Ever set your hands on fire for the sake of a technology review? Nicole Scott has, and with more enthusiasm than you would ever believe possible! Watch Nicole demonstrate the darker arts of slow motion recording on a smartphone by recording herself in the park doing ‘Fire Hand’…
We took four of the most important smartphones that have arrived on the market in the last few weeks and pit them against each by focusing on one feature only; slow motion video! Whether it’s the Sony Xperia Z2, the HTC One M8, the Samsung Galaxy S5 or the new LG G Pro 2, slow motion video recording has quickly become more than just a ‘tick box’ feature, resembling a genuinely competitive arena where camera bragging rights are concerned.
Slow Motion Explained?
Slow motion video recording in principle should be a fairly simple affair, one where the video footage is simply slowed down, no? Alas, you would be forgiven for thinking so, but the reality is that each of the smartphones mentioned above take a different approach to the feature with some quite different outcomes.
It’s interesting to note first off that all four of the phones tested in today’s video all boast 1080p Full HD displays, with regular video recording supported at that native resolution. When engaging in slow motion recording however, all four models revert to 720p recording. This is not totally surprising with the majority of cameras lowering the overall pixel count when dealing with effects and post processing, and it kind of makes sense when you consider that it makes the job of the ARM SoC so much easier having to deal with essentially half the number of pixels. Perhaps this is an area where processor manufacturers are influencing the hardware makers with strict guidelines on image post-processing and effects.
First, lets take a look at the slow motion effects in action. Take it away Nicole..
Now let’s examine the different approaches developed by Samsung, LG, Sony and HTC, and in at least broadest of terms, try to assess who is ahead of the game at this stage.
LG G Pro 2
The new 5.9 inch phablet from LG packs a 13MP rear facing camera offers varied frames-per-second depending on resolution; 2160p@30fps, 1080p@60fps, 720p@120fps. Slow motion as I mentioned takes place at 720p by default and it’s interesting that LG keep to the rather high 120fps during playback. One thing we noticed with the LG design is that the ‘Slow Motion’ effect is actually implemented during playback, i.e. the 120fps image is essentially slowed down to 60fps and played half speed.
The result is a super smooth slow mo playback experience, with natural colors and very little over-exposure, but it is not without its drawbacks. The user may be a little surprised to find that after transferring the file to your PC or Mac hard drive, it is in fact regular speed. If you want to enjoy slow motion, you’ll have to make that effect happen on your own .i.e. the LG does not actually render the video at slow motion speed, nor does it offer options to record and save thusly. Slow motion only happens during playback on the device.
Sony Xperia Z2
The Sony approach is similar to that of LG in that also shoots the video at a 120fps. However Sony has a much better software experience where you can adjust how and where the slow motion takes place on your video with real-time editing where you select which areas of the clip will be slow motioned. This is great for creating sudden slow down within a video clip. Impressive stuff, especially when Sony also gives you the option to then save your re-edited clip as a new file.
The overall experience with the Xperia Z2’s 20.7MP camera is good, but we did notice some slight red hues, possibly due the lens coating. The software is really simple to use however and we love Sony’s ability to immediately edit the slow motion effect and record it.
Samsung Galaxy S5
Samsung take a different approach to the previous two, with a much more rudimentary approach. In terms of video recording the Galaxy S5 pumps out slow motion video at 720p, but drops the frame rate to a mere 15fps after slow down, indicating that the device is capable of only 720p@30fps. The end result is what you might call a mixed bag – the image saturation is good, the actual sensor performed fantastically – better greens and deeper blacks than on rival hardware – but the low frame rate means it is noticeably choppy.
Overall the Samsung implementation seems either a little rushed, perhaps wanting to get the feature on the device at any cost, or keeping up Joneses, as we call it in the UK. Or could it be that the Samsung engineers considered the (frankly incredible) 16MP sensor to be good enough, even at 15fps.
HTC One M8
HTC are certainly plowing their own field where cameras are concerned, with a 4MP cam plus depth sensor that focuses in on larger 2micrometer Ultra Pixels. The design has its fans for sure, but overall we are starting to think that this guys is built for more ideal shooting circumstances, offering less proficiency in low light environments. In terms of slow motion we see the replay of 30fps which is not surprising seeing the standard 720p video comes in a 60fps. The footage is effectively stretched into half-time playback as with the Samsung, but the higher fps makes it a smoother overall experience. There are drawbacks too, for example the HTC was probably suffering the most over exposure with saturation and that same red hue also visible.
I think the best advice we can offer is watch the video and check out the slow motion action out for yourself. The technically different approaches are certainly visible under srutiny, but overall the effect still looks impressive when you are filming something dramatic, like Nicole Scott setting her hand on fire!
The subject of slow motion has been revealed to us something that is certainly worthy of investigating further. We will be back on this topic in the near future.