The Samsung Galaxy S family. From left to right – Galaxy S, Galaxy SII, Galaxy SIII, Galaxy S4, and Galaxy S5.
Camera evolution: See image and video quality skyrocket from the original Galaxy S to the Galaxy S5
We often say that technology in the mobile industry is advancing at almost discomforting levels. Your single core flagship smartphone from several years ago sounds pathetic when put next to the upcoming beasts with Qualcomm's octa-core Snapdragon 810. RAM also went way up – from 512MB to up to 3GB/4GB. The same kind of jump is also true for display sizes and resolutions, internal storage, connectivity features, and, yes, also the camera. But as time goes by, and we continue reinforcing this notion of rapid improvements, we're more and more in need of an actual, real-world showcase of this supposed progress – and not just with numbers. Today we'll be doing just that by pitting the original (and quite ancient) Galaxy S flagship against the very current Galaxy S5.
On paper, the upgrades are staggering. The image sensor got bigger and more pixel-dense, the software more sophisticated, the aperture bigger, and the underlying algorithms – more refined. Oh, and did you know that the original Galaxy S didn't even have an LED flash? That's right, no night photography for you – at all. The Galaxy S5 is also a much more capable camcorder. It can record at resolutions of up to 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) versus only 1280 x 720 with the Galaxy S. Even the selfie camera got a nice bump.
In order for you to be able to actually spot the differences, we down-scaled the S5's 16-megapixel shots to 5-megapixels (the resolution of the Galaxy S' camera) and then got our hands busy cropping identical scenarios. While these 100% crops are representative in terms of the improvements in detail and noise levels, the included full-sized, original shots at the end of each gallery below should not be skipped over, as they also paint a pretty telling picture. Use those to get a better sense of the rift between the two sensor's dynamic ranges and color reproduction and don't rely solely on crops.
We'll stay out of your way and let you focus on the shots at hand – obviously, the Galaxy S5 is the undeniably better shooter, so if that wasn't made crystal clear so far, then here it is. Let's get cracking.
Let's start with a few outdoor scenarios shot during the mid-day. Improvements seen in multiple places, including panoramas, which are enormous on the Galaxy S5 in comparison with the Galaxy S.
You're not always shooting landscapes outside. Perhaps even more often than that, you'll be snapping images indoors, where light isn't quite as abundant. This, in turn, tests the camera sensor of your phone. Let's see if and how much more sophisticated the camera of the much newer Galaxy S5 is in comparison with the Galaxy S.
Lastly, let's check out the improvements in video quality. As previously mentioned, the Galaxy S5 can shoot up to 4K UHD resolution video at 30 framers per second (FPS), which means many, many times more details than the 720p, 30 FPS footage produced by the Galaxy S. Details aside, the camcorder on the GS5 is significantly better in areas such as noise reduction and color accuracy.
We expected no surprises going into this, and were met with none. That's a good thing, for it underscores the fact that improvements are still being made. Sure, the rate is slowing down as diminishing returns kick in, as they say – the last 10% require 90% of the total effort. It's probably safe to say that we have now entered that phase.