What is the Samsung S9+?
The Samsung S9+ is one of a duo of flagship smartphones from the Korean brand. The S9+ is bigger and features a dual lens set-up, the like of which is proving to be extremely popular at the moment.
DxO has extremely highly rated the S9+, as it stands it’s the fourth highest rated smartphone for photography, coming just behind the Huawei P20 Pro and the Huawei P20.
Its two cameras are both 12 megapixels, with one featuring a wide-angle lens and a 1/2.55” sensor, and the other featuring a telephoto lens with a 1/3.6” sensor.
The wide-angle lens has the dual-aperture option that is also seen on the standard S9, and is a first for smartphone cameras.
It gives you the option to choose between two different apertures, depending on the lighting conditions (f/1.5 or f/2.4). The telephoto lens has a fixed f/2.4 aperture.
Other notable features include super-slow motion video, Micro SD card compatibility, digital zoom and 4K video recording at 60fps.
For the Samsung S9+ camera
- Two lenses
- Dual aperture on wide-angle lens
- Large screen
- 4K video recording
Against the Samsung S9+ camera
- Over-sensitive mode switching
Build and Handling
The S9+ sits in the “larger is better” camp when it comes to size of phones, with its 6.2-inch screen. It makes good use of all that space though, with an edge-to-edge design going from side-to-side.
At the top and the bottom there remains a bezel, and there’s no notch, like you might find on the S9+’s biggest competition, the iPhone X.
In order to take a photo, all you’ll need to do is swipe up from the bottom right hand corner of the screen to launch the phone’s native camera app.
If you’re just taking a photo, you won’t need to unlock the screen, but you can set up various ways to do that when you need it, including face unlock, a password, a pattern or using the fingerprint scanner on the back of the phone.
We’re a big fan of the variety of options that Samsung provides in its native camera apps – it’s certainly a lot more flexible than the iPhone X.
To switch between the different shooting modes that the camera app offers, all you need to do is swipe left or right on the main phone screen. It sounds like a doddle – which it is – too much of one.
Several times I found myself in a random mode that I didn’t want by accidentally giving the screen the lightest of touches. It helps to remove certain modes from the main screen via the main menu to get rid of certain modes that you probably won’t use all that often anyway (personally, I wasn’t bothered by AR Emoji – you might be, that’s totally up to you).
As standard, Auto mode is what the camera launches in when you open the app. You’ll probably find that you stick with this for the majority of your shots as it’s a quick and simple option.
If you want more control, head to the Pro mode and you’ll be able to change a number of different settings, such as white balance and ISO. You can alter aperture – but only of the wide angle lens – between f/1.5 or f/2.4, too. Unfortunately, there’s no raw shooting option to be found.
Another interesting shooting mode is “Live Focus”. The standard Samsung S9 has “Selective Focus”, but “Live Focus” uses information from the S9+’s two different lenses to create a shallow depth of field effect.
You’ll need to hold the camera quite far from the subject you’re photographing, but you’ll be warned on screen whether or not you’re holding it in the right place.
The resulting shots from Live Focus are better than Selective Focus, with a more natural result – and while if you examine very closely you can see some oddities, it’s more than good enough for small sharing – and possibly even printing sizes.
I’d probably give the edge to the iPhone X, Huawei P20 Pro and the Google Pixel 2 for this effect, but there’s not a whole lot in it. I like that you can also use a Selective Focus mode when using the selfie camera, too.
To use the telephoto lens, you can tap a small “2x” icon on the main screen when in Automatic mode. For some reason, this doesn’t appear when in Pro mode – however if you are in 2x mode in Auto, and then switch to Pro, the field of view remains at 2x.
A bit of a weird workaround that may one day be fixed in an app update (we hope).
The S9+ produces excellent colours which are very natural – there’s not the same kind of over-the-top saturation that phones like the iPhone X and the Huawei P20 Pro tend to be guilty of. You might argue that it makes colours look a little washed out in comparison, depending on your taste.
Having the two apertures is good for regulating the amount of light entering the sensor, and therefore meaning that exposures are well balanced in various situations.
In low light, switching to the wider aperture option means you let in as much light as possible, keep ISO down and get a better shot. In better light, you let in less light and get a nicely balanced exposure as a result.
On the whole, the all-purpose metering system copes well with varied condition to produce well-exposed shots, while the automatic white balance setting keeps colours roughly accurate even under tricky lighting conditions.
The overall impression of detail is very good in good light – there’s a little oversharpening if you examine closely, but that’s a pretty common issue for smartphones and results in something which looks good on a phone screen (or small prints).
In low light, detail is still well maintained, but can be a little smudgy in places.
Focusing is generally very quick and pretty accurate, particularly when there’s an obvious and well-defined subject. If the phone has guessed the subject incorrectly, you can tap a more appropriate area of the screen.
Samsung S9+ sample photos
If you’re primarily concerned with having a good camera when shopping for a smartphone, the Samsung S9+ is one of the best options currently on the market. If you’re a fan of the Samsung brand, particularly its operating system, then it’s a bit of a no-brainer to get it.
Picture quality is excellent in a variety of different situation, with realistic colours and excellent low-light performance, too.
That said, it is quite expensive. While it may not be quite as astronomically high priced as an iPhone X (really, what is), you can get the Huawei P20 Pro – currently ranked as the best smartphone on the market for photographers – for less than the S9+.
You’ve also got other options including the standard Huawei P20 and Google Pixel 2, which also both come in cheaper than the S9+ (but both of those camera only have one focal length available – which is a trade off).
Should I buy the Samsung S9+?
On the whole, the Samsung S9+ doesn’t represent the best value currently on the market – but if you like the look and feel of the phone, and the Samsung operating system, it’s worth buying.
The Huawei P20 Pro is probably the better choice for those who are mainly concerned about having a good camera, but the S9+ is certainly no slouch. Being able to add memory to the S9+ via an additional micro SD card is one bonus that the P20 Pro doesn’t have, too.