For the past four years Samsung's Galaxy S series has been the pinnacle of the company’s extensive smartphone range and formidable competition to the likes of Apple, HTC and Sony. The Galaxy S5 raises the bar still further with more power and a 16.0 megapixel camera capable of image quality to rival not just other smartphones, but also a great deal of dedicated compact cameras. If you can do without optical zoom and can stomach the premium price; the Galaxy S5 could be all the camera you need.
Samsung Galaxy S5 Features
The Galaxy S5 now boasts a 2.5GHz quad-core processor accompanied by 2GB of RAM. This works wonders when running power-hungry apps or games, but it also has a noticeable impact on camera performance. The S5 will shoot at an impressive six frames-per-second for a 30-second burst and it’s got enough oomph to record 4K, Ultra HD video.
Image quality has also been given a boost courtesy of a new 16.0-megapixel, 1/2.6” back-side illuminated CMOS sensor. This is fractionally smaller in size than the sensor in a typical compact camera, but thanks to Samsung’s cutting-edge ISOCELL sensor technology, the S5 promises improved sharpness, dynamic range and colour accuracy.
A 5.1”, Full HD 1920x1080-pixel screen means you’ll be able to view your images in pin-sharp clarity, whilst Super AMOLED display technology increases contrast and colour vibrancy.
The S5 is also certified dustproof as well as waterproof to a 1-meter depth and is available with 16GB or 32GB of internal storage. A Micro SD card slot allows this to be increased by up to 128GB.
- 1/2.6inch 16.0 megapixel BSI CMOS sensor
- Fixed 31mm-equivalent lens, f/2.2
- Digital image stabilisation
- 5.1-inch Super AMOLED touch-screen, 1920x1080
- Dust & water resistant
- GPS / Wi-Fi / NFC
- 4K Ultra HD video recording
- HDR / panoramic shooting / 2.1MP secondary front camera
- Available in black, gold, blue or white
Samsung Galaxy S5 Handling
The S5 continues the Galaxy S-series design philosophy of keeping things thin and light. That means you don’t get an exquisitely-milled metal body like that of an iPhone or HTC One M8, however the S5’s paper-thin plastic back panel is removable, giving you access to the battery and a Micro SD slot.
A metal bezel adds a premium edge to the otherwise average material quality, but only provides a 5mm-thick, super-slippery surface to grip on to, making the S5 perilously easy to drop when shooting.
At first glance there doesn’t appear to be a physical shutter release button, however the volume rocker switch can be pressed in either direction to capture a photo if you don’t fancy using the on-screen button.
The case design may leave plenty to be desired, but it’s very hard to find fault with the 5.1” Full HD screen. Its 1920x1080 resolution ensures that no matter how closely you look, the display is crystal clear with no visible pixels. Samsung’s Super AMOLED screen technology also wows with stunning colour vibrancy and contrast. Viewing angles are first class too and the screen’s brightness is just high enough to keep images visible under direct sunlight. It’s not quite up there with the brightest LCD monitors on some compact cameras, but in every other respect the S5’s display is a pleasure to view.
Activating the S5’s camera is as easy as swiping the camera icon upward from the lock screen or tapping it from the home screen. The huge display area gives plenty of space on the edge of the image preview for menu icons, one of which reveals a settings menu that clearly displays all available shooting options in a single grid overlay. These include metering modes, exposure compensation and white balance, as well as the camera's HDR mode. By tapping the Mode button on the preview window you can switch from the default Auto mode to five alternative settings including a panorama mode.
Power comes from a high-capacity, 2800mAh Li-ion battery. Unlike a conventional camera the S5’s battery life isn’t rated according to CIPA standards, but it will handle up to 13 hours of video playback. Approximately half the battery was remaining after a full day of our comprehensive photographic testing, although none of the phone’s communication features were used during this period.
Speed - We took a number of shots to test the camera's responsiveness, from switch on to first photo, shot to shot, focusing speed etc. We take a number of shots and then use the average to ensure accurate and consistent tests, making it easy to compare with other cameras.
|Wide - Focus / Shutter Response
|Switch on Time to Taking a Photo
||2.6secs (from locked) / 22secs (from off)
|Shot to Shot without Flash
|Shot to Shot with Flash
|Continuous Shooting - JPEG
(shots before slow down)
|6fps (30 shots)
Samsung Galaxy S5 Performance
The performance section is where we look at the image quality performance of the camera. Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.
