While a 5 megapixel still camera won’t inspire any geek, the 720p video recording most certainly will. There is still no mobile phone on the GSM market capable of recording anything better than the 720p@30 fps movies that those two offer. And all that processing power has allowed for pretty decent quality of the videos too.
The LED flash of the iPhone 4 matters more here as it can be used as a video light. Again, it’s range is limited but videos need less light than still photos so it’s certainly good to have one of those.
And again it’s the Galaxy S striking back with a more functional, but still well organized camcorder interface. Of course nothing can beat the iPhone 4 for simplicity of use but that’s just because it has no options whatsoever.
The only extra feature the iPhone 4 offers is the manual touch focus that happily works during video recording. In response to that the Samsung Galaxy S offeres continuous auto focus but it works too slow and is somewhat unreliable in close ups.
As far as image quality is concerned the iPhone 4 produces striking 720p videos that are way more detailed than those made by any other phone. As you can see it is able to resolve much more detail than the Galaxy S, producing much sharper clips.
Here are a couple of crops that demonstrate that pretty well.
Those crops are taken from the following videos (combined in a playlist). You can open them fullscreen to see the difference more easily. It's like the iPhone was made to shoot test charts like this one - it's that good.
No matter how good its imaging system is, the Apple iPhone 4 is again let down but its poorly chosen metering mode and white balance. The iPhone 4 uses an frame average metering (sometimes called matrix) meaning that the moment something dark comes in the edge of your frame the middle of its gets overexposed.
And as far as mobile videos go, it’s what in the center that you normally want perfectly exposed, so the Samsung Galaxy S is wiser to use center-weighted average. That’s a metering system, which gives more importance to the objects in the center of your frame.
Again oversaturation is quite noticeable on the iPhone 4 and combined with the erroneous light balance can often lead to unnaturally looking videos and loss of detail due to individual channel(s) clipping. No to mention the inaccurate skin tones, which occur often and are rather bothering.
The Galaxy S gives you more natural (though slightly duller) videos by default and you will need to fiddle with its settings if you want a different result. You can do little to make up for the lower detail levels though.
The approaches the two manufacturers to exposure compensation are again rather different. The iPhone 4 makes rapid step-by-step adjustments to shutter speed and that allows it to adjust faster when light conditions are changing but the sharp changes look pretty bad in the video itself.
The Galaxy S on the other hand takes its time, but gives you smoother compensation that is not as objectionable, much like a dedicated digicam.
So at this point the two competitors seem pretty comparable with scales tipped in the iPhone 4 favors. However it’s again a wrong step on the Apple side that turns the tables in the end.
See the thing is the iPhone 4 crops a large portion of its sensor in video mode, giving you a field of view of about 48mm in 35mm equivalent. That’s less than 75% of the field-of-view you have in still imaging. We find this rather uncomfortable for shooting videos (it’s like you have zoomed in a bit all the time), as it’s harder to fit everybody in the frame.
We’d take 28mm for shooting videos any day but since none of the two competitors offers that, 35mm is what we would go for. And that combined with the several processing shortcomings of the iPhone 4, gives the Galaxy S the win here.
We hope Apple will fix many of those in a future firmware version and will make better use of the huge potential of their camera sensor and optical system. In fact if they do that and decide to use the whole sensor for shooting videos, rather than just the center part (thus stretching the field of view down to 38mm) we would gladly take it over the Galaxy S for movie recording. But for now, the iPhone processing is just too immature to stand a chance.
Apple iPhone 4: 8/10 • Samsung I9000 Galaxy S: 9/10