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What we know so far about the Samsung S9 and S9+ cameras and what we’d like to see

By Alvin Soon - on 25 Feb 2018, 11:59pm

Samsung will unveil the Galaxy S9 and S9+ on the 25th of February. The company has already boldly stated that it will ‘reimagine’ the cameras on the S9 and S9+.

Hype aside, here’s what we think we know about the cameras on the upcoming S9 and S9+. Rumors are that the camera lens has a variable f/1.5 and f/2.4 aperture. If that’s true, the S9 and S9+ would have the fastest camera lenses in today’s market. 

However, the S8 and S8+ already have an f/1.7 aperture, so it’s unclear how much of a difference an f/1.5 aperture would make. The wider aperture would net you slightly brighter images in low light, but low light performance was already one of Samsung’s key strengths.

The other rumor is that the S9 and S9+ will feature a super slow-motion mode that captures at 480 frames per second in 1080p. That’s double what Apple’s iPhone X can capture at 240fps in 1080p.

There might be a feature that Samsung is calling ‘Super PD’ (Phase Detection) autofocus, or simply much better autofocus. Samsung previously added phase detection autofocus on the S5, and Dual Pixel autofocus on the S7. It’s unclear what ‘Super PD’ might be, but I have my fingers crossed that Samsung is porting its stellar multi-area AF from Pro Mode into Auto Mode.

It’s also likely that the S9+ will follow in the footsteps of the Note8 and feature a dual camera setup.

Last year’s S8, S8+, and Note8 smartphones had excellent cameras. In fact, the Note8 tied with Apple’s iPhone X as our best smartphone camera for 2017. So it’ll come as no surprise if the S9 and S9+ continue to lead the pack in imaging performance.

But there were places where the Note8 camera lagged behind. With the S9 and S9+, these are the changes I’d like to see most.

1. No Bixby

There are dedicated buttons for Bixby Vision and Stickers in Auto mode that you can’t modify.

The Note8 Camera app has buttons for Bixby and Stickers that can’t be modified. These two buttons take up valuable real estate if you don’t use them. It’d be more useful if they could be customized so you can have shortcuts to other features, like Pro mode.

2. Better HDR

A Samsung Note8 HDR image (left) compared with an Apple iPhone X HDR image (right). The iPhone X HDR photo has more highlight and shadow detail.

The Google Pixel 2 XL takes the best still photos among current smartphone cameras. That’s thanks to its game-changing HDR+ feature, which takes images with rich clarity and color. I’m uncertain that other manufacturers can match what Google is doing with computational photography (SLYT), but I’d like to see the S9 and S9+ up their HDR game.

Last year’s iPhones, for example, shot noticeably better HDR images, with higher range and richer tones. At the same time, Samsung’s HDR mode performed much the same as before. It’d be great to see Samsung’s HDR images advance this year.

3. Improved video

Samsung’s video performance has always lagged behind the iPhones’. It’s the reason why Samsung’s smartphones don’t sweep our yearly smartphone camera shootouts. There’s less rolling shutter than there used to be, but still more compared to the iPhone X. 

The S9 and S9+ are rumored to ship with a new super slow-motion mode. Now, super slow motion isn’t high on my wishlist. But the focus on this video feature gives me hope that Samsung has also improved the S9 and S9+’s overall video quality.

What about you? What would you like to see improved in the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ cameras?

Alvin Soon

Alvin Soon / Former Deputy Editor

I like coffee and cameras, but not together.