Smart Phone that takes Good Video?

MadMaverick wrote on 10/13/2015, 5:05 AM
I've only ever had basic cell phones, so I'm a newb when it comes to smart phones. I'm thinking of finally upgrading to one. I'd like one that takes decent video, but won't break bank (I just don't think I could bring myself to pay around $700 for a phone).

I was gonna choose one from the Verizon site (, but I'm open to any suggestions. Thank you.


JohnnyRoy wrote on 10/13/2015, 6:35 AM
The new Apple iPhone 6S or 6S Plus can shoot 4K video and 12MP stills! I would get that.

I only have an iPhone 6 but the HD video it takes is spectacular as are the still images and you can shoot HD at 240 fps for buttery smooth slo-mo. The video is AVC/H.264 @ 30, 60, 120, or 240 fps in a QuickTime MOV container. The actual frame rates are: 4K @ 30fps, 1080p HD @ 30, 60, 120, and 720p HD @ 240 fps.

Here is some 240 fps slo-mo video shot from an iPhone 6:

warning:: some pumpkins were harmed in the making of this video. ;-)

Steve Grisetti wrote on 10/13/2015, 7:41 AM
JohnnyRoy makes a good point. Do you want/need to shoot in 4K or is high-def 1920x1080 good enough?

If the latter, virtually any smartphone made in the past 4 or 5 years will give you excellent high-def video. Even phones like Motorola's $300 Moto X.

The electronics for smarthpones today are extremely sophisticated, and it's hard to go wrong. Most any Android or iPhone will give you excellent color and resolution.

The challenge with using smartphones for video is that, aside from the digitizer itself, the camcorder is really just software. There are lenses that can be attached to some smartphones but, unless you're happy with plain vanilla lens effects (which is fine for most home movies), you won't get much in terms of depth of field. Even zooming is only a function of software, not hardware.

But if depth of field doesn't matter to you and you just want to shoot nice looking video with a pocket device, there's no need to break the bank unless you're looking to shoot UltraHD.
Chienworks wrote on 10/13/2015, 9:52 AM
I can tell you one NOT to go for: Motorola RAZR M. It's a very decent phone and it's done wonders for me the past 3 years, but a camera it is not! The pictures are mediocre at best and the video is downright awful. It really looks like 320x240 web video poorly uprezzed to HD, and compressed with way too low a bitrate.

True, i didn't expect much for $139, but still, this is beyond awful. ;)
dxdy wrote on 10/13/2015, 10:20 AM
My Verizon Samsung Galaxy S5 does a very nice job on video. I just have to keep my finger off the lens...LOL.

BTW, put the biggest chip you can afford into the phone, they fill up really fast.
John_Cline wrote on 10/13/2015, 12:34 PM
I have a Galaxy Note 5 and it shoots great looking 4k video (under ideal conditions) and 16 MP stills (5312 x 2988 pixels) both with optical image stabilization, however, the problem with it and virtually every other cell phone is that they record at variable frame rates, for example, a 4k video I shot the other day is at 29.925 fps, while another one ended up at 30.000 and another at 29.910. Vegas doesn't have a problem with the files but it has to do some frame rate interpolation.

The Note 5 is also limited to recording clips of no more than five minutes in length at 3840x2160 and 2560x1440. One other thing the Note 5 does that's pretty handy is shoot RAW stills.
Hulk wrote on 10/13/2015, 8:37 PM
From what I have seen most of the higher end Smartphones take amazingly good video within their pinhole camera limitations. Namely poor low light performance, significant rolling shutter distortion, and no control over depth of field. Even my relatively ancient Galaxy SIII does a great job as long as I have decent lighting and I'm keeping the phone relatively still.
Cliff Etzel wrote on 10/13/2015, 9:27 PM
My Nokia 1520 (Running Windows) shoots up to 4K video as well as 22mp DNG stills. It was the only phone until very recently. The new Windows phones put all others to shame IMO.
MadMaverick wrote on 10/13/2015, 10:38 PM
I'm surprised that there are actually smart phones that can even shoot 4K. 720 or 1080 HD are good enough for me. It'd be nice if it performed well in low light.

