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Samsung Galaxy Note. First Look

Today, large companies, especially corporate giants like Samsung, do not surprise users with extraordinary products...

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Review of Camera in Samsung Galaxy S3: Comparison with HTC One X and Apple iPhone 4s

The greatest surprise was that in Galaxy S3 Samsung decided to employ the Sony matrix similar to that used in Apple iPhone 4s (it least there is a serious resemblance, while the key is that Sony manufactured this matrix). It is difficult to find logic here, as Samsung boasts excellent matrices of their own, for example the one in Galaxy S2. During the development of SGS3 the company planned to use a 12 MP camera, but then the decision was changed. The megapixel race is over as companies concentrate on service features, additional apps or shooting in difficult conditions, which requires algorithms rather than the matrix itself. Different manufacturers deal with the task differently. Prior to the test I did not know whether iPhone 4s or Galaxy S3 would come on top. How algorithms alter the final outcome? I wanted to compare the new camera with that of Galaxy S2 to figure out the effect of the new matrix. As a proud owner of Galaxy S2, who took several thousands of shots I can say that the camera option in the smartphone is important and matters for people like me. Until recently I could not use HTC models, because their cameras were clearly below par and I did not want to explain all the time, why my pictures are so blurred and there is no focus.


  1. Camera Interface: Service Features
  2. Sample Pictures and Rivals
  3. Bottom Line

Camera Interface: Service Features

Unfortunately, there is no hardware camera button here as only several contemporary models still retain this advantage. One of the rare few is Sony Xperia S, where you can start shooting immediately after you press the button. Opponents of this approach are only people who take no pictures and see a camera in the phone as a redundancy. It's a pity that Galaxy S3 has no such a button and the camera should be started from the main screen, where the appropriate icon is located. The start is not instant and it takes around one second. In real life you may need even more time, especially if you block the screen.

The crucial change in the new camera is a different focusing. As soon as the app opens the camera attempts to focus the central point. It takes less than a second for the majority of cases. The difference from Galaxy S2 is phenomenal, because earlier you had to open the camera app, point and focus manually (press the button or click on the object ). This minor addition saves time. As before you can select any object on the screen to focus on it. If we speak about the focus mode we can traditionally choose from auto focus, macro or face detection. I think macro is a sign of respect to the established tradition rather than the necessity, because modern cameras deal well with distances including close ones (12 cm is the minimum, but 15 cm is more attainable). Face detection works well, and while it was present in Galaxy S2, not many owners use it often. The same happens in point-and-shoot cameras.

The flash is LED and can be used permanently or automatically. I did not see much difference from the previous model. It does the work well, but there is nothing special to be said here. The optimal combination is a xenon and LED flashes, which offers good quality in different conditions. The rest is a compromise, which satisfies the majority, that is why companies stopped using xenon flashes and decided not to market photo solutions too much due to low sales.

Shooting modes became more versatile, so let's go over all of them. By default you start with a single shot, which is the norm. Continuous shooting is more interesting and you can get up to 20 shots per several seconds and all additional settings (exposition correction and so on) are disabled. You can also activate Best Shot and the number of pictures will be limited at eight for you to pick the best one then.

HDR Ц camera suggests not to shake hands for the better shot quality. Frankly speaking I did not see the difference when the feature was applied. May be I should have chosen more contrast objects. The smile function makes the camera react only when a person smiles. Not many people use the trick, but it can be handy for some.

Nice face Ц an effect to hide skin defects and color it in one smooth tone. Sometimes the result can be good, but on other occasions the face look unnatural. You have to ride the luck. I see no point in using this filter.

Panorama Ц a standard panorama shot option, when you move the camera slowly, but it already captures the image. You cannot get a full 360 degrees panorama, but the end product is interesting nonetheless.

Caricature Ц a filter to distort the skin color and make your face look grotesque. I am sceptical about the necessity of this trick.

Photos exchange capitalizes on WiFi Direct and you can send your shots to other devices having selected the desired ones prior to that. It works the following way. You take a picture of your friend and then camera finds all shots with her in your folder and sends them through WiFi Direct. Do we really need it? The option looks intriguing, but I am afraid that in real life it will not be excessively popular. Traditionally we share photos not only featuring friends, but general shots of a particular event. Face tagging is very trendy now and it is implemented here as well. You select face detection and then if you click the face you will see a menu with the opportunity to send a message or make a call. Should it be present in the gallery? I think the answer will be negative, especially as yellow squares on faces cannot be usually considered as an advantage.

In settings you can select the shooting type, which is basically a pre-installed mode , which helps to get the best quality in a particular environment Ц portrait, landscape, night, sports, indoors, beach/snow, sunset, dawn, fall colors, fireworks, text, dusk and backlight. Exposition can range from -2 to +2, which is pretty standard. The timer offers 2, 5 and 10 seconds if you want to play with delay options. Effects Ц negative, black and white, and sepia. I think it is logical not to have too many effects as you can easily change the picture in the editor suite.

Maximum resolution is 3264х2448, while you can also shoot in the wide-screen format of 3264х1836.

White balance Ц auto, daylight, cloudy, incandescent light, fluorescent light.

ISO Ц auto, 100, 200, 400 and 800.

Exposition measurement Ц average, targeted and matrix.

Stabilization Ц on or off.

Picture quality (JPEG compression) Ц very excellent, excellent and ordinary.

