The camera on the Samsung Galaxy S3 is one of the biggest surprises from the Korean firm, and shows quite a step-change in the way it approaches mobile design: it's stuck at 8MP with the sequel to the S2.

We don't think this is much of a problem - the humble mobile phone doesn't need any more than 8MP to take good quality snaps but Samsung has always chased specs in the past, so this is an interesting move.

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

What do you get for that lower spec? Well a thinner device of course - today's camera modules are very much slimmer than their counterparts a year ago, and a 12MP sensor would have had to be thicker or take inferior quality shots.

See the S3's new camera features in action as we demo Buddy Photo Share, Burst Mode, Face Zoom and more in this video:

It's not a next-generation sensor though - we're seeing very similar hardware as that used in the Galaxy S2 with improved (and much improved, at that) software optimisation on the phone rather than bringing stonking picture performance.

One of the big claims for Android 4.0 is the speed with which snaps can be shot when out and about, and that zero shutter lag is very much in effect here with the Galaxy S3. While there's no dedicated shutter button, getting into the camera is a piece of cake thanks to the number of options you've got.

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

Making sure one of the icons on the lock screen is definitely going to help, but there's also a little trick we uncovered that allows you to boot the camera even more quickly: hold the screen and turn the S3 into landscape mode (when on the lock screen) and the camera opens up instantly - and it's even faster with the new update.

Which Ice Cream Sandwich-ified quad-core handset shoots the best photos and video? Find out in our S3 vs HTC One X camera test comparison video:

We measured the time it takes to go from pocket to picture, and while it's a little slower than the HTC One X, it's barely a second slower - we reckon you'll be pleased with the results in under four seconds,

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

Samsung has thankfully dialled back the range of stupid settings you can mess around with on the Galaxy S3, which means a slicker experience when trawling through the settings - plus you can edit the icon placement to make it simpler to find the functions you use most often.

It has, however, added in a new feature with the software update: a wand will allow you to apply effects before shooting. One of the most striking is the change to filter out colours, meaning you can get some great shots where only blue and green are on show, for instance.

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

One of the most novel features on the Galaxy S3 is the ability to recognise faces from within photographs - this is meant to make it simpler to find the people you care about. We're sad the results don't go into the contact's profile within your phone (which would make sense given you have to assign a contact to the tag to make it work) but if you've got them in a group you can see that simply from within the Gallery app.

However - in practice the trick is a little bit hit and miss at times. We'd estimate around 80% of the photos we took got the face spot on (although sometimes questioned whether the tag was right rather than automatically setting it) but the other times it had no idea.

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

The issue seems to be if any part of the face is covered or in slight shade - we're not talking total obfuscation, so we were a little surprised.

However, when it does work, it's mightily impressive, and you can email the photo to those involved (but sadly not upload to Facebook pre-tagged).

There are a number of other features we like too: Burst mode works well, taking 20 photos in a row at around 10 per second, which is great if you trying to take a picture of your cat doing a back flip and want all of the sections. Best Shot can also be used with Burst mode (where the S3 works out the best pic for you from the selection) but you're limited to eight shots in this scenario.

We're probably being a little bit picky, but the processing time after each Best Shot set was taken was too long in our opinion - we want to see evidence of that quad core monster in action. Plus it would be good if we didn't have to set the Burst mode up each time we wanted to use it - on the HTC, it's simply a case of holding down the shutter button.

The front facing camera is closing in on being a decent sensor in its own right – at 1.9MP it's capable of taking non-grainy self portraits and can even record in 720p video as well – we're fans.

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

The other features, such as HDR mode, Beauty mode, Panorama and Smile shot all offer excellent picture quality if you're into that sort of thing - although we can't really see a use for Cartoon other than those that want a blurry mess to show to friends.

Overall, the speed with which you can take a picture, the options on offer and the sheer range of settings for those that want to dig a little bit deeper (the contrast, exposure, ISO levels and white balance tweaks will appeal to many) all combine to make a cracking camera that will be more than adequate for most.

Update: Why not see how the S3's camera compares to the iPhone 4S, HTC One X and Galaxy S2 in our video below?

We can't see the Galaxy S3 winning many cameraphone of the year awards thanks to last-gen hardware on board - but the pictures you take are available quickly, have a variety of ways to improve them and certainly look pretty decent.