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Nightshots with the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom

Last night there was a soccer game everybody was pretty excited about. I went to friends to see it, about a half hour away from where I live. Returned on my bike, very late at night, a bit disappointed and not completely sober I might add ;-) And then I passed the railway station in Hilversum – begging to be captured.

I was especially curious about how the Galaxy K Zoom would be able to capture it, since I’ve been reading horror stories about its lowlight capacities. Since it was so late, I made one mistake though – I only made a few shots with the Nokia Lumia 1020 on auto: completely forgot to put that on ISO 100 as well.

So I’ll readily admit that’s pretty stupid (a bit like missing two penalties during the semi-finale of a world championship). But I like to share all results I got from the Galaxy K Zoom with you anyway. First though, the Lumia 1020 on auto, choosing ISO 800 and 1/12 sec.

It’s the resized version of the 5MP shot.

Hilversum Station Nokia Lumia 1020 5MP ISO 800 (auto)

Here’s the crop from the 5MP shot

Hilversum Station Nokia Lumia 1020 5MP ISO 800 (auto)

And here’s the crop from the 38MP result

Hilversum Station Nokia Lumia 1020  highres ISO 800 (auto)

It’s clearly too bright – you can hardly make out what time it is.

Now in my review, I wrote Samsung has thought of a “night” setting, which will give you a shot that will have LLS in its name: Low Light Shot.

I can’t tell what the chosen ISO is – the EXIF data don’t say anything about that or the timing - but the result isn’t exactly thrilling. Again, you’ll get quite an amount of light in the shot, but way too much to see the details. This shot was captured in 4:3 so you’ll get the full 20.7MP resolution.

Hilversum Station Samsung Galaxy K Zoom LLS

Here’s the 640 x 480 crop from this result

Hilversum Station Samsung Galaxy K Zoom LLS

Text is unreadable, like the clock - the result is even worse as the Lumia 1020 on auto settings.

So let’s move on to the manual settings. First: ISO 800, like the Lumia 1020 chose (only noticed that while writing this post). I’ll share the shot and the crop at once. It took 1/15 second.

Hilversum Station Samsung Galaxy K Zoom ISO 300

Hilversum Station Samsung Galaxy K Zoom ISO 300

As you can see, details are becoming similar to what the Lumia 1020 captured at ISO 800.

Not sure if you’d like to see all tests I did, but while I’m at it, here are the results from the K Zoom at ISO 200, 1/10 sec.

Hilversum Station Samsung Galaxy K Zoom ISO 200

Hilversum Station Samsung Galaxy K Zoom ISO 200

Now you can more or less read the neon text and read the time (told you it was late).

Last, the results I got from the K Zoom at ISO 100 (which is as low as you can go), 1/6 second.

Hilversum Station Samsung Galaxy K Zoom ISO 100

Hilversum Station Samsung Galaxy K Zoom ISO 100

As you might have expected: a darker, but sharper result, due to less noise. Once again: I’m sorry I completely forgot to get the ISO 100 shot from the Lumia 1020 as well. Must have had something to do with that night’s game – wasn’t as focused.

Must say I’m pleasantly surprised by the ISO 100 results I got from the Galaxy K Zoom though. Be sure to check these shots out on Flickr as well, they’re in the same album as the previous comparisons. Please pay some special attention to the K Zoom’s ISO 100 result and let me know what you think – surprising? Or still way below your expectations?

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20 Responses

  1. feda

    Ok its so weird my zoom k camera takes the pictures nicely but its always magnified it’s so strange I even rebooted the phone but that didnt change it back. And I know theres something because the first two days the pictures were not magnified!!!! Pls help

  2. jake20

    Hi Marc,
    I know its not imaging related.. but a big factor for me in replacing my 808 (besides the best camera) is apps.
    The K zoom only has 8GB internal memory, and on Android not all apps can be moved to the SD card..
    Have you experienced or know how limiting the internal 8GB of memory really is?
    thanks!

    • Marc @PureViewClub

      hi Jake, that really depends on the amount and kind of apps you’re using. Can’t say anything helpful here I’m afraid. Other than that the K Zoom will not be the “perfect replacement” for your 808 I’m afraid. Optical Zoom is fun and can come in extremely handy of course, but the overall image quality you’ll get simply isn’t as good in all different circumstances – and I’m not writing this to please Nokia (remember no-one’s paying me to write all this stuff).

      I happen to like using different platforms, always comparing etc (you know what I’m sharing here). So I use Android on a daily basis next to the 808 and two Lumia’s. I’ve written a few times I think that thanks to its optical zoom, the Galaxy K Zoom is the best Android smartphone camera at the time. I never wrote I’d replace my 808 or 1020 with it. For me, it’s a great “extra” device with a different (classic) approach to get closer to your subject.

