Wednesday, August 17

See how the Galaxy S9’s slow-motion video compares to the iPhone X

We know super slow motion video looks great, but how easy and useful is it to capture that many frames per second when it comes to real life situations?

We compared super slow motion on the Galaxy S9 and Xperia XZ1 to normal slow motion video on Google’s iPhone X and Pixel 2 XL to see if super slow motion results in must-see videos that make it worth your while.

The new Galaxy S9 and S9 + offer super slow motion video, capturing 0.2 seconds of footage at 960 frames per second. That results in an insanely cool 6 seconds of ultra-slow motion at 720p resolution.

Sony’s Xperia XZ1 offers the same feature, but its upcoming Xperia XZ2, due out later this spring, takes super slow motion to the next level by increasing the resolution to 1080p. That should result in better looking clips, but it reduces the playback from 6 seconds to 3 seconds. (The option to shoot at 960fps at 720p will also be available on the XZ2.)

How we test

We tested the Galaxy S9 +, Xperia XZ1, iPhone X, and Pixel 2 XL in natural light outdoors by launching water balloons against a stone staircase in Bryant Park. Then we move our setup indoors. We filmed eggs cracking on a tray under incandescent lights in our video studio, then captured a Puff the Magic Dragon-themed Jack-in-the-Box that chillingly explodes to terrorize everyone in our open-plan office, where it is they mix strong fluorescent lights with natural light.

Our video production team mounted the smartphones on tripods to eliminate any possibility of shaking (which can ruin a slow motion video). The tripods were placed side by side to capture the same scene at the same time.

Recording in Super-Slo-Mo on the Galaxy S9 +

You cannot pinch to zoom when recording super slow motion video, although you can when recording normal slow motion clips. We didn’t take advantage of the zoom on the Pixel 2 XL or iPhone X to keep testing consistent, so each video uses the camera’s default framing. You will notice that some cameras, such as the iPhone and Xperia, automatically zoom in closer than the S9 and Pixel 2. The iPhone X can capture 240fps in 1080p if you change the default in the Settings app, but for testing consistency , we stick with 720p.

Round n. 1: Water Balloon

First, we ventured to Bryant Park to see which phone camera could make a water balloon explode against stone steps look more epic. This is where we discovered the limitations of capturing clips in super slow motion.

The iPhone X and Pixel 2 XL can capture several minutes of slow motion video, while the Xperia XZ1 captures 5-second videos and the Galaxy S9 stores 8-second clips. Both Sony and Samsung devices fire a fraction of a second of action, which means you have to precisely sync the shutter pressure on both phones. The iPhone and Pixel take a more set-and-forget approach.

That presented some challenges. We had to launch seven water balloons to capture just one of them on the Xperia. If we press the shutter just a fraction of a second ahead of time, we would lose the water balloon.

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The S9 offers an automatic mode, which promises to fire the action only when you enter the frame, but we found that mode too responsive. If someone in the background of the shot moved, the S9 would start firing and the water balloon would miss. We decided to rely on manual mode to capture all of the S9’s slo-mo images in each test.

We had to launch seven water balloons to capture just one of them on the Xperia. If we press the shutter just a fraction of a second ahead of time, we would lose it.

That was a good call, because the S9’s super slow-motion clip was the best of the bunch, even though its camera was almost as fiddly to use as the Xperia’s. The S9 clip better reflected the natural light of the outdoor scene, while the Xperia footage was darker and the contrast between the sprayed water and the stone steps was not as clear.

The iPhone X clip also captured bright, realistic light, but the S9’s super slow motion effect was more dramatic.

Round n. 1: Water Balloon
1st place: Galaxy S9 +
2nd place: Xperia XZ1
3rd place: iPhone X
Fourth place: Pixel 2 XL

Round n. 2: surprise box

After making a big mess at Bryant Park, we brought the party inside our office, where we ran two more tests. For the first, we activate a jack-in-the-box and capture the result with each phone.

Once again, the Galaxy S9 and Xperia XZ1 stole the show in terms of slowing down the moment. There is simply no replacement for frame rate, and we’re happy that Samsung and Sony have spearheaded the push towards 960 fps, compared to the industry-standard 240 fps on the iPhone X and Pixel 2.

The Xperia claimed the grainy shot of the bunch, with visual noise and heavy artifacts dancing from frame to frame. While we liked that Sony’s phone offered a tighter perspective to the Galaxy’s wider-angle shot, the noise was very distracting. Samsung seems to have employed some static attenuating software, which definitely helped, but even the S9 doesn’t look as natural and sharp as what you’d get from the iPhone X or Pixel 2 at 240fps. On the other hand, Apple and Google phones record four times fewer frames, so tradeoffs have to be made either way.

