Slow motion. We all love it. It can make nearly anything look cool, “badass”, and sometimes downright awesome. To achieve this, you need a slow motion camera. Researching the best slow motion camera is essential for getting the best slow motion camera for you.
In this article, We are going to discuss the three aspects of a slo mo camera that you need to pay close attention to. These aspects include
- Crop factor
We will then take a close look at those three aspects within each camera itself. But the end of the article, you will have a clear understanding about what makes the best slow motion camera. Also, which one would best suit you for your needs.
A Quick Glance
Here is a quick glance of the slow motion cameras that we'll be talking about in this article.
The importance of Frame-Rate, Resolution, and Crop Factor
These three aspects of your slow motion camera are the most critical when attempting to achieve smooth slow motion. We are going to dive into each of them so you better understand why you need to keep them in mind
...is single handedly the most important aspect of slow motion. Frame rate is represented as a number and a “p” at the end of it. Example would be 60p or 30p. This number represents your frames per second.
Frame rate is to be used for nothing more than slow motion. If you were to export a video at 30p, you end result would look very similar to a soap opera (because they shoot and broadcast at 30 frames per second). 30 or 60p is not meant for your footage to look “smoother” (which is what I thought years ago).
Get used to recording in a high frame rate and exporting in 24 frames per second (unless you are going for a different look). Use those extra frames for slow motion.
is an obvious section, but maximum resolution is a very significant factor in how your video will end up looking. Be aware that, for one, a camera that supports 4k will be more expensive than a 1080p camera (for example). Also, the higher the resolution usually means the lower the frame-rate. The higher you set your resolution means your frame-rate for slow motion will be lower.
an aspect that many people overlook. But it is something you need to keep in mind when choosing your slo mo camera. In basic terms, the higher you set your resolution, there may be a crop on your image. Crop factor is the amount of the image (or sensor) the camera “cuts out”. The larger the crop factor, the more of the image cropped (cut) compared to the original no-cropped image.
This is seen in many cameras that support 4k. In 1080p you’ll see the pure uncropped image. When set to 4k, you see significantly less of the image and it will seem zoomed in. The amount of crop can vary from camera to camera. But it is something you will need to keep in mind.
The reason so many people love full frame cameras is because there is no crop. That is the native size of the image, and most sought after. This is also the reason a full frame camera is generally the most expensive.
Some sensors where you will get a crop all the time based on the sensor itself include:
- APS-C - 1.6x crop.
- Micro 4/3 - 2.0x crop
Now that you understand a bit more about what you should be looking for - let's dive into each of those aspects when it comes to the cameras themselves.
The best slow mo cameras
Sony RX 100 Mark VII (the slow motion beast)
Sony RX 100 Mark VI (the slow motion beast)
When searching for the best slow motion camera I’m sure you have come across the RX 100 mark VII. If you haven’t or don’t know much about it, you’re in for a treat.
As far as the three aspects of frame-rate, resolution, and crop factor.
- Frame rate - 240, 480, 960(maximum and not a typo)
- Resolution - 1824x616 (240p) 1292×436 (480p) 912×308(960p)
- Crop Factor - No crop factor ( but a hefty reduction in resolution)
I will say, the camera is pretty amazing for its size. You can fit this thing in your shirt pocket. But with something this convenient, it does have its drawbacks.
It can record at 960 frames per second, I am not saying that it can’t. What I will say that at the frame-rate there is an incredible reduction in resolution. 912x308 is a resolution that is almost unwatchable. That is lower than a 360p video on youtube (remember when they were the standard.. In what, 2005?).
Also, the camera “buffers” the data to be able to achieve the write to the card. You can think about it like, it will gather all the information coming through the lens and put it in RAM. Once you hit the record button it will record a length of time specified by the frame-rate you are set at (4 seconds in 240, 2 seconds in 960). This data is then compiled and placed on the memory card in 24p. It will already be slowed down for you at that point, no need to do it in post.
When thinking about it in that aspect… a 2 second video recorded at 960 fps turns into an 80 second slow motion clip at 24 fps. That calculation is achieved by dividing the maximum farmerates over 2 seconds (1920). You then divide that by the video playback frame-rate (24). 1920/24 =80. This equates to 40x slow motion. This frame-rate is obviously meant for very fast moving objects such as bees wings, or a hummingbird in flight.
Go Pro Hero 7 Black
Who hasn’t heard of the Gopro? If you aren’t living on a rock, i’m sure you’ve heard of them at some point. But did you know that it can record slow motion? And pretty damn well too!
