What I Like:
- Clear, clean images with low noise
- Excellent low-light and indoor photos
- Shallow depth of field with pleasant background blur
- Good colour balance
- Smooth high FPS video
- Easier to use interface
What I Don’t Like:
- Daylight images have less detail than previous generation 16MP cameras
- Night images smudgy and prone to detail loss
Summary: While the S7 Edge has a great camera, it’s only a minor step up from last years phones. It was very hyped to me by friends and family so when I finally got my hands on one to test I was not as blown away as they were. I find that my previous generation camera is as good or nearly as good in most cases, so I won’t be making the switch yet. That being said, this camera is fantastic and a contender for the best camera phone to date, just not as good as I had hoped.
Authors note: This review applies to both the S7 and S7 Edge as they have the same camera.
Where to Buy
Daylight Photos – Rear Camera
In daylight, Samsung’s camera reacts like any other recent high end camera phone. The images are overall pleasant, with excellent colour rendition and a good amount of detail. A wider aperture means higher shutter speeds, and reduced motion blur. In comparison to the the LG G4, the LG produced images with more detail at the expense of a slight bit more noise. This difference was fairly significant in some situations where distant signs and details in landscapes would render crisper on the LG. Most people wouldn’t notice unless they had these camera phones side by side, and some may even prefer the smoother images of the Samsung, but to me it was as if there is noise reduction being constantly applied at the expense of detail. This isn’t always the case however: take a look at the picture of the road. The crop shows more detail in the foreground road with the Samsung, but the license plate is illegible. But with the LG, it is possible to read the license plate of the truck. In part this is due to the Samsung being a bit wider angle, but overall the 16MP camera just has a little more detail by nature. The LG isn’t without its own problems, for example side by side with the Samsung the colour looks just bad, but the difference between the two cameras isn’t enough to make me want to immediately jump ship.
Where the Samsung wins overall is in white balance. The colours the Samsung produces are more natural, with just a hint of warmth, and this results in overall more pleasant images. In terms of exposure, I find the Samsung is a little bit brighter and more colourful because it has better dynamic range. It doesn’t lose highlights as easily and shadows have more detail. Autofocus was consistent and fast. I never had the camera fail to focus in good lighting. In poor lighting it was a little slower, but generally still accurate. No complaints here. The iPhone 6s+ was the runner up in all categories in terms of detail, sharpness and colour.
Night Photos – Rear Camera
Low light is where the Samsung camera excells compared to any other smartphone I’ve tested to date. Due to its lower megapixel count, the camera is able to render images with less noise and more detail compared to competitors. This means smoother skin in indoor portraits, more detail and overall more pleasing images. Lens flares and light-stars are far more pleasing than the other phones I tested. Again, it’s not enough of a difference that I immediately want to change over from my LG G4, but the Samsung is better at rendering smooth night images.
Front Facing Camera
The FFC is what blew my mind with the S7. This camera is significantly better than any other front facing camera I’ve tested to date. It is better because it doesn’t have those weird crispy artifacts around edges in the image. It produces smooth skin tones, good colour and low noise in low light.
Video with the S7 is very good. It is smooth, does not lose frames and focus is consistent. Brightness, contrast and colour are all excellent. Noise is kept to a minimum. This is another section where the Samsung is great. I didn’t get a chance to compare it directly with the iPhone, but it definitely one-ups the LG G4, where I have noticed occasional jittering especially with a slower SD card. I noticed none of those problems with the S7. Audio quality is overall very good too. In a blind test I couldn’t tell the difference between the S7 and the onboard mic of a real camera. It’s not going to win awards but for most purposes it is more than enough.
After a week of playing with the S7 Edge, I’ve decided that I’m going to keep my LG for now. Even as a professional photographer the difference in the rear camera is not noticeable enough that I want to move to Samsung. Perhaps it was all the hype that played it up, or perhaps it was something else, but while I was impressed with the camera on this phone I wasn’t blown out of the water. The front-facing camera is a different story. It renders significantly better images than any other FFC I’ve tested to date. Selfie shooters or those who are using older phones such as the Samsung S5, owners of budget phones or the 8MP iPhones will find the difference far greater than others. If you need an excellent camera phone and are on more of a budget, pick up last years LG G4 or a Nexus 6 and you’ll be just as happy with the camera.