Samsung Galaxy S5 Review

June 24, 2014 | Mark Goldstein | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


The Samsung Galaxy S5 is a dust and water resistant 16 megapixel smartphone that runs on the Android 4.4.2 (Kitkat) operating system. The Galaxy S5 has a 31mm fixed lens with an aperture of f/2.2 and picture stabilisation, fast autofocus speed of up to 0.3 seconds, Selective Focus feature, a 5.1-inch FHD Super AMOLED touchscreen with a resolution of 432ppi, a built-in LED flash, Wi-Fi, GPS and 3G/4G connectivity, real-time HDR, and 4K UHD video recording at 30fps. The Samsung Galaxy S5 costs around £499 / $599 without a contract and is available in black, white, bronze or blue.

Ease of Use

The Samsung Galaxy S5 measures 142.0 x 72.5 x 8.1mm, which means that it can be easily stored inside a trouser pocket, and weighs 145g without battery and card, slightly bigger and heavier than the previous S5 model. It's undoubtedly a large but very slim device that will definitely get you noticed. Build quality is fine, but not class-leading, and having to remove the plastic cover off the back to insert a microSD card is more than a little disconcerting!The The Samsung Galaxy S5 is now dust and water resistant, though, which should provide some reassurance when using it in more hostile environments (like a light shower).

The Galaxy S5 has a fixed lens with a focal length the 35mm equivalent of 31mm, supported by a fairly effective picture stabilisation system. Note that this isn't an optical based system, but an electronic one, where the S5 quickly takes and combines a number of different shots to produce an optimum one. Curiously this option isn't available if you decide to manually set the ISO speed - we've no idea why. There's now 16-megapixel effective resolution from the standard sized 1/2.33-inch BSI CMOS sensor, up from the S4's 13 megapixels. On the back is a very impressive 5.1-inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel FHD Super AMOLED touchscreen display, and the S5 zoom runs the very latest Android 4.4.2 Kitkat operating system.

The plastic back cover aside, with what feels like a higher proportion of metal in the build than plastic, the Galaxy S5's sleek and stylish exterior certainly looks the part. Other than the lens, the only other features on the sparse front of the Galaxy S5 are two slots for the microphones and the LED flash unit, positioned directly below the lens.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Samsung Galaxy S5
Front Rear

Located on the top-right-hand corner is a thin power button. Hold this down for the first time and the Galaxy S5 stutters into life, taking quite a while to display a series of graphical screens, with the rear screen switches to camera mode a couple of seconds later. The startup time from Standby is thankfully much quicker at just under 2 seconds, roughly what we'd expect from a point-and-shoot camera, although no speed demon.

Thankfully there's now a physical shutter-release button on the Galaxy S5, as well as a soft key on the touchscreen, a very welcome improvement on the S4. To focus, simply tap anywhere on the screen and the AF point appears in green along with the customary confirmation 'bleep', then either tap the soft shutter button or press the actual button to take the shot.

A full-sized 16 megapixel image is committed to either the built-in memory (16/32Mb) or an optional micro-SD card (up to 128Gb) in one to two seconds, which is impressive. You can even take a picture using the power of your own voice, with "capture", "shoot", "smile" and "cheese" commands all available. Voice control can also be used to zoom the lens, fire the flash, set the timer options, and change the shooting mode, amongst other settings. The S5 is faster to focus than its predecessor, now taking only 0.3 seconds to lock onto the subject in good lighting situations.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Samsung Galaxy S5
Turned On Camera On

The Samsung Galaxy S5 has an array of beginner and more advanced shooting modes. The subject recognizing Auto setting is point and shoot all the way, the camera getting it mostly right, although - typically - busier scenes can confuse the auto-focus and the shutter will still fire even if the image is noticeably soft, so you can occasionally come away with blurred results.

There's also a range of clever scene modes, including the useful HDR and Panorama modes, and creative filters which are accessed by pressing the arrow icon at the bottom of the touchscreen, useful for previewing and adding a not-too-cliched effect. The HDR mode can also be toggled on and off in real-time by a handy on-screen icon, allowing you to preview the effect before shooting, although you still can't change the strength.