Here is the data for the three aspects:
- Frame Rate: 24,30,60,120,240
- Resolution: 4k (24,30,60fps) 2.7k (24,30,60,120fps) 1080p(24,30,60,120fps) 720p (24,30,60,120,240 fps)
- Crop Factor: There is a slight crop when using stabilization
There are great advantages and some disadvantages to the gopro hero 7 black. Let’s go over them before we dive any deeper into this camera.
I will say, I’m a huge supporter of the gopro. It’s an amazing camera in such a small form factor. There is nothing on the market that can do what the gopro can, with it’s form factor, and price point.
If you use the gopro for what it is made for (action), you will not have a problem.
The camera thrives in bright colorful conditions. The colors are vibrant and you’ll notice very little noise. Once you step indoors, that is where the Gopro doesn’t shine, at all. You will notice an incredible amount of noise. It has a hard time translating true blacks, that is where you will notice the noise the most.
You can’t, of course, lower aperture to increase the amount of light coming into the lens. This leaves you with only two options, increase ISO or lower shutter speed. You’ll want to keep you shutter speed double your frame-rate, so that is out of the question. So, that only leave ISO. That’s where it lacks.
The stabilization is amazing. But is only supported at lower frame rates. Once you pass 60 fps within any resolution, their best stabilization (hypersmooth), isn’t supported. You will also get a slight crop when using stabilization.
Ahhhh the Panasonic GH5. What isn’t good about this camera? Well, there are very few. Let’s dive into the aspects.
- Frame Rates: 24,30,60,120,180
- Resolution: 720,1080,4k
- Crop Factor: 2.0x crop on micro 4/3 sensor
There are some amazing things going for the GH5. Lets go over the major pros.
Like stated previously, there really aren't many cons to the GH5. It’s a very solid slo mo camera. As far as mirrorless cameras, there isn’t another camera that can record at this high of a frame-rate.
You can also record to an external HD for much better image quality. You have 10 bit color, which allow you to color grade much better than regular 8bit.
Panasonic offers great lens choices of their own. But, you can also adapt Canon EF lenses to it as well if you find yourself a Canon lens fan.
You can turn on VFR (variable frame rate) and achieve 180 fps in full HD. This is also the most inexpensive interchangeable lens camera that is able to record at 60 fps in 4k.
Again, the only major downside of this camera is the micro four thirds sensor. This can lead to issues while recording indoors or when you do not have the room behind you to frame the shot correctly. Crop sensors aren’t a problem from a technical aspect. It’s framing that can be the real world problem. Keep this in mind if you find yourself needing slow motion in really tight areas.
Canon 1DX Mark II
The 1DX mark II is Canon’s flagship DSLR. It is a true full frame camera. Until it is replaced by the Mark III, it will remain the king. Let’s take a look at the three aspects.
- Frame rate: 24,30,60 120
- Resolution: 4k (60fps) 1080 (120 fps)
- Crop Factor : a 1.34x crop in 4k
There are quite a few great features in the 1DX. Let’s take a look at those and some of the cons.
The Canon 1DX Mark II is a great camera. It has 120 fps at full frame. And 4k 60 frames per second at nearly full frame. The fact that it’s Canon means you’ll get great colors out of camera. The camera also comes equipped with a very large battery - can yield an entire days worth of recording. You’ll also have the option of every Canon lens.
To have all this, you’re going to have to pay the price for it. A hefty price too. The 1DX Mark II comes in at a hefty $6000. $5500 if you can find it on sale. The camera also does not record sound if you have it in 120 frames per second. This may not seem like a problem to most, but if all you want is ambient noise (such as the ocean), you will not get that in 1080/120.
Regardless, for the thousands who have bought the 1DX Mark II, none of them have jumped ship to anything else
Canon G7X Mark III
The G7X Mark III is another compact camera that comes packed with features (and affordable).
Lets go over the essentials
- Frame rates: 24,30,60,120
- Resolution: 4k (24,30 fps) 1080p (60,120 fps)
- Crop factor: There is no crop factor off of this sensor, fixed lens
Let’s dive right into the pros and cons before we dive a little deeper into the camera.
You’ll find the G7X Mark III to be an awesome camera. It supports 120 fps at 1080p. That is something that a lot of higher end DSLR cameras don’t support. You’ll also be able to put this camera in your shirt pocket. This camera also has pretty decent automatic settings. So if you find yourself needing some quick slow motion, you can pull it out of your pocket and point and shoot for slow motion.
One thing that might hold you back is that the lens is fixed. You’ll also find that you will not get that great of the “bokah” effect. So if you plan on making super smooth cinematic shots with the G7X Mark III, this might not be the best camera for you. There also is not a viewfinder on the camera. This is something that might hinder you if you like to frame a shot through the viewfinder first (like on a tripod).
