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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 Note II Product Images
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When Samsung unveiled the original Galaxy Note a little over a year ago, it marked the revival of a stillborn concept: the “phablet,” bigger than a phone, smaller than a tablet. Early efforts in this twilight category like Dell's 5-inch Android-powered Streak failed to catch on. But progress on the software and hardware fronts, as well as a market evolving towards larger handsets, made the original Samsung Note a substantial success. Now the Note II has arrived with an even bigger screen - 5.5. inches vs 5.3 inches on the original.

Of course the screen size is not the only specification that has changed. The Note II comes with a beefed-up processor (1.6GHz quad-core vs 1.4GHz dual-core), more RAM (2 vs 1GB) and a bigger battery (3,100 mAh vs 2,500 mAh). The operating system has been updated to version 4.1 of Android (Jelly Bean) too but at 8MP the sensor resolution of the camera remains unchanged.

Is the Note II just a phone for users who like it big or can it offer advantages over its smaller-sized siblings in the mobile imaging context? We did some finger stretches and then put the Note II to work as both an image capture and editing tool. Read on to find out how it fared.

Key photographic/video specifications

  • 8-megapixel backside illuminated sensor
  • 5.5-inch 1280x720 dots (267 PPI) OLED display
  • Stylus
  • F2.6 lens
  • Native HDR, panorama and low-light image stacking support
  • LED flash
  • 1080p video capture
  • Slow motion video capture 

Our six-page review

We've considered every aspect of the Samsung Note II camera, 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 S Pen stylus. Click any of the links below for more information of specific functions and continue our conclusion for a final summary of our findings.

Comments

Total comments: 82
jphotoworks

love this !!! the camera was awesome

0 upvotes
gilbertgk

This phone is like a dream that will never come true. I bought this phone 5 months ago where all of the sudden it stopped working.
Currently I live in Canada.. logically I can go to any Samsung service and fix but that is not possible for unknown reasons. so I had to contact Samsung UK.
I checked and confirmed with them that this phone belongs to them before sending it. I sent the phone which costs me shipping and handling back and forth because this cheap Samsung company doesn't pay for the shipping. Anyway that is not the point.

finally Samsung received my phone and they didn't even bother to follow up. so I called and guess what they told me that this phone is from United Emirates...!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Which means that Samsung UK cannot touch..

Now I have to wait for the phone be sent back and then ship it to United Emirates.

they just lost a customer where all my products are Samsung. TV, phones...etc.

No way that I will touch their products.

Bye bye Samsung

1 upvote
ssmita76

I like this phone just because o f its camera.

0 upvotes
KeeChiuPeng

Do a HTC One review, as the camera is term ultra pixels that uses a far larger single-plate cmos sensor with only 4MP.

0 upvotes
Lars Rehm

Patience please, we are currently working on it. We can only start a review once we get the sample units from the manufacturers and sometimes that takes longer than we would like.

1 upvote
makofoto

DxO still refuses to acknowledge GoPro ... the most popular camera in the world and capable of higher quality then these phone cameras?!

1 upvote
Lars Rehm

well, DxO test high-end compact cameras and interchangeable lens cameras. The GoPro doesn't fit into either of those categories.

0 upvotes
focalphotography

Does this mean will be seeing the test results for Fuji X20 and the hundreds of other DSLR reviews missing.

0 upvotes
Lars Rehm

Can you send us al ist of the "hundreds of DSLRs missing" please...we'll start working on it right away.

1 upvote
skysi

GoPro IS a high end compact camera.

0 upvotes
p51d007

I've got a Note I, and wouldn't trade it for anything. 18 months, and still going like a champ. Skipping the Note II, but holding off on the Galaxy IV...perhaps a Note III this fall??

0 upvotes
Andrew Booth

I switched from iPhone to Note II and I love the phone.

Samsung doesn't seem to do as good a job in colour balance as Apple, I have to say. Some of the brighter greens/reds can look a bit too bright and unrealistic.

0 upvotes
karlviehe

My Note II ( unlocked AT&T ) is quite nice .... much better battery life than the Note I.
I can do about 80% of the ordinary, every day photos with this unit. What would take that to 95% is to add a 10X to 12X optical zoom, even if that requires 10mm thickness and a few ounces. More control over exposure, ISO ( to 6400 ) and shutter speed would help. The phone manufactures don't really realize they are in the camera business ... and the camera manufacturers don't realize they are in the phone business .... although there are signs they are waking-up.
AS for OSs, MS is somnolent.

