Your next smartphone could shoot high-def, super slow-mo video, thanks to Toshiba


posted Friday, February 21, 2014 at 12:46 PM EDT


If you're a fan of the dreamy, surreal look that a super slow-motion effect can lend to your videos -- or you just want to analyze your golf swing in fine detail -- then Toshiba has good news for you. The company has just announced a new image sensor aimed at smartphones and tablets that promises an impressive 240 frames-per-second capture rate -- and it does so with Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixel) resolution.

If you're shooting for a cinema-like 24fps output, a 240x capture rate will give you a 10x slow motion effect. (That is to say, your footage will play back at 1/10th of normal speed.) At 30fps, you'll still get a handy 8x slow motion, and even with a fluid 60 fps frame rate, you'll be able to slow your subjects down to 1/4 of their actual speed.

This video, captured with a Sony NEX-FS700 professional camcorder, shows the dreamy look that can be achieved by slowing 240 fps Full HD video.

With such a high capture frame rate, though, getting enough light on your subject for properly-exposed video may be a concern. At best, you'll have a shutter speed of 1/240th second -- and quite possibly faster, depending on how long it takes to read data off the sensor between frames. And since we're talking about a relatively tiny 1/3.07-inch (8.5 x 8.5mm) sensor for smartphone use, there's only so much that you can do by raising ISO sensitivity, before noise becomes objectionable -- even with the use of a backside-illuminated design.

Toshiba says it combats this with pixel binning, combining the charge from two adjacent pixels and creating interlaced output in the process. This, says the company, allows a 4x increase in image brightness. If you don't want interlaced output, the sensor can still provide an unusually high 120fps Full HD readout rate.

Another 240fps Full HD video shot on the Sony FS700. Now, a smartphone could perhaps manage a similar slow-motion effect, albeit from a much smaller sensor and lens.

By dropping the resolution to WVGA (800 x 480 pixels), you can double the capture rate to 240 progressive-scan frames or 480 interlaced fields per second. At QVGA (320 x 240 pixel) resolution, this increases still further to 480 fps for progressive-scan video, or 900 fps for interlaced video.

As well as shooting at up to Full HD video resolution, the sensor -- not-so-snappily named the Toshiba T4K82 -- can shoot 13 megapixel still images. And to help your smartphone or tablet sip power a little slower, the new chip is said to have 18% lower power consumption than the company's existing T4K37 chip, which also has 13-megapixel resolution.

Sample shipments of the new chip begin from March, with full production of two million units per month expected by September. Sample pricing is set at 1,500 yen (US$15 or thereabouts).