Samsung Galaxy S6 Review: Camera

Let the shots speak for themselves


Specs

The Samsung Galaxy S6 camera is class leading on paper. With a 16MP rear shooter, your shots will be full of pixels. But megapixel count is not the entire story. Luckily, the Galaxy S6 has a wide open aperture as well. What is a little odd, is the crop on the camera. The Galaxy S6 camera has a 16:9 crop factor, rather than the traditional 4:3.

The Galaxy S6 camera is also capable of 4K video and slomo video at 720p. The front facing camera is a 5MP shooter. Which is respectable for all of your selfie needs. All of this is pretty expected with an Android flagship in 2015, though.

Speed

When measuring the speed of the camera, there are three vital factors. Speed to power up the camera app, speed to focus on the subject, and speed to capture a shot. The Samsung Galaxy S6 excels in all of these categories. Traditionally with Android cameras, there is a noticeable lag to open the camera app. Samsung has truly worked hard to cut down this lag, making the process nearly instantaneous. Adding to the speed equation. The ability to double tap the Home Button at any point to launch the camera is a remarkably useful feature. Getting the Samsung Galaxy S6 up and running is one of the fastest I’ve seen in an Android camera.

Spoiler Alert: I’m a vampire

After the camera opens, it needs to focus quickly on the subject to ensure a crisp shot. The Samsung Galaxy S6 focuses quickly most of the time, but not all. Unfortunately, like most other Android flagships, the Galaxy S6 struggles to focus correctly sometimes.

What is it focusing on? Oh, that’s right, nothing

While statistically, the numbers are small. One cannot quantify missing a moment due to the camera not focusing. It is a frustrating issue to experience with any camera. It is unfortunately present with the Galaxy S6.

The Galaxy S6 camera takes photos incredibly quickly too. With the Galaxy S6, shots are taken nearly instantly when you click the shutter. It is so quick, that I sometimes would capture multiple photos using the “burst” feature. One of the noticeable slowdowns in other Android cameras I have seen is the lag with the “HDR” feature enabled. With the Galaxy S6, even enabling HDR doesn’t deter a quick shutter experience. But with the Galaxy S6, you really don’t need HDR enabled to capture a great shot(something that cannot be said for the Nexus 6).

Interface

A photographers dream camera interface would have intuitive toggles that allow you control each and every setting. The average user wants to point, shoot, and see a great resulting photo.

I have yet to see a camera that truly pleases both ends of the spectrum, but Samsung does a pretty good job with their Samsung Camera app.

With Samsung’s camera, you have a straightforward shooting experience. Click the camera button to take a photo, hold the camera button to take burst shots. Alongside the camera button, you have a “Mode” module, allowing you to change the shooting mode into Professional, Pano, etc. The underlying power in Samsung’s app isn’t incredibly full featured, but it’s good enough to please the photographer side of me.

If the included features aren’t enough for you, Samsung has included an app store for the camera app. Yes, an app store. While it does declutter the camera experience some, it is seemingly needless to include an app store for silly camera modules.

Quality

If a camera like the Galaxy S6 starts up quickly, takes a focused photo quickly, and has an intuitive and simplistic interface; but takes bad photos, what good is it? Samsung was sure to cover every base here with the camera experience. The Samsung Galaxy S6 takes remarkably great photos. In portrait or close-up shots, details are razor sharp and colors are bright and vibrant. Landscapes have impressive dynamic range, letting in light and accentuating shadows. I could talk through all the nitty gritty photo-nerd jargon to explain why the Samsung Galaxy S6 is great. Or I could just show you how fantastic these pictures are.

Photos are pulled directly from the Samsung Camera with no editing unless otherwise noted

P.S. None of those photos were edited in any way.

Low Light

Every camera’s Achilles heel is low light. The lower the light, the harder it is for the camera to capture a great image. I was quite disappointed with the low light performance on the Galaxy S6. In my low light photos, the aperture remained constant at f/1.9, which is wide open. Even with that, photos had noticeable noise. Even with the wide open aperture, Samsung’s app has chosen to crank up ISO over lowering the shutter speed. This results in a noisier photo which just looks bad.

For a camera that takes phenomenal, detail rich photos nearly all the time. Disappointing low light performance is a letdown. An expected letdown, but a letdown nonetheless.

Video

The Galaxy S6 takes 4K video at thirty frames per second. While some people will argue that thirty frames per second is all you need, I disagree. While 4K is chock full of pixel-y goodness, the frame rate leaves some to be desired. Other than that, 4K is 4K, it looks great. On the Galaxy S6, it isn’t as impressive as the camera, but it is 4K nonetheless.

On the Galaxy S6, you can also take 120fps(SloMo) video at 720p. The video itself is passable and decent. But I found it to be a little choppy and darkened for my liking. I’ve yet to come across an Android phone that takes compelling SloMo video.

Front Facing Camera

Hey! The Samsung Galaxy S6 has a front facing camera! No, I’m not taking selfies. But I will say the five megapixel front facing shooter has an impressive wide angle and lets in a lot of light. Here’s a shot using the front facing camera(no, not of my face, no selfies never any selfies).

Ftont Facing Android Selfie!

I wish I had more time with this camera. But as some of you know, it was sitting in my pocket during a rainstorm during a hike. It is currently in rice, as I am trying to salvage it. I could not even retrieve the final shots taken on the S6 for this review. It is quite unfortunate.


The Samsung Galaxy S6 camera is easily the strong suit of the entire phone. This is saying a lot about the camera given how gorgeously designed the device is. But Samsung has crafted an intuitive, fast, and fluid camera experience with the Galaxy S6. Couple that with the absolutely gorgeous image quality and the Samsung Galaxy S6 has the best camera I have seen on an Android phone, ever.

As a whole, the Galaxy S6 is one of the best Android ever. The device itself is still flawed. TouchWiz is still TouchWiz, despite all the moderate refinements. battery life leaves much to be desired, and now I do wish the device was waterproof. But the phenomenal build quality and jaw droppingly good camera almost make up for it.

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