1 upvote
Sanveer

I have this phone. I also have the GH2, and I have used a lot of Canon and Nikon Cameras. I can, easily say, that with the HDR Switched ON, the dynamic range of the Note 2's camera, easily rivals a lot of top end DSLRs. The only thing is, it cannot handle shake and moving objects, too well, in the HDR Mode. I think, its a reasonable, and small trade off.

0 upvotes
makofoto

Love HDR on my iPhone 5 !

0 upvotes
MrTaikitso

That's what I thought when I had a Note (1). Amazing camera. When I view my photos in iPhoto or Aperture, with the exception of zoomed in shots, I cannot tell which camera or phone I used! (I had a GH2 too, and it was good.)

0 upvotes
paqman

nice review, but if you can't get reviews out sooner than this for phone it's almost not worth bothering.

2 upvotes
jkr77

Agreed. Ive had this phone since November.

0 upvotes
vetsmelter

Having had my time with the Note 2 I must say it is a very decent phone + internet machine.
And once you get some security in place it can boost your outdoor your productivity regarding emailing / surfing / messaging etc.. It has CPU + RAM enough to load full web sites like Outlook web access etc..
Memory flexibility, the return of the stylus, battery life, software. A lot to love.

But the camera is just mediocre.

-continued-

1 upvote
vetsmelter

DP Review should help the phone makers to integrate better camera's and use stronger term and verdicts to push for less generic camera module integration in Phones and have some them invest in some real R&D on the subject.

We usually walk with Note 2 + Nokia 808 Pureview and feel taking pictures with the Note 2 is a waste if you have the 808 at your disposal.

Since both Note 2 and Nokia 808 are about the same age I urge for a re-review of the Nokia 808 compared to "current best of class".

If we continue forget about what is possible in terms of camera integration we will be stuck for ages to come with anorexic smartphone designs with generic camera modules and mediocre results at best. Even from Nokia (see L920)

Until they get the camera's upgraded I say no to 6 month to yearly update cycle madness of the smartphone industry as we can already guess the Note 3 will not sport a superior groundbreaking camera technology.

Maybe it will have a hardware shutter?

3 upvotes
Demon Cleaner

Purchased the Note II specifically for photography and videography, but it had nothing to do with using it to take photos. The sumptuous 5.5 inch screen is a godsend when paired with the GH3's wifi feature. That extra real estate makes all the difference.

1 upvote
hc44

Just another gadget review site.

New owners should always ask themselves why the site/product became popular in the first in the first place.

2 upvotes
Lars Rehm

You still get your camera reviews and you get (camera focused) smartphone reviews on top of that. What's there to complain?

8 upvotes
gogo2

Anyone complaining about cellphone review are out of touch with reality. Currently cellphone are the new P&S.

4 upvotes
mermaidkiller

Not only cellphones get better, but P&S as well. I have both a Note 2 and a Canon S100, the latter being far superiorin photos. I like ths Note 2 but never use the camera. I use its USB connectivity fo put photos from my S100 or 7d onto it and use its large screen to control my 7d with DSLR controller.

0 upvotes
Alberto Battelli

I'm coming to dp less and less. Cell phones? Really? What a shame, you used to best the best photo site in the world.

0 upvotes
gogo2

Cell phone is the new P&S.

4 upvotes
Lars Rehm

If you really can't deal with the (camera focused) smartphone reviews you could simply ignore them and still have the same dpreview that you've always had. You can even filter all connect articles from the front page if you really want to.

7 upvotes
yousaf

Both Photoshop touch and Photoshop touch for phone exist on Android.

Please correct it.

1 upvote
Lars Rehm

Yes, they are available but not the version that is optimized for the S-Pen, like on the Galaxy 10.1. That's all we're saying.

Comment edited 5 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
michaelwalker

Thing I would like to know should I use my Note 2 Camera or buy a DSLR like a Nikon 3100 to take better pictures? or will this Note 2 take just as good of pictures? I have not really tried all of the features yet..I always just assumed DSLR is better, but maybe it is not worth the extra cash?

