Samsung Galaxy S II review: Camera and video samples

We’ve spent the last few days in the company of the all-new Samsung Galaxy S II Android phone. We’re not quite ready to put together a proper review of the phone’s functions to our, er, exacting standards.

What we can do is start the review process with a look at the phone’s camera. So here we go. The Galaxy S II features an 8megapixel sensor complete with LED flash, ‘Full HD’ 1080p video recording abilities. It really ought to be very good indeed.

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And yes, it is. Still shots emerge from the Galaxy S II at a maximum resolution of 3264×2448, and it produces the best results of any Android phone camera we’ve used. No doubt about that.

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It’s also great in low-light conditions, too, managing contrast between light and dark areas very well. It’s like having a proper camera.

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This is a still shot at maximum digital zoom. It’s not great, but then digital zooms never are. Apart from in episodes of unrealistic investigative TV shows.

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1080p video performance is literally miraculous. There’s no tearing, no dropped frames, just proper, high-resolution video. The only slight issue is that the auto-focus is a little slow to react. For the first few days we didn’t think it even did auto-focus while recording videos. But it does, just a little slowly.

galaxy s 2 1080p still

This is a still from a 1080p video recorded on the Galaxy S II. We’ve put a brief unedited 1080p clip online here [47MB]. Sorry that it’s of a baby. He’s new and not yet learned to be shy about having his likeness put on the internet, so doesn’t have any choice in the matter.

galaxy s 2 720p still

Switching down to 720p lets you use a digital zoom while recording. As you might expect, zooming in digitally reduces the quality a little, so it’s not a great idea to use it. There’s an unedited 720p video sample online here [64MB]. While the zoom’s a little rough, the transition between light and dark areas is very smooth.

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This photo is taken in the evening, indoors, without flash. Again, it’s the best low-light performance we’ve seen from a mobile camera. A bit grainy, but nothing like the techniclour mess some phones produce when capturing dusky scenes.

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You get modes. Lots of modes. Great if you are the sort of person who ever uses any of the modes.

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This is “Cartoon” mode. What a waste of everyone’s time.

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You also get a 2megapixel front-facing camera, for video chatting. This is a photo taken using it. 1200×1600 isn’t a bad resolution for what is basically an extra spare camera.

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There’s a specific “Macro” option to select, which is always fun. The Galaxy S II manages to focus very well on close, still objects.

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Lots of scenes, too. Let me know if you want a specific scene testing. Not doing them all. Life’s too short.

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Anyway. Basically, this is the best, fastest mobile phone camera we’ve used. Forget the dual-core boasts of the phone itself – the Galaxy S II is worth upgrading to on the strength of its image capturing performance alone if you use your phone as your “main” camera.

13 ResponsesLeave one →

  1. Bradley

     /  May 10, 2011

    Can’t believe you didn’t show off the AMAZING panorama mode.

    • Martynb

       /  May 10, 2011

      I would like to see this too!! I’ve been waiting for the motorola atrix as its a 4″ with same resolution, but heard many issues with the call quality is a bit pants so want to see what this one has to offer!! :) Cant wait for the review!!

  2. Gary C

     /  May 10, 2011

    There’s nothing I like more than the chance to show off my local scenery… I’ll do one tomorrow.

  3. DrSlump

     /  May 15, 2011

    Hi, i think that this phone could get better results from video. With a proper firmware it’s possible to use all the 8Mpx sensor area to obtain good digital zoom, even at 1080p resolution. This tecnique is used by n8 software: when you apply a zoom, the software uses the entire 12Mpx area to sample the image and to obtain the desired zoom. The samsung software applies a simply linear interpolation on the pixels, AFTER the image sampling. The result is a low resolution and bad quality image.

  4. DrSlump

     /  May 17, 2011

    P.s. it’s possible? This dual core only capture sound @16Khz MONO???????? I can’t believe…

  5. Hi,

    When you say “it’s the best camera phone ever”, did you ever try the SE Satio?
    I have one, and it takes awsome 12Mpxl pics, even in total darkness (thanks to its led focus that turns on before the pic with the xenon flash). Focus is great, Color is fantastic and vivid, etc.. I’ve always considered it the near perfect phone camera… Well, actually, not sure if it is a camera phone or a phone camera, lol.
    Anyways, I’m not a symbian fan (specially if the phone is not a Nokia), and am considering going droid, but one of the things I use more in the day to day is my camera, so I’m having trouble to find a good upgrade. I’ve been checking the Samsung galaxy S II and the HTC Sensation, but neither seem to be half as good as my satio (considering mainly the camera). It always seem to be a downgrade. What do you think? did you try it and if so, would you consider this instead (considering mainly the camera)?
    P.S.- Thanks for your great article.

    • Gary C

       /  July 19, 2011

      No, never used a Satio. Glad you like it, though. No point switching if you’re happy with what you’ve got. Just ignore the tempting adverts and deals.

      • Hi Gary,

        The problem with temptations is when they’re reach you, is hard to go back…
        The Satio phone has a great camera, but that’s pretty much it. Everything else is average to poor. Gps is poor, touchscreen is poor, even sms/mms have problems everyonce in a while. It could be a great phone if the sofware wasn’t so buggy, but the fact is the only really great thing about it is the camera…
        Anyways, I’m considering passing it to my wife (she has an old, quite used Samsung G810). She writes for a magazine and needs a phone with a camera good enough for magazine pics, and in that, the satio doesn’t dissapoint you.
        Me, on the other end, am just a tech fan, so… ;-)

        I’ve been holding myself to go for a droid that doesn’t have a proper camera so far, hence my doubts now. Although I couldn’t find one that seemed to be as good as my Satio, these ones seem to be better than every other I found so far.
        …It is impressive, though that we came backwards in this matter.

        Anyway, thanks a lot for your input and for the time it took you taking pics and all.
        I just want to ask you one more thing: how do these phones behave with its led flash (no picture was taken with its light only in your review)?

        • Gary C

           /  July 22, 2011

          Er, I seem to have deleted all the photos I took with the flash. Sorry. Seem to remember it being OK. Not that that’s a particularly authoritative opinion.

  6. Brad

     /  September 29, 2011

    Hey guys i have a Video of myself performing in low light conditions and the Audio isn’t too bad.. heres the link:

    (this is the samsung Galaxy S, But i can assume that the quality will be better on the S2)

  7. Donna

     /  December 14, 2011

    I haven’t figured out how to get the camera to zoom for still pictures, any help would be appreciated.

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