99.99% of consumer cameras do not exceed HD video capture. However, GoPro just announced its Hero3: Black Edition, which is capable of capturing video at a 4K resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 but at a frame rate of only 15 frames per second. So while resolution is high enough to drive an Ultra HDTV, the video playback will appear choppy due to the low frame rate. But, it’s a start. Consumers can expect to see more cameras offering 4K video capture within the next year.

Next on the horizon are 8K televisions, which have a resolution of 7,680 x 4,320 or about 33 megapixels. 8K imagery was demonstrated by Sharp at this year’s International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and was very impressive. The technology is still many years away from making its way into consumers’ homes, but when it does they will finally have a good reason to upgrade to a new 33+ megapixel camera.


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