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Samsung Galaxy S7 And S7 Edge Preview

Camera

Smartphone camera resolution has been increasing at a steady rate, with OEMs fueling a megapixel arms race. Because of physical size constraints for the sensor package, however, increasing the number of pixels generally means making them smaller. But smaller pixels capture less light, reducing dynamic range and low-light performance. Some OEMs, such as HTC and Apple, have favored using fewer, larger pixels to improve low-light capability at the expense of image detail.

With camera performance a high priority, Samsung is opting out of the megapixel race, choosing a completely new lower-resolution sensor with larger pixels for the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge. The 12 MP rear camera, the same resolution as the iPhone 6s, has 1.4μm pixels. There's also a new lens array with a larger f/1.7 aperture that lets in 25% more light than the f/1.9 aperture lens in the Galaxy S6. Combining the sensor’s larger pixels with the lens’ lower f-stop allows the new camera to capture 95% more light than the previous generation, according to Samsung. It will be interesting to see if this new camera can actually outperform the Galaxy S6, which currently has the best smartphone camera we’ve tested, at least when using the 16 MP Sony IMX240 Exmor RS sensor (some Galaxy S6 phones use a Samsung S5K2P2 ISOCELL sensor that does not perform as well).

The demonstration shown in the video above—conducted by Samsung—shows a tantalizing hint of the new camera’s performance by pitting the Galaxy S7 against the iPhone 6s Plus. When the light inside the box is dimmed, the Galaxy S7 certainly appears to capture more light.

This video also shows off the Galaxy S7’s autofocus capability. The Galaxy S7, like the S6 and most other premium phones, uses phase detect autofocus (PDAF), which provides superior performance to the contrast detection method. However, the S7’s new camera sensor uses far more pixels for phase detection: Where the Galaxy S6’s sensor only uses 0.78% of its total pixels as phase pixels, the S7’s new sensor uses 100% of its pixels. Samsung says that each pixel in its Dual Pixel sensor is split into two photodiodes. We're still not sure exactly how this works, but it seems to perform well based on Samsung's limited demo.

The other thing we're not sure about is if customers will still need to play the camera lottery with the S7. Samsung won't say, but based on the novelty of this sensor it seems likely that it's made by a single manufacturer.

  • Nashten
    Glad to see that Samsung brought the MicroSD card slot back.

    I still won't buy a Samsung phone, but they look even better. I can't wait to see what the SD820 holds in store for us when more products hit the street with it.

    I shouldn't talk about SD slots though considering I own a Nexus 6... :D
    Reply
  • chuckydb
    Micro-usb 2.0...
    Come on!! Really?
    Reply
  • xHDx
    What staggers me is how does a Phone manage to use that much RAM? Windows uses a max of 2/2.5
    Reply
  • alchemy69
    Take drink every time someone whines about the lack of a removable battery.
    Reply
  • Edwin Herdman
    The "(sensors with) smaller pixels are bad" line is a myth, and I'm disappointed to see it spread here. There are densely packed sensors, and there are physically large sensors - both are good things.

    Of course, if you had the exact same pixel count, larger pixels are naturally better, but this is not the question facing sensor makers. The "small pixels" line is harmful because it leads people to think that small pixels are naturally compared to large pixels - almost nobody does this, because it would mean viewing pixels off different size sensors at the same size. With a few exceptions, people compare the full images at the same size - where total sensor size is much more important.

    DP Review's Richard Butler took a look at this question last year, with some extra math details on page 2 of the article "The effect of pixel size on noise."
    Reply
  • Calvin Huang
    17541248 said:
    Micro-usb 2.0...
    Come on!! Really?

    I have a phone with USB-C (Nexus 6P), and while I do appreciate the ergonomics of the new plug (it both feels more secure while being less awkward to insert/unplug), the lack of compatibility is a huge drawback. I have to be sure to always carry my own cables with me, and there are no wireless charging dongles that use USB-C. So if you go to Starbucks and want to make use of their Qi charging pads, you're SOL. Granted, it'd be less of an issue if the device had Qi charging built-in, but in the case of the S7, it still doesn't make sense to release a phone that isn't compatible with their VR hardware.
    Reply
  • thezooloomaster
    Micro-usb 2.0...
    Come on!! Really?

    Who uses USB on phones for anything other than charging these days, anyway?
    Reply
  • none12345
    Removing the MicroSD slot, and the waterproofiting from the s5 were 2 big mistakes. Glad to see they realized their stupidity and added them back in for the s7.

    I wouldn't even consider a phone that doesn't have a microsd slot.(or whatever replaces it in the future). The non-removable battery sucks, but its far easier to live with when the waterproofiting and microsd slot are back in.
    Reply
  • MasterMace
    USB 2.0 and a locked down battery are big signals for me to stay away from Samsung, still. That, and my experience with the GS4
    Reply
  • giovanni86
    Still concealing the battery. There almost back to normal. if there note 6 doesn't have battery removal its another year im skipping my Note 4 is plenty.
    Reply