Samsung S9+ – The Camera. Reimagined. 10 Use Cases to test the theory.

Every year, Samsung and Apple and now Google (Have you heard of the Pixel 2?) and probably every other company introduce their new phone with one common sales pitch.

“It’s the best camera ever. It’s the best camera we’ve ever put on a mobile phone. It’s the camera reimagined!”

And every year, the death of DSLRs and $1000+ point and shoots is announced as imminent. The $100 – $500 point and shoots are for sure not worth it, not sure why companies even make them anymore. So this year when Samsung touted their phone as “The Camera. Reimagined.” I was intrigued. It’s been a while since I pre-ordered a phone so I pushed the shutter button on this one.

The Unboxing

S9+ unboxing

Let me start by saying The Phone felt great in my hands. This is my first plus size model and I didn’t not immediately see any difference. I guess over the years phones have been getting bigger and the incremental growth each year, has lessened my surprise. There are enough reviews of the phone itself and I agree that there is no difference between any of the phones any more. Pick an Iphone or an Android phone based purely on your ecosystem and stop arguing on which is better. They are THE SAME.

So, let’s get to the camera.

I had two big questions.

  1. Will the S9+ be better than my current S7 and justify my upgrade?
  2. Will the S9+ be better than my Fuji X100f and make me regret my x100f?

I am not going to fall for the trap and bring my DSLR Canon 5d Mk IV into the conversation because to do so is unfair to all parties involved. Let’s set the record straight and say there is no comparison. No matter how good cars get, you will not take your next Honda Accord into the Monaco racetrack.

The Comparison

Test: The Start up. There is nothing more annoying that camera start up time. When I click on the camera icon, I want to snap a photo of what I see at that instant. I don’t go around opening my camera app and hoping a photo moment comes by. So when I see the moment, I want my camera to be ready as close to the event as possible.

Samsung S9+ startup and focus time video

Samsung S7 startup and focus time video

Use Case 1: Indoor portraits. Most of the photos people like me take are of family. Indoors. S9+ was definitely better than the S7 but didn’t compare to the X100f.

Q1 Yes. Q2 No.

Night Indoors Portrait

Nighttime Indoors Portrait 2.jpg

Use Case 2: Indoor Colors. Capturing colors indoors is hard. Yes, you can go pro mode and adjust white balance but really, who does that? S9+ was definitely better than the S7 and came close to the X100f. The X100f had better colors and read the light better but I was impressed with the S9+

Q1 Yes. Q2 Hmm…

Colors IndoorsColors 4Colors 2Colors 3

Use Case 3: Food. Yes, no one wants to see what I am eating, but food is key when traveling and telling the story of that place. I can’t take out my DSLR at a restaurant but I can and do take photos of interesting and yummy food with my phone. Bhel puri – Yummy! The S9+ wasn’t that much better than the S7. This is because both of these have a specific Food Mode and I am sure there hasn’t been much change in the algorithm. The f 1.5 lens on the S9+ did help to let more light in and get more color balance but not by much.

Q1 No. Q2 n/a

Food.jpg

Use Case 4: Outdoors. Skies, Water, Reflections, Trees, Nature. What’s not to like. Basically everything you see outside, says “Take my photo!” Photo 1 shows the S9+ performing very well. Great colors, great contrast. Highlights are not blown and shadows are not dark. Sharpness is not unnatural. Photo 2 shows skies. Again doing a great job capturing the blue sky, maybe not as blue as the X100f but close. Photo 3 shows that there is some amount of curvature being added in the mobile cameras, and the clarity is less than the X100f, but s9+ again does a great job, and way better than the S7. Photo 4 shows why a camera like the X100f or a DSLR is needed. When you take photos outdoors, most often I want it to be good enough to print in large sizes. The photo show the zoomed in crop from photo 3 on the house number and you can see the difference.

Q1 Yes!. Q2 No!

