Steve's Conclusion

Steve's SnapShot
Pros
  • Image quality is very good, especially in good lighting, versus other smartphone cameras
  • 16MP of resolution in a smartphone camera is well above average
  • Secondary/selfie camera offers 5MP of resolution
  • Extremely fast performance levels
  • Can record 4K video resolution
  • Plenty of manual control features when working in Pro mode
  • Allows manual shutter speed control up to 1/24000th of a second
  • Basic camera app is very easy to use
  • Display screen is sharp and clear with QHD resolution
  • Image quality in Note 5 is significantly improved over Note 4
Cons
  • Low light image quality could be better
  • Some photos occasionally appear over-processed
  • This unit is extremely large because of 5.7-inch touchscreen
  • Note 5 is tough to hold while using the camera because of its size and smooth edges
  • Note 5's buttons cannot duplicate the tactical feel of shutter button on a digital camera
  • No optical zoom option (a problem for all smartphone cameras)
  • No ability to add memory with a microSD card
  • Cannot swap out battery as could be done with Note 4
  • Expensive smartphone
Timing Test Results
  • Power up to first image captured from complete shutdown = 25.8 seconds
  • Power up to first image captured from sleep mode by dragging Camera icon on Home screen = 3.1 seconds
  • Power up to first image captured from sleep mode using double press of Home button = 1.9 seconds
  • Shutter lag with autofocus = about 0.2 seconds
  • Shot to shot delay w/o flash with minimum review on = 4.8 seconds (review off, 0.6 seconds)
  • Shot to shot delay w/flash with minimum review on = 6.4 seconds (review off, 3.2 seconds)
  • Continuous shot = 10 photos in 1.0 seconds at 16MP (Changed camera settings to use Note 5's volume button as shutter button, holding it down for burst mode)
All tests were taken using internal memory, Auto mode, default image quality, ISO Auto, Flash off and all other settings at factory defaults unless noted otherwise. No image review mode is available.
Bottom Line
The Galaxy Note 5 smartphone camera records images of a high quality with its 16MP of resolution rear-facing camera, and its 5.7-inch display screen is one of the sharpest you'll find on a smartphone. The camera offers both manual control and fully automatic operation, along with the ability to record in RAW, which is impressive for a smartphone camera. The Note 5's image quality is significantly better than its predecessor, and this smartphone camera outperforms most of the lower half of fixed lens digital cameras in the market ... as long as you don't need an optical zoom lens. The biggest drawbacks to the Note 5 are the lack of an optical zoom, as it is with all smartphone cameras, and its high price.
Pick This Up If...
You're looking for a strong smartphone camera in terms of image quality that offers a great mixture of manual control and automatic features, and the your budget for the smartphone is high.
While the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 smartphone may be best known for its S Pen stylus and its large, high-resolution display screen, its impressive camera should be under consideration for top billing too.

Few smartphone cameras are able to match the Note 5's mix of automatic and manual control features. You'll be able to make changes manually to things like shutter speed, white balance, and ISO with the Galaxy Note 5's camera; which is something not commonly found in a smartphone camera.

Even with a nice collection of manual control features, you can record good looking images in fully automatic mode too, meaning the Note 5's camera can be as easy or as challenging to use as you want to make it. You can add numerous special effect features to your images too, and you have the ability to create panoramic photos, making this smartphone camera fun to use.

(Please note that this review will focus on the photographic capabilities and the cameras in the Galaxy Note 5, rather than the communication and other features of this smartphone.)

The rear-facing main camera offers 16-megapixels of resolution, and we'll discuss it in detail.

Overall image quality is strong for the Galaxy Note 5 versus other smartphone cameras. As long as you don't need optical zoom capabilities, the Note 5 camera's images are good enough to allow it to outperform most of the fixed lens digital cameras in the lower half of the market.

The detail the Note 5 provides in still images is impressive, and it does its best work in outdoor images with decent lighting. While the Note 5 includes optical image stabilization, its low light image quality still lags noticeably behind its work in good lighting, which is a common problem with smartphone cameras.

Video quality is good with this model, too, in either 4K or full HD resolution. And audio quality when recording movies is above average versus other smartphone cameras I've tested.

