Review: The Samsung S7's camera now rivals the iPhone

NEW YORK -- It's difficult to justify paying for a high-priced, top-end smartphone these days -- unless, that is, you want to take good pictures.

See Full Article

In this Age of Instagram, a great camera is one of the few reasons to pay $650 or more for the latest smartphone, instead of $200 or $300 for a budget phone that does texting, Facebook and Web surfing just as well.

Samsung's phone cameras have shown tremendous improvement in just a few years. The new Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge phones take much better pictures than last year's S6 models. In fact, they're now basically neck and neck with Apple's iPhones, meaning that you no longer have to compromise on picture quality if you prefer Android.

I took more than 2,000 still shots and a few videos using 10 smartphones from Samsung, Apple, LG, Huawei and Motorola. To make the comparison clearer, I focused on indoor and night settings, such as museums, bars and New York's Central Park at night. Even budget phones can take great shots in good light, but only great phones take good shots in poor light.

BETTER LIGHTING, BETTER FOCUS

I was impressed with the S7's ability to capture Central Park's unlighted Bethesda Fountain at night. Shots from most other phones appear pitch black, save for a faint outline of the fountain's statue and some distant light from building windows.

The S7 was also more likely to get the focus right on its own, without having to choose a focus area first by touching the phone screen. Even with touching, focusing sometimes takes a second or two on other cameras. I don't get that lag with the S7, meaning fewer missed action shots.

The lens and image sensors on the S7 aren't large enough to match the capabilities of full-bodied SLR cameras, but the phones borrow some of the focus and light-capturing technologies found on more sophisticated shooters. These technologies combined result in brighter, sharper images in low light.

UPGRADING THE S6

The S7 also has a wider-angle lens than last year's S6 models, one that now matches iPhone hardware. It captures more of what's in front of you. Among other things, people don't have to squeeze together as tightly for group shots.

Samsung also corrected some design deficiencies in earlier models. The S7's camera lens no longer protrudes awkwardly, as it did on the S6. Its screen turns into a flash for low-light selfies, just like the latest iPhones. (That means my selfies now look awful because of their subject and not the low light.)

The S7 also takes photos in a standard 4-by-3 rectangle, not the wider 16-by-9 frame of the S6. While overall megapixel count is lower on the S7, that's entirely a consequence of the narrower width, which yields a photo like an S6 shot with its far edges chopped off.

A FEW QUIBBLES

Many indoor shots come out yellowish, possibly reflecting the yellowish nature of indoor lighting. On the S7, books look as though they've yellowed from being out in the sun too long. Egg whites on a burger don't look so white (though bacon comes out brighter). Faces are more orange than usual.

Odd colours can make pictures look better, but they often don't seem natural.

The S7 also produces a white outline -- a bit of a glow -- around black text. It isn't noticeable when viewed on a screen, but looks fake when enlarged.

COMPARISONS

Of all of the phones I tested, the S7 and iPhone 6S produced the most consistent low-light photos. The S7 shots typically had better focus, while the iPhone pictures looked more natural, with colours typically mirroring how you see things.

The S7 has also cloned Apple's Live Photos feature, in which the camera captures short video clips as it's taking still photos. The feature is on by default on the iPhone, but you need to turn it on with the S7. Unlike the iPhone version, Samsung's Motion Photo has no sound.

The latest Apple and Samsung phones are comparable in many other ways. (I took a first look at the S7 a few weeks ago: http://apne.ws/21hAP8X .) One impressive non-camera feature is the S7's fast-charging capability. With the included charger, I get a full charge in just 80 minutes, and that's enough for nine hours of Hulu video streaming on the S7, 10 hours on the S7 Edge.

The camera, though, is where these phones really stand out from the pack.



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • Do you hear what AI hear?

    Tech & Science CBC News
    This time of year, it's almost impossible to avoid holiday music, from old classics to contemporary pop renditions. But one day, you may find yourself singing new holiday songs…written by a computer. A group of computer scientists at the University of Toronto recently published a paper called "Song From PI: A Musically Plausible Network for Pop Music Generation. Source
  • Apple blames external damage for flaming China iPhones

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Apple has blamed "external physical damage" for causing a handful of iPhones to explode or catch fire in China and insisted that its handsets posed no safety problem. Fresh on the heels of Samsung's worldwide Galaxy Note 7 safety fiasco, a Shanghai consumer watchdog said last Friday it had received eight recent reports of iPhones that spontaneously combusted while being used or charged. Source
  • These were Apple's most popular apps of 2016

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Apple has released their list of the most downloaded apps of 2016, which is topped by none other than Snapchat. The self-deleting, image and video-sharing app beat out Messenger and Pokémon Go to become the most popular downloaded app this year. Source
  • Record 607 bears killed in New Jersey's hunt

    Tech & Science CTV News
    TRENTON, N.J. -- Hunters have killed a record 607 bears in New Jersey. The number was reached Tuesday when hunters bagged 18 bruins during the second day of the second part of this year's hunt. Source
  • Get ready to give up your online privacy to score the perfect rental

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Your next landlord might comb through your social media history before handing over the keys thanks to a Canadian company injecting big data and artificial intelligence into the age-old process of renting a place to live. Source
  • Solar power lights school in off-the-grid Vancouver Island alternative bastion

    Tech & Science CTV News
    LASQUETI ISLAND, B.C. -- The solar-power energy system that lights up False Bay School on Lasqueti Island passed a major test this fall when the tiny two-classroom building suddenly went dark. That was when Principal Reid Wilson discovered the school's back-up power source, a diesel generator, had broken down and the West Coast school had been running totally on solar energy during the dark, wet, dreary October days. Source
  • You can now use Twitter emojis to search on Google

    Tech & Science CTV News
    From Dec. 6, you can now use emojis on Twitter to search local results on Google. Google has revealed on Twitter that it is now able to interpret emojis via its Twitter handle. Typing an emoji followed by @Google is then responded to with a Google link to all the relevant results in the user's area. Source
  • Instagram makes major updates to comments and privacy options

    Tech & Science CTV News
    In a blog post published on December 6, Instagram announced the arrival of some welcome new features to its Commenting and Privacy options. For the third time this quarter, Instagram is rolling out a new round of features designed to improve user security and reduce online harrassment. Source
  • Insect pests expected to put two-thirds of U.S.A's forests at risk in next decade

    Tech & Science CTV News
    PETERSHAM, Mass. - In a towering forest of centuries-old eastern hemlocks, it's easy to miss one of the tree's nemeses. No larger than a speck of pepper, the Hemlock woolly adelgid spends its life on the underside of needles sucking sap, eventually killing the tree. Source
  • Insect pests expected to put two-thirds of U.S. forests at risk in next decade

    Tech & Science CTV News
    PETERSHAM, Mass. - In a towering forest of centuries-old eastern hemlocks, it's easy to miss one of the tree's nemeses. No larger than a speck of pepper, the Hemlock woolly adelgid spends its life on the underside of needles sucking sap, eventually killing the tree. Source