The end of 2017 is upon and its time to look back through the year’s camera releases and see which delivered quality at an affordable price in slow motion. HD quality slow motion options took a big leap this year in the phone space and on new entrants in the semi-professional camera fields. It was quite a year in many respects!
Many promised cameras still have not seen the light of day which means they will not be counted in the running. Only cameras that are shipping in quantity with a reasonable wait time and available now are being considered for this post. We will still make note of what may be coming soon for high-speed enthusiasts.
BEST SLOW MOTION CAMERAS of 2017:
Without further ado here are what we believe are the best value slow motion cameras in their respective categories for the year 2017:
Best Slow Motion Phones: iPhone 8, 8 Plus, X & Sony Xperia XZ series!
The best slow motion phones of 2017 are the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and iPhone X with no real resolution match competitor. They offer 240fps at 1080p and 240fps at 720p with improved quality from their older siblings the iPhone 7. Furthermore, they offer frame rates in a continuous recording stream which is not the case for the other important slow motion phones of 2017 the Sony Xperia XZ Premium, XZs, and XZ1 which are time-limited.
The iPhones also have 4k 60p continuous recording which is a first on a phone with pretty respectable quality. It will not match dedicated 4k cameras like the Panasonic GH5 but it is by far the best phone video quality we have seen when it comes to 4k and higher frame rates. The 240fps 1080p mode is higher quality than 720p but slightly lower than true 1080p so keep that in mind. If you need a phone with excellent video quality the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X are hard to beat and they all feature the same quality recording. We, however, would pick the iPhone 8 Plus as the best value of the three handsets due to the optical stabilizer inclusion at a lower price.
Option #2 The Xperia XZ premium from Sony was the flagship release for the year for the brand and it introduced what they call Motion Eye™ technology. It is a sensor module with built-in DRAM like what we see in their Sony RX camera line. It allows for 960fps recording in US Phones and 1000fps in Europe at 720p resolution. There is a catch however as the recording time is limited to 0.2 seconds which translates to 6 seconds at 30p of 960fps like super slow motion. Pressing the button again lets you capture another burst. The built-in memory is too low for full recording more than 200 frames in a single burst. The quality is also lower than 720p if you inspect the footage which is aliased and with compression artifacts which is not ideal.
This, however, will be useful for people looking for recording true slow motion for some time albeit short. Sony released two cheaper phones with the XZs and XZ1 being much more affordable. Out of the three, we believe the XZs is a good value and a better balance of price/features. If you only want the Motion Eye feature the XZ1 will have comparable quality for much less. The XZ phones will be our #2 choice for a slow-motion phone in 2017 after the iPhones.
Mid Range Professional Cameras: Panasonic GH5, Sony a9, and Sony a7R III!
We were quite surprised by the Panasonic Lumix GH5 this year as it not only supports a higher frame rate of 180fps 1080p to its two year older sibling the GH4 at 96fps 1080p but did so with improved quality. It also delivered the goods with 60fps 4k recording at 150Mbits/sec and 10 bit video recording 4:2:2 at 4k 24,30,25, 1080p up to 60fps 10 bit and anamorphic 6k with the latest firmware update. There is no question that the GH5 is the most capable bang for your buck in the video world for 2017. It has so many video-centric features like waveform monitor and XLR audio inputs via the optional adapter. All frame rates are continuous shooting as well with no time limitations.
In our GH5 image quality analysis, we saw that the camera did excellent resolution at 1080p 60-120fps with no drop in quality but anything above that 128-180fps did have resolution loss that created aliasing and moire artifacts with some detail drops that were not ideal. Still, the 180fps mode is usable for many situations that do not need extreme detail retention. The 4k 60p mode is also excellent quality and can be relied upon if you do not use it to record things like water splashes or grains of sand which can break the 150mbps codec.
The elephant in the room when it comes to the GH5 is the recently announced Lumix G9 which is a photo-centric camera that offers 180fps 1080p and also 4k at 60fps just like the GH5 for $1699 instead of $1,998. However, there are recording time limitations on all video modes, no 10 bit recording, No XLR adapter, Lower bit rates and it also ships in February 2018 which makes it ineligible for our list. Still, it may be good enough for your needs. Pre-order here at Amazon.com the Panasonic G9.