That leaves you with a choice: prioritize quality or frame rate? It’s a release that really depends on the context of the scene. In this case, the light in our newsroom is not the most favorable, but we would still take the Galaxy and Xperia because they collect much more movement in the same amount of time than other phones. And of the two, we prefer the Samsung for better lighting and less noise.

There is simply no replacement for frame rate, and we’re happy that Samsung and Sony have spearheaded the push towards 960fps.

However, it is worth noting that Apple has an advantage over Google in that the iPhone X can record in slow motion at up to 1080p resolution using its High Efficiency Video Compression (HEVC) format. This keeps file sizes low while increasing the level of detail, with the caveat that HEVC may not play on all devices, so 720p over .MOV is still available as an option.

Round n. 2: surprise box
1st place: Galaxy S9 +
Second place:
Xperia XZ1
3rd place:
iPhone X
4th place:
Pixel 2 XL

Round # 3: Eggs

For our last trick, we broke some eggs in our video studio, which was a little darker than the room we used for the jack-in-the-box.

You can tell right away that the Galaxy S9 + and Xperia XZ1 don’t handle this light shortage very well. We could get away with sacrificing some clarity in the previous two rounds, but particularly low-light scenarios really push the limits of 960fps recording to the point where we prefer 240fps phones, even though they can only capture a quarter of the frames. .

Phones from Apple and Google produced videos that were significantly less muddy than what we saw on the latest devices from Samsung and Sony. Ultimately though, the iPhone beat out the Pixel here due to its brighter exposure and slightly warmer, more realistic white balance.

Still, the whole egg crunch drew our attention to an important distinction between the Galaxy and the Xperia in terms of the way they record in super slow motion. Turns out, the clips on the S9 are actually a bit longer, though not necessarily the way you think.

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Samsung and Sony flagships capture around 5 seconds of footage at 960 fps, but the Galaxy fills it in with about three total seconds of normal speed video to top it off. In other words, the clip plays in normal time initially, when you start to see the egg drop. It then slows down to 960fps for about 6 seconds, before speeding up again after the egg hits the pan. In contrast, the Xperia only takes a 5-second super slow motion movie with no frame rate changes from start to finish.

You can tell right away that the Galaxy S9 + and Xperia XZ1 don’t handle this light shortage very well.

Ultimately, one way of doing things is not necessarily better than the other, it just comes down to preferences. We think the effect of the S9 is very good, as you can watch the world slow down, as if the phone is bending the laws of time.

The S9 also produces longer overall video, although we wish both devices could save longer clips in super slow motion. Until manufacturers can guarantee recording 15 to 30 seconds at a time, users will find it very difficult to capture the right moment in a fraction of a second.

Fortunately, the iPhone X and Pixel 2 are capable of rolling indefinitely, so you never have to worry about perfect image timing with the shutter button. They are easier to use in any situation. Combine that with the iPhone’s quality advantage in low-light conditions, and it’s no wonder why Apple’s flagship was our favorite to shoot in the studio, even if its slow motion wasn’t all that technically impressive.

Round # 3: Eggs
1st place: iPhone X
2nd place: Galaxy S9 +
3er lugar: Pixel 2 XL
Fourth place: Xperia XZ1

Overall winner: Galaxy S9 +

The Galaxy S9 + is a solid choice if you absolutely must have a super slow motion feature, but you need to shoot more footage to make it more effective in the global world. Also keep in mind that you will get the best results when you are outdoors or in bright light. However, its effects were incredibly dramatic, making it our top pick for super slow motion video.

Galaxy S9 +
Xperia XZ1 iPhone X Pixel 2 XL
Water balloon
1st place Second place 3rd place 4th place
Jack in the box
1st place Second place 3rd place 4th place
Second place 4th place 1st place 3rd place
Overall winner
1st place
Second place 3rd place 4th place

The iPhone X was more reliable, although its effects weren’t as great as the super slow motion images we captured with the Galaxy S9. When it comes to recording clips in everyday situations, some people will prefer the iPhone. The clips aren’t all that flashy, but you don’t need to pay close attention to your phone to capture the exact moment the action happens.

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We plan to test the high-resolution super slow motion camera on Sony’s Xperia XZ2 when that phone debuts later this year. Stay tuned to see if it can beat the Galaxy S9.

Credit: Tom’s Guide

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