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9 things you should know about shooting 4K video on the Lumia 950

I used the Lumia 950 to shoot some videos over the weekend while walking at the High Line in New York City. I didn't use any rigs, stabilizers, or tripods. Without any fancy editing, I combined the clips so you can check the video and audio quality for yourself. Take a look at the video and read some of the things I noticed while shooting 4K Keep in mind that the Lumia 950 XL has a similar camera.

1. In 4K mode, the Lumia 950 can shoot in 24, 25, or 30 frames per second (fps). I selected 30 fps, but my video editing app noticed most of the clips didn't shoot exactly 30 fps. Many were just above or below 30, like 29.97, 30.15, 30.06, etc. For comparison, my Panasonic GH4 produces 29.97 fps clips in 30 fps mode. It's not a big deal, but I thought it was strange and worth mentioning.

2. I notice scenes sometimes 'jump.' I think this is related to the autofocus. I have to say that I'm not a fan of these jumps.

3. The camera sometimes freezes when I hit the record button. A workaround is to press and hold the back button, close the camera app, and then re-open the app.

4. You can zoom while recording. The best way to do it is to swipe up or down on the screen. In 4K, the zoom isn't much, but it's better than nothing.

5. You can lock down focus, but you can't lock down the exposure. The camera will try to automatically adjust exposure. This is good for most users, but not advanced shooters who want a little more control. You can adjust the brightness level within the camera, but it still adjusts the exposure when it sees a change in the scene.

6. I'm happy with the colors. Looks very natural. Not too saturated. Not dull either. However, for a more consistent look, you should manually select a white balance. If you leave it in Auto, the color can change when you're moving with the camera. This isn't just a tip for Lumia 950 users, though. This applies to all video cameras with auto white balance.

7. In addition to optical image stabilization, you can also enable digital video stabilization. It's great, but don't expect miracles. If you're walking while recording, the footage will be shaky. If you're standing still and do smooth pans, the video will look smooth.

8. The sound is incredible. I listened to the clips with my headphones and was impressed. I'm not an audio expert, but what I hear on this video is very accurate to what I was hearing while recording. Just be aware that recording in windy places will pick up wind noise.

9. It's easy to transfer the video files to a Windows PC, but it's a totally different story on a Mac. When connected via a USB cable, the Mac cannot see any file data from the phone. The Windows Phone Mac sync app doesn't work yet either.

File size madness

To give you an idea how huge 4K videos are, a 40-second 4K video with the Lumia 950 is about 270MB. A 3-minute edited video with minimal compression is 1.29GB. If I compress the same video for Youtube, I can lower it down to 624MB. After it's uploaded to Youtube, they do their own compression too. You can download the original file I've uploaded to Youtube here.

What are your thoughts on the sample video above? Make sure to select the 4K version if the have the bandwidth.

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Mark Guim is Video Editor at Windows Central. He switched to Windows because the MacBook Pro isn't Pro enough. You can follow him on Twitter at @markguim.