GPS tag Ц disabled by default.

On the camera screen you can drag any icon and customize it for your needs.

Video. Highest video recording quality is 1920x1080 (1080p) at 30 fps. The camera can use full autofocus when recording but it often fails to focus on the right object. All in all, the video recording quality is on a par with similar solutions or better. You can take pictures while recording too. The downsides include the second mic (audio can be recorded in stereo) which always gets covered by the hand so you need to watch it.

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Sample Pictures and Rivals

LetТs now get down to the most delicious part of the review: examples of what the camera is capable of. I could not wait to put it against Apple iPhone 4S and threw in HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy S2. Here we go:

Samsung Galaxy S3 Samsung Galaxy S2
HTC One X Apple iPhone 4S
Samsung Galaxy S3 Samsung Galaxy S2
HTC One X Apple iPhone 4S
Samsung Galaxy S3 Samsung Galaxy S2
HTC One X Apple iPhone 4S
Samsung Galaxy S3 Samsung Galaxy S2
HTC One X Apple iPhone 4S
Samsung Galaxy S3 Samsung Galaxy S2
HTC One X Apple iPhone 4S
Samsung Galaxy S3 Samsung Galaxy S2
HTC One X Apple iPhone 4S
Samsung Galaxy S3 Samsung Galaxy S2
Samsung Galaxy S3 Samsung Galaxy S2
HTC One X Apple iPhone 4S
Samsung Galaxy S3 Samsung Galaxy S2
HTC One X Apple iPhone 4S
Samsung Galaxy S3 Samsung Galaxy S2
HTC One X Apple iPhone 4S
Samsung Galaxy S3 Samsung Galaxy S2
HTC One X Apple iPhone 4S
Samsung Galaxy S3 Samsung Galaxy S2
HTC One X Apple iPhone 4S

Firstly, I was surprised by the photo quality of HTC One X Ц it is more than decent and even though it might be slightly worse, it is certainly on the same level as the Galaxy S3 camera. The differences between them are a matter of personal references: I am sure some people will prefer its color palette to the one in Galaxy S3 and iPhone. Every manufacturer is using its own color rendering algorithms. iPhone does very little to pictures in terms of color rendering and the color iPhone camera produces is really nice but the camera fails to deliver details of the background.

The pictures speak louder than words and even though both cameras in iPhone and Galaxy S3 are produced by Samsung, they are not at all identical.

I wonТt be saying which one is the best photo solution as it would be pointless: the beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I would choose Galaxy S3 because it is good in almost every way and the only disappointment I had was that it makes poorer pictures in low-light conditions than Galaxy S2. However, it managed to make this nice picture of a railway station and it was very hard to duplicate the result with Galaxy S 2.

Galaxy S3 photo quality is at least as good as Galaxy S2 in any respect but you get more options. My personal opinion is that Galaxy S3 camera is better than those of HTC One X and iPhone 4S. If you donТt care much for color rendering and post processing than all the three will look the same to you. After all, it is a matter of taste.

Before the test, I was itching to try the burst shot feature. Naturally, I had to go for some fast moving objects like cyclists and cars. But I moved it to another level and tested it on a dandelion I blew at and took a series of pictures at close-up (15 cm/6 in). After a few tries I got what I wanted:

These are two different dandelions I managed to get interesting photos of. Here are a few more samples of the burst mode series.

Taking pictures of cars and people are a lot easier and simpler for the camera. On the other hand, the dandelion is a challenge even for a real camera not to mention the ones in smartphones.

For a few weeks with Galaxy S3 I took about a thousand of pictures: mostly just snapshots during my trips (I was not interested in staged pictures). Here are few of them (not even the best ones) so you can get an idea what photo quality you are looking for with Galaxy S3.

I have already posted photo samples taken in different modes in the First Look but here they are again so you can get the full picture:

Samsung Galaxy S3 Samsung Galaxy S2 HTC One X

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Bottom Line

Did Galaxy S3 need a camera revolution? I think it was more important for Samsung to preserve the quality of Galaxy S2 and they succeeded. S3 camera does very well what it is supposed to do and will satisfy most users. The camera has become a must in mobile phones today but not the most important component. There are very few people who think that mobile photo quality deserves any serious thought. But it was for them that Nokia has come up with its 41 MPix camera phone. Who needs megapixels if the rest of the phone is mediocre? Only Nokia knows that.

This photo comparison cannot be regarded as valid because people choose a phone for routine tasks and as far as its camera is concerned, they care about whether they can get decent pictures on a sunny day or indoors, or whether they can take a picture of text with it remaining legible. All other features are less important.

When it comes to Galaxy S3 there is another thing you should know: pictures look a lot better on its screen than on your PC monitor. The reason for that is the screen size and its type. This is an old trick but on Galaxy S3 pictures really look impressive (as compared to, for example, the iPhone). It can serve as an excellent photo frame.

P.S. All the samples are originals. Feel free to take a closer look and make your own judgments.

Do you want to talk about this? Please, go to our Forum and let your opinion be known to the author and everybody else.

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Eldar Murtazin (eldar@mobile-review.com)
Translated by Maxim Antonenko (maxantonenko@ukr.net), Robert Mugattarov (mugattarov@gmail.com)

Published — 19 June 2012

Have something to add?! Write us... eldar@mobile-review.com



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