Samsung Galaxy Note II Review

Author: SKYMTL
Date: December 16, 2012
Product Name: Galaxy Note II
Part Number: N7100
Warranty: 1 Year
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An Epic Camera (Stills & Video)

To download the raw pictures please CLICK HERE (~26MB file)

Samsung has equipped the Note II with a high resolution 8MP camera and an LED flash that can illuminating a whole room. For the most part, I came to respect this setup and it quickly became the go-to option instead of the trusty Canon Elph that’s typically hanging out in my satchel. Under no circumstance can the Note II replace a point and shoot but it may cause some reevaluations of what’s possible with a smartphone camera. In order to properly adapt to nearly every conceivable situation, there is a dearth of shooting options included here as well.

Click on images to enlarge

In well-lit environments, it’s tough to find any faults with this camera system. Colors are well saturated, subject edges are crisp, the depth of field options can make for some great stylized shots and focal performance is lightning quick and deadly accurate. Just the right amount of punch is given to an image in order to retain three dimensionality while retaining a relatively neutral color pallet. Even with the Dynamic Contrast setting enabled I found that contrast did fall by the wayside, but that’s to be expected since the Note II’s smallish sensor size constrains its shots in these areas.

Click on images to enlarge

There are some limitations here that became more evident as time went on. Both lens flare and blooming become a very real problems if the sun or another bright light source is pointing at the camera. I also noticed an odd halo effect around open tube fluorescents but once again, this was likely due to reflections playing havoc with the lens’ glass covering. Macro shooting wasn’t the easiest with extremely slow focusing times (up to 2 seconds in some cases) but we can’t expect miracles….can we?

Click on images to enlarge

Low ambient lighting conditions have always been the Achilles’ heel for smartphone cameras but the Note II handles these situations with a surprising degree of accuracy. With vibration reduction enabled, the sensor was able to actively compensate for longer shutter times but only to a certain extent. Granted, a certain amount of graininess is added to the image due to higher Auto ISO settings that are supposed to overcome the limited aperture size but we can’t expect miracles. Once again, the images produced by the 8MP sensor defied my expectations.

Low Light Off / Low Light On
Click on images to enlarge

For nighttime shooting without the flash enabled, this smartphone (or should we call it a superphone?) has another trick up its sleeve. When using the custom Low Light mode, the Note II implements a secondary post-processing routine which increases ambient light reception. As a result, images that would normally be an inky black mess become fully visible, if slightly blurry.

Video quality very much follows in the footsteps of still life captures; that’s to say it is nearly above reproach. With its capability to record full motion 1080P on top of stellar image quality, the Galaxy Note II provides a new benchmark for Android phones. The anti-vibration algorithm does need some work but otherwise I couldn’t find any real show-stoppers in this area.

Smartphone cameras have come a long way in a short period of time and, if anything, Samsung’s Galaxy Note II shows where they’re going. It may incorporate several advanced features but the crowning achievement in this domain is consistency. Regardless of the environment, subject, or lighting conditions, Samsung had a setting which took every shooting eventuality into account and the Auto mode was surprisingly capable as well. Even the front facing 2MP camera was impressive in both picture and video mode. As a result, great looking images or video were always within reach and could the achieved without much effort. In a world that lives by quick draw photography, I can’t think of a better platform than this.

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