Camera: Photos and Videos

The number of users that use their tablet as their primary camera is far larger than anyone ever could have predicted when the tablet market was emerging. However, there are some obvious reasons why someone would opt for their tablet. It may actually be the best camera they own, and older users with aging eyes can definitely appreciate the fact that their tablet display turns into a giant high resolution viewfinder. The cameras themselves have also improved significantly from the dark days of the 1.2MP rear camera on the iPad 2.

Since the Tab S2 is extremely thin, Samsung has needed to allow for a camera hump in order to fit their 8MP sensor. The hump isn't very large, and although it's larger than that of the iPhone 6, it's not near as large as the camera hump on the Galaxy S6. It's honestly not really an issue, but some customers who are very serious about the design of their devices may take issue with it.

Below you can view the known specifications of the Tab S2's rear and front-facing cameras. Unfortunately I don't have data on the specific model of the rear-facing sensors used in the original Tab S series, so that info is omitted on the chart.

Camera Specifications
  Galaxy Tab S1 Series Galaxy Tab S2 Series
Front Camera 2.1MP
(1920x1080)
Front Camera - Sensor S5K6B2
(1.34 µm, 1/6")
Front Camera - Focal Length N/A 27mm eff
Front Camera - Max Aperture F/2.4 F/2.2
Rear Camera 8.0MP
(3264x2448)
Rear Camera - Sensor N/A
(1.12 µm, 1/4")
S5K4H5
(1.12 µm, 1/4")
Rear Camera - Focal Length 32mm eff 31mm eff
Rear Camera - Max Aperture F/2.4 F/1.9

While Samsung hasn't made any radical changes to the camera sensor specifications with the Tab S2, they have significantly widened the rear-facing camera's aperture. Changes to image processing and ISP improvements will also have an enormous impact on image quality.

As always, my photo testing begins with a scene during the day, followed by that same scene at night to test low light performance. While the low light test is still pretty brutal on current tablets, it's a very good indicator of the quality of an OEM's image processing.

During the day the Tab S2 performs very well. Detail is on par with the iPad Air 2, which isn't surprising given the similar sensors and Samsung's large improvements in image processing quality this year. My only complaint is that there is a bit too much sharpening going on which exacerbates the artifacting on the wall of the building caused by the limited effective resolution of the camera system. What's interesting is that the Galaxy S6 Edge processes the image with less sharpening, which is likely intentional on Samsung's part as the S6 has a much larger sensor with a higher resolution. Overall, I'm happy with the Tab S2's camera quality, and I'm glad Samsung decided to give the tablet a bit of a camera hump instead of crippling the camera quality to fit in the 5.6mm profile of the chassis.

Low light photography is where I started to have some issues taking photos with the Tab S2. For some reason it simply refused to run the autofocus, and I had to try and manually focus by tapping which is difficult on such a large device. Once I was able to focus and take the shot I took a few, and the best result is the one you see above. For a tablet it's actually a pretty good photo, although as you can see from the street lamps the photo is definitely overexposed to a degree. Compared with the iPad Air 2 there's actually not much more visible in the frame despite the overexposure, and the Air 2 has a better rendition of the grassy patch on the right side as well as the no parking sign. Both photos are still very good as far as tablets go, but I do think the iPad wins out by a little bit because of the exposure and slightly better detail preservation.

The Tab S2 can record video at 1080p30, and also at 1440p30 although the latter disables video stabilization and so I've opted to just use the 1080p recording mode. Looking back at all the tablets I've evaluated, it's clear that the Tab S2 has the best video recording quality by far. It's definitely not perfect, with some jiggle to the frames caused by the EIS and a bit too much saturation to the colors, but the overall quality, sharpness, and consistency of the frame rate is better than any other device I've tested.

WiFi Performance

Like the original Tab S, the Tab S2 ships with a 2x2 802.11ac WiFi implementation. I actually haven't been able to track down exactly which WiFi chipset they're using, which is unfortunate. The original Tab S actually had strangely slow WiFi performance given its peak theoretical bandwidth of 866Mbps, and I was hopeful that the Tab S2 would fare better.

WiFi Performance - UDP

As you can see, the WiFi performance on the Tab S2 is miles ahead of the previous models, and ends up having the highest peak bandwidth on record for a mobile device. Samsung did a great job improving on last year's WiFi implementation, and if there's going to be any bottleneck over WiFi it's not likely that t it will be the Tab S2.

