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Samsung Galaxy Note 3 - Camera App and Image Quality

Andrew Williams

By Andrew Williams



Our Score:


Samsung Galaxy Note 3 – Camera App and Performance

The Note 3 has a camera app very similar in use to that of the Galaxy S4. It’s pretty easy to use, designed to be operated with just the one thumb – there are separate video and stills shutter buttons that sit just under your digit.

As standard, the Galaxy Note 3 camera is set to full auto, meaning you only need to pick the subject of your shot. There’s no physical camera button on the phone, but with fast focusing and virtually zero shutter lag, this is a very enjoyable camera to shoot with.

Camera app note 3

Like the rest of the phone’s interface, though, it does bombard you with options a bit. Aside from Auto, there are 12 photo modes. Some are great, some are unnecessary chaff – and you’re left to sift through them to find the useful ones. We have a feeling some people may be daunted by the sheer number, causing them to stick to Auto mode.

Our favourites include Rich Tone (an HDR mode), Panorama and Sport. HDR merges multiple exposures types to bring out more detail in your snaps, perfect if the lighting conditions are poor, or if you’re shooting a scene with overcast clouds; Panorama is self-explanatory, shooting a wide view of your surroundings; and Sport keeps the shutter speed quicker than it would be in Auto mode, making fast-moving objects appear sharp.

camera modes

The other modes are a little more involved, going far beyond the scene modes you’d get in most dedicated cameras. Beauty Face softens faces to get rid of wrinkles and spots – it’s a bit odd. Drama takes multiple exposures and merges them, to let you get multiple instances of one moving object in a single picture. Eraser takes multiple exposures too, but with the aim of removing moving objects from a scene. The weirdest of the lot is Golf, which is designed precisely to capture a multi-exposure shot of a golf swing.

The madness continues. These slightly odd modes can produce some fun shots to share on Facebook, but as they’re a bit like an ice cream maker (you’ll use it once or twice, then never use them again) we wish there was a way to stash them into a box to hide most of them. Of course – that’d just add more features for smartphone novices to stumble over.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 – Camera Image Quality and Video

The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 has a 13-megapixel camera with a single-LED flash. It’s very similar specs-wise to the Galaxy S4, with an f/2.2 lens and a 1/3.2-inch sensor, resulting in tiny sensor pixels of 1.1 microns.

It’s a camera that a bit old-school in its approach - it uses a small, high-resolution sensor when other phone-makers are starting to put more priority on increasing sensor and sensor pixel sizes (both good moves, photographically).

Galaxy Note 3 15

Detail and Exposure

In good lighting, the Note 3 can produce a good level of detail that surpass the HTC One and the iPhone 5S. Sometimes megapixels do pay.

However, we did find the images to be slightly less sharp, and slightly darker than the Galaxy S4. It’s not a huge performance difference, though.Galaxy Note 3 19

Low-light Performance and Flash

Where the Note 3 really disappoints is its low-light performance. For some reason, Samsung has cut the dedicated Night mode out of the Note 3. Instead, it relies simply on the Auto mode for low-light shots.

And it’s simply not up to it. In poor lighting, photo performance is terrible. Where rivals tend to produce grainy but discerable photos of our standard low-light scene, the Note 3 shot is basically pitch black. Objects only become discernible when you’ve processed the images significantly - and they still look awful.

Fingers-crossed Samsung will sort this out by reinstating Night mode in an update. At present, the Note 3 falls way behind the competition.

Galaxy Note 3

Depth of Field and Macro

The Galaxy Note 3 gets back to the sort of camera performance we’d expect with its macro skills and depth of field effects.

Macro performance is solid, producing good close-up detail and better-than-average focusing distance – i.e. you can get quite close to your subject. As we saw in our standard crop of the London skyline, images were slightly less sharp than those of the Galaxy S4.

Galaxy Note 3 21

Galaxy Note 3 20

One area where the Note 3 performs better than the S4 is creating depth of field effects. The Galaxy Note 3 is better-than average (in this top-end phone camera field), offering better background blurring than its smaller brother.