I just wanna have the ability to whip out and shoot something while in public, or just doing something spur of the moment. I have a track out behind where I live that I'll walk on at night with family. Sometimes we see weird stuff in the sky. It'd be great to have the option to whip out my phone and record it, instead of running back to my house for my camcorder... only to come back alot of times to discover whatever it was gone.

I wasn't planning on shooting movies or anything like that on the smart phone, so something basic is fine. I assume that the sound isn't gonna be top notch, but that's okay.

I'd hate to pay any more than $300 for a phone... something in the $100 to $200 range would be good.
PeterDuke wrote on 10/13/2015, 10:52 PM
Do any smart phones use anti-shake/stabilizers?

Any so-called still cameras, for that matter?
John_Cline wrote on 10/13/2015, 11:47 PM
If you had read my earlier post, you would have seen that the Samsung Note 5 has optical image stabilization, there are probably at least twenty smartphones these days that have OIS.

I don't know what you mean by "so-called still cameras".
VideoFreq wrote on 10/14/2015, 12:18 AM
NO smartphone takes GOOD video. It is OK at best, but as some have said, most newer smartphones take OK video. It is very contrasty and full of wobble and skew. You'll want a monopod. One thing not mentioned is that editing 4K is processor intensive. If you don't have a decent chip and/or a great video card, your machine will CHOKE!
I was at a wedding that I wasn't involved in with no intentions of shooting video, but after the participants walked the aisle I whipped out my new Galaxy S5 to see what would happen. Here is a link to the video> It shoots OK in good light but pasty and noisy in low light. Lots of jello shots. That said, the I-Phone 6 is about equal to the Galaxy S5 or S6. The S5 shoots awful 1080p.
john_dennis wrote on 10/14/2015, 1:20 AM
Buy yourself one of these and one of these. Forget the smart phone.
PeterDuke wrote on 10/14/2015, 2:37 AM
"I don't know what you mean by "so-called still cameras"."

Really? You wouldn't hazard a guess?

For many years, the camera world was divided into video (movie) cameras (camcorders, handycams, etc.) that take videos or movies, and still cameras (35 mm, SLR, digital cameras, DSLR, etc.) that take photographs. Then the video cameras began to take still photos as well, and still cameras began to take movies. The former was ergonomically and functionally optimized for movies, and latter similarly optimized for stills. As time marches on, the distinction is becoming blurred. A DSLR or 4/3 camera, for instance, is not seen as just a still camera anymore, hence my way of referring to it.

I will therefore rephrase my question, since I genuinely wish to know. Do any of the cameras which have the shape traditionally used to take still photographs incorporate stabilizers when taking movies?
deusx wrote on 10/14/2015, 4:40 AM
Unless you are shooting under ideal conditions they all suck at video and stills. NO matter what resolution or how many pixels they claim to have.

My wife has the latest iPhone 6 and it shoots garbage video as soon as lighting conditions deteriorate slightly. They all do.

Get a real camera.
Dexcon wrote on 10/14/2015, 5:19 AM
I've had a Samsung Galaxy S5 for the past 15 months and agree with others in this thread that it's video quality is not all that great under less than ideal conditions. Even at 4K, low light shooting is not very good - over-saturated in reds. A lot of fiddly color correction is needed in post for low light shots

The advantage of course is that a smartphone camera is really useful for the times you want to video something and your main camera is not handy. Or when you're in a situation when a camcorder etc is too obvious (maybe when 'real' cameras are banned), but lots of other people are using their phones to video what's going - sort of a case of blending in with the crowd.

A real downside to smartphone videoing is that the phone's inbuilt audio quality is truly atrocious - at least the S5's audio quality is really bad. Unless you've added an outboard mike like one of the ones offered by, for example, Rode (though I think they're currently only designed for iphones).

