This Samsung Galaxy S9 review was part of my partnership with Samsung Canada; however, my review was done independently and reflects my experience with the Galaxy S9 and its camera.
Samsung released its updated flagship phone, the Galaxy S9, a few months ago and I was lucky enough to receive one from Samsung Canada shorty after its release. My aim was simple, after a year with the Galaxy S8+, I was eager to test the Galaxy S9’s improved camera.
The Galaxy S8 was a radical redesign and, at quick glance, the S9 shares the same build quality and style as its predecessor, including the edge-to-edge Infinity Display and 18.5:6 aspect ratio. The screen glass is thicker, but it’s not something easily noticed. Only two obvious changes were made to its external design: the iris scanner was hidden in the upper bezel, further emphasizing the display and the finger-print sensor was moved below the rear-facing camera.
The camera marked a significant change. It’s completely redesigned and a huge improvement on what was an already a solid camera in the S8 models. Before getting into my review, let’s look at the camera specifications for the S9 and S9+
Front Facing Camera
8MP AF Sensor
FOV: 80 degrees
3 shooting modes
Wide Angle Camera
Dual pixel, 12 MP AF sensor
FOV: 77 degrees
Dual Aperture: f1.5 and f2.4
Optical image Stabilization
8X digital zoom
6 Shooting modes
Telephoto Camera (s9+ only)
12 MP AF Sensor telephoto lens
FOV: 45 degrees
Single Aperture: f2.4
S8 Rear Camera
Dual Pixel 12MP AF
FOV: 77 degrees
6 shooting modes
My S9 Camera Review
My review will focus on the dual-aperture wide angle camera that’s standard on both the S9 and S9+ models. I simply can’t comment on the front-facing camera, as I almost never use it. I doubt I’ve taken a dozen selfies. I also downsized from S8+ to the S9, so I missed out on the dual-lens camera setup available in the S9+. While I wish I had the telephoto lens option, I prioritized having the smaller phone.
The to-the-point review of the camera is simple. It’s the best mobile device camera I’ve ever used. I found it intuitive in both the auto and pro modes, appreciated the improved low-light capabilities and loved the image quality.
For a deeper look, here are the key elements and how they performed:
The 12MP sensor produces some great images. I tend to edit images with a variety of apps, including Snapseed and Lightroom. Even through aggressive edits, the S9 image quality remains. For the first time, I am happy to share images captured and edited with the S9 across my social media channels.
The only downside, in my opinion, is that the 12MP quality is only available in a 4:3 aspect ratio. Shooting in 16:9, which takes advantage of the S9’s display, lowers the quality to 9.1 MP.
Dual Aperture Lens
This is the Samsung Galaxy s9’s most-impressive feature. The dual-aperture lens has both an f1.5 and f2.4 setting, which is more than a full stop difference. This makes two immediate differences: depth of field and low-light capability.
Although both are considered wide apertures, there is a distinct depth of field difference between f1.5 and f2.4. This is only visible when an element of the camera is within 30-45 cm of the camera, but used correctly it becomes a strong visual tool. In this image of the Three Sisters Mountains, in Canmore, I focused on the distant subject. Because the foreground is close to the camera, it remained out of focus and subtly directed the viewer into the frame:
The wide aperture also makes it possible to capture images in extremely low light. I photographed the Banff Springs Hotel nearly 90 minutes after sunset and the image quality is still great:
Using Pro Mode
With the S9 cameras, the camera’s Pro Mode provides the same controls as any dSLR or mirrorless camera. It makes changing the ISO, shutter speed, aperture and white balance intuitive and allows the photographer to decide on the ideal exposure.
Using Pro Mode does come with a few kinks. The camera’s shutter speeds range from an insanely fast 1/24000 to 10 seconds. At slow shutter speeds, the camera has a funny warning that says to hold it steady for the duration of the exposure. It isn’t possible to handhold a camera with these slow shutter speeds, so I strongly suggest using a tripod to maximize this feature.
Another odd issue comes with the WB control. It works seamlessly, if you’re familiar with WB temperatures. The visual color reference is simply wrong. It shows red at 2300k and blue at 10000k. It should be the exact opposite.
The camera boasts a number of photography shooting modes. I’ve used them all, occasionally, but find either the Pro or Auto modes to be my go-to tools. Here’s my quick view of the other settings:
Food: this mode creates a shallow depth of field to highlight food while blurring out distracting backgrounds. It does this digitally, so it’s easy to recreate the effect in an editing program. Personally, I doubt I’ll ever use this setting.
Panorama: This mode works wonderfully and can be used both vertically and horizontally to capture a panoramic scene. Samsung’s cameras also have a video playback option, which transforms the panoramic image into a short video clip that is ideal for Instagram Stories. It’s a great feature.
Selective Focus: This is similar to the food mode, but only blurs the background behind the subject. Again, it’s easy to recreate this while editing and I’d prefer to have more visual control.
Super Slow Mo: This is a new feature on the S9 series. It captures slow motion video at 960 fps! It’s extreme slow motion and incredibly cool in the right situations.
Hyperlapse: This mode was available on the S8, too, but seems to be improved. It automatically selects a frame rate based on the movement in the frame, which means it’s difficult to predict how long it’ll take to capture a 10-second timelapse clip; however, it creates more seamless movement that looks great.
I made the jump to Samsung when it released the Galaxy S8. Since day 1, I’ve enjoyed the Android platform and appreciated the look, feel and style of the phone. Its camera was great, too, but left me wanting a bit more.
It turns out, I just wanted the camera built into the the Galaxy S9 and S9+. It marks a huge step forward from its predecessor and has reaffirmed my choice to use Samsung’s products as my daily go-to mobile device.
To learn more about the device, head over to Samsung’s website, or check out my gear review page for more field tests!