It has been over four years since I first pocketed the smartphone that my Galaxy S6
so ably replaced, the iPhone 4, but I clearly remember that the purchase decision was mostly spurred by that device's camera, which at the time was said to be the finest fitted to a smartphone
. The rest of it — Apple’s vaunted design and build quality, the fact that I drive a Mac, app availability — just made for curious distraction. I wanted to have constant ready access to the best-of-breed smartphone camera then, and I still do, and I have that in Samsung
’s latest flagship device.
The first thing you notice about the Galaxy S6 camera – and something I expect I will never get used to – is the speed at which it spins up. Since shoehorning iOS 7 onto my iPhone 4 a couple of years back its camera speed has been a nightmare, sometimes taking well over 10 seconds to ready up for a shot. As such, perhaps I am an especially enrapt audience for this feature of the Galaxy S6 camera, but primed to be impressed or not the GS6 just moves
. On or off, locked or unlocked, a quick double-click of the Home button and the Galaxy S6 is ready to shoot. Of course, I don't expect that this Quick Launch capability will save me from the disappointment of missing a terrific shot, though it will ensure that I miss far fewer of them (and that when I do miss such shots that I put the blame on my own shoulders instead of on my smartphone camera).
The feature-rich Galaxy S6 camera offers the smartphone shooter a bevy of useful settings, from the ones you would expect from a smartphone camera, including a selection of picture sizes and aspects (including my favorite, 1:1), Tracking Auto Focus, geo-tagging, and various filters and effects (with still more available for purchase). Regarding what Samsung calIs “Effects”, I consider the Grayscale option to be essential, while I find Vignette and Faded Color to be occasionally useful as well.
It is with Modes, though, that the Galaxy S6 camera truly comes alive. By default, the Galaxy S6 camera is set to Auto mode, and the quality of the pictures I tore off in Auto are of a quality so deeply satisfying that I imagine most GS6 owners will seldom bother to explore the alternatives.
For those shooters who like to push past the edges, though, the Galaxy S6 offers Pro mode, within which the photog can wrest a degree of manual control with regard to ISO (100, 200, 400, 800), White Balance (Sunny, Cloudy, Incandescent, and Fluorescent), and Macro Focus.
And in addition, Pro mode will accept up to three Custom settings, so once you have a unique look configured just right you can lock it in for later use. There are also modes dedicated to a particular result form, such as Panorama and Virtual shot, all of which I know I will stumble through at some point, but not during these early days. I did, though, download Food mode from the Galaxy Apps store, and found it to be a deserving addition to my Galaxy S6
camera setup (below, my delicious pizza lunch, in Auto mode on the left and in Food mode on the right).
Settings and filters and modes and tools and tricks aside, however, careful and thoughtful readers — anyone who has made it this far certainly qualifies — are no doubt wondering, “Yeah, OK, that’s all great, but what about the pictures?”
Four years represents at least two eons in mobile phone tech, so it would be wrong to make any kind of true comparison between the smartphone camera experience I now have in the Galaxy S6 and the one I left behind with iPhone 4. What I will say, though, is that with the Galaxy S6 I am for the first time shooting photos with a cell phone that might be worthy of printing…you know, on real photographic paper.
With the Galaxy S6’s camera I am grabbing up shots worth saving and sharing in low-light conditions that I have previously only dared to tread with my Leica D-Lux, and capturing images that constantly surprise me with their color and clarity (of course, viewing them first on the GS6’s Super AMOLED screen only adds to the positive perception). I daresay I am quite a good amateur photographer, and with the Galaxy S6 in my pocket and at the double-press ready I am now one significant step closer to being a great one.