Samsung didn’t emphasize camera performance very much during its launch event, which surprised me since HTC and Apple have both made steady improvements on the camera experience this generation. That said, the SGS3 does make some iterative improvements of its own in the camera department.

First off, the 8 MP rear facing camera sits behind F/2.6 optics with a relatively wide focal length of 3.7 mm. If you compare to the SGS2’s F/2.7 optics with 4.0 mm focal length, the SGS3 is a fair amount wider, and it’s noticeable when out and about shooting photos. From my digging, I’ve found that both my T-Mobile and AT&T SGS3s contain a S5C73M3 rear camera module - that looks like a Samsung CMOS name to me, but usually Samsung CMOSes start with S5K3 in the 8MP category. This is the same as the International version I’ve seen, though there’s still considerable debate about whether this is a Sony CMOS, but initial reports are that it isn’t the IMX145 from the iPhone 4S. I’ve also seen references to “CML0801” but that doesn’t mean anything to me immediately. Either way, the CMOS is 8 MP with 1.4µm pixels and BSI, images at full resolution are 3264 x 2448.

The front facing camera is a Samsung S5K6A3 CMOS which hasn’t been announced or made formal yet, and as a result I’m not sure about its pixel pitch or format. It is 1.9 MP and square - 1392x1392, which is relatively unique. I wager most users will just use 1280x960 and not know that the 1.9 MP option exists, though it is exposed in the camera UI.

Samsung has made some improvements to the camera UI, and though they’re subtle, they’re nonetheless worth talking about. The camera application does launch speedily, which was one of Samsung’s major points. As I mentioned, the shortcut from home screen (if you enable it) is handy if you don’t want to use up one of the application shortcut spaces.

For SGS2 users, the whole application should be familiar, settings is in the bottom left, and all the icons on the left pane can be changed or customized by long pressing. Tap to focus and expose is still here, and capture speed is nearly instantaneous, just like on the One series.

Shooting modes can be changed from single to burst shot, HDR, and a few other options. HDR combines three exposures like we’ve seen on other platforms, paints a progress bar while it computes (which happens impressively fast) and saves the resulting exposure. Probably one of the cooler shooting modes is share shot, which uses WiFi direct to share photos captured from linked SGS3s to each other. Tapping this brings up the WiFi direct pair prompt, and successive photos get put in a received folder on other devices.

To evaluate still image quality we turn to our usual set of tests, which means the lightbox scene with the lights on and off, and our bench photo locations (numbers 3 - 7 remain). I couldn’t get the test charts and lighting setup due to me moving houses while working on this review (everything is boxed up), but will update when that’s settled. For now we have a decent picture of the SGS3 camera performance, but something I would like to investigate more once I can setup my test charts. Consider the following more of a first impression than really my end thoughts on the SGS3 camera’s performance.

Immediately, you can tell that Samsung has tweaked their camera ISP and disabled the sharpening kernel which used to leave halos around contrasty spatial detail. There’s some loss of high frequency detail to noise reduction which is particularly evident in the lightbox camera’s focus rings and markings, but nothing too inordinate. White balance gives the scene a somewhat purple cast. I have to say that the One X image is sharper, but not by much.

With the lights off, the SGS3 does a great job exposing, and focuses with the scene lit up so it doesn’t miss focus entirely. This is still something I see so many other smartphone cameras not doing, and instead just capturing at infinity focus and hoping for the best. Kudos to Samsung for still doing it the right way.

At the bench location photos, I’m kind of left feeling the same way about the SGS3 camera at first glance. There’s nothing really wrong with it, and it seems to have less distortion (the test chart will tell the objective truth) but it just isn’t as sharp as some of the other cameras I’ve seen. Having a wider field of view is definitely something different, and it’s noticeable over the SGS2.

Performance Analysis Camera - Video
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  • HexiumVII - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    Darn no quad core love for the US? Reply
  • Impulses - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    No big loss, the S4 is roughly equivalent despite being a dual, since it's an all new design instead of a core bump. The GPU is actually the bigger loss, if you're into graphically intensive games. Reply
  • B3an - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    Exactly.

