The Galaxy Note 2 is very much an enlarged, slightly tweaked Galaxy S 3, and nowhere is this more evident than the camera system. In fact, after lots of digging I’ve determined that almost all of this is exactly the same as the Galaxy S 3, which isn’t a surprise at all. Samsung has tweaked the camera UI and added features, and compared to the Note there’s definitely a marked improvements, but for Galaxy S 3 users the experience is entirely the same.

To start, the Galaxy Note 2 uses the same 8 MP S5C73M3 CMOS as Galaxy S 3 on the rear facing camera, which is a CMOS which on paper has specs up to par with the competition. There's no official disclosure about this part, but people still know about the specs. Optical format is 1/3.2" which is very common right now, 1.4µm square pixels, and of course the sensor is backside illuminated. From what I can tell the optical system on top of that is exactly the same as well, F/2.6 with a focal length of 3.7 mm. From what I’ve seen of the Galaxy Note 2 camera, performance is as expected basically the same as Galaxy S 3.

Likewise the front facing CMOS is a S5K6A3, also same as Galaxy S 3, which is 1/6" format with 1.75µm BSI pixels and a total size of 1412 x 1412 pixels. Captured images end up being 1280 x 960, F/2.8 with focal length of 2.5 mm.


Milbeaut ISP Roadmap

In addition, Samsung continues to use a discrete Fujitsu Milbeaut 5th generation ISP (Image Signal Processor) for their cameras, you see references to this as M5MO throughout. This is the same setup as I saw on the Galaxy S 2, and though I didn’t dig into the original Note I bet it’s there too since that camera was analogous. There wasn’t much of a jump in camera performance between the Galaxy S 2 and 3, it seems as though Samsung is largely content keeping things the way they are this generation, perhaps waiting for the next generation of the Milbeaut ISP or a dramatically different CMOS to come around from Samsung Semiconductor before they mix things up. Meanwhile F/2.6 isn’t the most aggressive target for a fast optical system, considering other players are at F/2.0. I think Samsung expects those interested in a smartphone with emphasis on camera to go after the Galaxy Camera or something.

This sign just comes off sounding so sarcastic (sample Galaxy Note 2 Photo)

To evaluate still image quality we turned to our standard set of tests which seems to keep growing. That consists of a scene in a lightbox with constant controlled illumination of 1000 lux taken using the front and rear cameras with as close to the same field of view as possible, images of a distortion grid, GretagMacbeth ColorChecker card for white balance checking, and an ISO12233 test chart for gauging spatial resolution in an even more controlled manner. Because I’ve moved houses and lighting will never ever be exactly the same, I have decided to move the three test charts into my lightbox as opposed to putting them on a wall and illuminating them with studio lights. This warrants a completely new set of comparison images, hence the smartphone 2012 camera bench for the three charts and front facing camera.

There’s a lot to go through here, but the test charts tell the most objective story. To me, flipping back an forth between Galaxy S 3 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 confirms what I already know, that performance is very similar between the two because they’re basically the same system. Locations 3–7 remain in the bench photo locations, and unfortunately due to time constraints I could only get photos on the one day I was in town with some overcast skies and not the usual lighting I like.

Honestly probably the biggest improvement over the original Note is that the center purple colored spot is completely gone as you can see with the following toggle.


Samsung’s camera UI continues to be very comprehensive and offer a wealth of options and shooting modes. I spent a lot of time playing around with HDR, which now has a Normal and Strong mode that adds even more dynamic range with exposures bracketed even further from the center. There are a couple of those in the MISC gallery of camera shots.

S Pen and Samsung's Take on Android 4.1 Camera Analysis - Video
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  • djpavcy - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    Brian, as others have pointed out there must be something wrong with your battery tests. All the other reviews on the net show much better performance than what you see which makes sense - this phone has a quite large battery. Maybe you have a defective unit? Reply
  • Vinas - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    There's a reason ford put a rubber tray on the dash - it's for your GN2! At least that's where I put mine while I drive (until I buy a dash mount for it). The GN2 is a bad ass phone, and maybe the novelty of the device has not worn off yet (got it yesterday at release) but I mean, there is something to be said for having the world's most powerful smartphone in your hands! haha eat it suckers Reply
  • khanikun - Friday, October 26, 2012 - link

    I was probably one of the few thousands of ppl who bought the Dell 5" Streak when they first came out and gigantic phones....not all that great. I got away from them, only for a bajillion other phones to get big. Reply
  • fate_accompli - Friday, October 26, 2012 - link

    Well, thanks for that, Dr. Freud.

