Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ have opened the floodgates for upcoming flagship phones in 2018. The phones are not just amongst the most powerful handsets in the market, but also the top phones to consider alongside the likes of the iPhone X and Pixel 2.
Although the Galaxy S8/S8+ had impressive cameras, they could not match up to the quality that Google offers with their phones. To make up for that, Samsung has enhanced the cameras this time with a variable aperture technology.
Things got more interesting when DXoMark rated the Galaxy S9 over the Pixel 2 with a combined (still and video) score of 99. When this happened, we were eager to test it ourselves and find out if it is true.
What's in the camera?
Samsung brings two 12MP sensors to the game this time, where the secondary lens provides optical zoom and blurring effects. The primary camera this year is the switchable aperture that moves between f/2.4 or f/1.5. The aperture changes automatically when required, but you can also control it manually.
The Pixel 2 follows a more traditional approach with a single 12MP sensor, but as most of us know, Google has proven that it doesn't really need two sensors. Google equally relies on both hardware and software to produce true to life shots.
When shooting in daylight, the Pixel 2 proved to be better than the Galaxy S9+ here. It offers better dynamic range, sharp and detailed subjects (the building) and close to source colours (sky in this case). In terms of visibility and sharpness, both the phones are alike but the Samsung offsets white balance in this image, adding a warmer hue.
We shot this image in under bright sunlight again. In this scene, the Pixel 2 reproduced better colours and details, similar to the picture above. The Galaxy S9+ has softened the shadows and the morphed the colours of the buildings to a lighter tone of brown.
When zoomed in, we found that the picture from the Pixel 2 had visible grains, whereas the one from the S9+ was void of noise. This is because Samsung's camera software does aggressive noise reduction, which eats details. That is why the image from Pixel 2 has better details.
The pink flower here was clicked in slightly breezy conditions making it difficult to focus on the subject. While Samsung was quicker to lock focus on the subject, the Pixel 2 did a better job of getting the details right. The subject looks sharp and the background blurring is also better on the Pixel 2. The Galaxy S9 Plus creates a vibrant image, but also loses details and definition.
It's not that Pixel 2 doesn't reduce noise using software, but Samsung's algorithms are very aggressive and compromise other elements.
In well-lit indoor conditions, the Redmi Note 5 Pro handles the light better, as you can see in the background of the picture above. It captures vibrant and punchy colours and reads the scene pretty well. The OnePlus 5T showed similar results, but you can see slightly faded colours, while the white balance is off too.
This was shot in well-lit fluorescent light, and the results were quite impressive from both. There's hardly anything to judge in terms of details and sharpness, but the colour of the leaves and the pot shows the difference. The Pixel 2 captures colours that are more realistic, and the S9 Plus saturates it a bit more. It will be unfair to say that the S9 Plus is inferior here, as a lot of users like having punchy colours in photos, and thankfully it's not overdone in this case.
Also, you might notice that the Pixel 2 captures more depth, giving a DSLR like feel to the picture.
We took this image under incandescent lighting with the subject placed under a shadow. The results are quite similar in this case as well. Both the phones are good at retaining colours and the details are also alike. The only area where the Pixel 2 beats the S9 Plus is in capturing the background detail. The pot in the background is well defined on the Pixel 2, whereas the Galaxy S9 Plus is unable to capture the carving on the pot clearly.
The Pixel 2 has reproduced darker colours and the S9 Plus once again reproduced a somewhat oversaturated picture. If you look at the lights on the top left of the corridor, the S9 Plus blows then out, whereas the Pixel 2 judges the scene better.
In this low light shot, it is clearly visible that the Pixel 2 has a warmer hue and the picture from the S9 Plus is cooler. Check the picture below to see the actual difference between the two.
In this low light photo, the details are clearly washed out on the Galaxy S9 Plus. The S9 Plus has blurred out the bricks on the wall, whereas the Pixel 2 produces better definition there. Also, the road has been smoothened by the Galaxy S9 Plus.
The colour of the sky looks much deeper on the Pixel 2. However, in this photos, Samsung's noise reduction algorithms and wider aperture do produce a brighter and slightly more aesthetic photo.
Both the phones are quick to focus, but the Galaxy S9 Plus focused faster a few times. It also processed images quicker than the Pixel 2.
The Galaxy S9 Plus takes great shots in low light, and it has a good camera in general. But, the comparison proves that the Google Pixel 2 still sports the best camera on the market, producing much better details and colours. The Galaxy S9 Plus washed out images at times, and is the inferior camera here.