Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) camera review: Samsung just pushed out the 2017 update to its mid-range smartphone line, the A Series, and the middle child, the A5, far from being awkward, looks to be a great all-rounder with a competent set of cameras.
One of the biggest takeaways that Samsung picked up from users of 2016’s A Series is that they wanted to be able to take more pictures and of a higher quality. As such, the camera setup on 2017’s A5 is a notable step up from its predecessor’s, starting with larger sensors all round.
Both the front and back of the A5 (2017) sport 16-megapixel resolution snappers; that’s a 3-megapixel bump on the back and a mighty 11-megapixel increase to the front-facing, both of which also feature an impressively wide f/1.9 aperture.
One thing the 2017 model has lost is optical image stabilisation (OIS), which likely comes as part of Samsung’s efforts to reduce the visible camera bump to zero, something it’s achieved across all three of this year’s A Series phones.
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) Camera Review: UI
Another part of the experience that stands out versus the company’s 2016 devices, including the S7 and S7 Edge, is a significantly reworked camera UI that aims to improve ease of navigation between the camera’s modes and features.
The viewfinder includes the standard fare of video and shutter buttons, gallery shortcut, flash controls and the like, but swipe gestures are now the fundamental way to move between different parts of the experience.
Swipe left and you’re presented with eight basic and eight beauty filters, all of which can be applied in real time, whilst swiping right pulls up the mode switcher. It’s a stripped down experience versus the company’s flagships snappers, but you’ll still find manual control in Pro mode, HDR shooting, night mode and even a dedicated food mode for those Instagram spammers.
You can also download additional filters and modes from the Samsung Apps Store, with links baked into the camera interface and, there are alternative ways to snap a photo by dipping into the settings menu; by using the volume controls, tapping anywhere on-screen (once enabled) or the new floating shutter option, which lets you drag a shutter button anywhere within the viewfinder.
While there is a button to jump to the front camera, a more natural alternative is to simply swipe down, it’s fast, intuitive and it’s an implementation we’re hoping to see appear on the subsequent Samsung phones.
Aside from a smaller gamut of modes to choose from, including wide selfie, the A5’s beauty tools are expanded to face slimming and eye enlargement as well as skin softening.
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) Camera Review: Picture quality
The 2017 A5 brings a respectable mid-range camera to the table, with its 16-megapixel primary sensor offering pleasingly colourful imagery in all manner of conditions, including low light environments. Dealing with high contrast scenarios is one of its biggest issues, as it struggles to render details at the fringes of its dynamic range, however, if you’re willing to allow for a slower shutter, HDR mode does a great job of retrieving colour and detail that would have otherwise been lost.
It’s fast to focus, even when shooting crisp macro photos and still turns out well-exposed imagery in artificial or poorly lit environments, before even touching night mode, most likely as a result of that wide aperture. Fine detail takes a bit of a hit in such situations, which OIS may have helped negate, but Samsung chose to create a phone with a slimmer profile instead.
The front camera catches an impressive amount of detail, albeit struggling with creating crisp edges on a subject when taking snaps indoors, whilst dialling all the beauty settings up to eleven only makes you look a little bit like an extraterrestrial.
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) Camera Review: Video quality
Samsung has kept things simple on the video front, with quality topping out at 1080p HD at 30fps for both the front and rear cameras. A 60fps mode would have been nice, but instead, you get native 1:1 recording, presumably for experiences like Instagram.
Actual image quality is, for the most part, pleasing, doing a great job at handling colour and exposure on the fly, but no OIS means small tremors are easily spotted in footage and although focus is fast enough when standing still, it falls down when walking or trying to handle any dramatic movement.
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) Camera Review: Verdict
Samsung’s created a focussed photographic experience in 2017’s Galaxy A5 that looks as though the company’s been paying attention to what its customers are looking for in a mid-range smartphone snapper.
The simplified interface and feature set means it’s fast and easy to use, but will perhaps be a little restrictive for some. The other challenge that the A5 (2017) faces as a whole is its £369.99 price tag, which places it in the same region as the likes of the Honor 8, which has a more interesting and varied camera setup as well as the OnePlus 3, or for £30 more the 3T, which both shoot RAW stills, 4K video and include OIS.
You can see full resolution photo samples from this article here.