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Samsung Galaxy S5: Camera App and Modes

Andrew Williams

By Andrew Williams



Our Score:


Samsung Galaxy S5: Camera App

We have not been entirely generous to the Samsung Galaxy S5's TouchWiz interface in this review, but its new approach to the camera app is quite sensible. As with Samsung's recent tablets, it pays plenty of attention to how we actually use screens of varying sizes.

There are columns of control buttons on each side of the screen, both being easily accessible when the phone is held in landscape. You'll also need to get two hands involved when shooting in portrait if you want to change settings, but it works pretty well.

Galaxy S5 photo 12

You can customise the mode switches available to your left thumb – typical Samsung style – but the modes that are there fresh out of the box (and likely to be left there by most people) are sensible choices. As standard your left thumb controls the Galaxy S5's HDR and Selective Focus modes. We'll get onto what the new Selective Focus mode does shortly.

The same sort of un-Samsung 'less is more' approach applied to the TouchWiz interface is seen in the camera mode selection a bit too. The Galaxy S4 offered more than 10 special shooting modes, fewer than half of which were useful most of the time. Now there are just six, with the option to download more from the Samsung Apps store (finally giving it a reason to exist).

The Galaxy S5's camera app is one part of the phone that hasn't really been given that much of a visual spruce-up. The Settings pop-out menu is very workmanlike, but we're happy to live with that when it makes it fairly straightforward to use. However, there are some very obvious missing parts in the camera. Galaxy S5 photo 10

Despite having some control over Settings, there's still limited manual control. Unlike the Nokia Lumia 930 and HTC One M8, you can't control shutter speed, white balance control is limited to just a few presets and there's no manual focus. We hope this will be patched up with the introduction of a downloadable full manual mode in the future – for the photo geeks out there.

That said, it's not of great concern for normal users as the Auto mode here is strong. Unlike the HTC One M8's.

Here's a look at the shooting modes you get as standard with the Galaxy S5.

Core Camera Modes


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Samsung doesn't seem to have changed its HDR mode algorithm much in the Galaxy S5, but it was already pretty great. It's effective, dramatically increasing image quality on cloudy days or with backlit scenes. It's also pretty quick now. Shot-to-shot speeds with HDR are around 1.5 seconds – not bad at all.

One of the neatest parts of the Galaxy S5's HDR mode is that it gives you a live preview of roughly what your shot will look like on-screen before you shoot. We'll cover HDR image quality in-depth in our camera image quality segment

Selective Focus

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Phone modes like Selective Focus are the mobile phone camera gimmick of the season. They emulate the wide or variable apertures of dedicated cameras, or the shallow depth of field effects you can get with a good camera lens.

The HTC One M8 is the camera that puts the most effort into this. By comparison, the Galaxy S5's Selective Focus is a flimsy software solution. It involves the phone focusing on and taking pictures of several focal points in the same scene, then merging the results so you can choose which plane is in focus post-shoot. The mode also makes out of focus areas a bit more blurry.

While the results are passable, it takes ages to shoot and only works within a very narrow set of criteria – a subject within 50cm and a background at least 1.5m away. It's a bit rubbish.

Scene/Extra Modes

HDR and Selective focus are put right at the top of the camera app. But there are other modes within the Mode 'drawer' accessed by your right thumb.

Galaxy S5 photo 11

Auto Mode

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You should use this mode most of the time. It's a solid automatic shooting mode and doubles as an extremely effective, and aggressive low-light mode, albeit one that slows down the Galaxy S5's shooting performance significantly.

Beauty Face

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Just like the Galaxy S4's Beauty Face mode, this smoothes-out people's faces, removing skin blemishes and wrinkles in the process. It doesn't look remotely natural on its highest setting and is the phone version of airbrushing. But apparently there's a lot of call for this stuff.

Shot & More

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Galaxy S5 photo 28With this mode Samsung has combined all the burst-shot effects we saw in the Galaxy S4. These are what really cluttered up last year's camera app, so it's great to see them put into a pen people can ignore more easily.