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John_Cline wrote on 10/14/2015, 5:54 AM
I'm sure we all agree that smartphone video can be pretty good but no one is suggesting that they can yet be used for anything other than possible B roll footage. I keep a GoPro Hero 4 Black in my pocket in case I stumble across something that's just begging to be shot.
TheHappyFriar wrote on 10/14/2015, 5:57 AM
I agree with the ones who said you need ideal conditions for the stills & video to look good. Basically. if the conditions are so that a $30 digital camera would make a good picture, a $600 phone will take a good picture.
john_dennis wrote on 10/14/2015, 9:43 AM
@ Peter Duke
"[I]I will therefore rephrase my question, since I genuinely wish to know. Do any of the cameras which have the shape traditionally used to take still photographs incorporate stabilizers when taking movies?[/I]"

Yes, many of them do.
monoparadox wrote on 10/14/2015, 9:45 AM
I am tempted to take a hard look at the soon to be released Microsoft Lumia 950 series. Very competitively priced. Lumia is noted for camera quality. Unfortunately, doesn't look like VZW will be carrying it.

Terje wrote on 10/14/2015, 4:10 PM
>> it shoots garbage video as soon as lighting conditions deteriorate slightly. They all do

This is very true, and there are real-life physics in play that makes it mostly impossible to create phones with good video capabilities in less than ideal situations. A lot of people shoot mostly in "ideal" situations though, and in ideal situations (lots of light) the iPhone 6S v4K video scaled to 1080P blows that Canon 5D mk iii video out of the water :-)
Terje wrote on 10/14/2015, 4:15 PM
>> 'm sure we all agree that smartphone video can be pretty good but no one is
>> suggesting that they can yet be used for anything other than possible B roll footage

Here is me being less than intelligent, but: A lot of the latest Mad Max was shot on Canon 5D mk ii (yes two) cameras. Basically all of the crash-cams were 5Ds. The video was then up-scaled on post.

In a professional environment like that, light is well controlled and "ideal", so phones should work too, and the iPhone 6S, shooting 4K in ideal conditions, blows the 5D (mark ii or iii) out of the water.

I wonder how long it will be until Apple comes out with commercials like "Final Episode of Game of Thrones, shot entirely on an iPhone 6S"... (they shut down House, so Apple can't pull a Canon)
Terje wrote on 10/14/2015, 4:20 PM
>> I will therefore rephrase my question, since I genuinely wish to know. Do any of the
>> cameras which have the shape traditionally used to take still photographs incorporate
>> stabilizers when taking movies?

These days most of them do. Panasonic has gone "Canon" and says stabilization belongs in the lens" - so yes, stabilized, if the lens is. Olympus goes for the IBIS (In Body Image Stabilization) - sadly Olympus is somewhat lacking in the video department. Sony does a combination of in-body and in-lens stabilization, and on the new A7R ii, the stabilization is fantastic, as is the video. Canon has stabilized lenses and that works in movie mode as well. I guess Nikon too.
Terje wrote on 10/14/2015, 4:24 PM
>> NO smartphone takes GOOD video. It is OK at best

Yes. No. Depends. In ideal conditions, some smartphones do very good video. The iPhone S does excellent video in such situations (with all the caveats you get with a small sensor, such as depth of field). In certain situations, these are not problems though, you may want a very wide depth of field perhaps.

Here is the rub, with the caveats mentioned and in ideal lighting conditions, iPhone S 4K video, scaled to 1080P blows Canon 5D mk iii video out of the water. Better color. Far better detail (without over-sharpening) etc.

Again, please note, I am not saying the iPhone is a 5D replacement, far from it, but in some (perhaps extremely limited) situations, the scale tips heavily in favor of the iPhone.
DGates wrote on 10/14/2015, 4:43 PM
If the quality is only good in 'extremely limited circumstances', then the scales don't tip at all.