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Cameras Compared: Motorola RAZR vs Galaxy S II vs Galaxy Note

We won’t deny it, the Motorola RAZR is one device that we’re really looking forward to get our hands on. The RAZR is, undeniably, the most wonderfully designed smartphone right now, but is the RAZR’s beauty skin deep?

On paper, the RAZR certainly brings all the credentials to make it a top contender. The world’s slimmest smartphone features a dual-core 1.2GHz processor that’s based on the same Cortex-A9 core as the 1.2Ghz Exynos powered Samsung Galaxy S II, both devices have 1GB of RAM and also 8MP camera that shoots 1080p videos.

We’ve had a couple of days usage with the RAZR and in terms of performance, the device does feel like it can keep up with the Galaxy S II. Comparing them side by side, we dare say that the RAZR is just as fast as the galaxy S II, if not faster.

Indeed the RAZR has the performance to keep up with the leading Android smartphone in the world right now, there’s no denying that, but one of the key performance factors that is in the minds of many would be RAZR owner is the camera. How good is it? How does it compare with the Samsung Galaxy S II? All these questions have remained generally unanswered — until now.

Find out how the Motorola RAZR’s camera fair against the very capable shooters in the Samsung Galalxy S II and the Galaxy Note.

Test Method
We’ve taken some test shots taken indoors under warm yellow lighting. We setup five shooting conditions, normal indoor light, low-light, extreme low-light, low-light with flash and normal light macro.

We also took video samples from the devices. In one continuous shoot we compared both normal indoor light and low light. For all the samples the cameras were all setup in auto mode with auto white balance in the highest resolution setting. For the macro shots, we changed the focus setting to macro and that’s it. For the video sample, all samples were shot in full 1080p resolution.

The samples are at the end of the article, you can click on each for the full resolution image. As you can see, the RAZR produced the best white balance, staying true to the real colours of the subject matter. Both the Galaxy S II and the Galaxy Note struggled to produce accurate colours but the trade up to that is the colours coming from the two Galaxy devices look richer albeit artificially warmer perhaps due to the yellow light the pictures were shot it. We get more shots under natural light to see if the auto white balance on the Galaxy S II and the Galaxy Note do generally oversaturates colours.

White balance is the only thing the RAZR does well in this company. Looking at the 100% crops in all the shots you can see that the RAZR suffers when it comes to capturing details. You can see that the difference is considerable.

Comparing the two Galaxy devices, we noticed that while the S II and the Note both have 8MP sensors — and you’d assume that they are identical units — the Galaxy Note looks be slightly better at capturing details. Either way, both the Galaxy Note and the Galaxy S II exhibits good detail. The RAZR, on the other hand, lags behind in this respect.

In low-light conditions, noise is very noticeable in the pictures coming from all three devices. While in certain shots the RAZR produced less noise, the Galaxy S II and the Galaxy Note still captured better details.

In videos the difference in details is not so pronounced as it was in pictures. In this instance we’re satisfied with the quality of the Motorola RAZR’s 1080p capabilities. With the Samsung duo, we see the same white balance issues as in the pictures and just like in the picture samples, details are good as well, and once again the Galaxy Note is particularly good in this company.

It’s worth pointing out that both the Galaxy Note and Galaxy S II have continuous focus when shooting video while the RAZR uses tap to focus. We prefer the tap to focus system on the RAZR as it gives more control when shooting.

Where the RAZR really shines is in producing great bokehs. This can be seen in the macro shots. In fact, we’ll go so far as to say that the bokeh produced by the RAZR is just as good as dedicated cameras and this is something we really like. Macro is also where the RAZR leads allowing us to get closer to the subject than on the two Galaxy devices, but once again the lack of detail on the RAZR left us wanting.

At the end of the day
The Motorola RAZR is an outstanding device with a stellar built quality in a beautifully crafted body and snappy dual-core performance to boot. Its amazing that Motorola has managed to cram so much in a body that’s over 2mm thinner than the iPhone 4 (9.3mm). At just 7.1mm, the RAZR is also over 1mm thinner than the Galaxy S II (8.5mm).

When the RAZR was introduced, we find ourselves contemplating on actually purchasing the device, that’s how good we think the RAZR is. Given how common the Galaxy S II is, the RAZR then makes a great choice for those who want to stand out from the crowd. With the RAZR you get similar performance to the Galaxy S II, better built quality and an immensely better design, but the fact that the Galaxy Nexus with its delicious Ice Cream Sandwich OS looming in the horizon is holding us back.

Yes, we know that ICS will come to the RAZR early next year and that’s a factor that we chalk up as a plus for the Motorola unit but looking at the camera performance, we’re now more inclined towards the Galaxy Nexus.

But we will have to point out that the discrepancy in camera performance between the three devices is not a lot. And so at the end of the day if you’re contemplating on whether you should get the RAZR or not, one question you should ask yourself is if you can live with the fact that the RAZR’s camera is just so slightly not as good as its peers.

If you’re ok with that then you’re fine. And we still think the RAZR is a very special device.

Video Sample: Motorola RAZR

Video Sample: Samsung Galaxy S II

Video Sample: Samsung Galaxy Note

Normal indoor lighting — yellow light

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100% Crop: Normal indoor lighting — yellow light

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Low light

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100% Crop: Low light

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Extreme Low light

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100% Crop: Extreme Low light

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Low light with Flash

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100% Crop: Low light with Flash

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