Samsung Galaxy S5 Sample Photos
- The Galaxy S5 captures good levels of detail from both close range and distant subjects at ISO400 and below. It also maintains impressively low levels of detail smoothing and image noise at higher sensitivities. Colour reproduction is accurate and matrix metering reliably produces well-exposed shots with decent dynamic range. It’s worth noting that the full 16MP resolution produces 16:9, widescreen-format images, rather than the usual, squarer 3:2 or 4:3 ratios.
Samsung Galaxy S5 Lens test images
- The fixed focal length, 31mm-equivalent lens produces distortion-free images with only a negligible drop in corner sharpness. Chromatic aberration is also minimal and lens flare non-existent. Macro performance is less impressive though, as the camera will only focus down to around 10cm and at this distance autofocussing isn’t always reliable.
Samsung Galaxy S5 ISO test images
ISO Noise Performance - Both grain and colour speckling are well controlled at low sensitivity settings up to ISO400. At ISO800 noise reduction processing smears some detail and colour speckling is also visible under close scrutiny, but downsize to around 75% image size and this is rarely noticeable.
Samsung Galaxy S5 White-balance test images
White Balance Performance
-Auto white balance does a good job of correcting both fluorescent and tungsten colour casts, but manually selecting the florescent white balance pre-set does produce an obvious magenta colour cast.
PANORAMA | f/2.2 | 4.8 mm
Panorama mode -The Galaxy S5’s panorama mode will let you pan left, right, up or down. Unlike normal compact cameras, the S5’s immense processing power means it’s able to capture relatively high resolution images with 1700+ vertical pixels. That’s still a sizeable reduction from the height of a single 16MP still image, but it is large enough to capture plenty of detail.
Video - Video quality is excellent with high levels of detail in both Ultra and Full HD resolution settings. The 4K Ultra HD mode is limited to a 5-minute clip length due to each minute of video recorded at this quality consuming up to 400MB of memory. Our sample is recorded at 1080p Full HD, which requires around 120MB per minute.
Value For Money
The Samsung Galaxy S5 is available for £519 sim-free which places it in the same price range as similar smartphones which prioritise camera quality, such as the HTC One M8 (4 megapixels) and iPhone 5S (8 megapixels). The Sony Xperia Z2 comes in at £499 sim-free and shares a similar 20.7 megapixel camera as Samsung’s Galaxy K Zoom which can be had for around £400 and packs a 10x optical zoom lens. Alternatively, the Nokia Lumia 1020 boasts a 41.3MP sensor with lossless digital zoom for £350.
If you’re happy to carry a separate phone and camera, the same cash will buy the compelling combo of Samsung’s Galaxy S4 smartphone and a Samsung WB350F Smart Camera with 21x optical zoom.
You'll also need to buy a memory card and a case or bag to keep your camera phone safe and protected - have a look at our complete guide to camera bags.
Samsung Galaxy S5 Verdict
The Samsung Galaxy S5 produces some of the sharpest and cleanest images you’ll find from any smartphone. Detail, colour reproduction and dynamic range are all excellent at lower sensitivity settings, and unlike many camera phones and regular compact cameras, the S5 performs well in low light too.
The S5’s camera is also a pleasure to use thanks to extremely rapid autofocus performance and reliable exposure metering. Its 6fps continuous shooting mode is impressively fast as well and the ability to record 4K Ultra HD video is also a welcome feature, although you’ll need a 4K-capable television or computer monitor to make the most of it. Expandable storage and a long battery life further enhance the camera’s appeal.
Of course a phone this sleek can’t have an optical zoom lens, but the S5’s 16MP resolution gives some scope for cropping in on distant subjects before image sizes become too small. Keen photographers are more likely to be frustrated by the lack of manual controls and slippery ergonomics.
It’s also hard to justify the high price from a purely photographic perspective as the same money would buy a very capable DSLR or CSC set-up. However, no conventional camera could come close to matching the Galaxy S5’s immense versatility.
The Samsung Galaxy S5 produces some of the sharpest and cleanest images you'll find from any smartphone.
Samsung Galaxy S5 Specifications
|CCD pixels||16Mp (Megapixels)|
|Sensor Size (width)||No Data|
|Sensor Size (height)||No Data|
- Face Detection
- Touch AF
|Shutter speeds shortest||No Data|
|Shutter speeds longest||No Data|
|ISO sensitivity||100 - 800|
|Stereo Sound||No Data|
|Battery Type||Lithium-Ion 2800mAh|
|Box Contents||No Data|
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