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Connect smartphone reviews are written with the needs of photographers in mind. We focus on camera features, performance and image quality.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Product Images
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Introduction

The Samsung Galaxy S4 is the successor to the hugely successful Galaxy S3 and as such the latest model in the Korean manufacturer's Galaxy S line of flagship smartphones. The Galaxy S3 did well in our review from October 2012 and was one of the first Android-powered smartphones that could establish itself as a valid rival to Apple's iPhone both in terms of sales figures and consumer appeal.

So expectations were high among industry insiders and consumers alike when the S4 was launched in April and Samsung did not disappoint. The Galaxy S4's design is very similar to its predecessor but under the hood the new model comes with the latest hardware and software technologies.

Like many high-end devices this year, the S4's camera features a 13MP backside-illuminated CMOS sensor and a 1080p 5-inch screen. Depending on region, the phone is powered by a 1.9 GHz Qualcomm quad-core chip and the latest Android version 4.2.2 Jelly Bean. From a mobile photographer's point of view, the most interesting novelties can be found within the camera app.

The S4 comes with a number of new imaging features and modes that demonstrate that, in some situations, smartphones can be better imaging tools than traditional compact cameras. Dual-Shot allows for image-in-image effects by capturing still images and video with the front and rear cameras at the same time. Drama mode creates composite action images and Eraser mode deletes unwanted subjects from the frame. Of course all the usual software assistants such as Samsung's Beauty Face mode, HDR and Panorama are still on board, too. The latter now captures impressively large panoramas pictures that are approximately 22,000 pixels wide, a massive improvement from the S3's 6,000 pixel width.

We had a close look at all the new imaging features, the S4's image quality and the camera operation on the following pages. Read on to find out how the latest Samsung flagship smartphone did in our tests.

Key Photographic / Video Specifications

  • 13-megapixel backside-illuminated sensor
  • F2.2 lens
  • 31mm equivalent focal length
  • ISO 50-1000 (100-800 manually selectable)
  • Image aspect ratio 4:3
  • 2-megapixel front camera
  • LED flash
  • 1080p 30fps video recording
  • Dual-image capture 
  • Various filter and special modes
  • Digital image stabilization
  • 4x digital zoom

Other Specifications

  • 1.9 GHz Quad-Core Processor / 1.6 GHz Octa-Core Processor (depending on region)
  • Android 4.2.2
  • 5-inch 1080p (441ppi) Super-Amoled screen
  • 7.9mm thin
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16/32/64 GB storage versions, Micro-SD card support up to 64 GB
  • 130g4G LTE 100Mbs down, 50Mps up
  • Barometer, temperature and humidity sensors
  • IR-transmitter
  • 2600MAh battery, removable

Our 11-page review

We've considered every aspect of the Samsung Galaxy S4, with the photographer in mind. We examined the user interface of the native camera app and its special features. We experimented with the camera's performance when taking stills and video, and had a play with the device's many special feature modes. Click any of the links below for more information of specific functions and continue to our conclusion for a final summary of our findings.

Comments

Total comments: 44
trinkner

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

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

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

No mention of framerates, particularly 24fps?

0 upvotes
sderdiarian

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

"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

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

0 upvotes
Mooman

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

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

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

Buy Nokia 3310

0 upvotes
uzeziu2

I love my S4

0 upvotes
uzeziu2

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

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

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

1 upvote
dbateman

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

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

Comment edited 23 seconds after posting
3 upvotes
BlackZero

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

0 upvotes
Henrik Herranen

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

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

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

2 upvotes
pablolie

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

4 upvotes
Peiasdf

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

0 upvotes
dbateman

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

1 upvote
dpLarry

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

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

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

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

@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

@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

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

"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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 upvotes
viking79

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

7 upvotes
bikinchris

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

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

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

1 upvote
Mkins

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
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