Once you've taken the burst of shots, you can choose between Best Photo, Best Face, Drama Shot, Easer and Panning shot sub-modes. The more dynamic of these let you remove objects from a photo and feature multiple instances of the same moving object.

PanoramaMini line

This is a classic mobile phone photo mode. Panorama lets you take almost-360-degree panorama shots, either vertically or horizontally. They're not taken at full resolution, but they'd be absolutely massive if they were.

Virtual Tour

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The most unusual Galaxy S5 photo mode is virtual tour. It lets you walk around your house (street, school, water park, whatever) taking photos and the phone then makes a rolling composite video of the photos, using pans, zooms and fades to make the transitions appear somewhat seamless.

This mode would be useful to show someone your new house, or one you're thinking about buying. But otherwise we can't imagine many people using it.

Dual Camera

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This final inbuilt mode has become popular in phones over the last year or so. It takes a photo, with a 'postage stamp' of the footage from the front camera (i.e. the one pointing at you) embedded into the frame. It'll be handy for those who want to capture pics of the whole family, without missing out the Mum/Dad taking the snap.

Other modes

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At present there are four other modes you can download from the Samsung Apps store, and they're ones we've seen before in Samsung phones. You can grab Animated Photo, Sound & Shot, Sports Shot and Surround Shot, which takes a shot of the full 360-degree view around you from all angles.

We're guessing these were the least popular modes in the previous phones. But they're all free to download.


April 8, 2014, 7:36 am

Its a keeper.


April 8, 2014, 8:50 am

According to PA, loudspeaker of S5 is louder than HTC One(M8) hmm...


April 8, 2014, 8:56 am

Louder doesn't necessarily mean better. You've also got to consider location and actual quality. S5 loses on both points.


April 8, 2014, 10:04 am

Location of speakers, your review of One(M8) stated that "As your thumbs move directly over the drivers, your digits' movements do (slightly) alter the tonality of the sound" Indeed I found this noticeably annoying whilst playing a game and etc.

It seems like the location has cons and pros, don't you think? Of course you are entitled your opinion, but I'm just saying people don't think the location of speaker as an outright winning factor.


April 8, 2014, 10:27 am

I'm a different Andy (Yes, I appreciate the confusion), and yes you have a point. We still think the HTC's are better overall, though.


April 8, 2014, 2:20 pm

Im a big fan of Samsung products but why oh why would they have a protruding camera lens which detracts from the look/ feel.


April 8, 2014, 6:35 pm

I won't be buying it for one reason. It's a Samsung.


April 8, 2014, 7:52 pm

Water resistant :)

looks really Nice :)


April 8, 2014, 10:26 pm

I was able to hold one in a Voda shop today.
So like the Note 3 I recently did a deal on but more pocketable.
I wish I'd waited. Sighs.

PS, some sites claim it uses a nano sim?


April 9, 2014, 6:29 am

And the reason I won't buy it: Knox!

Tim Sutton

April 11, 2014, 10:53 am

I held one of these yesterday.

It actually looks worse than the S4.Those bezels are HUGE.

It feels nasty and cheap.

The interface design is awful. You've got Touchwiz, Tizen and Android all looking and handling differently and all fighting for space on one handset. There are FOUR texting apps and THREE music players. The settings page is SIX SCREENS long. It's insanely cluttered and impossible to enjoy.

I can't see how anyone would look at this handset and choose it over even an S4. Physically the S4 is the better looking of the two (they're both ugly) and the S4s software isn't quite so schizophrenic.

I'm.. how is this a 9/10 handset guys? How? It's actually less good than the phone it's replacing.


April 11, 2014, 3:58 pm

Totally agree, This is a piece of overpriced plastic!

And how did they decide the price is £499, I can only see offers for £569?


April 11, 2014, 4:28 pm

I have some of the same criticisms. I think the HTC One M8 is a much 'nicer' phone, and I rate the Sense software more highly than TouchWiz.

However, the excellent screen quality and very good camera quality won us round.

