Galaxy S9: Camera upgrades we expect, per Samsung's own site

A camera sensor for super-slow-motion video could end up on the Galaxy S9.

Gordon Gottsegen CNET contributor
Gordon Gottsegen is a tech writer who has experience working at publications like Wired. He loves testing out new gadgets and complaining about them. He is the ghost of all failed Kickstarters.
Gordon Gottsegen
3 min read
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Samsung has promised that its Galaxy S9 phone will have camera upgrades. The company said so in its invitation to the Feb. 25 launch event in Barcelona, Spain. (We'll be there!)


The Galaxy S9 will be all about the camera.


Although the invitation doesn't provide much in the way of visual clues to exactly what those upgrades will be (seriously, we just get a bubble purple "9" and the words "The camera. Reimagined."), Samsung's own website may given us have some answers. 

Samsung's semiconductor branch published a webpage detailing several new phone camera sensors. Although Samsung Mobile (the people behind your favorite Galaxy phones) is a separate division to Samsung Semiconductor, it often sources its phone tech from the semiconductor unit -- just like how it gets those fancy AMOLED screens from Samsung Display. 

So while it hasn't been officially confirmed that the Galaxy S9 will get these camera sensors, there's a good chance we will.

Enlarge Image

Samsung shares some details on its fast-capture camera sensor, including 480 frames per second slo-mo video recording.


Samsung leads in design innovations such as curved screen technology, but it's fallen behind competitors such as Apple, LG and Sony when it comes to camera tech. Samsung was more than a year behind rivals on the dual-camera trend, for example. 

Last August's Galaxy Note 8 was the brand's first phone to debut with two real lenses. Apple not only made dual cameras popular, its iPhone X also introduced new portrait lighting effects for both front and rear cameras. Samsung will have to match features if it wants to keep its photo reputation afloat. Rumors point to two rear lenses on the Galaxy S9 Plus

The new camera sensors all fall under Samsung's Isocell line and specialize in different things. One sensor (Isocell Fast) boasts faster autofocus abilities that help it hone in on fast-moving subjects, even in dim light. This technology allows for super detailed slow-motion video recording with 1080p resolution at 480 frames per second -- which means the video should be both crisp and buttery smooth. This slo-mo video capability is much more advanced than the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Note 8, which feature slo-mo recording with 720p at 240fps.

iPhone 8 Plus vs. Galaxy Note 8: the results of our comparison

See all photos

A different sensor (Isocell Dual) is designed for dual-camera phones and does things that solo cameras struggle with. It has an optical zoom feature to get close to faraway subjects, low-light shooting for clearer pictures in dark settings, and depth sensing for out-of-focus effects. The latter results in those clear subject, blurred background effects you can achieve on the Galaxy Note 8 and the iPhone X's Portrait Mode

Other phones boast unique camera-specific features -- like the Sony Xperia XZ Premium, which shoots super slo-mo video at 960fps -- that leave Samsung's camera features in the dust. Of course, both dual-camera and super slow-mo functions are supported by Samsung's new Isocell camera sensors; we're hoping they're fully implemented on the S9 phones.

Watch this: Capture your world in super slow motion with Sony's new flagship XZ Premium and XZS

Some more Isocell sensor features for the photography buffs among you:

  • Tetracell technology that merges four pixels into one big pixel for improved light sensitivity in low-light settings
  • Smart WDR feature that uses multiple exposures in a single shot to provide greater detail for light and dark areas
  • 3-stack Fast Readout Sensor for high-speed captures in full HD video
  • A super thin 0.9-micrometer pixel sensor to achieve high resolution in slim phone designs

To find out if the Galaxy S9 gets these camera features, stay tuned to CNET as we cover the phone's unveiling at Mobile World Congress.

Samsung didn't respond to a request for comment.

Article updated Jan. 26 at 5 a.m. PT; it was originally posted Jan. 23 at 2:38 p.m. PT.