The camera is a main feature of a smartphone especially for a photographer like myself. Besides photography being a hobby of mines and me possibly doing this professionally and part-time in the future, I am a content creator and it helps to have great photographs. I have developed my own style of photography. I focus on composition and framing and I depend heavily on natural lighting. I do a lot of scenery, architecture, food and macro photography. I use mostly Snapseed for editing. Structure, saturation, HDR and framing are the Snapseed features I use the most. I created an album over on my 500px to load with high res copies of the photos I take with the S8+. I get a good amount of engagement on 500px for my photos and so I recommend it and especially if you are serious about photography.
The S8 and S8+ have the same camera and camera app features. The camera has dual pixel technology, smart auto focus, larger pixels to capture more light, records 4K video and has enhanced image processing using multiple shots. There is almost no camera bump on the back. I am coming from an S6 edge+ and I also reviewed the S7 for two weeks and I have used other smartphone cameras. The specs on the back camera are similar to the S7 with better processing and OIS. The S8+ has better video OIS and the front facing “selfie” camera has better specs. Bigger improvements will be noticed if you are coming from models older than the S7. The first things that I noticed was the better dynamic range and details and good amount of bokeh. Sometimes I will not want much depth of field and then I would have to use the pro mode.
I want to explain and highlight (to the best of my ability) three terms as it relates to the camera and photography. Feel free to dig deeper beyond this blog post to better your understanding. Having a better understanding of photography and your camera will allow you to better understand the reviews, decide on what you want in a smartphone camera and appreciate and take better photos.
Dual pixel is Samsung’s improvement on phase detection auto-focus with two photodiodes located on the left and right halves of EVERY pixel. The more in focus a pixel is then the less phase difference is detected by the dual pixel. The improvement here is that this is done for every pixel where traditionally it would have been for about 5% of the pixels. This means faster and more accurate auto focus.
Dynamic range is the range of light intensities from the darkest shadows to the brightest highlights. It is nice to have a camera that preserves more details in scenes with higher dynamic ranges. So I asked myself, what is the dynamic range of the S8+ and other smartphone cameras and why is this not advertised. From my reading I am getting that there is no fixed way to measure this and the smartphone sensor is really small. I am guided by my experience and eye for photography in judging how well a camera handles dynamic range.
Multi- frame processor. The camera takes multiple shots and combines them using the best attributes to get you a better photo with reduced noise and improved brightness. Multiple captures is also how HDR photos are created. Basically we are combining different exposures to be able to capture all the details especially in scenes with larger dynamic ranges.
I found the camera app gestures to be useful like swipe up and down to toggle between front and back cameras and hold and press to lock focus. There is the manual or pro mode and you can download additional modes, although limited in number at this time. I have come across reviews that talk about the improved quickness of the camera and zoom and autofocus and I am seeing this also. Not new but very useful is the ability to shoot in RAW. I am not a fan of panoramas but it is there if you like those. I am having problems with the manual mode sliders. The camera app gets confused and thinks I am doing the up and down gesture. I am not the only person who saw this and I saw it mentioned in another review. Let’s hope this gets fixed in a software update. Voice commands in the camera app are so useful and I don’t know why I didn’t make use of them before. Quick mention of some other features that you should be aware of – lock focus, tracking focus, wide selfie and take photo while recording video. I wish the fingerprint reader was not near the camera. Smudged lens glass can affect the quality of your photos. I appreciate having a dedicated food mode but I don’t like how this mode blurs what is around the food. Bixby vision is in infancy and a hit and miss. For example it recognised that it was a fan but not a Lasko fan. I have never used a smartphone with a good zoom function and the S8+ is no different. The camera does well in low light and night and the flash provides adequate lighting when needed. The video capture quality is above average but the stabilisation sometimes looks wobbly and fast movements are not clear. Check out my video montage on YouTube – Samsung S8+ Video Montage – Trinidad Footage.
I want to highlight something that I think will come to future Samsung smartphones and is already on other smartphones and that I see plenty potential. This is dual lenses. It is an attempt to mimic the human eyes to achieve better focus for example. I read a funny comment online where someone was wondering if the next step is triple lens cameras.
Commendations for making it this far in the review and for reading reviews. It is a learning experience for you and me. For example, I have to remind myself that I shouldn’t only focus on the things we techies or specialists care about and how we understand them. I need to imagine how the average person approaches their smartphone and photography. I try to write for everyone and I know some of it could be confusing but I am easily available for questions and in the comments below. I would like to confirm the obvious, this is the best smartphone camera Samsung has launched and in conclusion and by my estimation and judgement it is among the top 6 available now. We are two months past the launch date and so the price is dropping and so look out for deals. I like to tell people that good photography is part photographer and part camera and part other things. So aim for the best camera but also work on your photography skills.