Sunlight 2Sunlight 4Sunlight House 1Sunlight House 2

Use Case 5: Bokeh. How the phone manufactures managed to turn physics into a mainstream concept is beyond me. Somehow everyone knows this term, and everyone thinks backgrounds have to be blurred to make a good portrait. I’ll take the bait. The S9+ again does a great job. The face is perfectly lit, the background is blurred and all of this it does well, because of the 2nd telephoto camera in it. There is a live focus mode and along with some software wizardry it does a wonderful portrait. The S7 was dull. The X100f captured the background colors better without blowing it out. The setting sun’s light came across well. Also the face color was more natural.

Q1 Yes. Q2 No.

Blur Background

Use Case 6: Panorama. Another fun gimmick. The S9+ captured the light and colors so much better than the S7. The creek is my backyard looked beautiful and the blue house across it was blue. The sunlight was captured and the trees were sharp.

Q1 Yes.

Panorama.jpg

Use Case 7: Zoom. Gone are the days of software (Digital) zoom. Well my S7 still used it, but the S9+ has a dedicated 50mm camera, a second camera! Even the X100f had to use a digital zoom, although with a great sensor and lens. All three cameras did a great job here. The S9+ was sharp, the X100f had better colors and the S7 was close except for a more yellow tinge.

Q1 Yes. Q2 Not quite.

Outdoors 1x FlowersOutdoors 2x Flowers

Use Case 8: Selfies. And finally, the reason we all need cameras in our phones. To take Selfies! I am sure I took a lot of them with my dad’s Yashica, struggling to turn it around and hoping when the prints came from my camera shop, I captured most of my face. If only I had patented the word selfie! The S9+ has a 8 megapixel front camera compared to the S7’s 5 megapixel. Not convinced we need more pixels in the front camera, but I liked the colors in the S9+. Way more natural.

Q1 Yes.

Selfie 1Selfie 2Selfie 3

Use Case 9: Videos and Slow motion videos. Videos are a different beast. While it is getting easier to edit, store and share photos easily with friends, family and the public, videos are harder. It took my months to get the right software on my computer to even edit a video. So not great at it, or have a big interest, but with young kids and their grandparents in a different country, videos are a must. I am learning.

Q1: No.

Samsung S9+ Slow motion video

Samsung S7 Slow motion video

Use Case 10: Super Slow motion videos. A new class being introduced. Other camera phones have done it before but just like Apple can claim, that they while never first, they do it best, I think Samsung can claim that here too. 0.2 seconds seemed extremely small, but I am beginning to understand how much happens in that short time. Can’t wait to test this more. Fun! Fun! Fun!

Q1: Yes.

Samsung S9+ Super Slow Mo

Hidden Tips

  1. S9+ can take regular slow motion videos. In the Settings, go to Edit Camera Modes and in the Rear Camera, add the functionality. It will now show as a tab in your camera app.
  2. In Settings, in Picture Mode, there is now a toggle that lets you take and store both Jpeg and Raw in Pro mode. Enable it.

The Conclusion

I remember when I got my S7 and tested the camera, I was blown away. I thought for sure that it was the best camera ever on a phone and really did not think I would ever need a point and shoot again. Then the X100f caught my desire and I was addicted. Again it is unfair to compare with that too, but the S9+ tries. It destroyed the S7 in my tests, and though it doesn’t have the quality of the X100f it can, I think at times, if I forget to take my X100f with me, I won’t be so disappointed in myself.

  • Will the S9+ be better than my current S7 and justify my upgrade? 

Yes, Yes, and Yes! The camera on the S9+ is light years ahead of the S7. 2 years ago I didn’t think that was even possible but the camera has been reimagined after all. 

  • Will the S9+ be better than my Fuji X100f and make me regret my x100f?

No, Never! The camera is not quite reimagined because variable apertures have existed for years (dual in the case of the S9+). The 24 megapixel, APS-C sensor on the X100f in the form factor that makes it easy to stick it into a coat pocket makes the X100f one of the best cameras ever. It definitely is the best looking one. Good try S9+, good try. 

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