mobile photography technology, culture and community
www.dpreview.com

Conclusion

Conclusion - The Good

  • Good exposure even in difficult lighting situations
  • Very good detail in bright light
  • Good flash performance
  • Quick and responsive operation
  • Very comprehensive imaging feature set
  • Excellent screen and decent ergonomics
  • Some customizability in camera app
  • Comprehensive Gallery app with selection feature
  • Fast shot-to-shot times and 3.5 fps continuous shooting
  • Useful voice control feature
  • Panorama mode capable of creating very large images
  • Efficient HDR-mode creates natural looking output
  • New Dual-Shot mode is fun to play with
  • Slow motion video mode

Conclusion - The Bad

  • Strong noise reduction leads to loss of detail in low light
  • Very slow shutter speeds in low light can result in camera shake
  • No control over image parameters such as sharpening or contrast
  • Access to key parameters such as exposure compensation or ISO could be better
  • Exposure can’t be linked to focus point
  • Sports Mode cannot be combined with burst shooting
  • No optical image stabilization
  • Inefficient digital image stabilization in video mode

Overall Conclusion

The Galaxy S4 is Samsung's current top-of-the-line smartphone and as such comes with impressive hardware specifications and a feature set that is hard to compete with. The fast processors and 2GB RAM translate into very quick and responsive operation in daily use. Apps open and run and smoothly and there's no mobile task the S4 can't deal with swiftly. The 1080p AMOLED-screen is very sharp and it's a pleasure to frame and review photos and videos on it. 

The Galaxy S4 feels solid in your hand and is comfortable to hold, even without a case, but Samsung's design team hasn't been too adventurous when working on the S4 and it's probably fair to say that some rivals, such as the iPhone 5 and HTC One with their slick metal bodies, have the edge over the Samsung in the looks department. Dpreview Connect reviews focus on the imaging features and capabilities of the devices we test, but there is no doubt that as a smartphone and mobile device the S4 is right up there with the best. 

Features & Operation

The Samsung Galaxy S4's camera app offers you some customization, but this is generally geared toward point-and-shoot operation. You can "pin" frequently used parameters, such as ISO or exposure compensation, to a quick access menu bar but even then it takes at least two taps on the screen before you can actually modify them. That said, you get very quick access to the multitude of available shooting modes and picking a shooting mode for a specific situation, such as Night Mode, HDR or Sports Mode, can often lead to better results than trying to optimize image output by changing shooting parameters. Those who prefer a physical shutter button over a virtual one have the option to assign this function to the volume rocker.

In terms of imaging features the Galaxy S4 is hard to beat. It comes with an impressive number of shooting modes in its camera app, some of them more useful than others. Dual Camera, Drama Mode and Animated Photo are fun to play with but have their flaws and the novelty factor wears off pretty quickly. Eraser Mode is arguably more useful as it detects unwanted subjects and removes them from an image pretty efficiently. However, as it's impossible to predict if and when a passerby strolls through your frame, you would have to shoot in this mode by default for it to be most efficient. Given that in most special shooting modes you lose all manual control over shooting parameters, for many users that might be too much of a compromise. Still, at the very least the feature makes for a good party trick.

The two features we liked most on the S4 are old favorites. The Panorama mode has been improved and is now capable of creating very large images of approximately 20,000 pixels wide. In combination with good stitching quality, this allows S4 panoramas to be viewed or printed at very large sizes. The HDR mode creates very natural looking results and compensates a lot for the S4's lack of dynamic range. Occasionally the HDR results can look a little flat but a quick level correction in Photoshop or the image editing app of your choice can get you really good results, even in high contrast situations. 

Of course the Galaxy S4 is running Android 4.2, the latest version of Google's mobile operation system. If the Samsung is lacking a specific feature that you want or need, or you're not quite happy with one of the default implementations, you're more than likely to find an appropriate app in the Google Play Store.

