Samsung Galaxy A71 camera review

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Announced in December 2019, the Samsung Galaxy A71 is the latest mid-range smartphone from the South Korean electronics giant. Key device specifications include a massive 6.7-inch Super AMOLED display, a Snapdragon 730 chipset, and a high capacity 4500 mAh battery.

The camera configuration is impressive too, with a quad-sensor set up on the rear that includes standard wide and ultra wide cameras, as well as dedicated sensors for macro shots and depth sensing. The primary camera features a 64MP 1/1.72-inch sensor with 0.8µm pixels linked to a 26mm -equivalent f/1.8-aperture lens, with the second ultra-wide camera offering a 12MP sensor and 12mm f/2.2-aperture lens. For close-up photography, the macro camera uses a 5MP 1/5.0-inch sensor with 1.12µm pixels and 25mm f/2.4-aperture lens. A 5MP sensor with f/2.2-aperture lens provides depth estimation for blurring the background on bokeh shots.

For smartphone video enthusiasts, the Samsung Galaxy A71 captures 4K footage at 30fps, with higher frame rates of 240fps and 960fps available when dropping resolution down to Full HD 1080p capture. A gyroscope-based Electronic Image Stabilization System (gyro-EIS) promises smoother playback on static handheld videos, as well as those captured with walking or panning actions.

Let’s see how the Samsung Galaxy A71’s camera performed in our image quality analysis.

Key camera specifications:

  • Quad camera setup
  • Primary: 64MP 1/1.72-inch sensor with 0.8µm pixels and 26mm f/1.8-aperture lens
  • Ultra-wide: 12MP sensor with 12mm f/2.2-aperture lens
  • Macro: 5MP 1/5.0-inch sensor with 1.12µm pixels and 25mm f/2.4-aperture lens
  • Depth: 5MP sensor with f/2.2 aperture-lens
  • Dual Pixel PDAF autofocus (primary camera)
  • Quad-LED dual-tone flash
  • HDR (photo/panorama)
  • 4K 2160p/30fps video

Please note: We used a Xiaomi Redmi K20 Pro for some comparison shots in this review. This device is labeled Xiaomi Redmi K20 Pro on the device body and packaging. However, in both the Android settings and in the camera EXIF data, the device name is listed as Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro, thus indicating that both phones are identical. 

About DXOMARK Camera tests: For scoring and analysis in our smartphone camera reviews, DXOMARK engineers capture and evaluate over 1600 test images and more than 2 hours of video both in controlled lab environments and in natural indoor and outdoor scenes, using the camera’s default settings. This article is designed to highlight the most important results of our testing. For more information about the DXOMARK Camera test protocol, click here. More details on how we score smartphone cameras are available here.

Test summary

Achieving an overall DXOMARK Camera score of 84, the Samsung Galaxy A71 is not a top performer for either stills or video in our analysis but not too far off other mid-rangers, such as Samsung’s own A50, the Nokia 7.2 or the Motorola One Zoom. Image quality is long way off what you’d expect from current flagship devices, though.

The Samsung A71 is capable of accurate target exposures with high levels of contrast when tested under most lighting conditions in the lab. Under very bright light sources, our lab exposure measurements were a little high, with lower levels of contrast as a result, but overall images were acceptable.

Shooting natural scenes in very high contrast conditions we found the A71 to have very wide dynamic range, ensuring well-preserved detail in both the highlight and shadow regions, as well as good target exposure. You can see in the comparison below, the A71 is brighter in the shadows compared to the iPhone 11 and Google Pixel 3a, whilst maintaining a similar level of highlight detail.

Samsung A71, excellent shadow and highlight detail
Apple iPhone 11, well preserved highlights but less detail in the shadows
Google Pixel 3a, well preserved highlights but less detail in the shadows

Shooting indoors, target exposures are generally quite accurate in well-balanced lighting conditions. Dynamic range isn’t quite as good indoors however, with images a little under-exposed and highlights slightly clipped. In our challenging backlit portrait test scene, target exposure on the subject is low compared to the iPhone 11 and Xiaomi Redmi K20 Pro, with a little less highlight detail recorded outside.

