For all of the features and shooting modes in Samsung's Galaxy line of smartphones, one area where camera performance particularly falls short is in low-light conditions, even on high-end smartphones like the Galaxy S4, Galaxy Note 3, and Galaxy S4 Zoom.
After having spent time with multiple Galaxy models, I have to say that I rarely find myself using the camera after sundown. The same goes for indoor shots with less than optimal lighting.
Regardless of whether it's a 5-megapixel or 13-megapixel image, these photos suffer from graininess and blurring, or just downright darkness. And though there are a few camera modes designed to help, like night mode, I've never been completely satisfied with the end result.
Auto mode does usually turn on the flash, which, on Samsung smartphone cameras, tends to blow out the image with too much light, or completely remove the ambiance so it appears that the photo was taken midday. If you've ever been on the receiving end of that dual-LED flash, you know just how bright this can be.
Low-light shots are a problem for all mobile players, but Samsung's rivals do better. Mobile players like Nokia (Lumia 1020), LG (G2), HTC (One), and Apple (iPhone 5S) have made great strides in the area of low-light conditions; each has scored well in CNET's in-house tests when taken using automatic settings.
According to a recent PatentBolt report, Samsung has developed a new 13-megapixel camera module that promises much brighter images and low power consumption.
Said to be eight times brighter than the current camera module, it is also said to feature antishake and optical image stabilization settings. The new camera sensor is expected to go into production in early 2014 and may find its way into the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 successors.
Galaxy S4 Zoom: More camera than phone
This technology could also roll out the carpet for a new smartphone line, say, for instance, the rumored Galaxy F that would exist outside of the Galaxy S series.
Looking ahead, I suspect that the next generation of smartphones will see much greater focus on camera technology. Consumers are learning that getting a terrific shot is not only a matter of having more megapixels.
With CES 2014 right around the corner, now is the time to keep an eye out for standout camera experiences. In other words, keep your eyes perked for buzzwords like OIS, optical zoom, and low light.