iPhone SE camera vs. Galaxy A51’s: Night mode, selfies, video compared


Lexy Savvides / CNET

The Samsung Galaxy A51 is a $ 400 (£ 329, AU $ 599 AU) power pack with four cameras that offer flexibility for photography, from ultra-wide to macro. But Apple is new iPhone SEAlthough only a rear-view camera is available, intelligent photo functions have been borrowed from more expensive models such as the iPhone 11. So these two $ 400 phones compare everything from portraits and landscapes to video recordings.

Continue reading: The iPhone SE 2020 is proof that Apple is not bringing the tiny phone back

iPhone SE camera vs. Galaxy A51's: Night mode, selfies, video compared 1

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iPhone SE or Galaxy A51: battle of $ 400 phone cameras


The Galaxy A51 offers more cameras for a change

The Galaxy immediately has four rear-view cameras: a 48-megapixel main camera at f2, a 12-megapixel ultra-wide camera, a 5-megapixel macro camera and a depth sensor. The iPhone SE has a single 12 megapixel rear view camera at f1.8.

But while the variety on paper sounds great, I’ve used a lot of just two out of four in practice. The depth camera, for example, doesn’t actually take photos. It is used only for live focus (or portrait mode) shots.


Lexy Savvides / CNET

In addition to using the main camera, I found that the Galaxy A51’s ultrawide camera was more manageable than the macro camera, and it was the main thing I missed when taking pictures on iPhone SE. This is because I was able to capture a larger area without having to physically move back. Use the sliders in the image below to see the difference in perspective from the wide-angle to the ultra-wide-angle camera.

That doesn’t mean the A51’s macro camera is an idiot. There is no competition for macro photos: The Galaxy A51 can take photos from a much longer range than the iPhone SE, although you need it a lot of Light to get the most out of this camera. I got the best results when I photographed plants outdoors on a bright sunny day, while everything I tried to snap inside became a blurry, unfocused mess.


One of my successful macro photos.

Lexy Savvides / CNET

In addition, none of the cameras in the Galaxy A51 have optical image stabilization (OIS), in contrast to the iPhone SE with OIS on the rear camera.

None of the phones have an optical zoom, so I relied on the digital zoom to get closer to objects – 5x on the SE and 8x on the A51. Both produce an acceptable shot at 5x, but the iPhone’s image looks less sharp and “crispy” than that of the A51.

The vivid photos of the Galaxy A51 compared to the natural look of the iPhone SE

The Galaxy A51 has a scene optimizer that is activated by default. The camera automatically recognizes the subject in the frame, e.g. B. food or landscapes, and then improves the photo. This removes colors from the screen, but in some cases, especially with photos of food or flowers, the scene optimizer makes images look to oversaturated. The iPhone SE creates a more natural picture, which I like better than the intense colors of the Galaxy A51. Your personal preferences may differ from mine.

Both the Galaxy A51 and iPhone SE have HDR mode to balance shadows and highlight details, and both phones did such a good job that I found it difficult to separate HDR performance.

When I looked at photos with reduced magnification on a computer screen, there was not much to separate the two apart from the color saturation. Taking a closer look at the 100% crop, many photos I took with the normal Galaxy A51 camera looked less detailed than the corresponding iPhone SE shot.

Portrait and night modes are closer than you think

Both phones can help your subject burst by blurring the background for a similar effect to a photo taken on a large aperture DSLR.

The iPhone triggers this blur or “bokeh” effect more naturally, especially if you push the effect to the extreme and want to blur the background as much as possible. But the Galaxy A51 has better edge detection thanks to this depth camera, so there were more definitions between my subject and the background. Sometimes fine details such as hair confused the iPhone SE, so some of these details were lost in the background blur.

The iPhone SE can only take photos of people in portrait mode, while the Galaxy A51 is suitable for all subjects, including pets. You just need to make sure your pet lover stays silent while you take the picture.

Only the Galaxy A51 offers a special night mode for taking photos in low light conditions. While this sounds great on the surface for the A51, the iPhone SE can take comparable shots even without such a mode. The iPhone SE produced a usable night photo as long as I kept my hand steady. But I had to do the same for the A51 when using night mode.

The Galaxy A51 captures more sharpness at night and retains highlight details than the iPhone SE, but not much. In night mode, a smaller 8 megapixel file is also output.

Selfies are more natural on iPhone SE

Although the Galaxy A51’s front-facing camera offers more megapixels (32!), The iPhone SE creates photos with more natural colors. For me, the Galaxy A51 oversaturated the red channel so much that my brown hair looked almost copper-colored in some selfies. Overall, the A51 takes a sharper shot than the iPhone SE’s 7-megapixel front camera, but the iPhone’s colors and skin tone look more lifelike.

However, the Galaxy A51 has the upper hand in video resolution. It can record 4K video from the front-facing camera while the iPhone SE works at 1080p at maximum. You can see an example of both in the video on this page.

The iPhone SE is beneficial for videos

I shot the entire video on this page on both the iPhone SE and the Galaxy A51 and found that the iPhone definitely does better here. In good light, the image looks cleaner with less noise than the Galaxy and OIS on the iPhone. This makes a big difference in video recording. Clips I shot with a 4K handheld looked super fluid on the iPhone SE compared to the same resolution on the Galaxy A51 that has no OIS. You can get digital image stabilization at 1080p on the Galaxy and it helps when filming handhelds.

The iPhone can also film at 4K / 60fps, while the A51 can only film at 4K / 30. The auto focus of the Galaxy A51 is not as smooth as that of the iPhone SE. With many clips, especially when filming a static subject, I had to lock focus before filming to keep things smooth. I noticed the autofocus twitch when filming a moving subject on the Galaxy A51. The movements on the iPhone looked more fluid and cinematic.

Audio from both is fine, but the iPhone sounds fuller and rounder compared to the Galaxy clips, although both phones record in stereo.

Does the iPhone SE or Galaxy A51 have the better camera?

Both $ 400 phones have powerful cameras that exceed the retail price. The Galaxy offers more flexibility when you want to switch between different scenarios such as ultra-wide or macro. However, the iPhone has stronger video recording, and in some cases the camera captures more details at full magnification. Regardless of which phone you choose, you get a lot of camera for your money, but I personally would choose the iPhone SE because of its stronger video recording. I would choose the Galaxy A51 if I want the flexibility of an ultra wide angle lens.

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