Guide to Camcorder Frame Rates

How a camcorder's frame rate impacts video quality.

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In reviewing camcorder specifications, you’ll frequently see the term frame rate. It’s expressed as the number of frames captured per second, or “fps” for “frames per second.”

What Are Frames?

A frame is basically a still photograph. Take enough of them in quick succession and you have full motion video.

What Are Frame Rates?

A frame rate refers to how many frames a camcorder will capture per second. This determines how smooth a video will look.

What Frame Rate Should Your Camcorder Have?

Typically, camcorders record at 30 frames per second (fps) to give the appearance of seamless movement. Motion pictures are recorded at 24fps and some camcorder models offer a "24p mode" to mimic feature films. Recording at a slower frame rate than 24fps will result in video that look jerky and disjointed.

Many camcorders offer the ability to shoot at faster frame rates than 30fps, usually 60fps. This is useful for capturing sports or anything involving fast movement.

Frame Rates & Slow Motion Recording

If you really speed up the frame rate, to 120fps or higher, you can record video in slow motion. That may sound counter-intuitive at first: why would a faster frame rate give you slower motion? That’s because at a higher frame rate, you’re capturing even more details of movement in each passing second. At 120fps, you have four times the amount of video information than you do at 30fps.

Camcorders can thus slow down the playback of this video to provide you with slow motion footage.

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