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Performance and Image Quality

The Samsung Galaxy S3 is the current Samsung Mobile flagship phone featuring the latest generation of mobile processor (quad- or dual-core, depending on the region in which you buy the phone) and as such the S3 is very responsive and reliable in general operation. Apps, including the camera app, open in the blink of an eye and you can run a large number of apps at the same time without any discernible loss of performance.

In the camera app itself the touch-to-focus function works well. In good light focus acquisition is very swift, when the light gets dimmer focus time increases slightly and in very low light there can be some focus hunting but none of this is any worse than expected or indeed most entry level compact cameras.

There's one area in which the S3 beats not only most entry-level compact cameras but also more advanced models: shutter lag. In the documentation Samsung lists 'zero shutter lag' as one of the phone's features and it's no exaggeration. An image is captured as soon as you touch the virtual shutter button on the screen and shot-so-shot times are almost instant. You can take an entire series of images in very quick succession by quickly tapping the shutter button. This is quite impressive, and one area in which the S3 trumps not only competitive smartphones but also many compact cameras.

Daylight, Low ISO

Like all digital cameras, the Samsung Galaxy produces its best results in good light. In bright and sunny conditions images show good detail across the frame but some luminance noise is visible in areas of plain color such as blue skies. Exposure is almost always very good but dynamic range limitations become visible in high contrast situations, with 'blown out' highlight areas. In these occasions you can dial in some negative exposure compensation or - if you're shooting static subjects - you can switch to the HDR mode.

In good light the Galaxy S3 shows good detail but limited dynamic range means some highlight clipping can occur, as seen in the sky in this image.
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In natural light the S3 produces natural skin tones and very good white balance.
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Detail in bright light is good but strong sharpening and noise reduction means that low contrast detail, such as the distant foliage in this image can appear a little 'mushy'.
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Highlight clipping can be a problem in bright conditions.
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In sunny conditions and scenes with lots of high contrast detail the Samsung produces results that are comparable to dedicated cameras.
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Low Light, High ISO

The Samsung Galaxy S3 offer manual control over ISO but not all settings are available in manual mode. You can choose on a range from ISO 100 - 800 but in Auto mode the S3 goes both below and above this range, capturing images at ISO 80 and 1600 respectively.  This is roughly in line with other current top-of-the-line Android smartphones but the Apple iPhone 5 offers a nominal maximum ISO 3200 (albeit one enabled by pixel-binning). 

As you would expect from an image capturing device with such tiny sensors as used in the current crop of smartphones the Samsung S3's image quality deteriorates quickly as you increase the ISO sensitivity, with noise, noise reduction artifacts and detail smearing creeping in quite aggressively. Nevertheless, images are good enough for typical web use up to the highest settings, just don't expect miracles.

At ISO 500 the S3 images show visible noise and deterioration of detail but image quality is still good enough for web use.
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At the maximum ISO images are very noisy with a lot of smudged detail. In dark environments such as this bar ISO 1600 is not enough for moving subjects and as a consequence, people in your images almost always end up blurry.
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 This ISO 1000 shot has plenty of visible noise but shows good high-contrast detail and pleasantly-saturated colors.
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With no way to manually set the shutter speed and a maximum ISO of 1600 you inevitably run into limitations in very low light environments. The S3 attempts to keep shutter speeds a a hand-holdable levels and does not appear to go any lower than 1/30 sec without using the flash which means that very dark scenes like the bar in the images below will end up under-exposed. There is nothing you can do about it. 

 With a maximum sensitivity of ISO 1600 in dark interiors such as this bar the camera hits its exposure limit...

 ...and you end up with an underexposed shot.

In general in low light scenes the S3 appear to favor slower shutter speeds over increasing sensitivity which can result in motion blur if moving subjects are in the scene. Low light performance on any smartphone is, compared to dedicated digital cameras, not great and the S3 is roughly in line with the competition but it's worth keeping these limitations in mind when shooting in dark interiors.

Comments

Total comments: 55
IamButterfly
By IamButterfly (2 months ago)

I'm having an issue with finding a way to unhide a hidden photo.
Any help will be appreciated. :)

0 upvotes
branca0306
By branca0306 (3 months ago)

I bought my girlfriend the Galaxy S3,just the same as mine btw,and there is a problem with the camera.
When you open the camera it starts up in negative mode at the effect-settings,so to snap a picture,she always have to alter the setting "effects" from negative to "no effects or another effect...can this be changed or is it a malfunction of the device?

