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Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus Review

The Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus is the first camera phone with a variable aperture, and it's also the brightest lens available in any smartphone camera to date, with an f/1.5 lens. Let's find out how the camera performs, and what difference the variable aperture makes.

|  Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus in Camera Phones
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Samsung Galaxy S9plus (10)

The Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus are Samsung's flagship mobile phones, announced in February 2018, they both feature a wide-angle lens with a variable aperture - you can choose between f/1.5 or f/2.4, making it not only the first camera phone with a variable aperture, but also the brightest lens available in any smartphone camera to date! The S9 Plus features a second telephoto camera, and both cameras feature optical image stabilisation. The front camera is an 8 megapixel camera, with a bright f/1.7 aperture, and auto focus. A second front camera is used for face recognition which can be used to unlock the phone. Let's find out how the camera performs, and what difference the variable aperture makes.

Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus Features

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Samsung Galaxy S9 / S9 Plus Camera Features

The Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus both feature a wide-angle camera with optical image stabilisation (OIS), and a variable aperture, which will automatically switch between f/1.5 and f/2.4 depending on lighting conditions. In pro mode, you can set the aperture yourself. The 12-megapixel sensor features a dual-pixel design for rapid focus. The sensor has 1.4um pixels (find out what pixel size means here), which are quite large for a smartphone, allowing the sensor to gather more light, and giving better noise performance. 

The telephoto lens on the S9 Plus has an f/2.4 aperture and optical image stabilisation helps keep shots sharp. The telephoto camera also features a 12-megapixel sensor, however, the pixels are smaller at 1um. 

The front 8-megapixel "selfie" camera has a bright f/1.7 aperture and auto-focus.

There have been further updates made to the camera app, with AR Emoji, and Super Slow-motion recording, at up to 960fps. "Bixby Vision" is built-in, letting you search the internet for similar items to what you've taken a photo of. Touch focus can be used, and thanks to every pixel on the dual pixel sensor being used for phase detection, autofocus is blisteringly fast, helping you capture sudden movements.

Shooting modes include Auto, Live Focus (for blurred backgrounds), Pro, Panorama, Super Slow motion (up to 960fps), Hyperlapse, AR Emoji, Food, and video modes. There is a built-in LED flash on the rear, and the front screen can be used as a selfie flash when using the front camera, in low-light conditions.

4K UHD video is recorded at frame rates up to 60fps and can be recorded whilst simultaneously capturing 9-megapixel images. 


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Samsung Galaxy S9 / S9 Plus Smartphone Features

Both smartphones feature the curved edge "Infinity Display" from the S8, which is designed to give maximum screen size, whilst maintaining a smaller phone size, with a 5.8inch 18:9 screen on the S9 and a 6.2inch 18:9 screen on the S9 Plus. The screens have a high resolution of 2960x1440, and they support HDR10, which is compatible with apps like Netflix.

The Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus benefit from the top of the range SnapDragon 845 or Samsung's Exynos 9810 processor, depending on purchase location. The S9 Plus comes with 6GB of RAM and 64/128/256GB of storage depending on version, which is generous. The S9 comes with 4GB RAM and 64/128/256GB of storage. There is the capability to insert a microSD card into the phone, allowing for much greater storage (up to 400GB) when you're taking lots of pictures, although most people probably won't need it.

The S9 and S9 Plus are dust and water resistant, with Samsung claiming it can withstand a 30 minute dunking up to 1.5m down. It's also got protection if you drop it - Corning Gorilla Glass 5 is used on both the screen and the back panel, making it tough. 

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On the front left, you can see an additional front camera, which is used for face recognition which can be used to unlock the phone. You can also use Iris recognition to unlock the phone or the fingerprint sensor on the back. There are additional sensors on the front as well (on the left). The front camera features Auto HDR and can record video up to QHD resolution (2560x1440), and FullHD with HDR.

As with all smart devices these days, it's simple to share your images via Wi-Fi or on social media through the various apps available. Like the Google Pixel 2 XL, there's unlimited photo storage with Google Photos. There is no dedicated home button, instead, the button is on the screen. On the left-hand side are volume buttons, and the "Bixby" button, and on the right-hand side is the power button. 

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Key Features

  • 12-megapixel Dual Pixel rear camera, 1.4micron pixels
  • f/1.5-2.4 aperture, 26mm equivalent lens with Optical Image Stabilisation
  • S9 Plus: f/2.4 telephoto lens, 52mm equivalent, with Optical Image Stabilisation
  • 8-megapixel front camera with f/1.7, and AF, 25mm equivalent. 
  • Auto HDR (front and rear cameras), Raw shooting possible in Pro mode
  • 4K 60fps UHD video capability whilst capturing 9-megapixel stills
  • Dustproof and waterproof to 1.5m for up to 30 mins
  • 6.2inch Quad HD+ Super AMOLED (2960x1440) with Corning Gorilla Glass 5 (S9: 5.8inch)
  • 3500mAh battery, S9: 3000mAh battery 
  • Wireless charging
  • MicroSD slot, Fingerprint Sensor
  • Available in a number of colours

Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus Handling

Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus F1 5 Aperture
Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus f/1.5 Aperture wide-open

Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus F2 4 Aperture
Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus f/2.4 Aperture

Looking at the Samsung Galaxy S9, and S9 Plus, from the front, it's difficult to tell the difference between these new models, and the previous models, the S8. However, turn the smartphone over and you can see the new design for the camera, which features a relocated fingerprint sensor underneath, making it easier to unlock the phone, and it also means you're less likely to smudge the lens with your finger. The S9 also benefits from upgraded sound, with stereo front speakers which are said to be 1.4x louder than the S8.