Image Quality

With its 13MP CMOS sensor the Samsung Galaxy S4 produces very good detail in bright light that can rival many consumer compact cameras. With strong sharpening applied at a 100 percent view the images can look a little overprocessed. Unfortunately, you don't have any control over imaging parameters such as sharpening, contrast or noise reduction, but overall the Samsung images look very good next to the competition. Exposure tends to be spot on, too, and the lens provides good sharpness across the frame.

Like all smartphones in low light the S4 suffers from a loss of detail through noise reduction, but noise is well under control and the images relatively clean. The S4's high 13MP sensor resolution also means that when images are downsampled to screen viewing sizes noise will be much less noticeable than at a 100 percent view. That is important to keep in mind considering that almost all smartphone images are reduced in size for editing and/or sharing. Camera shake can be more problematic as the Samsung tends to use very slow shutter speeds, as slow as 1/15 in low light, in order to keep the ISO down but does not feature an optical image stabilization system. You can, however, engage digital image stabilization which will limit the slowest shutter speed to 1/30 sec.

The Samsung's flash unit is fairly powerful and usually does a decent job in dim conditions. If you would like to see the Samsung Galaxy S4's image quality next to the HTC OneApple iPhone 5 and Nokia Lumia 920, we recommend you also have a look at our Smartphone Super Shootout that we published in April.

The Final Word

The Samsung Galaxy S4 is an excellent Android device with imaging capabilities to match. The camera's image quality is among the best we've seen so far on mobile devices and the comprehensive camera feature set means you won't run out of new functions to try any time soon. The lack of an optical image stabilization system means you are risking some camera shake in very low light and the camera movements in your hand-held videos won't be quite as smooth as on the HTC One or Nokia Lumia 920, but otherwise the Samsung Galaxy S4 is an easy recommendation for any photo-centric Android user. 

Photo Mobile Score 79   Video Mobile Score 68
Exposure and Contrast 85   Exposure and Contrast 88
Color 80   Color 91
Autofocus 80   Autofocus 52
Texture 76   Texture 78
Noise 74   Noise 66
Photo Artifacts 71   Video Artifacts 71
Flash 82   Stabilization 35

8.0

Summary

The Samsung Galaxy S4 features one of the best smartphone cameras we have seen so far. It combines very decent image quality with a simple but customizable camera app and a multitude of innovative features and modes. An optical image stabilization system would have been the icing on the cake, but it seems Samsung will make us wait at least another device generation for that. The Galaxy S4 is an easy recommendation for Android users on the lookout for a device with strong imaging capabilities.

Sample Gallery

There are 44 images in our Samsung Galaxy S4 samples gallery. Please do not reproduce any of these images on a website or any newsletter/magazine without prior permission (see our copyright page). We make the originals available for private users to download to their own machines for personal examination or printing (in conjunction with this review), we do so in good faith, please don't abuse it.

Unless otherwise noted images taken with no particular settings at full resolution.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Sample Gallery
1 / 44
Image 1
Image 1
Image 2
Image 3
Image 4
Image 5
Image 6


Comments

Total comments: 44
trinkner
By trinkner (8 months ago)

Continuation from my previous post:

No doubt I could have learned to improve the photos by tinkering with the ISO settings, but the "auto" pictures were truly horrible. I put my SIM card back into my 808 and used it for the rest of the holidays with excellent results without tinkering.

Yes, it's true that Symbian is a dying (dead?) OS. But, for the moment, I can still use the phone nicely for all my PIM needs, checking ESPN scores (via bookmarks in the Opera Mini browser), watching YouTube videos, etc. On the 808 I can't use 2014 apps, as development for Symbian has largely stopped. But the camera, with its powerful xenon flash and incredible color sensitivity and focus is phenomenal. People ask me which "camera" I used to take my photos... people never ask me which "phone" I used.

I'm hoping that Sony's next camera phone will have a xenon flash and better image processing than the Z1. Then I might jump from the Symbian flagship.

