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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  • tipoo - Sunday, September 11, 2011 - link

    The iPhone 4 always scores near the bottom of the 2.0 test since its native resolution is so high, but I'd be interested to know how it does with the resolution independent 2.1 test? Reply
  • B3an - Sunday, September 11, 2011 - link

    ...but the iPhone 4 is already in the 2.1 tests which are all run at 1280x720 so it's equal on every phone... and unsurprisingly it's the worst performer. Reply
  • Lucian Armasu - Sunday, September 11, 2011 - link

    The iPhone 4 has a GPU that is one generation older than the one in the first Galaxy S phone. So that's the main reason why it performs the worst in all these GPU tests. Reply
  • LostViking - Saturday, September 17, 2011 - link

    You can do the math already.

    If you calculate the pixel ratio (width * height) between the iPhone and the others you can correct the numbers.
    Reply
  • 3lackdeath - Sunday, September 11, 2011 - link

    When are you guys going to start adding WP7 to the Comparisons list WP7 is soooo lacking in your reviews.

    It has been out for a while now you know, a long long time did i say long?.
    Reply
  • shamalh108 - Sunday, September 11, 2011 - link

    Hi Brian.. first off thanks for the great review..its quite honestly the best I've read on the SGS2..

    As an SGS2 user i need to just testify to my experience of the AOS bug..
    This bug or its effects aren't actually experienced by me while the phone is actually in use, but actually results in a dramatic use of battery when in suspend.. it is intermittent so it won't occur all the time but over the last month I've been able to identify it using battery monitor pro.
    what i find is that in the morning when unplugged i can put my edge data on and then leave the phone in standby for up to two hours and see no drain... if i then proceed to use the phone for about 20min and note the battery percentage , i then lock the phone and leave it in standby again with edge data enabled and push email... after closing all tasks but the battery percentage will drop by up to 10% in those two hours while battery monitor pro reports an estimate usage of 100+ mah ..compared to the same running conditions it was in when just unplugged and consumed almost no power. this isn't always the case though sometimes the phone will only drop 2% or less per hour with the battery monitor pro reporting usage of 25~35 mah ... As you can see this bug actually affects standby time more than nonstop usage and that is probably why the benchmarks havent been affected.. also im not sure if its normal but when the phone is experiencing the high usage and i look at the process cpu usage the events and suspend process are consuming around 15~20% cpu... this checked immediately after unlocking the phone using watchdog task manager pro.
    while i understand all the measurements are estimates .. i really feel the effects of this as with the same usage i can't be certain if ill get the 14hours battery life i need or 10.. what is the normal power consumption for an android phone in suspend as I've noticed my brothers HTC desire consistently consumes 10~15mah in standby with a similar set up..

    again thanks for the great review..
    my international SGS2 is running stock with no root , XXKF3 .
    Reply
  • willstay - Sunday, September 11, 2011 - link

    I have been using SGS2 for two months now and this is my 3rd Android. In the past, I always flashed closest to stock ROM, now after 2 months, I think google should consider touchWiz kindof UI as default. It is really minimalistic with just few tiny bit feature that makes it way better than stock - folders and page scrolling where I can put important apps in page 1, system apps in page 2 and so on.

    One consistent touchWiz feature to swipe contacts left for message and right for call is a must have.

    I must be having over sensitive eye that comfortable brightness level I use during day (indoor) is zero and for evening and night, I am using app called "Screen Filter" to make it dimmer. (I know this is only me - for my laptop I had to hack drivers to make it dimmer than allowed normally).

    When idle, processor goes back to 200 MHz and normally with wifi off, cellular net off, SGS2 lives through the night depleting only 1% of the battery. When I only use it for phone and sms, I get two days. Most of the time when I have access to desktop, I turn off wifi and push mail. My usual battery indicator runs as follows - fully charged before going to sleep - 99% when I wake up - I turn wifi and push mail on and by the time I move out to office it is 97% - wifi off in office but sometimes on when I move out of my desk to run SIP client and get my desk extension routed to phone and by lunch time it is 90% - push mail on and cellular net on during lunch time 86% - when I reach home it is from 80 to 75% - that is when my phone gets highest load of games, browsing, wifi, pushmail until I plug for charing around 11 pm and before I plug in it is usally 30%. For comparison, the lowly Nokia 1280 I am using for backup ran for 15 days in single charge and there was still 1/5 bar left in it.

    "light weight seems to imply a certain level of cheapness" - people will soon start to understand weight has no correlation with quality and when devices grow bigger and bigger, they will appreciate lighter weight design.

    As for me, this is my first Samsung and I am impressed!! Unfortunagely SGS2 has short life it seems - I am so impressed with this light weight, thinness, SAMOLED+, touchWiz that I am getting SG-Note at whatever cost when it comes out :)
    Reply
  • shamalh108 - Sunday, September 11, 2011 - link

    hey willstay.. wow ! please help me , how are you getting such astonishing battery life ? what Rom are you on ? is your phone used at all during the day ? i simply can not get that kinda standby consumption between my few use periods during the day.. i love my phone and right now its just the battery life that's frustrating me.. why are the reports so varied .. any info you have would be welcome :) Reply
  • ph00ny - Sunday, September 11, 2011 - link

    I'm also getting a full day of usage like the user above. I ran stock rom forever until i ventured over to the some of the newer custom roms and i'm getting slightly less battery life with the newest sensation 1.6 rom (2.3.4) compared to stock and cognition 1.07. Reply
  • willstay - Sunday, September 11, 2011 - link

    I am using default ROM but flashed kernel for rooting. I guess it must be rouse app. I've found Location And Security -> Use Wireless Networks eats up around 7% of battery through night (which otherwise is only 1%). Sometimes service called MediaService (after I've played songs through Btooth) eats up around 25% through sleep hours. Once I used very nice network bandwidth monitoring app to find individual data usage, it was sipping 25% during sleep hours (I install this app only when I need it). Pushmail on low signal cellular network eats battery like hell - my phone gets warm at the back. Interestingly, always-on low light digital clock of app NoLED eats only 20% through night. For most of the bug related drainage, flushing RAM helps.

    If I were you, I would temporarily uninstall few apps at a time to find the culprit. You may be able to short list possible apps through battery usage tool of the phone too.
    Reply

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