Samsung Galaxy S camera shootout

4 carriers, 4 phones, 4 variations, 4 cameras!

Samsung’s Galaxy S for the US market – the Vibrant (T-Mobile), Captivate (AT&T), Epic 4G (Sprint), and Fascinate (Verizon) – share the same core specs, but diverge in appearance and implementation.

How do these similarities and differences affect camera performance and user experience? Find out after the break…

Pictures

Clearly, Samsung knows how to make a nice cameraphone – just look at the T929 (Memoir), or more recently, the S8500 (Wave). The Galaxy S is no exception – in fact, it shares its autofocus optics and 5 megapixel sensor with the Wave.

Pictures taken with the Galaxy S are excellent. The results are better than most other 5 megapixel cameraphones, except for Nokia’s classic Nseries imaging flagships (the N95 and N82).

The camera captures tons of information, with great color balance and decent exposure. Low light performance is top notch. Noise is kept well under control, and loss of detail is minimal.

Vibrant sample pictures (slide show):

The Vibrant represents the baseline for the Galaxy S in the US. It lacks a flash and a 2-stage camera button, but performs really well overall.

Captivate sample pictures (slide show):

The Captivate hardware is identical to the Vibrant (no flash or shutter key), but the software is prone to overexposing shots.

Epic 4G sample pictures (slide show):

The Epic 4G adds a single LED flash and a dedicated 2-stage shutter key, making it the most desirable choice for camera buffs. Yet it performs slightly worse in low light than the others.

Fascinate sample pictures (slide show):

The Fascinate also features an LED flash, but no camera button. Strangely, there’s no setting to geo-tag pictures. It also tends to overexpose shots, but less than the Captivate.

Videos

The Galaxy S does a fine job recording 720p HD video at 30 fps. Still, all 4 devices often drop frames randomly. Hopefully, this will be fixed in a future firmware update.

While there’s no initial autofocus, Samsung wisely opted for AAC (instead of AMR), resulting in better sound quality. The flash on the Epic 4G and Fascinate also doubles as a video light.

Vibrant sample video (download original, HD, 1280×720 @ 30 fps):

Captivate sample video (download original, HD, 1280×720 @ 30 fps):

Epic 4G sample video (download original, HD, 1280×720 @ 30 fps):

Fascinate sample video (download original, HD, 1280×720 @ 30 fps):

Interface

User experience can make or break a cameraphone. Thankfully, Samsung’s camera interface is one of the best for Android phones, no doubt thanks to years spent making dedicated point-and-shoot cameras.

It’s pretty intuitive, and all the important controls are easily accessible. Less common settings are nestled within menus. There’s touch-to-focus, smile/blink detection, and a panorama mode, amongst others.

Galaxy S camera interface screenshots (slide show):

Conclusion

While there’s still room for improvement, especially in terms of video recording, there’s a lot to like about the camera on the Galaxy S. It strikes a good balance between image quality and usability, without making too many compromises.

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10 Responses to Samsung Galaxy S camera shootout

  1. Benz145 says:

    Nice overview tnkgrl.

    I just finished my review of the Fascinate and found the camera to be somewhat underwhelming. The iPhone 4 takes sharper shots and captures much more realistic lighting with the HDR mode.

    I found the most fault with the poorly set up interface. The important stuff is there out front as you mentioned but everything else is not so much nestled in other menus, but thrown into them with little thought. The fact that there are so many options but only three of them are displayed on the interface at one time is rather pathetic. Not to mention that if you dig down to one of the options, there’s no way to go back up a level so if you want to make multiple adjustments, you have to back all the way put and restart your search with the poor 3-item-per page interface.

    Great shots as always!

    • tnkgrl says:

      Read my iPhone 4 vs. Droid X post.

      The iPhone 4 produces great results for people who just point-and shoot, especially with HDR. However, nothing can be tweaked.

      Of all the other 5/8 MP cameras on smartphones out there, the Galaxy S UI is one of the best for those, who like me, enjoy having more control on settings.

      The Motorola and HTC UIs (not to mention the stock Android UI) are far worse than the Galaxy S UI. That’s my point.

  2. David says:

    Wow great pics. Really shows off what the hardware can do, but I feel like I can’t get my Vibrant to perform like yours. Any tips?

  3. […] Tnkgrl puts the Fascinate [tracking page], Epic [tracking page], Captivate, and Vibrant side by side with photo and video comparisons and offers her usual experienced commentary on their performance. Head on over to her site to check it out the full range of photos and videos. […]

  4. Chris says:

    I love my Epic. :)

  5. david s. says:

    have you tried out the camera on the Samsung Continuum? Will you be reviewing that one?

  6. […] this phone feels better put together than the other Galaxy S devices. It’s definitely an improvement over the Nexus One, and a worthy successor. Read […]

  7. Have you tried out the camera on the Samsung Continuum? Will you be reviewing that one?

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