Each year, smartphone makers attempt to one-up each other in features and specs, but time and again these improvements feel incremental rather than revolutionary. Samsung hopes to break this trend with a new hardware and software design philosophy, and press details of the new-and-improved cameras shared by the S6 and S6 Edge show that they are off to a great start.
Once you get past the curved displays and wraparound Gorilla Glass 4, the most striking feature on these slabs is the protruding square camera. This is not a coincidence. Samsung has gone all out on a massive overhaul of camera experience, targeting low-light stills, videos, and selfies with a larger front facing sensor and improved F 1.9 aperture on both front and back.
Front facing camera
5 MP F 1.9 lens
Improved low-light shots through image stacking
60% more light (than the Galaxy S5)
43% less noise (than the Galaxy S5)
“The key challenge is creating a camera that excels in all lighting conditions”
The Samsung Unpacked event took direct aim at the low-light abilities of the Apple iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, bringing larger pixel sizes, an improved F-stop, and blazing fast processor to bear on their competitor from Cupertino. These hardware advances allow for astounding software-enhanced abilities like real-time HDR on the front facing camera – an industry first. At 5 MP, the selfie shooter even out-strips HTC’s newly announced 4 MP UltraPixel camera which was itself borrowed from the back of the One M8. Side-by-side comparisons of viewing angle and true low-light performance have yet to be conducted by the press, but the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge appear poised to dominate the selfie market.
3456 x 4608 pixels
Optical image stabilization
High Dynamic Range (HDR)
Object-tracking auto focus that follows your subject around the frame.
Pro features like manual ISO and shutter speed adjustment in a separate mode
4K Video recording: 2160p @30fps, 1080p @60fps, 720p @120fps
Blazing fast 0.7 second delay to pull up the camera.
Low-light performance is the marquee feature of the primary camera as well, and both photo and video comparisons with the iPhone 6 Plus appear as starkly contrasted as night and day, though spec sheets have a harder time differentiating the two. Maintaining focus on moving objects is another standout, and is something no other manufacturer can match to date. If the hype is to be believed, the days of videos blipping every five seconds to refocus are behind us and the S6 launch can’t come soon enough. Add to this a tiny 0.7 second delay from double-tapping the home button to snapping shots, and this is a pocket shooter that will see daily use.
On paper, the primary camera has the same number of pixels as last year’s Galaxy S5 and Note 4, but these were both industry-leading sensors with a long life ahead of them. For example, the Galaxy S5 held its own against to the Xperia Z3 – a 20 megapixel beast. With an improved low-light aperture and the focus enhancements we have seen thus far, pixel numbers may take second stage to overall experience yet again.
Borrowing from Android Lollipop’s Material Design language, the new camera app focuses on simplicity and ease of access. A single column of features adorns the left side, each of which opens a stripped-down grid of icons and titles filling the display. Under settings, a second column of advanced features like manual ISO and shutter adjustments can be brought into frame to unleash the power of Lollipop’s new Camera2 API.
From specs to UI, the camera shared by the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge are sure to take the smartphone world by storm… provided the hype holds up to the rigorous testing that is sure to come.