Conclusion

What we like What we don't
  • Dual optically stabilized cameras
  • Very good image quality from the wide-angle camera in good light
  • Fast, reliable autofocus from the wide-angle camera
  • Absolutely gorgeous, bright and color-accurate screen
  • Impressive video quality, up to 4K/60p
  • Great video stabilization at 4K/30p and lower resolutions
  • Dual-aperture gives the wide-angle sensor more light in dim conditions
  • Good-quality slow motion video
  • Built-in 'Pro' mode allows for manual camera control in default app
  • Screen adjusts contrast in real time depending on viewing conditions
  • Fully dust-and-moisture sealed
  • Retains standard microphone jack
  • Lots of fun photo modes and 'beauty' filters built-in
  • Telephoto camera performance and autofocus is downright disappointing
  • Portrait mode ('Live Focus') struggles, even in bright lighting conditions
  • Too easy to accidentally swipe sideways on the screen and enter selfie mode unintentionally
  • HDR can reduce detail, look unnatural, less effective than competitors' modes
  • Noticeable lag when hitting the shutter to take a photo (worse on tele camera)
  • Hesitant to raise ISO value or shutter speeds in dim lighting - can lead to blurry subjects
  • Dual aperture feature of dubious real-world benefit over single, fast aperture
  • Noise reduction obliterates detail at high ISO values, has noticeable multi-frame averaging artifacts
  • Accurate color for photos & videos requires display mode switching

Overall conclusion

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


Jeff Keller
Writer
The S9+ did exactly what I needed it to while on a recent trip to Universal Studios. Photos looked great, the camera app opened instantly and it didn’t matter if the phone got splashed on Jurassic Park. I didn’t find Raw mode to be worth using, since I could never get those images to be even close to JPEG. Low light performance didn’t seem much better than my Note8, but on this casual trip where I didn’t need a lot of zoom, the S9+ was a great companion.

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.

Galaxy S9+
Wide-angle
Pixel 2
Wide-angle
Galaxy S9+
Portrait
Pixel 2
Portrait

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 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
Though the iPhone comes with a darker, deeper sky, the Galaxy S9 retains more fine detail.

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

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
Screen Quality
Ergonomics and Handling
Video Quality
Still Image Quality
Speed and Responsiveness
PoorExcellent
Conclusion
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.
Good for
High quality video capture, general photography in good lighting conditions, playback of stills and video on the HDR-capable and color-accurate screen.
Not so good for
Portrait and low light photography, photography of fast-moving subjects like children.
85%
Overall score