    The international quad-core version (which i have and love!) is based on ARM Cortex A9. While the US dual-core version uses the Krait SoC which is a lot closer to ARM's new Cortex A15 design (but it's not an A15, it's a custom design from Qualcomm thats similar in performance). So overall for CPU performance the international and US versions are pretty similar.

    The international version definitely has a better GPU though - the higher clocked Mali-400 is the fastest GPU in any phone at the moment. Where as the US version has the slower Adreno 225.

    On the other hand... the US version has 2GB RAM, where as the international has 1GB.

    I guess Samsung felt bad about the slower GPU and tried to make up for it by giving you all 2GB instead.

    Personally i prefer the international version because of the extra GPU performance as i do more gaming, and with a screen this big @ 720p gaming is great.
    Reply
  • robinthakur - Friday, June 22, 2012 - link

    So...quick question. I have an international version which I picked up in HK as well. What games actually make good use of the improved graphics? I've already got Angry Birds Space. I'm not that impressed with the device so far. The thin plastic back feels incredibly cheap for a device costing around £400 and the Android OS seems poorly optimised compared to the iPhone 4S I used to use, with much worse touch controls. The camera which initially sold me (along with the nice water drops animations on the Home screen!) with its rapid shots, also disappoints with pretty mediocre pictures compared to the 4S. Front facing camera is nicer though. The motion controls are utterly pointless as is face unlocking. Have you ever got the wave hand across the screen to take a screenshot to work? I've got it switched on but...nothing! There were plenty of options compared to iOS for to geek out over for 48 hours but now having to actually use the device it seems lacking, i dunno, just unpolished. Considering it just came out, why is text all fuzzy for example? Isn't this a retina display? I assumed that coming out more than 2 years after the iPhone 4, every phone has them these days, but apparently not. I'm considering selling it before the price drops and going back into the Apple Matrix as life seems easier with iOS all told. Reply
  • JamesL88 - Saturday, June 23, 2012 - link

    "What games actually make good use of the improved graphics?"
    Well for starters newest Gameloft games such as the NOVA 3 tend to be very graphically demanding. Also True Android gamers love to buy emulators from black markets (or after markets if you prefer), such as Nintendo 64 emulator.

    You're obviously iFan so I'm not going into discussion with strength and weaknesses of each OS, but I believe the GS3 uses the same Sony sensor used in iPhone 4s' camera. I seriously doubt that you even own GS3.
    Reply
  • koyanishi - Tuesday, September 04, 2012 - link

    I believe he does own a Galaxy S III.

    that's because he didn't figure out how to take the screen shot by swiping his hand across the screen.

    The thing is, to do this your hand has to touch the screen. Your hand is in the form of a karate chop and you use the knife edge (sort to speak) to touch the screen and swipe across it.

    I don't think he is that stupid for missing this because I after trying different ways of doing it never figured it out either but only learned of how to do it by reading tips on use of this phone in an android forum.

    However on his other points of how the plastic feels cheap and lack of optimization (whatever that means) of the os in GS III I disagree.
    Reply
  • bigboxes - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    Am I wrong? The device doesn't look like it can stand up to much of anything. Better make sure you cover it from top to bottom with some kind of case. Reply
  • ATWindsor - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    You probably are, plastics can be very solid and lightweight. The old Galaxy S2 is as far as one can tell much more solid than for instance the iphone. Reply
  • Impulses - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    Samsung's designs may feel cheap at times but that doesn't necessarily translate to better impact survivability... Plastic weighs less and probably absorbs more force during impact... I've never owned a Samsung phone (I'm on my third EVO and my dumb phones were all Nokias & Sony) but I've seen plenty of them fly from my friend's hands. :p The glossy plastic they use probably does scuff easier than most materials tho. Then again, unlike reviewers who go thru phones like underwear, I think the majority of people end up it using cases anyway. I do it to protect my device's resale value as much a anything else. Reply
  • Belard - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    What resale value? Reply

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