iPhone 4S vs Samsung Galaxy S2 Camera Comparison

With the introduction of the iPhone 4S, I’ve been keen to see how it compares to one of Samsung’s flagship devices, the Galaxy S 2.  Of the many aspects of both phone to compare, I was most interested in which had the batter camera in terms of both videos and photos, so I tested them out!


Let me start by saying I am nowhere close to being a ‘great’ photographer, so when I take pictures, I pretty much just frame the shot and click.  Sure, I know enough to manually adjust ISO and shutter speeds (when using a camera that allows it) to try and compensate for certain lighting situations, but that’s about all I know.  In other words, my observations of which camera is better should be taken with a few grains of salt (someone else may have been able to frame my sample shots better/etc to make them turn out better); think of me as just an average person taking photos/videos with their phone (because I am!). 


To try and make as true of a test as I could, I strapped both phones to a piece of double cardboard (one right above the other) and had both cameras vertically lined up.  My idea was that this would allow them to take as close to the same photo/video as possible:




Both devices have a maximum video resolution on the rear camera of 1920×1080 – however, the Galaxy S 2 allows you to adjust the recording resolution to lower resolutions as well (ie, 1280×720, 640×480, etc) whereas you are stuck at the full 1920×1080 on the iPhone.  While by itself that’s not really an issue, it could become one once you start to add apps, photos, and music.  On the iPhone, each second of video takes up approximately 2.89MB (that’s about 173MB a minute), and given that there’s no expandable storage options, I would have liked the ability to take lower quality videos (if even at 1280×720) if I wanted to conserve space.  



That being said, after taking a video of the same scenes with both cameras, it’s my opinion that the video quality of the iPhone is better than the Galaxy S 2:

iPhone 4S vs Galaxy S 2–Camera Comparison

(note that in the video above, I had to make some adjustments during editing to try and have a good even ‘cut’ between both clips and therefore had to push the SGS2 clip up a bit in the frame – that’s not an issue with either phone but rather the way I took the videos with my ‘cardboard rig’)


The colors on the iPhone are less washed out, bright scenes (like when looking directly at the sun) don’t create as much ‘lens flare’ (is that the right term?), it focuses much faster and accurately, and with its video stabilization there’s much less jitter.    The Galaxy S 2 does have a couple advantages, however, such as being able to choose lower resolutions to record at, having a slightly wider angle, and a few different color effects (sepia, negative, b&w, etc). 



They’re very close and it’s hard to say which one produces better quality photos overall.  As with videos, the iPhone 4S can only take shots at it’s maximum resolution of 8MP (3264×2448) whereas the Galaxy S2 (same max 8mp res) can take lower res shots; though, unlike with videos, I can’t think of a situation where you’d ever want to take lower res shots, so that’s a non-issue to me. 


Here are a few sample shots (iPhone 4S will always be on the left, Samsung Galaxy S2 on the right):



Here we have a simple shot at the streets below my balcony.   In this particular example, the colors are more vivid on the SGS2, while the tree line where it meets the sky seems less washed out on the iPhone (but, perhaps that’s because there was ‘less’  bright sky in the field of view on the iPhone while it was focusing, thus helping the resulting iPhone photo?)



This is taking a picture of the side of my building with the bright sun just around the corner (to see how it does with light and dark objects in the field of view). Other than the iPhone making it’s picture a tad brighter, they both look the same.  (iPhone was ISO-64 1/1905s exposure, SGS2 was ISO-32 1/1479s exposure)



In this room, it’s fairly dim, so I figured this would be a good ‘indoor’ photo test.  The SGS2 photo is a bit darker and looks a bit noisier even though it was shot as ISO-400 and 1/17s exposure vs the iPhone which was at ISO-800 1/15s exposure. 



Here I tried taking photos inside my very dark bathroom.  As in the previous photos, the SGS2 was a bit darker though I’m not sure if it looks noisier or if it’s just cause it’s simply darker, but the iPhone shot does look slightly better (if not, at least brighter) and both images had the same iso/exposure as above. 



Here we have the same dark bathroom photo only this time with the LED flash enabled.   This time, the Galaxy S 2 seems to have taken the better photo as it’s a bit brighter while also sharper with more defined colors.   The Galaxy S 2 was at ISO-125 and 1/20s exposure with the iPhone 4S at ISO-250 and 1/16s exposure. 



One last shot is of my cat on the duck mat.  The two were very close here, and only upon zooming far in does it look like the iPhone’s photo is ever so slightly more clear – but either way, they’re almost the same.   Galaxy S 2:  ISO-125 at 1/17s, iPhone 4S: ISO-200 at 1/20s.