0 upvotes
AndreasHGW

it depends what kind of quality of your pictures do you like to have. Next question: do you like to have large prints?
And do you like playing with "depth of field" in your pictures. If you say to all questions that's not important to me then you can stay with your Galaxy.

I use my Galaxy Note 2 just for pictures which are not really important for me. Like selling someting via ebay or remember a streetname in a city...
For all others I use my Canon DSLR.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 2 minutes after posting
1 upvote
VIDGMER

DPReview, whoa!, behind & late to review, whats going on here? I got Note2 last year... Note 3 will release on Aug 2013.. C'mon..

3 upvotes
Sprocket2

We'd better come to terms with the fact that mobile devices are becoming a force in the imaging marketplace and camera review sites have little choice but to include at least the serious contenders. Unfortunately for DPR, the phone product cycle is so short that bringing a review like this out so long after a launch is pretty much useless as information for buyers.

0 upvotes
Lars Rehm

The Note II is the current model. If the Note III will be announced in August it won't be available before October. I think this review is till relevant (but yes, in an ideal world we'd have published it earlier, I give you that).

3 upvotes
SeanU

Garbage? Samsung is kind enough to offer the stylus to those that need or want it. The S4 can't be owned yet, and the iPhone 5... no sd card support, smaller screen, and you can't change the battery like you can with most Samsungs. The Note 8 is what I'm waiting for... That is the killer s-pen platform for me. Choice is a great thing.

4 upvotes
Airless

This phone is garbage, not sure why any photographer would prefer it over the S4 or IPhone 5

3 upvotes
Demon Cleaner

Pairing the 5.5 inch screen of the Note II with the wifi functionality of a number of DSLR cameras makes it an eminently more attractive proposition than an iPhone

5 upvotes
T. L. Rutter

Thanks dpreview! I have the note II and have gotten a lot of good results with the camera and video. The HDR mode works really well. Low light is a hit and miss, but I am able to get a good picture if there is time to setup the shot and take it. When there is plenty of light, most of the time no problems unless indoors and there are curly bulbs. If I change the WB then it works out just fine. When I view the pictures on the Note II and a more expensive monitor, the pictures are awesome! When I view on a cheaper or crappy monitor, detail is lost and I am disappointed. These smartphones are designed to capture memories and I think they do a really good job. I know each version of the Note will keep getting better and better, but I am happy with mine and probably will upgrade to the Note IV. For those complaining about a late review... I know where you are coming from, however, this is something new to dpreview so give them time. I'm sure Galaxy S4 Review will be quicker!

4 upvotes
PaulSnowcat

I liked Note 1 better. It's 16:10 form factor is MUCH more useful then 16:9 of Note 2...

1 upvote
EwanMC

I got Note 1 and I agree the screen shape is a slightly better shape and a slightly higher 285ppi vs 267 ppi screen resolution, but not a huge difference I believe. On the other hand, there is not enough there for Note 1 owners to upgrade -better off buying a Note 8, for tablet use only, or waiting for Note 3 with a rumoured 5.9 inch dislay at 1920 x 1080.

1 upvote
Ahmed ghazzawi

Go Samsung go ...this is the best device I ever owned , its not only the camera , its the whole combination .
It will take me hours to explain it ...
In short : it is the world in your hand .
Go Samsung go

4 upvotes
Digital Suicide

Jeez, u sound like teenager. Grow up.

2 upvotes
JavierDiaz

@Ahmed: what's the problem if EwanMc likes his phone that much?

0 upvotes
Goodmeme

Nevermind shutter speed indication ffs. How about Shutter speed priority mode, and optional EV indications?

There are times shooting toddlers and such that one needs to guarantee a fast shutter speed, e.g. 1/200th

With my original Galaxy Note, even with the sport mode enabled, it often fails to deliver more than 1/30th due to some auto iso nonsense thinking the IS can handle it.

I just want semi-manual control. I don't need Aperture priority unless they increase the size of the sensor dramatically (Which wouldn't hurt), but shutter priority is essential.

Dpreview seemed to help drive development in dslrs by mentioning the major negatives in every camera review, and generally expecting more.

Incidentally good review, and I didn't know that about the volume button. An app called CameraPro does the same thing.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
AkinaC

Why there's score for all reviewed phone so far except Nokia Lumia 920......

0 upvotes
Simon Cowell

What is the focal length (35mm equivalent) of the lens?