Display Analysis Battery Life and Charge Time
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  • WorldWithoutMadness - Thursday, October 15, 2015 - link

    Pardon, is it typo on intro and design table, 'Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8.4" ', is it really S2 or Samsung went wonky with this tablet line? Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Thursday, October 15, 2015 - link

    That was indeed a typo. Thanks! Reply
  • donnieevans - Saturday, November 14, 2015 - link

    I have a Samsung Galaxy Note Pro and this is the best table I've ever had! It's 32GB, can open multiple apps at the same time. The display is also amazing! Found at: http://www.consumerrunner.com/top-10-best-tablets/ Reply
  • GodHatesFAQs - Thursday, October 15, 2015 - link

    I bought a Tab S 8.0 earlier in the month, but had to return it over PenTile pixel arrangement which caused everything to look fuzzy and was not sharp at all. Display just didn't have the wow factor of last year's model. I think around 400ppi on RGB or 600ppi on RGBG PenTile is the real limit (at least for my eyes) for a display to be really sharp.

    I really hope Apple moves to 3072x2034 (3x rather than 2x) with iPad Air 3 with locally dimmed backlight like the iPhone 6s/Plus. It won't be as deep black as AMOLED displays, but I'm not willing to sacrifice sharpness for deep blacks.
    Reply
  • Solandri - Thursday, October 15, 2015 - link

    The whole point of pentile RGBG is that you don't need 600 ppi RGBG to equal 400 ppi RGB. The green resolution for that pentile display would be 600 ppi, while the red and blue would be 300 ppi.

    Your eyes are sharpest in green, with blue being really bad, and red only slightly better. Pentile attempts to match that (or put another way, RGB has way more R and B subpixels than it needs. Just look at the images on this site where the R, G, and B channels have been reduced to 1/3 and 1/4 their original resolution. The image with the reduced blue channel is nearly indistinguishable from the original. The one with the reduced red channel is barely distinguishable. While the one with the reduced green channel is absolutely terrible.

    http://nfggames.com/games/ntsc/visual.shtm

    In other words, if the individual pixels are smaller than the resolving limit of your eye (about 0.5 arc-minutes), then 400 ppi RGB can be replicated with 400 ppi RGBG pentile. If you don't believe me, consider that every color video format uses this trick to reduce bandwidth by reducing blue and usually red resolution. You've already been looking at the equivalent of pentile images on TV your entire life.
    Reply
  • krumme - Thursday, October 15, 2015 - link

    Thanx.
    Look at samsung galaxy s2 rgb next to a s3 pentile and its pretty obvious the s3 is far far sharper subjectively.
    As for the tab s2 beeing unsharp its damn nonsense to me and i regard myself as very sensitive and prefer higher than 1080p on a 5 display. I dont know how close the person above uses the tab s2 but for my part its very much like my note 3 and it means the tab s2 looks sharper to me.
    Now the s2 is damn light. Only a bit more than a s6plus lol so you use it more like a smartphone but never is it closer than 40cm for my usage. Its a 8 inch.
    Reply
  • Wwhat - Tuesday, October 20, 2015 - link

    NTSC was a very bad example of a color format, and you switched cause and consequence around, they had too little bandwidth, so they used desperate tricks to cram color into it, that's not an ideal situation.

    The same thing is still done but now to save cost and chip/PCB bandwidth, but that doesn't mean it's equal to the real thing.
    Plus they go for the average person, which means that there can be a large number of people for whom it DOES make a difference.

    Hell, when they introduced MP3 they also said that 128Kbit (and joint stereo) was the same as CD quality 'basically' (sometimes they even claimed the same for half that bitrate). But such things are based on theoretical papers and on the average person and on 'good enough for now' thinking, and don't represent a perfect world.

    The difference between a person with very sharp eyesight and the average person can be astounding, some people have twice or even four times better eyesight than average. There are notable incidents in that with famous astronomers and jet fighter pilots demonstrating the difference in a pronounced manner. And it's a pure coincidence if you are such a person, but they do exist. But at the same time there are many people who truly could not tell the difference of course, but there is no reason to start denying each other's existence. Nor is there a reason to feel superior/inferior since we all have strengths and weaknesses in various areas.
    Reply
  • thedons1983 - Saturday, October 17, 2015 - link

    I'm sorry, but there is something wrong with your eyes... The one thing that these tablets have going for them, is the incredible screen. If you can't appreciate the quality of it, then there is something wrong with your sight. Reply
  • theduckofdeath - Sunday, October 18, 2015 - link

    Full time Apple trolls on the internet?! What a shocker! Reply
  • lurker22 - Thursday, October 15, 2015 - link

    Issue with android tablets, will they get software updates in a year or two Reply

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