Friday, June 21, 2024

A cheap Samsung phone crushed its biggest rival in this camera test

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The Samsung Galaxy A35 and Galaxy A55's cameras.Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The Samsung Galaxy A55 and Galaxy A35 are close enough in style, software, and price that you may be questioning which model is the right one to buy; we certainly did in our reviews.

Contents

  • Galaxy camera spec comparison
  • Main camera
  • Wide-angle camera
  • 2x zoom
  • Night mode
  • Selfie camera
  • The Galaxy A55 crushes the A35’s cameraShow 2 more items

We eventually settled on the cheaper Galaxy A35 being a great purchase as it had some interesting and unexpected advantages over the more expensive Galaxy A55, despite slightly slower performance. But what happens when the camera is most important to you? We decided to find out.

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Galaxy camera spec comparison

The Samsung Galaxy A35 (left) and Galaxy A55 Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The Galaxy A55 and Galaxy A35 use the same 50-megapixel main camera, so on the surface, they should both take basically the same quality photos under normal circumstances. They also share the same optical image stabilization, phase detection autofocus (PDAF), and f/1.8 aperture. Also, both phones have a 5MP macro camera alongside the main camera, but there are differences when you get to the wide-angle camera.

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The Galaxy A55 has a 12MP wide-angle camera, while the Galaxy A35 has an 8MP wide-angle camera. We’re not fans of 8MP wide-angle cameras, as they usually obscure detail in a mess of pixels and smoothing. Although 12MP looks better on paper, will it be enough to make the Galaxy A55’s camera system worth the extra money?

The Samsung Galaxy A35 (left) and Galaxy A55 Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The other camera hardware difference is the selfie camera. The Galaxy A55’s 32MP camera also sounds much better on paper than the A35’s 13MP selfie camera, but how it handles those extra pixels will dictate if it’s actually better when you use it. The processor is the other important component that may affect the cameras, with the Galaxy A35 using the Exynos 1380 chip (previously seen in the Samsung Galaxy A54) and the Galaxy A55 using the all-new Exynos 1480 chip.

All the photos have been taken on a variety of different days, with the cameras set to auto. The images have been resized for easier online viewing but were compared on a color-calibrated monitor before this. Let’s see which low-cost Samsung Galaxy phone is the one camera fans should buy.

Main camera

  • 1.
    Samsung Galaxy A55
  • 2.
    Samsung Galaxy A35

The cameras may be very similar to each other, but there are differences between the photos, and it’s important to see them, as it may well influence your decision on which phone to buy. The first photo is a simple image of coffee and cake. The Galaxy A55’s shot has more accurate focus and more natural white balance, but there’s more noise than in the Galaxy A35’s photo. Color dynamics are similar, but this isn’t always the case, as we’ll see next. However, neither are bad photos, and most people will likely be happy with either.

  • 1.
    Samsung Galaxy A55
  • 2.
    Samsung Galaxy A35

Our next photo is an extreme example of a key difference between the two cameras, as the Galaxy A55 doesn’t always show the most natural colors compared to the Galaxy A35, which may come as a surprise to many. The differences are sometimes more subtle than the example I used here, but I often preferred the A35’s overall tone in the photos I took. However, the A55’s photos are unquestionably more detailed and often sharper too, with more accurate focus, just as we saw in the first image.

  • 1.
    Samsung Galaxy A55
  • 2.
    Samsung Galaxy A35

Next, these aspects all come together in a single image. The sky in the Galaxy A55’s photo doesn’t have the same punch as the A35’s photo, and the contrast affects the green of the trees and grass. But the A55’s photo has much more detail. Zoom in, and the branding on the car tire is sharper than the same area in the A35’s photo, as is the gravel on the ground.

  • 1.
    Samsung Galaxy A55
  • 2.
    Samsung Galaxy A35

The final photo was taken inside in average lighting, and at first glance, they’re very similar. Crop the photos, and the Galaxy A55 has more detail and sharper focus, just as we’ve seen throughout the comparison so far, and the color differences between them aren’t so obvious. It makes deciding a winner quite hard, but as color, contrast, and brightness can all be altered in editing — and a lack of detail cannot — the Galaxy A55 has to take the win. The Galaxy A35 takes the more instantly shareable photos; they just won’t stand up under much scrutiny.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy A55

Wide-angle camera

  • 1.
    Samsung Galaxy A55 wide-angle
  • 2.
    Samsung Galaxy A35 wide-angle

Comparing the wide-angle photos taken by the Galaxy A35 and Galaxy A55 comes down to which bad photo you prefer. Neither takes wide-angle shots you’ll be proud to share, and you won’t find much consistency between the main and wide-angle cameras regarding color, exposure, and performance either.

The first photo was shot in challenging light, with the sun low in the sky, almost directly in front of the bridge. The Galaxy A35’s photo is noisy, pixelated, and lacking sharpness. The Galaxy A55’s photo suffers from the same set of problems, just to a slightly lesser extent. Both are poor photos, but the Galaxy A35 is worse.

