11: Conclusion & GalleryNext
Samsung Galaxy S5 camera review
Lars Rehm | Published: Jul 9, 2014 at 19:49 UTC88
Conclusion - The Good
Conclusion - The Bad
Opinions might be split about the Galaxy S5's design and choice of body materials but looking at the pros and cons list above it's clear that Samsung's latest flagship smartphone has a lot to offer to mobile photographers.
The camera's 1/2.6-inch BSI CMOS sensor captures excellent image quality with very good detail in bright light and well-balanced noise reduction across the ISO range. The only major points of criticism are a total lack of control over exposure in the default camera app and the the slow shutter speeds in low light which, without optical image stabilization, can result in slightly soft images. That said, at least the former issue can be solved easily by installing a third party alternative.
Feature lovers will appreciate both the camera and gallery apps which are packed with shooting modes and editing functions. Many of them are of a rather gimmicky nature but the arguably most used ones, such as HDR and panorama mode, deliver excellent results.
Movie mode offers good image quality and features, too. Throw excellent battery life, fast charging and a water- and dust proof body into the mix and you got yourself a device that most mobile photographers will have a lot of fun with.
Features & Operation
The Samsung Galaxy S5 comes with high-end hardware all around and is therefore very responsive in general operation and performs most tasks swiftly without delays. Initially the gallery app felt a little sluggish but Samsung has fixed this with a software update, so if picture browsing and editing is a little slower than it should be on your S5 make sure you have the latest software installed.
The camera app offers one of the most comprehensive feature sets with an abundance of modes and functions that'll take you a good while to explore. If that's still not enough you can download and install more shooting modes from the Samsung App Store. Some of the features have a slightly gimmicky character or, like the new Selective Focus, simply don't work very well but the two special modes that arguably matter most to many users, HDR and Panorama mode, work very efficiently and produce great results.
The sheer number of options can make the camera app appear a little overwhelming and one by many users frequently used option, exposure compensation is buried in the menu and difficult to get to. You cannot link exposure to the focus point either. So, to capture that low- or high-key image with ease or simply have some more creative freedom you'll have to install a third-party camera app like FV-5 or Google's own camera app.
In good light the Samsung Galaxy S5 camera captures some of the best detail we have seen on a mobile device. As usual on smartphone cameras there are traces of noise in areas of plain color and some blurring of fine low-contrast detail but overall the Samsung's image output is excellent, with good exposure, well-balanced sharpening and no artifacts, such as moiré patterns or chromatic aberrations. The only minor points of criticism are a touch of lens softness towards the edges of the frame and a pretty strong saturation that can result in slightly unnatural skin tones.
In lower light the Samsung Galaxy S5 again performs well but the lack of an optical image stabilization and slow shutter speeds mean that some low light image suffer from a slight softness due to camera shake. If you need a 100% sharp low light shot it is therefore recommendable to shoot a batch of images to make sure you have at least one good one.
Other than that low light images show good color across the ISO range. Traces of chroma noise are visible at large magnifications but overall color noise is very well under control. The grainy kind of noise increases as you go up the ISO scale but never becomes too intrusive and even images taken at the highest sensitivity, ISO 2000, are suitable for web use and sharing in social media. The Galaxy S5 high pixel count means that when images are downsampled for web use or social sharing noise is averaged out.
The Final Word
The Samsung Galaxy S5 combines a very comprehensive imaging feature set with the best image quality we have seen on an Android device so far. The camera on Samsung's flagship smartphone could be further improved with an optical image stabilization system but even without OIS the S5 is an easy recommendation to any mobile photographer using Google's mobile OS.
There are 29 images in our Samsung Galaxy S5 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.