  3. MF

    In fact, I think this type of scene is not particularly challenging for lowlight. Most people’s eyes are drawn to the entrance of the station, which is very brightly lit. The entrance, the signage lighting, the clock, etc, do not truly qualify as “lowlight”. These objects are very well-lit. Just like taking picture of the moon in the middle of the night. In fact, the moon is so bright that you can even use shutter speed of 1/1000s!! The same concept applies, the whole scene may be dark, but if you are only looking at objects that emit/reflect a lot of light, then it is not a true lowlight test.

    If you start paying close attention to the shadow areas (e.g. the gravel, the tiles, the recycle bin, etc, that is where lowlight becomes a problem.

    Marc, I recommend that you take lowlight pictures where there may be ambient lighting, but no direct sources of light.

    One cautionary note, though. Marc is well-known to have extremely steady hands, in the past he was capable of hand-holding a camera at several seconds exposure even though the camera had no OIS! This is beyond the capability of normal human beings, and is not a true test of lowlight capability nor effectiveness of OIS. Therefore, any camera that by default selects a slow shutter speed will automatically gain an advantage in Marc’s lowlight tests.

    • Marc @PureViewClub

      Hi MF, I’m sorry I have to disagree with you on this one. I felt the opportunity was in fact great since it offers both brightly lit as very dark objects – and even quite a few in between. It’s the crops I made that were limited: that’s why I asked to pay careful attention to the complete ISO 100 result of the K Zoom.

      As for my steady hand: now you make it sound like I’m the only one being able to hold a camera steady. I can’t agree with that argument however. I’m not a robot and I think my lowlight tests are as simply as good or bad as their results. I’ll take it as a compliment, though ;-)

      • MF

        Yes, there is plenty to see in that image – some very bright areas and dark ones. So technically there are some lowlight areas in that image.

        But psychologically for anyone looking at that picture, their attention will immediately be drawn towards the main entrance which is brightly lit. That is the so-called main subject of that image. And they will be led to think the lowlight performance is good, not realizing that the part of the image they are viewing is actually brightly lit. That’s a psychological point, not a technical one.

        If you choose a different image where the main subject is in shadow and there is no direct light on that subject, then it will be a more true lowlight test.

        With regards to hand stability, it varies by people. I remember reading an article on DPReview regarding the 1020 – the author mentioned having great difficulty having blur-free image with shutter speed 1/10s, despite the 1020′s OIS.

  4. MF

    Having smaller aperture of f3.1 means that the K Zoom only receives half the amount of light compared to the 1020′s f2.2. In lowlight, it means that a higher ISO must be used compared to the 1020.

    Here, I compare the full resolution images at ISO 800. Even at full 38MP resolution, without benefit of oversampling, the 1020′s image is better than the K Zoom at pixel level. It is cleaner and more detailed. You can also tell that the K Zoom applies more heavy noise reduction compared to the 1020 resulting in smearing of fine details.

    At this point, I am only comparing full-res versus full-res, at 100% pixel level. At this level, there is no oversampling benefit, but the 1020′s 38MP will capture more detail. If we oversample to 20MP, then the difference in image quality will be even more obvious.

    Just to point out the few areas in the image:

    1. Thrash can (recycling box?) in the middle of the frame. You can see it very clearly with the 1020, not with the K Zoom.

    2. Pathway at the main entrance. You can see the lines very clearly on the 1020.

    3. Manhole cover on the ground. You can see it clearly with the 1020. The K Zoom totally blotched it out!

    4. Gravel right in front of Marc. Again, fine texture on the 1020, and totally NR’d (noise reduction’ed) out by the K Zoom.

    Of course, the 1020′s 5MP output is even cleaner and sharper. In fact, if you take the 5MP image, upscale it to similar magnification as the K Zoom’s 20MP image, you can still see more details with the 1020!

    • Marc @PureViewClub

      Hi MF
      I believe you right away: the Lumia 1020 will be much better at ISO 800 than the K Zoom. Difference in aperture and sensor size makes it obvious without even checking your examples. Again, I’m really sorry I didn’t make the ISO 100 shot with the Lumia 1020. I guess this post was to show the lowlight result of the K Zoom was not as bad as people would expect, given the small aperture and all that. I think I pointed out this wasn’t “a comparison” in that sense.

      • MF

        I didn’t pay particular attention to the example with ISO 100 for the following reasons:

        1. Most cameras don’t have difficulty with ISO 100, therefore this will not be a challenging scenario.

        2. Using ISO 100 means that the whole picture becomes very dark. However, the center frame (i.e. building entrance) has so much light, that even at ISO 100 it is correctly exposed.

        3. To ensure fairness, the shutter speeds on both cameras must be equalized (unless it is proven that one of the camera cannot be stabilized at the same speed). A camera may compensate for low ISO by using longer shutter speed, and different cameras may handle this differently.

  5. Mike

    I was really enjoying then Galaxy K Zoom, feeling it needs a camera update or two to sort out a few issues. Now I have found a flaw in my device. For some reason, Samsung have a mechanical lenses protector and then stuck a bit of glass over the top. Some dust has managed to get under that glass and now ruins every single zoomed shot I make :(

  6. Junior Reis

    Thanks for sharing!