Samsung A71, backlit indoor portrait, low target exposure on the subject
Apple iPhone 11, backlit indoor portrait, accurate target exposure on the subject
Xiaomi Redmi K20 Pro, backlit indoor portrait, accurate target exposure on the subject

Nice color rendering ensures colors are generally vivid and pleasant on the A71, with good saturation in most test scenes. Some minor color shading was evident during our lab analysis under certain light courses, with greenish towards the center shifting slightly pink at the edges, but color shading wasn’t really noticeable in our perceptual analysis of images. The main concern for color lies with white balance however, where a fairly obvious cold blue color cast is often prevalent on outdoor images, with indoor images shot under artificial light sources often displaying a warmer, but slightly yellow color cast.

Samsung A71, color rendering, blueish cast
Google Pixel 3a, color rendering, slightly warm cast
Xiaomi Redmi K20 Pro, color rendering, neutral white balance

Good detail was recorded in our lab analysis between indoor (100 lux) and outdoor (1000 lux) lighting conditions but detail dropped off very quickly under lower light conditions however, as you can see in the comparison below. The low detail in poor lighting conditions is in part a result of the long exposure times of around 60ms at 20 lux and 100ms at 1 lux, making it challenging to get good detail whilst handholding the device in low light.

Despite the relatively good lab measurements there was a very apparent loss of fine detail in our test scene images shot both outdoors and indoors, which is one the devices main weaknesses.

Consistent with Samsung’s general approach to the texture-versus-noise paradigm visual noise is generally kept under check on the A71. It increases in low light but not more so than on the other devices in the comparison chart below.

Noise comparison

Autofocus performance leaves some room for improvement on the A71, with slow response times in all lighting conditions and frequent focusing failures in low light. In our benchmark lab tests, images were consistently in sharp focus under both indoor and outdoor lighting conditions, but the device takes around 500ms (half-a-second) to lock on, which is very slow compared to much of the competition. Performance is worse in low light conditions (20 lux) and, as you can see from the chart below, the A71 takes around 1 second before taking a shot and even then over half of our images were out of focus. Our comparison devices out doing noticeably better than the Samsung.

Autofocus comparison in low light (20lux)

Samsung devices generally offer a very wide field-of-view from their ultra-wide cameras and the 12mm lens on the A71 is no exception. Broadly image quality is comparable to the primary camera on outdoor images with good exposure, wide dynamic range, as well as vivid and well-saturated color. The same blue color cast is also prevalent however, as well as generally low detail.

Indoors, images tend to be slightly under-exposed with more limited dynamic range, but color and white balance are often accurate and again noise is well-controlled. Many of the problems associated with wide angle images are evident on the A71 however, with very noticeable geometric distortion causing straight lines towards the edges of the frame to bend. You can see on the example below, edge and barrel distortion are much more obvious on the Samsung A71 compared to the Xiaomi Redmi K20 Pro, which keep lines much straighter.

Samsung A71, wide angle, strong distortion
Apple iPhone 11, wide angle, noticeable distortion
Xiaomi Redmi K20 Pro, wide angle, well-controlled distortion

The Galaxy A71 doesn’t feature a dedicated tele-camera, so predictably the quality of zoom shots isn’t among the best we have seen. Detail is low even at close range (x2 magnification) in all lighting conditions, and even though it’s slightly better in bright light outdoors, the comparison below highlights that the A71 isn’t as good at maintaining resolution as devices such as the iPhone 11, and particularly the Pixel 3a, neither of which feature a tele-camera, either. As you’d expect, the quality of zoom shots doesn’t improve at medium- or long-range distances, where detail is lower with inaccurate texture rendering, and both noise and artifacts tend to increase.

Portrait mode is a strength for the Samsung A71, with its dedicated 5MP depth sensing sensor ensuring generally good subject isolation in bokeh shots. Some minor blur artifacts and a slight step in the blur gradient is noticeable on some shots, as well as an inconsistency of noise in low light images, but on the whole bokeh mode does a very respectable job. The quality of the bokeh is particularly nice, with a strong but pleasant depth-of-field effect, as well as a nice shape to the bokeh highlights, and the effect is consistently applied across consecutive shots, which is a bonus.

Night performance overall isn’t great on the Galaxy A71. The auto-flash tends to fire accurately when shooting portraits, resulting in decent exposure on the subject. Backgrounds are totally under-exposed however and strong variations in white balance lead to inconsistent skin tone rendering, with strong yellow color casts often prevalent. The red eyes effect is very visible too, so overall the pictures aren’t very successful.

