Samsung Galaxy S4 and S6 camera comparison

Samsung Galaxy S4 and S6 camera comparison

There’s no doubt that the camera in the S6 is one of the killer features, and one that has been uniformly praised in reviews. The question that came to mind when I upgraded was just how much it has actually improved over the last two generations. Naturally, I had to do a comparison.

Hardware differences

Galaxy S4 Galaxy S6
Resolution 13MP, 4128×3096 16MP, 5312×2988
Format 4:3 16:9
OIS No Yes
Aperture f/2.2 f/1.9

Practical differences

Using the S6 camera is a delight. The home button double press means you’re never more than a second away from snapping pictures. Actually capturing the image is also surprisingly fast, especially compared to the S4, which it completely blows out of the water. Most pictures turn out as well as you could hope, with good color temperature, exposure and focus.

Image comparisons

Now to what everyone has been waiting for, the actual image comparisons!
I forgot to put the model name in the images, so I’ve instead ordered them so that the S4 is first, followed by the S6. You can click on the images to see them at full size (although cropped).

Indoors/low light
When shooting in low light, the S6 camera really shines. The S4 camera could never really take worthwhile indoor pictures, while the S6 performs like a champ. There’s a lot less noise, noise reduction blur, and the image is just brighter overall. There was no problem with motion blur like with the S4.

table_s4
table_s6
Indoors the S4 struggles to snap a sharp image. The S6 fares much better, with its larger sensor and optical image stabilization.

shoes_s4
shoes_s6
The S4 is plagued by strong noise reduction and looses any sort of detail.

cycle_s4
cycle_s6
The S6 has a better dynamic range, which helps bring out detail in the shadows and keeping the detail in the brighter areas of the image. The S4 comparatively also looks more washed out.

computer_s4
computer_s6
Another example highlighting the improved low-light performance of the S6 camera. The noise reduction on the S4 is so strong that the image almost looks out of focus.

Outdoors
outside_s4
outside_s6
Outdoor quality has been improved with better dynamic range (possibly due to the S6 auto-HDR feature). The image just seems brighter overall on the S6, without blowing out the sky too much, and keeping most of the detail in the shadows. The S4 has a much higher contrast and loses much of the finer details and color saturation in the shadows. On the other hand, when zooming in it seems that the S4 has a slight edge over the S6 in terms of sharpness (something which I will get back to later).

Macro
flower_s4
flower_s6
The larger aperture of the S6 allows for a shallower depth of field (more background softening). While the colors are good, they are a bit over pronounced and artificial in the S6 image, and I actually prefer the result on the S4 this time, but it’s a close draw nonetheless.

100% crop investigation
cycle_close_s4cycle_close_s6
Zooming in actually reveals a significant problem with the S6 image quality, and surprisingly it is worse than with the S4. There is a serious case of bloom/bleeding light, which I can only assume is due to worse optics. Notice how the light bleeds over edges of the handle bars. In the S4 image, the lines are sharp with no apparent bleeding.

Conclusion

It’s evident that the overall image quality has been raised since the S4 camera, however, not everything has improved. It seems that the optics have been downgraded. After going through a tonne of pictures, I can see that this is a recurring issue. The S6 simply doesn’t take as sharp pictures in good conditions (i.e. with little noise reduction) as the S4 did. I’m really surprised (and disappointed) over this.

But the fact still remains, the S6 camera produces really impressive results, and is a definite improvement over the S4. Now, is it as good as a dedicated camera? No, of course not, but unlike your dedicated camera, this will be with you just when you need it, and when you snap that picture you can bet it’ll look good.

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