Update: I’ve managed to do a quick recording with the retail unit of the Galaxy Note 3 and was pleasantly surprised with the results. There has been a 6% improvement in video bitrate and overall, there seems to be less noticeable artifacts.
In addition, a Samsung Malaysia executive has confirmed with Lowyat.NET that Samsung products, including the Galaxy Note 3, “does not do any upscaling” for its 4K video recording capabilities.
(Update: We’ve just received our retail unit for the Galaxy Note 3, prior testing was done on a pre-retail unit and we will update this article with our new findings from the retail unit.)
When Samsung first announced the Galaxy Note 3, there wasn’t very much that I was excited about considering that I was already a Galaxy Note 2 user. After reading more into it, I could hardly contain my excitement for its 4K video recording capabilities. While Acer has also announced a smartphone with 4K video recording capabilities with their Acer Liquid S2, the Galaxy Note 3 will be the first to hit our shores with such capabilities. That being said, I was the giddiest of the lot in the Lowyat.Net HQ when the Galaxy Note 3 rolled into our office. So how does the Galaxy Note 3 fare in terms of its video recording capabilities?
More after the jump.
Let’s begin by looking at the hardware used to produce the 4K video. The Galaxy Note 3 has a 13 megapixel BSI Sensor and while it does have a front facing camera, it doesn’t do 4K video recording. So we’ll ignore the front-facing camera as it’s irrelevant to this article.
The camera will record 4K video or to be precise, Ultra-HD Video (UHD) with a resolution of 3840 by 2160 pixels which is one of the standards for 4K UHD Televisions. So now that we know what resolution it records in, what of the video codec and bitrate?
So the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 does UHD video recording at a bitrate of about 50mbps which is fine if this was a standard Full HD video file however this is twice the size of Full HD and to be honest, it just doesn’t cut it. There’s also the issue about it’s 128kbps audio codec which isn’t even up to SD spec but it is after all a smartphone not a broadcast camera. The same can be said of it’s variable FPS recording which records anything from 26fps to 35fps. Once again, this is typical of smartphones. So let’s have a look at the video bitrate for the Canon EOS 700D now.
I know this is comparing apples to oranges but I find it very disappointing that Samsung didn’t consider to give users the option to set the video bitrate especially when it uses the very robust H.264 codec. I mean, why limit yourself to a bitrate normally reserved for Full HD recording? A 30% increase in terms of bitrate which most microSD cards can handle without any dropped frames. I find the Galaxy Note series to be a very useful smartphone for those in the video production line with it’s S Pen features. I mean, how cool would it be to simply go out on location recce and just whip out your smart phone to record 4K video, snap some photos and then edit it on the fly so that the rest of the video crew will have a better idea on what they’ll be facing with during filming. I for one feel that it would bring a whole new dimension to pre-production.
Let us compare some stills I’ve grabbed from both the Samsung Galaxy Note 3’s 4K video file and the Canon EOS 700D video file.
As you can see, the artifacts produced by the Galaxy Note 3 is very noticeable at a 1:1 pixel ration compared to the EOS 700D. Of course, one could argue that the sensor sizes for the respective cameras are very different. However, I found it extremely interesting that once I scaled down the 4K footage produced by the Galaxy Note 3 to a Full HD 1080p video. The results were very similar to the EOS 700D.
What I’ve gathered from this simple test was that Samsung has not built itself a smartphone with 4K recording capabilities but a smartphone that does 1080p recording wonderfully that has unfortunately been upscaled to a 4K resolution. It’s disappointing but this is probably why Samsung hasn’t really been hyping up this particular feature of the Galaxy Note 3 and focused on the S Pen and it’s connectivity with the Galaxy Gear smartwatch. The same can be said about the lack of information released on the video codecs used as well as the video bitrate.
So, for all you budding filmmakers out there looking to get a cheap 4K camera that also doubles as a smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 will disappoint you greatly. If you’re happy to stay in the realm of 1080p, this is probably a good device to get as it’s pretty much a Canon EOS M with a fixed lens. In terms of real world applications of this feature, it’s a great device when the only piece of recording equipment you have in your hand is your phone. Your crew will thank you for it.