FPS1000: The low cost, high speed slow-mo camera
Slow motion video is undeniably cool. It's not only visually intoxicating, it gives you a mind-bending perspective on the most fleeting of life's moments. Slow something down enough, and your brain can begin to catch up on the physics, dynamics and emotional content of events that transpire in the blink of an eye. The FPS1000 is a small, hand-held camera designed to capture slow motion video at up to 18,500 frames per second for the price of a decent compact instead of your typical US$100,000 slow-mo rig.
Just about anything fast or destructive becomes infinitely more fascinating in slow motion. The high speed physics of violence, for example, are at once completely alien and totally familiar, and when you add fluid dynamics and elastics to violence, things get even more intriguing.
Typically, though, you need extensive equipment to capture things in high speed. Your average video DSLR will capture between 24 and 30 frames per second, with many cameras now pushing that to 50 or 60 fps in 1080p HD.
By dropping the resolution and the bitrate of its video compression, the iPhone 6 can record 240 frames per second in 720p HD, enough to slow down playback to a tenth of the original speed and play back at a "regular" cinematic 24 frames per second.
The FPS1000 Platinum, which has already been successfully backed on Kickstarter, can record 720p at an impressive 550 frames per second, but allows up to a whopping 18,500 fps depending on how far you're willing to drop your video resolution.
With a starting price of UK£299 (US$480) for the silver model, UK£599 (US$960) for the gold model and UK£899 (US$1,445) for the beefed-up platinum model, the FPS1000 is a super-compact machine that weighs less than a mobile phone and fits comfortably in the palm of your hand.
It comes with a 50mm f/1.4 lens, but it uses the popular C-type lens mount, which means it's cheap and easy to get adapters to suit pretty much any type of lens you've got sitting around. It's got its own LCD on the back, and up to 32 GB of onboard memory, which can be accessed through USB. There's also a micro SD card slot, and it's powered by an external 5 volt power supply.
Once you get up into the super high frame rates, your resolution suffers greatly. At 18,500 fps, for example, you're down to just 64 x 64 pixels. But the platinum version will do 640 x 480 at 1,500 fps, which is a decent resolution for online sharing if you can get enough light into the camera. It defaults to RAW capture, but its creator Graham Rowen is looking into a software solution to output compressed video as well.
Considering that broadcast grade high speed cameras like the Phantom Flex go for between US$50,000 and $150,000, the idea of a tiny, simple and cheap option like the FPS1000 is actually pretty cool.
In much the same way that the DSLR has democratized film-making, devices like this could eventually bring serious slow-mo gear to the mass market. Personally I'd be holding off for FPS1000 generation two or three – as memory technology gets quicker and cheaper, devices like this should improve at a rate of knots – and the FPS1000's image isn't clear enough to compete with high level gear, at least, not in these sample videos. But the idea has a lot of potential.
Rowen's Kickstarter campaign still has almost a month to run if you're interested in snagging an FPS1000 of your own, with deliveries slated to begin in January 2015 if all goes to plan.
You can check out the camera and what it can do in the video below.
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