0 upvotes
pankaj123
By pankaj123 (11 months ago)

i am unable to change front camera to rear camera, no button visible for that... what is setting nw. pls recommend

1 upvote
walimatkhan
By walimatkhan (8 months ago)

how can i change the front camera to rear camera?

0 upvotes
FYoung
By FYoung (7 months ago)

To switch between the cameras:

In shooting mode, toggle the icon showing a camera with a curved arrow on each side. It is at the top right of the screen in portrait orientation.

If you don't see this icon, click on the phone's hidden physical Menu button to the left of the physical Home button , and select "Edit shortcuts." This will show all the available shortcuts. Long press the camera with 2 arrows icon and move it to the top or bottom bar.

This is explained in the S3's 160 page user manual available at:
http://downloadcenter.samsung.com/content/UM/201207/20120704064512229/i747M_UG_ENG_WEB.pdf

For easy reference in the future, bookmark this URL and sideload a copy of this user manual to your phone's SD storage card and on a cloud storage to which the phone has access, such as Dropbox.

For support info on the S3, go to:
http://www.samsung.com/ca/consumer/mobile/mobile-phones/smartphones/SGH-I747MBABMC-support#

Sorry for the long URLs, but this site bans tiny URLs.

Comment edited 3 times, last edit 12 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
princesscinderrala
By princesscinderrala (Jun 25, 2013)

Its camera is not better than htc one x ..... htc one x also have 8 m.p ..... but that result is awesome. ... galaxy s3 has not better result as i thought....

1 upvote
gail
By gail (Feb 24, 2013)

You recommend a case so the GS3 isn't so slippery when taking photos. I bought the Samsung Flip Cover Case ($40!), which covers the camera lens and flash when the case is fully open. I can't decide whether this is a good or not. It does give the camera so extra stability, but it's also awkward to use.

0 upvotes
sinc
By sinc (Dec 22, 2012)

I'm a photographer who normally uses a Sony A55 with Zeiss zoom. I have to say this S3 is a nice little camera and a cut above the one in the original Galaxy. (My friend has an S2 which works about the same as the S3.)

Undoubtedly in the years to come phone cameras will eliminate the need for P&S cameras, if they haven't already. They won't be the equivalent of DSLRs.

Nonetheless, the S3 is a great camera. With a little post processing, you can get great digital photos suitable for screen viewing. If you want large prints, you probably won't be happy with anything but a DSLR.

I'm having a lot of fun with this camera.

0 upvotes
Anepo
By Anepo (Nov 28, 2012)

Could you please do as detailed galaxy s2 review? I want a camera phone that runs android and im not sure if the s3 is worth the extra 300 usd it costs over here, pretty please?

0 upvotes
mksng
By mksng (Nov 9, 2012)

Great site...!! Please post a review of Xperia S or SL and Lumia 820 at the earliest. Eagerly awaiting your verdict to decide between Galaxy S3, One X or S, Lumia 820, Xperia S.... Please suggest which is best overall on camera performance

0 upvotes
dbateman
By dbateman (Nov 7, 2012)

I couldn't find it mentioned, maybe I missed it, But what is the 35mm equivalent field of view for the lens?

The first one its 35mm for camera and 45mm ish for video. I am wonder if they went wider at 28mm or kept it a 35mm.

1 upvote
Rapr
By Rapr (Nov 6, 2012)

Lars Rehm, on 3rd page, you say "The S3 attempts to keep shutter speeds a a hand-holdable levels and does not appear to go any lower than 1/30 sec without using the flash which means that very dark scenes like the bar in the images below will end up under-exposed. There is nothing you can do about it.". But, this is not correct since a night mode is proposed in the Scene mode menu. This mode doesn't use the flash but it uses a longer exposition time. I tryed to take pictures at night with this mode and it appears to decrease the shutter speed down to 1/2 sec. If you didn't use this mode for the tests in low lighting conditions, then the results and the conclusion are certainly incorrect.

0 upvotes
OdesJ
By OdesJ (Nov 5, 2012)

I don't have the button to take stills during video on my S3 with Sprint.