The display in particular is a lot better this time around. It surprised me quite how good it is in various conditions - I've always been an LCD rather than OLED fan in phones (plasma in TVs, natch). But the S5 has won be around.

The camera too is a big improvement in certain conditions. I've heard some criticisms of the new 'faux stabilisation' feature. However, the way it is effectively built into the Auto mode means it'll result in better pictures for a whole load of people.

For me, though, the screen is the biggest winner here. And SOME of the S5's bad bits can be patched away with customisations either supplied directly by Samsung or Android.


April 11, 2014, 5:29 pm

The comment about the display being so much better than the one in the M8 is a bit strange, as Samsung's displays still have obvious issues : lower brightness than LCD and fuzziness due to the pentile arrangement. It really is a matter of preference. I sense a bit of ''fanboyism'' here. Shouldn't happen in a professional review.


April 11, 2014, 6:09 pm

I can smell a flop from Samsung's top model this time. Why Samsung decided they can have the highest priced flagship phone while they are making it out of plastic? In the UK it is £569 SIM free, which is more than the Sony Z2 £549, the HTC One M8 £529 and the iPhone 5S £549!
It's not surprising they announced a drop in profits.


April 11, 2014, 10:57 pm

What is wrong with 'plastic'? What better material is there? Robust. Light weight. Impact absorbing. RF-transparent. Engineers to fine tolerances. I can't readily think of another material which fits the purpose so well. Quality is fitness for purpose, not bling.


April 11, 2014, 11:00 pm

Sheesh - they missed that in the review, it's a Samsung?


April 11, 2014, 11:07 pm

"Samsung's displays still have obvious issues.."
So why even bother reading a review - you already know that all Samsung displays are the same hence this one is necessarily the same as its predecessors.


April 11, 2014, 11:55 pm

Plastic is unpleasant to the touch, gets static charge, lacks reasuring weight, flexes, creaks, poor aesthetics.
I agree it has many great uses, but not in a TOP OF THE LINE product. Don't forget you are buying the most expensive smart phone out there and what you get a rubish bin plastic shell.

An Droid

April 12, 2014, 2:19 am

I actually have a S5, so my comments are based on interaction with the phone and not hearsay.
The good:
- a really amazing screen, and rated the best by everyone who has tested it. It really IS that good
- a huge improvement in the camera
- scaled down TW (works and looks better)
- dimpled soft touch back cover is a pleasure to hold
- ultra power saving mode (I travel a lot, and often used to run out of juice after a long day of normal use)
- heart rate monitor and S-Health (I had a 3rd party HR monitor on my S3 as I do exercise regularly)
- it's water resistant
- lightning fast download (10% faster than S3 over same wi-fi

The bad:
- the square shape (I preferred the more curvy shape of my S3
- the chrome look plastic surround ( satin fining on S3 was classier)


April 12, 2014, 8:16 am

Why do you feel the need to up-vote all your own comments?

Tim Sutton

April 12, 2014, 1:16 pm

I really like the M8 (except for the name) too.

I went in to have a look at the S5 because my work will have a look at it for employees and had my Lumia 1520 with me, and the difference between the two in terms of quality is, to my eyes, enormous.

The Lumia feels and looks like £500 worth of electronics, the S5 doesn't. And then you try and actually use the S5 and its WEIRD mish mash of three OS's and the gap just gets wider.

It really seems odd to me to give such high marks to a handset that is, as delivered by Samsung, mediocre both to look at and to use.


April 12, 2014, 6:18 pm

Because the designers at Disqus decided posters should have this option and I am using it - as designed.


April 13, 2014, 7:09 pm

i have a galaxy phone and i'm telling you apple is way better than his piece of crap i have right now


April 13, 2014, 7:49 pm

For the life of me, I just cannot understand why people hate on the samsung products because they are not some aluminum unibody design. Polycarbonate is rather durable, resistant to scratches and reduces the overall weight of the phone. The texturing of the polycarbonate is the only thing I have issue with (See S4).... smooth PC is a fingerprint magnet.

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