  • 1.
    Samsung Galaxy A55 wide-angle
  • 2.
    Samsung Galaxy A35 wide-angle

The next picture shows a vista, and the Galaxy A35 washes the scene out badly, making it look like it was taken in the dead of winter. The Galaxy A55 at least manages true-to-life color and sets the scene in a far more attractive way. However, it’s still lacking detail and is horribly noisy in places, just not quite as bad as the A35’s photo. Begrudgingly, the Galaxy A55 takes the “win,” but it’s a dubious award, as neither wide-angle camera is very good at all.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy A55

2x zoom

  • 1.
    Samsung Galaxy A55 2x zoom
  • 2.
    Samsung Galaxy A35 2x zoom

Neither Galaxy A-series phone has an optical zoom mode, but each camera app prompts you to use a 2x shortcut. In the past, this hasn’t always been a good idea, as digital zoom features often result in a loss of quality, but how about on these two phones? Provided you don’t look too closely, the photos aren’t terrible, but with even a small amount of examination, they show all the usual problems with digital zoom images.

The first photo shows minor differences in color and exposure, but neither is particularly unpleasant when viewed as a full image. However, crop it down, and the house in the background and horizon are pixelated and obviously digitally enhanced, so you won’t fool anyone into thinking it’s a true 2x optical zoom image.

  • 1.
    Samsung Galaxy A55 2x zoom
  • 2.
    Samsung Galaxy A35 2x zoom

But the Galaxy A55 does show some improvements over the A35 in some circumstances. The water in the foreground in the second photo shows less noise than the Galaxy A35’s photo and the bridge is slightly sharper, but there is minimal difference in the distance, with the noise level in the sky staying the same. As with the main camera, the A35’s colors are slightly more realistic, but like the wide-angle camera, this can be altered in editing in the Galaxy A55’s slightly more detailed photo. It’s hard to recommend using the 2x mode very often on either phone, but the Galaxy A55 does have some small advantages that can’t be changed with editing, giving it another somewhat dubious “win.”

Winner: Samsung Galaxy A55

Night mode

  • 1.
    Samsung Galaxy A55
  • 2.
    Samsung Galaxy A35

Up until now, neither phone has had a clear, totally decisive, what I’d call a legitimate win — but that’s about to change. The Galaxy A55 takes vastly superior lowlight photos, which likely mostly comes down to it using a newer processor. The first photo was taken in half-light, but the sharpness and detail improvement in the Galaxy A55’s image is immediately obvious, from the wooden door to the green metal trailer.

  • 1.
    Samsung Galaxy A55
  • 2.
    Samsung Galaxy A35

The second photo emphasizes the Galaxy A55’s nighttime ability even more. Look at the noise and smudginess in the Galaxy A35’s photo from the grass to the tiled roof on the building, and then compare the A55’s image, where detail is sharp throughout. The sky has a more accurate color, and because of better exposure and contrast levels, you can see the leaves on the trees in the background too.

  • 1.
    Samsung Galaxy A55
  • 2.
    Samsung Galaxy A35

Finally, the last photo shows the massive difference in color accuracy, more obviously, along with the ability to make better use of the available light. The two 50MP cameras have the same f/1.8 aperture, but the phones use different processors, and with there being such a big difference between low light performance, there may be other slight internal hardware changes, too. Whatever the situation, the Galaxy A55 takes much better photos than the Galaxy A35 in low light.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy A55

Selfie camera

  • 1.
    Samsung Galaxy A55
  • 2.
    Samsung Galaxy A35

The Galaxy A55’s selfie camera has more megapixels than the Galaxy A35’s front camera, but don’t immediately think this means it takes vastly better selfies. There are definite differences, with skin tone, background blur in portrait mode, and depth of color all changing between them. Neither are good in anything but great lighting, and indoor selfies can be noisy and blurry. I’ve taken selfies I like with both phones and plenty with both that I don’t like at all. In the right conditions, the Galaxy A55 can take better selfies, but outside of that, neither impresses.

Winner: Draw

The Galaxy A55 crushes the A35’s camera

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The Samsung Galaxy A55 has crushed the Galaxy A35 in our camera comparison. It has won every category apart from selfies, but the Galaxy A35 still only managed to draw with it there. That must make it a much better camera, right? It does, but in many circumstances, the Galaxy A35 takes perfectly acceptable photos with the main camera, and I think many will be satisfied with what it can do, especially considering it’s not a high-end expensive model where we demand super-high quality and detail. See the two photos below for an example of what I mean. The A55’s photo is technically “better,” but will you care enough to pay more for it if you just want to take a few photos?

  • 1.
    Samsung Galaxy A55
  • 2.
    Samsung Galaxy A35

What’s interesting is that the processor update for the Galaxy A55 has dramatically improved the camera’s lowlight and technical performance. Plus, when using the two phones back-to-back, the Galaxy A55’s camera app is also much faster, and both it and the phone itself are ready for use in a shorter amount of time, too. It means if you want to really use the camera, especially in different environments, you’ll be happier with the Galaxy A55.

However, before you rush off to buy the Galaxy A55, I’ll add one last thing. For this test I carried both phones around for another week or so after finishing my reviews, and the Galaxy A35 is still so much more comfortable to hold than the Galaxy A55. It’s a frustrating thing, as the phone is obviously superior in several other ways, not least the overall camera performance. It may not have won the camera test, but if you only have a passing interest in taking photos, the A35 may still be the phone to buy.

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