74 Comments
  • Uncompressed/lossless/higher bitrate content is always welcome ! Physical Storage is not an issue :)
  • 29.97 fps IS the correct speed for 30 fps. If you look at most videos you will see that is their framerate.
  • i had a chuckle about that too. Good thing Mark's tips aren't meant to be too technical here, I'd start to wonder.
  • No, you read it wrong. He complains about the fluctuation, going up to cirka 30 and then down to 29.97 fps and up Above 30 fps, etc. That is a valid annoyance.
  • Yes but it doesn't stick to that... It actually can cause audio and video to become out of sync in editors, which sucks :'(
  • It's VFR. Almost all phones can't do CFR
  • 4k kills my eyes
  • in what way? in a good or bad way? shouldnt it be better?
  • Video quality great. but 4k overkill for my eyes it really really sharp. Do a youtube search 4k video eye over load sorry in advance XD
  • How do you stand looking at real life? You must be miserable. Posted via Note 4/Nexus 7 (2013)/Lumia 1020/ Lumia 2520
  • Ha 4k great for details video especially if you plan on down grade in it later. My point was View at a distance
  • Actually a very nice and relatable (I feel almost at the scene of this video) mini movie, the wind is there only thing that draws me away from the focus of the movie, but that can't be helped.
  • I always use OneDrive for importing my video's to FCPX on mac. From my 930 looks (& hears) stunning when on festivals especially the audio!
  • Can you tell me how do you compress a video for YouTube, or anything? Never uploaded anything, but I want to, so can you tell?
  • I notice scenes sometimes 'jump.' I think this is related to the autofocus. I have to say that I'm not a fan of these jumps.
    A lot of people call this focus hunting, and yes, my 1520 has always had a problem focus hunting....constantly hunting for the focal point whatever I'm shooting.  My iPhone and Android do not have this problem.  I was hoping MS addressed this with the new phones but I guess that's too much to ask for.
  • You also will get a wiggle effect from the optical image stabilization at times.
  • I think what you describe as wiggle effect is what i describe as a moment where the sceen appears to warp.  I am going to try and disbale the digital stabilization to see if that helps.
  • Digital stabilization actually. Posted via Note 4/Nexus 7 (2013)/Lumia 1020/ Lumia 2520
  • @pallentx:
    Isn't that exactly what OPTICAL image stabilization should fix (in theory)?
    Mark you did a comparison video between iPhone 6 and Lumia 930 (I guess) last year.
    I was heavily impressed how good Apple got rid of the wobble/pudding effect in handheld video. I hoped Microsoft (honouring Nokia's imaging legacy) would follow suit. Am pretty disappointed right now.
    By the way: 1:16 Dude smiling into the camera is just hillarious. ^.^
  • That jelly effect (rolling shutter) is something optical stabilisation actually can't fix. Digital stabilisation (or to be more precise - digital processing) on the other hand could. By the way, where did you see the jelly effect being pushed back? I searched a couple of vids testing iPhone rolling shutter and for sure the effect is still present.
  • Is it possible to set the optical image stabilization to off? With my Canon lenses with OIS I sometimes get the same 'wiggle' when moving the camera during recording video (5DMarkIII).  Could it be the OIS on the 950 is mainly meant for stills?  
  • Yup that auto white balance can be annoying
  • I think a comparison with the 1520/930's 4K recording would be interesting to see how the video and especially sound compare.
  • I will see if I can do a Lumia 1520 vs Lumia 950 4K video comparison over the next few days (the weather is a wintry mess right now where I live). Watch this space: https://www.youtube.com/user/MrNokiaTech
  • For most personal video shooting, I dont really see the point of 4K video. The file size and processing demands arent worth having your video in a higher resolution than any screen you will be playing it back to. (unless you are one of the lucky ones with a 4K TV).   Now, if you plan to take your footage and edit it, having a high resolution source gives you some zoom and cropping options and such without quality loss.    
  • You'll probably have a 4K TV and/or monitor within two years.  If you're recording something that you plan to watch again in the future you'll be glad that you chose the best resolution possible.  Same goes for photos.  If it is an image you want to keep long-term then get the best quality you can.  
  • Or take stills from the clips. Useful if you record lectures or slides.
  • I have a 4K TV and I haven't view any native 4K video content on it yet. Time for me to load up some Lumia 950 videos and see how good they really look. Pictures do look amazing on the 4K tv, especially screensaver photos.  
  • You should always record anything you want to keep in the highest possible quality available. 1080p in 20 years will feel like VHS feels today.
  • Exactly. Not to be rude to the OP, but how can't people realize this. Posted via Note 4/Nexus 7 (2013)/Lumia 1020/ Lumia 2520
  • But 1080p at a smooth motion runs rings around 4k that stutters.
  • 4k tv's are only getting cheaper, as well as 4k monitors.  I think it's better because these videos will last a lot longer when 4k eventually saturates the market, just like 1080p did years ago.
  • While I certainly agree with you guys in theory (always record in the best quality), I have to say I can't see a ton of difference between 1080p and 4k. And "1080p will look like VHS" is a huge stretch. Not everything has to be in the best possible quality for all people. If it's something important or you are particularly concerned about the resolution and will be viewing on large devices, sure... but it doesn't necessarily apply to everybody at all times. Sometimes a great looking 1080p video IS good enough.
  • I have an 80" 4K Sony television, and the video quality between 1080p and 4K on it is tremendous.
  • 2. I notice scenes sometimes 'jump.' I think this is related to the autofocus. I have to say that I'm not a fan of these jumps. I had this happening and thought it might be the auto focus, but was wondering if it was caused by my SD card being too slow.   
  • Dropped frames. That's all. They are probably not compressing enough or spending cpu resources on live preview during recording. This is why GoPro pushes such nice smooth 4k - cpu is focused on compression. Also wonder if mark is saving video to SD or internal memory.
  • Thanks, I wondered about the digital video stabilization. Under what scenario would you want to have that turned off? I noticed it defaults to off, hence the question. No conflicts with the already included pureview stabilization?
  • While they do have the same camera, the XL has a beefier and more capable processor which should help
  • I think the processor will have a bigger effect on processing, if editing on phones involved.  I think the bandwidth of getting data from the camera into storage isn't as critical.  I'm just guessing here. I hope someone who knows will chime in.  Do dedicated video cameras have high end processors to do this job??
