Video quality

Frame grab captured from the 4K/60p video on the Galaxy S9+

The Samsung Galaxy S9+ comes with some impressive video specifications, as befitting a flagship product. We've shot a wide variety of video with our sample phone, and have come away with some interesting findings.

Of particular importance for those taking video of friends and family, we found that autofocus performance in video is really impressive with the wide-angle lens. It sticks to your subject better than Google's Pixel 2, which tends to be more center-weighted and will shoot the focus off to the background as soon as your subject turns his or her face away. The Galaxy isn't quite to quick to do so, resulting in more consistently in-focus footage.

Key takeaways:

  • The top-spec 4K/60p video looks beautiful, isn't as well-stabilized as other modes
  • Stabilization in all other video modes is highly effective
  • Video recorded using HEVC (high efficiency video codec) compression is small in size but will only playback on certain devices with hardware support at this time
  • Autofocus performance is better than Google's Pixel 2 and Apple's iPhone X
  • Slow motion capture options are neat, Motion Detection capture aid needs a little work
  • Pinch-to-zoom works in, well, a pinch, but isn't terribly smooth or pleasing to look at

High quality sample reel

First up, let's see how the Galaxy S9+ looks when set to its highest recording setting of 4K/60p, using HEVC (high efficiency video codec) compression.

To start, even though the menus on the Galaxy S9+ claim that video stabilization is unavailable when shooting this mode, there is clearly some degree of stabilization occurring. Secondly, we have to admit that the footage is impressive - there's only one instance of autofocus hunting in this clip, and the codec is dealing very well with complexities in the water, smoothness in the sky and even a reasonably fast pan looks natural.

The high-efficiency compression gives very compact files, but isn't widely supported yet

Our biggest concern with the 4K/60p footage from the Galaxy isn't so much about the quality of the footage, but rather the compression technique. The HEVC compression being used ensures impressively compact files, but be prepared to jump through some hoops to share it with friends and family who may not have the latest and greatest hardware. Even our studio testing 2017 Apple Macbook Pro appeared to have a software error in playing back the footage properly.

That said, we were pleasantly surprised when we dropped the clips into the latest update of Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2017 on an older iMac that shouldn't support playback of these files, and up popped a prompt to install the HEVC codec. After that, all of the 4K clips from the Galaxy S9+ played flawlessly during the editing process.

Slow motion and super slow motion

The Galaxy S9+ also offers two forms of slow motion video capture - be aware that by default, only 'Super Slow Mo' is enabled in the camera app, which captures 720p footage at 960fps. You have to go into the camera settings to enable regular 'Slow Mo,' which records 1080p footage at 240fps.

Only 'Super Slow Mo' is enabled by default, dive into the camera settings to enable the higher-quality but less extreme 'Slow Mo' mode

Considering the frame rate, the quality of the footage looks pretty good. Let's start with what 1080p at 240fps looks like. When we downloaded the files from the phone, they were actually packaged as 1080/240p files, which we then slowed down by 8x to get 30fps for this sample clip.

Super slow motion on the other hand is a little more difficult to use. Because the maximum amount of 'real time' footage you can capture is 0.2 seconds, which is then lengthened to 6 seconds for playback, it can be hard to get the right timing. Samsung offers a feature called 'Motion Detection' to make this easier.

The idea is that the camera will automatically start the slow motion capture when it detects movement in an area of the frame that you place over your subject. Neat idea, but not perfect, as you'll see in the below clip.

Additionally, though we find the super-slow-motion footage from this to be pretty impressive as well, the 'real time' footage between the slow motion portions looks mediocre - we'd like to see future iterations of this feature allow for higher-quality 60p capture and dynamically switch to the higher-speed capture on the fly. In any case, 720p is 720p, and it's going to look a little low-resolution compared to the Galaxy's excellent 4K/60p video capture even under the best of circumstances. But it's still a fun feature and looks good when viewed on a smartphone-sized screen.

Stabilization

The Galaxy S9+ comes with both optical and digital video stabilization, though the menus on the phone specifically state that this is unavailable in either of the slow motion modes or when shooting 4K/60p.

We went from 1080/30p all the way up to 4K/60p to show you how the Galaxy stabilizes footage while just walking down the street.

As we saw in the sample reel above, it does appear as there is some stabilization happening in the 4K/60p clip, but all the other settings are really impressively smooth.

Low light video

This clip was taken during the same live concert during which we experienced issues with the Galaxy S9+'s choice of shutter speeds for still images in low light. To our eyes, the footage looks solid; there's with plenty of noise visible, but the environment really was awfully dark and the camera manages to maintain decent exposure and control over compression artifacts.

Autofocus observations

Overall, autofocus performance in video really impressed us on the S9+. Whereas the Google Pixel 2 is heavily center-weighted and will often shoot focus off to the background if your subject strays too far to the side, the Galaxy's focus seems more weighted towards objects that are closest to the camera. We also noticed less hunting in general than either the Pixel 2 or iPhone X.