BARCELONA, Spain -- Artificial spot lighting at trade show booths doesn't make for the optimal conditions to test out what a camera can do. However, it does at least give you a fairly good idea of how the Samsung Galaxy S5's 16-megapixel shooter works in this kind of indoor setting. (And yes, we did ask, beg, and plead to take the phone outside into the light and air. No dice.)
I took all photos on auto mode. Some photos came out a little darker than I expected, some not quite as crisp. There were also certain lighting challenges that few cameras could overcome, mobile or otherwise. Overall though, I was pleased with the sharpness, color, and level of detail of these brief test shots.
One benefit of the Galaxy S5's high megapixel count is that cropped images still show up at fairly high resolutions, so you don't lose as much detail as you might on a lower-resolution camera. You'll see an example of that, and several other shots, in the gallery below.
Native camera app's fresh lick'a paint
In addition to the Galaxy S5's optical performance, Samsung's native camera app gets an update with some significant changes. An HDR toggle (representing new processing powers) now pops up on the screen, which makes it easier to select. (Tip: you can even use HDR in burst mode now.)
Selective Focus is a neat feature that, as on some high-end Nokia Lumia phones, lets you choose a more shallow depth of field after you take the shot. It worked well and was easy to use, but there is a fair amount of premeditation required -- you'll need to press the on-screen control first. I do really like that you can keep editing the selective focus as many times as you want.
I noticed a few other new features as well that Samsung didn't emphasize in our briefing or at the launch event. Virtual Tour is sort of like Google's Photo Sphere app, where it can compile a 360-degree view of your surroundings, which is then played in a video. It worked really well in my test, and shares files either as a movie or as stills. I could see myself using it to share a scene with family and friends.
Panning is another new one that seems to work like an action freeze-frame shot. After taking the picture, you can edit the character of the background blur while your subject remains crisply in focus. I wasn't able to get enough real action at Samsung's booth to make this work as it's intended.
The S5's camera app consolidates a whole mess of apps into a single view called Shot & More. This includes modes like Best Photo, Best Face, Eraser, Drama, and the Panning mode we just talked about. You choose this mode before taking a photo, then pick from the shooting modes that work with each photo best.
One neat little feature is being able to jump into the camera settings (which look wonderful) to drag a setting into the shortcuts bar. Another is that you can store photos in Samsung's secure Knox box.
All together, the updated visuals that rework the icons and on-screen controls help make just about everything in Samsung's Galaxy S5 camera polished and easy to use.
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