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Samsung Galaxy S9 slow motion tested and compared: We exploded beer cans for science

Like most modern smartphones, the Samsung Galaxy S9 offers a slow motion video feature. While many offer 240fps slow motion, Samsung is one of the first companies to offer an impressive 960fps recording mode by default (the others are Sony and Huawei). I spent a little while comparing this new slow motion with my experiences on the Google Pixel 2 and iPhone X, and the biggest thing I learned is how different Samsung's new feature — both in capture and output — is to the competition.

To take advantage of this feature, there's a few things you need to know about capturing and editing. With these tips, you'll be able to do some seriously cool things with the slow motion mode on your phone.

Yes, 960fps is noticeably better than 240fps

The biggest question I've been asked when exploring this new camera is whether the bump to 960fps actually matters. How big is the difference between what the Pixel 2 can do with slow motion and what the S9 can go with slow motion? As it turns out, the difference is fairly significant. To make it easy for you to see the difference, I recorded a few full cans of beer being fired at a target. For science.

Here's the Google Pixel 2:

Pixel 2 slo-mo

The iPhone X:

iPhone X slo-mo

And, finally, the Samsung Galaxy S9:

Samsung Galaxy S9 super slo-mo

As you can see, there's a clear difference in how much slower the S9 is. The impact is way more noticeable, and the spray from impact is way more impressive at 960fps.

The next question asked about this capture mode is if it matters as much that Samsung's 960fps capture only records at 720p, where the iPhone and others capture 240fps at 1080p. In most situations, I don't think it matters. Watching the different versions of these recordings on a 32-inch monitor didn't really feel like I was missing a lot of detail in 720p. Naturally, having the larger video size is nice to have if you're recording a whole video in 1080p to share, but the difference in video size isn't really noticeable when looking at these videos side by side.

You need lots and lots of light

While the Samsung Galaxy S9 has been rightly praised for its ability to capture amazing shots in low light, the slow motion mode plays by different rules. Capturing at 960fps means the video you are recording is going to be noticeably darker than most other photo and video modes. If you're planning to capture indoors, you need to make sure you are in a room with lots of light. Otherwise, the resulting video will be too dark to see much detail and in many situations terribly grainy.

If you're capturing slo-mo indoors, make sure you take lighting into account.

It's also important to be aware of the kind of light you are using. Some overhead lights, especially the tube lights hidden in ceilings, have a refresh rate just like monitors. When you capture this many frames in a second, you're going to see the refresh in your video as a flicker. It's going to be a noticeable strobe that wasn't there when you were looking through the camera to record the video. This effect is worse with different kinds of light, so make sure you know what kind of lighting you are recording in. Incandescent lights are always on and don't flicker. Lights with a ballast or transformer cycle and always flicker. Gas lights may or may not flicker depending on the design.

The best environment for super slow motion is going to be outdoors or near natural lighting. There are some kinds of indoor lights you can use if you need, but natural lighting doesn't refresh and you will know right away if the area you are in is bright enough to record in.

Auto capture makes a HUGE difference

With most cameras, you activate slow motion by pressing the shutter button and standing back. The camera will record for a couple of seconds, and then stretch those seconds out into a much longer video with everything slowed down. If you have a remote shutter, you don't have to be behind the camera when the thing you want to capture in slow motion is happening, but there's a chance the shot might not be lined up the way you want in that situation. If, for example, you have your phone relatively close to a big metal target you're about to fire a beer can at with a nontrivial amount of force, you probably don't want to be super close. More reasonably, if you want to record something going super fast and you want to make sure you capture all of it, relying on your reflexes to tap the shutter button at just the right moment isn't always going to get you what you want.

What Samsung introduced into the Galaxy S9 to address this is brilliant, and I hope it becomes a standard feature everywhere. The Galaxy S9 slow motion has an auto detect mode, where it chooses when to start recording based on the motion in the frame. The app gives you a bright yellow box in the middle of the screen, and when motion happens inside that box the video starts recording right away. You get the same couple of seconds of video, but you're able to perfectly line up your shot without having to rely on those clumsy human fingers to hit the shutter button.

