Mobile World Congress 2018: The Camera Capabilities of Samsung’s Galaxy S9 and S9+

From dual-aperture shooting to super-slow motion and augmented reality developments

Once again the world of smartphone cameras gets a major push toward the future. This time the news comes from Samsung, who unveiled their forthcoming

Galaxy S9 and S9+ phones at an “Unpacked” keynote address during Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress. These advanced devices have plenty on offer outside of the camera—a superb heart rate monitor, advanced fingerprint scanner beneath the rear camera, Micro SD slot, “no notch” as they’re eager to point out, and “Curved Super AMOLED” 5.8 and 6.2 inch screens respectively. But the camera is really a crowning achievement here. More than just take photos, it allows a slew of new or improved features to come to life. From an intelligent facial-recognition activation to an iris-scanner alternative and their new dual-aperture lens system (which might change the mobile phone photography game), there are plenty of reasons to get excited.

First, the 12MP dual-aperture smartphone camera—with a “Super Speed Dual Pixel” sensor—has been modeled after the human eye. This means that a wide aperture lens automatically takes control in very low light. A tighter aperture lens does the same with bright light ( F1.5 mode and F2.4 mode respectively). Adjustment is instant. This is a step in the right direction for low light imagery, for sure. With an integrated DRAM chip, dedicated solely to the camera, images can be processed in a way that minimizes noise and creates clarity. In the S9+ version, there are also dual cameras on the back of the phone, one telephoto lens and the other wide angle. This further increases intelligent image taking potential. Surprising functionality crops up everywhere, for instance, a live focus feature (similar to Apple’s portrait mode) can be applied even after a shot is taken.

The Galaxy S9 and S9+ bring innovation to a feature you might have been aware needed it: slow motion. With their 960 fps (frames per second) super-slow motion feature, .2 seconds of time can be extended into a six-second creation—the best in class for a phone. Further, this mode offers a select focus area. This means if someone is blowing bubbles, for example, you can pull just the bubbles into focus. As a final touch, those beloved slow motion videos can actually be set as a lock screen background.

Samsung’s virtual assistant Bixby also benefits from the camera developments, and the brand has advanced a technology Google Translate has been offering. With their new phones, Bixby can live-translate text within images, immediately recognizing the native language and delivering a translation. Pairing with the Samsung Health app, Bixby can also identify the food on people’s plates and alert of nutritional information before porting the details over to one’s quantified self analytics. There’s also a make-up mode, done in partnership with Sephora and Cover Girl, that allows users to try on make up virtually, and then immediately purchase.

Both devices step up the fun and games components as well as the tech specs. The former includes Augmented Reality Emoji, built from an actual map of users’ facial expressions. The phone creates and stores 18 personalized (and customizable) emoji modeled after a user. These emojis can also be viewed on all types of smartphones and third-party apps—a generous touch. An additional partnership with Disney and Pixar will delivers access to other exclusive emoji.

Regarding technology that genuinely impacts user experience, this is the first Samsung phone to offer horizontal orientation of the home screen. Plus, there’s super-fast wireless charging. An internal Dolby Atmos listening system has stereo speakers tuned by AKG. Camera capabilities have become a primary interest for many smartphone users and Samsung recognizes this, but that isn’t everything. There’s simply a lot to love here that isn’t found elsewhere.

Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ phones will be offered in three colorways: lilac, black and blue. Pre-orders begin 2 March online at Samsung.com. An Unlocked Galaxy S9 will retail for $720; Unlocked Galaxy S9+ will sell for $840. Carrier options will be fewer. In the States, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular, Verizon Wireless and Xfinity mobile will carry the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ in-store beginning 16 March.

Here image courtesy of Samsung, all other images by David Graver