0 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (Nov 5, 2012)

It disappears when certain settings are activated. Try switching off Image Stabilization, that dis it for me.

0 upvotes
kenyee
By kenyee (Nov 5, 2012)

It's better than a lot of camera phones except the Nokia 808 which has a great lens comparatively.

But to put it in context, most lenses on cellphones will have dust and fingerprints all over them....it's a miracle you can get anything decent out of them, but they're good enough for instagram and facebook so everyone is used to mediocrity :-P

1 upvote
gfraser7
By gfraser7 (Nov 4, 2012)

Well, I have a real camera so my impression is that the camera on my Siii sucks.

1 upvote
_sem_
By _sem_ (Nov 2, 2012)

How about the red-dot- flare pattern when shooting into the sun through leaves, or sunsets, or into reflectors at night?
Here's a SGS2 sample:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1pdjLrXAXo

0 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (Nov 5, 2012)

Did not come across this in my sample shooting. There is a shot against the sun in the sample gallery (the one with the geese) and the S3 did just fine int hat situation.

0 upvotes
Rapr
By Rapr (Nov 2, 2012)

This phone provides a night mode. It would be helpful to use it when you are taking pictures at night or in low lighting conditions...

0 upvotes
T. L. Rutter
By T. L. Rutter (Nov 2, 2012)

Thank you for reviewing cell phone cameras. For me, it is pretty important to have these kind of reviews. I bought the Note II last week and pleased with many of the pictures where there is plenty of light, but see issues with quality when there is hardly any light. But it's not bad and knowing these limitations, I can do a work-around. For example, I wanted the 920 due to the "supposed" low-light quality but the phone was not out then, and after giving much thought, felt that since most of my pictures were in the daylight I would be fine, and for those in the dark, I have the NEX that will do just fine.

0 upvotes
rondhamalam
By rondhamalam (Nov 2, 2012)

I like the FLIPBOARD of android (google play) on this device

0 upvotes
photo chris
By photo chris (Nov 2, 2012)

Geez, 10 pages for a phone? At least show the pages in the sidebar or in a menu so I can skip to the content I actually want to read ... you know ... like on DPreview...

4 upvotes
tom sugnet
By tom sugnet (Nov 2, 2012)

I have this phone and pictures look soft even after you've taken them (when previewed on screen). I guess the effective resolution is around 4 megapixels (due to strong NR), it's much much softer than my 6 megapixel Fuji F31fd (which I gave to my mother and don't use anymore).

Comment edited 33 seconds after posting
1 upvote
grafli
By grafli (Nov 2, 2012)

Well there is no surprise that a larger 6MP sensor performs better in low light than a very small 8MP sensor.
More Pixel area= better sensitivity

0 upvotes
Uwe Steinmueller
By Uwe Steinmueller (Nov 2, 2012)

>The Galaxy S3 achieves a good DxO Mark score of 72 which is means it is trailing very slightly behind the iPhone 5, iPhone 4S and HTC One X in our list of the best smartphone cameras.

A link to these reviews would be helpful.

0 upvotes
neo_nights
By neo_nights (Nov 2, 2012)

Why was my question the only one left unanswered? :(
(second comment on this page)

0 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (Nov 2, 2012)

answered now (see below) :-)

0 upvotes
Digital Suicide
By Digital Suicide (Nov 2, 2012)

Nokia 808 kills samsung S3 in one hit. Even iPhone 5 is better than S3.

3 upvotes
princesscinderrala
By princesscinderrala (Jun 25, 2013)

Yeah also htc one x hit it

0 upvotes
TBoyd
By TBoyd (Nov 2, 2012)

Sure - the SIII has no physical shutter button, but you overlooked the fact that the shutter can be voice activated, and it works! Just go to Settings>Language and Input>Voice cmd for apps & check the box for camera.
Who needs a physical shutter button with that feature? I just say "shoot" and the shutter snaps.

3 upvotes
Lk400
By Lk400 (Nov 2, 2012)

I seriously cant imagine ever wanting to use that feature! But then again, I am not a fan of voice commands in general as they feel unnatural and seem like they would be annoying for the people around me.