Samsung's editor isn't great

After you record something in slow motion, you naturally want to check it out and see how cool it is. The Samsung Gallery app will show you the video you've recorded, and a small progress bar reveals which parts have slow motion and which do not, but editing these videos isn't quite as easy. You don't have any control over where the slow motion mode is used, outside of the actual capture mechanism in the camera.

What Samsung does offer in its editor is the ability to crop the video you have recorded and add music, but that's about it. Even though Samsung's gallery app has tons of great features for converting normal videos to gifs and all sorts of other neat tricks, none of those tools exist in slow-motion mode.

Bottom line? If you want that nice visual effect of something slowing down and then speeding up at the end of the shot, you will want to get it all in one take and hope for the best. In this one aspect, the way Apple and Google allow you to manually control when slow motion happens in a capture is greatly appreciated over Samsung's tools.

Get a tripod

Recording 960 frames every second means lots of things that aren't super obvious on a normal video show up in huge ways all of a sudden. This is especially true when it comes to those of us who don't have perfectly steady hands. What would be a small shake on the screen in a normal video recorded on your phone looks like a huge wave up and down. At a minimum it can be very distracting, but in some cases, the movement can be enough to blur and distort the thing you were trying to record in slow motion to begin with.

You don't have to have a tripod when capturing slow motion, but it helps. If you're able to plan ahead enough to bring one with you, I'd recommend it. Any tripod will do, as long as you have a decent phone mount for it. I recommend this one (opens in new tab).

See at Amazon (opens in new tab)

The bottom line here is you can have a ton of fun with this camera, but especially the slow motion when used correctly can do things most other phones can't do right now. The next chance you get, you should give slow motion on the S9 a try.

Russell is a Contributing Editor at Android Central. He's a former server admin who has been using Android since the HTC G1, and quite literally wrote the book on Android tablets. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Find him on Facebook and Twitter