The Panasonic Lumix GH5 is our #1 Mid Range Professional pick of the year for high frame rate enthusiasts!
Option #2 As for our other picks in quality Mid Range professional slow motion capable cameras, we have the Sony a9 and Sony a7R III which both offer Full HD 1080p 120fps with a twist. You can Autofocus continuously in the 120fps mode like you would on the other video modes and the focus is not only quick but highly accurate in tracking subjects. The Lumix GH5, in contrast, has no AF in 180fps mode.
The 120fps 1080p modes in these cameras are also flawless in detail and color quality with no aliasing or moire to speak of. The quality is derived from a higher megapixel supersampled image which delivers the best 120fps slow-motion quality we have seen on an affordable camera yet. If you are happy with 120fps then any of these two cameras should be your pick for 2017. If you need more, however, there are other options.
Of the two Sony cameras, we recommend the a7R III for the $1,300 USD savings compared to the Sony a9 at just $3,198 for the a7RIII instead of $4,498 for the a9 which is a sports photography geared camera. The 4k footage at 24, 25 and 30p coming out of these cameras is also magnificent with an incredible low light performance that the Lumix GH5 cannot match along with better still image performance from full frame sensors. The Sony a7R III and a9 are our #2 pick for 2017 in this category!
Action Cameras: GoPro Hero 6 Black & Sony RX0!
We saw the resurgence of GoPro as a brand in 2017 with it posting much-needed profits and more market penetration. The Hero 6 Black announcement and subsequent adoption by many as the new standard in image quality for action cameras made it an easy choice for our action camera of the year. With 240fps 1080p recording and 4k 60fps with a new stabilization system that relies on gyro information and crops the sensor to create a very gimbal-esque looking image left us impressed. The 1080p 240fps quality left us wanting more as the resolution does drop and suffer in this mode with aliasing and moire showing in shots and it is basically unavoidable. The 1080p 120fps is better and offers a good compromise but we were expecting a broadcast quality 1080p 240 format from GoPro. The killer weapon on the Hero 6 black we believe is the 2.7k 120fps mode which offers very good quality and ability to crop and stabilize afterward.
HERO6 Black Frame Rates:
|Video Resolution||Frames Per Second (fps) – NTSC [PAL]||Field of View (FOV)||Screen Resolution|
|30, 24 [25, 24]||Wide, SuperView||3840×2160|
|4k 4:3||30, 24 [25, 24]||Wide||4096×3072|
|60, 30, 24 [50, 25, 24]||Linear, Wide, SuperView||2704×1520|
|2.7K 4:3||60,30, 24 [50, 25, 24]||Linear, Wide||2704×2028|
|1440p||120, 60, 30, 24
[100, 50, 25, 24]
|120, 60, 30, 24 [100, 50, 25, 24]||Linear, Wide, Superview||1920×1080|
|720p||60 ||Linear, Wide||1280×720|
As you can see the Hero 6 black Action camera is a frame rate monster. We think it is the best value for money in this space for 2017. Until Sony or Yi create something more compelling but likely in 2018.
Absent is the 720p high frame rate modes which were always in GoPro Cameras. The Hero 5 Black had 720p 240 and we were expecting 480fps at 720p for the Hero 6 Black which did not materialize. It seems to be hardware limited to the sensor as it cannot sample frames at that windowed or downsampled resolution. We hope GoPro creates a sensor/camera combination in 2018 that resurrects this capable HD slow-motion mode. The Hero 6 Black is our #1 Choice for 2017 in this category!
Option #2 The Sony RX0 is a strange camera. It is not capable of recording 4k internally and requires an external recorder but it does offer quality geared for TV and film production. It has a 1″ CMOS sensor with BSI technology delivering outstanding image quality at full HD up to 60fps. It Outputs 4:2:2 UHD 4K Video via HDMI which is a first for a camera of this size.
|RX0 Slow Motion HFR Mode||1000 fps Recorded at 1920 x 1080p
960 fps Recorded at 1920 x 1080p
500 fps Recorded at 1920 x 1080p
480 fps Recorded at 1920 x 1080p
250 fps Recorded at 1920 x 1080p
240 fps Recorded at 1920 x 1080p
It has the same technology as the RX series of cameras when it comes to slow motion but the quality is not up to par with those cameras. Still, we believe the 240fps quality is a match for the GoPro and why it competes head to head with it when it comes to high frame rates. Even when the camera can record 1000fps at 1080p it is really a sub VGA resolution interpolated codec and one you should avoid if you plan to broadcast. All of these HFR modes including the 240fps mode are time limited to just under 3 seconds so that is another big negative.
