Galaxy Note 5 Camera
There actually isn’t much new to talk about with the Galaxy Note 5’s camera, but that’s because the imaging here is a known quantity — this is the same 16MP camera, lenses and OIS from the Galaxy S6. That camera is easily one of the best available in a phone in 2015, which in itself wasn’t too far removed from the great sensor in the Note 4 as well. Samsung has really nailed it with this camera setup, and I’m glad to see it again on the Note 5. An exceptional camera, now with a few extra Pro mode tools, and YouTube Live streaming. While the hardware is the same, there have been small tweaks to the software. The biggest changes are in the Pro mode, where you now have the option for RAW photo capture as well as manual shutter speed (between 1/24000 sec and 10 sec), in addition to the previous set of manual controls like focal point, white balance, ISO and EV. Those are two big features for photography enthusiasts, even though most people will just keep it in the Auto mode. There’s also improved software video stabilization, though like most of the other video features it’s only available when shooting in 1080p resolution instead of the 4K max resolution of the camera. Samsung also included integrated YouTube Live streaming right into the camera, which you can access in two taps as a separate camera mode. Getting signed into your Google Account before you use it the first time is unnecessarily clunky — and it sadly doesn’t support standard Google single sign-on — but thankfully that’s a one-time issue. Once you’re signed in you can send invitations to view your broadcast via SMS (again, a little clunky), or set the broadcast to be publicly viewable on your YouTube page. The video is 1080p and is on roughly a 30-second delay (YouTube’s rules), so it doesn’t quite compete directly to the likes of Periscope in that respect. But the upshot is that videos are saved in perpetuity on your YouTube page. Live streaming in a high quality requires a lot of bandwidth, and the mechanism for setting broadcasts to be live and sharing them out on social networks is sub-optimal — again showing the differences between YouTube and other competitors in this space. Considering the hurdles of live streaming, you’re likely best off just recording a nice 1080p or 4K video clip locally, and uploading it to YouTube (or Facebook, or Instagram) later. Beyond those few changes, the pictures and videos you can get out of the Note 5 are just as impressive as those from the Galaxy S6. Even in complete auto mode (I recommend turning on HDR Auto), the Note 5 snaps crisp, accurate and slightly punchy pictures that look great without any further editing. And perhaps more importantly, it’s just ridiculous how fast the camera is — from launching to capturing and switching settings, everything just flies in this camera. If you can’t tell by now I’m really smitten by taking photos with the Note 5, and the wonderment just never wears off.
THE BEST BIG PHONE
Galaxy Note 5 Bottom line
Though the Galaxy Note 5 may not be the most exciting device in light of its similarities to the Galaxy S6, you can’t downplay the number of advancements in this phone when compared to its predecessor, the Note 4. Samsung has touched every corner of the experience — slimming down the body to make it easier to use, improving the materials dramatically, speeding up the hardware, cleaning up the software a touch, refining the always-great S Pen and still keeping battery life solid. The screen has somehow gotten even better, as have the camera and the fingerprint sensor — the little things that all add up to the Note 5 being an absolutely great phone.