Portable Slow Motion That You May Already Own!


Looking at the current crop of portable devices that offer slow motion is hard and it’s pretty much a mine field. Lenses differ, sensor sizes are varied and distortion can creep up.

On the one hand we have the smartphones with the Galaxy S4, S5, Note 3 and then the iPhone 5s. On the other we have the portable Gopro Hero 3, 3+ and the Sony action cam.

All  devices sport the same Slow Motion Spec of 720p at 120fps or at least claim to own it.  In our tests not a single one of them delivered true 720p video. Some scale up from what looks like 480p or below, some seem to skip reading lines on the sensor for speed capture which causes severe aliasing. Some might argue that all the cameras have pretty bad edge quality compared to a real 720p source camera.

In our measurements it was a close race between the iPhone 5s and the Gopro Hero 3+ Black.  The iPhone had better noise performance but the Go Pro had just a little more resolution with a better less compressed codec due to being geared towards production. However in low light the iPhone was the clear winner. That iPhone 5s sensor is a very good low light performer and the optics help. If you light properly the GoPro can deliver very good images with little artifacts, however as an all around portable slow mo device the iPhone 5s wins with better color, low light, less distortion and with a more usable interface for composition. The Go Pro can’t do close macro work without attaching a lens on the front which is kind of a hack. The camera is built for action not for micro.

The Galaxy S4 surprised us by having a close performance to the iPhone and Go Pro but just a little less resolution and more line skipping artifacts, good noise performance and color a little punchy, the Galaxy S5 couldn’t be measured for this test due to no availability so we left it out of this test.  The Note 3 has 4k video but the slow motion quality seems more pixelated/ aliased than the Galaxy S4 putting it in last place for the phones, could be because of the sensor it uses.

The Sony action cam has older tech but did good in the color department with good rendition but the resolution was the lowest of the bunch. Sony should improve this for v2 of this camera if released.

So that camera in your phone can actually create some great footage in the right conditions.


So who wins? None of them are real 720p resolution and none of them really capture the scene without skipping lines or bad sampling. You can’t expect much from these devices in the hi speed department but its good to know which will perform better. We are partial to the Go Pro 3+ Black for overall codec and resolution look but the iPhone 5s is pretty good in the noise and color departments. We consider them a tie.

The test was based on shooting the same scene as close as possible with the same lighting setup. A chart was also measured to see resolution. Every single camera had a hard time showing the chart properly and some lines were unreadable in the 720p range.

If you already have one of these cameras we recommend you try the slow motion mode and see if it fits your needs.  There are some great videos from these devices on the net already which means the best slow mo cam is the one you bring with you.

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