In terms of photographic features, the default camera app also allows you to choose the ISO speed (100-800), metering (centre-weighted, matrix and spot), white balance, exposure compensation, turn burst shot, face detection and anti-shake on or off, set the photo and video sizes, configure the self-timer, and set the flash to on, off or auto. The Samsung Galaxy S5 is one of the first smartphones on the market to record 4K UHD video, in addition to standard FullHD (turned on by default), although the stabilisation system for video is electronic rather than optical.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Samsung Galaxy S5
Main Menu Front Camera

Pressing the Home button fires up the Galaxy S5's default screen, which displays the time and date, allows you to perform a Google Search, includes icons for the Paper Artist, Instagram, Photo Wizard, Video Editor, Camera, and Gallery apps, plus Dropbox, Play Store and a further Apps icon which accesses all the default apps and the Widgets screen.

Having the ability to connect to a wi-fi network or cellular data if using a SIM card, then edit your images and video with either the Samsung apps, Instagram or any one of hundreds of other Android apps, and then upload them to your favourite online network quickly becomes compulsive and makes the traditional process of downloading to a computer seem laborious and old-fashioned.

With the 5.1-inch screen swallowing up the entire backplate of the Samsung Galaxy S5, apart from the Home and Shutter buttons, there are very few other physical controls apart from a headphone port and a volume control button. Note that the battery can be removed, but charging is still done in-camera.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 16 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 6Mb.

The Samsung Galaxy S5 produced images of good quality during the review period. Noise is the main issue, already becoming obvious at the relatively slow setting of ISO 200, and then getting progressively worse at the still modest settings of ISO 400 and 800.

Chromatic aberrations were well controlled, with limited purple fringing effects appearing in high contrast situations. The 16 megapixel images were a little soft straight out of the camera at the default sharpen setting and require some further sharpening in an application like Adobe Photoshop, or you can change the in-camera sharpening level. Macro performance is fine, allowing you to focus as close as 10cms away from the subject.

The built-in flash worked well indoors, with no red-eye and good overall exposure. The anti-shake system works well when hand-holding the Galaxy S5 in low-light conditions, but the maximum shutter speed doesn't allow the camera to capture enough light for most after-dark situations. The HDR and Panorama modes are the best of the so-called Smart scene modes, while the new Selective Focus feature is a convenient way to focus on a specific subject and blur the rest of the frame.


There are 4 ISO settings available on the Samsung Galaxy S5. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting.

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

iso100.jpg iso200.jpg

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

iso400.jpg iso800.jpg

Focal Range

The Samsung Galaxy S5's fixed lens provides a focal length of 31mm in 35mm terms, as demonstrated below.




Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are a little soft at the default sharpening setting and benefit from some further sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop. You can't change the in-camera sharpening level.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

sharpen1.jpg sharpen1a.jpg
sharpen2.jpg sharpen2a.jpg

Chromatic Aberrations

The Samsung Galaxy S5 handled chromatic aberrations very well during the review, with limited purple fringing mainly present around the edges of objects in high-contrast situations, as shown in the example below.

Chromatic Aberrations (100% Crop)



The Samsung Galaxy S5 allows you to focus on a subject that is 10cms away from the camera. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card). The second image is a 100% crop.


Macro (100% Crop)

macro1.jpg macro1a.jpg


The flash settings on the Samsung Galaxy S5 are Off, On and Auto. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.

Flash Off (31mm)

Flash On (31mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64


The Samsung Galaxy S5's doesn't have a very long maximum shutter speed and you can't set it manually anyway, which is not great news if you're seriously interested in night photography.


Night (100% Crop)

night1.jpg night1a.jpg

Optical Image Stabilisation

The Samsung Galaxy S5 has an anti-shake mechanism, which allows you to take sharp photos at slower shutter speeds than other digital cameras. To test this, we took 2 handheld shots of the same subject with the same settings. The first shot was taken with anti shake turned off, the second with it turned on. With anti-shake turned on, the images are noticeably sharper than with anti-shake turned off.

