Fast Burst Camera: When Great Action Shots Are Enough
Sep 7, 2012 5:00 AM PT
Fast Burst Camera, an app from Spritefish, is available for US$3.99 at Google Play. Spritefish's Fast Burst Camera may be just the app for sports photography.
I've reviewed camera apps for Android OS before, and I've been particularly fond of Vignette from Neilandthersa, with its 76 customizable photo effects including infrared. That app is superior to market leader Instagram.
I'm now raving about Camera Zoom FX from Androidslide that I believe to be the best Android camera app out there, based on sheer image quality and pro-friendly adjustability, like white balance.
However, Spritefish claims that Fast Burst Camera can take up to 30 photos per second -- and if true, that makes it the fastest camera app available for Android, and faster than Camera Zoom FX that claims 10 per second.
I decided to take a look at the full version ($3.99 in the Google Play Store) which supports flash, focus and zoom.
Why So Fast?
Why would anyone want to shoot 30 frames per second, you may ask?
Well, there are two principal uses. One, you can use it to study form. That is, have a buddy shoot your golf-swing or other sporting moves.
You then go back over the multiple images, and study exactly what mistakes you made -- frame by frame.
Or you can use it to snap a whole bunch of images, called a "burst," and simply choose the best one, deleting the failures.
Bursts work best with action shots, like sports -- and not, as I discovered, inanimate subjects like landscapes. In that case, you just end up with a memory card full of the same image -- the only variation being when you shake the camera, as you naturally do over time.
Time for Testing
In tests I was able to obtain machine-gun-sounding bursts of 51 shots over 5 seconds, making rates of about 10 shots a second -- not the advertised 30 per second.
This shortfall was likely due to the now 1-year-old and ancient, dual-core 1GHz Nvidia Tegra 2 processor in the Motorola Photon phone that I was using.
You can expect better results in higher-end -- read newer -- phones, according to the app publisher.
I didn't even bother testing with the low-end Samsung Galaxy Y I often use for metaphorical checksum.
But the lethargic 10 shots a second didn't really matter. It was still fast enough, and I was able to accumulate a hundred or so consecutive images in a couple of minutes. And that was with gaps in the action while I messed around with settings.
Resolution degrades with high capture speeds.
My smartphone camera is capable of an 8 megapixel resolution image and can use 3 or 4 megabytes of space to hold that data when taking single shots. However, images captured with Fast Burst's default settings were coming in at 718 x 574 pixels and using 300KB of space -- that's a lot less data than an image contains in normal shooting.
Reduced file size equals fewer pixels captured, and if you plan to blow up images or perform major post-production surgery on the images, you'll be disappointed in appearance.
You won't notice this degradation in casual, on-phone viewing. However, you're not going to be winning photo contests.
Again, let it pass. It doesn't really matter -- it's not the point of this app.
A Few Bonuses
One bonus feature that became apparent as I was using Fast Burst was that in single-shot mode -- when you press the shutter button once to capture one image rather than holding the button for burst capture -- the camera recovers faster as it readies for the next shot than it does with stock, and other camera apps.
You can shoot multiple images manually much faster with Fast Burst than with other apps I've used.
I wrestled with my scoring on this app. Resolution was significantly lower than with stock and other photo apps -- yet did it matter? This app performs a role, a specific purpose -- namely action shots.
You ain't going to make sports photographer of the year. It can't do the aperture- adjusted, blurred background required, for one.
But, if you want to get some good family sports shots -- or study form professionally or at the amateur level -- it's the right tool for the job.