The Samsung Galaxy S4 mini comes with an 8MP main camera and a 2MP front-facer, but unlike its bigger brother, the smartphone can't use both at the same time.
The user interface is based on the Galaxy Camera interface. The viewfinder handles both still and video capture, so you don't have to switch modes. However, this is certainly not the most convenient solution - if you're shooting full resolution 8MP photos, you'll have to frame your videos using a 4:3 viewfinder.
The settings are found in two places. The first is the Mode button under the shutter key. It brings up a carousel with different shooting modes, each with a descriptive image and text. When you get familiar with those modes, you can switch to the grid, which drops the text but is faster.
In the upper left corner, there are a couple of quick settings plus an arrow to reveal more options. As for the different camera modes, it's a collection of some of the best camera features currently available.
The arrow at the bottom of the screen brings up a row of color effects. Each effect gets a live preview, so you can see what the particular scene will look like with it. There's a download button so you can grab more effects.
There are more settings in the top left corner, but they won't be very often used. Still, there a number of interesting options here like having the volume rocker act as a still shutter key, a video shutter key or a zoom lever. The HDR mode (Rich Tone) can be set to save a normal and an HDR photo or just the HDR one. Another interesting option is contextual file names - the Galaxy S4 mini will name photos with your location (the GPS needs to be on for this to work).
Let's go over the different modes. There are standard modes like Rich Tone (HDR), Panorama, Night and Sports. Panoramas are nice, they do a full 360° circle, but the resolution is not that impressive.
Sound & shot captures a photo and records ambient sound. It sounds pretty cool - for example, you can hear the sea gulls in a beach photo or the roar of car engines at a race.
Photos have a lot of fine detail and little noise. Colors are generally quite close to reality with only slightly oversaturation to be noted at times. White balance is halfway between neutral and cold. We noticed that the Galaxy S4 mini preserves detail in the shadows, sometimes at the cost of detail in the highlights. You can use the HDR mode to remedy this.
And here are some HDR samples.
Finally, here is a 360 panorama sample.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 mini camera is very much the same as the cameras on last year's flagships. You can also pit it against the 13MP camera of the regular Galaxy S4 and the water-resistant Sony Xperia Z using the upscale/downscale options in our Photo compare tool.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 mini stores videos in MP4 files with a bitrate of 17Mbps on average. Stereo audio is recorded at 128Kbps and a sampling rate of 48kHz.
Touch focus is available before and during video recording and you can switch back to continuous autofocus if you prefer. You can capture 6MP (16:9) photos during recording as well, but images come out with very different image processing from what you get from the still camera - the contrast and saturations are boosted way up and there's a good deal of overshaprening.
Videos captured with the Samsung Galaxy S4 mini have a good level of fine detail and little noise. Colors and white balance are similar to those in still images, overall accurate but slightly oversaturated (especially in the green channel). The continuous autofocus triggered a bit too often.
Here's a FullHD video sample we uploaded to YouTube.
Here is also an untouched video sample from the Galaxy S4 mini you can download - 1080p @ 30fps(0:07s, 15.4MB).
You can also take a closer look at the quality of the Samsung Galaxy S4 mini's videos in our Video quality compare tool - all flagship phones shoot 1080p video, so the S4 mini is on equal footing here.