Camera - UI and Video Quality

The cameras on SGS2 get a sizable upgrade from the previous generation. To start, SGS1 shipped with a 5 MP rear facing camera with AF, and VGA front front facing camera, (though the USA variants only got one when SGS4G packed one), and devices that are essentially SGS at their core have since shipped with them, and sometimes with flash.

SGS2, however, includes an 8 MP rear facing camera with LED flash and autofocus, and a 2 MP front facing camera. Thus far it appears as though things are going to be considerably more constant across SGS2 variants, with all three USA-bound variants including the same specs on paper at least.

I suppose a good a place as any to start is the camera UI, which gets a significant revamping in SGS2. The UI is much cleaner and looks more mature, with less of the bubbly rounded edges and more of a clean square look. There’s also no toggling UI elements on and off for a ‘lite’ view, you get this and this only. The bottom or right bar mirrors iOS’ camera application, with a toggle for photo and video, preview on the other side, and rectangular capture button in the center.

Tapping anywhere in the preview does an autofocus for that region, though auto exposure is either done by center metering, spot, or a matrix - tapping doesn’t change that.

You can long-press on either of the two top left icons (switch cameras, change flash) and add two more shortcuts. The settings button on the bottom left brings up an overlay with more capture options, which there is a wealth of.

Self shot functionality, flash, shooting modes, scene modes, exposure, focus modes (auto, macro, or face), resolution, white balance, ISO, metering, outdoor visiblity (an mDNIe toggle), anti-shake (electronic), auto contrast, blink detection, image quality, GPS, and storage location, phew - anyone still with me? That’s about everything, and I’d encourage checking out the gallery for a tour of all of it.

Switching to video mode keeps much the same settings, just with the differences you’d expect to accommodate video. Video capture resolutions include VGA, 480p, 720p, and 1080p, flash is either on or off, and there are fewer shooting modes. For some reason, the SGS2 uses 480p by default instead of 720p or 1080p, honestly I don’t know why anyone would use anything but those two higher settings.

The UI also correspondingly goes transparent to accommodate the 16:9 aspect ratio of these modes, though it doesn’t disappear or go away fully.

I suppose that’s as good a time as any to talk about video quality on SGS2. The device has continual autofocus, which you can see working in our test videos. We’ve done the usual thing and taken videos at the bench location with a reference Canon Vixia HF20 alongside the phone-under-test on a dual-camera bracket. I’ve taken comparison video from the camcorder and the SGS2 and uploaded the lot to YouTube, in addition to putting zipped up copies on the server (415.1 MB) for interested parties to download and see without the YouTube transcode.

In 1080p mode, SGS2 records 1080p30 video in H.264 High Profile with 1 reference frame at 17.0 Mbps. This is 2 Mbps above the Droid 3’s 15 Mbps High Profile 1080p video which we were a fan of, and it now appears that Exynos 4210 has just as competent of a hardware encoder as OMAP 4430, supporting high profile features and delivering high bitrate at the same time. Audio however is just single channel AAC at 60 Kbps, which is disappointing considering the SGS2 has two microphones, though it appears that top mic is used exclusively for Audience.

Subjectively the 1080p30 video shot on SGS2 looks like the best we’ve seen so far, there’s no blocking in the dark regions, great high spatial frequency detail, and really nothing to complain about. Exynos also supports 16x16, 8x8, 4x4, and 8x16 DCTs, but only encodes with backward references and one reference frame (much like OMAP4’s encoder). The point is that there’s still room for even better encoder efficiency which would come from encoders that use 2–4 reference frames and forward references. Sadly such encoders probably won’t be around for a while however.

The 720p30 preset records at 12.0 Mbps with the same encoding features as 1080p, meaning its encoding is of similar quality at this preset.

There’s a difference in crop factor that takes place when switching between 720p and 1080p shooting modes. 1080p clearly puts the sensor in a mode where it only reports a square 1920x1080 shaped region back, whereas 720p appears to perhaps use a 2x2 binning, and 480p or lower resolutions appear to just decimate the full sensor output. The result is that as you move to lower video resolutions, you get a wider field of view.

Samsung Galaxy S 2 - 720p Sample
 
Samsung Galaxy S 2 - 1080p Sample
 
Canon Vixia HF20 - Reference Sample

Again video recording quality on SGS2 is decidedly awesome in 1080p mode, though 720p could be better with better encode settings, the device shoots some of the best video we’ve seen out of a smartphone to date.