3 upvotes
MrTaikitso

I owned a Note 1 and to date, I can say with confidence, it produced the best images I have ever got from a phone - so much so, I sold my Panasonic GH2 and used the Note to do EVERYTHING on my trip to Chicago in March 2012, including of course, the photography and video. Although the video is a bit wobly without optical stabilisation, the photos were superb - indoor and out. I think Samsung have the edge when it comes to phone cameras.

I also used the Note (1) on the trip for hotel booking (using the awesome Hotel Tonight app), SatNav (GPS) when driving or walking about Chicago and area, taking notes and of course, as a phone, both regular calls and Skype.

The screen was great too.

So I cannot imagine how a Note 2 is, perhaps it has the same camera? Here's to the Note 3.

Anyway, if any pros want a second camera for quick shots, the Note comes highly recommended.
(I had sold the GH2 prior to knowing about my trip, would have kept it for the optical zoom and wide angle lens.)

Comment edited 49 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
Craig Power

I own the Note 1 as well, however its processor is its real handicap. I just downloaded Photoshop Touch for Phone and it's brutally slow. The one benefit of the Note 2 would be the faster processor that makes using PS Touch for Phone bearable. Other than that the Note 1 is fine. This comment is just a heads up for folks thinking that they could save money by purchasing a Note 1 for some advanced editing. If you want to use PS Touch for Phone, then stay away from the Note 1.

0 upvotes
HongKongExpat

lol, how long has this phone been out and only now a review! Note 3 is almost released....

5 upvotes
mdmiataman

..I love this phone. Just moved up from a HTC Thunderbolt. My main objective was something smaller than my Kindle Fire that I could use in conjuction with the WIFISD card on my Lumix LX7. I can take my snaps, upload thru the WIFI sd card to the phone, edit on the GN2 with my various Android apps and share instanly. I also bought (2) 3100 mAh batteries and a charger from Amazon for $20.00US, so I always have ample batteries in my pocket.
..and I am very pleased with the GN2's camera abilities as well. To all the naysayers out there,.. find something better,..go buy it.

0 upvotes
N8shon

The Galaxy Note 2 uses a quad-core Exynos processor clocked at 1.6GHz, not a dual core processor as stated, just to clarify, thanks!

3 upvotes
slyster

Can we have some comments about the display? AMOLED screens have been notoriously bad when it comes to colour accuracy. Is this better than usual? How does it compare to IPS displays?

3 upvotes
Lars Rehm

If you want a color-neutral screen probably none of the current phones is for you. The Note II's certainly displays colors in a very vibrant fashion..but then that's not much of an issue, as the images captured by the camera are very vibrant too. The question becomes more relevant if you want to display images that have been shot with another camera on your phone. We'll look into ways of testing that in the future.

2 upvotes
FRANCISCO ARAGAO

Galaxy S3 has "Screen Mode" where one can choose:
"dynamic", "default", "natural" or "film"

1 upvote
Lars Rehm

The Note II has those too but as far as I am aware there is currently no way of calibrating a phone screen.

1 upvote
Stu 5

Lars if you want a colour neutral screen on a mobile you go for the iPhone which has a IPS panel and then colour calibrate it with the Datacolor Syder 3 or 4 using the free iPhone app they make.

3 upvotes
Lars Rehm

This only works for sRG images viewed in the Spyder app though, not for any other apps or images with other profiles. It's far from ideal.

http://regex.info/blog/2012-03-27/1964

3 upvotes
Combatmedic870

You can calibrate your screen if you unlock and root your phone.
Its tuff to do but can be done

0 upvotes
Lars Rehm

Got a link for that?

0 upvotes
jetherson

color calibration for note2:
forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1927852

0 upvotes
knize10

The note I is already at the dumps X 150,000.

1 upvote
brentbrent

I love my Note 2. I don't use the camera all that much, but it strikes me as decent for a cell phone (I don't have huge expectations), and it's always with me.

The Note 2 will accept a 64GB micro SD card. It's easy to load photos taken with a better camera, and the big screen provides a great way to show them to family and friends.

1 upvote
huyzer

The Bad lists: "No physical shutter button" twice. That must mean it's really bad. ;)

Comment edited 31 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Lars Rehm

thanks, corrected

0 upvotes
Magnus3D

You can also trigger the shutter when you plugin your headphones and use the volumebutton on them to take photos with. It works very well as a cabletrigger.