33 Comments
  • Resolution actually seemed quite noticeable to me. The first two seemed more natural in color and better detail, while Samsung's looked gimmicky.
  • That comment makes zero sense fanboy.
  • LOL, fanboy. I have the Galaxy s9+. What could I possibly be a fanboy of. Oh, I know, fanboy is the word people use when they can't quite figure out why they don't like what someone said. And to type slower for you since you can't seem to make sense out of a normal comment: the lower resolution is a turnoff
  • Just what the heck is a "gimmicky look"?
  • By gimmicky I meant that it's super slow motion, but because the resolution isn't as sharp it makes it look contrived and not really natural. It seems to me the other two phone manufacturers realized the trade off between even slower motion vs resolution made it too much of a gap between quality. For instance you can see the individual drops from the Samsung slowmo, but you can't seem them sharply and clearly. Whereas the first two you can't really see the drops moving slowly, but the whole video is clearer and crisper. That's my two cents anyway.
  • The super slow-mo is a bit gimmicky and finicky as heck when it comes to proper lighting indoors. With that being said......sometimes the biggest innovation starts as a gimmick or a science fiction stunt. Fingerprint scanners, anyone? What matters is that Samsung is constantly investing in their smartphone camera tech. In a few years we've gone from a fairly decent, albeit one note auto-mode photography experience with Samsung cameras, to an almost pro-experience with so much capability that can be manually squeezed out of the hardware. It is amazing, truly, to have lived through the technological leaps.
  • Agree. Even on iPhone I'd always record 60FPS 1080p over 240 FPS 720p, because of indoor lighting and detail issues with the higher FPS footage. The higher FPS only became usable with the recent move to high FPS 1080p (iPhone 7 series). Before then, I'd always just use 1080p 60 FPS and then import into my analysis app on my phone or PC. I actually prefer the non-slow motion (but higher FPS) footage for export to PC because these phones have a thing for embedded regions of slow mo into the video which are hard as hell to get out (so the video can be used in a desktop analysis app like Dartfish). IMO, Samsung should be talking to people in industries that have use for this functionality to see where they should make adjustments, and which changes to implement. Gimmicks like this are good for marketing, but utterly useful practically.
  • Yeah huge difference I love the S9 slow mo.
    Great for outdoors and ****** for indoors.
    Over time the technology will get better and will probably be able
    to record in darker lighting.
  • How are the beer cans being launched?
  • It looks like a Can Canon upper on an AR-15 lower.
    https://www.xproducts.com/product/can-cannon-soda-can-launcher-ar-15-m16/
  • This is correct
  • Awesome! It's nice to see some freedom loving action going on here on a Mobile Nations property which has become a rare sight these days in the tech blog world in this political climate. The assumed neutral position is sliding so far left it's becoming out of touch with the average user. I'm ready to unsubscribe to the AC podcast which I have listened to for many years after the last episode where Daniel said "We don't want to get political" and then the next moment makes a political joke/comment about Hillary that was throwing sand in the faces of half of America. This is how you alienate people.
  • You assume a lot about me.
  • Not you. The place you work for in general. I gave you mad props for this article.
  • The only issue I take with this is you used what seems to be a fairly good beer instead of **** training beer like coors light or some other garbage. Shame.
  • Brewed on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay (formerly)!
  • I liked the bright orange can. Natty Boh is garbage.
  • I think they did a decent job of tip toeing around the land mines...but be careful AC, stay as far away from politics as possible!
  • What, and miss all the fun?
  • « The camera will record for a couple of seconds, and then stretch those seconds out into a much longer video with everything slowed down » On the iPhone i don’t think there is any time limit to record. Push the shutter and it will record until you press again
  • Same with 240 fps slowmo on the s9 series.
  • And run out of space farely quickly. You're acting like you've recorded (Everytime) way over ten minutes lol, I know i don't. What would I be recording so long? Unless it's new sexy girl stripping for me lol.
  • Quote: "In most situations, I don't think it matters." It does matter. The biggest market for Slow Motion capture is the sports market. There are hundreds of thousands of Coaches and Athletes that use their phones with apps like Coach's Eye, Dartfish Express, and Hudl Technique. When you're recording video at 720p, it is unusable for a lot of this because the video loses too many fine details. Also, the higher the FPS, the more light you need. This negatively impacts footage in training facilities with mixed or lower lighting. The iPhone can do 240 FPS 1080p practically indefinitely. That makes it considerably more useful than practically ANY Android phone on the market. It has always had a lead in this functionality, and for this reason iPhones and iPads have had a virtual monopoly on the sports market since the iPhone 5 introduced this functionality and these apps caught fire. This is why these apps tended to take FOREVER to get ported to Android, and it's why they are badly maintained on Android when compared to iOS. This is also a relatively affluent market, so it's a big deal if you are able to capture it the way Apple has (as they are the kinds of users that will spend lots in your App Store). The superior slow motion functionality in the iPhone is the #1 reason why I, as an athlete, went from Android to iOS. Considering how I use my phone, I'd argue that it's the only reason I have to use iOS over Android (other than Privacy reservations - but I'm speaking functionality-wise). Also, iOS allows you to work with the Slow-Mo on-device much better than Android. And you can always just record 1080p or 4K at 60FPS. The iPhone camera does video very well. The Slow Motion and Apps to work with it are a big deal in my "market." I'd guess < 10% of athletes and coaches that I've seen use anything but iPhones and iPads. Some used to use Android (Notes, Droids, etc.), but most have switched over to iOS for this functionality/access to the superior apps. The only slow-mo that matters to me is the slow-mo that can be done on-demand and isn't super finicky to include the exact content that you want in the video. I would never use the 960 FPS functionality on this phone, if I owned it. Literally never.
  • The s9+ does 240fps slowmo at 1920x1080 indefinitely. Better to have options I would say.
  • So the s9 doesn't record in 240fps @1080p?
  • None of his arguments are valid lol
  • Sony invented this. Not Samsung. But of course only the latter will ever get props.
  • Of course they praised Samsung for it. Sony 960 fps slow mo is 1080p now, too.
  • At first a lot of reviews were writing this off as only a gimmick, but with a little practice you can capture some pretty cool clips. I got a few nice ones!
  • Actually, Sony did 960 fps on the Xperia XZ Premium. Last year.
  • They did, but that was crap as well, 960fps phone camera's have a long way to go IMO, like its has been said here it's more of a gimmick, not really a feature, BTW sent my Sony back it was that bad, I am on the S8+ now, The S9 series did not appeal to me, maybe the S10 next time round.
  • OMG that's half an AR-15 in the picture! I can't believe it! LOL
  • Why big story about "famous" Samsung 960f/720p(only)!? Hey, there is Sony XZ2 with 960f/1080p!