Galaxy S9 First Photo Samples: How Good Is the Camera?

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Samsung claims that it has "reimagined" the camera with the Galaxy S9, but how good are the photos? We'll bring you our full review in the near future, which will include photo comparisons with the iPhone X and Pixel 2. But for now Samsung is allowing publications to show photo samples from the Galaxy S9 and S9+ themselves.Credit: Tom's GuideCredit: Tom's Guide

So far, the new Super Speed Dual Pixel camera on our Galaxy S9+ is proving to be a capable performer, especially in low light, but there's still room for improvement.

We mostly wanted to focus on how well the S9+ performed in dim conditions, because the variable aperture on the Galaxy S9 and S9+ goes as wide as f/1.5. Samsung says that its new flagships let in 28 percent more light. At the same time, Samsung added dedicated memory to its camera in order to reduce noise.

Grand Central Station

Credit: Tom's GuideCredit: Tom's Guide

The Galaxy S9+ did an admirable job here capturing a tricky scene with not much light. You can easily make out the constellations in the ceiling, and the limestone walls look fairly bright. Plus, the people in the foreground are easily visible; a lesser camera phone would have trouble rendering these commuters.

The shot isn't perfect, though. The area around the clock in the middle of the scene is blown out, as is the Apple logo on the opposite wall to the right of the clock.

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Bryant Park

Between skating sessions at Bryant Park, I snapped this photo of a Zamboni cleaning up the ice. The S9+ did a fine job capturing the warm sunlight bouncing off the building in the background while producing good details in the foreground, including the reflections on the ice. Even the “Powered by Hot Chocolate” text on the side of the Zamboni looks sharp.

Indoor Portrait

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To see how well the S9+ captures portraits in low light, I journeyed to The Campbell, a swanky mid-town bar, with my colleague Mike Prospero. Mike's face is fairly well lit given the circumstances, as are the walls. However, his face looks yellowish and not quite natural. In addition, his blue checkered came out black.

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Times Square

Credit: Tom's GuideCredit: Tom's Guide

Right after sunset I took this shot in Times Square using the S9+, and the level of detail is quite strong, as evidenced by the striations on the right side of the One Way sign. Even the Frozen billboard way in the background is well defined. We wish the plants and people in the foreground were a bit brighter but overall this is a pretty good shot.

The Campbell Bar

Credit: Tom's GuideCredit: Tom's GuideBack at The Campbell, the S9+ did a pretty good job with this tricky scene. The back frosted glass wall is well defined, and you can make out the bartender. There's a pleasant warmth to this pic. However, the bottoms of the bottles got blown out, and the other patrons are too dark to see. Still, on balance this is a good example of how smartphone cameras have come.

Skyline at Dusk

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My favorite part of this photo is the sky, as the Galaxy S9+'s camera faithfully captured the pink and gold hues mixing in with the blue. The trees also look fairly bright, as it's easy to make out the brighter and darker areas of the bark. We just wish the rest of the photo looked as warm as the sky; there's a cool color cast here that we've noticed on other Samsung camera phones.

Outlook

These photos samples are just from our first day of shooting with the Galaxy S9+, so I'm definitely not jumping to any conclusions yet. But based on the first batch of images, I'd day that the f/1.5 aperture on the S9 and S9+ does improve low-light shooting over the Galaxy S8 and S8+. You get more detail and a brighter image that you would expect.

However, the trade-off for this improvement seems to be colors that look less accurate than I'd like. And sometimes the S9 can blow out parts of the scene where there is bright light in a dim room. Overall, though, I would say the camera on the S9 and S9+ is a step forward.