This is the kind of surprise smartphone shoppers don't want. Samsung has confirmed that its Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge phones can use different camera sensors from different vendors, which directly impacts image quality..
Some S6 and S6 Edge phones have cameras with Sony’s IMX240 sensor that was expected, while other units were made with Samsung’s in-house manufactured ISOCELL camera sensor. Potentially due to a parts sourcing issue, this decision from Samsung has the potential to become public because it’s actually easy to compare and contrast, as opposed to if units shipped with different RAM or other low-profile internals.
In an official statement from Samsung Benelux, the company’s Netherlands division, the company defended its decision: “The Galaxy S6 and S6 edge utilize camera sensors from several different vendors. Like all of the technology used in our products, they meet our strict global quality and performance standards.”
In our review of the Galaxy S6, we hailed the camera as one of the best in a phone yet. In fact, the S6 beat the iPhone 6 Plus in a head-to-head camera shootout. However, we're not sure which sensor our review unit used.
Unfortunately, consumers buy smart phones similarly to how hungry travelers return to fast food chains: expecting to get the same exact experience each and every time. And unlike the viral white-and-gold vs black-and-blue dress debate, it’s clear to look at the comparisons between the Sony and Samsung camera photos and agree that there is a clear and inarguable difference between their results. Here is one example from SamMobile's testing that makes the difference very obvious:
Photos taken with Sony's IMX240 feature colors that are warmer and more vibrant than those with the replacement ISOCELL sensor. Further, the depth of field seems to be greater in the photos taken with Sony's camera sensor.
Based on the samples, photos taken in daylight would feature greater accuracy with the Sony sensor, but in low-light situations, the opposite seems true. The Sony samples have more of a blue cast.
To find out which camera sensor your Galaxy S6 has, you can enter the following in the dialer: "“*#34971539#" then select "ISP Ver Check."
While these images may be close enough to each other in quality for Samsung's standards, this issue may lead to customers asking what other differences exist in Samsung's production line.
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Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.