iPhone Life magazine

Better Camcorder Receives Proper iOS 7 Lossless Zoom and Slow Motion Support

Back in the days of iOS 5, when the iPhone 4S was the only high-speed video recording-capable iPhone model, I didn't really recommend Better Camcorder (free with a 10-second restriction; unlock costs $1.99), because it was clearly weaker than the alternative, SloPro (free).

Now, exactly the opposite is true: The just-released version (1.7) of Better Camcorder is clearly superior to SloPro with regards to making use of the brand-new zooming-specific features of iOS 7. And the in-app purchase unlock only costs half that of SloPro.

The App Store update notes are listed below, along with those for the latest version of SlowCam ($1.99).

(as usual, click the image to see the original.)

 I'll plan to publish a detailed review of SlowCam soon. For the moment,check out my quick remarks on the app at Digital Photography Review. In a nutshell, when compared to SlowCam, Better Camcorder is much more versatile because it can shoot in any video mode, and can (at least theoretically, see my bug report below) enable or disable the image stabilization; but it cannot export truly 30 fps footage ready for true slow-motion video upload. Better Camcorder will export native, raw 60 (iPhone 4S / 5 / 5c) / 120 (iPhone 5s) fps video to the Camera Roll, which means you'll need to do some desktop processing to slow it down by a factor of 2 or 4 by converting it to 30 fps. In this regard, SlowCam is much better.

But when it comes to lossless zooming, the just-released Better Camcorder is the only App Store app I know of that supports making use of the lossless zoom in iOS 7. And it does it flawlessly. (Please check out my recently-published Lossless Zooming Bible for more information.) While other, not-yet-updated apps with zooming capabilities still use lossy zooming, resulting in significantly inferior image quality at any zoom ratio, Better Camcorder does it losslessly (in the lossless range, of course). Let me present to you a 720p30 video framegrab from a video I've shot with the app, at 720p30, maximal available lossless zoom, 2.18x:



If you compare this to my 720p resolution chart shots made by my reference zoom implementation in the introduction of my Lossless Zooming Bible, you'll notice it's of the same quality. No old-school, lossy digital zooming took place.

Here's a screenshot of the app in action while shooting the above 720p video:

Pay special attention to the zoom slider on the right. Below it, a label shows the current zoom level. As you can see, it shows 2.18, which, as I've explained in my Lossless Zooming Bible, corresponds to the maximal lossless zoom factor when shooting at 720p. (Again, the above reschart shot was shot at this very zoom factor.) The zoom slider only lets you use lossless zooming, unless you specifically enable digital (that is, lossy) zoom in Settings (see the Digital Zoom switch at the bottom):

Better Camcorder Problems & Bugs:

  1. If you switch between resolutions and, in 720p, between normal and over-30 fps modes, the zoom slider will still allow for zooming using the lossless threshold in the previous mode. This means if you shoot at 720p30, which allows for a losslesss zoom of the factor 2.18, and then switch to 1080p, where the threshold is a lower 1.45, the change won't immediately be noticed by the slider. You'll happily shoot at 2.18, thinking the iPhone is still recording (almost) lossless, (almost) full-resolution footage, only to later find out that it was not the case.
  2. Pay attention to this bug. Basically, after some recording / setting change titles, the changes will be noticed. Note that killing and restarting the app won't help—on the contrary, it'll even forget the previous setting. Equally rushed is the Video Stabilization switch in Settings (see the center of the following screenshot):

It just doesn't work. All the test videos I've shot were recorded with the stabilization off, independent of the state of this switch.

Hopefully, these bugs will be promptly ironed out. In the meantime, only shoot with this app if you really don't mind the lack of stabilization (because you're shooting from a tripod, for instance) and don't forget to pay attention to the zoom slider bug to avoid shooting with an already-lossy zoom factor.

UPDATE (Oct/21/2013): as was easy to predict, the developers have quickly fixed one of the above-mentioned bugs: the non-working stabilization switch. The update notes are as follows:

Note that the notes also speak of saving zoom levels. I haven't noticed it having been fixed - that is, after swithcing resolution / mode, it'll stay at the previous maximum level for a while, which is pretty much annoying, particularly if you don't want to keep in mind the maximal lossless zoom range with each resolution / framerate you use (just to recap: 1080p: 1.45x; 720p30 and below: 2.18, 720p60 / 720p120: 1.04). The stabilization switch, on the other hand, does work.

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Werner Ruotsalainen is an iOS and Java programming lecturer who is well-versed in programming, hacking, operating systems, and programming languages. Werner tries to generate unique articles on subjects not widely discussed. Some of his articles are highly technical and are intended for other programmers and coders.

Werner also is interested in photography and videography. He is a frequent contributor to not only mobile and computing publications, but also photo and video forums. He loves swimming, skiing, going to the gym, and using his iPads. English is one of several languages he speaks.