Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus Review
|What we like||What we don't|
The smartphone camera market is moving very rapidly, and the Galaxy S9+ represents a solid entry from one of the world's biggest smartphone manufacturers. On paper, the S9 and S9+ look positively brilliant; dual cameras, optical stabilization, 4K/60p video capture. There's a lot that we like about the Galaxy S9+, but we also found a few things that could stand to be improved.
|Out-of-camera JPEG | ISO 50 | 1/250 sec | F2.4
Photo by Jeff Keller
While we were impressed by the wide-angle camera in many ways, the telephoto camera on the S9+ leaves a lot to be desired; with slow and inaccurate focus, it sullies an otherwise solid smartphone experience and makes portrait shooting with Samsung's 'Live Focus' mode incredibly frustrating. Unnecessarily long shutter speeds in low light with either camera make it difficult to capture the right moment in dim conditions, and for those power users out there, we can't recommend Raw capture on the S9+ at this time.
Video shooters will find a lot to like
on the Galaxy S9+, but low-light photographers should look elsewhere
As a consequence, if you're planning to do a lot of portrait or low light photography with your phone, we'd recommend you look elsewhere. But if you want to capture high quality video, the majority of your photography is in good light and you plan to use the phone to stream shows on the beautiful HDR-capable screen, then the Samsung Galaxy S9+ will be a good fit.
What we think
Compared to other flagship smartphones
While we don't necessarily think people are frequently switching from iOS to Android and vice versa, we think it's worth comparing the Galaxy S9+ to its most visible and common competitors; the iPhone X and the Google Pixel 2.
|Out-of-camera JPEG | ISO 50 | 1/1250 sec | F2.4
Photo by Jeff Keller
Google Pixel 2: Google's home-grown flagship smartphone may come with just a single camera, but what a camera it is. Through intelligent processing and image-stacking, photos out of the Pixel 2 come with incredible detail, noise performance and speed (particularly in Portrait / Live Focus mode) that the Galaxy S9+ just can't match. That said, we find the color rendition on the Galaxy to be far and away more pleasing, it can capture 4K/60p video (the Pixel tops out at 30p), and those colors and video look just that much better on the Galaxy's best-in-class HDR capable and color-accurate display.
Using the wide-angle lens in this indoor mixed lighting (which happened to be around 100 lux), the Samsung didn't switch to F1.5 aperture, forcing a slower shutter speed (1/30-1/60s) that caused motion blur. The Pixel's single F1.8 lens meant it could use a faster shutter speed, 1/120s, to freeze the toddler.
'Live Focus' mode in these circumstances gave us zero in-focus shots, as the combination of subject movement with focus hunting meant the camera was always playing catch up. Shutter lag meant we could never nail the correct moment. Again, here the Pixel using its F1.8 lens, dual pixel autofocus, and faster 1/120s shutter speed meant a far higher keeper rate, with pleasing background blur to boot.
Apple iPhone X: Apple's latest flagship looks and feels more polished and premium than the Galaxy on the outside, but whether or not you prefer iOS or Samsung's particular brand of Android on the inside is a matter of personal taste. What we do see are some remarkable similarities between the two models in terms of color rendition, but portrait mode on the iPhone is still far better than the Galaxy.
|Samsung Galaxy S9||Apple iPhone X|
Video modes are similar, with both offering 4K/60p, slow motion modes and efficient codecs that keep file sizes manageable. For power users, shooting in Raw on the iPhone will give far better results than shooting in Raw on the Galaxy, but the screen on the Galaxy makes for a more rich user experience for viewing both stills and video.
Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category. Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system and what these numbers mean.
Samsung Galaxy S9+
Category: Mobile Phone
Camera and Photo Features
Ergonomics and Handling
Still Image Quality
Speed and Responsiveness
The Galaxy S9+ is a responsive and well-built flagship smartphone that has some serious photographic chops. The wide-angle lens is great, the video quality is impressive and the screen is among the best we've ever seen. Unfortunately, subpar performance from the telephoto lens, a disappointing portrait mode and blurry low-light results hold it back from being a truly standout mobile photographic experience.
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