Samsung Galaxy S6 Review

October 12, 2015 | Jack Baker | |

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 16 megapixel JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 5Mb.

On paper, the Samsung Galaxy S6’s 1/2.6-inch camera sensor is playing catch-up to the larger 1/2.3-inch devices inside the majority of compact cameras. The bigger the sensor, the larger the individual light receptors (at a given resolution). That in turn increases the light-sensitivity of those receptors, which consequently helps reduce image noise and improve clarity.

Well, that’s the theory. Somehow, Samsung’s technical wizards have managed to defy logic and produce a sensor that not only matches the performance of larger 1/2.3-inch designs; it also outperforms many of them. In good light, you’d need to switch to a camera with a much bigger 1-inch sensor to get noticeably better results.

Resolved detail from close-range subjects is nothing short of phenomenal, so much so that when viewed at 75% image size, many of the Samsung Galaxy S6’s macro photos could pass for having been taken on a DSLR. This is helped by the large f/1.9 maximum aperture of the S6’s lens, which does a remarkably good job of producing attractive background bokeh blur when capturing macro shots.

Snap a more distant scene like a landscape and the Samsung Galaxy S6 maintains this high image quality. There’s barely any evidence of detail smoothing in fine foliage and certainly no sign of the painterly appearance that some compact cameras can produce when capturing such scenes. What’s more, many small-sensor compact cameras often cover even daytime, low ISO shots in a subtle film of grain, but the S6’s images display no such noise.

Colour reproduction is also top notch, and that isn’t just down to the Samsung Galaxy S6’s screen technology. When viewed on a computer, images retain the same impressive vibrancy. Photos of very colourful objects may look slightly oversaturated for some tastes, but could be easily toned down if required.

However, whilst the Samsung Galaxy S6 produces incredible results in good light, the limitations of its small sensor are apparent in dimmer conditions. In Pro mode, the S6’s sensitivity scale tops out at only ISO 800, but even at this sensitivity there’s plenty of visible grain and detail is becoming blotchy. Dynamic range is also quite poor, though this is easily improved by activating the highly-effective multi-shot HDR feature. You’ll also find that S6’s optical image stabilisation and wide aperture lens reduce the need for shooting at higher sensitivities in low light.

The lens itself doesn’t let the side down, either. It’s 28mm-equivaent focal length is great for capturing wide-angle shots, and the effect is heightened by the native 16:9 aspect ratio of the Samsung Galaxy S6’s sensor. Centre sharpness is excellent, and detail only softens slightly as you reach the corners of frame. The lens also manages to avoid much chromatic aberration, with only occasional fringing visible on very high-contrast edges.

Autofocussing is usually reliable, but given the ease at which you can just tap your own focus point, you rarely have to rely on the Samsung Galaxy S6 determining its own point of interest. Occasionally you will need to tap several times to force the camera to focus on a very close subject, however.

Noise

The Samsung Galaxy S6 has four manually-selectable ISO sensitivity settings available at full resolution, ranging between ISO 100 and ISO 800.

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

iso100.jpg iso200.jpg
   

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

iso400.jpg iso400.jpg

Focal Range

The Samsung Galaxy S6’s fixed focal length lens is equivalent to 28mm in 35mm camera terms. Digital zoom is available, but with a corresponding reduction in image sharpness.

29mm

focal_range.jpg

File Quality

No image file compression options are available, but the Samsung Galaxy S6 can shoot at various resolutions and aspect ratios. These include: 16MP (16:9), 12MP (4:3), 8.9MP (1:1), 8MP (4:3), 6MP (16:9) and 2.4MP (16:9).

16MP (16:9)

12MP (4:3)

ratio_16x9.jpg ratio_4x3.jpg
   

8.9MP (1:1)

8MP (4:3)

ratio_square.jpg ratio_8mp_4x3.jpg
   

6MP (16:9)

2.4MP (16:9)

ratio_6mp_16x9.jpg ratio_2048_4x3.jpg

Macro

Samsung has improved the macro focussing ability of the Galaxy S6 compared to the S5, and it’s able to focus as close as 5cm from a subject. We found this claim to be accurate, though autofocussing does occasionally struggle to lock on at this kind of range.

Macro

Macro (100% Crop)

macro1.jpg macro1a.jpg

Flash

The Samsung Galaxy S6 uses an LED flash, and as usual for this technology, it gives a much weaker flash burst than a standard xenon camera flash. Shooting a white surface from a distance of 1.5 metres reveals the flash is unable to properly light the scene and there’s significant vignetting.

Flash Off

Flash On

This is still a problem when using the flash at closer range, though red-eye is rarely an issue.

Flash On

Flash On (100% crop)

flash_redeye.jpg flash_redeye1.jpg

Image Stabilisation

Where the Galaxy S5 only had a software-substituted image stabilisation system, the Samsung Galaxy S6 gets full optical image stabilisation. With such a wide-angle lens, it’s not really required during daytime shooting, but it enables the camera to use slower shutter speeds and lower ISO sensitivities in low light with less risk of blur from camera shake.

Night

Thanks to optical image stabilisation and a wide f/1.9 maximum aperture, the Samsung Galaxy S6 performs fairly well at night. This image was taken at the camera’s maximum ISO 800 sensitivity, and though there’s some noise and detail smoothing, the result is still comparable to what a typical compact camera would produce.

Night

Night (100% Crop)

night1.jpg night1a.jpg

HDR

Dynamic range isn’t the most impressive aspect of the Samsung Galaxy S6’s sensor, but its HDR feature does a great job of boosting this. It’s easy to use and the results are seamless and natural-looking.

HDR Off

HDR On

hdr_off.jpg hdr_on.jpg

Effects

The Samsung Galaxy S6’s camera app includes seven filter effects: Vignette, Vintage, Tint, Greyscale, Faded colour, Moody, and Cartoon. But this being a smartphone, extra effects are only an app away.

Off

Vignette

effect_01.jpg effect_02.jpg
   

Vintage

Tint

effect_03.jpg effect_04.jpg
   

Greyscale

Faded Color

effect_05.jpg effect_06.jpg
   

Moody

Cartoon

effect_07.jpg effect_08.jpg

Panorama

The Samsung Galaxy S6’s automatic sweep panorama mode works well and lets you stop panning at will. The results aren’t always perfect, but ghosting is rare. Unlike most regular camera panorama modes which produce significantly downsized images, the S6 has the processing power to capture at high resolutions, so panoramas are usually around 3000 vertical pixels.

panorama.jpg