Just to make things clear right from the start, this is a photography centric review of the Samsung Galaxy S5 Neo. I will only be discussing the smartphone’s photo taking capabilities. If you are looking for a more general review, there are many such reviews to be found on the web. But if you want to find out how it fares as a camera, then read on.
In the past I was very skeptical of smartphone cameras. I still own and use a Samsung Galaxy Trend, released in 2012. In my opinion it is a rather lackluster photo taking device with a 5 megapixel pinhead sized sensor, very limited control over shooting parameters and some other annoyances, like slow and laggy user interface. It shares the insides with the Galaxy S Duos – you can find a list of its specs on gsmarena.
To be fair it was a budget phone at the time of purchase and is even less than that now. But even high-end smartphones – aside from only a few exceptions, like the Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 – don’t offer enough space for a larger sensor, better optics and thus significantly better image quality. Still, since my smartphone usage is limited to making calls, sending massages and browsing the web in those moments when I don’t have my laptop handy, I never saw the need to upgrade.
However, a few months ago my parents decided to make the leap into the smartphone era with two Samsung Galaxy S5 Neo smartphones. They got a bit embarrassed after seeing that even some of their technophobic friends now own and use them. This gave me the opportunity to test the photographic capabilities of a solid mid-range smartphone.
The Chinese website Digiphoto.techbang.com just posted the first Samsung NX mini/NXF1 High ISO full resolution sample images. By the looks of things, Samsung’s new 20.5MP BSI-MOS sensor produces very usable photos up to ISO6400. At ISO12800 noise levels increase exponentially, so that this sensitivity level doesn’t even look usable for web size images. Even so, noise performance seems to be on a much higher level than Nikon’s V1 and V2 cameras. How the new V3 will perform remains to be seen.
Today Samsung has officially announced its NX mini interchangeable lens camera, with the 20MP BSI 1” sensor. The NX mini will be released with three new lenses: a 9mm f/3.5 pancake (24mm FF equivalent), 9-27mm f/3.5-5.6 collapsible standard zoom (24-71mm equiv.) and a 17mm f/1.8 Normal prime (45mm equiv.). The former two and the NX mini are supposed to start shipping in early April, while the letter will be released at a later date.
An hour ago DPReview forum user Jerry0619 has posted first images and partial specs of the yet to be announced Samsung NXF1 1” interchangeable lens camera. According to the presentation slides the new camera will offer a 22fps burst mode, it is however not specified whether with continuous AF or with fixed AF after the first frame. Battery life is CIPA rated at almost 700 shots (!), which is quite amazing for such a small camera and such a tiny battery. The pancake will have an RRP of $179 and the compact zoom an RRP of $249. One presentation slide also mentions a 17mm f/1.8 standard prime, which’s pricing is yet to be determined. It is funny however, that Samsung uses a Nikon 1 Nikkor 18.5mm f/1.8 presentation image on that slide (the girl with the gently blurred background). 😉 There will also be an adapter for mounting APS-C NX lenses on the 1” NXF1, which will cost $149.
The kit consisting of the 9mm f/3.5 pancake and camera will cost $/€449 while the kit with the 9-27mm zoom will cost $/€549. The pricing for the kits with either the 9mm and zoom or 17mm f/1.8 and zoom is yet to be determined.
UPDATE: Samsung has officially announced the NX mini. It will be available for pre-order on April the 1st according to AmazonUS.
Sam’s Club has listed the rumored Samsung NXF1 1“ MILC/CSC for $499, but the page is now offline. You can access it through Google Cache here. If it happens to be real and not a placeholder, it would be a nice price for essentially a Nikon J3 with an improved sensor, swivel touchscreen and a 24-73mm full frame equivalent lens.
I love primes, primes are great. They offer a lot of advantages compared to zooms. But if they are fixed (as in non-interchangeable), they impose a limit on subject choice. This is the case with smartphones.
Usually phones have a fixed prime lens with a full frame equivalent focal length of 30mm to 35mm – a photojournalist’s of old favourite focal length. The “not too wide” wide-angle is a very flexible FL that allows you to shoot all kinds of subject. Some of the things you can’t shoot with it, however, are macro, landscapes with the super wide angle “look” and photos with a certain effect, like the circular fisheye effect.
This is where additional lenses come in. There are a number of such add-on lenses for your smartphone. Sometimes they even come in so called “kits”, consisting of three lenses – a super wide-angle, a fisheye and a macro lens. One of the cheaper kits is the TaoTronics Phone Camera Lens Clip Kit for 12 bucks. As you will see in course of my review, image quality isn’t always great, or even good, but there is a huge benefit in terms of flexibility.
Memory cards are not one of those photography related devices that make photographers excited. You probably never heard a photographer say “wow, that new SD card is so cool, I’ve got to buy one!” Nevertheless memory cards can impact user experience dramatically, especially if you are shooting a lot in burst mode, recording high definition or 4k video with high bit rates or if you have a habit of filling the memory card before transferring all of your images and video files to your computer in one go. This is where the read and, even more importantly, write speeds of the memory card make themselves noticeable. If the memory card is too slow at writing data, the buffer of your camera will fill up rather quickly or you won’t be able to shoot video with high bit rates at all. If the read speed is too low, on the other hand, transferring data from the card to the PC will take quite a long time.
In this blog post I would like to show you some benchmarks and talk a little about my newest SD card, the Transcend Ultimate Speed SDHC Class 10 UHS-1 32GB. Quite a mouthful, isn’t it? In a later post I’m going to decipher the “marketing speak” for you and do a comparison with some of my older memory cards. What you will see is that speeds indicated by manufacturers can be very optimistic or downright misleading. For now, let’s take a look at two very popular benchmarks – CrystalDiskMark and AS SSD – used to test various storage devices (HDDs, SSDs, memory cards, USB sticks, etc.):
It’s been more than a month since the last time I’ve posted some photos taken with the cheap 25mm f/1.4 C-Mount lens on the V1. I was quite busy shooting with the 18.5mm f/1.8 (my review) and reporting on all the new 1” releases, like the Nikon V3 and Samsung NX mini. But finally here are half a dozen photos I’ve shot since last time. I hope you like them. 🙂