World first Android/iPhone highspeed photo

One of my images was featured in the U.S. Yahoo! Editorial High-Speed Captures gallery. The most asked question was: “What camera did they use?”. In this post I’m going to show, that its not about the camera, its about the technique. To proof my point I tried to capture some highspeed photos with my Android smartphone (HTC Hero) and an iPhone.


Highspeed photo taken with Android phone

Camera / Flash
Compared to a modern point and shoot cameras, smartphones have inferior cameras. This is because of their size and also in terms of handling and adjustment possibilities. So this was really what I was looking for, a very basic camera.
I wanted to use the same technique as described in lesson 3 of my highspeed 101. So the only thing the camera needs to support is ‘longtime exposure’. I checked this with my HTC Hero in a dark room and it turned out that the maximum shutter speed was below 1 second. I can’t tell you how long its exactly since there are no exif data about shutter speed, but it felt pretty short, I’d say 0.5-1 seconds. I thought this could be tough but lets try.
I checked the setting to see what one can adjust. I turned off auto focus because it will be to dark for the auto focus to work. ISO were set to 100, because I didn’t want the camera to use a high ISO as this would mean shorter shutter speed.

Android highspeed photography - Setup

Setup (click to enlarge)

Both SB28 were set to 1/32 power. According to this website the flash duration at this power setting is about 1/19000th of a second.

Taking the picture
I setup the lightning and began to shot. The camera resets focus after every image. This was kind of annoying, so I had to use a torch to highlight the glass and set the focus. Then I realized that the white balance is always adjusted to the light available from the torch. Therefore I tried the different modes and “incandescent” looked the best. As the image looked very blueish, I used two CTOs on my flashes. The image still looks blueish, but not that much.
Soon I realized that its not easy to trigger the camera, drop the strawberry and trigger the flash within one second. The most terrible thing was the shutter lag of about 0.5 seconds. Because of the short shutter speed and the shutter lag I had quiet a few misses.


Flash fired to late

All in all I did about 30 shots (without lighting tests). 1/3 of all shot were just black, because I didn’t fire the flash in the moment the camera was recording, another 1/4 were half black, because I fired the flash to early or to late. Finally there were about 15 shots where I captured the strawberry but not all were very spectacular but about 5 shots were OK.

Highspeed photo taken with Android phone (unedited)

Highspeed photo taken with Android phone (unedited)

I also tried with an iPhone 3gs, but the max shutter speed (on iPhone 4) seems to be around 1/15th seconds, which is really really short. You need a lot of patience if you will try this.
I tried “Magic shutter” but I wasn’t happy with this. The results were very inconsistent, the number of adjustable parameters are even worse (compared to HTC Hero) and the image size is only 720×960 pixel. But beside this limitation it is also possible with an iPhone.

Highspeed photo taken with iPhone (magic shutter)

Surely the images haven’t the quality of images taken with a DSLR but it is possible to take highspeed pictures with an Android phone or with an iPhone. The process is not very comfortable, because of the shutter lag and the very short shutter speed. I also missed features like ‘locking focus’ and manual white balance.
But finally I wanted to show that the camera doesn’t matter that much for taking highspeed photos, its all about technique (and time and patience :D).

If someone knows any other application where I can adjust the shutter speed on iPhone/Android please let me know.

More (DSLR) highspeed photos may be found on my highspeed set.

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