Samsung Galaxy S5 vs S4 Camera Specs Comparison

In this article I want to talk about the Samsung Galaxy S5 camera and why it’s rear facing camera is among the best on the market right now, and see how it compared to the Samsung Galaxy S4 rear facing camera.

Many people buy a smartphone for its performance, others for its look or weather sealing, others give more attention to the camera. After all, most people make use of the camera more than any other hardware component for capturing photos and videos and sharing them on social networks with other people.  We all want that camera to offer great image quality and preferably a better low-light performance.

Samsung Galaxy S5 camera
Samsung Galaxy S5 rear-facing camera and LED flash

With the Samsung Galaxy S5, Samsung spent time improving the camera over its predecessor, the S4. Before we dive deep into the specs and talking about the S5 camera hardware components, let’s first take a look at the key differences between the S5 and the S4 main cameras.

S5 vs S4 – Camera Specs comparison

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Quickly looking at the specs, we can see that the S5 main benefits include a larger sensor, newly developed sensor with ISOCELL sensor design to improve image quality (barriers between individual pixels, which reduces the pixel crosstalk by 30%),  Hybrid AF instead of only contrast-detect AF, 4K video recording and weather- sealing.

So in fact, Samsung targeted the hardware components that actually needed to be improved to overall improve the camera’s performance and image quality.

The difference in the defocused background is minor, because the sensor size is only slightly larger and the camera features the same maximum aperture and fixed focal length lens. Samsung however added the Selective Focus feature, which allows uses to enable a shallower depth of field effect, even after the image was taken.

What the cameras does in the “Selective Focus” is capturing three sequential images, which allows the user to later choose the appropriate defocus effect that look best for a particular shot. The idea is to mimic the shallow depth of field effect in a degree that you usually can achieve with a large-sensor camera and a fast lens (e.g. DSLRs, Mirrorless). Because the S5 sensor is relatively small, the depth of field is relatively large, so it’s hard to notice get that effect, unless you are very close to the subject and the background elements are far from the subject.

I personally find this feature very useful, because it allows you to better isolate the subject from distracting background elements, and gives the photos a unique and professional look.

1/2.6-inch vs 1/3.06-inch sensor size comparison
1/2.6-inch vs 1/3.06-inch sensor size comparison

Some people might prefer the S5 camera to have a wider field of view  (ie. 24mm equivalent lens) or a lower resolution (=> larger pixels) to get better low-light performance. Those of you who shoot mainly in daylight will certainly benefit from the extra resolution, and the new sensor design really help to achieve higher details and better per-pixel resolution.

The S5 was tested thoroughly against the S4 and many reviewers came to the same conclusion that the S5 produces sharper image (resolves slightly more details), has better low-light performance overall and better White Balance accuracy.

Looking at DxoMark results, the S5 achieved an overall 79 score compared to t5 of the S4, bypassing the Sony Xperia Z and Z1 cameras, even the Nokia 808 PureView and nokia Lumix 1020. The difference in ‘Photo’ (Stills) is relatively small (80 vs 79) with the main difference in the mobile video category (79 vs 68). DxO Mark also stated that the S5 offers the best video quality tested to date, quite impressive results isn’t it.

The Samsung Galaxy S5 camera therefore conquer new heights and put itself as the leading camera for both stills and video recording. Of course larger sensor cameras like the one used in the 808 PureView (1/1.2-inch 10.67×8.00mm) will give you a shallower depth of field, but Samsung combat this with the Selective Focus feature, which is an alternative solution.

S5 4K Video Recording vs S4 Full HD

So we know that the S5 eats the S4 for breakfast when it comes to video quality and features, but of course the feature that grabbed the most attention was the S5 4K video recording. The S5 can record Full HD 30p video as well, but it also feature 4K UHD 2160p video recording, a resolution that is 4 times that of the Full HD, bringing video quality which is overwhelming in mobile phone terms.

4K Ultra HD vs Full HD comparison
4K Ultra HD vs Full HD - relative size comparison

4K videos will look amazing on your 4K HDTV or 4K computer displays, but they also take more space on the memory card. In order to really comprehend how good 4K look, you’ll have to view the videos on a 4K display, not on a lower resolution one. You can always playback the video in VLC in the actual video resolution in order to comprehend the video size difference and details, but obviously the main benefit of 4K is viewing your videos on a 4K display.

Take a look at this 4K Ultra HD video test shot by Alverto Del Baro:

You can prefer shooting at Full HD 1080p with either the S4 or S5 if you prefer a smaller video file and don’t intend to play your videos on a 4K display. That said, you might prefer shooting in 4K now and enjoy those videos on your Full HD display now, and on a 4K display in the future.

Hybrid AF vs Contrast-detect AF

Another important feature that shouldn’t be ignored is the new Hybrid AF system. This is a very important feature, as it’s improves the AF performance and accuracy of the camera, and the faster and more accurate the AF is, the better.

A Hybrid AF means that the camera takes advantage of both contrast-detect AF and phase-detect AF, rather than only contrast-detect AF as the S4 has. This helps improve the AF speed, especially useful for subject tracking. If you look at the video above shot by Ubergizmodocom, you can see that the S5 autofocus reacts much faster to any changes in the distance in the center AF point. In the S4 it takes more time for the AF to determine the right focus. The main benefits for this is when shooting a subject that moves further away or towards the camera.


The Samsung Galaxy S5 rear-facing camera improves upon its predecessor in various ways, including image quality, low-light performance, software user interface and features, Hybrid AF, video recording and obviously the option to shoot in humid and dusty environment without worrying damaging your phone.

Not anyone is convinced by those features. Some people wished Samsung used a wider and faster lens, and not everyone was pleased with the 4K video recording. Keeping things in perspective, we need to understand that we are still dealing with a small sensor and all the cons it brings with it. That said, the S5 was thoroughly tested by leading camera and mobile phone reviewers and tested with various software, and the S5 was able to outperform the S4, mainly in videos in with its AF performance.

I personally wouldn’t upgrade to the S5 for its camera alone, but those of you who own the SII/SIII, I think that you’ll find this upgrade to be well worthy. The S4 still has one of the most impressive mobile phone cameras around, but it’s great to see Samsung improving upon the features that I personally think that should be improved in any mobile phone camera.

There are tons of S5 sample images on the web and many 4K videos on YouTube and Vimeo, so you can get to see how good the S5 camera really is. The S5 will certainly have its competition in the next iteration of new devices, and it just pushes the technology innovation even further, so we all get to see better mobile phone cameras in the future.