With all the COVID 19/Coronavirus news it seems out of place to fret over smartphone maker decisions. However, we have to mention the latest Sony smartphones which prioritize photo and video quality with one gigantic omission. All of the new lineup from Sony the Xperia 1 II, Xperia 10 II, and Xperia PRO 5G lack super slow motion features. Yes, the 960fps 1080p mode is gone and the only spec remaining is a paltry 120fps 1080p Full HD pseudo-slow-mo frame rate.
If you recall in years past, the Sony brand was incorporating their Motion eye™ technology which pairs a sensor with ultra-fast memory on the same package to allow for large datarates and super slow motion capture. In the lab, the phones were able to shoot up to 1000fps at full 1080p HD with excellent quality. What came out in the Xperia phones was a somewhat odd translation of 0.1 seconds recording time at 1080p 960fps/1000fps which came out to be extremely short and a kind of useless feature. Now that has been abandoned.
Apple has released a preview video showing the video capabilities of the iPhone Xs in 4k 30, 4k 60 and slow motion 1080p 240fps. You can see in the liquid and sound part of the demo the quality delivered by the full HD slow motion but it is hard to judge per pixel sharpness and or artifacts from such a short high shutter video. We will need more real-world samples in order to see if there has been an improvement from the iPhone X of 2017.
We have isolated a part of the footage to see the slow-motion compression and we could detect aliasing in the edges, softness and compression artifacts which are typical of mobile phone high frame rates. The iPhone Xs seems to still have them to some degree. Color and motion on the codec seem to be excellent especially in 4k which looks extremely detailed and with more than acceptable dynamic range.
Apple just released 3 new iPhones and a 4th generation watch. These are all about the screen and speed and not really big new capabilities. It is all refinement and flawless execution but video fans will look at these phones as a continuation of last year’s specs with a better codec and possibly better bit rates and image quality but not much else. The iPhone X and 8 still remain relevant which is expected in an “s” upgrade cycle.
Gone are the big leaps of frame rates and Apple is capping at 1080p 240fps while completely ignoring rivals like the Galaxy S9, OnePlus 6 and Sony Xperia XZ series when it comes to super slow motion video. Apple was at the forefront of these technologies with the iPhone 6 but now have really rested on their laurels while the competition leapfrogs in video capabilities when it comes to frame rates. Others will point out that even when the high speed is restricted you will now get better quality footage in all modes which is certainly an upgrade.
The just released Xperia XZ3 had a lot of rumors surrounding the slow-motion capability which was to be a cut above previous releases but as first-hand reviewers have shown, the camera module is carried over from the XZ2 and what the phone really changes are the first ever Sony OLED display in HDR, larger battery and a larger screen as main feature changes.
The Slow Motion component is unchanged from the XZ2 at 960fps in Full HD 1080p and 720p with just 6.4 seconds worth of playback at 30fps and 3.2 seconds at 1080p 30fps timeline. The hone only records for 0.1 seconds at 960fps in 1080p and 0.2 sec for 720p. Hardly a usable slow motion format for the people looking to capture long slow motion in the several second time-range.
The Fuji X-H1 just announced does a lot of things right; It has a 200mbps 4k codec in UHD / DCI, 120fps Full HD which from the initial looks of it looks gorgeous and it finally has the 5-Axis Stabilizer on the sensor 5.5 stops worth that had eluded Fuji cameras for two years now. It even has a new Eterna color profile which makes it easy to color correct without being too flat or too processed.
However, the X-H1 is based on the same 24MP X-Trans APS-C sensor found on the X-T2 which while overall good, it has problems with color moire and fine textures due to the processing on the unconventional RGB pattern which has 4 adjacent green pixels and differs quite a lot from Bayer sensors. See this article from PetaPixel comparing both technologies here. But as far as video mode is concerned it looks to be a good contender to options like the GH5 and Sony 7 series.
The Google Pixel 2 and 2 XL have been unveiled and to put it simply the slow motion component has received no change. We are disappointed that the 120fps 1080p mode is the highest frame rate at that resolution when Apple’s iPhone 8 and X max out at 240fps 1080p. The 240fps spec on the Pixel 2 is the same also as the first Pixel phones at only 720p.
In 2016 we tied the iPhone 7 with the Google Pixel as equals in the slow motion game but it is clear that Google has dropped the ball with this release by not being particularly strong in the video side as Apple even has 4k 60fps added on their new phones when the Pixel 2 and 2 XL max out at 30fps. This year the iPhone 8 and X seems to be the slow motion phones of the year with a #2 spot for the Sony Xperia XZ series.
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