Shutter Speed / Focal Length

Anti Shake Off (100% Crop)

Anti Shake On (100% Crop)

1/33 sec / 31mm antishake1.jpg antishake1a.jpg

Rich Tone (HDR)

The High Dynamic Range scene mode captures more contrast than a single exposure can handle by combining multiple exposures into one image.



hdr_off.jpg hdr_on.jpg

Selective Focus

The Galaxy S5's Selective Focus feature allows you to focus on a specific subject by blurring the background and accentuating the main subject. There are three settings, Near Focus, Far Focus and Pan Focus, which can be applied after the photo is taken.

Near Focus


Far Focus


Pan Focus



The Samsung Galaxy S5 allows you to take panoramic images very easily, by 'sweeping' with the camera while keeping the shutter release depressed. The camera automatically does all the processing and stitching. The main catch is that the resulting image is of fairly low resolution.


Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Samsung Galaxy S5 camera, which were all taken using the 16 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the highest quality setting of 3840 x 2160 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 20 second movie is 116Mb in size.

Product Images

Samsung Galaxy S5

Front of the Samsung Galaxy S5

Samsung Galaxy S5

Rear of the Samsung Galaxy S5

Samsung Galaxy S5

Front of the Samsung Galaxy S5 / Turned On

Samsung Galaxy S5

Front of the Samsung Galaxy S5 / Camera

Samsung Galaxy S5

Front of the Samsung Galaxy S5 / Shooting Modes

Samsung Galaxy S5

Front of the Samsung Galaxy S5 / Main Menu

Samsung Galaxy S5

Rear of the Samsung Galaxy S5 / Selective Focus

Samsung Galaxy S5

Rear of the Samsung Galaxy S5 / Front Camera


The Samsung Galaxy S5 is a rather minor upgrade one of the most popular Android smartphones on the market from a photography point of view, principally adding the headline-grabbing 4K video recording mode, a new 16 megapixel sensor, faster auto-focusing speed, real-time HDR and the useful selective focus feature.

By compact camera standards, the Samsung Galaxy S5's image quality still isn't that great, suffering from obvious noise at relatively slow ISO speeds. It is perfectly fine for cropping and resizing for posting on Facebook or Instagram, or for making regular-sized prints, but it's not class-leading when judged as a smartphone. The new picture stabilisation system works pretty well, going some way to making up for the poor ISO results and makes the Galaxy S5 more usable in low-lighting, but it's not as effective as the S4's optical system.

In summary the Samsung Galaxy S5 is a solid upgrade of last year's S4, rather than a massive leap forwards, but it adds just enough new features to again prove worthy of our Recommended award.

4 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 4.5
Ease-of-use 4
Image quality 4
Value for money 3.5

Main Rivals

Listed below are some of the rivals of the Samsung Galaxy S5.

Google Nexus 5

The new Google Nexus 5 is one of the cheapest flagship smartphones on the market, but also one of the most powerful and full-featured too, running the latest KitKat version of Android. But what kind of experience does it offer photographers? Read our Google Nexus 5 review to find out...

HTC One (M8)

The HTC One (M8) is a new flagship smartphone with not one, but two cameras, using the second one as a depth sensor that allows you to change the point of focus after taking a photo and achieve DSLR-like shallow depth-of field effects. Does this make the HTC One (M8) the best smartphone for avid photographers? Read our HTC One (M8) review to find out..

Nokia Lumia 1020

The Nokia Lumia 1020 is a new 41-megapixel smartphone - yes, you read that right, 41 megapixels. The Lumia 1020 also offers built-in optical image stabilisation, a 3x loss-less zoom for stills and 6x for movies, a 26mm fixed lens with fast f/2.2 aperture, and 1080p video at 30fps with stereo sound. Read our Nokia Lumia 1020 review to find out if it can replace a compact camera.

