DxOMark Mobile Report: Samsung Galaxy Note 5

Summary

The Galaxy Note 5 is the latest model in Samsung's line of Note large-format smartphones and, like its predecessors, comes with an S-Pen Stylus as an alternative input device. In terms of camera specifications the Note 5 offers very similar hardware to what we've seen on the Galaxy S6, S6 Edge and S6 Edge+. A 1/2.6-inch 16MP CMOS sensor is combined with a fast F1.9 aperture and an optical image stabilization system. The camera is also capable of recording 4K video and, like on the S6 Edge+, in video mode the OIS is now supported by an improved digital stabilization algorithm.

With a DxOMark Mobile score of 86 the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 achieves the same score as its stable mate Galaxy S6 and ranks only behind the Galaxy S6 Edge+ and Sony Xperia Z5 in the DxOMark smartphone rankings. The DxOMark testers liked the "good exposure and dynamic range in all conditions, very good white balance and detail preservation in outdoor conditions". Images showed "vivid, pleasant and realistic colors in most conditions" and the testers were also pleased with the Note 5's flash performance. On the downside, "strong ringing is visible", "some noise is visible in areas of plain color" and the testers found some "autofocus inaccuracies in macro mode".

In video mode the DxO team liked the "very high levels of detail in bright light, overall good exposure and color rendering, good tracking capabilities and good autofocus in low light". However, they also found "visible loss of detail in low light, temporal luminance noise on edge transitions" and jitter artifacts when walking with the camera while recording indoors. The autofocus also has trouble triggering in some specific scenes.

Still Photography

Color, Exposure and Contrast

The DxOMark team found that the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 images showed "good exposure and dynamic range, very good white balance transition in bright light and vivid, pleasant and realistic colors in all conditions". However, "in very bright scenes some highlights are blown out" and "slight color shading is visible under low tungsten light".

Overall DxOMark awarded the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 scores of:

  • 4.6 out of 5 for Exposure
  • 4.7 out of 5 for White Balance accuracy
  • 4.3 out of 5 for Color shading in low light*
  • 4.5 out of 5 for Color shading in bright light*
  • 3.0 out of 5 for Color Rendering in low light
  • 4.5 out of 5 for Color Rendering in bright light

*Color Shading is the nasty habit cellphone cameras have of rendering different areas of the frame with different color shifts, resulting in pictures with, for example, pinkish centers and greenish corners.

Noise and Details

DxOMark's engineers reported that the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 images show "very good detail preservation in outdoor conditions" but there is also "some noise noticeable in areas of plain color".

Texture Acutance

Texture acutance is a way of measuring the ability of a camera to capture images that preserve fine details, particularly the kind of low contrast detail (such as fine foliage, hair or fur) that can be blurred away by noise reduction or obliterated by excessive sharpening.

Sharpness is an important part of the quality of an image, but while it's easy to look at an image and decide visually whether it's sharp or not, the objective measurement of sharpness is less straightforward.

An image can be defined as "sharp" if edges are sharp and if fine details are visible. In-camera processing means that it's possible to have one of these (sharp edges) but not the other (fine details). Conventional MTF measurements tell us how sharp an edge is, but have drawbacks when it comes to measuring fine detail preservation. Image processing algorithms can detect edges and enhance their sharpness, but they can also find homogeneous areas and smooth them out to reduce noise.

Texture acutance, on the other hand, can qualify sharpness in terms of preservation of fine details, without being fooled by edge enhancement algorithms.

A dead leaf pattern is designed to measure texture acutance. It's obtained by drawing random shapes that occlude each other in the plane, like dead leaves falling from a tree. The statistics of this model follow the distribution statistics in natural images.

In this example from a DSLR without edge enhancement, sharpness seems equal on edge and on texture. Many details are visible in the texture.

In this second example, edges have been digitally enhanced, and the edge looks over sharp, with visible processing halos ("ringing"). On the texture part, many details have disappeared.

At first sight, the images from these two cameras may appear equally sharp. A sharpness measurement on edges will indeed confirm this impression, and will even show that the second camera is sharper. But a closer examination of low contrasted textures shows that the first camera has better preservation of fine details than the second. The purpose of the texture acutance measurement is to qualify this difference.

Note: Acutance is a single value metric calculated from a MTF result. Acutance is used to assess the sharpness of an image as viewed by the human visual system, and is dependent on the viewing conditions (size of image, size of screen or print, viewing distance). Only the values of texture acutance are given here. The measurements are expressed as a percentage of the theoretical maximum for the chosen viewing condition. The higher the score, the more details can be seen in an image. 
 
For all DxOMark Mobile data presented on connect.dpreview.com we're only showing 8MP equivalent values, which gives us a level playing field for comparison between smartphone cameras with different megapixel values by normalizing all to 8MP (suitable for fairly large prints). DxOMark also offers this data for lower resolution use-cases (web and onscreen). For more information on DxOMark's testing methodology and acutance measurements please visit the website at www.dxomark.com.
Luminance texture acutance is a little better in daylight than under tungsten illumination.
Texture acutance in Note 5 images is class-leading in brighter light but drops a little in dark conditions.