0 upvotes
trinkner
By trinkner (8 months ago)

In December, I tried switching from the Nokia 808 PureView to the S4 because I wanted the wide library of apps available to Android users. Sadly, I've become so spoiled by the high quality of the 808's camera and xenon flash that I returned the S4 to my local T-Mobile store after 24 hours. Although the camera was nice for well lit outdoors shots, indoor shots of people were virtually unusable. I tried taking photos of family while people sat on a couch: still, posed, optimal setting for indoors photos, and the photos came out unusable. They were grainy beyond belief.

I tried using the volume rocker as the shutter: terrible position for my hands and the result was shaky pictures. I tried using the on-screen tap to take pictures: same problem. I have steady hands, but could rarely get the phone to take a crisply focused photo. There are lots of neat bells and whistles to the S4, like the burst mode, but all it gave me was 10 grainy and blurred photos.

0 upvotes
manuelDabs
By manuelDabs (8 months ago)

Bad phone. The LDC got damaged. Samsung wanted to charge me for a manufacturing defect. Phone looks nice but is unreliable and not built well. I have 2 Samsung devices - S4 and Note2. I am going to get rid of these and buy an iOPhone5. My whole family (five in number) have always had iPhones and they never had any problems. Also Apple support and customer service is much much better than Samsung. Stay away from Samsung products.

0 upvotes
TheJeebus
By TheJeebus (10 months ago)

No mention of framerates, particularly 24fps?

0 upvotes
sderdiarian
By sderdiarian (11 months ago)

Based on reviewing the downloaded JPEG results closely, the S4 looks to these eyes as superior to the 5S by a small margin, and to the 5 by a wide margin, to the One by a wider margin still. I'm viewing zoomed in to the same level on each, to where noise crops up in a major way on the latter two above,

Add in the 20% larger screen (simply a phenomenal advantage in viewing and usage) than the 5S and I'd say Apple's fallen well behind the times. This from a 4S owner/photographer (numerous DSLR's and mFT's) whose contract has passed and is now looking to upgrade.

Off to the store today to compare the S4, One and 5S in hand, but so far the 4S is the standout.

0 upvotes
sensibill
By sensibill (11 months ago)

"the camera app cannot be opened directly from the lock screen though."

This is not true. You can put a photo app icon on your lock screen and unlock the phone -with- the icon, going straight to the camera.

0 upvotes
Kromeo
By Kromeo (Aug 26, 2013)

cant' wait to see IPHONE 5S VS S4 , that's cool.

0 upvotes
Mooman
By Mooman (11 months ago)

So the 5s review just came out, and I'm a little perplexed. They gave the S4 an 8.0 and the 5s an 8.1, yet if you look at the bar graphs for the 6 different categories in the ratings box, the S4 overall wins out. In fact, I even measured the pixel length of the blue lines and found that the S4's bars are a net 88 pixels longer. Or said differently, the average bar length for the Apple is 320 pixels whereas the average bar length for the Samsung is 334, yet they somehow rank the Apple as better...?
Unless they have some *really* weird weighting scale, the final scores and the bar charts are out of whack.

1 upvote
sensibill
By sensibill (11 months ago)

Honestly, I think their weighting in this particular case points to some bias for Apple and against Samsung. They're rather critical of the S4's flaws and rather forgiving of the vagaries and limitations of the iPhone.

0 upvotes
Tazz93
By Tazz93 (Jul 26, 2013)

STAY AWAY FROM THIS PHONE!

I hate to say it, because I liked it, but the fact remains its just too fragile. The plastic body is just not up to par. I broke the LCD in my pocket purely from tension from my jeans and my leg. No contact with anything else. A hard case may help but you shouldn't need it.

0 upvotes
BlackZero
By BlackZero (Aug 15, 2013)

Buy Nokia 3310

0 upvotes
uzeziu2
By uzeziu2 (Aug 21, 2013)

I love my S4

0 upvotes
uzeziu2
By uzeziu2 (Aug 21, 2013)

Mobile telephony should be enjoyed, hence, high -end phone like s4 didn't come as a surprise. Do you like a HEAVY BUGGY of an object in the name of phone. Though its light, you won't know what you are carrying. S4 is the best, but, you have don't mess it up with carelessness.