Ahhhhh the “better” version of the GH5. How is the GH5s different from the GH5? Well, while the changes might be minor, the changes themselves are quite significant.
Lets dive into the essentials first.
- Frame rate: 24,30,60,120,240
- Resolution: 4k (60 fps) 1080p (240 fps)
- Crop Factor: 2.0x crop with micro 4/3 sensor
Now, lets dive straight into the pros and cons so that we can move onto the more in depth information.
It’s hard to say if the GH5s is “leaps and bounds over the GH5. What is apparent is the GH5s is geared more towards videographers and for those wanting true slow motion. Much like the GH5, you can put the camera into VFR mode and you’ll be able to obtain 240 fps.
Dual ISO support is something pretty amazing and allows the GH5s to perform better in low light. You’ll also be able to record in 10bit via an external HD.
A pretty big difference between the two is the GH5s does not have in body image stabilization. For those who like their sensor locked in and not moving, that is great. But for those of you looking to shoot slow motion handheld, you might want to look at the GH5 because it does hand held shooting much better.
Sony does an aspect of photography and video better than any other manufacturer. That’s low light performance. Let’s take a look at the essentials and go from there.
- Frame rates: 24,30,60,120
- Resolution: 4k (30 fps) 1080p (120 fps)
- Crop Factor: NO crop (even in 4k)
Let’s discuss the pros and cons
The A7III is a phenomenal camera. It shoots in full frame in 1080p and 4k, with no crop. You will utilize the entire frame for 4k. While this may not worry you because you are interested in slow motion (and 30 fps isn’t that much slow motion) - it is still there if you needed it.
In body stabilization will help you when you want those slow motion shots handheld. Your need for a gimbal or glidecam in situations that you would have to have them with other cameras (like a 1DX Mark II).
I’ll state it one more time, even though I don’t need to, but again, the A7III has phenomenal low light performance. This will help you a lot when indoors or in low light situations.
Some have remarked that Sony has less than ideal autofocus capabilities. I have experienced the same. You’ll notice that it will hunt for the subject from time to time. Just hope that it nails it when you need it the most.
DJI Osmo Action
The DJI Osmo Action is Gopro’s direct competitor. DJI has been a leading manufacturer for drones and gimbals. They decided to take a stab at the action camera market - and let me tell you. The Osmo Action is something to consider.
The dive into the essentials.
- Frame rates: 24, 30, 60, 120, 240
- Resolutions: 4k/16:9 (24, 30, 60 fps) 2.7k/16:9 (14,30,60 fps) 1080p (24, 30, 60, 120, 240) 720p (24, 30, 60, 120, 240)
- Crop Factor: There is no crop on this camera (not even when stabilizing)
Next up is the pros and cons
I will tell you first hand that the Osmo Action gives the Gopro a run for its money. From this point going forward, Gopro has to choose their actions wisely. Here is why...
Gopro’s image stabilization is great. Especially in their hero 7 black. The Osmo, on the other hand, is better. Peter Mckinnon does a great job of demonstrating this by running for 5 minutes through the streets of Toronto.
HDR is a great self implementation of “color grading” done in camera. You could most likely get better colors out of the codec ( because of 100Mbps data rates) if you were to edit yourself. But for those who don’t care to take the time to color grade - this will save you quite a bit of time.
The front and rear screens will help you in a pinch when you are recording yourself and need to see yourself to make sure framing is correct.
The cons aren’t that big of a deal, but need to be addressed.
Your run time in 4k at 60 fps (or 1080p at 120fps+) is roughly 65 minutes. The charge time on one battery is 90 minutes. With this simple math, it is recommended to purchase 3 batteries minimum if you plan to continuously shoot. Your second battery will run out before your first battery completing its charge.
Much like the Gopro, you’ll lose image stabilization past 120 fps in 1080p resolution. It is highly recommended to purchase a gimbal to eliminate this problem. Checkout my article here to compare gopro/action camera gimbals to choose the best one that would work for you.
Your max frame rates also drop when in HDR mode. This would have been a great feature to have in higher frame rates. But, it isn’t too hard to achieve the same look by putting your picture profile into “flat” and color grading to make it look equivalent yourself.
With all that being said,this is a flippin’ solid action cam that shoots incredible slow motion. Weigh the pros and cons and see if it would work for you. It might be the camera you need!
Sony A7S II
We are diving into another Sony camera, for good reason. Sony cameras take great video. This model is no different. Actually, the A7s II is geared towards those who shoot primarily video. This is clearly seen by the low count in megapixel (12.2). Let's take a look at the essential aspects to slow motion.