    In my own case, I'm getting the Note 2 because IT TAKES NOTES!!
    Imagine that !? One of the things it was designed for! The big screen
    also makes it easier to stab icons with my bigass finger. Also, movies
    look cooler with bigger screens- it's why people buy bigger screens for
    their home theaters...same principle.

    Nothing subconscious about it. Otherwise, a very nice review.
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Friday, February 01, 2013 - link

    Exactly, it fits the small package, big guns, PC insanity clack, which of course every idiot spews incessantly, ignoring the other reality that actually is a fact that the big gun in the big bad ghetto everywhere is toted by the big black packaged...

    So much for the small minded retards parading around as the cultural elite minded peak of our society.
    Reply
  • jwhyrock - Saturday, October 27, 2012 - link

    I know I'm going to enjoy using the Note 2 more than a smaller device which is the primary concern for me. I currently have the Samsung Vibrant (Galaxy S1) so I'm going to see a huge performance increase just having current technology.

    I'm not g33k enough to fully wrap my head around each test that was run. I did see a pattern of the iphone 5 and Droid beating out other phones in the testing. I intensely dislike Apple as a company and find the iphone on the whole to be uninspiring.

    Winning on some of the benchmarks isn't going to persuade me to ditch the Note 2.

    I wonder if the author or anyone else can put in perspective the overall performance between Note 2 and higher performing devices. Is it a noticeable or just a benchmark number?
    Reply
  • Anon - Sunday, October 28, 2012 - link

    Why oh why it's always missing the audio chip report? I need to know whether the US version will retain the Wolfson chip . Reply
  • hemanthj - Monday, October 29, 2012 - link

    If I would buy the USA version of Note 2. Will I be able to use the LTE outside US in Asia and Europe. Or I need to buy the Note 2 International version for that. Reply
  • bellasys - Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - link

    While T-Mobile is not generally considered primo, I had the opportunity to understand just how fine their network was while supporting network services for AT&T during the Cingular merger. At that time, our company had a division which provided similar services for T-Mobile, and I got the inside track from my buddies.

    So, I really respect the author giving credit where it's due, and writing about a feature such as DC-HSPA+ which techs like me might care about. It reminds me of T-1 modem bonding before Y2K. Big kudos on this point.

    Although I can't say this one feature would be enough to make me switch- no single carrier can do it all.

    Great and informative article. Thanks :)
    Reply
  • garrun - Friday, November 02, 2012 - link

    I have a Samsung GS3 and have been pretty unhappy with it for one, annoying reason. When I use it in my car (Infiniti G37, but I've heard the same problem exists in others, including Ford Sync) I have two problems. First, if bluetooth is enabled, it takes preference for audio input, such that I can't use S-Voice (S3's SIri equivalent) to send text, plays songs, use maps... anything). My car doesn't support music over bluetooth, so I plug in to the headphone jack when listening to books or music. When THAT happens, the line out trumps the bluetooth for audio priority, and I can't even use bluetooth for phone calls. The net effect is that I can't use voice commands while driving at all, unless I unplug the line out and disable BT. The other effect is that if I am listening to music or books, and I get a call, I have to reach over and yank out the audio cable in order to take the call. I had to buy off contract, so I paid about $600 for this thing, and these are not problems I've had with my previous Android phones or with iPhones, and I don't understand why I didn't see them mentioned in any reviews.

    This all brings me to my point here - I'm thinking of selling my GS3 and getting a Note 2 or maybe an HTC 8X - can anyone here or at Anand confirm if these problems exist in those devices? Does anyone else share my pain with the GS3? Why is this not a bigger deal in the tech media?
    Reply

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