The smartphone market is one of the most cut-throat industries we’ve ever created and the shortcuts, tricks and occasional deceptions made by mobile phone manufacturers are some of the most devious we’ve ever seen. In the last few years we’ve seen devices that auto-overclock to improve benchmark scores, we’ve seen software that favours particular chipsets over others and today Samsung opened up a new can of worms for the smartphone market – their Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge devices don’t have just one camera sensor vendor, they have two and there’s no way of knowing which one you’ll get with your device without opening the box and putting in a few commands.
The news of the sensor differences popped up while the Galaxy S6 Edge and Galaxy S6 were being tested by reviewers worldwide. Samsung’s Benelux headquarters in Europe issued an official statement to the press detailing the reasons for their decision. According to Samsung, the sensors they selected to be included in the S6 and S6 Edge met their “strict global quality and performance standards,” which some people might take as a guarantee that the sensor performance and resulting image quality will be the same.
The two sensors that we know about are Sony’s IMX240 and the in-house Samsung ISOCELL sensor, both 16MP snappers that come standard with optical image stabilisation, autofocus capability and LED flash units. The differences between the units were captured by SamMobile and they are pretty obvious in the comparisons – in brightly lit conditions, the ISOCELL sensor captures colour incorrectly while in low light, the Sony sensor shifts way too far into blue tones and requires the use of HDR to get rid of it.
Other differences between the sensors are mostly in the quality area, where the Sony sensor picks out details better while the ISOCELL has better shadows and uses lower amounts of sharpening for producing depth of field effects. There’s no particular pattern for how the two sensors are awarded to handsets and no indications on the box or even the serial numbers of the phones to determine which sensor you get with yours.
In the end the differences aren’t enough to stop anyone from getting a lot of use out of their new handsets, but you may want to check out the results yourself and see if you’re happy with the performance. To find out which camera sensor your Galaxy S6 has, you can enter the following in the dialer: ““*#34971539#” then select “ISP Ver Check.”