Here's why the drop in resolution between the 12MP/16MP cameras of the Galaxy S7 and S6 doesn't matter

Here's why the drop in resolution between the 12MP/16MP cameras of the Galaxy S7 and S6 doesn't matter

For as long as Android has been around, the many manufacturers that adopted the platform have been at it, throwing everything they have to outdo each other and hopefully win over new fans. In order to differentiate their products and not just be 'yet another Android maker', those same companies have continuously bet on the very best available in hardware. Looking back, it's not hard to imagine where the "more is necessarily better" mentality came from. We've been essentially conditioned to think that way.

So, in a way, for your average Joe an octa-core processor is better than a quad-core one, 4GB of RAM is more desirable than 3GB of RAM, and a 20-megapixel camera beats a 13-megapixel one. Only, that's not at all the case—at least not necessarily. Which is why Samsung's move to a 12-megapixel camera with the Galaxy S7, down from a 16-megapixel unit with the S6, is defendable—at least on paper (and from what we've seen in practice). And while so far we've been highlighting other notable improvements it brings to the table, such as larger sensor and pixel size, along with wider lens, we wanted to address one concern that some folks have: level of detail, or detail depth if you will.

In short, within the next few paragraphs, we'll try and explain why despite the lower resolution, the images you'll be getting from the Galaxy S7 will be of comparably high definition as those from the supposedly superior (in this particular area) sensor of the Galaxy S6, without a corresponding 25% dip in clarity.

The theory behind it all


So what sorcery allows the 12-megapixel unit of the Galaxy S7 to essentially match the 16-megapixel snapper of the Galaxy S6 in terms of detail depth? It's actually exceedingly simple, though you might need a few seconds to wrap your head around it: the S7 has a 4:3 aspect ratio sensor, while the Galaxy S6's is a 16:9 unit. To aid your understanding, we offer you a simplified visual representation of what that means:

Here's why the drop in resolution between the 12MP/16MP cameras of the Galaxy S7 and S6 doesn't matter

In this instance, the outlined blue and red rectangles are representations of the physical form of the two phone's respective camera sensors, and the part that gets illuminated through the lens by light. It's important to note that we haven't taken focal length into account in this example. As you can see, for the most part, the two are overlapped, with the exception of two slices on the top/bottom and left/right sides. And that's exactly the point: those extra 4 megapixels you get with the Galaxy S6 are, for the most part, distributed on the left and right, or horizontally, giving you a wider view of the composition in front of you. They don't mean that you're getting better detail at any point within the overlapping area.

However, the Galaxy S6 does have a longer focal length of 28mm versus 26mm for the Galaxy S7 (35mm equivalents). In practice, this means that if you're shooting from the same spot, the subject will appear more zoomed in on the S6 than on the S7, and you'll see a slight advantage in detail. If you correct for this, however, by taking a small step forward with the S7 in order to even the playing field, you'll see that there's no notable loss in detail with the new 12MP unit—and certainly not a corresponding one given the sizable drop in resolution.

Jump into the gallery below, where we've sliced a number of stills taken with both the Galaxy S7 and S6, under identical conditions. As you'll quickly find out, there's no notable loss of detail despite the lower resolution camera of the new flagship. For the most part, you're simply getting 4 megapixels worth of information on in width with the Galaxy S6.

Related phones

Galaxy S7
  • Display 5.1" 1440 x 2560 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP / 5 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 820, Quad-core, 2200 MHz
  • Storage 32 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 3000 mAh(28h 3G talk time)
Galaxy S6
  • Display 5.1" 1440 x 2560 pixels
  • Camera 16 MP / 5 MP front
  • Processor Samsung Exynos 7 Octa, Octa-core, 2100 MHz
  • Storage 128 GB
  • Battery 2550 mAh(23h 3G talk time)

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52 Comments

1. ashouhdy

Posts: 57; Member since: Oct 31, 2013

i tried the retail unit comparing it to my s6 on Android 6.0.1 , the S6 took better photos the focal lenght is better , and when zooming in , it was better, that was under good light, dont know in low light how will they perform, but i was dissapointed

15. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

agreed when zooming in the S6 give a tad better detail in perfect light condition. We tested in less light and the S7 is the winner there.. But the picture are unreal and look in fact better than reality so too much artificial software thing going on but the picture look really good but unrealistic on the S7.

