Samsung's Galaxy S9+ is a large, fast smartphone that's jam-packed with photography-focused features. But while it's certainly capable of great image quality, we found some issues with regard to capturing moving subjects, shooting under low lighting and when using 'Live Focus' portrait mode. On the other hand, 4K/60p video capture is of very high quality with good autofocus, and the screen on the S9+ is the best we've seen on a smartphone to date.

Key photographic / video specs

  • Dual rear cameras, each with optical stabilization
    • Wide-angle: 12MP F1.5-2.4, 26mm equiv. focal length, dual pixel autofocus
    • Telephoto: 12MP F2.4, 52mm equiv. focal length, contrast detect autofocus
  • Wide-angle module is the only variable aperture smartphone design on the market
  • Front-facing wide-angle camera: 8MP F1.7 25mm equiv.
  • 'Live Focus' background blurring for rear and front cameras
  • 'Pro' mode offers manual control in built-in camera app, and Raw can be enabled
  • UHD 4K/60p video recording, slow-motion 1080/240p and 720/960p recording (8x and 32x slow motion when outputted at 30 frames per second)

To start, the Galaxy's dual rear cameras are similar to the setup on Apple's iPhone X (one wide-angle, one telephoto), while Google's Pixel 2 makes do with just a single camera on the rear of the phone.

Out-of-camera JPEG | ISO 32 | 1/614 sec | F2.4

But beyond just the number of cameras, each of these phones takes a noticeably different photographic approach across different shooting scenarios. We're starting to see enough differences between the experiences of using these phones to really warrant consideration of what you want (and like) to photograph, especially if you're choosing your next phone with camera quality as a primary concern.

The 'Live Focus' portrait mode experience
is disappointing

With the Galaxy S9+, Samsung touts its Dual Aperture technology as an aid to low-light shooting and the included telephoto lens is primarily used for the 'Live Focus' portrait mode. We found that, despite the Dual Aperture, the phone would select exposure settings that resulted in unnecessarily blurry images in even moderately low light. We also found that, overall, the 'Live Focus' experience using that telephoto lens can give you completely mis-focused images even in bright light, and that it's nigh unusable as light levels start to drop.

Other specs

  • Android 8.0 Oreo
  • 6.2" Super AMOLED display with 2960x1440 resolution (529 ppi)
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
  • 6GB RAM
  • 64/128/256 GB storage plus microSD card slot
  • 3500 mAh Lithium-ion battery (non-removable)

We've now had our loaner Galaxy S9+ for several weeks courtesy of Verizon Wireless, and taken a critical look at how its cameras perform under a wide variety of scenarios. Let's dig in and see what's what.

At launch, the Galaxy S9+ retails for $840, $890 and $940 for the 64, 128 and 256GB models respectively (£849/869/929 in the UK, €949/1049 in Germany and France for 128GB and 256GB models).


Unique Features

The Samsung Galaxy S9+ (along with its smaller brother, the S9) are the only current smartphones on the market with adjustable apertures and screens that automatically adjust contrast and brightness depending on your viewing conditions.

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Body and display

The Galaxy S9+ comes with a huge 6.2" AMOLED display with rounded edges that is simply gorgeous to look at - for the most part.

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Photo quality

From 'Live Focus' portraits to a special 'Food' mode, we've taken a look at the Galaxy's image quality under a wide range of situations.

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Video quality

With UHD 4K/60p and slow-motion video recording, the Galaxy S9+ certainly looks capable on paper - so we found out how it looks in the real world.

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Sample gallery

We've updated our sample gallery with dozens of images from several weeks of shooting. Check out portraits, concerts, sports and more.

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Conclusion

The Galaxy S9+ is one of the most photographically capable smartphones on the market; is it the one for you?

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