Samsung’s flagship smartphone, the Note 8 features a dual camera set up. Both have 12 megapixel sensors, but one has a wide angle f/1.7 lens, while the other has a telephoto f/2.4 lens. We put it through its paces in our Samsung Galaxy Note 8 camera review.

What is the Samsung Galaxy Note 8?

This phone represents Samsung’s attempt to put the disaster of the Note 7 behind it – the one that was prone to randomly exploding. Luckily, it seems the Note 8 doesn’t have that particular problem.

Photographers might find several of the specifications here appealing, including the large 6.3-inch screen, raw format shooting, manual control, a micro SD slot and the ability to capture video at up to 4K. The front facing camera is an 8 megapixel, f/1.7 device.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Camera Review: build quality

Build Quality and Handling

Easily one of the biggest phones currently on the market, the Note 8 screen uses an 18:9 ratio which means that while it’s tall, it’s also quite narrow.

By the way, that’s the same ratio as used by Instagram Stories and Snapchat, you’ll be pleased to know – you can now compose your throwaway shots with real precision and thought (hooray).

Still, you’ll probably find you’ll need to employ your second hand when coming up with that witty caption, as attempting to use the Note 8 as, well a phone, one handed is quite the challenge.

Accessing the native camera app can be achieved in a few different ways – depending on whether or not the phone is unlocked. One of those ways is via face recognition. Unlike the iPhone X, it doesn’t use sophisticated mapping, so it can be quite easily thrown off if you change your look (it didn’t seem to like me wearing my hair up, or sometimes when I was wearing my glasses).

Other ways to unlock it include a fingerprint scanner (which is slightly awkwardly placed next to the camera lenses), and drawing a pattern on the screen.

Once the phone is unlocked, you can tap the camera icon on screen to start up the app. If the screen is locked, you can directly access the camera by swiping up from the bottom right hand corner of the screen.

The Note 8’s native camera app is one of the most well featured currently on the market. By default it launches in automatic mode, but if you swipe left you’ll be able to access other shooting modes.

Enthusiast photographers may be particularly drawn towards the Pro mode which gives you the option to change a great deal of settings, including shutter speed, metering and white balance. You can also shoot in raw format if you engage Pro mode.

To access the second (telephoto) camera you can tap a “2x” icon on the bottom of the screen. The second lens is also used for “Live Focus”, which is Samsung’s version of the shallow depth of field effect which has become very popular on almost every premium smartphone lately.

You will need to be at least 1.2 metres from your subject for Live Focus to work, and if there is too much light you may also see a message saying it’s not available – otherwise it’s a very straightforward process. You can adjust the level of background blur both before you take the photo, and afterwards in playback.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Camera Review: image quality

Image Quality

JPEG images directly from the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 display a great amount of colour and detail, and are generally well exposed using the automatic setting. Pictures are vivid, perhaps a little oversaturated but pleasing none-the-less.

When you look at images at 100%, it’s possible to see a little image smoothing in certain areas of the image, but the overall impression is still very good.

Both of the different lenses perform well in good light, but the telephoto lens is a little less capable as the light drops, thanks to having a narrower aperture. Still, it’s great to have that second lens on board when you want or need to get a bit closer to your subject.

As already mentioned, the second lens also comes into play for the shallow depth of field effect in “Live Photo”. Having used quite a few premium smartphones over the past few weeks, I can say that the Note 8’s is one of the better ones – but probably not quite as good as the Google Pixel 2’s.

Still, it manages to produce reasonably natural blur, and it’s handy to be able to adjust the amount after the fact if it didn’t get it quite right.

Verdict

Right now, consumers are spoiled for choice when it comes to top-end smartphones. I’ve used a lot over the past few weeks and months, and pretty much all of them offer something appealing – if different – to photographers.

The Note 8 manages to combine two of my favourite features from other phones on the market – it has dual lenses, as well as the ability to take manual control and shoot in raw format. The pictures it takes are lovely and vibrant, with a nice amount of detail.

As one of the largest phones currently on the market, the Note 8 may feel a little unwieldy to some. On the positive side, it makes looking at your images and videos a treat – just don’t expect to tap away messages one handed while you’re out walking the dog (which is usually my biggest concern for a phone…)

The Galaxy Note 8 retails for around £869 for the 64GB model, which places it at the high end of smartphone pricing – but it’s still significantly cheaper than an iPhone X.

All in all, the Galaxy Note 8 is a great choice for anyone looking for some great photography features in a flagship smartphone. The fact that it has yet to explode is a pretty big bonus, too.

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