Samsung Galaxy Note II N7100 review: Writing home
Great 8MP camera
The Samsung Note II's main camera can capture stills of up to 3264 x 2448 pixels and 1080p videos, while the one on the front takes 1.9MP pictures and 720p video.
The interface is typical for a Samsung droid - a right column with the essential controls (virtual shutter key surrounded by a still/video mode toggle and a gallery shortcut) and a left column with four customizable shortcuts.
The camera app offers a bounty of features including geotagging, touch focus, HDR mode, Panorama, burst shot (with Best photo), Share shot, face and smile detection with Best faces, low-light mode, digital image stabilization, scenes, effects and several more.
Thanks to the fast quad-core processor, it can also simultaneously record HD (1080p or 720p) video and take near full-resolution pictures (those are cropped to an aspect ratio of 16:9 to match that of the videos and what's seen in the viewfinder).
The Best faces feature snaps a burst of 5 photos, keeping track of people's faces. Later, you can pick any of the 5 photos for each person's face individually.
The Samsung Galaxy Note II camera quality is better than that of the original Note and nearly identical to that of the Galaxy S III camera though processing seems a bit different. The noise levels are kept down and the level of fine detail is high. Colors look good though they are slightly oversaturated across the board (the S III mostly pushes the green channel).
The dynamic range is good and the Note II manages the exposure of photos pretty well - it manages to preserve most highlights at the expense of some underexposed shadows.
Here are some camera samples:
Photo quality comparison
The Samsung Galaxy Note II has plenty of competition in our Photo quality comparison tool as most current flagship shoot stills at 8MP.
In the synthetic resolution chart, the Note II and Galaxy S III are neck and neck. In a blind test the two are virtually impossible to tell apart. The second chart shows fairly clean color rendering. The grass, gravel and white noise squares have been smudged by noise reduction, though no worse than what the S III did. White balance under artificial lighting (the third chart) was accurate.
The video camera user interface is identical to that of the still camera. During recording, you can snap 6MP stills and use the pause button to do a multi-part video in the same file.
The camera can apply various effects to the video and there are slow-motion (1/2x) and fast motion (2x) modes. Touch focus during recording is available, with an AF button to switch back to regular continuous autofocus.
FullHD videos are recorded in MP4 files with bitrate ranging from 17Mbps to 19Mbps. The framerate is a smooth 30fps and the audio is captured in stereo at 48kHz sampling rate and a bitrate of around 130Kbps.
The quality of the video rivals that of the Samsung Galaxy S III. Even small details and movements are captured (like the blades of grass swaying in the wind) with very little noise. Colors are a bit oversaturated too.
Check out this 1080p video sample we shot with the Galaxy Note II:
You can download an untouched video sample - 1080p@30fps (10s, 22.2MB).
Video quality comparison
The Samsung Galaxy Note II shoots 1080p videos and once again they are nearly indistinguishable from the Galaxy S III. The artificial grass looks great and there's even some texture in the blue "sky" background. Even if the lighting is less than perfect, the Note II captures plenty of detail though noise starts to appear. As far as synthetic resolution in video goes, the Note II is among the best.