Samsung Galaxy Camera 2

The new Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 is half travel-zoom camera, half smartphone. Using the latest Android 4.3 operating system, the Galaxy Camera 2 also offers wi-fi and NFC connectivity along with a 16 megapixel sensor and 21x zoom lens. Read our Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 review, complete with full-size sample images and video...

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom

Introducing the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom. Is it a camera? Is it a phone? No, the Galaxy S4 Zoom is Samsung's attempt to bring both together in one device - but have they succeeded? Read our Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom review to find out...

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Samsung Galaxy S5 from around the web. »

The Galaxy S5 has been out of for a few months now, and managed to sell more than 10 million units in its first month. It’s every bit the smash we thought it would be.
Read the full review » »

The Samsung Galaxy S5 can be defined by one word: evolution. The camera has evolved to give clearer, faster snaps. The fitness-tracking abilities of the S5 are enhanced over the Galaxy S4 by packing in a more powerful S Health app and a dedicated heart rate monitor on the rear. A fingerprint scanner adds to the most secure Galaxy phone ever made
Read the full review » »

Here's why the Samsung Galaxy S5 should grab your attention: it looks good, it performs very well, and it has everything you need to become a fixture in nearly every aspect of your life. But, like a candidate running for reelection, the GS5 gets where it is today based on experience and wisdom, not on flashy features or massive innovation.
Read the full review » »

A year ago, I wondered if HTC's gorgeous, metallic One would inspire or challenge Samsung to leave behind its cheap, plasticky ways and build a smartphone as beautiful as it is feature-rich. The Galaxy S5 is not that phone: it's every bit as utilitarian and function-first as its predecessors. It has a slightly larger display than last year's model, and the phone is thus slightly taller and wider, but it's still light (5.1 ounces) and thin (8.1 millimeters), and really feels no different than the S4 or any other phone this size.
Read the full review »


Main(Rear) : 16MP (1/2.6”, Phase Detection AF)
Sub (Front) : 2.0MP (1920 x 1080, Wide-angle lens )
Camera Features
HDR (Rich tone), Selective Focus, Virtual Tour Shot
UHD@30fps, HDR, video stabilization
Video Codec : H.263, H.264(AVC), MPEG4, VC-1, Sorenson Spark, MP43, WMV7, WMV8, VP8
Video Format : MP4, M4V, 3GP, 3G2, WMV, ASF, AVI, FLV, MKV, WEBM
Audio Codec : MP3, AMR-NB/WB, AAC/ AAC+/ eAAC+, WMA, Vorbis, FLAC
Accelerometer, Gyro, Proximity, Compass, Barometer, Hall, RGB ambient light, Gesture, Fingerprint, Heart Rate Sensor
Google Mobile Services*
Chrome, Drive, Photos, Gmail, Google, Google+, Google Settings, Hangouts, Maps, Play Books, Play Games, Play Newsstand, Play Movie & TV, Play Music, Play Store, Voice Search, YouTube
Android, Google, Chrome, Drive, Photos, Gmail, Google+, Google Settings, Hangouts, Maps, Play Books, Play Games, Play Newsstand, Play Movie & TV, Play Music, Play Store, Voice Search, YouTube are trademarks of Google Inc.
LTE Cat.4 (150/50Mbps)
LTE: 2.5GHz Quad core application processor
5.1” FHD Super AMOLED (1920 x 1080), 432 ppi
142.0 x 72.5 x 8.1mm, 145g
Android 4.4.2 (Kitkat)
16/32GB User Memory + microSD slot (up to 128GB)
Some places only provide 16GB depending on region/country.
WiFi : 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac VHT80, MIMO(2x2)
Download Booster (LTE + WiFi simultaneous reception)
NFC, Bluetooth®: 4.0 BLE / ANT+
USB 3.0
This device supports a USB 3.0 interface as well as lower versions of USB, including
USB 2.0. A USB 2.0 compatible cable is included in the package. A USB 3.0
compatible cable is not included in the package, and may be purchased separately.
Additional Features
IP67 certificated Dust & Water Resistant, Emergency Mode, Ultra Power Saving Mode, S Health, Quick Connect, Private Mode, Kids Mode

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