SPECIAL FEATURE: Samsung Galaxy S III camera

The Samsung Galaxy S III is a brilliant phone – and as we found in our review, its camera is so versatile and feature-packed, it deserves a deeper look.

The eight-megapixel lens comes with auto-focus, LED flash and a zero-lag shutter that is the pretty much the only hardware upgrade from the Samsung Galaxy S II. Up front, the secondary 1.9-megapixel camera allows self-portraits and video calling.

Samsung has mainly stuffed this snapper with software tweaks and a slew of zany, gimmicky and, yes, useful features. Here's what we did with it.


Samsung Galaxy SIII camera - interface

Samsung Galaxy SIII camera - scene modes

The interface is clean and comfortable to manoeuvre by the 4.8-inch touch-screen. Like many of Samsung's high-end smartphones, the Galaxy S III has a ton of settings, scene modes and shooting you can adjust to optimise the camera for various situations. Scene modes are a type of setting (above), while shooting modes get their own subhead on the main camera menu (below).

Samsung Galaxy SIII camera - settings

You can also get way under the hood and fiddle with the exposure and ISO settings instead of picking a scene mode – these two settings will let you manually select how to let the light in rather than choosing one of the many preset combinations.

Picture quality

We tested the Samsung Galaxy S III in four common photo moments: a gorgeous day out in London, a cloudy evening at a roof terrace party, an evening by a light-strewn Thames, a close up of some pretty flowers.

In each test, we chose the appropriate preset scene mode, noted below.

1. Daylight / Mode: Auto

Samsung Galaxy SIII camera - landscape

Samsung Galaxy SIII camera - daylight

In daylight, the Galaxy S III produces sharp, bright photos with excellent colour reproduction. It handles shadows and sunlight accurately.

2. Evening / Mode: Auto

Samsung Galaxy SIII camera - evening

In lower light settings, auto mode overexposes areas of light a tad and clarity took a hit. The picture here is a little dimmer than the actual scene was.

3. Night / Mode: Night

Samsung Galaxy SIII camera - night

On night mode – and in the actual night – pictures are noticeably grainy and light areas blurry. Where its natural competitor, the HTC One X, has a larger aperture built for better low light photography, the Galaxy S III is packing almost the same hardware as the S II.

4. Colourful things / Mode: Macro

Samsung Galaxy SIII camera - macro

Samsung Galaxy SIII camera - macro

Close-ups come out well in good lighting, though you don't get much of the depth of field effect where the central object is sharper than its blurry midground.

Buddy photo share what?

In classic Samsung fashion, the bajillion software add-ons in the Galaxy S III all have have official brand names.

Social Tag is a built-in face recognition function that lets you tap any face in a photo to give it a name - henceforth, the camera then (theoretically) tags your friends all on its very own. 

Samsung Galaxy SIII camera - social tag

We blurred out the photo gallery above as only our sub-editor conceded to have his picture published

We found the accuracy sporadic, as it seemed to split its hits equally between 'knowing' who a friend was, asking us if it was that friend (above) and not getting it right at all.

After a friend has been tagged, the picture will be linked to their profile tab on your phone. You can then browse friend by friend and see all the pictures you've tagged by them. It's a fun idea, though with the hit or miss tagging, we're not sure when we would use it after the initial novelty value.

Buddy Photo Share is a shooting mode that automatically tags friends after a photo is taken. Tapping the send button in the top right (below) sends the photo to everyone tagged. It's linked to your phonebook, so as long as you have email addresses, you can send photos.

Samsung Galaxy SIII camera - buddy photo share

You can also send the picture individually by tapping each friend's name – just on the off chance that not everyone wants a copy of that hilarious group shot you just took.

But perhaps the coolest and most useful mode is Burst Mode, which can take 20 rapid-fire pictures in about 10 seconds. Here's one we manually chose from a reel of shots capturing an arc of water.

Samsung Galaxy SIII camera - burst mode

(and what happened after...)

Samsung Galaxy SIII camera - burst mode

The sharpness of the individual water drops is impressive thanks to the instantaneous shutter. Even when we didn't turn on Burst Mode, the shutter snapped immediately to capture a moment in mere microseconds.

While in Burst Mode, you can also select Best Photo, where the camera will automatically select the 'best picture' - here, we chose our own.

Finally, the Samsung classics, Beauty Mode and Panorama Mode, both shooting modes you have to select before taking a picture.

Beauty Mode adds a softening filter to an image before displaying it, giving a general effect of smoothed skin and lightened shadows.

Panorama Mode stitches together five shots to give you a vista image.

Samsung Galaxy SIII camera - panoramaa

Lots of phones stitch together Panorama shots now – and there are even a few apps that will do a 3D 360-degree view to make a globe of your surroundings – but this mode on the Galaxy S III is particularly smooth and seamless to use.

The verdict

The extra features on this camera are a mixed bag – some work well and are useful, while others manage just one of these. We love Burst Mode for photography of anything that's moving at all – drunken friends, hilarious pets? – while Buddy Photo Share, for all its clunky naming, proved pretty useful when we managed to take unanimously approved group photos. 

On the hardware front, its instantaneous shutter makes it easy to take clear snaps in most situations, but the lowlight prowess here isn't up to the standard reached by the HTC One X and its larger lens aperture. The Samsung Galaxy S III camera hasn't had a huge spec bump since the snapper on the S II, but the software tweaks Samsung has made make this a fun and versatile app in an all-round impressive feature lineup.

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Mobile Choice

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