The Samsung Galaxy S4 Camera with its 13 megapixel sensor is capable of producing stunningly sharp photos! It has truly set a new benchmark in image quality for Smartphones. Here we’ve tested the S4’s camera capabilities in the demanding area of ‘product photography’. This is indeed a ‘Rave Review’!
Samsung Galaxy S4 Camera – Setting the scene
The Samsung Galaxy S4’s built in native camera features a number of fun and novel modes. However, as we’re aiming to demonstrate the S4’s camera capabilities at their best, we’ll be using the professional camera replacement App called ‘Camera FV-5‘ for Android – available on Google Play. Camera FV-5 allows us to control more of the cameras imaging parameters which have a direct effect on the final image quality. We’ll explain some of the useful and easily set controls as we go through the images.
Samsung Galaxy S4 Camera – Taking control
The first parameter we want to control is the ISO which we set to 100 ISO. This ensures we keep any image noise/grain to a minimum. You can also control this with the S4’s native camera. We shot the image above with natural daylight using a black backdrop and a light diffusing enclosure. Camera was set to auto white balance (AWB).
To give an idea of the detail the Samsung Galaxy S4 camera is capable of capturing the image above shows a cropped in detail of the same shot at actual size. We also had to compress the image to make it a manageable size to load online. Even the beautiful 5″ AMOLED display on the Galaxy S4 could not display the full latent image quality.
This time we shot the image above using our Steady Stand SS200 on the Tabletop Studio Pro TS320 with the red and blue translucent backdrops to give a purple background to compliment some of the stones. We used 2 x 3watt LED gooseneck table lamps from IKEA called JANSJO. (£10/$10) a piece). As these are not daylight balanced lights we thought this would throw the Auto White Balance (AWB) on the camera for sure. Not so! We were amazed at how accurate the AWB is on the Samsung Galaxy S4 camera! Our Canon 5D MKll Full Frame DSLR would never cope with this on AWB.
The shot above is a closer view of the same piece and the image below shows a detail of the same shot at actual size.
Samsung Galaxy S4 Camera – Achieving the best image quality
For product photography with any camera, keeping your camera steady is essential. When you set the Samsung Galaxy S4 camera to 100 ISO the only other parameter it has to adjust the exposure is the shutter speed. A low 100 ISO will result in a longer shutter duration so a tripod or stand is a must have. The aperture on the S4’s lens is a fixed wide aperture like most Smartphones. We used the really neat Joby Grip Tight Micro tripod and the even neater Modahaus Steady Stands and Tabletop Studios for this shoot. The stamps above were shot using the Steady Stand SS100CC which can be easily modified to accomodate the Samsung Galaxy S4. Albert Einstein kindly demonstrates the image at actual size below. Respect!
Samsung Galaxy S4 Camera – Taking more control
Smartphones are undoubtedly getting very smart! However, shooting on a white background will invariably outsmart them! This is where we take a bit more control over exposure parameters.
We shot the beaded necklace from overhead using the Steady Stand SS200 using natural daylight from a window to camera right. The side walls of the Steady Stand help diffuse and soften the light which results in soft shadows falling to the left of the piece. The Camera FV-5 App allows you to set the meter to spot metering. You also have the option to set exposure compensation to plus or minus 4 stops. In this case we used spot metering with exposure compensation set to plus 4 stops. Had this been a more open necklace with more white background showing, plus 4 stops may not have been enough to obtain a clean white background. Camera FV-5 gives you the option of using an Exposure Lock feature. This means you can introduce a piece of black card or material into the frame. Position the exposure reticule over the black card until correct exposure is visible on screen then lock the exposure. This then leaves you free to remove the black card and reset the focus point independently. This post on Smartphone photography tips shows this trick in more detail although we use an iPhone in that example.
The Amethyst bracelet above, designed by the talented Natalie Hambro, was also shot in the same daylight setting. In this instance we used the black card exposure lock trick described above. As we mentioned the Samsung Galaxy S4 Camera has a fixed aperture lens. f2.2 BTW. A wide aperture like this at close quarters results in a shallower depth of field as the image above shows. In many cases this benefits the composition as it naturally draws the eye to the areas of sharp focus first. You can increase the depth of field by backing off from the piece so there is less of it filling the frame. With 13 megapixels to play with you’ve enough resolution to pixel dump if you’re shooting for web display. In theory, using the cameras digital zoom has the same effect on resolution and subsequent image quality. In my past experience, this is not the case, so I’d be wary of using digital zoom.
Samsung Galaxy S4 Camera – How does it measure up?
I’m totally blown away with the quality of this camera/Smartphone! Before I start sounding like an Android fanatic, I have to confess something. If I could be accused of being fanatical about any products it would be Apple products. I am very fond of my iPhone, iPad and iMac. It’s the system I know and work with, and at one point in time I believed was ahead of the game. Not so any more. Sure, iTunes has more Apps than Google Play. But how many Apps do you need? Camera FV-5 is superb for stills photography. It’s never crashed on me. I look forward to exploring its HDR and interval timer capabilities. I eagerly await the iPhone 6 and I hope it steps up to the mark as Samsung have raised the bar considerably with the Galaxy S4. My iPad is feeling decidedly heavy and bulky these days! Samsung, HTC, Sony and Windows are all in the game and that’s good for all of us. Vive la difference!
Samsung Galaxy S4 Camera – Image processing
The Samsung Galaxy S4 camera has some great image processing capabilities on board. For more advanced features I’d normally reach for my Snapseed App. Right now it doesn’t support the Galaxy S4 at full resolution. I’m pretty new to Android Apps but have discovered Photo Editor for Android which supports the full res image from the S4. If anyone out there knows of any other image editing Apps that support 13 mp we’d love to hear from you.
Shooting with the Samsung Galaxy S4 Camera is a piece of cake! 😉
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