- Frame rate: 24,30,60,120
- Resolution: 4k, 1080p, 720p
- Crop Factor: Zero crop factor across all resolutions
Needless to say, this is a solid camera as well. You’ll get the benefits of 120 fps (5x slow motion), full frame, in body image stabilization, and great low light performance - all in such a small package. This is achieved with the fact that it’s a mirrorless camera.
You’ll also be able to record in S-log. This is a setting that allows you to color grade with more freedom in post production. If you find yourself not quite at that level yet, not a problem. There are several color profiles that are built in that are great.
Full frame is the name of the game
Your field of view is something that’s incredibly important, and this camera offers full frame in 120 fps. That something that isn’t offered in any other camera at this price-point. The only other interchangeable full frame camera on this list that is able to do this is the 1DX Mark II. That is $6000. This camera is literally $4000 cheaper.
The cons are subjective, seeing as everyone can feel different about them. The navigation within Sony cameras are not the easiest and take time to get used to (esp if you are used to Canon or Nikon). You will also want to get a battery grip for extended shoots (along with additional batteries).
The price is also subjective. ~$2000 for a camera body can be expensive for some. Weigh the pros and cons, along with your plans with it (either hobby or professional). This will determine if this is the right camera and investment for you.
Sony RX 10 IV
I thought it would be best to wrap this article up with a Sony point and shoot camera. But do not let point and shoot fool you - this camera packs a lot more than your typical point and shoot does.
- Frame Rate: 24,30,60,120
- Resolution: 4k (24,30 fps) 1080p (24,30,60,120 fps) 720p (30 fps)
- Crop factor: Does not crop in any resolution. Fixed lens.
If you haven’t noticed, the RX 10 Mark IV is a beast of a point and shoot camera. If someone was to give you the specs, I’m sure you wouldn’t know it’s a point and shoot.
The fact that it supports 120 fps in 1080p and external recording to HD for S-log is amazing. This is something that if found mainly in expensive DSLR or mirrorless cameras. It also has in body image stabilization. Could they have included anything else? Nope, I don’t think so. They covered it all pretty much.
This all comes in at a very respectable price tag of ~$1600. Which isn’t bad for a camera with all of these features and a great zoom lens.
With that being said, I think that is what is holding this camera back. It would have been nice to see this camera as a body with interchangeable lenses. But we can’t have everything we want, right?
Give the Sony RX 10 Mark IV a serious consideration. It could just be the camera that meets your budget and delivers everything you need.
This is a clear winner for us. Depending on the amount of slow motion you need will really determine the camera you will choose.
The one that we recommend that meets great fps levels and is affordable has to go to the GH5. The camera comes in around $1500 and can achieve butter smooth 180 fps. The lens selection for the camera is pretty incredible (esp with adapters) and has in body image stabilization.
If I had to recommend a full frame version, that would easily go to the A7s II. For an extra $500 (compared to the GH5), you have full frame images and a body that connects natively to Sony lenses (my favorite lenses).
If you are looking for a slo mo camera that achieves very high frame rates - Look no further than the RX100 mark VII. Remember, when getting 960 fps you are going to lose a lot in resolution and the image will be very noisey. You have to weigh that downside before purchasing.
A few that I would avoid and only purchase if needed are the GH5s and the 1DX Mark II. While the GH5s offers a bit more slo mo for a camera, the lack of in body image stabilization as well as the increased cost does not justify it.
The same goes for the 1DX Mark II. I know quite a few people who own this camera - and I can not justify paying that much for a camera. The camera is suited for action sport photography. The fact that it sports 4k 60 fps is just a perk. You also have to think of the crop in 4k - which the sony does not have.
Without a doubt, there are more options out there than we listed here. We are giving you a list of the best cameras in this area. We have used and test all of the cameras on this list ourselves. We could have made this article 3x longer. We later agreed that you have more than enough information to be more confident in weighing the pros and cons and deciding for yourself.
Please leave questions and comments in the comment section - I really do enjoy reading and answering them.
As always thank you for reading, and until next time folks, keep shooting!
Giving credit where credit is due.
- Frame rates - www.mediacollege.com
- Crop factor -https://digital-photography-school.com/crop-factor-explained/
- 1dx mark 2 www.cinema5d
- 1dx mark 2 http://philipbloom.net/blog/1dx2/
- Gh5s(1) www.ephotozine.com
- Gh5s(2) www.engadget.com.com
- Osmo (both) - www.pcmag.com
- A7s2 -www.cinema5d.com
- Rx10 mk4- www.trustedreviews.com
- Rx10 www.pcmag.com
- GH5 www.pocket-lint.com