Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ Night Mode reviewed – nice work, but a bit too late

Tips & Techniques

When it comes to adding a night mode camera, Samsung was late to the party. The Samsung Galaxy S9 and Samsung Galaxy S10 received that addition through an update last spring, whereas the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 came with a pre-configured Night Mode camera. Night Mode replaced Bright Mode which allowed you to take long exposures in low-light conditions. It was kinda automatic and you had no control if to turn it on or not.

And this is my biggest issue with Bright Mode. It turned on automatically based on how dark it was. In other words, the software decided which mode to use in low light, not the photographer. Night Mode is a different story.

When turning the camera on, we find the Night Mode option in the regular camera menu strip. This feature is very easy to use as long as you well can keep your hand(s) relatively steady. Once you activate night mode, it’s easy to take a photo: touch the shutter release button, hold the phone steady, and wait while the camera gathers light to the sensor. When the camera has finished the data will be processed and the output is an image with vivid colors. There is a “secret” algorithm that controls highlights and shadows as well as noise reduction.

Below are a few sample images shot using Night Mode with the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+. This should give you a certain idea about what Night mode can and can not do.  I am plagued with some handshake, but the software did a remarkable job with the majority of the images which are acceptably sharp.

When you choose Night Mode, you are handing all the control to the camera and the algorithm. The camera decides the ISO, aperture and exposure settings, hopefully, for the best possible result. These parameters will vary depending on the scene and available light. The sample images below vary from iso 80 to iso 640, shutter speeds vary between 1/25 and 1/4 sec and the three lens apertures f1.5/f2.1/f2.4.

I visited Edinburgh at the beginning of November. All images were shot while standing and holding the phone in one hand. In particular, the third image is overly blurry due to my hand shaking, most notably at the edges. A shutter speed of 1/4 sec also explains the blurriness of the image. For such along exposure it is vital that the camera is held very steady.

f/2.1 iso 320 1/5 sec

f/1.5 iso 100 1/4 sec

f/1.5 iso 320 1/4 sec

f/2.1 iso 640 1/17 sec

In a concert: Being seated and having decent light favors the end result. This and the fact that we now are talking about exposures times at around 1/25 sec. Needless to say that shorter exposure times are less prone to be affected by unsteady hands.

f/2.4 iso 80 1/24 sec

f/1.5 iso 160 1/25 sec

At new year’s eve, I thought it a great idea to test Night Mode with fireworks. The resulting images are okay-ish. I do see some blown-out highlights and also some jpg artifacts. These are also around 1/4 of a sec and thus there is some blurriness. It is worth mentioning that if I were to shoot 1/4 of a sec handheld with my regular camera the images would have been more blurry than this.

f/1.5 iso 320 1/4 sec

f/1.5 iso 400 1/4 sec

Conclusion

All images work well being viewed on a cell phone but cannot compete with a decent camera when enlarged to be viewed on a computer screen. You cannot expect to shoot the milky way with Samsung’s Night Mode – the functionality and software enhancements aren’t quite there yet.

What I liked:

  • Isn’t activated automatically
  • Very easy to use
  • Tonal balance (highlights/shadows)
  • Level of details

What I didn’t like:

  • Colors are a too vibrant and saturated
  • Shake reduction could have been better
  • Not possible to shoot the milky way

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