Features

Like previous Samsung devices the Galaxy Note 4 comes with a very comprehensive imaging feature set and as before, Samsung has made some additional modes, such as Animated Photo, Sports Shot and Sound & Shot, available as optional free downloads to keep the mode screen more manageable.

Most of the special modes are accessed through the mode button. 
You can select the modes to display on the mode screen.

Almost all special modes have now been moved into the shooting mode selection screen which makes the user interface look more structured. Only HDR mode is still in the settings menu which makes it accessible from the main screen if to choose to put a shortcut there.

The Note 4's camera app comes with many features and functions that we've already seen on the Galaxy S5, including Virtual Tour, Beauty Face, Shot & More and Selective Focus. In this section we have therefore focused on the most important and new modes. It's also worth mentioning that Night Mode, which had to be activated manually on the S5 now kicks in automatically when a scene is too dark. We have included samples on the Image Quality page of this review.

Panorama

The panorama function hasn't changed from the Galaxy S5 and that's not a bad thing at all. In good light the results are pretty impressive, with huge image files and excellent detail. Image size varies a little but vertical 360 degree panoramas are around 20,000 pixels wide and 3000 pixels tall. Vertical panoramas tend to be be only around 1500 pixels tall. 

Stitching quality is very good as well but occasionally some ghosting can be observed on moving subjects, especially in lower light. In those conditions you should also be extra careful when panning the camera to avoid softness. Exposure locks at the start or capture, so in high-contrast scenes you can end up with some over- or underexposure if you don't choose your start point wisely. You can shoot both in landscape or portrait orientation and if you don't want or need to capture a full 360-degree panorama, you can press the shutter button any time to stop. The app will then create a panorama with the images you have recorded up to that point.

Overall the Note 4 panorama mode is not perfect and cannot quite match Apple's version with its adaptive exposure but it is still one of the best stock panorama modes you can find on a current device. Especially in good light the level of captured detail is impressive and the image size allows for very large prints.

Horizontal panorama, 360 degrees, 18912 x 1488 pixels
100% crop, good image detail and stitching
Vertical panorama, 180 degrees, 10160 x 3216 pixels
100% crop, some softness and slight overexposure in this indoor shot
Vertical panorama, 180 degrees, 10064 x 3184 pixels
100% crop, slight artifacts on moving subject

Rich Tone (HDR mode)

The Galaxy Note 4's HDR mode works in the same way as before. The camera takes three frames at varying exposures in quick succession and combines them into one 'High Dynamic Range' image. Like virtually all smartphone cameras in its standard mode the Note 4 struggles with highlight and shadow detail in high-contrast scenes. Activating Rich Tone noticeably helps to mitigate the problem and, given there is no noticeable speed penalty, there is no harm in leaving it activated all the time. 

Overall, Rich Tone performs very well. There are no parameters for fine-tuning the effect but the results tend to look pretty natural with the amount of highlight or shadow recovery varying between scenes. In the image below you can see that shadows have been lifted slightly while at the same time Rich Tone has recovered quite an impressive amount of blown highlight detail. 

HDR off
HDR on
100% crop
100% crop

The scene below highlights were well preserved even in standard mode, so Rich Tone only lifts the shadows, making for a pleasant image to look at with well-balanced exposure. Usually there is no ghosting to be found on moving subjects.

HDR off
HDR on
100% crop
100% crop

Rich Tone can also be useful when shooting in low light, for example to better balance the strong contrast between lit and dark areas in a night shot. However, looking at the sample below HDR mode is less capable of recovering highlights in low light than it is in brighter light. Still, the slightly lifted shadows create an overall more pleasant image.

HDR off
HDR on
100% crop
100% crop