Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?
CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus: Taking the camera out for a spin

Just how good is the Galaxy S9's camera? See our real-world photos here.

Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus
1 of 52 Sarah Tew/CNET

The Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus introduce a new kind of mobile camera, one that automatically switches apertures when you take it into low light situations.

2 of 52 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Samsung's Galaxy S9 Plus adds a second camera lens to the back, which makes depth-of-field portrait photos happen.

3 of 52 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

We took scores of photos with the Galaxy S9 phones' 12-megapixel camera in a variety of lighting scenarios, from stunning vistas to dimly-lit restaurants, to nighttime scenes.

4 of 52 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Unless otherwise noted, the pictures were snapped in automatic mode, though there are tons of filters and a Pro mode for overriding settings like ISO and white balance.

5 of 52 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Outdoor pictures are especially pretty taken with natural light, and contrast is high.

6 of 52

Here's a sweeping view of Barcelona's Arc de Triomf.

7 of 52 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The Galaxy S9's selfie mode has a "skin tone" slider that replaces "beauty mode" to smooth over blemishes.

8 of 52

More gorgeous mountain scenery.

9 of 52 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

A surfer braves the waves.

10 of 52 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

This is what Barcelona's famous Park Guell looks like on an overcast day.

11 of 52 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Tricky lighting can be a mobile camera's arch rival.

12 of 52 Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Compared to the real life scene, colors are overly saturated, contrast is poor, and the photo loses a lot of texture and detail.

13 of 52 Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Portrait mode taken with the Galaxy S9 Plus' second camera can make for some dramatic shots.

14 of 52 Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

But if you're not careful, and you set blur to maximum levels, you may wind up focusing on the wrong thing. Luckily, you can adjust the intensity after the fact, which is helpful.

15 of 52 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

This shot is taken looking in to the Boqueria, Barcelona's famous food hall.

16 of 52 Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Colors popped in this half indoor/half outdoor light.

17 of 52 Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

When the camera detects a brightness level of 100 lux, it automatically drops into its low light setting with an F1.5 aperture, which increases brightness and reduces noise.

18 of 52 Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Details are generally crisp with the Galaxy S9's cameras.

19 of 52 Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

However, the lower aperture, combined with slower shutter speeds, blurs movement.

20 of 52 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Hypnotic avocados make for a great wallpaper.

21 of 52 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Most smartphone cameras would struggle with this lighting on an overcast day. 

22 of 52 Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Inside a metro, we're a little yellowed, but the Galaxy S9 captured the scene on a moving train.

23 of 52 Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
24 of 52 Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Portrait mode isn't just good for people. I also used it to highlight biscotti, and their price tag.

25 of 52 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

This photo, taken inside a cafe near a window, stayed in the F2.4 aperture for daylight photos.

26 of 52 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Next up, we're going to take the Galaxy S9 into the Sagrada Familia, Barcelona's famed, unfinished Catholic church.

27 of 52 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The S9 definitely brightened the facade and concrete figures on this grey day. Photos are nice, but not particularly faithful to the mood. Manual settings would fix that.

28 of 52 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Just inside the door, the camera can't take in the vaulted ceiling, but neither could any other.

29 of 52 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The church is filled with beautiful stained glass windows. The Galaxy S9 chose the F2.4 daylight setting for this shot...

30 of 52 Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

...and the low light F1.5 setting for this one, to capture the light streaming through the windows. P.S. The colors look richer on the Galaxy S9's high-contrast AMOLED display.

31 of 52 Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Yuck. Overly bright, with scattered lighting. 

32 of 52 Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

The iPhone X creates a more faithful representation of the color and readability of the neon sign.

33 of 52 Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

This cocktail, taken with the S9 Plus, is bright and detailed - you can see the bubbles in the froth and the edges of the rose petal garnish. However, it misses the texture of the table.

34 of 52 Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Google's Pixel 2 created the best shot overall, with excellent contrast and detail in the rose petals and surrounding table, and a bright frothy topping with visible bubbles.

35 of 52 Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Here it is on the iPhone X, with colors that mirrored the dark bar.

36 of 52 Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Fully indoors, the Galaxy S9 did great with this colorful room.

37 of 52 Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

With the low light aperture engaged, the Galaxy S9 overly brightened these ceiling coverings. It's a really nice shot, but not realistic.

38 of 52 Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

This close up is much truer to life.

39 of 52 Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

A very low light bar.

40 of 52 Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Quick movements in low light would be tough to capture anyway, but the Galaxy S9 makes blurring more susceptible. Just look at the server's hands.

41 of 52 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Sneaky! This was taken from across the table in a dark restaurant.

42 of 52

Another shot down the table.

43 of 52 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

A Barcelona street scene at night takes advantage of the low light mode.

44 of 52 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Silhouettes on a rain night at Barcelona's Magic Fountain.

45 of 52 Andrew Hoyle/CNET
46 of 52 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Fast-moving water would be hard for most cameras to capture, and the Galaxy S9 can't do this colorful, massive, constantly-moving fountain justice. You'd need a DSLR, a tripod and lots of patience.

47 of 52 Andrew Hoyle/CNET
48 of 52 Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Look what happens when I try to take a selfie. The camera overcorrects to brighten my face and overexposes the fountain. Flip back to the previous photo to remind yourself how dark it is.

49 of 52 Andrew Hoyle/CNET
50 of 52 Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

I was hoping for a little more contrast and clarity taking this photos of the lit-up museum behind us. 

51 of 52 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Overall, the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus take excellent photos, with lots of options to choose from. We'll continue our deep dive testing against rival phones.

Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus
52 of 52 Sarah Tew/CNET

For now, read our full Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus reviews.

More Galleries

New EX30 Is Volvo's Smallest, Quickest Electric SUV
Volvo EX30 compact electric SUV debuts

New EX30 Is Volvo's Smallest, Quickest Electric SUV

31 Photos
3-Row VW ID Buzz Electric Microbus Is Headed to the States in 2024
Volkswagen ID Buzz three-row EV

3-Row VW ID Buzz Electric Microbus Is Headed to the States in 2024

47 Photos
Take a Look at Wing's Auto-Loading Drone Delivery System
Wing marketing chief Jonathan Bass shows how a store employee hooks a package onto the autoloader to await drone pickup

Take a Look at Wing's Auto-Loading Drone Delivery System

13 Photos
Yamaha motorcycle and instrument designers trade jobs (pictures)

Yamaha motorcycle and instrument designers trade jobs (pictures)

16 Photos
CNET's 'Day of the Dead Devices' altar (pictures)

CNET's 'Day of the Dead Devices' altar (pictures)

9 Photos
2007 Los Angeles Auto Show: concept cars

2007 Los Angeles Auto Show: concept cars

14 Photos
Best sound bars under $300

Best sound bars under $300

18 Photos