Remember the uproar last year when it was discovered that the the Galaxy S6 was shipping with two different camera sensors? Some shipped with a Sony sensor – which turned out to be the slightly superior option – and others shipped with Samsung’s ISOCELL sensor. Well, Samsung is at it again, with both the Sony IMX260 and Samsung’s own ISOCELL sensors being used in the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge cameras.
Now, this might not be such a big deal if the sensors performed equally well, but as we saw last year, when side-by-side photos were taken with both cameras there was a general preference for the Sony results. While this isn’t to say the ISOCELL sensor is bad, when customers are paying for a top-of-the-line flagship they don’t want to think they might have a worse camera than their neighbor with the exact same phone.
Generally speaking, it looks like most U.S.-bound Galaxy S7 and S7 Edges equipped with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 tend to use the Sony sensor and the European S7 models with the Exynos SoC use the ISOCELL sensor, although there have been several exceptions posted on the web already.
Of course, which sensor you think is “better” is a matter of personal preference, as the main differences last year were that the Sony sensor produced slightly warmer tones in daylight, a blueish tint in low light conditions and slightly larger image sizes compared to the ISOCELL sensor.
If you’re wondering why Samsung would make this decision, it boils down to the supply chain. It’s not always possible to produce sufficient stocks of one sensor to use in all Galaxy S7 variants globally. If there’s a shortage in one supply chain you simply backfill it with the other, ensuring continuity of production. The same is true for the use of two different SoCs in Galaxy flagships.
If you want to find out which sensor your Galaxy S7 or Galaxy S7 uses, just install an app called AIDA64 and check the top line under Devices. The Sony IMX260 will be listed as such as the Samsung ISOCELL sensor will be listed as SLSI blah blah for System LSI, the Samsung division responsible for producing the ISOCELL sensor.
As with last year’s “scandal”, Samsung will likely admit that different sensors are used in different Galaxy S7 devices and claim that all vendor components meet their strict standards of excellence and so on. However, this is really the kind of thing that should have been disclosed in the official press release on the Galaxy S7 camera which only mentions the ISOCELL sensor.