Hands On With Samsung's 'Camera Reimagined' S9

How we communicate - and express ourselves - has changed, Samsung's Global Director of Marketing tells me. We have have moved from relying on our ears, to our eyes - and the S9 is a reflection of that shift.

We were promised a "reimagined" camera with this latest iteration of the Galaxy. Now, we finally know what that means.

Let's start with the straight specs.

Galaxy S9 Galaxy S9+
Camera Rear: Super Speed Dual Pixel 12MP AF sensor with OIS (F1.5/F2.4)

Front: 8MP AF (F1.7)

Rear: Dual Camera with Dual OIS - Wide-angle: Super Speed Dual Pixel 12MP AF sensor (F1.5/F2.4) - Telephoto: 12MP AF sensor (F2.4)

Front: 8MP AF (F1.7)

Now let's compare that with the S8.

Galaxy S8 Galaxy S8+
Camera Rear: 12MP OIS (F1.7) Front: 8MP AF (F1.7) Rear: 12MP OIS (F1.7)

Front: 8MP AF (F1.7)

That's a world-first dual aperture camera right there.

The aperture is literally the hole through which the light travels to the camera sensor. The lower the number, the bigger the hole and the more light that's allowed in.

The idea is that by letting the camera switch between f/2.4 and f/1.5 (the widest aperture available on smartphone so far), the S9 should produce even better photos in both bright light and super dark conditions.

And when you combine that with a new 12-MP super speed dual pixel sensor, Samsung says the S9 can capture a whole lot more light than before. Samsung has even improved the S9's multi-frame image processing, which now smashes together three sets of four photos shot back-to-back into one image, with more details and less noise that one would theoretically get from a single pic.

So there are clearly some noticeable improvements made, but does this really count as "reimagined"? Turns out it's not just about what the camera can do on paper, it's how it is used.

Super Low Light

I'm peering though a hole, into the darkness. I can barely make out anything except a chair in the room in front of me. It's a horror movie waiting to happen.

On my side of the wall, something pretty cool is happening. There's a Samsung Galaxy S9, set up next to its predecessor, also peering into the darkened room. The S8 can make out a table and a couple of chairs, the outline of a window. The S9 is taking in 28 per cent more light. It can see everything.

This camera was made for Ghost Hunters.

There's a brand new image sensor, with dedicated on board memory.

Tapping on the screen to focus is way quicker than with the S8. And the captured image ended up being even clearer than what I could see on the display.

30 per cent noise reduction means it's a genuinely impressive improvement on both my own eyesight (which is great, thank you very much), and the S8.

Super Slow Motion

What could be better than slow mo?

How about Super Slo Mo, at 960 frames per second (that’s not a typo)? How about Super Slo Mo that automatically detects motion in front of the camera so you don’t have to?

How about Super Slo Mo, at 960fps that automatically detects motion in front of the camera then you can turn that super slow mo into a gif you can add your own music to and easily share to your group chat/Twitter/whatever it is the kids are using these days?

Samsung reckons we are sending a billion gifs a day, so it is getting in on the action by making it as easy as possible to create our own. And let me tell you - it was super easy to do. There’s nothing hidden away in secret settings - it’s all right there in the main camera menus.

The super slo mo records in 0.2 seconds bursts, which becomes six seconds you can reverse, swing and loop.

AR Emojis

Image:Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson

Making an avatar of yourself isn’t exactly a new thing - anyone who has spent more time in the character creation screen of an RPG than actually playing the damn game can attest to that. oh yeah, and there was that whole Animoji thing with the iPhone X that I've literally never used.

But you know what is new? Augmented Reality Emojis that are a very flattering scan of your face with some customisable hair and clothes that you can make videos with, use as gifs, and use as your own emojis.

Your skin tone is customisable, which is handy, since mine changes pretty dramatically depending on the time of the year IRL, too. Ask your light-skinned Aboriginal friends what I’m talking about and they’ll show you their "winter legs". In my first attempt I was lighter (and the camera detected my eyes as blue), in the second attempt I was well into "where are you really from" territory (and the camera detected my eyes as green).

There aren't any options for loosely curled hair, but you can rock a 'fro.

And while you can take images and well as video as your Emoji, I did discover that you can’t move your arms. Enjoy doing all the Riverdance impersonations you want.

Once you've made your AR Emoji, you'll be able to find it expressing 18 different emojis right next to your regular emojis in the Samsung keyboard. You can send them via Facebook message, WhatsApp - wherever you're sending messages really - even across to iOS devices.

Bixby In your Camera

Samsung is on a mission to have Bixby a part of every moment in your life, and in the S9 is no different. There's a few cool things that Bixby can do now - just some of them aren't available in Australia just yet, and just quietly - I'm impatient to try them.

Point your camera at some words, and your phone will change them into whatever language you'd like to read. That's the promise, and I saw this working with a Spanish - English menu translation.

It's a pretty handy feature, I'll admit.

The food feature is my favourite. Straight out of the Silicon Valley playbook (the TV Show, not the place), this is pretty much the SeeFood app that identifies what is, and isn't a hot dog.

But the difference here? It works. On more than just hot dogs. It also tells you how many calories it has.

I'll let y'all know as soon as we can have the Food feature here. You'll see me using it everywhere, no doubt.

That's pretty much it for this whole "Camera Reimagined" thing - I think it really shows a shift in the way Samsung is looking at phones. They liked the S8 so much they pretty much kept the design, and just built it around a pretty incredible camera.

Gizmodo Australia travelled to Mobile World Congress as a guest of Samsung.


    I was really looking forward to upgrading this year... but the reason I wanted to upgrade is because I hate curved screen edges.


      Agreed, I got the S8. its "scratch resistant screen" is covered in scratches. When my contract runs out next year if the S10 doesnt have a flat screen ill be going to something else. I had a tempered screen protector on it and went through like 5 brands trying to find one that would actually fit and not hamper my touch.

      Over. it.

        Honestly you must be trying pretty hard to scratch it. I've had my S7 Edge for 2 years now. Never once used a screen protector and there's not a scratch on it. Has a dirty big crack but that was my fault haha.

        And I love the curved screen. Only reason I'm sceptical about changing to the 9 is that I hate the no button design. I'd just get another 7 if they were still available.

        There's LG or HTC doing small bezel flat screened flagships, could switch brands?

          Yep, they are all on the cards, OnePlus, Pixel, LG or HTC.

            Was looking at the pixel after my mate got the first gen one, might hold onto my shit S7 Edge until the next gen rolls out.

        Anecdotally I picked up an S8 at launch, no screen protector, to date only have one small scratch on the back glass probably from sliding on a wooden outdoor pub table.

        I'm curious how you treat your phone to give me an idea of what the limit is, so to speak: do you keep your phone in a pocket with other things, or move it around on rough surfaces much? Do you know how it got scratched?

          Yeah dude, keep it in my pock, some times I forget which pocket I put my keys in and put them in there.

          Then its in my bag pocket that might have coins in it.

      If your experience is with the S7 Edge, the curve on the S8 is much less pronounced. I wasn't interested in a curved screen initially either, but I'm really happy with the S8's design having used it for a year.

        It is so fucking bad, I don't even have large hands but I always hit the edges of the softkeys or the edges of the screen. Fuck the S7 Edge.

    The super slow-mo only lasts for 0.2 seconds??

      Probably a limit of the cameras memory (being used as a buffer). At that res, that's a lot of images to hold and process, and at that rate it can't process them anywhere near as fast as they're being taken.

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