40. Shocky unregistered

Who are "we"? your imaginary friends in your imaginary phone phone?

50. KRONeage

Posts: 144; Member since: Apr 17, 2011

Unrealistic...... Software Overuse??? Are nuts? Unlike Apple.... Samsung doesn't even mess with software compensation dialed such as to make it impossible to change much in an editor, where it's already gotten the iMagical Software fixes automatically! TALK ABOUT UNREALISTIC???? lol..... iPhone pics have always looked plasticized for that reason. Plus now they're trying to duplicate the high contrast over saturation ratio look naturally inherent AMOLED Screens. So compare pics on an external monitor to see what your pics really look like. I have both S6 and S7 available to me. I gone through some extensive testing, being a professional photographer for over 10 yrs. Make no mistake about it..... the camera in the Galaxy S7 hasn't been rated the best camera in a smartphone out to date for nothing! Hands down...... my favorite even while doing a double blind test on these two models with friends, Galaxy S7 is blowing away all the competition with with new camera. That whether it has the Sony sensor or Samsung's own sensor...... it's the lenses and packaging that makes this S7 phone's camera so great!!!

2. talon95

Posts: 984; Member since: Jul 31, 2012

What exactly are you trying to say Chris? A 4:3 sensor with a 1.4um pixel has more usable pixels than the same sensor using the cropped 16:9 aspect ratio. The quality would be the same if the pixel size was the same, even if the more square picture contains more used pixels. But between the S7 and S6 that is not the case, as they have different sized pixels. I'm not sure I got what your point was.

4. det_bradlee

Posts: 155; Member since: Jun 08, 2015

I'm not sure Chris knows what point he is trying to make. The entire article seems caught in mid-thought with no details or conclusion.

11. Adreno

Posts: 755; Member since: Mar 12, 2016

Man, this isn't DXO. So chill.

46. Plutonium239

Posts: 1154; Member since: Mar 17, 2015

DXO gets it wrong so often, it wouldn't matter if it was.

5. kumarabhishek591

Posts: 150; Member since: Feb 22, 2014

From what i can get, the topic was about the loss in details with lower pixel count. Take for example htc one m7 which has 2.0um pixel size which is huge but it still is a 4mp camera so the pixel count is extremely less resulting in very poor details at 100 percent crop though the pixel size is huge. In s7 and s6 though the pixel count remains more or less same because of the different crop that both the sensors have.

9. talon95

Posts: 984; Member since: Jul 31, 2012

Right, but I have the feeling the rational is all wrong. Maybe tonight I'll take an image with both and overlay them in photoshop to show how many "pixels / degree" each has of their field of view. In good light I think the S6 has more detail, but not 25% more as it probably should. I assume they are doing some fancy processing to achieve more quality from the S7 than it should normally have. I partly assume this since the iP6s plus images have less detail than the S7 even with like 10% smaller focal length. So that S7 images are actually something like 15-20% more detailed with the same resolution but wider view.

6. talon95

Posts: 984; Member since: Jul 31, 2012

S7 images are 4032 x 3024 (12.19MP), while S6 images are 5312 x 2988 (15.87MP). I suppose you're saying that the actual vertical resolution is almost identical, but the 16:9 just gives you a lot more horizontal pixels. The problem is that the S7 has a wider lens. So the whole wide S6 image fits within the S7 wide focal length. So in reality you should be comparing 5312 pixels on the S6 focused on a similar field of view as the 4032 pixels of the S7. In the part of the image that both sensors share, you should be seeing 25% more detail. I though you were going to tell us that the S7 utilizes super sampling to interpolate higher resolution from multiple exposures of the lower res sensor. I'm sure someone will correct me if i'm in error.

8. UnlimitedSkye03

Posts: 277; Member since: Apr 27, 2012

Chris doesn't really know what he's saying.

10. Adreno

Posts: 755; Member since: Mar 12, 2016

Just read the article and buy or ditch whatever you want.

13. SYSTEM_LORD

Posts: 1168; Member since: Oct 05, 2015

Exactly. Wider FoV means less detail given the same sensor area/pixel size.

