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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  • royalcrown - Friday, November 30, 2012 - link

    ...says the person with the ugliest avatar... Reply
  • leo jacsion - Tuesday, December 18, 2012 - link

    Preservance a professional <a href=" http://preservancetech.com/our-services/web-design... Designing</a> company based in the capital city of India that offers various services for website designing from a static website to CMS driven website to any open source website development to complete e-commerce site to travel portal. Reply
  • dyc4ha - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Thanks for the great article, I am currently considering an upgrade but didnt include the phablets among my choices because of their size. Now I am willing to go put it back on the table. Reply
  • Old_Fogie_Late_Bloomer - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Likewise, thanks for the great review, Brian. This phone has been on my upgrade short list and I can't wait to take it for a spin in a store soon. I've tried the Note and the SIII but I definitely need to see how the two meld together, as it were. :-)

    I wish the numbers for cellular browsing were a little higher, since that's my primary use for a phone and I want to know I can get a full day out of a phone without compromise. I don't know if my Atrix 4G just has really crummy battery life, or if I have unreasonable expectations for smartphones...

    I'm also really curious now that you've mentioned the HDR stills...I do enjoy the convenience of taking pictures with a device I always have on me, and just last weekend I really wished I had something with more dynamic range. If the HDR feature works well, that would be another strong mark in it's favor.
    Reply
  • Spunjji - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    I've been using a Note 2 in the UK for a couple of weeks now - it routinely lasts for 2 days with all radios and GPS left enabled, a couple of hours worth of browsing, a little gameplay (World of Goo, nothing too stressful), some voice use and a lot of texting. It's currently at 66% after coming off charge at 8am, time now is 10pm. I'm writing this on it now.

    Point is, it lasts very well! I'm a little surprised by the unexceptional battery life readings in the charts here, but I suspect it's disproportionately affected by the relatively dim screen compared with contemporary phones. 200nits is near maximum on this thing, whereas I rarely go above 50% brightness. Not a flaw with the test so much as an advisory that the battery life will probably get hammered in bright ambient lighting. Similarly, mobile reception in the UK tends to be better. I reckon a full day's heavy use is hardly a stretch though!
    Reply
  • Spunjji - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    I've been using a Note 2 in the UK for a couple of weeks now - it routinely lasts for 2 days with all radios and GPS left enabled, a couple of hours worth of browsing, a little gameplay (World of Goo, nothing too stressful), some voice use and a lot of texting. It's currently at 66% after coming off charge at 8am, time now is 10pm. I'm writing this on it now.

    Point is, it lasts very well! I'm a little surprised by the unexceptional battery life readings in the charts here, but I suspect it's disproportionately affected by the relatively dim screen compared with contemporary phones. 200nits is near maximum on this thing, whereas I rarely go above 50% brightness. Not a flaw with the test so much as an advisory that the battery life will probably get hammered in bright ambient light :)
    Reply
  • Spunjji - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Well, that wasn't supposed to end up there. How odd. Reply
  • Old_Fogie_Late_Bloomer - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Heh, that's all right. Thanks for the reassurance. :-) I'm pretty sure my Atrix 4G is jacked up; it hardly ever gets to 100% charge and is often at 30% or less by the time I leave work (and it's not like I spend all day dicking around on it).

    There's a lot that I want to like about this phone and I'm hoping I can snag it at something a bit less than $299 subsidized. I'll have to see what happens when it's finally released. And I'll probably have to wait to check out the Lumia 920, which is smaller(?), claims to have an awesome camera(+?), but has a sealed battery(-!)...
    Reply
  • Spunjji - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    Yeah, that price is rather extortionate! Again, UK pricing, but I paid £60 up-front plus £36 a month for 24 months. It's the most I've ever paid for a phone and probably ever would pay again, but my old Motorola Defy was having similar troubles to your Atrix so I threw caution to the wind.

    That Lumia 920 definitely looks worth a shot too - interesting times for mobile phones right now...
    Reply
  • RealNinja - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    The Note 2 seems like it takes a...phone just a little too big. The "cup holder" fit criteria puts that into perspective fairly well.

    What is most interesting (IMO) about this prioduct is finally getting an Exynos product.
    Reply

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