Some of the photos appear slightly over-processed on occasion, especially if you're using HDR mode. However, the image quality on the whole is very impressive.

The f/1.9 aperture lens contributes greatly to the pleasing nature of the photos you can shoot on the Galaxy Note 5, as you'll have some naturally blurred background photos, which is especially good for portraits.

You'll also appreciate the speed with which the Galaxy Note 5 works. It recovers quickly after shooting images, and Samsung gave this model the ability to record photos at a stunning maximum shutter speed of 1/24000th of a second. The ability to manually control shutter speed and to capture photos in the RAW image format are two new features of the Galaxy Note 5's primary camera versus the Note 4.

The speed with which this smartphone camera can perform and its various manual control features are especially strong components that set it above the lower half of fixed lens digital cameras in the market.

The 5-megapixel front-facing selfie camera is a pretty solid performer with the Galaxy Note 5 too. While you'll have to use it in fully automatic mode, rather than having access to manual control tools as you do in the Pro mode with the rear-facing main camera, it produces good image quality with a number of settings options. You can select from four image size options with the selfie camera, as well as shooting video at full HD and QHD resolutions. You can apply special art effects on your selfies or perform quick touch-ups to fix problems with distortion from being too close to the camera. There's even a wide-angle selfie mode, allowing you to squeeze more people into your selfies. The Note 5's selfie camera is one of the better smartphone front-facing cameras on the market.

The unit offers a huge 5.7-inch display screen, which includes impressive QHD resolution for an extremely sharp and bright display. Watching the movies you've shot and scrolling through your photos is really nice with this smartphone. Glare from sunlight when using the Note 5 outdoors isn't really a problem either.

While so far the Note 5 sounds amazing, you may notice a few drawbacks with this smartphone camera. First, the unit is extremely large because of the huge display screen. Samsung also has created a very expensive smartphone unit with the Galaxy Note 5, in part because of the high-end display and in part because of the inclusion of support for the S Pen stylus, which plays no role in the photography capabilities of the Note 5.

While the Note 5 is a great-looking smartphone with a sharp all-metal design, I thought it was a little tough to hold the unit while using the camera. It just felt as if the unit might slip out of my hand, and I was inadvertently pressing the buttons on the edges continually. The unit's large size also contributes to the difficulty in holding it steadily and securely while using using the camera.

The Note 5 has no slot for accepting microSD memory cards, which would allow you to increase the storage capacity. You'll have to rely on the internal memory of either 32GB or 64GB.

Finally, you'll have no option of accessing and replacing the rechargeable battery on the Galaxy Note 5, as you could do with the Note 4 (and other GALAXY models), meaning there's no benefit to trying to purchase a second battery with the Note 5. This is quite sad, as the ability to change the phone's battery has been a strong suit for Samsung over the years. I found the unit's battery life to be very good, although I was only testing the unit's photography capabilities, rather than its communications options and apps.

Bottom Line - Samsung has created a host of large smartphones in the past few years, each offering high-quality displays, and the Galaxy Note 5 fits in well with those past models. However when it comes to the Note 5 smartphone's main camera, it takes a significant step up from past models, especially providing much improved image quality over the Note 4. You can now shoot in the RAW image format along with JPEG with the Galaxy Note 5, and you can manually set the shutter speed as fast as 1/24000th of a second. The primary rear-facing camera has 16-megapixels of resolution, while the front-facing selfie camera offers 5-megapixels, both of which are above average resolution levels versus other smartphone cameras. And you can record in 4K video resolution with the main camera, which is a higher resolution than most standalone digital cameras can support. The Note 5 has a huge 5.7-inch screen with better than full HD resolution (QHD). The Galaxy Note 5 also has a very large body to accommodate that screen, and I felt like it was a little difficult to hold the unit securely while using the camera without pressing a button inadvertently. This is also a very expensive smartphone unit, although you may receive a good deal on the Note 5 if purchased as part of a data plan with a service provider. With the good mix of automatic and manual control features available on the Galaxy Note 5 and with its above average image quality versus other smartphone cameras, the Note 5 is well worth considering if you're looking for a strong camera in your smartphone.

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