Software/Camera app:

Both phones have their advantages over the other in this department.  The great thing about the iPhone 4S is it’s zero shutter lag and it’s ability to access the camera from the lock screen.   For the shutter, as soon as you tab the shutter button, the iPhone almost instantly focuses and takes the photo – however, on the Galaxy S 2, it takes about a second to focus (or sometimes longer if it’s poorly lit) and up to another second for it to take the shot.   And for the lockscreen, I absolutely love the ability to access the camera by double clicking the iPhone home button and tapping the camera icon and very much dislike the fact that I have to unlock the screen and wait for the camera to load on the SGS2:


Then we have the Galaxy S 2 where one of it’s main advantages over the iPhone 4S is it’s numerous photo and video mode options.  While the iPhone 4 just has the ability to show a grid or use HDR,

iphone hdr options


the Galaxy S 2 has a multitude of features such as smile/blink detection, panaramic, beach, sunset, fireworks, manual ISO/white balance/exposure/color effects:


To see all of the features, be sure to check out my in depth review of the SGS2 and scroll down to the camera section. 



When speaking strictly about quality from the photos and videos I’ve taken the past few days, the iPhones 4S has the better camera.  The iPhone’s videos are much smoother thanks to it’s stabilized lens, and the photos (on average) come out to be a bit more clearer/sharper.  It’s not substantially better, nor in anyway is the camera on the Galaxy S 2 bad, but it’s still better.   That being said, I’ve been using the S2 for 6 months now and have been plenty satisfied with it as a camera when I don’t have my ‘real’ one with me.  The Galaxy S 2 does, however, win in the category of feature or the camera with it’s ability to take photos and videos at varying resolutions, being able to manually choose the ISO/exposure/white balance/color options, as well as various scene settings such as beach/portrait/fireworks/sunset/text/etc. 


In the end, based on the photos and videos I took above, it is my opinion that the iPhone 4S does have a better quality camera/lens.    Do you have one of the devices and think otherwise, or perhaps you agree?  Do you have any sample shots or videos that you’d like to share?  Any questions or requests for me to take better samples or comparisons?  Let me know in the comments!

23 thoughts on “iPhone 4S vs Samsung Galaxy S2 Camera Comparison”

  1. I’m really stuck trying to decide between these two phones, so reviews like this really do help.
    I think the colors look better on the S2. Do you think they were accurate, or was the actual colors closer to the iphone?

    Good review.

  2. I’m still undecided too….. too much! Nice to see reviews that don’t end in extremes “Iphone” vs “Android” lovers. If i wanted just a camera de N8 is impressive! But just this night things changed… the IOS5 in the 4S is not jailbroken yet and far from being…

  3. thanks its an excellent review, the video test is just what I’m looking for! (I hardly find any comparison video on the internet) Btw I love the views from your balcony! Nice cat as well :)

  4. I just want to say one thing: Iphone apps allow you to take photos and videos in different definitions, not only in HD or 8 MP!

  5. I would say GS2 camera is better, the camera of 4S color tend to be yellowish while GS2’s color is more neutral and more realistic in color…..

    one more thing if you try camera360 app both on 4S and GS2,
    GS2 produce more better pix than on 4s.
    The only advantage of 4s in totality is because of their thousand of apps..

    i have both and i use my GS2 more in browsing and texting
    while playing apps with my 4s.

    But i have to say the OS of apple is really very ease to use compare to android.
    But android has more features like live widgets and
    unstapable customization
    Maybe if i try ICs which i did not yet, maybe it can compete with ios 5.
    The ability of gS2 to read multi extension of video like flv avi mpeg and have the powerful flash is really great… which i
    miss so much in 4s, its like copy this and play it….

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  7. The iPhone and the galaxy used for too difference things…
    IPhone is more for gaming and media…galaxy is for browsing wand work…
    How ever galaxy is more customized them iPhone…each one have his benefits…

    1. What? No. How can you say the Iphone is a media device when you have to copy files via itunes and generally have to convert them first? Also, Angry Birds is not gaming. Same thing for the SGS2; you don’t really know what you’re talking about.

  8. Beautiful review! Thanks a lot :) How have you done to have this information about the ISO values and the exposition time? This parameters can be setted before taking a photo (entering in the OS for example)?? For example it’s possible to set a very short exposition time (for example 1/1479s like the 2nd photo) taking a photo of a drop that hit a water surface or of a flame??

  9. The clip at the top of the article, shows that either the iphone camera can deal much better with shakey hands than the sgs2, or the sgs2 was set much less stable, leaving it to continuously ajust. If the latter is true, that would account at least partially for a less clearer image.

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  11. Samsung galaxy s2 is the best because its camera is amazing and has great picture quality than iphone 4s. IPhones are overall good but sometimes it have camera problem like iphone 4s camera hangs and freeze mobile but there is a solution for that at Iphone camera solution . If you have same kind of problem in your iphone device then must see these solutions. Hope you would like the solution. As it’s very easy to understand & implement. Hope the solutions work for your Iphone 4s camera trouble.

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