Super AMOLED+ Display Continued Camera Sensor and Still Quality
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  • dagamer34 - Sunday, September 11, 2011 - link

    On pg 15, Galaxy S uses a SGX 540 GPU, not 530. Other than that, great review! Reply
  • Synaesthesia - Sunday, September 11, 2011 - link

    Staggering review, you really are the most comprehensive and scientific reviewer around, bravo!

    Samsung have really impressed with this phone, in terms of how much effort they have invested in the hardware and software. One thing still stands out for me, the battery life. While good, it still doesn't hold a candle to the iPhone 4, as shown on the charts.
    Reply
  • LostViking - Saturday, September 17, 2011 - link

    What do you mean?
    Its about 30% worse when web browsing (mostly because of the much larger screen I reckon), but better in the other tests.

    If you are one of those old timers who actually use the phone for talking the SGSII is about 30 better ;)
    When I am low on battery, and don't have access to a charger, that's usually what I would prioritize.
    Reply
  • xdrol - Sunday, September 11, 2011 - link

    For me the mentioned Cat 5 limit looks reasonable - you don't get user-level 2.0 Mbps because of the overhead of the PDCP/RLC/MACd protocols (about 15% -> 2.0 Mbps is 1.7 Mbps for IP). Reply
  • wilky76 - Sunday, September 11, 2011 - link

    Alot of people that have the Samsung Galaxy S2 are suffering from framerate problems when using either 720p or 1080p in low light including myself.

    What basically happens is when the camera tries to focus in lowlight the framerates drop to around 13fps, then jump back upto around 30fps again, basically making any HD video recording useless in low light because of the stuttering, the only fix that is known is to drop the exposure to -2 as this stop the stuttering, or use 480p when indoors or poor light.

    Some folks have returned their SGS2 because of this problem, only to receive another with the same problem.

    There has been a couple of camera firmware updates on Samung own app site, which to this date still hasn't sorted the problem out & in some cases people that weren't suffering from this problem, now have it after updating the camera firmware.

    Can any of you guys at Anandtech test your SGS2 in low light with either 720p or 1080p to see if the mobile you received for reviewing also suffer from this problem.

    But what is strange is that not everbody has the framerate problem, so it could be due to which sensor you get with your SGS2, and could proberly be sorted with a firmware update eventually.

    Anyways people with this problem and there is a few can be found in this post over at XDA

    http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1...
    Reply
  • DrSlump - Monday, September 12, 2011 - link

    Hi, i have exactly the same problem with my samsung galaxy s2.
    I got casual stuttering (a frame loss) during normal light conditions and severe stuttering under low light conditions.
    As soon as the firmware raises the sensor gain to match the detected light, the framerate goes down to 25fps and when autofocus occours the framerate goes down to 13fps, and then returns back to 25fps when the autofocus is finished.
    I olso noticed that when i try to frame a tv or a monitor, severe banding occours. Even taking a video when the light source is a tv or a monitor, banding occours. Seems like the isp isn't able to compensate the frequency of the light source.
    In a lot of situations it's impossible to take a video due to the severe stuttering :(
    Any one of you has these problems? How to solve it?

    I would like to ask to the autor:
    did you notice some problem with the display? There is a thread in the xda-developers forum that speaks about the yellow tinting or faded out left side of the screen. Please can you report about this problem?
    Reply
  • B3an - Sunday, September 11, 2011 - link

    Why dont you just admit it's the best phone around hands down? :) Not just the best Android phone. It's clearly miles superior to the outdated iPhone 4.

    Shame you yanks have had to wait forever to get it, only to get 3 different versions that dont even look as good and have ridiculous names. I've been using a GSII since April and it's just unmatched.
    Reply
  • ph00ny - Sunday, September 11, 2011 - link

    This yank got it on the UK launch day and i've been enjoying it since Reply
  • steven75 - Sunday, September 11, 2011 - link

    It's not better in battery life, audio quality, display resolution and sharpness, or the many ways that iOS is better (AirPlay, app selection AND quality), immediate OS updates, etc).

    Gread Android phone though for those interested in 4.3" displays, which definitely isn't everyone. Personally, I'd wait for the Prime.
    Reply
  • steven75 - Sunday, September 11, 2011 - link

    Oh and outdoor display brightness, which even at 100% isn't a match for iPhone, but then it's even capped at 75% for temp reasons. Reply

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