The same analysis is broadly true shooting low light cityscapes, too. In auto flash mode the flash tends to fire, which is disappointing as it’s ineffective in lighting the scene and has a knock on implication for the image processing pipeline. Shots remain under-exposed, with strong white balance casts, low detail and visible noise, including a pattern noise effect in areas of uniform color. Cityscapes with the flash forced off are slightly better, with brighter exposure. However, limited dynamic range leads to strong highlight and shadow clipping. Ghosting and motion blur are often present too, so overall detail remains low.

Samsung A71, auto-flash
Samsung A71, crop, low detail and pattern noise effect

Switching to the A71’s dedicated Night mode tends to produce better night portraits with a brighter subject, background and greater dynamic range producing a more pleasing result. Overall night mode quality remains fairly low however, with low detail, as well as a strong luminance and chromatic noise visible.

We deduct points for obvious artifacts or image quality flaws visible in images. A heavy penalty was applied to the Samsung A71 for a very strong ringing artifact, which is visible in most images and appears as a strong white line along contrast edges. A loss of acutance, or sharpness, towards the edges of the frame is the next worse culprit and is very noticeable when viewing images at large scale and will impact the quality of prints. Some points were deducted for distortion from the primary camera, as well as occasional flare in backlit images and maze or moiré effect in high frequency patterns, but overall these issues are less detrimental to image quality overall.

Samsung A71, ringing artifact
Samsung A71, crop, a strong white line along contrast edges

Achieving a Video of score of 74, overall video quality on the Samsung A71 is fairly low, but the device is capable of nice exposures in well balanced lighting conditions and its stabilization system is effective. Tested in the lab, target exposure is good under indoor (100 lux) and outdoor (1000 lux) lighting conditions. Exposure remains good in low light conditions down to 20 lux too, so it’s only in very dark environments that the A71’s video are noticeably underexposed. Dynamic range is very limited however so expect to see noticeable highlight clipping on videos captured in high contrast lighting conditions both outdoors and indoors.

Samsung A71, video target exposure by lighting condition analysis

Video autofocus is something of a strength for the A71, with good reaction times, accurate triggering and repeatable results when recording relatively static subjects. Failures occur with autofocus tracking however, which is poor in both bright and low light conditions, with jerky convergence and obvious focus instabilities.

Detail is also much lower than we often see of 4K devices. In our comparison chart below you can see that the level of measured detail is lowest on the Samsung across all light levels. In addition detail drops off quickly as light levels decrease too. The A71’s noise reduction algorithms aren’t quite as finely tuned for video as we saw with stills either, so expect to see noise in videos shot in all lighting conditions, including a chromatic element.

Video texture comparison

Video stabilization is a nice strength for the A71 controlling unwanted motion effects well on both static and walking video in all lighting conditions. Video stability between scene changes is good too, and frame shifts are barely noticeable. That said, there is a difference between the sharpness of frames occasionally, as well as a visible jello effect, but on the whole its gyro-EIS system does a pretty good job. The same heavy ringing artifact we saw with stills persists on the A71’s videos though, so expect to see a strong outline to contrast edges in many videos.

Samsung Galaxy A71, outdoor video

Conclusion

Whilst Samsung’s mid-range A-series devices aren’t meant to rival the manufacturers excellent photography of its flagship models the new A71 doesn’t really improve on the A9 we tested a year ago. From both the main and ultra-wide cameras you can expect well exposed images in good light, excellent dynamic range and well saturated color, but blue color casts can also make outdoor images disappointing.

Detail is generally low in all images and regular autofocus failures in low light can be frustrating. Samsung has significantly improved the bokeh rendering on the A71 compared to the A9, which is a bonus for portrait shooters, but the quality of both zoom and night shots is low.

The same analysis holds out for video with acceptable exposure and color generally, but low detail and jerky autofocus when tracking makes successful videos a challenge. Samsung enthusiasts after top quality photography would be advised to plumb for one of their flagship models, but if budget makes that impossible, there are better alternatives for photography in the mid-range market.

Photo

Pros

  • Accurate exposure with wide dynamic range
  • Well-controlled noise outdoors and indoors
  • Vivid and pleasant color outdoors
  • Nice bokeh effect

Cons

  • Strong ringing in all conditions
  • Low detail in all conditions
  • Low detail on zoom shots
  • Slow autofocus in all conditions, with failures in low light
  • Blue color cast on outdoor images

Video

Pros

  • Good exposure indoors and in bright light
  • Effective stabilization on static handheld videos and when walking

Cons

  • Low detail and visible noise in all conditions
  • Limited dynamic range
  • Visible ringing and color quantization artifacts
  • Poor autofocus tracking with jerky convergence

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