It could be the camera you can fit in a crash vehicle where you need higher frame rates but it is far from ideal with its limited resolution in internal recording and hardly the best when it comes to usability. Still, the quality recorded from this camera matches or exceeds the GoPro with less distortion at 1080p. The RX0 Price at $698 USD compared with the Hero 6s $499 and $399 when on sale may put off some buyers. What we want to see from Sony is an RX0 Mark II with internal 4k 60 or 120p and 1080p 240 unlimited recording time.
The Sony RX0 should be an option for you if you want broadcast quality 1080p and can live with limited time recording of ultra-fast frame rates on a 1″ sensor which is huge for a camera this size. A strange but powerful camera that has room to improve. Let’s get 4k internal recording next year Sony!
Professional but Affordable Slow Motion: edgertronic SC2X & Chronos 1.4!
In 2017 there is no contest when it comes to excellent quality slow motion cameras you can afford. The edgertronic SC2X with over 2000fps full 1080p HD quality using an APS-C sized sensor is our pick for uncompromising broadcast quality high-resolution slow motion gear. See our full review of the SC2X here!
The camera launches with 1910fps 1080p as a top broadcast spec just a few months ago but Sanstreak the company behind the camera has released an Overclocking Software Update that transforms the camera into a 2000fps, 2200fps and up full 1080p HD monster. As with all software updates on the edgertronic line, these are free of charge.
While the camera’s price tag at $15,990 may put off enthusiasts and small studio buyers, it is really a steal for this kind of quality. A camera that does full HD 1080p at over 2000fps is usually reserved to $50k USD kits without it being ready to shoot. Those other cameras require expensive memory modules, cabling, monitors and more just to start recording. The edgertronic SC2X comes in a ready to shoot package which also includes a Nikon f1.8 50mm lens and all the cables you need to start shooting out of the box. It even includes an 8GB SD card which allows you to save about 40 clips in H.264 high-quality 1080p format and over 60 clips in lower quality compression which is still better than most.
In our full review, we took the camera through its paces and it impressed us with the ability to retain excellent detail across all of our adapted lenses with no hints of aliasing or moire that could ruin shots. This camera is ready for TV and Film production which is the primary market of the SC2X. The camera also does 2,814 fps at 720p HD if you need more speed and if you add overclocking up to 3,642fps at that resolution. The camera tops out at over 24,000fps at the reduced resolution of 1920*96 pixels.
The edgertronic SC2X is the first affordable Full HD 1080p camera that you can really own, with ease of use to boot; this makes it our professional camera of the year and should be top on the list for any serious video producers that want that edge in super slow motion!
For more information and ordering an edgertronic camera visit: https://edgertronic.com/our-cameras/sc2x
Option #2: Chronos 1.4c
The Chronos 1.4c was a camera that got its Kickstarter Campaign late 2016 and was featured in our upcoming camera section last year. This year the camera shipped as promised and has surpassed 300 delivered cameras.
The camera is a self-contained ready to shoot block with included 5″ touchscreen and it is very easy to use once you get the hang of it.
- 1280×1024 1057fps CMOS image sensor with 1.4Gpx/s throughput 1,502fps at 720p HD
- Global shutter LUX1310 image sensor – 8.45 x 6.76mm, 6.6um pixel pitch
As you can see for $2,999 USD, there is a lot of value here for run and gun shooters. Its price is really groundbreaking when it comes to serious slow motion devices.
Krontech.ca has really done a good job of providing a solid camera at this price. However, it is not our #1 recommendation because the small 2/3″ sensor has several drawbacks compared to the APS-C of larger cameras like the edgertronic. The low light ability is limited, with pixels at 6.6 µ instead of the SC2X at 1.0 µ which are gigantic by comparison. Compression on the Chronos 1.4c is very good at about 40mbps for 720p but image artifacts are also encoded due to the smaller sensor. Noise and banding become problems in non-ideal conditions which means this camera needs a lot of light to deliver a good HD image. There is also some moire and aliasing patterns in detailed objects and the extra kit lens is an ok lens but quite soft wide open.