Shallow depth of field is the easiest way to make a shot look arty, making the background appear blurred in order to make the subject ‘pop’.

Galaxy Note 3 18


Perhaps our favourite ‘extra’ photo mode of the Note 3 is HDR – high dynamic range. And the Note 3’s version of it is excellent.

It combines multiple exposures of the same scene to produce more detail-filled shots. Without HDR enabled, the sky in the shot below would be a block of white/grey. But here you can see the full detail of the cloud cover. This is an example of seriously effective HDR in action. Well done, Samsung. We should say that the effect is at times so intense that it’s often pretty clear you’re using a ‘creative’ mode – which photo purists would call cheating. The iPhone's HDR mode is subtler, but arguably not 'better' as such.

Galaxy Note 3 22

"The clouds above Trusted towers were tumescent with ominous portent..."

Photo editing

Note 3 picture editPost-shoot, the Note 3 also lets you edit your images. As well as fixing issus with brightness and contrast, you can add creative filters, frames, ‘stickers’, and you can also crop and rotate. Here's an example of the sort of pic you can create.


The Galaxy Note 3 offers solid video capture. There’s refocusing during shooting, 1080p video capture, software image stabilisation and both slow motion and fast motion capture.

Slow motion is captured at 720p, fast motion at full 1080p. Samsung doesn’t drop these into the mode section, making them very easy to miss. But they’re great fun, and can produce some good (and hilarious) results.

You can also record video at 4K resolution, but without a 4K monitor or TV it's not too useful at present.


September 5, 2013, 8:34 am

Hmmm can anyone help me decide whether to purchase this to replace my old winpho7 HTC HD7, or upgrade to a Nokia Lumia 1020 and get the Note 10.1 (2013) edition as a combo? This phone may be a little large, and I can get my app "fix" with the tablet (considering how many apps aren't on WP8). I do want the 1020 for its camera though. Advice?


September 5, 2013, 9:16 am

I have the original Note phone. I find it a great all rounder, and use it for web browsing at home when I can't be bothered to fire up the PC, or around the house. I don't have a tablet, but the problem I would have with a tablet is that it would sit on a coffee table and so not be to hand. It is quite possible to read the BBC news site in desktop view un-zoomed, but more comfortable if zoomed a bit (double tap screen). e-Books are also very readable, and it's a great screen size for sat-nav. For me the Note really does manage the feat of combining the purpose of tablet and mobile phone into one device.
I've also found I take pictures with it, not something I ever anticipated doing. But it is always in the pocket, the regular camera isn't. So I do regret that the camera isn't better - I'd love the camera of the Lumia 1020.

However, my offspring has a WP7.5 phone, and unless WP8 is lightyears improved then the Lumia's OS would drive me bananas. I was very pro-WP when it was mooted, but found it a serious disappointment. SImple things like setting different volumes for ringtone than for games, not possible. Mute the games and the phone won't ring. Maybe they fixed that? Or the byzantine notification system - it is still a mystery to me how to discover if/how you have been messaged or contacted. You have obviously lived with WP for some time, so maybe you would find the reverse to be the case, and be bamboozled by Android?


September 5, 2013, 2:18 pm

I heard in India 3G version of Samsung Note 3 will be available with exynos octa core processor. Can anyone please answer my following questions.
1. If I purchase LTE Qualcomm 800 version from US will it work smoothly in India, if and when 4g is available?
2. Does processor make a lot of difference?
3. Is it true that 4K video recording is not possible with exynos version?
4. What other major differences will be there in two versions?
5. Lastly why two versions at all?


September 5, 2013, 3:10 pm

There is nothing unusual about the leathery back. The blackberry bold had it years ago. And it's nice. I don't understand what's so "old" about leather. Old MONEY maybe lol


September 6, 2013, 1:36 pm

You say "This one's been approved by the Pentagon so it must be good."

Are you being deliberately naive?

Perhaps this "approved" software has a back door for NSA "monitoring" purposes?