4 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (Nov 2, 2012)

Thanks, I will check and add this to the review...although I am sure repeatedly saying "shoot" in public can lead to misunderstandings :-)

5 upvotes
Tom Goodman
By Tom Goodman (Nov 2, 2012)

Voice commands are useful for virtually everything you can do on a phone so why not use them for the camera?

0 upvotes
TBoyd
By TBoyd (Nov 2, 2012)

I realize voice is not desirable in every shooting situation, but the reviewer did overlook this feature. The touchscreen shutter button works fine.

0 upvotes
McCool69
By McCool69 (Nov 1, 2012)

All well and good that you are testing cell phones, but reviewing a phone that was out already in May/June this year and is closing in on 30 million sold at this time might be a bit late...

6 upvotes
Rage Joe
By Rage Joe (Nov 1, 2012)

Looks like there's no contest at all.

808.

3 upvotes
DanielFjall
By DanielFjall (Nov 1, 2012)

This isn't Samsungs latest model. And the Note 2 has a flip-button-press - shortcut for fast camera access. Unsure about this one.

0 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (Nov 1, 2012)

it's the latest in the 'Galaxy S' line although probably for not much longer :-)

I've made that clearer in the introduction.

1 upvote
IZO100
By IZO100 (Nov 1, 2012)

NA version of this phone has a Samsung sensor vs a Sony sensor for the rest of the world.

Also:
NA version doesnt have a quad core CPU
NA version doesnt have the Wolfson audio chip
NA version doesnt have FM radio
NA version has LTE
NA version has 2GB of RAM instead one 1

2 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (Nov 1, 2012)

We tested the US version of this device, as stated in the introduction.

0 upvotes
IZO100
By IZO100 (Nov 1, 2012)

I dont see anything in your introduction about 2 different sensors, thats why I post a comment about this important fact.

6 upvotes
peterwr
By peterwr (Nov 7, 2012)

NA? I'm guessing you mean North America.

LTE?

0 upvotes
onlooker
By onlooker (Nov 1, 2012)

I am really trying to find the focal length of the lens. Am I missing something? Is it not a part of the spec?

0 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (Nov 1, 2012)

Some manufacturers do not provide this specification but it is approximately 29mm equivalent.

0 upvotes
onlooker
By onlooker (Nov 2, 2012)

Thanks, Lars.

0 upvotes
BJN
By BJN (Nov 1, 2012)

Correction: Android 4.0 is Ice Cream Sandwich. 4.1 and a very recent 4.2 version are Jelly Bean.

I have and S3. It's a great phone and barely a camera. It's amazing that you rank this phone so highly for its photo features. Looks like phones have a low bar to jump at Connect.

Comment edited 5 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Richard Shih
By Richard Shih (Nov 1, 2012)

Thanks for catching that. Fixed!

0 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (Nov 1, 2012)

As we do with cameras you have to view these phones in context. The S3 looks good in comparison to many other phones. Is is a better camera than dedicated digital compact cameras? Probably not.

0 upvotes
neo_nights
By neo_nights (Nov 1, 2012)

I really liked the integration between DPReview and DxO data and conclusions. Are those becoming standard and going to be done even on the "normal" DPReview?

0 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (Nov 2, 2012)

We are currently working with DxO on cell phones and lenses. We might use some of their data for camera reviews on the future, so watch this space.

0 upvotes
Edgar Matias
By Edgar Matias (Nov 1, 2012)

Can we get proper navigation on these review pages?

10 pages is a lot to sort through without being able to go the one you actually want. See DPReview for how to do it right. Either the page thumbnails or pop-up menu would do the trick.

1 upvote
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Nov 1, 2012)

It's on the list of improvements we want to make - we share your frustration.

2 upvotes
Edgar Matias
By Edgar Matias (Nov 2, 2012)

Perfect, thanks.

The site looks great, BTW.

0 upvotes
noshea
By noshea (Nov 2, 2012)

Not read the review but I recognise the Kruder & Dorfmeister EP cover doing their Simon and Garfunkle impression. Good taste.

1 upvote
Anepo
By Anepo (Nov 28, 2012)

Could you please do as detailed galaxy s2 review? I want a camera phone that runs android and im not sure if the s3 is worth the extra 300 usd it costs over here, pretty please?

Also any chance in comparing it to the samsung galaxy player 5?

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Total comments: 55
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