0 upvotes
sensibill
By sensibill (11 months ago)

Good quality polycarbonate is what you want surrounding a glass screen and fragile micro electronics, not aluminum or magnesium alloy. How many projector carry cases do you see made of solid steel or aluminum without heavy padding? The best are nylon infused high impact polycarb/plastic.

My iPhone 4 shattered when I tossed it underhanded onto a table (wood) with a soft tablecloth. My Galaxy Note, S3 and S4 have all gone through the same treatment (and worse) with no issues. The Samsung is the more durable by a mile, IMO. You can also easily replace the back face if it cracks.

0 upvotes
Uzinuzin
By Uzinuzin (Jul 17, 2013)

I discovered 169 reasons as to why Galaxy S4 is best of the lot at:
BRAND COLLAGE

1 upvote
dbateman
By dbateman (Jul 16, 2013)

You need to clarify that picture in picture video "Dual shot" is not possible with 3rd party apps or other phones (page 4). As its written is seems it not possible with the S4.
The Dual shot mode I see as very useful, but only in video. Makes interviews very easy!! You can have you in the top right asking questions in video, while the person your talking to is present answering the questions. Similarly great for demo work too. Your talking about something and showing the video of the object or what your fixing or manipulating.
This I think is the First single camera capable of interview video.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
armanalom
By armanalom (Jul 15, 2013)

i think this is a best smart phone of the world.

Comment edited 23 seconds after posting
3 upvotes
BlackZero
By BlackZero (Aug 15, 2013)

In fact it is. Owning it since June 2013, 3 months now. Going fantastic. Smooth and Easy.

0 upvotes
Henrik Herranen
By Henrik Herranen (Jul 15, 2013)

Please add "Sensor Size" as a standard field to your first page "Key Photographic / Video Specifications" table. It should be there.
Sensor size, along with lens focal length (both real AND equivalent) and speed (both real AND equivalent), are the numbers that specify the upper limits for image quality as well as what can be expected.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 1 minute after posting
5 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (Jul 15, 2013)

so far only the Nokia 808 has had a different sensor size to everybody else. We'll see if that'll change now with the new Nokia and maybe Sony on their way,

0 upvotes
King Penguin
By King Penguin (Jul 15, 2013)

Mmmmmm, I think I'll stick to my iphone 5, me thinks.......

2 upvotes
pablolie
By pablolie (Jul 15, 2013)

I have this phone. The camera is very spotty. I'd rather have 2mp with decent low light performance.

4 upvotes
Peiasdf
By Peiasdf (Jul 14, 2013)

Some one please explain to me the point of Dual Shot. Thanks

0 upvotes
dbateman
By dbateman (Jul 16, 2013)

See my comment above. For photos I see limited use. For video, I see endless possibilities!

1 upvote
dpLarry
By dpLarry (Jul 13, 2013)

13mp on a tiny sensor in a phone. Huge grainy file. I'd prefer 5mp with over 2 1/2 light gathering ability.

1 upvote
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (Jul 13, 2013)

HTC tried that with the One and I did not go too well. With the Samsung at least you can always downsample the file if you want to.

5 upvotes
dpLarry
By dpLarry (Jul 13, 2013)

The HTC One has got universally positive reviews and is the #3 top selling phone behind the iphone and samsung. It has frequently been described as the best android phone ever. Not sure why you said "I did not go too well". Freudian slip? The Koreans greased you to not go well with HTC?

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
2 upvotes
CortoPA
By CortoPA (Jul 13, 2013)

I was thinking about getting the HTC One as well, but now im glad I waited as the N1020 was announced.

But Im sure the HTC is great and you should be happy with yours Larry.

