Feature Articles

Exclusive First Looks: Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+

By Zachary Chan - 4 Mar 2018

S9 Camera

Galaxy S9 cameras - truly reimagined?

The camera subsystem of the S9 and S9+ requires special mention because it has the most improved features, and will likely be the singular reason you decide your next upgrade upon. In fact, the improvements are so substantial, we've created a separate article focusing entirely on our impressions using these new features.

But in this article, we'll sum up what you need to know about the new camera features most.

Before we start, let's just clear the air regarding the configuration between the S9 and S9+. The S9 has a single rear camera, while the S9+ has dual rear cameras. However, all the new and improved camera functionality of the S9 and S9+ comes from the main 12MP rear camera sensor. This is what Samsung is calling the Super Speed Dual Pixel AF sensor with OIS

The second rear camera on the S9+ appears to be the same 12MP F2.4 OIS sensor found on the Galaxy Note8. This means the S9+ will support similar capabilities to the Note8 such as optical zoom, Live Focus, and Dual Capture that the S9 would not have, but both phones will support all the new features such as AR Emoji, Super Slow-mo, Low Light, updated Bixby Vision, and Intelligent Scan enhancements. 

Now, Samsung has sort of settled down on 12 megapixels for the past three generations since the S7, opting to improve all the parts surrounding the sensor instead. The S7 introduced the dual-pixel AF sensor with OIS and a fast F1.7 lens. The S8 refined image processing with multi-frame technology that combined three images to reduce blur and improved clarity. With the S9, Samsung is adding two major innovations to the camera, while maintaining everything they've introduced since the S7.

 

Super Speed

Firstly, we've got a 3-layer stacked sensor design similar to the Sony Xperia XZ Premium released last year. A stacked sensor features an additional DRAM layer sandwiched directly onto the CMOS image sensor that acts as a high-speed buffer, hence the Super Speed naming convention. Just like the Sony Xperia XZ Premium, the S9 and S9+ now have the ability to shoot super slow-mo clips at 960fps. But, that's not all. Samsung is also taking advantage of the DRAM buffer to improve multi-frame processing in the S9 and S9+. Instead of just taking and combining 3 images, the S9 shoots and combines 12 images. According to Samsung, this results in up to 30% improved noise reduction compared to the S8, which also helps further boost the device's low light capabilities.

Dual Aperture

The other important upgrade, which is actually a first for smartphones, is the inclusion of a variable aperture lens on the main camera. Just like how dual camera setups provided smartphones with the ability to have true optical zoom, a dual aperture lens will give the S9 and S9+ the ability to better adjust to different lighting situations. 

At its widest end, the F1.5 aperture will mean that the S9 and S9+ can now boast of the brightest lens on any flagship device. This allows up to 28% more light than the S8 (which had an F1.7 lens). Combined with the new, enhanced multi-frame processing mentioned above, the S9 is going to be a low light beast. During my preview, the S9+ managed to blow the Google Pixel 2 XL out of the water in a low light demo. 

When the S9 and S9+ detect that there's enough light, however, it will automatically switch to a narrower F2.4 aperture. While this is practically unheard of in today's smartphone camera race for low light superiority, it is actually a better setting for sunny outdoor photography. The S9 will be lesser prone to overblown skies and the greater depth of field will help you get sharper landscapes and panoramas.

For more camera performance findings and video demos of its functionality, tune in to our dedicated Galaxy S9 camera feature preview.

 

Closing remarks

Just a quick personal observation. Samsung is finally learning to play the crowd with the Galaxy S9. Instead of just throwing new features, they're making sure things work better, and play better with each other. I really liked that small little tidbit about the Lilac Purple color not being some random afterthought and instead is in the spirit of Pantone's Color of the Year. For Samsung fans, the S9 is familiar and builds upon the features of last year's S8. It's not revolutionary, but it feels more usable, more accessible, and more fun.
 

Read Next: Local pricing, availability and pre-order details!

Experience Next: All the new Samsung Galaxy S9 / S9+ camera features trialed

Watch Next (1): How to take Super Slow-mo 960fps videos on the Samsung Galaxy S9

Watch Next (2): Setting up and using AR Emoji on the Samsung Galaxy S9

Watch Next (3): Bixby Vision Food in action with the Samsung Galaxy S9