Samsung Galaxy S9+ Review: Fantastic And Fast With A Killer Camera

Samsung Galaxy S9+ Camera Software And Performance

We've already observed how the cameras in Samsung's Galaxy S9 and S9+ are really something special, as have other respected sources in the industry, but here's a quick look at the software on board the Galaxy S9+, as well as some still imaging and video samples. 

Galaxy S9 Auto Settings

Dual Aperture, Live Focus, And Multi-Frame Noise Reduction - Yes Please

Most users will find themselves working with the three main camera modes above, though there are a myriad of shot modes, from Panorama to Food and others. The Auto mode employs either the f1.5 or f2.4 aperture setting on the standard aspect camera of the Galaxy S9+ (or Galaxy S9), while the telephoto wide aspect lens is locked at f2.4 (Galaxy S9+ only). Samsung claims the f1.5 aperture setting is the widest, brightest setting among any smartphone camera on the market currently, with 28% better reception of light. As you'll see below, this does allow for impressive lighting responsiveness and much less noise. In addition, the Galaxy S9 and S9+ both employ Multi-Frame Noise Reduction technology that captures 12 shots in three groups of four and then combines them into a single best shot with significantly less noise and artifacting.

Galaxy S9 Live Focus Settings

GS9 camera pro mode

Live Focus is a another great mode that allows for some stunning depth of field bokeh soft focus effects. This mode combines both rear cameras of the Galaxy S9+ (not available in the Galaxy S9), to assemble focus depths in a shot. You can then adjust background blur of a shot in post, via software. It's a really great feature actually, and potentially for some shutterbugs, reason alone to step to the price of the Galaxy S9+. In addition, Samsung's Pro camera mode is about as feature-rich as any we've seen, with the ability to dial aperture, ISO, White Balance and more from a slide out menu on the right. We will say, however, that accidental actuation and navigation between shot modes can be janky and takes a bit of getting used to, if you tend to be a bit fat-fingered at times. We found ourselves switching to another shot mode on occasion, when trying to capture a shot. It does feel that, with a bit of learning curve, you can avoid these occasional mishaps, though.

Samsung Super Slow Mo Mode
Perpetual Motion Currently Paused - Super Slow-Mo Ready

And then there's the ever-entertaining Super Slow-Mo Mode, which is available on both the Galaxy S9 and S9+. Just as it sounds, Super Slow-Mo mode records video clips with intermittent 6 second stretches of slow-mo video, where the camera takes just .2 seconds of a recording and stretches over 6 seconds of time at a silky smooth 960 Frames Per Second (FPS). In Auto mode for this feature, there's a reticle box that tracks motion, when something moving fast enough enters the frame, it records a burst for Super Slow-Mo mode. The overall affect is, well, awesome and fun, to put it simply. You'll see for yourself below. For now, let's look at some still shot image fidelity generated by the Samsung Galaxy S9+.

GS9 Sample Shot4 GS9 Sample Shot3
GS9 Sample Shot HDR
GS9 Sample Shot6

Here you can see indoor lighting of various types and a high bright outdoor shot captured but the Samsung Galaxy S9+. The two top indoor shots show particularly challenging lighting settings that we've recently compared other smartphone imaging too, if you'd like some comparable reference points. In our opinion these lower light and mixed light images produced by the Galaxy S9+ are the best we've ever seen these shot subjects look, with the absolute least amount of noise and the most accurate colors. The knick-knacks on white table shot almost always shows some amount of noise on the adjacent walls. Not so with the Galaxy S9/S9+. Historically, we've felt like Samsung's Galaxy S and Note product lines produced slightly over-saturated pictures, though arguably still some of the best smartphone camera results in the business. Google's Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL rival that historic performance (honorable mention hat tip to the LG V30 too), only perhaps with occasionally slightly washed-out results.

Now that the Samsung Galaxy S9+ has arrived, however, we can definitively say this is the best smartphone camera we've ever used, with the best color accuracy, image fidelity and low light capture response. We're still poking around with low-light capture results and have been so impressed, that we may return soon with separate coverage of more detailed shot results in other challenging scenarios. And just look at the HDR response with the sun rays through the trees above, the tattered laces on the baseball and details of each washed-out pebble on the stone wall - it's just downright impressive. 

GS9 Sample Shot5
Galaxy S9 Plus Live Focus Shot2 Mate 10 Pro Wide Aperture Shot
Galaxy S9+ Live Focus (Left) - Huawei Mate 10 Pro Wide Aperture (Right)
Yogi Pose Galaxy S9 Plus
Samsung Galaxy S9+ Live Focus - Looking Sharp

At the risk of gushing further, we'd offer that once you start playing with Samsung's Live Focus feature in the Galaxy S9+, with the assistance now of its dual aperture and telephoto cameras, you'll be hooked. It's so relatively easy now for the mainstream consumer to get professional looking shots from a smartphone. Look at the Calla Lilly flower with sunlight pouring in from the windows - it's kind of just wow, is it not? Interestingly, though the entire background is soft blurred, the camera software decided to sharpen up the clock face on the left side of the shot for some reason, which looks kind of cool actually. It's also time to change the battery on that clock. We also decided to compare the Galaxy S9+ Live Focus feature to Huawei's Mate 10 Pro (review forthcoming) and its Wide Aperture mode. As you can see, the Galaxy S9+ delivers sharper foreground focus with roughly the same level of soft background blur, and what we would offer is better color accuracy. It's a little subjective but the gray wall in that shot is more of a blue/green gray. Regardless, the Mate 10 Pro's Wide Aperture mode does compete well here.

Samsung Galaxy S9+ Video Sample Clips

But what about that Super Slow-Mo mode and other video capture modes of the Galaxy S9+? Just push play...

Super Slow-Mo mode is just super cool, no two ways about it. It only shoots at 720p and the better lighting you have the less noise and grain for sure, but the effect is just tons of fun. We're looking forward to Samsung iterating and improving this feature. It's a keeper. Great stuff. Generally speaking, the Galaxy S9+ also shoots great video footage with very quick auto-focus and solid image stabilization. You also get a 4K 60 FPS shot mode now, which is impressive, though it doesn't support OIS. We'd suggest sticking with the 4K30 mode or 1080p 60FPS, both of which look fantastic, even with fast-moving targets like spring-loaded Jack Russells.

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