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Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus Review - Performance

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Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus Performance

The performance section is where we look at the image quality performance of the camera. Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.


Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus Sample Photos

Camera Performance - Colour is good, with the camera producing pleasing images straight from the camera. Exposure is reliable, and when left on auto settings, the camera will automatically switch to the HDR mode when needed to record more dynamic range in photos, without looking unnatural. Holding the shutter release button down will let you shoot continuously.

The selfie (front) camera performs well, with an 8-megapixel sensor and autofocus (AF) which is rare for a front camera. The selfie camera can struggle with dynamic range at times, and using the HDR mode can help a little here. You can enable background blur for photos taken with the selfie camera. There is no front facing LED flash, and instead the camera will use the phone screen. The LED flash on the back has a diffuser on it, which is an improvement over the S8, and results are good.

There's an improvement in low-light performance, compared to the S8, with lower noise, more detail, and less "smudging" of images. This is more noticeable in very low-light conditions. Thanks to the optical image stabilisation, it's possible to take photos at shutter speeds as low as 1/5th of a second.

There are situations where the S9 gives better results than the Google Pixel 2 XL, and in very low-light the f/1.5 aperture gives images from the S9 lower noise, however, there are times when the Pixel 2 gives better results due to it taking multiple images and merging them (when there is enough light for the f/1.8 lens). The Pixel 2 XL is also better at capturing a wider dynamic range in images, with better detail in the shadows (see the Dynamic range image above), however, for portraits the Pixel 2 XL's HDR mode can be unnatural looking at times.



Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus Lens test images

Lens Performance - With an f/1.5 aperture, the camera is capable of taking a photo that shows a blurred background, particularly when the subject is close to the lens. The camera can focus on subjects fairly close to the lens, giving reasonable macro focus. Vignetting is not an issue, but there is some pincushion distortion noticeable if you're shooting images with straight lines. If you shoot using the Pro mode, you can select raw shooting, and the camera will record Adobe DNG files, as well as JPEG images. The camera was impressively resistant to flare, as long as you keep your lens(es) clean. 

Aperture range (f/1.5-2.4) - images taken using the f/1.5 aperture are sharp and detailed, although there is some softening of images in the very far corners. If you're shooting landscapes, then the f/2.4 aperture will give you slightly sharper shots, with more of the scene in focus, but the difference can be quite subtle at times. The telephoto lens performs well with detailed and sharp images. The aperture change happens in front of the lens, but behind the protective glass on the back of the smartphone.

Live Focus - You can focus on a subject close to the camera, and set the level of background blur. In playback (with dual capture on) you get to choose between the telephoto and wide-angle photos. You can also adjust the level of blur after taking the photo. 

In some low-light conditions, the 2x button on the screen will no longer activate the second camera, and instead simply activates digital zoom. Checking the EXIF information will show which camera was used if needed.


Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus ISO test images

ISO Noise Performance - Noise is low from ISO50 to ISO200, with some appearing at ISO400. Above ISO400 and at ISO800 noise becomes more noticeable, and detail suffers, but results remain usable, with good colour reproduction. With a bright f/1.5 lens and optical image stabilisation, for most shots, you shouldn't need to use the higher ISO speeds. To get access to higher ISO speeds above ISO800 in manual mode, you can leave ISO on auto, or you can use a third-party app, such as Adobe Lightroom Mobile, and then ISO speeds up to ISO1250 can be manually selected. In auto modes, the camera will automatically use a higher ISO speed if needed. The telephoto camera takes photos with more noise, however, the manual mode is not available with the telephoto camera (instead 2x zoom becomes digital zoom).


Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus White-balance test images

White Balance Performance - Auto White Balance (AWB) performs well under mixed light, as well as under Tungsten lighting, with a slightly warm result, and using the Tungsten preset gives a slightly cooler result. AWB also performs well under fluorescent lighting, with the fluorescent preset giving a slight magenta colour cast. You can see the difference between photos taken at f/1.5 and f/2.4, with f/1.5 photos slight softer where items aren't in the plane of focus, but images are sharp where the subject is in focus.


Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus Digital filters

Digital Filters - There are 15 effects built-in to the camera app, and you can apply stickers or masks (on top of people's faces). You can also download additional effects, or use any number of third-party apps to edit images. AR Emoji creates a character or "emoji" of yourself, and you can what it animate as you talk or move. It's not very good at the moment but should improve with future updates.


Samsung S9 Plus Panoramic1 20180314 120141 |  sec | 4.3 mm
Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus Panoramic | f/2.4 | 4.3 mm

Panorama mode - The camera has an automatic panoramic mode that automatically stitches the image as you pan from one side to another. The results are well stitched, and if you get the smoothness and speed right you get a very high-resolution image. Images we took were between 27 and 34 megapixels.


Video - The camera records 4K (UHD) 60fps, QHD, Full HD video with stereo sound, and optical image stabilisation is available in all modes. When recording in UHD 60fps, or 1:1 resolution only optical image stabilisation is available, not both electronic and optical stabilisation. Results are very good, with good detail, and you can also take 9-megapixel images when recording 4K video. Image stabilisation works very well, although it can take a while for stabilisation to settle. You also have the option for continuous AF while recording. There are options to record using HEVC compression. The telephoto camera can also record 4K video.

The Super slow-motion high-speed video mode records video at a resolution of 1280x720 and starts recording slow-motion footage when something enters the central area of the frame. With some subjects, this can mean it's difficult to get the shot right, but with some patience and practise, it is possible.

Slow motion video can be recorded at 240fps, with a FullHD resolution. The camera performs quite well, even in low-light, thanks in part to the f/1.5 aperture lens. Additional videos can be found on the ePHOTOzine YouTube Channel.

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pablophotographer 11 2.0k 429
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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