  • I asked Juha Alakarhu about this on twitter and he said that both cameras performed the same despite the different processors.
  • The camera's on the 950s are exceptional. I think the stills in particular are just the best you'll get on any smartphone. They truly look amazing & have swaths of detail. Still not perfect but then again nothing esle on the market is. I'd like to see better dynamic range in video. They should also address the focus clipping & make the effect more subtle. Can't fault it otherwise. The colour reproduction is lovely, the audio is still the best of any phone out there & the performance in low or less than ideal lighting conditions just completely destroys the 930 & 1520 with their paltry f2.4 aperture lenses.
  • That's not been my experience.  I immediately started doing head-to-head still comparison between my 1020 and 950.  The 1020 wins easily.  I really do NOT like the camera in the 950.  In fact, both my wife and I are very disappointed in the 950 (as I knew I would be).  The only thing I like better on the 950 is that it takes stills faster.  But I'll pick slow and awesome over fast and "meh" any day of the week.
  • He was comparing 1/2.5" sensors on 1520/930 to a 1/2.4" sensor on 950. You're comparing the latter to 1/1.5" sensor. Of course the larger sensor will get better pics. The point is that the 1020 is old and falls short in every other aspect. Speed, video, etc.
  • 950 xl here and all up to date but no option for digitial stabilization. wtf?    
  • +1
  • Here's one you 'otter' see...   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8ok_TIpHk8
  • Simple tips for 4K on the 950/950XL 1: Close all apps(hold back arrow and close all the things!)
    2: once everything is closed, tap the back button a few times.... it will cycle through more apps!!!
    3: Make sure you have a Class 10 UHS-1 or faster sd card (not sure what speed the 950's sd card reader peaks at)
    4: Focus hunting is annoying, so setting the focus to manual could help, depending on the situation. I was able to shoot a 5 minute 4K vid and it totaled out at 1.3GB. Interesting fact, for anyone that likes to edit video, the bitrate was 39 Mbps. Also, despite the file size for 4K, if you are editing video and want to zoom in digitaly in post, 4K gives you a bit more quality for that zoom if you are exporting at 1080P.
  • Thank you. I was curious about the bitrate, but too lazy to figure the math. Lol Posted via Note 4/Nexus 7 (2013)/Lumia 1020/ Lumia 2520
  • i actually dl'ed my video from onedrive (have a mac at work, and the windows phone connector app broke with el capitan) and just peeked at the relavent info there :) too tired to bother doing math.
  • Very nice..The sound is Amazing.. just played it through my Theatre speakers that are  connected to my PC and it felt like being there. I'm pleased the 950 and I anticipate updates to fine tune it.
  • The autofocus problem isn't just with 4K, it seems to be with all video on the 950/XL. I was shooting a video of my son. I was completely stationary and he was barely moving and the autofocus would jump in and out of focus every few seconds. Completely annoying. I've reporting this problem to Microsoft through feedback. I never had this problem going back to WP7. Seems they are trying to get too fancy with the autofocus. The quality is stellar though, if you can ignore the focus issue.
  • can it do 1080@60fps? Try that next
  • Yes it can.
  • Neat. Although I'd love to see some night filming and photography with this thing. Panning and autofocus seems a little strange. But for all intents and purpose it is a pretty great camera. Also, another thing that I'd like to see is changing the depth of field (or focus) manually while filming on a tripod to see how good of a effect it gives on that. Can you do a tutorial on that, Mark?
  • Can you actually change the depth of field manually? The aperture is fixed at f/1.9
  • Don't know if this is normal, but my 950 "overheats" and shuts down the camera after about 5 min, my 1020 never did that no matter how long the video was, this is a bit irritating, to me a 5 min video shouldn't shut down the camera app
  • Were you recording in 4K?
  • Also, I'd love to see Camera team try some wind noise cancellation software algorithms. Really annoying when you aren't using a special rig for sound.
  • Lumia Camera Classic has low-frequency bass filters at 100 and 200 hz, would that help for wind?
  • Wind noise is between 80 and 500 hz. A wind sock is the only answer.
  • Can't imagine what an iPhone 6s 16gb customer would do with the file size.
  • Nothing. The 4k capability as a feature is just for show on those models. Well most things are just for show on those models. Even the larger games from their famed app store will fill up the storage easily.
  • I don't seem to have the digital stabilization option on my 950xl. Am I missing something?
  • I really think MS should work on the storage problem with the HQ videos. One thought I had it was to connect the phone to a PC and so the recording is write right on the Pc Hd, not on the phone memory. This would be really helpful to use the camera for record a band playing, for example. It would give a great purpose to the camera stting no memory boundaries...I gave this feedback on the insider hub, but it seems too much to ask such technology...
  • You can have a 200GB SD card in the phone
  • 4k on the L950 is still using the x264 codec hence the huge file sizes of the video. It should use the x265 codec, it brings a 70% reduction in file size while maintaining the same quality.
  • Agreed. The SoC is capable, so it should be doable through a software update. x264 is being used for compatibility, and should probably be left as an option even after enabling the better option.
  • But I don't think previous Lumia models will be able to run x265 codec efficiently (L920, 640, 830, 1020)
  • Is there any other phone which records 4K in x265?
  • Good color, thanks for the people shots. Next time ask people for close ups. The human face is very hard to get right. No one really cares about the scenery which is why it's called Facebook not Scenebook. :)  Autofocus on moving objects is not good but at least it's not pulsing in and out. Static shots are very good.
  • For the auto focus, manually set it.  I played with it and the jumping stopped.
  • Anyone know for how long we can record a 4k video with Lumia 950 XL? Can we record a video for 1 hour? Or does the phone becomes too hot and quit from recording?
  • I find the sound to be very poor. Shooting a video of a christmas tree while a song was playing in the background, you could barely hear the song. What you did hear, loud and clear, was the sound of ones pants as you were walking around the christmas tree, and any scraping noise due to changing the hold on the phone... This was not the case with my Nokia Lumia 1520. :-(
  • hello ..for 4k shoot video .theres have an limit?