The Chronos, when shot properly, can deliver excellent image quality when not using C mount lenses which tend to be softer and full of aberrations compared to Nikon or Canon for example. The Camera with adapted 35mm lenses really shines and allows for extreme reach with a 4x crop. For example, a 100mm lens is equivalent to a 400mm, while a 400mm lens becomes a 1600mm lens. This is a plus for nature enthusiasts but a pain for studio shooters. You will need to use super wide angle lenses for tight spaces. We found the camera with a 20mm lens is pretty usable indoors giving it enough back throw space for 80mm.
The Chronos 1.4c is a very new camera which is still evolving in software. Support for most of the side camera ports as of this writing is not ready but planned to be released next year, this, however, doesn’t impede the camera to shoot as is. It is certainly a great option for 720p shooters who do not need very sharp and detailed image quality for a client that demands broadcast quality.
It is a great camera for education, experimentation, and youtube but if you need uncompromising quality you need a different camera with a larger sensor area. Maybe Krontech will release a 1080p camera with a larger sensor one of these days.
For more information about the Chronos 1.4c camera and ordering information please visit: http://www.krontech.ca
P&S / Prosumer Cameras: Sony RX10 IV & Sony RX100 V!
For the second year in a row, we had to include the RX100 V Point & Shoot camera from Sony as there was no RX100 VI release. The little camera has up to 960fps in the US and 1000fps in Europe as specs and has up to 3.8 seconds recording in high-quality mode at higher frame rates.
The new RX10 IV brings all the technology of the RX100 V but with the added reach of a 25x 5 axis stabilized super zoom lens and incredible AF performance with continuous subject tracking. In our view, the RX10 IV is very hard to beat for value and has excellent image quality.
Sony RX10 IV Camera Specs:
- 20.1MP 1″ Exmor RS BSI CMOS Sensor
- BIONZ X Image Processor & Front-End LSI
- Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* f/2.4-4 Zoom Lens
- 24-600mm (35mm Equivalent)
- 2.36m-Dot OLED Tru-Finder EVF
- 3.0″ 1.44m-Dot Tilting Touchscreen LCD
- UHD 4K30 Video, Full HD 1080p at 960 fps
- Fast Hybrid AF System with 315 Points
- ISO 12800 and 24 fps Continuous Shooting
- Built-In Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
- MSRP $1,698.00
|Sony RX10 IV Recording Frame Rates & Resolutions:|
|Video Recording||Yes, NTSC/PAL|
|Resolution||3840 x 2160p: 30 fps, 25 fps, 24 fps
1920 x 1080p: 60 fps, 50 fps, 30 fps, 25 fps, 24 fps
1920 x 1080i: 60 fps, 50 fps
1280 x 720p: 30 fps, 25 fps
1920 x 1080p: 240 fps, 480 fps, 960 fps
1824 x 1026p: 240 fps, 480 fps, 960 fps
1676 x 566p: 240 fps, 480 fps, 960 fps
1920 x 1080p: 250 fps, 500 fps, 1000 fps
1824 x 1026p: 250 fps, 500 fps, 1000 fps
1676 x 566p: 250 fps, 500 fps, 1000 fps
Be aware that all the RX series only record near Full HD quality at up to 240fps, everything after that resolution the quality drops considerably and pixels are up-sampled to 1080p for final recording. Resolution above 240fps is under 720p HD and at 1000fps its under NTSC VGA.
Greenfinch and Chaffinch argue. Sony RX10 IV slow motion 250 fps by Lothar Lenz:
The Sony RX Series continues to be the best slow-motion camera for value in the point & shoot market. Their CMOS Stacked Sensor technology with included memory and 1/32000 shutter speed allows for some amazing capabilities with a lower price tag. If you want to dabble in these cameras and do not want a larger more expensive RX10 IV, then last years favorite camera in the segment the RX100 V is a great deal at $948.00.
End of Year Message:
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We thank all of our readers and those who have supported us in one way or another this year with comments, information, and recommendations. Our mission is to continue to cover the affordable slow-motion market for 2018 and beyond.
We thank you all and we hope you have a pleasant holiday season with your loved ones! Shoot great stuff! -HSC
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