3. zeeBomb

Posts: 2318; Member since: Aug 14, 2014

Just cuz Chris. Just cuz...

7. sceamgid

Posts: 25; Member since: Nov 12, 2015

pathetic...

12. stashmaster

Posts: 4; Member since: Jun 01, 2010

I simply say: the comparison photos provided in this article demonstrate to my eye that there is more detail to be seen from the S6 camera.

16. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

I would say half the pictures the S7 had more detail and/or contrast thats make it look like more detail...

14. UnlimitedSkye03

Posts: 277; Member since: Apr 27, 2012

In my understanding the s6 and s7 has almost identical image quality on a 4:3 ratio, but my guess the 16:9 ratio photos on max mp count of both phones would tell a different story.

17. tyrionTheWise unregistered

This article can't be more wrong. You would be correct Chris if both captured same height. Since the extra resolution would go to the sides. However, the S7 has to cover more height and the overall area both are covering is almost the same. Also the comparison shots make it pretty clear that S7 is hanging by the oversharpening Samsung is doing. The level of detail on S7 is laughable.

18. abdoualgeria

Posts: 928; Member since: Jul 27, 2015

Laughable ?

20. combatmedic870

Posts: 982; Member since: Sep 02, 2015

I'm going to have to say the lens is just lens comprised. A 12mp with a sharp prime with give you sharper images vs a 16mp camera with a kit lens.

22. tyrionTheWise unregistered

True.

23. DRS1977

Posts: 678; Member since: May 27, 2015

I see the old Tyrion was banned and has returned with a new name. You will never win my friend, the S7 has the best phone camera on the market whether you like it or not. I realize that hurts your feelings immensely.

24. tyrionTheWise unregistered

I wasn't banned LOL. I never even get a warning as I'm not a troll. But hey, you can assume it for all you want. BTW this account is from the same E-mail confirming I wasn't banned. I just deactivated my account for a while. Later I was unable to recover my old username for some weird error from PA side. I sent them an email but no reply yet. I don't give 2 hoots about the camera on the S7. 4:3 at 12 MP is enough to drive me away.

30. combatmedic870

Posts: 982; Member since: Sep 02, 2015

I would have preferred 3:2 personally. I'm not a 4:3 type of person. But dam... The camera is good. I haven't had an android since the S6. So i didnt have raw then. But the raw shots from the S7 are.... Extremely impressive. I never expected to get soo much from a camera phone. I'm a big camera buff and being impressed by a camera phone is something else. I can take this phone with me hiking and take shots in confidence without worrying about sweat and crap.

32. combatmedic870

Posts: 982; Member since: Sep 02, 2015

S5* haven't had a android since the S5

33. rd_nest

Posts: 1656; Member since: Jun 06, 2010

If you don't care, you can stop commenting. Nobody (I repeat nobody) wants your opinion. I don't understand nobody forced you to buy it, you buy whatever you like. Nobody invited you to share your opinion. So better keep your opinion for something more relevant than your relentless BS you type everytime.

47. Plutonium239

Posts: 1154; Member since: Mar 17, 2015

The Lumia 950/950XL/1520/1020 have a better camera than the s7, except in lowlight, they capture noticeably more details.

25. talon95

Posts: 984; Member since: Jul 31, 2012

The 6s is much worse and still not laughable, the S7 might not be the best in perfect conditions, but most pictures aren't under perfect conditions. Yes, the images are sharp, but not over sharp as everyone says. Over sharpening leads to increased noise and artifacts, and I don't think S7 images exhibit that. The vast majority of users like images sharp, bright and saturated, so they have tuned it very well to satisfy customers without negative side effects. They're meant to be viewed on a mobile screen since that is how most media is consumed, not pixel peeping on a 4k PC display, and on a mobile scaled to fit they loo awesome. There might be a camera that makes images ideal when viewed at 200% on a PC, but would you really want to use that camera when 99% of the time you and everyone you send your photos to view it on mobile, where some sharpening is required to make the image pop. It's not a full frame SLR for studio portraits, so don't try to use it as one. Didn't mean to make that sound aggressive, I agree with everything you said, it relies on its sharpening, but not necessarily over sharpening.

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