1 upvote
TrojMacReady
By TrojMacReady (Jul 13, 2013)

@Dplarry:
You're confusing the sales success of a phone as a whole with the qualities of the camera.
In good to medium light, the camera of the One lags behind most competitors by some margin, in low light, it's pretty similar to some of the others, including the S4.
See for example this blind test at the same output size done amongst hundreds of people (Google Translate will help out):
http://mobile-review.com/articles/2013/blind-comparison-result.shtml
And some context:
http://www.mobile-review.com/review/phototest2013.shtml

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 2 minutes after posting
3 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (Jul 13, 2013)

@dpLarry there is no doubt the HTC is a great phone but it's camera is not that great as we found in our own review. I wouldn't say it's terrible but I think I would personally prefer the S4 camera.

2 upvotes
BlackZero
By BlackZero (Aug 15, 2013)

dpLarry, did you have a look at in-depth reviews of HTC One full resolution with its Ultra Pixels and Samsung's 13Mpix tiny pixels??
Downsample the 13MPix file to 4Mpix and you'll see the difference. S4 is far better.

0 upvotes
IcyPepsi
By IcyPepsi (Jul 12, 2013)

"Some customizability in camera app"
Sorry, I think its way more customizable than iOS. The best would be Nokia 1020's camera app.

Love the awesome S4 features. But hate its build and how thin its plastic back is.

Either ways, start copying, Apple!

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (Jul 12, 2013)

I agree but that doesn't make our statement incorrect. We listed this as a pro by the way...because other apps are less customizable

1 upvote
BlackZero
By BlackZero (Aug 15, 2013)

Yeah.. its time for Apple to copy..
With their high noses, they would now be beating around the bushes how to copy such that no body says they copied..

0 upvotes
h2k
By h2k (Jul 12, 2013)

Is there anywhere a comparison with the S3, image-quality wise? So that S3 users get an idea if photo-wise, the S4 is smarter? I didn't read all pages, but i checked the conclusion page and the iq page and i didn't see the S3 mentioned, or am i wrong?

1 upvote
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (Jul 12, 2013)

We compared the S4 to the current generation of high-end phones as the S3 has been on the market for much longer now. However, you'll find plenty of samples and analysis in our S3 review from last year: http://connect.dpreview.com/post/9831991152/samsung-galaxy-s-iii-camera-review

0 upvotes
TrojMacReady
By TrojMacReady (Jul 12, 2013)

You can add a camera shortcut to the lockscreen (without the need of 3rd party apps or rooting, it's just a simple settings change). Here are a few ways to do it:
http://www.androidcentral.com/three-ways-add-camera-shortcuts-galaxy-s4-lock-screen

Comment edited 3 times, last edit 1 minute after posting
3 upvotes
TrojMacReady
By TrojMacReady (Jul 12, 2013)

Wow, you guys are fast. I see it's already removed from the list of "The Bad" on the conclusion page. Kudos!

I assume page 3 adjustment will follow.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
whtchocla7e
By whtchocla7e (Jul 12, 2013)

Why are these called phones? They are mobile computers, the calling capability is just an add-on.

2 upvotes
viking79
By viking79 (Jul 12, 2013)

Which fits my use exactly, I rarely use a phone any more.

7 upvotes
bikinchris
By bikinchris (Jul 12, 2013)

I have this phone and find that in good light the camera does a fine job. See my gallery for a few examples.

Comment edited 18 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
FreedomLover
By FreedomLover (Jul 12, 2013)

Is this one of your examples, Chris?
http://www.eaglewheel.us/images/Travel/Schwabacher%20Landing%20WEB.jpg

Comment edited 4 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Mr Darma
By Mr Darma (Jul 13, 2013)

exciting image capability...about equal to watching grass grow...

1 upvote
Mkins
By Mkins (Jul 16, 2013)

I have the S3 and haven't been very happy with it. I was thinking of waiting for the iphone 6, then I come across this article http://www.gottabemobile.com/2013/07/15/after-iphone-6-apple-rumored-to-plan-working-with-samsung-again/. I know it won't be for a few years but it makes you wonder.

0 upvotes
Total comments: 44
About us
Sitemap
Connect