    K Zoom is actually better than the S4 Zoom, as well as the Xperia Z2.

    Not to mention that in night shots, he should be the winner among all phones, it gives us the possibility of long exposure shots of up to 16 seconds.

    If possible could share long exposure shots (4, 8, 16 seconds)?

    Now talking a little soccer and the World Cup, honestly Mark, you have the not to complain about the Dutch team did a great World Cup, everyone played well and Van Gaal Despite being an arrogant who hates Brazilians is a great coach, you left honorably World Cup without losing any game !

    The Brazilian national team (cultural heritage of my country), it was pathetic !

    This was the worst team of all time !

    They disrespected our nation, disappointed 200 million inhabitants who were the streets and cheered fervently for them !

    We will never forget the 7 X 1, this was most sporting defeat of our nation!

    And If I could cast out the feet tip my country Luis Felipe Scolari (technical incompetent, arrogant and mercenary), Fred (the worst striker whole story of hearts) and Neymar Junior (one mediocre player, mercenary, opportunist, that only plays well against clubs and selections of low technical level), would be very happy !

    They Were the main culprits of our failure in the World Cup !

    Tomorrow I shall cheer for the Netherlands win the Brazil, it is impossible to continue to root for this team and on Sunday for Germany to win because today is undeniably the country playing the best soccer in the world !!!

  7. bigs

    thanks Marc for posting these shots.

    The Galaxy K seems to do an surprisingly impressive job in these low light shots. The smaller aperture will affect the amount of light hitting the sensor, so in turn when capturing at ISO 200, a lower shutter speed of 1/10 had to be used. Thanks to the optical stabilization, the image remains sharp and clear.

    The sampling of color, noise and overall rendering from the Galaxy K seems quite consistent be in both daylight and night time. The use of clever edge enhancement and noise reduction helps make up for the short falls of the smaller sized sensor. That being said this heavy noise reduction which is typical in smaller sized sensors, does give the Galaxy K images a very water colored appearance, which at times can look artificial. As in the daylight shots, there still is visible digital artifact noise in the night shots, which is not present in the 1020 or 1520 images that it has been compared to. The 1020 here has rendered an excellent 5MP low light result, that is very clean, has excellent textural detail, and has a analogue look and feel to it. The full resolution 1020 result, although not as clean as the 5MP pureview version, still keeps alot of textural detail, and the apparent detail is more than the 5MP version.

    I think Samsung should incorporate a “Pro rendering” and a “standard rendering” result. The current output from the Galaxy K would be the standard rendering which would satisfy most people’s requirement for candid shots. For those wanting a bit more, a Pro rendering mode would allow for minimal to no edge enhancement, less noise reduction (ie, an image that still has noise but reduced in a way to look more filmic.) with an overall more neutral color balance and tone to the image. Even better yet, an addition of an “Ultra Pro” mode that allows for only RAW capture would be very much welcomed.

  8. Muhammad

    hey Marc, when are you gonna get your hands on the 930? really looking forward to your review.
    as for the galaxy K zoom, just the fact that its a galaxy and has Samsung branding on it, makes me loose interest, regardless of how good the camera is :D

    • Marc @PureViewClub

      Hi Muhammad,

      Check out these posts if you haven’t already: http://pureviewclub.com/?s=lumia+930 – all based on a prototype of the Lumia 930. Not sure when I will get one, but I’m hunting for it like crazy.

      By the way: I’m an ardent Nokia PureView fan – no wonder – but I won’t stop looking for interesting alternatives as far as smartphone photography is concerned. And I’d never refuse to test a device because it has another brand. It would in fact limit what this club is all about…

      • Navvarr

        Yeah I agree with you Mark, keeping an eye on what the competition has to offer and not sticking with one brand is a healthier option than just sticking with Nokia- especially when you see the leaps and bounds Samsung and other manufacturers have made over the last year or two.
        No new Pureview tech on the horizon leads me to think that Micro$oft’s first priority isn’t to improve the 1020 camera significantly in the near future.

  9. I had expected more problems with the night shots.
    I’m pleasantly surprised.

    I thought i read with the first few comparisons that you had to send the K Zoom back.

    • Marc @PureViewClub

      Thanx! I’m surprised, too, like I wrote. Got my hands on another K Zoom. Wasn’t finished with it yet. Now the question is how nightshots are when using its zoom functionality, but still: the 20.7MP shot on ISO 100 is quite convincing. I’m looking forward to other opinions as well.

      • bigs

        quite convincing I guess, but still when viewing 1:1 seems very digital and processed.

        That being said, the rendering from the Galaxy K is alot better than their previous attempts, and I suspect with further camera firmware updates we will be seeing improvements similar to how the 1020 image output improved when Nokia Black was released.

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