As a new financial year approaches I've been assessing my needs for producing my YouTube videos using the AirNinja Movie Method with the added parameter of vlog style production.
With Sony releasing the Xperia XZ2 and XZ2 Compact (and currently shooting using the XZ1 Compact) I was pretty disappointed to see Sony drop the headphone jack and downgrade the front-facing selfie camera in the new releases. So they are scratched off the shortlist :(
The front-facing camera has become more important to me as often my videos are created with it and using the selfie camera for video allows a one-man-band to monitor the framing easily.
Losing the headphone jack means also losing the ability to plug in mics, including binaural mics from Sony themselves.
I noticed that the Samsung Galaxy S9 kept the headphone jack still, but no way my budget stretches to £700+ for an unknown binaural performer. Obviously the Sony binaural mics won't be compatible, but my Røde smartphone mics will be.
After reviewing a bunch of sample videos on YouTube I came to the conclusion that the S8 is as good as the S9 for my purposes.
Read on to see what attracted me to the S8 and other phones I would still consider top quality for creating ASMR content on a lesser budget. All these phones record decent stereo-audio video using either back- or front- camera. Many many phones only record mono including every single iPhone ever produced to date, yes even the X.
1. Samsung Galaxy S8 (£500-ish)
Decent front camera with autofocus and binaural-video recording.
Amazingly fast and reliable autofocus in 1080P.
Great 'Pro' mode to selectively lock ISO and White Balance.
Looks good with minimal bezels. 64GB onboard storage (which tends to be my sweetspot shooting 1080P as I do).
MicroSD card slot.
Price has been cut with the release of the S9 and it's pretty much the same phone :)
THE BAD - This thing is gonna crack into a million pieces when it's dropped on-set or even just casually falling out of your pocket day-to-day; best buy a case too.
Touchwiz and duplicate Samsung branded apps kinda annoying for your soul.
THE UGLY - wtf is that dedicated Bixby button lol
2. Sony Xperia XZS (£250-ish)
Really low noise mics, great audio engineering all around, can plug in a set of Sony binaural mics. 64GB internal storage is worry-free for me when shooting 1080P although can be expanded using the microSD too.
Doesn't overheat (honestly on older Xperia this really was a major concern when shooting long video takes, the camera app would just shut down d'oh - not on this one though and not on the XZ below either).
Dedicated camera button is sweet. Really fast autofocus though maybe a tad slower and less reliable than the Galaxy S8 above.
The 960fps is a bit of a gimmick and doesn't record any sound anyway.
Whilst the phone itself is not particularly ugly looking I did always find it a bit annoying to hold one handed. I have long fingers but small-ish-to-average hand size what ya gonna do.
3. Sony Xperia XZ (£150-ish)
Great value for the results you will get from it, shares many features with the XZS above including the low noise mics and ability to plug in Sony binaural mics to the minijack.
It 'only' has 32GB internal storage which whilst usually enough if you dump your rushes every day, I would start to stress if I was shooting over several days without a rushes dump. Thankfully it does have a microSD expansion but, y'know, it's extra admin and another thing to remember.
Whilst the XZ never crapped out on me it can still tend to get on the warm side and it's not a great choice if you want to film long takes at 4K resolution.