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- Market-leading camera produces brilliant pictures
- All modes supported, including RAW
- Low light performance particularly impressive
Less is more. We've all heard the saying, but is it really true? Samsung certainly thinks so when it comes to the camera on the Galaxy S7.
The Samsung Galaxy S6 had a brilliant camera – we branded it the best on the market in 2015 – but the South Korean giant has messed with its winning formula.
The 16MP snapper which adorned the rear of the S6 is out, with a 12MP offering tagging in for the Samsung Galaxy S7.
The camera does at least sit a lot flusher to the body, but alarm bells may be ringing as that drop in pixels sinks in. Don't panic just yet, though.
Low light performance is one of the big selling points for all smartphone manufacturers, with everyone boasting about how well their cameras can perform when the lights go down.
To that end, Samsung has kept the sensor size the same, but by reducing the number of pixels it means each one is now larger – that allows more light in, thus improving performance in low light and generating sharper, brighter shots.
It's also made the lens wider, enabling you to get more into shot – perfect for picturesque landscapes and towering skyscrapers when you don't want the hassle of shooting a panorama.
That's only half the battle though, as the Galaxy S7 still needs to take great shots when the light is favorable – and thankfully it's good news all round.
The Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge are the first smartphones to feature a dual-pixel sensor, a technology initially built for DSLR cameras. This gives the S7 faster autofocus, again improving the brightness and overall quality of your shots.
The difference is clear to see when you fire up the camera app and hold it up to your subject. Staring at the viewfinder on the screen, your subject appears brighter, lighter and clearer – it's a surprisingly impressive feat, and automatically puts you at ease.
Double-clicking the home button triggers the camera app quick launch, swiftly getting you to the snapper without you having to close another app first. Once the app has loaded you can use the volume keys, as well as the on-screen shutter key, to snap a pic.
The volume keys can also be programmed to zoom or to start video recording if you prefer easy access to either of those instead.
There are plenty of modes and effects to play with on the Galaxy S7, but Samsung's auto mode is excellent for those just wanting a good quality point-and-shoot.
Keep HDR on auto too, and the S7 will take some cracking shots. What really stood out for me was the low light performance. There has been clear improvement in this department, and the camera does an excellent job of sucking in as much light as possible for blur-free, detailed photos. It's genuinely impressive.
For those looking for more control, the Galaxy S7's Pro Mode offers up a whole range of controls including shutter speed, white balance, contrast, brightness and ISO. You can also choose to save images as uncompressed RAW files alongside the standard JPEGs.
There's a wide range of other modes too, with Samsung stalwarts such as panorama, selective focus and slow motion video joined by new additions including Food and Hyperlapse.
The former provides a meal-friendly filter to help you document your culinary adventures, and the latter improves the stability and visibility of timelapse video, while minimizing the file size for easy social sharing.
Samsung's also added Motion picture and Motion panorama to the Galaxy S7's camera arsenal. Motion picture is the South Korean firm's answer to Live Photos, which Apple introduced on the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus.
Trouble is, Apple's implementation is far better. On the Galaxy S7 the split second of video capture is often blurred, and playback requires a tap on an icon in the gallery – there's no intuitive hold down for motion like on the iPhones.
General picture quality from the S7 is superb, though. Colors are bright and vibrant, detail is surprisingly good considering the drop in megapixels, and lighting is top notch thanks to the improved low light capabilities.
Samsung has somehow managed to top the camera it put on the S6 with the Galaxy S7's snapper – it's fantastic.
Round the front, Samsung has resisted the urge that has seen rivals slap 8MP cameras (and in some cases even higher) on their handsets, keeping things at 5MP. The overly oppressive beauty mode is here again, ready and waiting to make you look like an alien – it's best turned off, or at least dialled down.
A genuinely useful feature, though, is the front-facing flash – although you'll note there's no LED mounted on the front of the Galaxy S7. Instead it uses the display to flash a white light at you, for an illuminated selfie in low light surroundings.
Images from the front snapper are good, but lack the detail of rival offerings. It's serviceable, but you'll want to keep your serious snaps for the excellent rear camera.
John joined TechRadar over a decade ago as Staff Writer for Phones, and over the years has built up a vast knowledge of the tech industry. He's interviewed CEOs from some of the world's biggest tech firms, visited their HQs and has appeared on live TV and radio, including Sky News, BBC News, BBC World News, Al Jazeera, LBC and BBC Radio 4. Originally specializing in phones, tablets and wearables, John is now TechRadar's resident automotive expert, reviewing the latest and greatest EVs and PHEVs on the market. John also looks after the day-to-day running of the site.
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