0 upvotes
msusic

Note 2 is a fantastic smartphone.
The first one I'm really happy with.

Screen is gorgeous, it's extremely fast and it's bettery lasts very long (for a smartphone).

2 upvotes
coldchiller

How long does yours last? Mine does not last more than 1.5 days even with little action- generally a work day gets it to the yellow zone after it is fully charged. To last longer I need to turn off wifi, gps and bluetooth. I'd be interested to hear how long other people's Note 2 lasts.

Comment edited 46 seconds after posting
1 upvote
jetherson

you can root and install a custom kernel that permits adjustment of power/cpu/gpu/etc and then undervolt. your battery can last longer. or you can use a higher-rated battery.

1 upvote
Lars Rehm

Thanks, I'll have to give that one a read.

0 upvotes
msusic

It lasts depending on how heavily I'm using it, but generally a lot longer than smartphones I had before (iphone 3G, HTC Desire and Samsung Note 1).

It last me 2-3 days of heavy use, about 7-8h screen on time and 1-2hrs talk/day + 2hrs browsing/day, using GPS with Endomondo etc...

1 upvote
coldchiller

One of your negatives is that there is no physical shutter button. There actually is a way to use a physical button (volume button) as the shutter, by adjusting the settings. In camera mode, go to Settings > Use volume key as > The camera key. Thought you might want to know.

Comment edited 49 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
Lars Rehm

That is true, I'll modify this comment. By default the volume rockers control the zoom in the camera app though, so it would be nice to have a dedicated shutter button, like on the Lumia 920. On the Nokia, this also brings up the camera app when you press this button.

2 upvotes
Gadgety

DP Review. It makes sense to launch a DPReview mobile site, provided you are able to keep some of your key qualities. One of those is sharing a format among the reviews. Having checked this review out I looked into the Nokia Lumia 920, but unless I'm mistaken it follows an entirely different layout, sections are different, making comparison difficult. You want to have a large audience I suggest you get your review format aligned so that I can tell all reviews are off the same site. In addition, comparisons with various mobile phones within the article would provide some value as well. Good luck.

3 upvotes
Lars Rehm

The Note II's camera module is as good as identical to the S3's. Check the S3 review for comparison with various other devices.

2 upvotes
MonkRX

Agreed. I'm completely loss on this site. The reviews on this site are all over the place since the two Nokia 920 articles.

Dp should at least shoot the test scene for every phone.

0 upvotes
TheProv

Are you serious? Really? Are you the same of DPreview or are you stealing only the name?
It takes bravery to call this "camera review".
Even I could do this "camera review".

Please be serious and start doing cameraphone reviews at the level I can see on your mother site (?) and for wich I know you are able to.

3 upvotes
Lars Rehm

Take a breather please. Firstly, this is a phone review focusing on the camera capabilities of the device but this being a smartphone we are obviously looking at other factors too. Secondly, the Note II's imaging components are as good as identical as the Galaxy S3's which is why we link to the relevant sections in the S3 review. No need to say the same thing twice. Thirdly, we still have a DxO data report in the pipeline for this device which we will add in the near future, so if you prefer to look at diagrams over images, that should satisfy your needs.

4 upvotes
CanonPhotog

"Firstly, this is a phone review focusing on the camera capabilities of the device but this being a smartphone we are obviously looking at other factors too."

Then why weren't any of those "other factors" included in the Pros/Cons section of your review?

And why is DPR reviewing a cell phone that's been out now for over 5 months, and has already sold tens of millions of units? The GS Note II is an unqualified as well as a qualified success, hands down. This "review" would have been far more useful 4 1/2 months ago.

Once again, late to the party, and nothing really useful given to really help inform the consumer.

1 upvote
David Fell

Agree, also seems to me DPR is looking for anything loosely allied to photography to pad out the site at the expense of core DP tests. Even peddling stuff from other sites which I don't understand, as product lifecycles get ever shorter there must be more to publish?

2 upvotes
MonkRX

+1. They need to call this place dp blog or something, because its lack of uniform testing is getting annoying. They need to backdate to the Nokia 920 and start shooting their test scene on every phone since then.

2 upvotes
jackpro

Love the HDR very easy to use. Great screen size for showing photos.

1 upvote
Total comments: 82
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