The Galaxy S9 Plus is very similar in size to the other 5.5inch smartphones but features a 6.2inch screen compared to the 5.5-inch screen on the other phones. The S9 Plus is also slightly narrower, making it easier to reach from one side of the screen to the other - although the height of the screen can make it a stretch at times from top to bottom. Shown below: iPhone 8 Plus (5.5inch screen), Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus (6.2inch screen), and Google Pixel 2 XL (6inch screen). 

Iphone8plus Vs Samsungs9plus Vs Pixel2xl (3)

The fingerprint sensor position has been improved, and the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus feature a headphone socket at the bottom, next to the USB-3 Type-C connection. Due to the glass front and back, the S9 can feel particularly slippery, so a skin or case is highly recommended. The sides of the phone are made from a tough metal, and tests on YouTube show the construction of the smartphone to be very strong.

Iphone8plus Vs Samsungs9plus Vs Pixel2xl (4)

The Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus is extremely responsive and features the latest SnapDragon / Exynos processor. This gives it some of the highest scores in benchmark tests. 

Geekbench v4.2.0 results are single core: 3770, multi-core score 8935, which is close to the iPhone X, an improvement over the Galaxy S8, and beating the Google Pixel 2 XL

The AnTuTu Benchmark (v7.0.5) score is 247185, beating the Apple iPhone X, and Google Pixel 2 XL

The screen looks excellent and is protected with Corning Gorilla Glass 5, which means it should survive being in a pocket with keys without scratching. The back is also protected by the same glass, but for anyone who's ever dropped a phone and seen the screen break, having a glass back could make you quite nervous, so a case or skin is definitely recommended. The rear glass is also quite prone to fingerprints and smudges, so if you like your phone to stay clean this might soon become annoying.

Like most smartphones, there's no dedicated camera shutter release button on the S9 / S9 Plus, but the camera app opens up extremely quickly and responds almost instantly to presses of the on-screen shutter button. You can also use the volume control as a shutter release button. Double pressing the power button will also quickly open the camera app, even when the phone is locked.

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The camera app is easy to use and it's quick and easy to find options and change settings. The camera focuses extremely quickly, and shutter response is instant. Swiping up or down will switch to the selfie camera, and it's easy to accidentally activate the selfie camera. There are a number of default shooting modes available including:

  • Auto
  • Live Focus (blurred background)
  • Pro (manual controls)
  • Panorama
  • Super Slow motion (high-speed video)
  • Hyperlapse
  • AR Emoji 
  • Food

To view the modes available you simply slide your finger left or right, and in settings, you can add "Slow-motion" and "Sports". There are effects available in some of the modes, and you can choose these by pressing the magic wand button at the bottom of the screen. When using the selfie camera, there are a number of built-in effects available, including a blurred background, and a wide-selfie option, that takes a photo much like a panoramic image, showing more of the background in focus.  

In Pro mode, you can manually change the ISO speed (from 50 to 800), or leave it on auto and it can go up to ISO1250 in dark lighting. You can adjust the shutter speed, aperture (f/1.5 or f/2.4), colour, focus, white balance, exposure compensation, metering, AF area, and flash. 

The screen looks good whether used inside or outside, and it has an impressive resolution. Bixby Vision requires the creation of a Samsung account, and a sim card needs to be in the phone. This is designed to recognise the object or subject you point the camera app giving Translation, Shopping, Place, Food, and Image information.

Battery life - The Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus has a 3500mAh battery, which is not removable. The S9 features a 3000mAh battery. The phone should last at least a day, and the battery life appeared good even though the smartphone has an always on display that shows the time on screen. There are options to optimise battery life with different power saving modes. 

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pablophotographer 11 2.0k 428
14 Mar 2018 5:14PM
Why couldn't Samsung make NX40 take calls?
I miss these gems and trust me I know at least another one, quite influential figure, in photography who was raving for Samsung cameras. Yes he used to work in AP if that is a help Smile
xGei8ht 13 76 United Kingdom
14 Mar 2018 11:04PM
Excellent phones and take decent pictures, Video's are very good at 4k. I still have the S6 and it can produce good images.

But for the Size of the lens and the size of the sensor. Phones will never compete with a real camera.

Rimmer 10 United Kingdom
21 Mar 2018 4:21PM
Surprised there is no mention of the fact the aperture blades sit in front of the lenses not amongst them.

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