Your standard iPhone camera app is actually pretty slow, able to take just three to six photos per second at 8 megapixels each. But with SnappyCam 3.0, you can shoot 20 full-resolution photos per second thanks to a breakthrough in discrete cosine transform JPG science by its inventor. Twenty frames per second is fast enough to capture shot-by-shot animations or every gruesome detail of an extreme sports crash.
SnappyCam costs $0.99 and lets you hold down your finger to take a constant stream of photos. You can then pick your favorites from a burst you shot, or view them as a “living photo” slideshow you can scrub back and forth through, kind of like collaborative photo sharing app Everlapse. Check out a sample of these animations here and below. You can mouse over the control bar on the right to scrub through the frames.
John Papandriopoulos has a PhD in electrical engineering and has been building SnappyCam for two years. He calls it the fastest smartphone camera app on Earth. He essentially reinvented the JPG image standard in order to learn how he could speed up the process of capturing, buffering, processing and compressing photos on the iPhone. His goal? To put the continuous shooting power of a big, professional Digital SLR camera in your pocket.
SnappyCam version 2 was reasonably … snappy, but it had to sacrifice image quality. It could only take 20 photos per second at a 3-megapixel resolution. Then last week, Papandriopoulos had a Eureka moment. Through some complex mathematical algorithms and taking advantage of the iPhone 5′s dual-core processor, it can now take full 8-megapixel photos at 20 frames per second.
Papandriopoulos tells me the speed “is kind of unbelievable. That’s actually the limit of the hardware.”
To put the speed in perspective, SnappyCam is about 4X faster than the normal iPhone 5 Camera app, and more than twice as quick as the Samsung Galaxy S4′s 7.5 shots per second. Papandriopoulos claims that other iOS camera apps built for speed like FastCamera, Camera Awesome and Camera+ often degrade photos to 0.3-megapixel postage stamps when they try to get up to 30fps, and can only do around 4fps at full resolution.
SnappyCam isn’t just for the latest iPhone owners. On the iPhone 4S it gets 12fps at an 8-megapixel resolution, or 15fps at a 5-megapixel resolution. That’s way faster than the Samsung Galaxy S3, which only handles 3.3fps at full resolution.
All this science boils down to letting you choose the best smile from a portrait, review your baseball swing, capture your dog jumping around, and a lot more. Next Papandriopoulos is working to let you export the interactive animations SnappyCam creates so you can share them on Facebook.
The way Instagram helps you see art in everyday life, or Vine allows you to capture a moment, SnappyCam could let you see the world in slow motion.