Edge Acutance

Edge acutance is a measure of edge sharpness in images captured by the phone's camera. Again we're only looking at the most demanding of the three viewing conditions that DxOMark reports on - the 8MP equivalent.
In terms of edge acutance the Note 5 is beating the competition in all conditions. 
Edge acutance is very high in all light conditions.

Visual Noise

Visual noise is a value designed to assess the noise in an image as perceived by the human visual system, depending on the viewing condition (size of image, size of screen or print, viewing distance). The measurements have no units and can be simply viewed as the weighted average of noise standard deviation for each channel in the CIE L*a*b* color space. The lower the measurement, the less noise in the image.

Noise levels are low across all light levels.  
The Note 5's measured noise levels are below the competition's in all conditions. 

Noise and Detail Perceptual scoring

DxOMark engineers don't just point camera phones at charts, they also take and analyze scores of real-world shots and score them accordingly. Their findings for the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 are:

Natural scene

  • Texture (bright light): 4.8 out of 5
  • Texture (low light): 3.6 out of 5
  • Noise (bright light): 4.1 out of 5
  • Noise (low light) 3.9 out of 5
Bright light sample shot
100% crop: fine luminance noise is visible in areas of plain color
100% crop: very good detail
Low light (20 Lux) studio shot
100% crop: fine detail is lost
100% crop some luminance noise is visible

Artifacts

Phone cameras, like entry-level compact cameras, tend to suffer from artifacts such as sharpening halos, color fringing, vignetting (shading) and distortion, which can have an impact on the visual appeal of the end result. DxOMark engineers measure and analyze a range of artifacts. Their findings after testing the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 are shown below:

  • Strong ringing is visible
  • Some moiré is visible on high-frequency patterns
  • Blue sky saturation is sometimes noticeable
100% crop: strong ringing is visible 

Perceptual Scores

  • Sharpness 4.1 out of 5
  • Color fringing 3.7 out of 5

Measured findings

  • Ringing center 16.8%
  • Ringing corner 11.2%
  • Max geometric distortion -0.3%
  • Luminance shading 15.4%

Distortion and Chromatic Aberrations

The graph shows the magnification from center to edge (with the center normalized to 1). The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 shows a slight pincushion distortion, which you are not going to notice in normal photography.
Some lateral chromatic aberration is just about noticeable in some scenes. 

Autofocus

DxOMark also tests autofocus accuracy and reliability by measuring how much the acutance - or sharpness - varies with each shot over a series of 30 exposures (defocusing then using the autofocus for each one). As with other tests these results are dependent on the viewing conditions (a little bit out of focus matters a lot less with a small web image than a full 8MP shot viewed at 100%). Using the 8MP equivalent setting, the Galaxy Note 5 puts in an excellent performance in bright light but drops off a little in dimmer conditions. The overall score is 93/100 in bright light and 84/100 in low light.

Pros: 

  • Fast and generally accurate autofocus in all conditions

Cons: 

  • Some inaccuracies in macro mode
  • Some instabilities in low light
Autofocus repeatability - average acutance difference with best focus: low light 8.57%, bright light 4.66%

Flash

Like most high-end smartphones the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 comes with a dual-LED flash for better color balance. DxOMark scored the camera 87/100 overall for its flash performance. 

Pros: 

  • Good flash performance with and without ambient light sources

Cons:

  • Some white balance instabilities in mixed tungsten light 

Overall DxOMark Mobile Score for Photo: 87 / 100


Video Capture

DxOMark engineers put phone cameras through a similarly grueling set of video tests, and you can read their full findings on the DxOMark website here. Overall, DxOMark found the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 video footage to show excellent detail in bright light, with good exposure and color rendering. However, in lower light fine detail is noticeably lost and in some scenes the AF has trouble triggering.

Pros: 

  • Very high levels of detail in bright light
  • Good exposure and color rendering
  • Good tracking
  • Good autofocus in low light

Cons: 

  • Visible loss of detail in low light
  • Luminance noise is visible on edge transitions
  • Jitter artifact is noticeable when walking with camera indoors
  • Autofocus fails to trigger in specific scenes

Overall DxOMark Mobile Score for Video: 84 / 100

DXOMark Mobile Score
86

DXOMark Image Quality Assessment

With a DxOMark Mobile score of 86 the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 scores on the same level as its cousin Galaxy S6 and ranks only behind the Galaxy S6 Edge+ and Sony Xperia Z5 in the DxOMark smartphone rankings.

The DxOMark testers liked the good detail in bright light, color, dynamic range and flash performance. Ringing artifacts, luminance noise in areas of plain color and some AF inaccuracies in macro mode were comparatively minor points of criticism. 

Like the still images video footage showed good exposure and color. In bright light detail is excellent but drops in dimmer conditions. Walking with the camera while recording can result in visible jitter artifacts. For a more detailed analysis, visit www.dxomark.com.

Photo Mobile Score 87   Video Mobile Score 84
Exposure and Contrast 90   Exposure and Contrast 87
Color 86   Color 83
Autofocus 88   Autofocus 86
Texture 90   Texture 84
Noise 86   Noise 89
Photo Artifacts 76   Video Artifacts 89
Flash 87   Stabilization 76