Samsung Galaxy S4 camera: More megapixels, more software features

One of the Galaxy S4’s major upgrades is the new 13-megapixel camera. While a lot of folks have D-SLRs or nice point-and-shoot cameras at home, only a dedicated few carry one around at all times. For the rest of the world, the camera in your phone is the one that you'll always have available to capture random unexpected moments.

The jump from 8 to 13 megapixels is a big one, and I’m dubious if it will be an improvement. Jamming more pixels onto an already tiny image sensor is likely to do more harm than good when shooting in low light – and unless you're outdoors when the sun is up, you are likely in low light. An image sensor that is physically larger, like the one in the Nokia 808 PureView, will do more to improve the quality of images.

The rest of the changes in the camera are software related, and some of them sound pretty neat. There's a Sound Shot mode that lets you record some audio to go along with your image. You can use this to record a note about the photo, or to simply capture some ambient noise from your environment to add to the atmosphere. This is something that will be especially popular at concerts.

The Dual Camera mode lets you record stills or video with both the front and rear cameras simultaneously. How you arrange the dual images or video streams is up to you – split-screen is an option, as is a picture-in-picture type effect. You can even put a postage stamp or heart-shaped border around the inlaid image.

Drama Shot mode rattles off a burst of 100 images in 4 seconds – that's 25 frames per second. The phone then takes these shots and merges them into what Samsung is calling a moving collage. It's a single image that shows the movement of your subject through the frame – it should be popular when capturing images of your children playing sports or activities like figure skating.

If you're tired of taking photos and having folks in the background distract you, Eraser is a feature that you'll appreciate. The small sensor in a phone can't blur the background like a shot from a D-SLR, and if you're trying to take a photo in front of a famous landmark there are likely to be passers-by getting in the way of the shot. Eraser grabs five shots in quick succession and gets rid of objects that aren't in every frame. Photoshop has been able to do this for some time, but having this capability automated on your phone should make matters much easier.

The final new photo feature is more of an organisation tool than anything else. Story Shot is the antithesis of the iPhone's Photo Stream. Instead of just showing all of your photos in the order in which they were taken without any sort of capsulation, Story Shot organises your pictures based on the timestamp and the surrounding environment. This is pretty similar to the Events feature found in Apple's iPhoto software. This way, the photos from that awesome Foo Fighters gig won’t be mixed up with those from your daughter’s birthday party.

Galaxy S3 owners may be getting some of these features via a software update. However, Samsung wasn't clear on which ones would be ported over to older phones, only that features which weren't dependent on hardware would make their way the S3. If I had to guess, I'd be surprised to see Drama Shot and the Dual Camera functions on the S3, as they'd likely put too much strain on its older CPU. However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sound Shot, Story Shot, and Eraser come to the S3.

For more on the S4, check out our hands on with the Galaxy S4, and our articles taking a closer look at the CPU, GPU, display, and connectivity.

Why not read the rest of our articles dedicated to the hardware within the Samsung Galaxy S4

- Samsung Galaxy S4 GPU specs: PowerVR and Adreno Ahoy

- Samsung Galaxy S4 connectivity specs: Say hello to 802.11ac

- Samsung Galaxy S4 display specs: Pentile technology here to stay

- Samsung Galaxy S4 storage specs: 64GB at last

- Samsung Galaxy S4 processor specs: Qualcomm SoC to help it reach 26,600 on Antutu?