September 6, 2013, 2:47 pm

Haha! You're right. Suddenly "Government" grade encryption has lost its aura.

Cat Astrophy

September 7, 2013, 12:36 am

Why does the URL say review and it links to a preview?


September 7, 2013, 6:59 am

There's no mystery about the price. It's on the Samsung website and you can pre-order one there as well - £649.


September 7, 2013, 7:11 am

There's no mystery about the price. There are these things called websites. Samsung has one. The phone can be pre-ordered there for £649.


September 7, 2013, 8:37 am

Hey I'm on AT&T and pre-ordered last night. The final page states that your card will not be charged until the phone is ready to ship. (On or around Oct 1) So I hit submit and completed my order. I noticed today that AT&T has already charged my card. I call in to see why I was charged so early and was told my expected ship date is between Sept 11- Sept 13. Nice. Did anyone else have this happen?

Steve Malone

September 8, 2013, 8:46 pm

Samsung phones are very buggy I'm not a big fan.

Steve Malone

September 8, 2013, 8:47 pm

Sorry Samsung not for me anymore they are just too buggy.


September 8, 2013, 8:52 pm

Check out LG G2 Amazing phone!!


September 9, 2013, 1:04 am

I got the same email, and I preordered mine on Friday . So I called AT&T and I was told the same thing. S I guess we will have our devices by Friday .


September 9, 2013, 9:44 pm

Not interested in the LG phone.


September 9, 2013, 10:13 pm

Yeah, I'm gonna guess the real culprit is user error by the guy who double posts lol.


September 9, 2013, 11:22 pm

I have a Note 1 and am quite happy with it. Its still going strong and whilst 1 poster indicates samsungs are buggy - Ive found it pretty good and reliable. (as I have the other samsungs Ive bought for the rest of the extended family over the last few years). HOWEVER due to my travel - FM radio IS a requirement. Without it - I will need to look elsewhere. once I would have said a changeable battery was as important - but as long as there is a battery cover available - I just swap that.... So the FM radio is a show stopper (and no - you CANT stream when there is no network - and the cost of straming multimedia data when travelling overseas - would break many national budgets.. SO did they bring back the radio ??

Richard Yarrell

September 15, 2013, 1:47 pm

Yeah this dude doesn't have a clue what so ever. Nothing beats Samsung period.

Richard Yarrell

September 15, 2013, 1:50 pm

Lg is the copy cat version. Nobody wanys copy cat stuff when you can have the industry leader in the android space. Samsung rules period..


September 15, 2013, 7:19 pm

These past 2 years, Apple has copied tons of stuff from Android, Windows Phone, and even BB10. And yet they still sell tens of millions of devices every quarter.
Not to mention, the original Galaxy S looked quite a lot like the iPhone, and it sold pretty well too. Stupid hypocritical moron.


September 16, 2013, 3:16 pm

which is a better processor on galaxy note 3 octa or quad?


September 16, 2013, 3:17 pm

wre you able to get some answers?


September 22, 2013, 5:06 am

Most phones you were able to use the FM-reciever on actually had the receiver in the headphones. Maybe there's a similar solution to buy somewhere? Apparently people are supposed to be willing to waste their precious megabytes on something that previously didn't need an internet connection :)


September 23, 2013, 7:37 pm

I don't know everything but I'll try to help
1. Not sure :(
2. The snapdragon is more powerful but I don't think it will make much of a difference power wise.
3. 4k works only on the Snapdragon
4. Again, I don't think there will be much of a difference.
5. My opinion is that Samsung is easing itself into making its own chips popular, but maybe they don't trust the U.S. market with those chips? Maybe the US market it too big to risk it.

Hope that helps! Either way I'm sure you will be just as satisfied!


September 24, 2013, 12:02 pm

I've always had an FM radio on my phone since my first feature-phone, and the headphones always did double duty as an aerial, but never did the headphones house the actual FM receiver itself. I guess it would be neat if they did, for phones without a biult in FM radio.

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