It used to be that slow motion videography was something only professional cinematographers could achieve. But advancements in consumer technology has meant there are plenty of cameras and smartphones on the market right now that can record at frame rates high enough to produce videos with slow motion effects.
In this guide we’ll round up the best cameras for slow motion video that can produce stunning effects without breaking the bank.
Many camcorders and cinema cameras can record a frame rates capable of producing slow motion videos. However, because these are quite niche and expensive we focused on the consumer end for this guide to the best cameras for slow motion video.
For the purposes of our best cameras for slow motion list, we haven’t included any cameras that shoot slow motion video below HD resolution.
How does a camera make slow motion video?
Essentially a camera needs to be able to record video at a high frame rate in order to produce a video in slow motion. If you think about the best slow motion videos you’ve seen, it’s all about the fluidity of movement. The Olympic high jumper edging over the bar. The child hitting the water and the splash exploding outward. The skateboarder doing a 360 in mid-air.
When you are making a slow motion video you are slowing down your footage. If you do this with footage you recorded at a low frame rate, such as 30fps, your video will look choppy. Movements will be stuttered.
But when you slow down footage you recorded at a higher frame rate, such as 120fps – or even 940fps, as some of the options on this best cameras for slow motion are capable of – you have a lot more leeway. The extra frames you’ve recorded per second allow the movements in your slow motion to appear more fluid and natural.
What is the best frame rate for slow motion video?
Around 60fps is considered the minimum frame rate for slowing down video footage. This is why cameras that shoot 4K at 60fps (and now cameras that shoot 4K at 120fps) are such a big deal. Being able to shoot slow motion videos at such a high resolution gives filmmakers lots of options.
It’s also worth noting that typically, the higher the frame rate you record at, the lower the resolution. So some of the cameras on this list that can shoot 940fps, for example, this will be in HD. However, they may be capable of shooting in 4K at lower frame rates.
The standard playback speed for video these days is 29.7 frames per second (30fps), at this speed each still frame gives the illusion of motion known as persistence of vision. If you shoot at frame rates above 30fps, for example at 60fps, you can then spread those 60 frames over two seconds and still create the illusion of smooth playback. So one second of actual real time filming can be spread across two seconds of playback giving the slow motion effect.
Recording = Playback
Here’s a quick table that spells out how your recording frame rate translates into playback time when the playback speed is set to 30fps:
- 30fps = 1 second
- 60fps = 2 seconds
- 120fps = 4 seconds
- 240fps = 8 seconds
- 480fps = 16 seconds
- 960fps = 32 seconds